It’s the Bookbuzz time of year here in the libraries at Berkhamsted School! We have spread the word amongst our Year 7 English classes and talked with the students about how fantastic the selection of books is this year. They have had to make some difficult decisions about which book to choose to take home to keep, which books to read in the library and which to swap with their friends. One of the things that I love most about Bookbuzz is the excitement and enthusiasm shown by all students and their teachers as they talk about the book they would like to receive as a Christmas present from us, the librarians! It’s also heartwarming to see how the students are pleased to be able to choose something for themselves, without the influence of anyone else. They have all chosen their books, the order has been submitted, but shhhhhh! Don’t tell them, the books have already arrived! We will keep them for Christmas…
I can understand how hard a decision to choose a book can be, especially since all of these books look like a fantastic read for our young people. Which would you choose?
I do apologise for the lack of posts lately, we started this academic year in September without a key member of staff who has moved on to another school library, further north. We have missed her here, personally and professionally, but as a result we have been further stretched than we usually are. I am happy to say that we have now appointed a new member of our team which will allow me to come back to the blog more frequently.
I am writing on Armistice Day, 11th November, when we remember all those who have fought and died during the World Wars and conflicts since. Our Library on our Castle Campus is a permanent memorial to those who attended Berkhamsted School prior to World War I, both in the the capacity of student and members of staff, but yesterday we also remembered those from Berkhamsted School who gave their lives in the Second World War, and subsequent conflicts, in a Remembrance service in our School Chapel.
Within the library, we are are commemorating by thinking about war poetry and books, both fiction and non-fiction as can be seen in our pictures below:
Amongst our new books, we have three which are notable for their storytelling of the tales of war. The first two, Eleven eleven by Paul Dowswell and Soldier dog by Sam Angus relate to the first World War. Dowswell’s novel tells of the closing moments of the war, where a young man who, a few months previously, had still been at school, is going to face the most terrifying ordeal of his life, fighting for survival in a forest whilst searching for German combatants. Angus’s tale is that of a young lad who is a dog handler. It is his job to use the dog to carry messages between the trenches, crossing no-man’s land which will save countless lives. Stanley soon learns, as the fighting escalates and he experiences the true horror of war, that the loyalty of his dog is the only thing he can rely on. Soldier dog has been included on this year’s Booktrust‘s Bookbuzz list for Year 7 pupils and a good number of our pupils chose it as their book to keep.
One day in Oradour by Helen Watts is our third new arrival and it is a fictionalised account of the horrific events which took place in Oradour-sur-Glane on Saturday 10th June 1944. The novel tells the story of Alfred Fournier, whose family had already fled their home town in northern France with the advancement of Nazi soldiers, and how he abides by a plan agreed with his parents and sisters to meet outside the town of Oradour should the soldiers arrive there. Showing great determination, intelligence and strength of will, Alfred survives the atrocities visited on his town against all odds.
Why not tell us about your favourite exciting war stories? Perhaps we can get a good discussion started…
Subscribing to Booktrust‘s facebook feeds has led me to many interesting articles and items of book news here in the UK (please can anyone out there in other countries send links to their news feeds about books from government organisations or book charities?). It was whilst perusing this feed earlier in the week that I came across this excellent blog post by the writer of some fantastic fiction for Young Adults, Bali Rai: please click here for details.
Bali wrote and addressed his blog post specifically to the young people for whom he writes, defending the printed word and extolling the many virtues of reading for pleasure. His blog post is entitled: ‘Reading for pleasure is vital’. He tells us “I’ve grown tired of hearing from commentators talking about the death of the book… I’ve also made it my mission to get you reading. All of this comes from a single belief, one that many of my fellow authors also hold. You see if our country is going to grow and prosper we need to invest in our future – invest in YOU. That means we must ensure that all young people are given the chance to fulfill their potential. Books and libraries, therefore, have a vital role to play.”
Playwright Alan Bennett has been quoted as saying ‘Closing a public library is child abuse really because it hinders child development.’
This, of course, is music to our ears as librarians, and it reinforces what we are trying to do within our school. We hear so much evidence that reading enables us to progress and grow as individuals, and whilst this may be self-explanatory, it is so easily forgotten as we rush through our busy lives. It is quite shocking that we have students coming to us saying that there are not many books at home and reading doesn’t feature as a regular activity, even in the fortunate environment we find ourselves part of. I have witnessed first hand the evident benefits of children reading for pleasure: I am constantly amazed by the vocabulary used by my own children and thereby showing their understanding of the world through having plenty of books and reading matter around the house. My eldest child began with joining Bookstart as a baby, followed later by her sister and both have participated in the Summer Reading Challenges over the years. Regular visits to public libraries and bookshops have inspired a lifelong (so far!) enjoyment in reading which has undoubtedly informed their opinions and broadened their horizons. Both enjoy the physical feel of a book in their hands, but they are embracing the ebook as well. I also see this pleasure and enjoyment amongst many of our students, but still, some do not respond. My eldest daughter is sometimes astonished that some of her friends do not read for pleasure, and cannot understand why they don’t.
I was lucky enough to attend a conference on reading for pleasure at the beginning of the school holidays, where one of the sessions was led by Bali Rai. He introduced four current secondary school students by asking them to tell us what they enjoy reading and why, whether they felt supported by their school library and whether their particular librarians provided them with what they need. Bali believes this approach is the best way forward in providing a valuable service for our young people, and indeed, I found that we already do much of what was suggested and discussed. Our students frequently request certain titles and these titles are often borrowed by others, and we hope to involve them in any future plans we may have to improve our library space. If we consult our young people, then we are more likely to appeal to others amongst them and encourage their participation in library activities. It would be wonderful to hear from as many school and community librarians on this subject, so please, get in touch and let us know about your successes (and things that didn’t work, too!). We look forward to hearing from you.