Inside the School Library - It’s a kind of magic!

Pupils on World Book Day - credit Phil Harman

There's so much going on around reading for pleasure inside school libraries! Peek inside the doors of the library at Ellon Academy with Jan Murdoch and her pupils to find out more.

“The only thing that you absolutely have to know, is the location of the library” according to Albert Einstein. Well at Ellon Academy in Aberdeenshire, everyone knows the location of the school library, where the windows are etched with poetry by former pupil and Foyle’s Young Poet winner, Magnus: “stories blur and whir into rivers distilled by waterwheels of pages”.

How do pupils feel about the library?

Staff notice that the library is welcoming and vibrant, busy from before 8am with pupils of all year groups. But what do pupils really think?  Members of the Junior Reading Group led by S4 pupil Ailsa (former rookie on the “What’s Your Story?” Teen Development Programme) have been finding out what their fellow pupils think of their school library.

In their own words:  

 “I come with my classes. I love Doctor Who. It’s fantasy and fact, like the library!”

“There’s loads of different clubs and opportunities”

 “I really love the atmosphere.  It’s calm and safe”

For the Reading Group members themselves, the library is a place of safety and inspiration, from an “amazing” literary lunch with author Lari Don who has encouraged them in their own writing, to the opportunity to make new friends and talk about books as much as they want.

There’s also a very successful Homework Club which has been running every lunchtime for over twenty years, with pupils often remarking “If there wasn’t a library I would never get any work done”. Not everyone has suitable space, resources or support at home, reinforcing the message of the National Strategy for School Libraries: “It is vital decision makers recognise the influence school library services and school librarians have in helping to provide children with an equal start in life and supporting young people in their lifelong learning”.  

The S6 Library Committee

The S6 Library Committee is run by S6 pupils with several younger pupils acting as junior members of the committee, and they keep very busy!

Jamie and Bailey are just in S2 but they’re already making their mark by organising a hotly contested Christmas Quiz, attended by over 40 staff and pupils. Mhairi, Lauren and Abbey are all in S6 and they took organising the annual Burns Lunch for over 70 pupils and staff in their stride. Food was provided by the canteen, one of the S2 boys piped in the haggis, Burns readings from staff and there were opportunities for pupils to showcase their talents. The feedback from the event was very positive with several of our more vulnerable pupils commenting that they felt confident participating in such a supportive environment. 

Kyle in S6 is also part of the Dementia Friends/Cool Computing Group and has been trained to deliver one to one ICT sessions to older members of the community and their families.  Working in partnership with staff from Aberdeenshire Libraries, CLD Literacies, Alzheimer Scotland he has helped to deliver a workshop on internet safety to users of the Ellon Resource Centre and residents of a local sheltered housing complex.  

What’s next?

World Book Day this year will be Harry Potter themed. The committee are liaising with library and teaching staff to organise cross-curricular library activities during class time, plus fun lunchtime activities including Harry Potter themed food in the school canteen!

The pupils helped library staff prepare an application for Pupil Equity Funding and we have been successful! Groups of S1 and S2 pupils will be involved in selecting current, differentiated fiction and non-fiction resources at high interest low reading level to engage interest. Library committee members will “issue” the groups with sums of money to choose stock at the upcoming book fair.

As part of the 30th Anniversary of We’re going on a Bear Hunt, a group of staff and library committee members will work with younger pupils to knit teddy bears. Once the teddies have been used for this event the plan is to donate them to charity.

As The Reading Group sum up, at Ellon Academy, “The library is the heart of the school”.

We would love to hear about what's going on in your school library, and across your school, as part of the Reading Inspiration Challenge! Secondary schools have until 1 May to submit an entry - see our secondary submission guide for more information. Every school that submits an entry will receive a party pack for their own reading celebration, plus the chance to win money for books!

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