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Want your students to love learning? Get them to the library

Want your students to love learning? Get them to the library

Local libraries are under threat from funding cuts, but the services they offer to children and schools are invaluable

Library programmes ‘complement and support what children learn at school’. Photograph: Alamy

Libraries across the UK have faced devastating funding cuts recently, with hundreds closing and a quarter of jobs lost. In August, plans were announced to close more than 20 libraries in Lancashire alone, prompting a government review.

But where services are surviving, partnerships with local schools are still flourishing, allowing pupils to delve into the world of literature beyond the classroom.

“The link provides a sense of community for the children,” says Rebecca Butler, associate headteacher at Kingsfield First School in Staffordshire. “We have very close links with our library.”

Butler’s school is fortunate in being just a walk away from its local branch. “Librarians visit the school to talk to the children, but where you get whole class impact is when we all walk down and visit the library,” she says.

Kingsfield pupils make their first visit during year 1. Besides joining and borrowing books, the pupils take part in book-sorting challenges to show them what the library can offer. Butler believes discovering “the great enjoyment of books” is key to success across the curriculum, and supports the annual Summer Reading Challenge, where children read six books during the break.

I know there will be new books there that I don’t know about. Going home with a different book is so exciting.

A county survey of children’s attitudes to reading shows the success of school and library collaboration. Of 248 children who expressed negative feelings to reading before the Summer Reading Challenge, 222 felt “happy”, “excited” or “proud” afterwards.

And there are more opportunities for engagement as pupils progress through school: at 11, they can take part in the Young Teen Fiction Award, and at 14, they will be eligible for the council’s Young Poet Laureate competition. Meanwhile, for the many young people who complete their homework in the library, “there’s always someone there to talk to,” Butler says.

But walking to a local library is not an option for pupils at Moorlands Primary Academy, in the remote Norfolk village of Belton. A mobile library stops by once a month, but its selection is limited, so teachers and students prefer to make the four-mile trip to their nearest library in Gorleston.

“The library staff are great – proactive at trying to get the children in,” says Jon Biddle, a teacher at Moorlands. “We have one main link representative, who I keep in touch with regularly. We work together to come up with ideas to get the children visiting the library more regularly.”

He gives an example: “When our children visit with their families, they take their school reading records and get them stamped. When a child has three stamps, they receive a certificate, and when they get 10, they’re awarded a book from the school.”

The partnership is paying off, with pupils enthusing about the chance to read new books. “I get really excited when we visit the library,” says Gracie, a pupil at the school. “I know there will be new books there that I don’t know about. Going home with a different book is so exciting, I’m often shaking with excitement inside the car.”

Library staff are excited too. Kirsten Francis, manager of Norfolk County Council’s schools and young people’s library services, says the relationships between libraries and schools are making a difference to children and families.

During the council’s recent storytelling festival, Moorlands students visited Gorleston library to hear two professional storytellers share Greek myths. “We went along with our library cards and over 60 kids borrowed books to take home,” says Biddle.

Courtesy of Theguardian

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