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Nicki Cleveland: Honour Librarian Profile

SLA School Librarian of the Year Award 2018: Honour Librarian Profile

Nicki Cleveland
Cannon Park Primary School, Coventry


Nicki Cleveland is School Librarian (and Higher Level Teaching Assistant) at Cannon Park Primary School, a single form entry state primary school on the outskirts of Coventry, serving pupils both from one of the most disadvantaged areas of the city as well as from families studying and working at Coventry University.

Originally, with a background in Human Resources, events and marketing, Nicki's journey towards becoming a passionate advocate for her school library and Reading for Pleasure all started when she began volunteering at a local primary school following the birth of her son. A qualification in child development followed and soon she was working as a teaching assistant. Now she has special responsibility for the school library and is currently working towards gaining CILIP certification.

Despite having only 3.5 dedicated hours in the library and a limited budget, Nicki has supported and revolutionised the way the teaching staff at Cannon Park Primary think about Reading for Pleasure; the school has become a genuine reading school with her at its heart. By thinking outside the box and enthusiastically engaging with the children's book world via Skype and Twitter, Nicki has been able to enrich her pupils' engagement with books in an extremely powerful way.

From her Bed Time Book Club, designed to give extra support and encouragement to pupils who are not read to at home, to her Listen in the Library initiative which supports low attaining readers with age appropriate texts, Nicki is full of creative ideas to find new ways to support pupils at different stages of falling in love with books. In addition to the stock in the main school library, children are invited to borrow books from "Miss Cleveland's bookcase", which is made up of Nicki's own copies of books she has personally read, many of which are signed by the book's author or illustrator. Access to the bookcase is highly valued by the children and this is just one example of how she makes books and reading feel extra special. Another is a new initiative; Nicki has recently introduced a well-received Child Of Books Award for the Year 6 pupil who has "discovered Reading for Pleasure and developed a lifelong love of books".


One of the challenges Nicki faces at work is that there is no school budget allocation for library stock. Despite this, Nicki is cleverly able to keep her library fresh and up-to-date. This is partly due to making the most of Coventry's still existing School Library Service which not only ensures excellent non-fiction selections for her pupils but also saves her administrative time so she can spend more with her readers rather than behind a computer. Additionally, Nicki's passionate engagement with authors online, particularly via Twitter, her dedication to ongoing CPD and commitment to attending as many author events in her own time, alongside fundraising through book fairs and developing relationships with local businesses all enables her to ensure her library is well stocked with new and exciting books for all ages and abilities.

Nicki aims "to make reading rock for all of the children at Cannon Park Primary School" and all the evidence shows that despite her limited time and budget, she has already made great strides towards this goal. Staff confirm Nicki's approach has not only improved academic results for the school, but she has also changed the way the teaching staff think about reading.

There aren't many people who have had brushes with Russell Crowe and Clint Eastwood but still feel their best and favourite claim to fame is being immortalised in a children's book, but Nicki is one of them, showing how her love of reading and connecting children with books is truly ingrained in all she does. 

You can get a further flavour of Nicki's work on her book blog http://www.missclevelandsreading.com/ and on Twitter [at]MissNCleveland.

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