How to get children engaged with their school library

Published on: 06 June 2021

How can the design of a school library make reading more appealing to its young audience? Former headteacher and reading consultant Catherine Millar shares some tips on how to make an impact.

Here are some things to think about when considering how the layout of a library can make it more engaging...

Make sure you have enough books

  • How many books do you have? The CILIP benchmark is 13 books per pupil, though smaller schools need proportionately more items per pupil. Schools with fewer than 100 pupils should aim for a minimum base figure of 1300 quality library books.

FG Library & Learning have been careful to factor in this number when designing the number of bookshelves for each school in the Laureate Library project.

  • Is the range of books balanced and does it meet the needs of your pupils? The annual library budget should cover the cost of replacing 10% of stock per annum as books wear out or become outdated. Your School Library Service can help meet this stock renewal recommendation.

Get organised

Put simply, organise the books into fiction, non-fiction and picture books. Then label everything!

  • Fiction – organise alphabetically by the author’s last name. Put stickers on the shelves with the letters of the alphabet to help children find the books.
  • Non-fiction – the standard system is the Dewey Decimal Classification which divides knowledge into 10 numbered categories. There are brilliant resources for display on the internet (Twinkl, TES etc) which can help with this.

When it comes to how the library is organised, it can’t be stated enough that EVERYONE needs to understand how it is organised. Have a staff meeting on library organisation and ensure the first lesson with all classes every year is about library organisation, for example with a scavenger hunt – again there are examples online that you can adapt to suit your own space.

Getting children involved in designing their library

Pupil-created work in displays provides a sense of ownership. Opportunities should be grasped to allow pupils to personalise aspects of the library, for example:

  • Librarians can be responsible for displays
  • Children run comic-making clubs where the comics are kept in a special section
  • Each class can create a class book to be stored in the library
  • Pupils make posters to explain the process of checking books in and out of the library for other children
  • Pupil librarians can be responsible for tidying the shelves and ensuring the books are organised
When pupils lead activities in the library, children from all year groups are keen to visit.

The librarians can practise being young leaders and gain a sense of responsibility and respect. They take pride in ensuring that the activities in their school are fun, challenging and fair – allowing everyone to blossom and grow into aspiring learners.

Other quick wins to make a big impact could include:

  • Fairy lights
  • Hanging things from the ceiling
  • Moving bookcases to ensure better flow through the library
  • Branding
  • A library mascot
  • Teddies to read to
  • Big artwork
  • Cross-curricular displays
  • Themed days
  • Peer recommendation displays

Catherine Millar is a former assistant head teacher and reading consultant. You can follow her on Twitter at @allicatski and check out her website here Check back on 22 June when we will reveal the new design of our six Life-Changing Libraries case study schools!

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