Manga-loving librarian 'a stellar example of whole-school literacy’

A school librarian who believes 'the right book can change lives' – including manga comics – has won a national award

Tes Reporter

One school librarian who has set up a manga comic club to encourage pupils' reading is to receive a national award

A school librarian who runs a manga club with more than 30 members and has organised her library’s books into different “worlds” has won a national prize for promoting reading for pleasure.

Deena Wren, who works at Beeslack Community High in Midlothian and has over 10 years’ experience as a librarian, will tonight be awarded the Scottish Book Trust’s Learning Professional Award – with a 35-strong school club devoted to Japanese manga comics being one of the reasons she stood out from the crowd. She also uses graphic novels to support students with dyslexia.

The award recognises a teacher or librarian who works tirelessly to inspire children to read and write.

Also set to be honoured at the ceremony, which will take place at The Lighthouse in Glasgow, is the children’s author Theresa Breslin, who has more than 50 titles to her name and who has been “a passionate advocate” for school libraries. Ms Breslin – whose novel about sectarianism, Divided City, is widely studied in Scottish schools – receives the Outstanding Achievement Award, which is given to an individual with an impressive backlist and a long record of engaging with their audience and meaningful engagement with the writing community.

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Ms Wren, who was nominated by English teacher Karen Atherton, started a "Read for the Future Programme" at Beeslack, which involves pupils keeping a reading journal and has inspired generations of local children to read for pleasure. The library is organised into "worlds" of reading based on topic, encouraging pupils to read widely across genres.

Promoting reading for pleasure in schools

After students' reading is completed, they are encouraged to report on the world to their teachers or parents, either in writing or verbally. Once three reports are completed, a sticker is used to mark the pupil’s progress on a chart, which creates a sense of purpose. To date, 62 per cent of S1 pupils have completed at least six reports.

Ms Wren also works closely with reluctant readers and has developed a collection of graphic novels and texts to support students with dyslexia. When a pupil approached her with an interest in reading manga, she created a club, and now 35 students attend once a week.

Ms Wren said she was honoured and humbled to receive the award, adding that she had learned about “the power and pleasure of reading” very young and it had been a passion ever since.

“Readers like me know that finding the ‘right’ book can change lives and it has been my privilege throughout the years to try to help my young people to discover theirs,” she said.

Alongside the Outstanding Achievement and Learning Professional Awards, Alan Windram will also receive the Bookbug Picture Book Prize, and John Young will receive the Scottish Teenage Book Prize, which were announced earlier this year.

Marc Lambert, chief executive of the Scottish Book Trust, said: “Theresa Breslin is a well-loved author whose stories have touched generations of readers in Scotland and beyond. She is a passionate advocate for libraries and has worked tirelessly to support children’s literacy. It’s a testament to Theresa’s storytelling that Divided City continues to be used in schools to tackle difficult issues, more than 10 years after publication.

“Deena Wren is a stellar example of how literacy can be tackled by the school as a whole, and how the library can be integrated into lessons. It is clear that Deena is highly regarded both by her colleagues and pupils, and Scottish Book Trust is delighted to recognise her years of work, dedicated to promoting reading for pleasure.”

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