'The experience was magical': Why I take my Year 7 students to a bookshop

Published on: 27 September 2018 Author: Maria Smith

Every year, school librarian Maria Smith takes her new Year 7 students to Foyles in London and lets them each buy a book. Here, she explains why...

Students from St Augustine’s Church of England High School on a trip to Foyles in London

My school St Augustine's in Kilburn has taken every student in Year 7 to Foyles Bookshop in London's West End for many years now, and the trip has such an effect on their reading for pleasure that I wanted to share the experience and encourage other secondary schools to do the same.

We usually take our students in February or March after they start in September. It's a good time because our Year 10s are on work experience so we have some more staff available, plus we love going around World Book Day!

When we arrive, the students get to attend a small workshop with the staff from Foyles. They give advice on children's, teen and young adult books, but the students can chose a title from any section if they have something in mind.

Everyone gets to choose a book, which is paid for by the school up to a limit of £8.99. Funding can sometimes be difficult, but all schools have to make choices for the benefit of their students and for us, reading is a key to success.

Every child has the right to books

We put books at the heart of the school here and believe every child has the right to a range of experiences that inspire them to fulfil their lives. By visiting a bookshop and taking time to choose a book, we can start to inspire students to enjoy the wonderful experience of reading.

We travel by London Underground and as the children enter Foyles, the excitement is clear on their faces. As they begin to explore the bookshop, they are lost in the world of literature and books. You can see their imaginations are just sparked into life.

Some students have never had the pleasure of visiting a bookshop and choosing a book of their own. This experience alone can be a whole new world!

On last year's trip I gathered some quotes from a few students on their experience:

'I had never been in a bookshop that big'
'I loved choosing the book I have wanted to read for ages'
'The experience was magical, walking into a paradise of books... I loved it'

St Augustine's students reading on the London Underground

Welcoming students to the library

Helping our Year 7s develop the habit of reading is such a gift, as it can only aid in their education.

I think it's really important to get Year 7s into the library as soon as they start at secondary school - too many of them will not have had a library at their primary school, so I want them to feel welcome straight away.

At the beginning of Year 7 we also have a welcome evening for students and their families, where we give everyone a welcome pack filled with stationery and information.

Students also receive a reading book from a range of fiction as well as a copy of a non-fiction book, such as Horrible Histories. We believe that the beginning is the best place to start, and Year 7 is the beginning of their educational journey with us.

Here in St Augustine's we also sign up for BookTrust's Bookbuzz programme for both Year 7 and Year 8, so students can continue with their reading from a fantastic choice of titles.

Students look forward to filling in their Bookbuzz Bookmarks with all the titles as well as the blurbs that accompany them. It is great that the books arrive in time for our students to take them home for the Christmas holidays - we are all looking forward to the exciting titles for next year!

Maria Smith is the school librarian at St Augustine's Church of England High School in Kilburn, West London. Follow her on Twitter @mariasmithw21 to share more reading ideas and teacher tips.

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