How Sompting Abbotts is growing a generation of bookworms...


How Sompting Abbotts is growing a generation of bookworms...

Children at Sompting Abbotts have taken over the running of their school library. The project is a bid to counter the reading decline due to digital devices. It has worked. Their enthusiasm for books has soared!

It’s Wednesday morning break time and there’s a crowd of children in the school library. Some are browsing; others are queuing at the desk to return books and take new ones out.

But there’s something different about this school library. It’s the children who are running it! A rota of six Year 8 librarians now oversees the library, taking turns each morning and afternoon break to man the desk.

'We’ve introduced a new lending system,' says Year 3 Teacher Mrs Kelly. 'We've gone 'old school' and have library tickets and date stampers. It’s been a lovely trip down memory lane!' The librarians are responsible for all aspects of 'customer service' such as issuing books, restocking and keeping the shelves well ordered, issuing returns notices and making reservations for popular titles.

Maths teacher Angela Farley adds: 'Having the children play such a role in the running of the library is good on so many levels. It's giving the children responsibility and the fact the library really does need to be organised very systematically means it's great for their maths too. They have to work out two weeks ahead for the book stamp date, for example!'

There’s plenty of choice. The library houses some 5,000 books – everything from the classics to popular contemporary titles and non-fiction.

The Internet doesn’t have the monopoly on knowledge.
A recent report by the social sciences journal Inquiries concluded: 'Overexposure to technology can adversely effect reading habits, and negatively impact development and personal interactions during a child’s formative years'.

That said, there’s no denying that tech is going to be an essential part of our children’s working lives ahead. But there’s nothing quite like the feel and smell of ink and paper. E-readers have their place but paper makes reading physically pleasurable. ‘Real’ books are also notably absent of screen fatigue.

Interestingly, E-book sales, after the initial enthusiasm for the trend, plunged 17% in 2017 due to ‘screen fatigue’, while sales of paper books in the UK are growing – and this shift is being driven by younger generations. 'I have yet to meet a child that engages with a Kindle in the same way that they love a good book,' says Mrs Kelly. 'I don't think anything can replace the experience of turning an actual page.'

'Children's attention spans are dwindling with the access to online information at their fingertips. It’s more important than ever that we remind children of the pleasures a good book can bring.'

She added: 'Most adults have books they look back on from their childhood with fondness and nostalgia. We need to make sure future generations have the opportunity to do that.'

Encouraging a life-long love of reading.
The young librarians are now introducing a library ‘loyalty scheme’ for frequent borrowers. 'They’re also writing book reviews to help guide the other children to their perfect choice, rather like in Waterstones,' says Mrs Kelly. 'They will be making a themed selection of books each week to show off the books we have. Some children get overwhelmed by choice and suffer from a kind of 'book blindness' that makes it hard for them to decide what they want.'

During National Library Week, the school organised a packed week of book themed fundraising activities. This included a visit from Jonathan Bailey, Head of Publishing at GMC Publishing in Lewes. There was also a book quiz, book-based treasure hunt and a Library Bake-Off, with cake designs themed to children’s favourite books. A highlight was the school sponsored read. The class that had the highest pages reading average won a prize. Altogether, over £650 was raised from the activities for new books.

Access to books is critical for brain development and academic success – doubly so in the digital age. Even more importantly, books expose children to the world beyond their immediate surroundings and to possibilities.

It seems all the more important that school libraries should be well used given the funding constraints on local authorities that have seen library budgets slashed and library closures across the UK.

Children are also allocated DEAR (Drop Everything and Read) time in their weekly Form Tutor session. In this, the Year 8s listen to the Year 3s read. 'Doing this gives the younger pupils the chance to bond with the older ones while they practise their reading skills too,' says Headmaster Stuart Douch.

'This is just the start of my Library Adoption,' says Mrs Kelly. 'I want the Library to become the heart of Sompting Abbotts. What a gift that will be to give to our children.'
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