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The SLA Resources Blog is designed to highlight new resources which we at the SLA think may be of interest to school librarians and to others working in related fields. The blog is available at and can also be read via an RSS feed at

Older blog posts are still available, though archived, on the website, but please check the date at the top of the post to make sure the offer or information is likely to be valid.


MurderSecondary school librarians and English departments across the United Kingdom have been providing a new library-based challenge for their students this year: solving a murder!

Using the materials provided in Box Clever Education’s recently released murder mystery kit ‘Murder by the Book’, sections of school libraries have been turned into crime scenes. The kit provides everything that is required, from the clues and scenario, to support materials such as crime scene tape, promotional posters and student support documents, allowing schools to quickly set up their crime scene with minimal preparation.

The activity is delivered in three main stages. After completing the warm-up ‘Detective Exam’, student teams visit the crime scene and investigate the 44 different clues within a set time limit, working together to uncover the truth about how a librarian’s assistant met with a suspicious end. With three plausible suspects in the frame (including the librarian) and a number of red herrings to lead teams astray, the activity challenges students to ensure that all clues are carefully examined, recorded and cross-referenced. After visiting the crime scene, teams are encouraged to pool their ideas and formulate theories as to who did it, why, how and also how the remaining two suspects could be proven innocent. The final stage of the activity requires student teams to provide a detailed solution, either in written form or as a verbal presentation. Once all solutions have been submitted and the best overall response has been chosen, a PowerPoint-based solution is provided to fully explain how the crime was committed.

For more information about ‘Murder by the Book', including delivery guidance, product contents, skills maps, demonstration photos and testimonials, please visit Box Clever Education’s website: A 10% discount offer is currently in place for all SLA members (coupon code: SHERLOCK10).

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Book reviews from children and parents

ToppstaToppsta is a relatively new website but already has more than 7,000 reviews written by children and parents. Focusing on children’s books for ages up to 12, it’s an amazing resource for keeping up to date with which books children are really enjoying reading. All the reviews are organised by the age of the child making it easy to see what children of all ages are reading at home. And every review includes information on whether the child read it themselves, or had the book read to them by someone else.  The site covers a broad range of titles from board books to classic fiction, debut authors to bestselling titles, fiction, reference and non-fiction

Easy centralised resource for libraries, schools and book clubs to write reviews -

  • It’s a great website for children who use your library to upload their own reviews
  • Children can build their own reading timeline and discover books recommended by other readers
  • You can also sign up to a receive a weekly newsletter with recommendations based on the age of the children in your profile

Safe environment

  • Adults are required to register first before setting up a child’s account 
  • There are no photos allowed and no forum for users to talk directly to each other, making it a safe environment for children to voice their opinions

For your library website

  • If you have a “Resources” or "Links” page on your library or school website, this would be a useful resource for children, parents, teachers and anyone interested in children’s books.

Free books

  • The site runs regular book giveaways where readers can enter to win and review books, though adults need to enter on behalf of children. 
  • Librarians are warmly invited to enter the giveaways to win books for their libraries as long as reviews are submitted after receiving the book

If you have any queries, suggestions or comments you can email georgina[at]

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New! Reading Outcomes Framework

Reading Outcomes Framework Toolkit Thumb 300x212 15105At The Reading Agency we believe that evaluating the impact of our work is vitally important: we need to be clear about how reading for pleasure and empowerment impacts on people's lives and how our programmes contribute to this. We need this information because we are ambitious for our programmes. We want to get more people involved in reading and we want to be sure that they have high quality experiences which make a difference to them.

We have been leading an innovative, collaborative project to help improve impact evaluation across the sector, by developing a reading outcomes framework toolkit. We are very grateful to the Peter Sowerby Foundation for funding this work.

The reading outcomes framework toolkit includes:

  • a framework of the outcomes of reading for pleasure and empowerment
  • sample survey questions to evaluate whether a programme impacts on these outcomes
  • a bank of evidence about how reading relates to these outcomes

A useful tools for librarians everywhere!

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Cats, Dogs and Us: All-Age Special Schools Edition

Special Schools Lessons CoverCats and dogs are great friends to our students and through a new free pack from the International Fund for Animal Welfare, teachers will be able to explore with students how to return that friendship. In learning about cats and dogs through the Cats, Dogs and Us Special Schools Edition resource, students will also learn about things useful to their own lives, such as how we express emotions and what we all need to be happy and healthy. The resource includes a colorful magazine to share with students, lesson plans and a number of supporting activities including songs about cats and dogs, animal sensory experiences to explore with students, symbols to support communication, role-play activities and suggestions for a public performance based on students’ learning. We hope teachers will find something for every one of their students in this pack, including those who access their learning in a purely sensory way and those achieving at a level equivalent to their mainstream peers.

The link for the text 'Cats, Dogs and Us: Special Schools Edition' is

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Alzheimer's Resources

ARUK Brain Box ImageNational Schools Partnership are excited to introduce you to Brain Box, a new flexible curriculum-linked learning programme brought to you by the charity Alzheimer’s Research UK, that helps students aged 11 to 14 explore the most complex structure in the universe - the human brain.

With real-world examples of science in action, students will develop scientific enquiry skills and get a taste of what it’s like to be a brain scientist whilst learning about the effects diseases like Alzheimer’s can have upon a healthy brain.

September is World Alzheimer’s Month, so now is the perfect time for your students to lift the lid on brain science!

Download your free education resources today and inspire our next generation of scientists here today:

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Not too big, not too small; effectively matching students to the right reading material

A guest blog from Sue Murray at

We all remember how, for Goldilocks, the first bowl of porridge was too hot, the second too cold but the last one was just right. Getting the right ‘fit’ is always a challenge. Similarly, when it comes to education and literacy, are we correctly matching each child’s reading ability to the right books?

At a time when the quality of our textbooks is being scrutinised and we continue to slip down the international league tables (The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA)) we know officials are asking the same question.

For teachers and librarians this has long been a concern.  They  realize that if Year 6 pupils are presented with reading materials at a level of complexity above their reading ability, absorbing the information could be quite challenging, and could result in frustration – frustration that could result in children losing their love of books. Conversely, materials written significantly below a pupil’s ability level may mean that, in the absence of challenge, the pace learning and improvement in standards is limited.  In other words, high levels of frustration are counter-productive to reading growth and lead to a fear of reading, while reading texts at too low a level mean that students will not be challenged and are unlikely to grow their literacy skills.

For years, in an effort to solve this problem school books have been leveled according to the 11 ‘book bands’ used in primary schools. There are several issues with this model.  The first lies in the fact that each publisher applies the band based on their own assessment of their reading material. This subjectivity means that there is often little continuity between publishers’ series.  In other words, one book at Book Band X may actually be much more complex than the text at the same Book Band from another series. So if a child arrives at a school having previously used another reading scheme, the effort to match the student to the right level may result in an inaccurate match.  The difficulty is even more pronounced if a child arrives at school from overseas where they don’t use the UK book bands, and thus there’s no accurate way to match the student to the appropriate level of text.  Furthermore, after a child reaches Key Stages 3 and 4, book bands no longer apply. What is an educator to do? There is a solution.

Enter the Lexile Measure. The Lexile metric can be applied to both students and texts allowing for a scientifically sound, objective by design, match between a pupil’s ability and text difficulty. A wide variety of assessment companies now report a student’s Lexile measure; and many textbook and trade book publishers measure their titles using the Lexile metric. Thus a pupil that has received her own Lexile measure can easily find books of interest at just the right difficulty. This single metric removes the subjectivity and confusion of multiple competing schemes, replacing it with an objective scale for gauging a pupil’s growth.

In fact, more than 200 publishers across the world, such as Scholastic and McGraw Hill, are now utilising the Lexile reading measure.  

The Lexile Framework is not another test or a reading intervention program, and best of all, the Lexile Framework adds value to classroom assessments – adding more information, not more testing time.

The Lexile Framework was recently applied to both the 2016 Reading Test SATs and to available textbooks for primary and secondary pupils. The findings of these two studies suggest that there is a disconnect between the classroom materials available for pupils and the difficulty of the assessments. In both cases the assessment material was found to be more challenging than the textbooks. In fact, there was a substantial (300L) difference between the median textbook measure for Year 6 and the Key Stage 2 test. By tying day-to-day work in the classroom through the library books read, to critical high-stakes tests, the Lexile Framework offers a “big picture” view of growth of student reading ability from preschool through to adult learning.
So the question is, do librarians have enough information about each book to be able to match each student with published material correctly aligned to their own reading level? If we are to improve our standards in British schools we must intelligently and accurately align publishers’ materials with each student’s reading level so that in turn, teachers and librarians can assign the appropriate books to each child.

For further information on the Lexile Framework for Reading and a list of more than 200 publishers using the measure, please visit

* The study was based on textbooks written specifically for the new 2015 National Curriculum. If textbooks written specifically for the new curriculum were not yet available or in reprint, textbooks deemed still appropriate for the curriculum by their publisher were included.


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Cogheart and news from Usborne

Cogheart CoverSign up to Usborne's librarian newsletter at

Usborne have just launched Cogheart by Peter Bunzl (ISBN 9781474915007) -   #cogheart

Be swept away by airships and flabbergasted by dastardly plots in this extraordinary and wildly imaginative debut, bursting with invention and adventure.

"Some secrets change the world in a heartbeat".

13 year-old Lily has no idea why her father has worked so hard to keep her identity a secret. Having exhausted any number of governesses, Lily has been sent to the crumbling red-brick institution of Miss Octavia Scrimshaw's Finishing Academy for young ladies, under the tutelage of The Kraken, a formidable witch of a woman who thinks young ladies should concentrate on learning to stand up straight and deport themselves properly. Lily would far rather be reading the Penny Dreadful's her father sends her in his monthly care packages, learning piracy and air combat but when Lily's inventor father vanishes after a Zeppelin crash, Lily is determined to hunt down the truth behind his disappearance.

Helped by Robert, the local clockmaker's son, and her wily mechanical fox Malkin she finds herself deep in a mystery she could never have forseen. But shadowy figures are closing in and treachery lurks among the smoky spires of London - along with a life-changing secret.

Perfect for fans of Katherine Rundell, Piers Torday and Katherine Woodfine, Cogheart is a modern classic to capture the hearts of readers.

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Getting the Best Start in Life

Online careers resource provides job information at the touch of a button. A free careers software is about to change the way careers guidance is carried out in schools and at home.

Start, developed by careers guidance company U-Explore, provides access to comprehensive information for teachers, parents and students. Designed to help young people connect ideas, interests and aspirations to jobs and educational pathways, Start offers independent, impartial and innovative careers support.

At the heart of the software is a job bank which includes more than 1,600 jobs providing detailed information on the qualifications required, typical salaries and the user’s own suitability for the role. Linked to this is live market information, showing open opportunities in the student’s locality, enabling young people to get a real indication of the current labour market and job availability.

As the name suggests, Start enables a young person to begin anywhere; a favourite subject; an area of interest; a place to study; or a job aspiration. Users create a personal profile based on their qualities, skills and work preferences and the unique profiling technology matches them to jobs which correspond to their personality.
Start can be accessed in and out of schools by teachers, parents and young people. Visit for more information.  Below is a new White Paper which has been released recently that discusses the future of careers guidance and software within the sector.

Start White Paper

PDF file, 285 kB

Requires Adobe Reader

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