Life-changing Libraries

‘Life-changing Libraries’ is Cressida Cowell’s flagship project as the prestigious Waterstones Children’s Laureate

Over the course of a year, six primary schools across England will be helped to develop a reading for pleasure culture, with the support of BookTrust and Cressida. This page will tell you everything you need to know about the campaign for life-changing libraries and UK Children’s Laureate Cressida Cowell’s call for the government to fund primary school libraries so that millions of children, particularly those from the poorest communities, don’t miss out on the opportunity to read for pleasure and all the vital benefits this chance brings.

Children's Laureate Cressida Cowell and HRH The Duchess of Cornwall at Griffin School’s new library. Artwork on wall designed by Promote Your School. Photography by David BebberChildren's Laureate Cressida Cowell and HRH The Duchess of Cornwall at Griffin School’s new library. Artwork on wall designed by Promote Your School. Photography by David Bebber

The Life-changing Libraries campaign

In an open letter to the Prime Minister, the internationally bestselling author-illustrator of the How To Train Your Dragon series highlighted the shocking effects of long-term underfunding of England's primary school libraries.

Millions of children - particularly those from the poorest communities - are missing out on the opportunity to read for pleasure, and all the vital benefits this chance brings. It is inspired by Cressida’s twenty-year experience visiting schools and grounded in the most recent research into the benefits of reading for pleasure and the challenging financial reality facing primary school libraries.

Read the story: The Duchess of Cornwall joins Waterstones Children's Laureate Cressida Cowell MBE to open 'Life-changing Library' at Griffin Primary School in Wandsworth

Find out more about Cressida Cowell's open letter to the government about school libraries

Cressida Cowell introduces Life-changing Libraries

Meet the 6 schools taking part in the Life-changing Libraries campaign

The Life-changing Libraries project spotlights the four pillars of a successful ‘gold standard’ school library – space, book provision, expertise, and whole-school and community involvement.

Each school has a dedicated library space created by BookTrust and the sponsors of the campaign, and this stocked with 1000 titles, selected by BookTrust’s expert book selection team with guidance from the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CLPE), and donated by publishers. The project will monitor the impact of the new libraries on pupils' engagement and reading behaviour over the course of the following year.

Read the blog: How six schools hope Life-changing Libraries could change students' lives

"Many children do not have access to books at home. The children at Skerne Park Primary School have some access to books at school, but with declining budgets these are old and well used, and not very enticing for children to pick them up and read at home.
Having new, glossy books presented in a lovely library space would be such an enticement to enabling positive associations with books and reading. After what has been a hugely difficult year, we are thrilled to be part of Cressida’s Life-changing Libraries project, and very much looking forward to building work beginning!"
Kate Chisholm, Headteacher at Skerne Park Primary School

Take a look at some of the amazing transformations that took place at these school libraries

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Benwick's school library before the transformation
The cataloguing of books for the new library went well thanks to the volunteers who helped us!
Benwick's school library after, filled with books
Dinnington's school library before
Piles of books ready for Dinnington's new library
Dinnington library full of new books
Dinnington school's new library, with credit to Promote Your School
Griffin's school library before
Griffin's library undergoing its renovation
Griffin's new school Library
Griffin's school library after
Griffin School's new library wall
Saviour school library before the installation
Saviour's new school library being installed
Saviour's Year 6 sorting our new library books into alphabetical order - and a hot chocolate while they talked excitedly about what they would like to read.
Wall art in Saviour's new school library
Skerne Park's school library before
Skerne Park's school library before the installation
Scanning the books at Skerne Park's new library
Skerne Park installation
Skerne Park pupils reading for pleasure in their new library
Woodchurch school library before
Woodchurch being redecorated
Children unboxing the first of our brand new books
Our Year 5’s can’t wait to read their favourite books!
Woodchurch pupils in their new library
"Our library space was incredibly cramped, outdated and under-resourced." Benwick's school library before the transformation

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The cataloguing of books for the new library went well thanks to the volunteers who helped us!

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Ready to welcome our little bookworms

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"Our library lacked its beating heart: the books." Dinnington's school library before

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"We have a lot of organising to do and we still have a beautiful mural to be installed, but we have left school tonight with huge smiles on our faces. Scanning in all of our amazing new books for our library kept us busy!" Piles of books ready for Dinnington's new library

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Dinnington library full of new books

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Dinnington school's new library, with credit to Promote Your School

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"The space had some tables and chairs, book cases and boxes of books in it, but was far from ideal as a library." Griffin's school library before

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"Ms Doyle has started clearing our space (dumping ground!) ready for the magical transformation." Griffin's library undergoing its renovation

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Griffin's new school Library

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"What do you get if you mix wonderful new furniture with amazing new books? A life changing library, of course." Griffin's school library after

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Griffin School's new library wall

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"An old intervention room turned into a make-shift library/dumping ground!" Saviour school library before the installation

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Out with the old and in with the new! The fabulous fitting team installed the bespoke shelving at Saviour school.

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Saviour's Year 6 sorting our new library books into alphabetical order - and a hot chocolate while they talked excitedly about what they would like to read.

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"Beautiful books added by our brilliant team in the holidays. The wall art added the wow factor to inspire tomorrow's readers." Saviour's new school library

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"Boring and bland…I wonder what we could do with this space?" Skerne Park's school library before

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"A space for new beginnings…" Skerne Park's school library before the installation

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"This pupil was on a top secret mission! To scan and stamp our new library books… Mission accomplished!"

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"Bob the builder doesn’t have a look in – our library was built in no time!"

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"Reading for pleasure in the comfort of their new library space… amazing!" Skerne Park pupils reading in their new library

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"The lack of stock meant that the library space was quite sparse and not an inviting place for children to access." Woodchurch school library before

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"Mrs Davies brought the family in to help paint the library - a big thanks to Mr Davies, Grumpsy (Mrs Davies's dad) and Logie." Woodchurch being redecorated

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Children unboxing the first of our brand new books

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Our Year 5’s can’t wait to read their favourite books!

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"Our Reading Ambassadors are ready to share their love of reading with all the other children in school." Woodchurch pupils in their new library

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Read Cressida Cowell's letter to the Prime Minister

Waterstones Children's Laureate Cressida Cowell wrote Prime Minister Boris Johnson an open letter calling on the UK government to protect funding for school libraries during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read the open letter

Tips and advice on creating a life-changing school library

A Year of Reading: What happened next?

Teacher Deb Texeira wanted to boost her school's love of reading, so she devised a fun Year of Reading Activities for pupils - but what happened afterwards? She shares how she's trying to sustain a love of reading in her school with little changes that make a big difference.

A Year of Reading Activities: How this primary school put the love back into its library

This assistant headteacher wanted the pupils at her primary school to engage with their books and develop a love of reading - so she devised a whole year of fun reading activities!

How to get children engaged with their school library

Catherine Millar shares her tips on how small changes to the space can get children engaged with their library.

Creating the perfect school library space

How can primary schools ensure that their libraries are welcoming, inspiring places - especially if the space to create one is limited? Catherine Millar shares some top tips on making the most of a library space.

How to bring your school library to life with child-focused and creative ideas

Assistant head Andy Young shares loads of fun and easy ways to bring reading to life and help children shape their school library – whether it’s creating incredible book-inspired artworks or having themed days in the library space.

Ten tips for creating an unforgettable school library

Libraries can be places that inspire a lifelong love of reading in children. School Library Association CEO Alison Tarrant shares ten vital tips for creating the perfect library space.

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