The simplest way to make sure we raise literate children…is to show them that reading is a pleasurable activity, and that means finding books that they enjoy, giving them access to those books, and letting them read them.
– Neil Gaiman, 2017
So begins the School Library Association’s Primary School Guidelines – the perfect place to start when planning improvements to your primary school library, and full of ideas on making it a vibrant hub of literacy.
In my 14 years at LVS, an independent school for 4 to 18-year-olds, the junior library has been through three inspections, been closed twice for repurposing as a classroom, and been much loved by an army of child and parent volunteers. What’s kept me from being downhearted or giving up has been the enthusiasm and passion the children have shown for their library. Top of their wishlist has always been lots of good books, a quiet, bright and welcoming space and time for them to read. That might sound obvious, but what if you have scarcely any budget to spend on improving your library facility? Here are my tips…
Create a Reading Culture
Get everyone involved in creating a reading buzz. Organize weekly DEAR time (Drop Everything and Read), and ensure your support staff join in. Take part in a Readathon, run a Book Week or smaller activities based on a particular genre or current topic. Don’t forget non-fiction books, which are celebrated in the SLA’s annual Information Book Award. Take part in Book Awards, particularly the The CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal. Encourage inter-class storytelling, or hold a ‘Dress up as book characters’ day with a £1 donation for entry.
Money spent subscribing to a Schools Library Service is worth every penny. Your SLS can provide books and AV resources for your school’s library and classrooms, as well as advice and support and much more. Why not organize a Book Swap, whereby people bring in old two books and take a different one home? You also hold a Book Fair with commission in books for the library, or try applying for a school library grant.
Manning the library
Ofsted’s 2006 ‘Good School Libraries’ report found that the best libraries have student involvement, but there must also be someone to manage and make the most of the available resources. One librarian can work miracles! Parent volunteers can be recruited to open at lunchtimes, and pupils can help with various shelving, tidying and display tasks. If everyone in the school is invested in and cares about their library, it can become an amazing space. This is possible without spending lots of money, but it does require time, enthusiasm and whole school involvement.
Sue Bastone is library consultant at LVS Ascot and a board member of the School Libraries Association