Día europeo de las lenguas 2014 : Berkhamsted School

EDL_Logo1On Friday 26th September 2014, we celebrated European Day of Languages in School, and, I believe, to a resounding success!  This year, we decided to focus on our learning of Spanish and we worked with our excellent Spanish teachers to create some activities for classes for when they came into the libraries.  Some classes used iPads and computers to answer our quizzes as there were too many to visit us at some points during the day.

We devised quizzes promoting Spanish literature where the children had to match a picture of a Spanish-speaking author (from around the world) to their book cover, Spanish and South American artists to their work,  and the names of well-known Spanish celebrities from the worlds of sport and entertainment to their photographs.  One of our lovely teachers devised a quiz about the many varied and wonderful festivals celebrated in Spanish culture, so, all in all, in a twenty minute lesson, each class had an enlightening and fun learning experience.  Proudly displaying the Spanish flag, our catering staff enhanced the day by providing paella, filled tortillas and a delicious steamed seville orange pudding with chocolate sauce for lunch.

We also highlighted the language resources which we use in the library, from the Mary Glasgow magazines of  ¿Que Tal?, ahora and El Sol, to books (including fiction and travel guides), reference material and dvds of Spanish films.

We hope that on this day, our students from Years 7-9 renewed their enjoyment of language-learning, which will continue to be something they love throughout their lives.

Spanish table

Spanish display

Bookbuzz 2014

Bookbuzz logo jpeg

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?


Library newsletters….

About eighteen months ago, I wrote about how we keep the rest of our school updated with library news and what we’ve done and achieved (please click here to view)…  Well, we still like to keep our colleagues and pupils in touch and produce a fresh copy at the end of each term.  For the last two terms, we have been trying out a new layout when casting our news to everyone at school, and we are happy with the results!  Please see our latest version below:

Summer 2013_Page_1

We used issuu software (to be found on issuu.com ) which is free to use and turns your publications into an interactive resource, more akin to the physical article of a print publication but with the advantage of using no ink or paper and can be easily manipulated to display a larger font, should this be necessary.  To turn a page, simply click on the arrows appearing either side of the document on screen, so easy!  You need to set up an account and then download your publication in a PDF format for free:  issuu does the hard work.

We were aware of issuu a little while ago, but were looking for the right opportunity to use it when it suddenly occurred to us that we could utilise the software to get our message across in a completely new and much more exciting way than by simply sending out a pdf document which is non-interactive and that you scroll down to look at.

This software programme has also been used by the organisers behind a new and fascinating magazine produced entirely by Sixth Formers and students in Year 11 at our school,  Ink.   Ink has already won  awards for Best Design and Layout, Best Overall Editorial Content and Best Feature Article, with Highly Commended for Best Original Artwork and Photography in the Shine School Media Awards:  and this is after the publication of only two issues!


Whilst we don’t aspire to compete with this expertly produced magazine, we trust that you will enjoy both on their own merits.  Whereas the former is merely a snippet of what we get up to in the libraries, the latter is engendering some serious journalistic talent!  But who knows what we will get up to next?!

Fascinating truths about reading which are all too easy to forget in our busy world…

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.

World Book Day 2012

World Book Day 2012.

Here’s a short film that we’ve put together with photographs of pupils and members of staff reading to celebrate World Book Day 2012 using Animoto.  We hope that you enjoy it and recommend that you turn off the music when playing!

National Libraries Day in the UK: Saturday 4th February 2012

I had meant to write this post last Friday, 27th January, but in fact I was too busy in our school library!  I was busy because I was helping our students with their queries about using the computers effectively, searches for journal articles, book requests and ideas for a book to take home that evening.  In short, proving that we need libraries!

On Saturday 4th February 2012 we will be celebrating the first ever National Libraries Day here in the UK.  The day was established after we had seen the closure of so many public libraries over the past year, and a handful of those due for closure being handed over to be run by the communities fortunate enough to be able to support them through the goodness of volunteers willing to run them and raise extra funds to keep them going.  The purpose of National Libraries Day is to celebrate libraries and all that they represent and do for us as readers.

We all believe we know what libraries do but are you aware that not only do they do the things that one would expect, but also many library authorities offer  housebound residents the chance to borrow books in a range of formats and films on dvd and music on cd as well. They offer many free courses connected with computer literacy, career choices and cv workshops, provide a wealth of extra information about their locality (both for tourists and residents alike). They host many clubs across the age groups for readers in connection with The Reading Agency: starting with involvement in Bookstart for Babies, continuing with Chatterbooks for primary school children and onto reading groups and the exciting Groupthing and Headspace projects for older children and My Voice for older people.  Many library services provide reading group collections with books available to  privately run reading groups as well as hosting their own.

Library services are supported by so many authors who not only use their local libraries but also do readings, booksignings and talks.  Some library services have also provided bibliotherapy groups for their readers based on the model ‘Get into Reading’, established by The Reader Organisation, who have categorical evidence suggesting that involvement in one of their groups has improved adult literacy for  members of the community from differing social backgrounds as well as offered support for those who are lonely, elderly and sick.  Bibliotherapy has also been shown to assist school age children in these areas where other methods of support haven’t helped them, the library service takes this opportunity into the community in schools and community centres.

To find out more, please click here for redirection to the National Libraries Day website, and I hope that you become involved and enjoy the day!