Leighton Park School - www.leightonpark.com
“Chris facilitates lifelong learning ensuring the students have the tools they need to empower them: her impact is felt everywhere within the school.”
--- Karen Gracie-Langrick, Deputy Head, Academic Studies and IB Co-ordinator.
Leighton Park School is a Quaker independent school in Reading with 440 day and boarding students aged 11 to 18.
The library is housed in the Old School building, and is approached by a sweeping, double staircase up to an elegant oval landing lit from above by an oval skylight. The extensive accommodation in six rooms includes soft seating, low and high tables and Chris has also introduced an iPad bar. This is popular and heavily used by students. The library is well represented online with links to reading lists and online resources. It is open daily from 8.50 am to 5.30 pm – and Saturday morning for Sixth Form boarders.
Chris has worked at the school since September 2003 and during that time she has been able to ensure that the extremely well stocked library is kept up to date and relevant to the needs of staff and students. A number of newspapers and periodicals are taken along with a wide selection of magazines both for academic subjects and leisure reading and, as might be anticipated given the heritage of the school, a collection of books on Quakerism. Databases include Britannica Online, JSTOR, ODNB and The Day, which Chris reports as having had a huge increase in usage, possibly because of its availability on the iPads. Last year a Comic Club met in the library, resulting in an increase in demand for graphic novels and comics. The students involved are now participating in the Stan Lee Excelsior Award, reviewing and rating graphic novels and manga.
Years 7, 8 and 9 have a fortnightly lesson for quiet reading. There are also weekly ‘Approaches to Learning’ lessons, which give pupils grounding for independent learning, for Years 7 and 8. The library is widely used by different departments including, History and Politics, PE, Psychology, Science and Theory of Knowledge. Chris supports teachers in delivering lessons and finding resources. She teaches information and study skills and a basic course is followed by a mini-project. All year groups and new staff get library inductions.
In 2014, to commemorate one hundred years since the outbreak of World War I, Chris devised a project focusing on Quakers in the war and conscientious objection. She managed to persuade Reading Museum to lend the school some of the panels from an exhibition they curated on Reading during the war, which she supplemented with artefacts hired from the museum loan service. She tirelessly researched eight individuals, most of whom were connected with the school, to provide information for the students of Years 7-11 to work on. The project, ‘A Matter of Conscience’, culminated in an entire day in which the whole school put lessons to one side to learn and think about life during the Great War. This summer Chris created a photographic record of the project and published a book, on a limited print run. She gave a copy to the library at Friends House in London who had also helped her with research.
Chris also devised a book crossing project as part of the school’s celebration of the 125th anniversary of its opening. The money raised from sponsorship by the whole school community was donated to The Book Bus charity which was founded by Old Leightonian and publisher, Tom Maschler.
Chris runs a huge number of reading promotion projects including four different book clubs; an annual book festival; Book Buzz for Year 7; Berkshire Book Award for Year 8; Greenaway and Carnegie Medals for Years 7, 8 and 9 and has attracted Gillian Cross to become the school’s Patron of Reading. For World Book Day and Harry Potter Night she has organised book themed lunches and quizzes. In 2014 she launched the 'Writing for Teenagers Conference', which was attended by local schools. 2016 sees the third of these conferences and will involve the whole of Year 9.
Chris is a qualified librarian; line managed by a Deputy Head, and is a Head of Department. In her own time Chris is also on the Executive Committee of the Federation of Children's Book Groups and a committee member of the local Children's Book Group/branch called Getting Reading Reading.
She believes a quiet atmosphere, with plenty of small areas helps to encourage learning. However, she also likes to create a real buzz around reading and books in the library. The Head of English, at the time of the visit by the judging panel, said that Chris is a real go to person, who ensures everything she organises is completely appropriate to what is being taught.
Chris hopes to continue to support the development of teaching and learning and literacy across the curriculum; and would like to help establish a storytelling area and pop-up library in the grounds. Her vision is to facilitate more events for the local community that would cover costs and reach a wider audience.
Nigel Williams, Head commented that her dedication to all aspects of the school was huge. “She is not just a librarian, but a real ambassador for the school.”
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