No library, no problem! - A guide for schools

A chronic lack of funding for libraries in primary schools in the UK, coupled with no statutory requirement for a school to have a dedicated library space, has left only four out of ten primary schools with an on-site library. Furthermore, many public libraries are being forced to shorten their opening hours - and in some cases close altogether - due to insufficient funding.

This, according to recent research undertaken by the National Literacy Trust and Penguin Random House Publishers, is leading to an increasing number of teachers investing their own money in providing a library for their school or classes.

Relying on teachers to dip into their own pockets is simply not sustainable as a way to provide children with access to the books they need to improve their reading and writing skills.

So, what are the options if you don’t have a library in your school but want to help your pupils develop a life-long love of reading?

  1. Turn to technology

The use of electronic and audio books has been rising in recent years and is unlikely to abate any time soon.

Whilst membership of a local library gives children free or cheap access to a range of books, technology can be a great option for those who don’t have access to a library.

Pickatale for Schools is a reading app that can be used to support both teachers and young learners. Our library of levelled reading books helps to build reading confidence in pupils from Reception to Year 6, and makes the journey of learning to read for pleasure a truly enjoyable one!

With Pickatale for Schools teachers and pupils will get access to:

  • Over 1500 books spanning fiction, nonfiction and poetry
  • Comprehension quizzes to test pupils’ understanding of what they have just read
  • Optional audio narration to support reading practice
  • An easily navigable dashboard  - and a weekly email digest - with reports and insights into pupils’ reading habits to empower teachers with  knowledge they need to help their students thrive

2. Borrow in bulk

Most libraries are happy to provide boxes of books to schools that are either focused on a topic or contain a mix of general, age and stage appropriate, reading books.

Often, book boxes can be delivered directly to a school at no or low-cost and then returned in exchange for a new box. If you are a teacher or head it is well worth reaching out to libraries in your local area and beyond to ask whether this is a service they already provide or whether, indeed, they would be happy to start running a similar scheme.

This is a really cost effective way to introduce children to literature and encourage a love of reading without having to spend part of your school’s precious budget on building a library of your own.

3. Take a trip to your local library

Libraries are great places to take children on a trip if you have one nearby.

Most librarians will be happy to walk children round the collections and explain to them how to explore the collections and make the most of the books available to them.

Local libraries also have links to lots of different publishers and authors, through which they are often happy to arrange visits, talks, and the like. For schools who may struggle to afford an author visit of their own, grouping together with a bunch of other local schools and arranging for the author talk to take place at a local library can be a great option.

4. Or get the library to come to you

If you can’t take a trip to the library, you could arrange for librarians to visit your school.

Librarians tend to be incredibly passionate about what they do and about books and literature in general. They are some of the best people to inspire children with talks about different books or authors. You could also ask them to come in to read to the children to show them what books can offer.

Lots of libraries also run competitions and reading challenges to help children foster a love of reading from a young age.

5. Ask your community to donate books

Another way to build a library is by asking parents, staff and people in your local community to donate books they no longer want or need.

It’s a great way to ensure that pre-loved books that have been outgrown, and would otherwise be sat gathering dust can be given a second life. It’s cost-effective and vastly better for the environment than buying new books and throwing them away once enjoyed.

Book donations are easy to organise. Simply put up some posters, make a noise on social media and PTA channels, and set up a convenient drop off point for people to donate their books. Local businesses and publishers may also be keen to support your collection if you contact them.

Finally, it is worth exploring the different funding streams that your school may be eligible for such as the Pupil Premium Funding which can be used in any way your school sees fit to further childrens’ learning and expose them to the joy of books from an early age.

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