“The active encouragement of reading for pleasure should be a core part of every child’s curriculum entitlement because extensive reading and exposure to a wide range of texts make a huge contribution to students’ educational achievement.” (The All-Party Parliamentary Group for education, 2011)
Not every child has access to books at home or parents or carers who take them to the public library but every child must go to school. Therefore, in order for reading for pleasure to be a core part of every child’s curriculum entitlement, every school needs a school library. But that isn’t enough. To create a great school library that isn’t just a room full of books, but the heart of the school, the library needs to have a school librarian who can provide the active encouragement, knowledge and expertise in reading as well as keeping the library and stock relevant, attractive and up to date.
Many schools don’t know where to start when wanting to create a dynamic, vibrant space where children are keen to come and borrow books nor do hard-pressed teachers have the time. Their stock usually consists of books that have been in the library since the last librarian left twenty years ago with some recent, popular titles that are falling apart. Often the space has become a dumping ground or an extra classroom. Schools Library Services can help. We can come into schools, weed the stock, organise the library including cataloguing, classification and advise on what new stock to purchase and what library management systems to use. If there is no Schools Library Service in your area, contact SLS-UK through our website https://schoolslibraryservicesuk.org/ and we will find someone to help create that Great School Library. If schools can’t afford a librarian some Schools Library Services offer a professional librarian in school for one or two days a week, which has proved invaluable:
“The work of a School Librarian has the potential to make a huge contribution to the school in ways that I had not realised until we found ours. Her work has impacted directly on the children; their involvement and enthusiasm for reading as well as our participation in enrichment activities and the maintenance of the reading environment.” (Headteacher, Primary School in Tower Hamlets, London).
While most primary schools no longer have a school librarian thanks to massive cuts to budgets, the many secondary schools do and reports show the critical value of a good school librarian:
“The school librarian is uniquely placed to support teaching and learning in all areas of the National Curriculum, not just English, as well as the wider school curriculum. Through the librarian’s knowledge, expertise and skills, children are taught how to access and explore for themselves all the school curriculum subject areas and beyond. This is particularly important for the large number of pupils who still do not have access to books and/or the internet at home.” (Beating Heart of the School Report, 2014)
Ofsted, in its report Good school libraries: making a difference to learning, 2005, says:
"Well trained and energetic librarians with good specialist knowledge had a major influence on increasing effectiveness of school libraries. The best school librarians had a positive impact on teaching, pupils’ personal development and their learning."
Yet despite their level of professional training and experience, many school librarians are regarded as support staff. Often they have dual roles. They are also responsible for careers, reprographics, admin, video conferencing and accelerated reader or other structured schemes.
Status and salary need to be of a high enough level to attract high quality, experienced, dedicated people to the role. They are a vital ingredient in making the library the heart of the school and to improve a school’s performance in SATs and exams.
Ron Weasley sums it up well in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: “But why’s she got to go to the library?” “Because that’s what Hermione does,” said Ron, shrugging. “When in doubt, go to the library.”
Every child should have somewhere to go when in doubt; to learn independently and to retrieve information. Every child deserves a great school library.
Written by Nina Simon, SLS Manager
Redbridge Schools’ Library Service
Image from Flikr Creative Commons. Created by Carlos Porto here.