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Little English Library

Inspiration Award 2015: Judges' Citations

The Little English Library, Montessori+
Breda, Brabant, Netherlands
Headteacher: Mrs Monique Van Doorn  

Finalist in the SLA Inspiration Award, 2015

Inspirational libraries come in different forms and the Little English Library in Breda has taken the award and judges in a new direction. Located at the Montessori School in Breda, a medium size primary school for 6 to 12-year-olds, its unusual breadth of work very much inspired the judges. The school, in the process of developing a new library for its own use, willingly adapted its plans to accommodate the vision of Tatia Gruenbaum, a university lecturer and an ELT publisher, also a parent at the school. Centrally located on the ground floor in an attractive open plan glassed fronted corridor , this innovative new library provides a wide range of resources for the school and it also supports the English (native) speakers and provides a place of communication in English for bilingual children aged 0 – 14 years ( and their parents) attending neighbouring Dutch schools. There is generally a shortage of English language books in the Netherlands and Tatia wants to encourage and develop opportunities for children to learn, speak and read widely in English.

The library is chiefly managed by Tatia herself, with a group of volunteers on a self-help basis, with full support from the school management and staff and additional funding from the nearby university of Avans Hoeschooln. There is a vibrant English speaking community in and around Breda that badly needs a constant supply of quality English language resources books, both fiction and non-fiction, and texts in other formats to promote and develop English speaking to children. Here was an answer. From small beginnings – Tatia had little idea how to organise and manage a library – of mostly good quality donated resources, classified by the Metis system, the developing library now has over 2,000 books, audio books, book bags, puppets etc. essentially displayed on open shelves. The shelving was planned and arranged by the design company Tiesencoo to create interest and special reading corners. Cash is donated for new resources, also new books are provided from parents, grand-parents and friends in and from the UK. The developing library is also a drop in community centre with parking, coffee machines and comfortable children’s furniture, for parents, who are encouraged to read to and read with their children. It is the first space of its kind in the Netherlands to provide such a service.

The children who use it are clearly motivated, so too their parents. ‘The Little English Library is the perfect place to find books that support our children to learn English as a second language...’ and ‘it motivates our children to learn English. The achievement of understanding another language is tremendous’.

Tatia has taken the project one step further in 2015 with her ‘Books in a Box’ scheme. Having had enquiries for similar libraries in other parts of the Netherlands, the library now lends resources to other schools that in turn are setting up their own small English corner in their school library. The books are spreading!

Further information about the SLA School Library Inspiration Award.