Using the School Library Pack: The BIG School Read

Published on: 25 April 2018 Author: Charlotte Pearson

Neston High School Library was awarded a Society of Authors "Reading for Pleasure" award for their BIG School Read, which uses School Library Pack books to build a reading community. School librarian Charlotte Pearson tells us all about its impact. Could you do something similar at YOUR school? 

The BIG School Read is a yearly scheme at Neston High School that encourages all students, staff and parents to read the same book. Each year, I choose a new book for the scheme and begin to promote the title in school.

This year, our choices were Shine and Tall Story by Candy Gourlay. Last year, we focused on Smart by Kim Slater.

Connecting with the authors is a big part of the scheme. Kim Slater visited our school and even wrote a blog all about her visit. This year, Candy Gourlay sent a film clip to our school, Skyped with our book club and visited, too! 

Workshop with Kim Slater

Skype book club with Candy Gourlay

I work with an local independent bookseller to host book signings with the visiting author, which creates a lot of excitement for our students.

At the end of a BIG School Read year, we also host a showcase in school. Departments across the curriculum come together to reveal the work they have completed that is connected to our chosen book or author: just search #BigSchoolRead on Twitter to see what we got up to. 

More about the School Library Pack

Using the School Library Pack

The School Library Pack is an incredible resource for schools and librarians. Within the pack are multiple copies of "Future Classics", with discussion guides, non-fiction books, and titles for reluctant readers.

Just one book is chosen for the BIG School Read, to be read and discussed for the school year. This is an exciting but daunting task! For the past two years, I have selected "Future Classics" titles from the School Library Pack.

One reason I chose from the pack is that it is reassuring to select a book celebrated by BookTrust. Also, the pack has lots of resources for staff and students, so I have a jumping-off point for discussions, activities, promotions and cross-curricular events. It is also very handy that the pack includes multiple copies of the titles, which is great for getting the book out there early on.

Impact of the BIG School Read

For the last six months, the top three library loans have been our BIG School Read books. Similarly, over 600 quizzes have been taken on Smart on Accelerated Reader.

Beyond these facts and figures, the most vital impact of the BIG School Read is the creation of a whole school reading community. Within just one year, Smart has inspired many events and discussions.

Our English department studied it in lessons and created a staff audiobook. Our art department ran competitions on Lowry (an artist featured in Smart), as well as a project on creative writing and art. The science department looked at crime scene investigations (a special area of interest for Kieran in Smart), and we ran a murder mystery investigation in the school library. Our PE students looked at self-esteem and how Kieran could boost his, while our drama club wrote a play based on the book. Finally, our maths teachers looked at the data behind Smart and our languages department translated sections into an array of languages.

Winners of the murder mystery

Smart is still widely talked about in our school and is a point of reference for students, parents and staff when talking about reading for pleasure.

This year’s BIG School Read has again ignited a reading buzz. Students have already loaned the chosen titles over 100 times from the library. 

Let's end some comments from the students themselves, after meeting and skyping with author Candy Gourlay:

‘This was the best experience’ 
‘It was an inspirational and unforgettable experience’
‘The experience was like no other!’

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School Library Pack is available free to any school or education provider in England with Year 7 students. It aims to support staff to create a reading culture that encourages students to discuss what they are reading and join in activities.

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Other ideas to make the most of your School Library Pack

School Librarian of the Year Lucas Maxwell tells us how he has been sharing the books and resources with his students at Glenthorne High School.

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