Dundee Libraries Take on the Challenge

Selfie of Moira and Elaine

Elaine Hallyburton, Senior Library and Information Officer (School Library Service) and Moira Foster, Education Support Officer, discuss how they have worked with schools in Dundee to embrace the First Minister’s Reading Challenge.

Together, we devise, deliver and develop initiatives to motivate pupils to read and to promote reading for pleasure. The First Minsiter’s Reading Challenge fits in perfectly with what we do and we couldn’t wait to get involved! It has caught the imagination of primary schools in Dundee and we have been out and about to see how staff and pupils are rising to the challenge and offering our support to help schools get the most out of this exciting initiative.

In the run up to Christmas, we went to Our Lady’s Primary, where P6 was enjoying a visit from the author Philip Caveney.

Our Lady Primary

​This was a great session as the class teacher, Mrs Soutar, had been reading Crow Boy to her pupils and their questions complemented Philip’s excellent presentation beautifully. A very different author visit took place at Hillside Primary with Mrs Leigh’s P5s. Here, we witnessed a hunt for Dracula! Two scientists, Doug MacDonald and the author Gill Arbuthnott, delivered an incredibly exciting and innovative science workshop. Pupils were provided with kits of blood (fake!) and serum which they had to use to discover who in their class was a vampire and, ultimately, who in their class was Dracula. As well as being lots of fun, the children learned how scientists are able to map the spread and source of diseases.


The session went down a storm and was enhanced by Mrs Leigh having fostered a keen interest in science earlier in the term – each pupil had their own lab coat! And what does this have to do with literacy? Well, the pupils all wanted to read Gill’s science books!

The Head Teacher of Ancrum Road Primary, Sharon McQuillan, is keen to use the Reading Challenge as a means to engage pupils and parents in reading for pleasure. We met with her to devise a cunning plan. Sharon is going to organise trips to three public libraries for pupils. She decided to go beyond just the branch closest to the school as a number of her pupils travel from other parts of the City. The pupils’ mission will be to learn as much as they can about these libraries and report back to the rest of the school, probably at an assembly. We are also going to visit all the P4-7 classes to deliver presentations we hope they will enjoy. One focusses on cliff-hangers and the other looks at a reading journey from hard copy to e-books and apps. In February, we will also be speaking at an evening event for families at Ancrum Road. After some short introductory talks about helping children to develop a passion for reading, families will be given the opportunity to choose a new book to take home to read. The idea is that both parent and child will read the same book and then in March they will be invited to make a Vox Pop in which they will be able to record their thoughts about the book they selected. All of this is in the early stages of planning and we are very excited to see the results!

Between now and the end of January we will be visiting classes that have signed up for the Dundee Picture Book Award 2017 and many of these have also signed up for the First Minister’s Reading Challenge. This gives us a great opportunity to find out more about what’s going on!


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