Friday, 10 June 2011

Supporting children and young people with special educational needs

It was lovely to give a session for the Surrey branch of the School Library Association earlier this week on how school libraries can support pupils with special educational needs. Of all the topics I am asked for training on, supporting SEN children and young people is one of the closest to my heart. It matters so much.

We focused especially on Wednesday on ways to make books and reading accessible and enjoyable for children and young people for whom reading is difficult. A great group of librarians and teaching assistants shared some brilliant ideas. We heard about inspirational reading groups, fantastic reading buddy schemes and amazing improvements in children’s abilities and confidence as a result of library initiatives. There was lots too about appropriate publications and how to exploit them. As the venue was Heath Educational Books and they had kindly put together a display to accompany the session, everyone was able to explore a good range of books with a high interest level combined with a low reading age. It’s excellent that so many publishers now produce interesting and unpatronising books for children and young people who struggle with reading.

Then yesterday, when I was giving a course for people new to running primary school libraries, one of the delegates described another wonderful group. Her breakfast reading club is for year 5 and 6 pupils, almost all boys, for whom reading is very challenging. It was very moving to hear how the children have blossomed as a result of their shared reading three times a week. Reading about football, which all of them love – luckily the teaching assistant does too – has proved transformational.

I am very much looking forward to running another course on supporting children and young people with special educational needs on 7 July. This one is for Creating Capacity, and is open to anyone from museums, galleries, libraries, archives and other cultural and heritage organisations who is interested You can find details and booking information here.