Hooray! Here I am at Yeadon Westfield Primary School for their World Book Day 2016, helping to open their wonderful, brand new school library.
It was quite an adventure, as snow hit Yorkshire that morning. I drove to the school through what felt like a blizzard (peering smugly at the cold, wet dog walkers on the pavements, thinking – “Hah! That should be me.”) When I got to the school, I wrapped plastic bags round my feet as I set off to wade through slush to the school entrance (where I was greeted with a very welcome cup of hot tea). There was too much snow to cut a ribbon outdoors, so we all scuttled across to the library (which is in its own building, with comfy furniture and brand new books which the children helped choose). Then some competition-winning children, the local councillor, the headteacher and me cut a ribbon inside while the rest of the school watched from the warmth of the assembly hall via a skype connection.
It had been a lot of work from some very dedicated teachers creating such a fantastic resource for the school, and I was honoured to be invited.
School libraries are so important – and I wish more primary schools had such good ones. I didn’t, growing up. All I can remember is a few mouldering books on a neglected shelf at the back of the classroom. Luckily, there was a really good public library near me with an excellent children’s section. (I can still see it in my mind’s eye – happy days.) But today many public libraries are being closed or their hours reduced. Even when there is a public library, few primary age children these days are allowed out and about under their own steam – so they are dependent on adults having the time and interest to take them. This means that for today’s kids a good school library is more important than ever if they are to discover the books they love, and develop a reading habit.
Although it wasn’t that great overall, I discovered one of my favourite books through my school library. It’s still my “go to” book when I’m miserable, or full of flu, and in need to a guaranteed comfort read. Today when children in schools ask my about my favourite books and authors, I often mention Diana Wynne Jones – who few of them seem to have heard of. Some of them will be reading Harry Potter, and I tell them Jones’ books cover a similar territory of magical boarding schools and young wizards, although with a rather different style.
I bought another of her books, Charmed Life, from a book fair in my school. During school book weeks, I still see the cases of book fair books arriving, so that parents and children can pick out one to buy and keep for their very own. Like school libraries, book fairs are an important way of introducing young readers to new titles and authors, and need support.
In fact, now I come to think of it…I really owe my school a lot. Hats off to all those teachers today, who are helping their pupils discover the joy of reading through libraries, book fairs, author visits and all the other excitement that World Book Day brings.
- Emma Barnes writes funny, contemporary fiction for children – for more information see her web-page.
- Her latest book, Wild Thing Goes Camping, is the third in her series about the naughtiest little sister ever.