Love Your Library

When Estelle Morris conducted her report into the state of school libraries for the School Libraries Commission, she asserted the central place of the library as the 'heart of the school, and reminded us that libraries and librarians promote a reading culture that supports teaching but extends beyond that to encourage reading for its own sake.

It is heartening that in recent years we have witnessed many schools reinstating a school library where one had been taken out, or improving existing facilities. We have been energised by teachers' and librarians' enthusiasm for ensuring the library is not simply a room where books are stored but a space that is inviting and that repays the investment through effective and sustained use for teaching, reading clubs and supporting the independent reading choices that are essential for developing reading for pleasure.

We are frequently invited into schools to advise on the development of the school library. One of the first things we do is take an objective look at the space, often photographing the nooks and crannies that may be overlooked as well as getting a general impression of the look and feel of the library. The library should be a bright inviting engaging space and display plays a significant part in achieving this.

Displays can reflect a topical theme, they can encompass cross-curricular topics and whole school projects and most importantly they can engage children, really switch them on to reading and help them discover something new.

Well thought out displays can be a focus and a aesthetic feature of your library.

Displays  that include  novels, poetry, non-fiction books, visual texts and artefacts relating to a given theme can be curated to make eye-catching arrangements. Of course it is important that displays are changed regularly. if responsibility for the library is in the domain of a full-time teacher, then it will be important to enlist the help of others. Classes could take responsibility on a rota basis to spread the load.

Here are our  ten school library displays:

 1.COLOUR - simple, easy to assemble and very eye-catching. Try creating a display of books with red covers for Valentine's day. green covers for Earth Day and you will see the immediate interest it generates. The topics will be mixed but that doesn't matter, the display will have done it's job and drawn the readers to something that they may not have seen before or considered picking up to read.

2.SEASONS  - a simple but effective way  to introduce new Nature books as wells as stories and poems that suit the season. Incorporating a large illustrated version of a poem, can help to raise the profile of poetry, making it more visible in school. For spring, Nicola Davies' 'A First Book of Nature' could inspire children's artwork and there are plenty of high quality gardening and cookery books that could form a display on the theme 'Grow Your Own Lunch'. Books such as Allan Ahlberg's 'Hooray for Bread' or Chris Butterworth's 'Lunchbox' will encourage young readers to take a new look at everyday food items, and David Pelham's 'Sam' Sandwich' could inspire an interactive sandwich making activity using material scraps and pieces of foam for the bread slices.

3.CELEBRATION DAYS - For example, a display for St George's Day could be created around a poster of Uccello's 'Saint George and the Dragon'. There are plenty of books on a dragon theme for younger and for older readers and covering different genres from Cornelia Funke's Dragon Rider and the humour of Cressida Cowell's 'How to Train Your Dragon' to the illustrated version of the song 'Puff the Magic Dragon' and John Foster's collection of 'Dragon Poems'. 

4.BOOK GRAVEYARD - Use black  display cloths and Halloween props to create a graveyard where books in poor repair RIP! This is great for provoking excellent discussion on book care and replacement.

5. ONCE UPON A TIME - traditional tales and their alternatives provide endless ideas for stunning book displays. A beanstalk with the children''s book recommendations written on  cut out leaves and attached the stalk as it weaves it's way around the library. A display featuring the different versions of one tale can be eye catching. For a 'Goldilocks' theme books might include, Anthony Browne's 'Me and You', Leigh Hodgkinson's 'Goldilocks and Just the One Bear', Nick Sharratt & Stephen Tucker's 'Goldlilocks' featuring a little girl with her hair neatly plaited in cornrows, Lauren's Child's miniature world, Allan and Jessica Ahlberg's multiple retellings including Goldilocks the play, Mo Willems' Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs with a traditional retelling such as Michael Morpurgo's version illustrated by Emma Chichester Clark.

6.PASSPORT TO THE WORLD - A changing display featuring non-fiction and stories from a different part of the world. The journey can be charted on a large map or globe which forms the centrepiece of the display.

7.MUSEUM OF IDEAS Create your own museum entrance using the portico of the British Museum as a model. A change display of historical periods and topics can be combined with photographs, posters and artefacts to either link to curriculum subjects, generate interest in anniversaries, local history.

8.WALK IN SOMEONE ELSE'S SHOES - make a collection of different kinds of shoes, trainers, ballet shoes, books sandals. Display with a selection of diaries, stories of exploration, triumph over adversity, biographies and poetry.

9.PICTURE BOOKS FOR OLDER READERS Too many children leave picture books behind when they enter KS2, but there are many thought provoking picture books aimed at readers at the top end of the primary age range and beyond,

10 NEW BOOKS Keep interest high by promoting books that are new into the library. introduce them in assembly and then display... these displays often disappear quickly. That means the job has been well done!

Caroline Bradley


Formerly an English teacher and children's librarian, working for Essex Libraries and subsequently a Library Advisor for Essex School Library Service, Caroline has a wealth of experience working in schools. She has a wide knowledge of children's literature and a keen eye for selecting books that children love.  During her five years working for Just Imagine, she has developed  and delivered our Roadshow & bookfair packages  and worked on various school library development projects; conducting audits and offering advice regarding stock classification, library design and library management systems.

To book a library audit or for advice on placing an order, contact Caroline.

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