Pupils curl up and read

28th November 2003 at 00:00
Children are reading stories on the school library bed, with biscuits and a cuddly bear to make them feel more at home. Adi Bloom reports

Parents know that separating children from their teddy bears and duvets in order to get them to school can be a painful process.

But at Leyland St Mary's comprehensive, in Lancashire, pupils are being actively encouraged to retreat under the duvet during lesson time.

Angela Loughlin, school librarian, has removed chairs and tables from a corner of the library and replaced them with a fully made bed. Pupils are invited to curl up on the bed with any book from the shelves. To help them relax, they have been provided with soft drinks, biscuits and a cuddly bear named Gerard.

"I wanted to do something a bit different," said Ms Loughlin. "This highlights the library as a comfortable place for quiet reading."

Year 9 pupil Liam McLaughlan, 13, agrees. He said: "It feels like you're at home. You can concentrate more, instead of spending time shuffling around in plastic chairs."

The bed was introduced into the library to mark the BBC's Big Read campaign. Since October, the BBC has been running weekly programmes, in which a celebrity presenter champions one of 21 shortlisted books.

The list includes children's favourites, such as Harry Potter and Winnie the Pooh, as well as classics such as Pride and Prejudice and Great Expectations. Viewers will vote for their favourites during a live final on December 13. At the same time, schools are being encouraged to run debates, readings and quizzes, drawing attention to books on the Big Read shortlist, and to reading in general.

Genevieve Clarke, of the National Literacy Trust, which is supporting the campaign, said: "Teachers promote reading all the time but now they can be part of a country that's thinking about books. It's a huge boost."

Several schools have used the Big Read to develop links between pupils and the wider educational community. At Ludlow Church of England comprehensive, in Shropshire, cleaners and support staff were invited to the library for a cheese, wine and books event.

And at the Castle secondary school, in Taunton, Somerset, all the staff were asked to write about their favourite books for a display board.

Julie Salter, head of English, said: "We wanted children to know that reading isn't confined to the English department. Everybody reads. Books bring back childhood memories, or touch a moment in readers' lives."

For 12-year-old Hannah Lock, this insight into the minds of staff readers has been the most significant element of the Big Read. "The dinner ladies seem quite uptight in the canteen," she said. "But when you see that they like reading Bridget Jones, it makes you realise that maybe they do have a sense of humour."


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