Category archives: libraries

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Coopers Lane School tube carriage library

interiorWhat a lovely afternoon I had on Friday: a visit to Coopers Lane Primary School in Lewisham to see their fabulous tube carriage library, and talk to headteacher Paul Hooper about its inception and use. The story started with a vote by the children in the school to call their classrooms after tube stations. That led to a wild idea to get a tube carriage into the playground and to make it into a library. The old one had to make way for a classroom when the school expanded. Many conversations and lots of work by lots of people later the dream became a reality. You can watch the installation and hear more about the project here.

This is a school that places huge emphasis on instilling a love of learning and that sees reading for pleasure as a vital part of this. The library is a manifestation of their educational priorities. It takes pride of place in the playground, and the children flock to it during playtimes. There are loads of carefully chosen books for them to read, and they love playing in the driver’s cab.
exterior with ticket officeThe library is also used very imaginatively to support learning across the curriculum, for example when the year 6 children explored evacuation during World War 2 they boarded the train as evacuees. The Reading Dream Team – such a great name – pair up with children in need of support to enjoy books together in the library. The children have written their own Poems on the Underground, some of which were read at the library opening ceremony. They are also going to appear on the underground network, an incredible accolade.

It’s not only the children who like reading in the library. I was very pleased to introduce Paul to a new favourite book of mine, Dog on a Train by Kate Prendergast, a wonderful wordless story which features tubes and tube stations.

Paul Hooper & First News

Many thanks to Paul and the school for a very heartening end to my week.

Friday, 18 November 2016

School libraries and their importance – recent news, views and articles

research-1Many thanks to Notre Dame School in Cobham for this lovely picture.

School libraries aren’t often in the media spotlight, but this week they have been. Brilliant that they are getting the attention they deserve. Too many heads and governing bodies see library cuts as an easy route to making savings, failing to realise that for short term gain they will sacrifice vital support for literacy, learning and well-being. Closures of school library services are also having a devastating impact. Few people can have failed to see the headlines about an illustrated letter Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell, with the backing of all eight former laureates, sent to Justine Greening, Secretary of State for Education, demanding action on school libraries and school library services.

Shirley Hughes was one of many children’s book creators to add their views: ‘It is vital that children should grow up, have the confidence to choose and share the books they like, access knowledge, scrutinise the illustrations at their own pace and become engrossed in a story, all with the help and encouragement of a school librarian. Government should be increasing funding to school libraries, not cutting it. No civilised country would do otherwise.’ This is SF Said: ‘If we care about literacy, EVERY SINGLE SCHOOL should have a library and a librarian.’

In a powerful article on the importance of libraries for children’s reading and learning for the Daily Telegraph headteacher Nigel Lashbrook says ‘Quite simply, school libraries, and their librarians, are critical to our children’s future. The level of development of the school library is a highly accurate predictor of academic success.’ Well worth reading.

Meanwhile in the Guardian school librarian Lucy Ivison has explained why cutting school libraries is a disastrous decision. School libraries change lives. They empower and educate children, and help with social mobility. With public libraries also being closed, we need their school counterparts more than ever.

Do also read the latest Talking About Books blog on the vital role school librarians play. ‘A room full of books can’t provide the accessibility to reading without a guiding hand, a guiding voice.’ I am delighted the author highlights librarians’ support for comprehension and inference.

Barbara Band wrote a useful blog at the start of term on the unique position of a school librarian. I was also interested to read an American teacher’s view on the value of school librarians.

Finally, a wonderful story about a school library in a converted tube carriage.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Rhymes and rhyme times and their value

golders-green-rhyme-time-1I have lots of training coming up on supporting reading in the Early Years Foundation Stage, and on working with babies and under fives in museums. Preparing them has got me thinking again about how important rhymes and rhyme times are. Then just today, I had a request for a rhyme time course.

There’s no question that young children love rhyme times, and that parents and carers value them greatly. The photo here of a wonderful session I attended in a Barnet library demonstrates just how special they are. There is also no question about the support they give for children’s well-being, their learning and their overall development. Research and anecdotal evidence show that they benefit:

•    social skills
•    self-esteem and confidence
•    attention and concentration
•    memory
•    imagination
•    physical coordination and motor skills
•    cognitive development
•    understanding of the world
•    numeracy
•    communication skills
•    speaking and listening skills
•    literacy
•    phonological awareness
•    vocabulary
•    comprehension

Quite a list! You might also be interested to read a recent article on the value of music and rhyme for children’s literacy development and another one on how using stories, songs and rhymes can support mental health.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Supporting children with learning disabilities

I’ve just been putting together the handouts for a course for on effective provision and support for children with learning disabilities, a topic I feel passionate about. We will be exploring the needs of children with a wide range of learning challenges, the barriers they may face with learning and participation, and the implications, before going on to identify ways to maximise engagement, learning and enjoyment. This particular course is for a museum, but I also give lots of training on special needs for other cultural and heritage organisations, and for schools and libraries, and I find that many issues are common to all.

whistestop tourA Whistle-Stop Tour of Special Educational Needs by Clare Welsh and Rosie Williams is no longer in publication, though copies are still to be found. I have always found this section from it very pertinent and helpful:

‘As far as working with pupils with SEN is concerned, we must look at our assumptions and be prepared to challenge them.

  • the assumption that pupils will be at the same developmental starting point
  • the assumption that pupils will have the same knowledge
  • the assumption that because pupils have experienced something before, they will automatically remember it
  • the assumption that all pupils can understand the language that is being used around them
  • the assumption that pupils will have the gross or fine motor skills to carry out certain tasks
  • the assumption that all pupils enjoy social interaction
  • the assumption that all pupils will understand and respect standards of behaviour’

Wise words. Assumptions and stereotypes are dangerous things. Every child has different needs, even if they have the same diagnosis. A flexible, listening approach is vital. So is a calm environment in which every child feels safe and supported. Many children with learning difficulties have very high anxiety levels. Change, in particular, can be scary. For children on the autistic spectrum, and plenty of others, providing information – preferably with photos – in advance so they know what to expect from new experiences and new places makes a huge difference. Noise, crowds and clutter are very stressful for some. It’s great that lots of cultural and heritage organisations now offer specific activities or opening times to support children and families for whom these are a problem.

Like other children, most children with learning disabilities love getting involved. I will blog another time about inclusive participation strategies and the value of multi-sensory approaches.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

School libraries are vital for reading and learning – news, guidance, links and quotes

Altrincham Grammar 2It’s ages since I last blogged about school libraries, despite all the training I do about them (the photo shows part of the lovely library at Altrincham Grammar School, where I gave a course for the School Library Association Manchester branch recently), and despite my passion for them. The closure of school libraries and school library services horrifies me. It is so short-sighted and so destructive.

I agree with Gervase Phinn: ‘Reading is the centre of learning and libraries are at the heart of this.’ It’s well worth reading the Yorkshire Post article this comes from, ‘School libraries – the “real” seats of learning’.

Do read this Guardian piece too, ‘School libraries face a bleak future’ on the value of school libraries and librarians. ‘A library is more than the sum of its books; it is a hive of knowledge and a place where the research skills necessary for future study are honed …… A library without a librarian is like a school without a headteacher …… Libraries should be a right in schools …… Opening a library door helps children open their mind. For many, books are too expensive and a library allows students to borrow them.’

‘How libraries brought out my inner book geek’ is a teenager’s take on the powerful impact school libraries can have.

New Zealand school librarian Steph Ellis has lots of good practical ideas for supporting literacy through the school library effectively.

‘I want a good book’ contains useful thoughts on helping students choose a book that is right for them. As the article says, too much choice can be daunting.

Barbara Band’s Library Stuff blog is consistently interesting and pertinent. Her post from last summer on selecting books is full of insight and good ideas.

‘5 fun ways to get teachers into the library’ by the librarian at Glenthorne High School has some great tips for doing just that. I especially like this one: students defend banned books of their choosing, against a backdrop of mug shots of teachers posing with their favourite banned books.

For anyone new to the world of school libraries, there’s lots more help available. If you are lucky enough to work in a local authority that has a schools library service, do make use of their wonderful resources, knowledge and advice. The School Library Association is an invaluable source of guidance. Their publications are excellent. Secondary school librarians will undoubtedly find the new edition of CILIP Guidelines for Secondary School Libraries extremely valuable.

And to end, Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell: ‘School librarians are amazing people who match readers to books that they know they are going to enjoy and that way you actually create readers, and this happens in school libraries every day.’ Absolutely right!