JuniorLibrarian.net: Promoting reading for enjoyment throughout the school...

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The SLA blog contains news about the SLA and topical information of general interest to our members. The blog has been running since 2004. An RSS 2.0 feed and information about how to subscribe to the blog are available.


Following the hit movie of the summer How to Train Your Dragon 2, join Cressida Cowell, the author-illustrator of the wildly popular How To Train Your Dragon book series for a brand new, never-been-seen-before FREE virtual event broadcast LIVE to your classroom on Thursday 2 October, 10.30am GMT. 

Cressida will share behind-the-scenes glimpses into how her books were made into films, she’ll give her top tips for budding authors and show us how to draw Viking hero, Hiccup! All in one exciting 45 minute live event (also downloadable afterwards) suitable for KS2 children!

Sign up TODAY at ‘Children’s Author’s Live’ and download the accompanying teacher’s pack. All children at participating schools will receive a WHS discount voucher, which will be redeemable on the books.


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Summer Reading Challenge materials

Mythical MazeI would be very interested to know if any school librarians used the Reading Agency's lesson plans and and top tips resources for the lead up to or follow on from the Summer Reading Challenge Activty undertaken this summer. They were widely publicised in the TES blog, the Guardian blog, on Twitter and via their websites - www.readingagency.org.uk/schools.
Did you know they existed?
Did you find them useful?
Did you recomend them to colleagues?
How did you use them (in very general terms)?

To respond either login and add a comment to the SRC strand under Reading Promotion on the SLA Discussion Forum, or email me  - Tricia.adams@sla.org.uk

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Birmingham launches Year of Reading

Steve Cole Presenting
Steve Cole Presenting

A year-long celebration of reading, involving schools throughout Birmingham, launched in the city last week. The Birmingham Year of Reading will provide free books and library cards for as many as 120,000 children in the city, as well as high-profile author events, workshops, learning resources and book award shadowing, all available to any school in the city wishing to sign up for just £1 per pupil.

The 12-month event is the brainchild of The Birmingham Education Partnership (BEP), a group of dedicated education professionals who joined together to provide support and advice to Birmingham schools following the withdrawal of local authority services after government cuts.  The main aims of the Year of Reading, as set out by the BEP, are to close the gender gap in reading and raise attainment across the board, resulting in more children in Birmingham schools achieving level 6 reading by the time they finish primary school.

As one of the three main sponsors, (alongside Birmingham Children’s University and Oxford University Press), Birmingham-based library and schools supplier Peters Books & Furniture will be working with the BEP and all participating schools to help make The Year of Reading a success.

The launch event, part of which was held at Peters on the 9th September, was a lively affair, with rousing speeches from The Lord Mayor of Birmingham, Peters’ MD Ray Dyer, BEP CEO Alastair Falk, and an entertaining presentation from Astrosaurs and Young Bond author, Steve Cole.

Ray Dyer, Managing Director of Peters Books & Furniture, said: “We know literacy rates are quite low across the country, including in Birmingham, which is why when the Birmingham Education Partnership approached us we didn’t hesitate to say yes… One of our aims is to put books in the hands of children, and for some it could be the first book they’ve ever owned. We hope that will be just the first part of a lifelong journey.”  There's an article in the Birmingham Mail celebrating the launch.

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Book Promotions October 2014

TRA Star WarsStar Wars Day - 11 October is Star Wars Reads Day and thanks to Dorling Kindersley the Reading Agency have some special material and offers to help you celebrate it in style.

The third book in the hilarious Timmy Failure series by Stephan Pastis, Timmy Failure: We Meet Again, is coming out 30 October 2014. To celebrate, Walker Books are offering libraries the chance to hold Timmy Failure parties with everything you need to make these really special.

There are lots of other items on the Reading Agency's website - look at the Book Sorter to vote for the book that makes you happiest!

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Tracey Needham:

Tracey Needham
Higher level Teaching Assistant with Management Responsibilities
Sacred Heart RC Primary School, Barrow–in-Furness

Tracey Needham’s library is like a theatre with Tracey as production designer, stage manager, director and promoter.  Sacred Heart’s 200 pupils are the actors and the audience who flock to Tracey’s events, with a supporting cast of toys and creatures.

First, there’s the half-termly competitions in which every entrant gets a prize (the winner gets a bigger prize). The last competition had a World Cup theme (Tracey is a qualified Football Association referee) and attracted 70 entries: a lot of prizes to source. “I keep my eye out for books and craft supplies in remainder shops,” says Tracey. “We’ve also received 100 books from the Booktrust Read for My School promotion: it all helps.”

Tracey is a higher level teaching assistant with management responsibility for the library and reading promotion, and for monitoring and evaluating reading throughout the school.

In the two and a half years since the Sacred Heart library has had a designated space, Tracey’s promotional work has resulted in an increase in loans of 75 per cent in the last school year, 2013-14, and 111 per cent in 2012-13. Last term [July 2014], OFSTED inspectors praised “the well-stocked and exciting library” and the pupils’ enthusiasm for reading and quoted one pupil who said, “Reading a good book is like dreaming. It takes you into new and fantastic worlds.” Ofsted also noted that the emphasis on reading has also helped pupils’ writing.

The school has 35 per cent of pupils receiving free school meals and many do not have easy access to books at home.

Tracey says: “The challenge is to keep reading fresh, focus on the pleasure it brings and share the excitement that I get from it. I have great support from the headteacher and senior leadership team. They are happy for me to try out any crazy idea I come up with.

“I often introduce a craft element to the competitions: for the World Cup theme, the children all made maracas. Every Friday we have a library lunch for mixed year groups, which usually combine reading with a craft activity. The crafts will often draw in the shyer children and the less confident readers. I’ve always loved crafts, knitting and sewing and ideas come to me all the time.

“For one session I collected old comics from secondhand shops and we compared them to contemporary comics and made comic strips. We did a Where’s Wally? session and made magnetic bookmarks. To celebrate 25 years of Elmer in September 2014, everyone will make an Elmer out of a milk carton. It’s all very informal and the reading happens alongside the activity.

The library spills into every classroom where book boxes are changed regularly book boards promote the current class novel (each class ends the school day with a reading-aloud session). As a Year 5 and 6 teaching assistant, Tracey is always alert to potential novels to share. “I’ve picked out Skyhawk by Gill Lewis and The Furthest Away Mountain by Lynne Reid Banks: one more recent novel and one you don’t see so much now. It helps if I bring in the book before we start reading it so that the children see me reading it in advance and enjoying it.”

Tracey’s next step is a virtual library that children can access independently. They can already choose to read some titles on the class sets of iPads.

She teaches weekly library skills sessions for Key Stage 2, collaborating with class teachers to research skills into pupils’ homework projects, and teaches Key Stage 1 alongside the class teacher.

Tracey’s connection with the school started as a parent volunteer when her daughter was a pupil, and she was first employed as a teaching assistant 16 years ago. Now her daughter is 23 and working in further education learning support, and Tracey has acquired qualifications to degree level (Professional Studies in Education, accredited by Lancaster University and taught one day a week in Barrow). She is now looking into the SLA’s distance learning qualification.

Growing up in Barrow, she had wanted to be a teacher “but coming from a working-class background we were not pushed in that direction at school – it was expected that you would work in the shipyards”. Tracey did office work for a local hospital and electrical company before forming her connection with Sacred Heart.

“Everything fell into place when I had my daughter. I had always loved reading but through going into school I saw the importance of sharing it with children. As my daughter got older we were reading and studying together. I like to keep learning something new.”

Tracey has just half a day a week to spend on her library role. “I do spend a lot more time than that, although I can also ask for more time if I am planning a special event. I never stop thinking about it: there are always more ideas.”

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National Poetry Day 2014

Poetry SocThursday 2nd October is National Poetry Day - are you planning something for your library?  There are several events happening you may find helpful.

National Poetry Day Live - A celebration of poetry exploring the theme ‘Remember’, curated by a group of young poetry producers aged 18 to 25 as part of London Literature Festival. Presented by Southbank Centre and the Poetry Society. The Clore Ballroom at Royal Festival Hall, London.  1pm – 6pm Free.  School groups are welcome. If you are bringing your class and would like to plan your day out at Southbank Centre please email: bea.colley@southbankcentre.co.uk.

SLAMbassadors UK, the national youth slam for 12-18 year olds has now been running for over a decade  – that’s more than ten years of exhilarating live events, showcasing of new talent, professional development for contestants, and the involvement of participants across a wide spectrum of faiths, backgrounds and abilities. We continue to aim to involve as many young people as possible in reading, writing, and performing poetry.  Slam is the competitive art of performance poetry before a loud and lively audience. Young people across the UK are invited to enter the Championship by filming themselves performing a poem or rap piece and uploading it to the SlamCam YouTube channel.  Find out more, and look at the resources available on the website.

Win tickets to see Alan Bennett in performance for National Poetry Day: Reading Agency competition launches.  On National Poetry Day (2 October), Alan Bennett will present his anthology of verse, Six Poets: Hardy to Larkin, accompanied by his own enlivening commentary at the National Theatre in central London.  National charity The Reading Agency is thrilled to be partnering with publisher Profile to offer a pair of tickets to the sold-out event.

To enter the competition to win the tickets, poetry fans are being asked to name their favourite poem, and give a short commentary about the poem to be in with a chance. For inspiration, entrants can read what Alan Bennett had to say about the poem MCMXIV (1964) by Phillip Larkin.  To competition entry form can be found online at: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/8JBKVPL -- the closing date is 26 September.

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Second profile of SLYA finalists: Liz Millett Profile

Liz Millett
Weatherfield Academy, Dunstable, Bedfordshire

 With 112 pupils at Weatherfield Academy, Liz can pursue each child's increased reading enjoyment and attainment. 'I know every one of them and their likes and dislikes.'

Weatherfield pupils are aged seven to nineteen and all have moderate learning difficulties plus a wide range of additional needs. A third are living in residential care and two-thirds have deprived backgrounds. Liz's library and its  3,000 books are their reading lifeline and she is committed to sourcing the titles that will fire a spark in each individual.

Pupils' range of special needs, she explains, mean that 'you don't always see progress from year to year. Children come in with lower than average levels and they might stay there. My aim is to increase their pleasure from reading whatever level they are at, to make sure they are not frightened by books or put off them, so they they will come to see reading as something they will always have for themselves.'

'You have to make the time to chat to each child in a relaxed way. If  you can tap into something they are already interested in, your're halfway there. One of my students , a 13-year-old girl, improved her reading levels by 23 months in a year. Once I realised that she loved horses I found her collection of horse and pony books and she just ate them up. At the moment I know that one little boy is obsessed with lorries so I pick books out for him.

Plus I'm always watching for current trends with wide appeal. Christmas annuals go down a storm and I look for fun and eye-catching fiction, like Horrid Henry. My next goal is to develop the young adult section. I've been looking at the Badger and Barrington Stoke ranges. I love books, so that aspect of the job is a real pleasure.

Children who have read the number of books set by Liz are rewarded with a certificate, presented at the school's celebration assembly every Friday with an end of term Library Trophy  for the most enthusiastic reader.  She set up this system to increase reading motivation by making reading a cause for public appreciation. 'We award a few certificates every week and most children will get at least one over the year.'

Liz has built a relationship with Weatherfield's local public library and is working towards pupils taking part in the Summer Reading Challenge. 'Just taking children to a library is important. For most of them it's the first time they have been to one.'

Work with parents is one of Liz's ongoing goals but progress can be slow. 'Some of our parents face reading challenges of their own: some are our past pupils. If they are struggling with reading themselves it's hard for them to help their children. Our pupils live up to 20 miles from the school and it can be hard for some parents to come in. We're promoting an online facility for children and parents to choose books together at home.'

Liz favours building personal connections with parents in the same way as with children, slowly and organically. 'I give out my email address when I meet parents at parents' evening and encourage  them to contact me. It can be a long haul, you have to have patience.'

Liz has been at Weatherfield for 14 years, having been drawn to working in schools by volunteering in her own children's primary school

Previously she had worked in telesales for a paper merchant.

'I went into my children's lower school to listen to children read and was increasingly asked to work with children with special needs. I realised that I enjoyed working with children with special needs, and when a job came up at Weatherfield I jumped at the chance. I worked closely with the head of English and we developed the library from a few shelves in a study area. Since then there have been two more heads of English and each time I have been given more control.'

Five years ago Liz took on the job of creating the current library in a former classroom. While she would love to find more room for soft seating and toys, she has a whiteboards and speakers to make use of a wide range of resources for literacy lessons and runs a weekly lunchtime library club. The library is also the base for the school's volunteer reading mentors (each children keeps the same adult mentor throughout their career at Weatherfield), with the mentors' progress tracking folders available for consultation.

Meanwhile the school's topic-based creative curriculum up to Year 9 (last term the topics were 'Sport and Life' and 'Health and Fitness') means Liz has a vital role influenced throughout the school, helping subject departments find appropriate resources, while she teaches five 45-minute lessons a week in the library which also has termly displays to reinforce the topic. she ensures that each pupil develops information literacy skills to the best of their ability, with colour-coded shelving alongside the simple Dewey  system so that pupils can find their books independently.

Most of the time she is in the classroom as a teaching assistant. She is happy working in a school that has the motto: 'To become the best person you can be' and is passionate about their mission statement: 'To work together to place the young person at the centre of all we strive for by developing confidence, independence and lifelong learning. She says : 'I've been given more and more responsibility over the years and I'm always busy but the difference you make to individuals makes it worthwhile.'

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Reading Guide - Apple and Rain

Bloomsbury have made availabe a teachers’ guide for Apple and Rain by Sarah Crossan. If easier, it’s available to download from the Bloomsbury website.

Apple and Rain Teachers' Guide

PDF file, 0 

Requires Adobe Reader


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