One often overlooked part of the school is the library; a place where so much deep learning, joy, and enrichment can take place. Does your school have a library and you want to know how to make the most of it? Read on as we share ideas about how to use this valuable learning space.
What makes an effective school library?
Those of us who spent our early teenage years trawling the local library for books will remember the joy of discovering a new favourite read and taking it home for our allotted time, then returning it and excitedly swapping it in for the next. All for free!
Libraries are happy and important spaces. As long-standing community hubs and opportunities for all to be able to access books, we must utilise and look after them.
As a student, your school library is a very important space. At GoStudent we’ve kept one eye on the media’s portrayal of our school libraries, as well as important reports about their usage.
The 2021 report created by a collaboration between the National Literacy Trust and Penguin Random House UK tells us most of what we need to know about the changing use and reputation of school libraries. It champions the benefits of these vital spaces, and acknowledges that library transformations need to be made across the country, with the help of the private sector.
Libraries are a vital part of the education system. The National Literacy Trust’s 2021 report on primary school libraries tells us that 40% of schools cannot afford to run a school library. Is your school one of the lucky ones still running strong? If so then it’s up to you to make the most of it.
We know that the best school libraries:
- Are well stocked with a range of fiction, non-fiction, diverse and inclusive books and magazines
- Are organised and categorised
- Are tidy, with extra spaces to study and relax
- Have a librarian or volunteer to look after it
- Appear fun, inviting, and inclusive
Does your library sound like this one? And are you making the most of it? Let’s think about how you can make better use of this important creative space. 📚
How can I make the best use of my school library?
The School Libraries Association says that ‘the role of school libraries has never been more vital’. There are so many ways that you can use these great spaces, but here are a few of our best tips.
Borrow brilliant books
The best libraries are stocked with a huge range of brilliant books from authors all around the world. Books can be really expensive, so the school library is a great place to discover new reads. Plus, they are usually a little more relaxed with late deadlines than local libraries!
Not sure where to start and what to borrow? Speak to your librarian or English teacher for tips to find an author or genre you like, then go from there.
How is your school library organised? By author surname or by category? How about the world-famous Dewey Decimal System? Ask your school librarian to teach you how they organise books, or research yourself, as this skill will be really useful when it comes to finding books at university.
Find a study space
Remember one of the main tips we keep coming back to time and time again? Find a quiet and calm study space (away from your bedroom!) to boost your productivity.
Libraries are great areas to complete your homework and study for exams especially when home can become all too distracting. You could study there over lunchtime or after school, and encourage your friends to tag along too.
Organise events and book clubs
There are plenty of events you could support your library in putting on this school year from small-scale to big:
- Start a book club to share reads
- Organise art sessions to design alternative book covers
- Create a social action group
- Promote marginalised authors
- Find out your teacher’s favourite books and create quiz competitions
- Put up posters for National Poetry Day and organise readings
- Encourage donation of board games for screen-free break times
Download the posters from Libraries Week to put up around your school library or pass them on to your school librarian. Their social media spaces talk about some of the events they’re promoting during this time which you could replicate with your school.
Could you take initiative with the help of a teacher to arrange an author visit during this month? Or suggest books that could be ordered in and read by the school book club (if you don’t have one, start one!)?
You could even shadow a national book prize like the Carnegie Greenaway later in the year and join the community of book clubs across the country.
How will using my school library benefit me?
There are so many benefits to becoming more engaged and proactive with everything your school library has to offer.
Foster a love of reading
The National Literacy Trust’s report suggests that libraries can do even more to develop a child’s love of reading for pleasure than the classroom. Children who enjoy reading = higher academic gains.
Reading also allows you to essentially travel to other worlds, which is key in a time of growing social skills decline post-pandemic. Children who read are likely to have 3x better mental well-being than those who don’t.
The library shouldn’t stock just any books. Book stock in the library should engage a range of pupils’ interests and support the curriculum for all phases of the school, fully representing the diversity of contemporary family life and society in a range of media.
Notice a lack of inclusion and diversity in your school library? Speak to your librarian or English lead about broadening the book selection on offer. There may be enough budget left for second-hand or charity shop finds.
You could even petition for every child in the school who can to pick up a diverse book to read and donate it to the school library. This could equal hundreds of new books!
We know that the best libraries sit at the heart of the wider school, and the local community. They provide safe spaces for children to read and engage, as well as just sit with friends and be creative.
Did you know that one in eleven children in the UK has no access to books at home? This means that there are thousands of children in the UK who – if their families do not take them to a public library – have no access to books until they are old enough to go to a public library on their own.
This has a significant impact on their ability to develop their literacy and reading skills – not to mention the emotional development which flourishes through being exposed to new characters, ideas, and worlds in books. Books are vital in teaching children to develop empathy and learn phonics.
For a library to thrive it needs partnerships, and not just with the English department! Could you be responsible for setting up a link between every department in the school and the library? How about the library with someone in the local community or even the local library? 👋🏼
Improve your mental health
Reading for pleasure is proven to young people’s mental well-being and academic attainment. For children who do not have access to books at home or sufficient parental support with reading, a staffed school library is essential.
Your school library might be the only exposure to books outside of English lessons that some students get at all.
Save money and boost grades
For the 1 in 11 children growing up without any books at home, school libraries are imperative for children to discover the magic of reading. They’re also very useful because they’re free!
With the rising cost of new books with big publishers, you can support authors just as much by borrowing books from the library.
What are you waiting for? Get involved with your school library right away!