It’s been lovely to give lots of courses on school libraries recently. I’m always struck by the inventiveness of people who manage libraries. Last week in Leeds a delegate told us how her school raises money for library books. (Who doesn’t need good fund-raising tips?) Every Friday they sell ice-creams for 50p. A big treat for the pupils, all the more so because against healthy eating rules, and a major success in terms of library stock. I’ve heard so many fabulous ideas. How wonderful to have a story-telling chair. Reading aloud in the library is so special. And so important now that many children are read to very little, at home and even in school. Reading aloud isn’t just for the primary library. Plenty of secondary librarians have shared inspiring stories on courses of students’ attitudes to books and reading being changed by being read to. Doesn’t have to be whole books. Intriguing extracts from information books, gripping opening lines from novels, funny poems all work well. How about mystery books in sparkly wrapping under a Christmas tree in the library (barcodes on the back)? Speed-dating with books is great. The Reading Game introduces pupils to masses of books. Film Club is a success in lots of libraries. Carnegie and Greenaway Award shadowing goes from strength to strength. I’m a particular fan of Greenaway shadowing done collaboratively between the library and the special needs department in secondary schools, or the library and the art department, or as a cross-sector initiative with feeder primaries. For primary libraries, how about having a puppet theatre? Story-sacks are being used very imaginatively in many primary libraries, the best often made by pupils or parents or both. There has been a lot of interest when I’ve explained curiosity kits too. What about a bedtime reading event? Hugely popular in lots of primary schools. Children and staff in pyjamas, teddy bears in hand, plenty of hot chocolate and loads of books read aloud. And then there’s reading clubs. I know of so many wonderful library clubs. A Muchamore club that operates like a secret society, a dangerous book club complete with experiments taken from books. Anything that gets pupils talking together about reading about books and reading is worthwhile. Paired reading has a proven track record. Quizzes and competitions are brilliant. Don’t forget the Kids Lit Quiz for Y7&8. I love extreme reading challenges. Pupils and staff have photos taken of them reading in surprising places. Photos you can put up all round the library, or even the whole school. My favourite was a boy who curled himself up tight in his rabbit’s hutch.
It’s easy to see why libraries make such a difference to children’s reading and learning. The picture here was on the front cover of a book called Stacks of Stories. I feel very lucky to have Colin Hawkins’ permission to use it. It says so much about the power of libraries.