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.









It’s National Poetry Day!

Today is National Poetry Day, and I’m pretty excited about it. I love poetry, from the dreaminess of the Romantics to the silliness of Spike Milligan and Edward Lear.

Children love poetry, too, particularly poems that rhyme. In fact, sometimes we have to gently encourage them not to always write a poem around the rhyme as it can sound a little forced! That was why last week’s read of Michael Rosen’s ‘Chocolate Cake’ was so great – the children learned that there are other ways of writing poetry and it can be just as effective! (The children are STILL begging me to read that book this week.)

However, rhyme is important in other ways. It helps children learn the rhythm and cadence of language and it’s also wonderful for helping with their prediction skills. Yesterday, I introduced our new Reception children to the delights of Peter Bently’s Dustbin Dad and, even though none of them had read it before, they accurately guessed the end rhymes much of the time (and had a great laugh in doing so).

Poems are a wonderful way to share emotions with children, too. Sadness, silliness, happiness and joy can be found everywhere in children’s poetry, as can wonder at the natural world and consolation when times are tough. Pop into our library and take a look at our poetry collection and tell me your favourites!

I’ll leave you now with some poems and excerpts to enjoy. Happy National Poetry Day!

A lovely, hilarious rhyming couplet from Roald Dahl’s Revolting Nursery Rhymes (Little Red, in case you didn’t know!)

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From Love That Dog, by Sharon Creech

And finally, one of my all-time favourites:



Happy Birthday!

Hello everyone, and may I take this opportunity to wish you a Happy New Year from St Michael’s Library!

This month is racing by alarmingly quickly but I just had to  put up a post to say Happy Birthday…

Apparently this blog started this week a year ago, so we are officially 1 year old. Yay! It’s exciting to have even a small milestone like this. In the past year, we have seen all sorts of amazing things:

World Book Day 2015 – with author Peter Bently!

The wonderful Peter Bently celebrated World Book Day 2015 with us and had us all in stitches with his hilarious Knightmare series and of course the fab The Great Dog Bottom Swap (still frequently requested by children in ALL years). Peter officially opened our new Library and, if that wasn’t enough, dedicated a beautiful book to us later in the year called School Bus Saves the Day. We are truly honoured.

Peter in character as a knight!

School-wide literacy competition – Summer 2015

Piggy-backing on the success of 2014’s ‘Strangest Place to Read’ Competition, we issued all our pupils with a new challenge: Design your own superhero or super-villain… using fruit or veg. We based the idea of this competition on the hugely popular book Supertato by Sue Hendra, and were delighted with the massive response: over 50 entries. Winners were chosen from Reception, Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 and it was a very difficult task as the standard was high. Some of the creative names included:

  • Captain Kohl-rabi
  • Super Deejay Carrot
  • BatMango
  • Pomella, the evil pomegranate, who steals other pomegrantes’ seeds to add to her hair.

We haven’t yet decided on this year’s theme but we’re already excited at the possibilities!

Lorcan batmango

Lorcan’s BatMango (the cape is made from aubergine we think!)

A ghostly talk…

In the first term back from the summer holidays, year 5 were invited to Magdalen College School to attend a talk by bestselling children’s author Jonathan Stroud. In this, he showed us a terrifying trailer for his Lockwood & Co series, about a trio of ghost hunters, keeping London safe from evil spirits lurking in the scariest of places. The children enjoyed the talk and had their pre-ordered books signed by Stroud, who was inundated with eager fans. He also very kindly signed a drawing he’d done and dedicated it to our school. This has been framed and now is hanging up in the Library, so please come to see it if you haven’t already!

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Jonathan Stroud, talking to Laila and Sophia, while signing their books.

Winter Editor Challenge!

Throughout the winter term two groups of students from Year 5 and one from Year 6 entered the National Literacy Trust’s Editor Challenge. The idea was to create their own version of Girl Talk magazine, using templates provided by the NLT and Girl Talk. Having worked for magazines, I can honestly say that their experience mirrored the reality of life at a national mag – there was a long period of discussion and allocation of roles and content, followed by frantic working and last-minute panic. However, every team made an impressive magazine, all very different to the others, and we’re waiting to hear the result. Please keep your fingers crossed!

There are plenty of plans in store for 2016 to make it even more exciting than 2015. Thank you for following us!



Are dads really dustbins?

This week I had the pleasure of reading Dustbin Dad to Reception and Key Stage 1 pupils. They were especially keen on the book because it was written by Peter Bently, who visited our school on World Book Day.

picture courtesy of http://www.theworks.co.uk

What it’s about:

The moral in this hilarious story is: never leave food on your plates (or anywhere else visible) if you have a determined dad in the house. If you do, you might encounter all sorts of problems, as the dad in this book discovers when he greedily scours the house for anything remotely edible. Including the dubious vet-prescribed anti-wimp potion for the family’s scaredy-cat.

Our review

We are all huge fans of Peter Bently. His picture books went down a storm with all years and his Knightmare series has been permanently on loan, with children coming in every week to demand if they have been returned. There is a queue now forming for them! I think extra copies are in order…

Anyway, when I announced we were reading this book today, everyone gathered excitedly on the steps of our courtyard garden to hear the tale. Before starting, I asked the children if they knew what a Dustbin Dad was – and they did! It seems there are quite a few members of the species in houses in Oxford (at least), mopping up everyone’s leftovers, so the premise of this book was not new to these children. They did however, adore hearing all the yucky details of partly eaten sandwiches, pies, tomatoes, egg whites, etc that the titular character chomped on happily. And the sound effects of burping were particularly popular (and worryingly accurate). They liked identifying forthcoming rhymes (particularly one that rhymes with ‘tum’ – I will let your imagination work that out) and became totally enthralled with the impending disaster near the end of the book.

As soon as I had finished, they were already asking if they could borrow the book so I’d better get this on the system – quick!

We are hopefully going to draw or make our very own Dustbin Dads soon, so watch this space!