Highlighting the benefits of preparation, planning, and taking a little time to stop and evaluate – Joy Court talks to Alison Tarrant.
In synergy with my latest Hot Topic (I’m a School Librarian, and I’m worth it!), I persuaded 2016 Honour List librarian Alison Tarrant (read her citation here) from Cambourne Village College in Cambridgeshire to share her preparation and plans for the term, and to incidentally reveal the benefits of a little time to stop and evaluate!
“This term has started unusually for me—the builders have run late with the library extension, so my library assistant and I are currently based in the staff room, working on the background things we do. When I train my library helpers, I often say school librarianship is like an iceberg—they only see the tiniest bit of what goes on, but it is nice to have this time to focus on some things that otherwise get pushed to one side.
I have made sure our Conversation Starter cards are ready for the term—these are cards with various questions on them that help pupils develop their reading skills and help give them something to talk about. I have updated our ‘What I’m Reading’ poster to include options, which they can tick, of why they are reading their book; this encourages pupils to consider the reasoning behind reading as well as reading choices. As a result of some research I carried out last year, I have written a policy called ‘Making Cambourne VC a Reading Community’, and I’ve introduced it to HoDs and teachers. A large part of this is a drive to embed reading across the curriculum, which is motivated by my research and by other research that shows that by the end of secondary school Pupil Premium pupils are, on average, 22 months behind other pupils. Consequently, we are having a whole-school push on reading as part of the curriculum so that all pupils are exposed to vocabulary, ideas, structure, and writing styles that reflect the subject and enhance their knowledge.
Not having a library has enabled me to mark the Attitude to Reading Surveys that I do with Year 7 each year much more quickly! We use these to create the seating plans for library lessons (an idea picked up from Karen Benoy), and I map them against their reading age to give me four categories of readers: keen and able; less keen and able; keen and less able and less keen and less able (an idea picked up from Adam Lancaster). This then means I can make sure I have sufficient stock at relevant ages and that I can be proactive with regard to those less keen pupils—digging deeper to find out what their interests are and making sure that choices are available in those areas.
All that being said, there are things I miss—my Amnesty International group, called CAMnesty, who usually meet weekly, have caught me in the corridor to ask when we’ll next be meeting, and they are now putting together a presentation to show in assembly to attract new pupils. My Carnegie group are also raring to go, and I’m sure it’s not only because of the chocolate! Hopefully I’ll get the building back next week, at which point the installation will start, and then a bigger, brighter library will be revealed to the pupils!”
The Attitude to Reading Questionnaire, Question Cards, and ‘What I’m Reading’ poster templates are all available from TES Resources; alternatively do contact Alison for more information. ([email protected]) Alison has also been a CKG Judge, Chair of Eastern Region YLG and is now a member of the SLA Board, and so I am sure she will also tell you how valuable these professional links have been to her career.
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