My first Chatterbooks book groups at school were inspired by the sessions that I ran at the public library where I worked alongside my role as school librarian. I was hoping to roll out the format that had worked so successfully there, although I was faced with the challenge of having little time to plan and a lack of budget for resources. I immediately signed up to The Reading Agency’s newsletter, which kept me up to date when resources would become available. I set up two groups initially one for LKS2 and one for UKS2. The Reading Agency website was an excellent resource to help plan and deliver my sessions but by running weekly sessions I soon began to run out of ideas. This meant that more of my time was being devoted to planning the sessions for a small number of children. Although the groups were well used, I wanted to make them more inclusive and encourage different children to become involved.
Four years ago, I spotted an opportunity on The Reading Agency’s Twitter page to win an author visit with a debut author Peter Bunzl and proof copies of his new book for my group. We successfully bid for the visit and Peter came and worked with my Chatterbooks children on his first ever author visit. Immediately this attracted attention in the school, more children were keen to find out about this group, where they would have exclusive access to author visits and early copies of books. We also started to review books for the TES Class Review, this created a real buzz around the group as children were given free copies of books and were able to see their reviews published in a national magazine.
Since then we have bid for a number of opportunities and have created displays in the library. In exchange for this, the children are gifted free copies of books and the school is sent resources that are hugely invaluable for me, saving time when organising sessions. The interest and excitement generated by the children has encouraged more children to sign up for book groups and improved the engagement with reading and the library in general. We now run five Chatterbooks book groups, including a Pupil Premium group, which focuses specifically on developing a love of reading. Each half-term the children are given a book that they get to keep and we share it during our sessions and they take part in fun reading and writing activities based around the book. This could be a potentially time consuming group to run but I use the free resources on Authorfy.com to help with the planning, freeing up my time to focus on my weekly library time with the whole school.
What started as two small groups has developed into an exciting and popular lunchtime clubs, that are constantly oversubscribed. I have had to increase the number of participants over the last two years, although this makes running the groups more challenging, I find it difficult to turn away eager readers. The children have been involved in so many varied and interested projects. They have presented reviews at The Education Show, interviewed authors during school visits, had special creative writing workshops and even had their reviews featured in actual books.
It has also given me the confidence to try new initiatives in school having seen the level of interest in reading and writing increase across KS2. In September 2019 I set up an Authorfy Club, creative writing class after school, which has had positive feedback from the children, parents and teachers at school. This has generated additional funding for the school library which currently has no specific budget for books (outside of the School Library Service subscription), allowing the library to be updated with new stock regularly.
I was thrilled when the impact the library has had on reading in the school was recognised in our recent Ofsted report. The inspector noted that the librarian runs five different creative writing groups, which are very popular. I think we have clearly demonstrated that it is possible to run activities that encourage reading for pleasure and engagement with the library even when time and budget restraints are in place.
Written by Jo Clarke
Whitchurch C of E Primary School