We are very busy in the libraries here at Berkhamsted at the moment as we are assisting two academic departments with their projects for Year 7 and Year 8 students. We enjoy doing this so much as it helps the students see that we are not just there to keep the peace in the libraries but share our knowledge and expertise with them in preparing projects and getting them used to acknowledging the work of others as early as possible. We advise on how to create bibliographies and where to go to research their projects and, in the process, find that we are learning a lot ourselves (in this case themes covered in Religious Studies classes and Medieval life)!
Our first project is the Religious Studies Themed Reading assignment which we started just before our half term break. Each student in Year 8 chooses a work of fiction from a box of books put together to cover the following themes:
- spiritual journeys
- religious faith and philosophy
- understanding religious and cultural diversity
- challenging victimisation
- celebrating physical and mental diversity
- dealing with family relationships
Whilst reading these novels, they are encouraged to extract the themes within the books (Catherine Forde’s book, Fat boy swim, is an excellent example as you can talk about issues such as bullying, victimisation, comfort-eating which then leads to obesity, and further bullying, and a whole host of problems with family relationships) and then explore these further to discuss and produce a piece of work in a number of formats.
We offer the children the chance to make leaflets and collages, create a google site, presentation, poster or infogram, or write an essay. In all instances, the children are required to talk to the class about their chosen topic and work, which incorporates a bibliography. I am impressed that children of the age of twelve and thirteen can already grasp why such things are important as they write, and even before they sit down to work, they understand these concepts which can be seen clearly, from their answers to questions I have asked of them. It is also good that they are encouraged to speak in front of a class, thereby building confidence, something which has always terrified me! I hope that they also get an idea about how such stories can help people who are going through difficult times, and even relate the stories to their own situation or those of people they know – a kind of bibliotherapy if you will!