Nadia Shireen: How to make the most of your book nook or school library

Published on: 12 June 2018 Author: Nadia Shireen & Anna McKerrow

BookTrust's Writer in Residence Nadia Shireen teams up with our very own Anna McKerrow to bring you 10 top tips about getting your students excited about their school library.

Erika Meza illustration

'Libraries gave us power,' sang James Dean Bradfield, of righteous Welsh glam punks the Manic Street Preachers. He neglected to sing, 'They also gave us Green Eggs and HamWhere The Wild Things AreCharlotte's Web and Lord of the Flies' but I'm pretty sure the sentiment is the same.

In an ideal world, the school library is a repository of knowledge, fun and wonder. However, thanks to monumental, ill-considered* slashes in funding, many schools now don't have dedicated libraries or, sadly, skilled librarians. (*These are the views of Nadia Shireen and not necessarily representative of BookTrust.)

What they do still have are brilliant teachers who are doing their best to provide alternatives. Here, Anna at BookTrust has put together some excellent ideas to help you get the most out of whatever space you have to share the love of reading.

1. Make it cosy

Turn a corner of your classroom or library into an area where pupils can relax and enjoy reading books. The more cushions, the better – and beanbags and deckchairs make a space feel more informal, if you have room for them. You could add stuffed toys for little ones when it's time to cuddle up and read.

This way, you remind kids that reading is a special treat.

2. Take it outside

Kids love reading in unusual places. Put a reading tent in the grounds somewhere, make a reading garden (either elaborate: paving stones engraved with lines from kids' books or poems, a storytelling chair and lots of pretty plants and flowers; or straightforward: laminated card with kids' favourite book titles stuck into the ground on sticks, a repurposed seat or picnic table, etc.). Or, when weather permits, just decide every now and then that you're all going outside to read.

3. Hold a book club

Set up a fun lunchtime book club, where pupils can enjoy discussing books and stories in more detail in the library, book nook – or elsewhere! Make it relaxed, cosy, and don't forget the snacks!

Reading group

4. Start writing

Why not suggest your students write a review of their favourite book or create a character profile? If you display these in your book corner, they may go on to help other pupils looking for their next exciting book to read. Or get kids to write short reviews of their favourite books and tape them on the library shelves by the copies of those books, like they do in bookshops.

5. Get creative

Let your pupils get arty by drawing their favourite characters from different books, creating their own personalised bookmarks or even designing their own book covers. Get out the paints, crayons and glitter, and have some fun! Display as many of the creations as you can in your reading areas and across the school.

6. Arrange a special visitor

Author visits are such a great way to get kids interested in reading. You could have a grand re-opening of your library or a new reading area in the school. Or get an author in to host Cosy Reading Day in their pyjamas, or read to the kids for Outdoor Reading Day...

Chris Riddell

7. Think outside the box

Make a reading shed in the school grounds, or add a book swap box in the library, reception or even out in the playground! The idea is that kids add a book they've read and no longer want to the shelf, and take one they do want. Unlike a library, you don't have to give it back unless you want to! Book swap boxes can be as small as a cardboard box with 20 books in, or a shed with hundreds. If you've got the room, maybe consider having a shelf for parents to swap their favourite reads with each other, too!

8. Ask parents and carers for donations

It can be a regular box on your school newsletter or a termly letter reminding families that if they have any unwanted books, you'd love donations for the library or reading corners.

9. Join Chatterbooks

This is a scheme coordinated by the Reading Agency that provides schools with all the materials they need to run book groups, and emails members with giveaways and competitions from publishers. It's a great way to get new books for free and get kids involved in all manner of fun activities.

10. Keep an eye on the BookTrust site for giveaways and competitions

BookTrust run several giveaways of fab children's books every month, and run regular competitions for primary schools that might win you a free author visit, stack of books for the library or loads of other cool things.

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