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New Blog Site

Hello lovely followers!

I’ve been writing this library blog for the past few years. However, in my life outside of St Michael’s, I also write a blog based on children’s books: www.childtasticbooks.com.

I originally started this with my daughter when she was young but, now that she’s a teen, she has no time for it anymore! It’s quite a lot of work writing two blogs so, from now on, Childtastic Books will cover the library too, as much of the content is very similar and the posts I include on Childtastic are based on the books we read in the Library.

I will keep this blog site live for reference purposes but please note that Childtastic will now be the blog to visit. Please do check it out and follow it for reviews, news and fun!

We can also be found on Twitter: @Childtastic.

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Mohammad DOES like poetry!

One of our Y5 pupils recently borrowed Joshua Seigal’s LOLLIES-shortlisted poetry book I Don’t Like Poetry. And guess what?

Mohammad does!

Image result for joshua seigal Lollies

He returned the book to me today in his library session, chuckling at the fun he’d had with the book. When I asked him which was his favourite poem, he told me the second one was the best. This is it:

Resolutions

DAY 1

I won’t be late for school again

I won’t swing in my seat.

I’ll do my best on every test

and I will never cheat.

 

I’ll help with chores around the house.

I won’t get in a rage.

I’ll get a broom and sweep my room

and clean the hamster’s cage.

 

I’ll put my money in the bank.

I won’t spend it on sweets.

I’ll make a pledge to eat more veg

and give up eating meat.

 

I’ll go out jogging round the park.

I’ll try hard to get fit.

I will not shirk, I’ll do the work

and I will never quit.

 

I’ll be the best that I can be

improve in every way.

I will shine bright, and I will write

a poem every day!

 

Day 2

 

This is the humour in the piece – of course resolutions are meant to be broken and after such a build-up of positivity and optimism, this is a great punchline – a blank page with a rubber and a pencil. Hard to capture this here of course… but you get the meaning.

I agreed with Mohammad that this was a fab poem – I could hear myself in those promises (especially the jogging bit and doing more housework).

It’s always wonderful when children choose poetry to read by themselves (rather than me reading it to them) so I thought I’d share this with you today. Poetry can be fun, beautiful, scary, sad … there’s a poem for every emotion.

What’s your favourite poem or poet?

  • You can find out more about Joshua Seigal here.
  • You can read about the other LOLLIES books here. We have all of the titles in the Library!
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Meg and the Romans

This week I’ve been busy reading Meg and the Romans, by Jan Pienkowski and David Walser, to the children.
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We’ve had the usual fun with Meg, Mog and the Owl’s antics and enjoyed the bright, engaging pictures, but we’ve also learned a thing or two. For example, we can now introduce ourselves in Latin thanks to Julius Romanus, we know that the Roman name for Britain was, well, Britannia, and we also can say the Latin name for London (Londinium). But you HAVE to remember to say this with a flourish of the arm, as if raising a sword and ordering your troops to ride on.

Julius Romanus arrives at Dover in a suitable boat but gets his toe pinched by an angry crab (well, you’d be angry too, if you were meant to be cooked for lunch) so Meg sorts him out a ride on a horse called Dobbin. The problem is, Dobbin is a bit of an equus Britannicus and an equus rapidus and likes throwing poor Julian onto the ground or into some water.

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Julius does eventually get to London, however, and bids his new friends farewell with the word ‘Vale’. His golden eagle decides life is better with Meg, Mog and Owl and flies back to their house, declaring ‘Domum dulce domum.’ Home sweet home indeed.

A great book to spark some giggles and teach a few Latin words. The Meg and Mog books are classics for a good reason, and the children were delighted with this new offering from the madcap pair.

(Originally published on http://www.childtasticbooks.com)

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Welcome back to school!

Half term disappeared into the mists of autumn, didn’t it? And now the nights are drawing in sooner, I’m ready to tackle my pile of books to be read. And there are LOTS that will find their way into the library very soon.

Just before the half-term break, I went on a wonderful training session at the British Library (if you’ve never been to this fantastic place, you must – if only for the architecture or even for the Harry Potter History of Magic exhibition which is so popular that tickets are being snapped up). I visited the day of the press launch, when the finishing touches were being added and I am going to go back for a closer look!

Anyway, I digress. Run by the marvellous BookTrust, the event I attended was called Start the Story and was all about inspiring children to love reading. This involves all sorts of activities – from organising book shares and donations and pop-up book shops to promoting reading for pleasure in school and online. Three inspiring women gave talks about how we could achieve this:

Happily, some of the ideas suggested are things we already do but I’ve got some fantastic prompts for further activities to try and will be working on them for the rest of this term. Watch this space!

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Meet Sabeen, one of our Junior Librarians!

Here at St Michael’s we like to involve the older children in the running of the library. It provides them with responsibility and a sense of ownership, which they rise to well. What’s so good is seeing how the older children help and motivate the younger children with their reading. Sabeen, our featured helper in today’s post, comes in when we have a special lunchtime session for Years 1 and 2. She talks to the children about what they like to read and helps them make choices. The younger children love the attention from an older child and Sabeen is an excellent role model.

Sabeen has written a short piece about the library and what she does, so over to her!

The School Library is popular with people who love reading, drawing and much more. It attracts upper key stage 2 because once you are in year 5 and 6 you get a job and help out. I have a job and work on Thursdays with the Y1s and Y2s. It’s for all years and every couple of months there is an event/competition. People are always bursting to come in and and there is normally a crowd at the door. I spoke to Grace in Y1 and she said, “I really like doggy books!”

Sabeen has always been a keen supporter of the library and has participated in many activities. A year or so ago, she was regularly drawing comics and showed she had a tremendous gift at putting funny words to funny pictures. I hope she will continue with this as she definitely has talent. And we’re lucky to have her with us in the library!

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Let’s Celebrate Libraries!

This week is National Libraries’ Week, when people across the UK celebrate everything that is good and great about libraries. And, of course at St Michael’s, we want to join in!

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With libraries becoming increasingly threatened by budget cuts, it is even more important to celebrate the purpose of libraries and the wonderful opportunities they offer their users, from babies at story-times and rhyme-times to adults learning IT skills.

I know I am biased but I believe that their importance in schools cannot be overstated. A school library should be a place where children can:

  • explore a wide variety of books – from new, old and favourite authors and illustrators
  • ask questions about books and reading
  • think creatively about the books – we often do this through themed or related activities (we made our own Supertatoes from real potatoes, then planted them in a pot to grow baby Supertatoes!)
  • discover books they might not have considered and find out about new topics
  • share their thoughts on the books they read and recommend them to others (or not!)
  • write book reviews, blog posts and letters to authors
  • draw their own comics and picture books (we have a whole folder of fantastic creations!)
  • find peace and quiet in the midst of a busy school day. Some pupils visit the library to have some time out when they need to recharge
  • meet authors and illustrators in person and learn about their jobs (we’ve been lucky to host Peter Bently, Kiran Millwood Hargrave and Duncan Beedie in the last couple of years alone)
  • read for pleasure rather than skill and ability. I try to encourage the children to read what interests them and break down barriers that state, for example, that children shouldn’t read picture books above a certain age (I’m over 40 and still buy and read them!) or that books featuring girls can’t be read by boys.

Lucky librarian

I am fortunate enough to work in a fantastic school, where reading (especially for pleasure) is prized so highly that the room that used to be dedicated to IT was turned three years ago into the Library where I now work. Walls that used to have computers running along them are now covered in bookcases. We have so many books, that the cases are full-to-bursting.

We also have incredibly supportive parents, who buy books from our book fairs (which then helps us to buy books for the library) and who give us kind donations so we can invest in keeping the library the lovely place that it is.

What the children say

I’ve never been in a school where reading is such a key part of its identity – to the point where, if a class misses its weekly, hour-long library slot, the children get quite upset and demand when they can catch up!

When I chatted to the children this week about Libraries’ Week, they gave me a whole raft of reasons why libraries are important, such as:

“Because you can read lots of books and then return them and get more books out.”

“You don’t have to pay for the books, like you do in bookshops, so you can read lots.”

“You read stories and then return them so that other children can read them after you. I like that – that others read what I’ve borrowed. It’s nice.”

“The [school] library is my favourite place. It’s fun.”

When I explained to the children that some libraries were closing down, they said it was sad. Many use local libraries outside of school time on a regular basis and couldn’t imagine not having access to it. One boy told me today that every Saturday, he cycles to his swimming lesson, then has lunch and then goes to his local library in the afternoon and enjoys arts and crafts there and borrowing books. This was obviously a much-treasured weekend routine and a time when the family enjoyed doing something together.

I think this is one of the key benefits of libraries, especially to families with younger children. They offer people a free, or at least inexpensive, opportunity to share time together doing something fun and enriching. They open doors to new worlds inside the covers of the books they stock, be they non-fiction books about space or a mystery series starring favourite characters. They boost language ability; they spark creativity.

When I posed the luckily unlikely ‘what if’ scenario of our school library closing, the children first of all looked horrified – eyes wide in shock, little mouths open in disbelief – then grimly determined. One child said:

“I would go all the way to London to Buckingham Palace and demand the Queen give me enough money, and then I would come back to Oxford and give the money to the school so the library could open again.”

… while another shook her head and said:

“I would go back to my country and never return.”

A third promised he would get his dad and granddad to build a new library free of charge so that we would have a place to share books once again.

At St Michael’s I think it’s very clear that the children love their library. And this librarian loves sharing it with them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Happy World Teachers’ Day!

Apparently, today is World Teachers’ Day, so make sure you’re extra nice to them!

This is a perfect opportunity to look at the best and worst teachers in children’s books.

The first lovely teacher that springs to my mind is Miss Honey (even her name is gorgeous) from Roald Dahl’s Matilda (incidentally my favourite book by the master storyteller). She’s kind, she’s patient, and she even has a fantastic way of spelling the word ‘difficulty’.

https://i.pinimg.com/236x/1b/2f/98/1b2f983addeca541876d77ee744b7d2a--quentin-blake-illustrations-miss-honey.jpg      https://i.pinimg.com/originals/2c/76/53/2c765392034cb9e0aa3acbeab0a3e81c.jpg

Of course, her arch enemy is the dreaded Miss Trunchbull – the child-hating, child-swinging bully who locks people up in the Chokey if they dare do anything to annoy her. Why she ever became a headmistress, I’ll never know.

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When I asked the children for some examples of teachers from the books they’d read, the staffroom from Hogwarts immediately came to mind – here are a few examples:

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They all look remarkably different to all of us here at St Michael’s! And we teach more mundane subjects such as English, maths, science, art, etc rather than the weird and wonderful subjects covered in the syllabus in JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series.

Gillian Cross’s The Demon Headmaster certainly lives up to his name. Ruled by a desire to take over the world, he hides his bright green eyes under sunglasses until he’s ready to hypnotise his victims (pupils) with their piercing glare.

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One of my favourite depictions of how a child sees his or her teachers is in Peter Brown’s hilarious picture book My Teacher is Monster:

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This book deals with the embarrassing scenario of meeting your teacher outside of school boundaries. It always makes me chuckle how very little children assume we sort of stay here all the time, as in this book:

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… and they can’t quite take it in when they see us in other surroundings (though I must say all of the St Michael’s children I’ve seen have always been chatty and friendly!). Bobby in this book thinks his teacher is a monster because all she does is yell at the class to be quiet and take away their paper airplanes.

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When he sees her sitting in the park one day, the sense of awkwardness leaps off the page:

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Neither one seems terribly happy to see the other but it all comes out OK in the end.

Teachers are perfect characters for children’s literature though. They are:

  • authority figures who need to have their eyes opened to the evils of the school
  • symbols of an adult world that seeks to thwart the best intentions of a child
  • a perfect target for practical jokes (see Enid Blyton’s boarding school stories, and the havoc the girls wreak on the Mamzelles in particular)

Admittedly, the rebellion mainly comes later in books aimed at older children – in picture books, a more friendly, nurturing soul is encountered, else no one would turn up – they’d be scared rigid.

So who are your favourite teachers in children’s books? Friend or foe? Ally or enemy? Let me know!