Category archives: school libraries

Friday, 12 January 2018

News and articles about children’s reading

Hampton LibraryThis is the very welcoming children’s area of Hampton Library in Peterborough, where I gave a course this week on encouraging a love of books and reading in the early years. I’m currently planning next week’s follow-up on supporting reading in the primary years. Because of all the training I give on children’s and young people’s reading, I always like to keep up to date with latest research. Here’s the news I’ve come across in the last couple of months, along with a number of valuable articles.

The government has pledged £120 million to tackle the early years word gap.

They are also planning ‘English hubs’ and phonics roadshows to boost literacy, news that has been met with a certain amount of cynicism and anger, in the light of mass closures of libraries.

Northern Ireland and England schools are now in the global top ten for reading. However, analysis by NFER demonstrates that the improvement on previous years is small and that England has an above average number of children who do not like reading.

New research shows that over 750,000 UK children have no books of their own, a worrying statistic as children without books are fifteen times less likely to be good readers.

One in five parents of primary children spend no time reading with their children and over half spend less than an hour a week reading to them. Meanwhile a third think their children don’t read enough books. If only they saw the connection! (I missed this news in September, so am including it here.)

Another new report shows that children’s levels of reading enjoyment and daily reading frequency are both lower than their levels of cognitive reading skills.

It’s always interesting and useful to see the annual International Literacy Association What’s Hot in Literacy survey.

Do read Geoff Barton’s article ‘I salute the teachers, TAs and librarians who inspire a love of reading in children for whom books are alien’. Great to see librarians given due recognition. I applaud this too: ‘We need also to celebrate schools that maintain a commitment to wide-ranging, joyful reading for pleasure, rather than texts deployed merely for comprehension and analysis.’

Rob Smith has written about the importance of letting children enjoy being read to and reading for themselves without always having to answer questions, write reviews, or do some other ‘work thing’.

School librarian of the year Lucas Maxwell has blogged for Booktrust about ways social media can connect students with authors they love.

Lots of useful ideas in teacher Jon Biddle’s two most recent blogs: ‘Ideas for encouraging peer recommendations in the classroom’ and ‘Reading buddies’.

I very much like Imogen Russell Williams’ article on the benefits of illustration in children’s books, which includes excellent book recommendations.

Teresa Cremin has written a valuable piece on the need for teachers’ knowledge of children’s literature to be widened.

Finally, again from Lucas Maxwell, a tale of reluctant readers and a book.

Monday, 13 November 2017

Reading for information – inspiring quotes for National Non-Fiction November on fostering children’s curiosity

NFI’m delighted that one of the courses I’m giving this week is on reading for information, perfect in National Non-Fiction November. These are some of the great books we’ll be looking at, all brilliant for developing curiosity.

I love all the quotes here. They demonstrate the value and importance of nurturing enquiring minds, and give some useful pointers into how to do it – not least harnessing the power of libraries and librarians.

  • ‘I think, at a child’s birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift would be curiosity.’ Eleanor Roosevelt
  • ‘Curiosity is the engine of achievement.’ Ken Robinson
  • ‘The most reliable predictor of achievement is a hungry mind.’ Sophie von Stumm
  • ‘The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be ignited.’ Plutarch
  • ‘Reading for information is about thinking, wondering, and sometimes understanding, with the ever-present possibility of being unsettled.’ Margaret Meek
  • ‘If we are to motivate children to go through the research process, then we must ensure that their curiosity is stimulated, by exposing them to new information or ideas that cause them to want to know more.’ Jeni Riley and David Reedy
  • ‘It is not the answer that enlightens but the question.’ Eugène Ionescu
  • ‘The essential move in learning is to transform information to understanding.’ Margaret Meek
  • ‘Libraries offer the arsenal in the war of understanding.’ Mal Peet
  • ‘Librarians open up the world. Knowledge is useless if you don’t even know where to begin to look. How much more can you discover when someone can point you in the right direction, when someone can maybe even give you a treasure map, to places you may not have even thought you were allowed to go? This is what librarians do.’ Patrick Ness
  • ‘The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.’ Dr Seuss

Friday, 7 July 2017

School libraries and librarians and their importance

new milton bus

This is the fabulous library at New Milton Primary School.

I believe passionately in the value of school libraries and librarians. In the last couple of years a number of schools have made their librarians redundant, a truly shocking act that will have long-term consequences for children’s reading and wider learning. Budgets for libraries have diminished drastically in all too many schools, again something that will have a big negative effect.

Last week saw the publication of a valuable literature review of school libraries, exploring current provision in the UK and evidence of school library impact. It demonstrates clearly the benefits of an effective school library and librarian in relation to reading skills and enjoyment; wider attainment; attitudes to learning; resilience; independence; self-esteem. There is a useful run-down of the elements of good school libraries. (Librarians come top of the list.)

For those who haven’t seen it, this is an excellent outline of the role of the school librarian by Alison Tarrant, School Librarian of the Year 2016.

On Principals Know: School Librarians are the Heart of the School several US school principals talk about the importance of school libraries and librarians.

Here is author Cathy Cassidy on the transformative impact of school libraries and school librarians: ‘Where there is a school library – and that mythical, magical creature, a school librarian – there is hope .…. School libraries are awesome. They are a refuge for the lost, the lonely; a haven for the bookworm; a hotbed of creativity, revolution and adventure. School libraries often contain book clubs and cake and laughter, as well as shelf after shelf of brilliant stories, dreams, other worlds. They teach young people how to find their wings and fly, and without them we’d be lost.’

There are links to more articles and reports on my previous blogs on school 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.