Creating Cargilfield’s Reading Culture

The Library at the heart of the school

Creating Cargilfield’s Reading Culture

Cargilfield Preparatory School 7O7A0342 Photograph by Angus Bremner

The most recent National Literacy Trust report reveals that more than 56% of eight to 18-year-olds do not enjoy reading in their free time – a record low. Many schools are turning libraries into classrooms or rebranding them as Information Hubs full of computers. Supermarket shelves display cut-price books of dubious merit from celebrity authors and public libraries are suffering from a lack of investment.

Children’s author, Sir Michael Morpurgo recently joined celebrated British writers Philip Pullman and Julia Donaldson in calling on the government to legislate to ensure all schools in Britain have libraries. According to Philip Pullman, “It is too easy to think that books and reading for pleasure are not essential, whereas nothing is more certain to improve children’s ability – and desire – to read richly and well.”

At Cargilfield, we believe whole heartedly in the importance of promoting reading for pleasure and investing in our libraries. The length of our school day allows time every day for personal reading for the older children and lots of stories for the younger children.

Once a week every nursery class visits The Salvesen Library to open a treasure chest full of props and hear a specially selected story. The Pre-Prep has its own library and this is the venue for weekly library sessions for Primary One, Two and Three (ages 6-8). During these sessions, the children enjoy stories and tales from all over the world, participate in imagination exercises, and choose books to read at school and at home, with my help in my capacity as Cargilfield’s Librarian.

Once they move up to Form 4 (age 8-9), the children have a special reading area beside their classrooms with a carefully curated selection of books for them to choose from. They also have access to The Salvesen Library where they enjoy learning to use the Libresoft school library system with its fun range of themes and voice packs; it might be a robot, a Halloween witch or Father Christmas congratulating them on returning their books.

The Salvesen Library is at the heart of the school and is well used, especially during morning break time when many children visit to change books, read by the fire or play chess. I am on hand to help pupils choose books and research topics of interest. We regularly invest in new fiction and non-fiction books and in their timetabled library sessions children in upper school learn about different authors and genres as well as sharing their personal recommendations with their friends.

Pupil Library Reps meet with me to create new displays, give feedback on events and help to choose new stock. We know that for many children choosing the right book can be tricky. All children in Form 4 to 8 do a simple online test each term as part of our Accelerated Reader Programme. This gives them a book level. The books in The Salvesen Library are colour coded according to these levels which helps pupils to choose a book that is the right level for them, although they are always welcome to challenge themselves. The Accelerated Reader Program also allows children to complete quizzes on books they have read and even keeps a count of how many words a student has read. We love congratulating our word millionaires!

In addition to author visits, book swap shops and visiting book fairs, the whole school gets involved in our annual Cargilfield Book Festival on Friday, 28th June - a highlight of our summer term. Children and adults dress up as their favourite fictional character and the school welcomes authors, poets and illustrators for a wonderful day of celebrating reading and stories.

According to Philip Pullman, the library should be the heart, the soul, the mind, the source, the spring, the gold-bearing seam, the engine room, the treasure chamber, the priceless inheritance, the joy and the pride of the school.” At Cargilfield, we work hard to make this vision a reality.

Lizzie Bruce, Librarian & Alumni Relations Coordinator at Cargilfield

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