Having a well-stocked library, with a passionate school librarian who knows the books, the students and how to match the two, is vital

Clare Harnett, Librarian, Burlington Danes Academy

July 22nd 2013 by Clare Harnett, Librarian, Burlington Danes Academy

As a school librarian, I have heard ‘reading is boring’ or ‘I don’t like books’ from many different students over the years. But there is a moment when you get that ‘Oh my God, it was brilliant, Miss! Where’s the next book?’ response from a student, maybe one previously uninterested in reading, and especially one who insisted that all books are boring, that really makes you pause.

In my opinion, the students who ‘hate’ reading either haven’t found the right book yet, the one that inspires them, enthrals them, or just interests them so much that they forget they’re actually reading, or they are struggling with reading to the point where they can’t enjoy the story. It is our job, as educators and librarians, to change this: to suggest the book for that student, to give them enough choice in reading material that they can find that book, topic or author, and to give them the confidence and time to improve their reading until they can find the story rather than seeing only the words.

Having a well-stocked library, with a passionate school librarian who knows the books, the students and how to match the two is vital to achieving this. They know children’s books, they have read and purchased them and can help students with all reading levels find a way into enjoying reading, if they are given the chance.

Of course, students are distracted by computers, TV and so on – aren’t we all? But if we can get them interested in a book at school, where they should have a chance to read as part of their lessons all the way through education in my opinion, they will carry that enthusiasm home with them. Parents have a huge impact on students’ attitudes towards books and reading, and involving them in their child’s reading is always important – giving them information about what we are doing, inviting them to reading events at school, getting them to invest in their child’s reading.

In situations where parents are not confident readers, or don’t have a reading culture at home, school can play a vital role. The library lessons we hold for students on a weekly basis are crucial – where they can relax, choose books for themselves, get advice from teachers and librarians on what to read, and have a chance to just enjoy their book. Reading is sometimes used as a punishment in schools, as part of detention or if they can’t behave, and I feel strongly that this is a mistake. Reading should be time out of regular lessons, time you don’t want to give up and time that is valued by the school, the students and the staff.