Reading for Pleasure – the bedrock of #GreatSchoolLibraries

“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.

Image from Flikr Creative Commons.  Created by Carlos Porto here.

Mental Wellbeing and School Libraries

Christina Clark, Head of Research at the National Literacy Trust, is a member of the campaign working group. In this blog she introduces us to some of their latest research into links between well-being and literacy.

We’ve long known that a love of reading and writing can help children flourish at school and go on to succeed at work. But our latest research on the link between reading, writing and mental well being tells us that reading and writing for enjoyment can also help children lead happy and healthy lives.

This matters as the mental health of our children and young people is increasingly an area of concern. Indeed between 2015 and 2017 the Government announced new funding for mental health, including specific investment in perinatal services and eating disorder services for teenagers, and in July 2018, statutory health education in schools was announced.

There are a few studies that explore children and young people’s subjective wellbeing. However, to our knowledge, no one has looked at the link between how one feels about oneself and reading or writing. We therefore wanted to know how general mental wellbeing is related to several reading and writing variables, such as enjoyment, frequency, self-rated perceptions of skill and attitudes.

So, what did we do? In our latest Annual Literacy Survey of 49,047 children and young people aged 8 to 18, we focused on three aspects of mental wellbeing: life satisfaction, coping skills and self-belief. To explore how mental wellbeing in general is associated with aspects of reading and writing, we combined responses across the three components into one to create an overall Mental Wellbeing Index.

We found that children who enjoy reading and writing in their free time have significantly better mental well being than their peers who don’t. Indeed children who enjoy reading and writing, do it daily outside school and have positive attitudes towards literacy are three times more likely to have high levels of mental well being than their peers who are not engaged in reading and writing (39.4% vs 11.8%). On the flip side, not being engaged with reading and writing makes children twice as vulnerable to low levels of mental well being than their engages peers (37.4% vs 15%).

Previous research has shown that reading skill is linked to mental wellbeing, with children who struggle with reading having worse mental wellbeing outcomes. We had reading skill data for 1,098 pupils aged 11 to 15, which allowed us to explore not only the link between mental wellbeing and reading skill but also how important reading skill is when other reading components are considered. In line with previous studies, we found that children and young people who read at or above the level expected for their age have higher mental wellbeing scores, on average, than their peers whose reading skills are below expected levels.

However, what was particularly interesting was that when all the reading variables were considered simultaneously, reading skill was not found to be a significant predictor of mental wellbeing in our study. This might indicate that enjoyment and attitudes are more important for mental wellbeing, which in turn might suggest that focusing on improving positive attitudes and enjoyment of reading might be particularly beneficial in the classroom and across the whole school.

And this is where school libraries have a vital role to play. We know that school libraries are positively linked to personal and interpersonal outcomes such as feelings of success, resilience, independence and self-esteem. Positive attitudes and enjoyment of reading in particular have been consistently linked to school library use, both in the UK and internationally. Data from a large scale survey in the UK has shown that pupils who use the school library are more likely to enjoy reading, to read more books in a typical month and rate themselves as good readers. The data also showed that school library users think more positively about reading. They are more likely to see reading as fun and cool and less likely to agree that they only read when they have to. Some evidence also suggests that the impact of school libraries might be particularly important for engaging boys in reading.

At a time when children and young people are facing a multitude of pressures at school, at home and in their social lives, it is vital that we do everything we can to help them develop the resilience they need to cope with life’s challenges — something that we now know a love of reading and writing can help with. And school libraries can play a central part in this.

School Library Campaign receives grant for major UK wide survey

The School Library Data Group (SLDG), a sub-group of the Great School Libraries Campaign, has received a grant from the Foyle Foundation in order to undertake a major survey of UK school library provision.

The value and benefits of school libraries are well documented in international research yet many children have no access to a library within their school creating inequalities of provision. School libraries support academic achievement, raise attainment across all subjects, increase reading enjoyment and literacy, and feed into pupil’s well-being as well as wider learning skills.

There is currently no authoritative independent data collected on school libraries meaning we are unable to accurately state the existing level of provision and address the issues facing the school library sector. The survey will give us this information, and will be used as a benchmark to track annual changes and trends in provision. Alongside the survey, the SLDG will also be collecting case studies of projects and initiatives within school libraries that show qualitative evidence of their impact.

The Foyle Foundation is an independent grantmaking trust that distributes grants to UK charities via its Main Grants Scheme (covering charities whose core work deals with Arts and Learning), the Foyle School Library Scheme and the Small Grants Scheme.

The Great School Libraries Campaign was launched in September. The mission of the campaign is to ensure that every child has access to a school library and a professional librarian.

The SLDG will be commissioning an individual, independent research organisation or university to undertake the survey. Please contact Christina Clark, Head of Research at the National Literacy Trust: Christina.clark@literacytrust.org.uk for further information regarding the Invitation to Tender.

Barbara Band
Chair School Library Data Group

info@barbaraband.com

What makes a Great School Library?

The relationship between reading attainment and reading for pleasure is dynamic and reciprocal, and school library staff can impact attainment by identifying barriers to reading, having specialist knowledge about which books suit which child, and supporting teachers in developing their reading environments.

Critical literacy is an essential skill in today’s world – the ability to evaluate information and entertainment sources is something no young person should be without, and the skills that allow them to do this also allow them to play an active role in society. Library staff have been specialists in this area for decades, teaching children how to find, evaluate and use information effectively and ethically – now there is a new air of urgency, and library staff have the knowledge and resources to empower pupils and support teachers in this vital area.

But great school libraries are also about space – a space that provides safety and comfort, a space that welcomes all pupils, and gives all equal access. A space that questions, and entices, and excites. A space where all children are free to travel on their learning journey and are supported and inspired by a knowledgeable specialist.

There are some libraries where these things aren’t happening, and this is a shame – both for those children who won’t get those experiences or knowledge, and for those teachers who lack support at a time when they need it. Part of this campaign will be about supporting staff (both library and teachers), and providing guidance on useful articles, places to start and where to go next, to ensure that all libraries are fulfilling their potential. However, it is important to note that in some schools Library Assistants have been employed on their own – we are not expecting them to take on the role of a Librarian/Library Manager. Nor are we expecting library staff who are under-supported or underpaid to start taking on more work. Through the campaign we will be raising expectations and understanding about the profession, and making decision makers aware of exactly what is missing when the school library languishes. This increase in understanding will lead to better access to CPD, salaries to match the role and a higher level of accountability, which will provide the best education for pupils, and support for staff.

Alison Tarrant, CE of SLA and Chair of Great School Libraries working party

Peters are the official sponsor of Great School Libraries!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last week saw the launch of the Great School Libraries campaign – a three year campaign spearheaded by SLA, CILIP SLG and CILIP. The campaign has three aims: to secure school library funding; to produce a national framework for school libraries and recognition of school libraries within the Ofsted framework.

We are truly excited to announce that we have been able to secure funding for the Great School Libraries campaign for the entirety of its duration from Peters, the UK’s leading specialist supplier of books and furniture for schools, academies, and public libraries.

Ray Dyer, Peters’ Managing Director commented: “We are delighted to be sponsoring the Great School Libraries campaign. At Peters, we understand the importance of ensuring children and young people have access to great books and a vibrant school library is an essential part of this. We are looking forward to working with the School Library Association and CILIP to ensure that every child has access to a great school library.”

Alison Tarrant, Chair of the Great School Libraries campaign working group said: “We are delighted to be working with Peters on this campaign. They understand the difference that a staffed and funded school library can make to school, and securing this funding means that we are not restricted, and will focus on producing meaningful resources and maximising engagement. Together they will enable the sector to move forward, and mark the beginning of a new era for school libraries.”

We all have a role to play in ensuring every child receives the benefits a Great School Library can offer.

To find out more about Peters, visit: https://peters.co.uk/

Welcome to the Great School Libraries Campaign!

 

Today sees the launch of the Great School Libraries campaign – a three year campaign spearheaded by CILIP, SLG and SLA. The campaign has three aims: to secure school library funding; to produce a national framework for school libraries and recognition of school libraries within the Ofsted framework.

The Campaign working group will be aiming to engage all potential stakeholders – whether that’s school library staff, parents, and school leadership or decision makers in government. All children deserve a great school library because adequately funded, staffed school libraries deliver enhanced and independent learning as well as reading and curriculum support.

Evidence also suggests school libraries:

  • Lead to higher qualifications/attainment
  • Promote a better quality of life
  • Generate improved results
  • Alleviate pre
    ssure on health and mental health services
  • Alleviate teacher workload
  • Increase efficiency for schools
  • Contribute to the delivery of a well-rounded education
  • Deliver and teach essential Information/critical literacy skills to combat fake news and engender independent learning

 

Throughout the course of the campaign the School Library Data Group will be collecting evidence in order to show the huge variety of ways that UK based school libraries contribute to better outcomes for every child. Go to the Resources tab to download a Case Studies Template and an exemplar.  We need as many of these as we can get, so that we can provide enough evidence of how school libraries add value to a school – please consider filling one in for us.