Seven Reasons Why a Library is so Important in a Secondary School

L = LITERACY. “About 90% of vocabulary once children get older is actually learnt through reading” (Gill Jones HMI, Deputy Director, Schools and Early Education, Ofsted). How often have you noticed the vocabulary of a person and judged them on it? When one person comments the weather is volatile and another comments it’s p!$$!ng down, we judge the first to be more intelligent than the other. It isn’t necessarily true, but it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The more students read, the more words they learn and become familiar with and eventually use. They also begin to spell more accurately and construct their sentences in a more sophisticated manner. This helps with more than just exam grades – it lifts their quality of life.

I = INTELLIGENCE. “Reading enjoyment has been reported as more important for children’s educational success than their family’s socio-economic status” (OECD, 2002). Obviously, reading a lot of non-fiction will teach the reader a great deal about each subject they’re studying, but readers learn a surprisingly large amount from fiction too. Authors research carefully – if the book students are reading is set during Victorian times, they may learn a lot about the different types of horse-drawn carts or how the upper-classes socialised. If a book includes a badger clan, the writer will weave all sorts of badger facts into the story (I should know – you can read my book “The Boy Who Couldn’t” here. Spoiler alert: it has badgers in it.)

B = BELONGING. = Librarians are empathetic, compassionate, kind and understanding. The world can be a complicated and scary place for many teenagers. They often feel awkward, like they don’t know where they fit in. The library is a great social space for people who want to mix on their own terms. They can go in to choose a book and stay buried in it, or they can begin to make friends with like-minded students, often over a same taste in books, or playing a board game or card games such as Uno. An experienced librarian is able to recognise when to help students to begin to mix with their peers and when they just want to be left to themselves. The pastoral role of a librarian should not be underestimated.

R = READING FOR PLEASURE. “There is no such thing as a child who hates to read, there are only children who have not found the right book” (Frank Serafini). It doesn’t matter how much we dangle carrots or chastise, if a child does not enjoy reading and does not see the value in it, they will only ever read the minimum, while the teacher or parent/carer stands over them. However, an expert well-read librarian, can help children find the right book for them (in interest and level), once the student finds “that one book” it leads to another and another.  It is possible to convert previously reluctant readers into voracious readers. Thanks to public libraries, they’re also set up with a free hobby for life.

A = ACTIVE. School libraries never stand still. They are constantly changing and evolving according to latest research, best practices, new releases. A good librarian will be up to date with prize winning novels, interests and trends such as books relating to the latest NetFlix series. Libraries are vibrant places for students to spend time in.

R = RESEARCH. Whether discovering the capital cities of countries, the life cycle of a humming bird or understanding their own sexuality, the library should be seen as a safe place to ask questions. However, the librarian cannot be expected to be the expert in all areas, or sometimes, the student may be embarrassed to ask their question to an adult, therefore, the library should be well stocked with a wide selection of non-fiction books covering all areas of the Dewey Decimal System. Children who know how to research properly and not rely on social media, will develop into well-informed adults.

Y = YOUTH. Young people need to feel seen and heard. They need to be able to relate to the characters in the books they are reading. Therefore a well-managed school library will ensure there is a diverse range of characters within the books, such as main characters being black, or from a working class background or LGBTQ+ or different religions or having a disability and so forth. They should also ensure that the authors who write the books and visit the school are also diverse.

In summary, all schools should have a well-stocked school library with a dedicated school librarian. This gives every child an equal chance to develop a love of reading, discover a source of reliable information and all the benefits that accompany such resources.


Questions for students to ask an author

Every author is different; they come from different backgrounds, have different experiences and different interests. Therefore it is wise to research as much as you can about the author first so that you can ask some really interesting questions relevant to them and their writing. These questions are designed to help you, but there will always be additional questions that come to mind when you are researching your author, so jot them down as you do your research.

Questions about writing

  • When did you first realise you wanted to be an author? What inspired you?
  • What is your favourite genre to write? Why do you like writing it?
  • What hobbies do you like? Do they appear in your writing?
  • There are a lot more books now that include LGBTQAI+ characters and characters with black or brown skin or characters from diverse cultural backgrounds. Is this something you actively seek to do? Do you think it is possible to write authentically about a characteristic if you don’t have it yourself?
  • How many books have you written? How long does it take to write each one?
  • Where do you find your inspiration to write?
  • Do you read your reviews – do negative reviews upset you? How do you deal with them?
  • Have you ever ghost-written for somebody famous?
  • How different is writing books for publishing compared to writing stories for school?
  • Do your write a little each day or do you write lots in one go followed by none for days?
  • What is your most common mistake that you or your editor has to fix?
  • How long do you spend researching compared to writing?
  • How much do you rewrite?
  • How much do you write per day – do you have time set aside?
  • Which is your favourite book that you have written and what is it that you like so much about it?
  • Which age group do you prefer to write for and why?
  • What made you want to be an author?
  • What’s the title of your next book?
  • What made you decide that you wanted to write for children?

Questions About Reading

  • Who is your favourite author? What is it that you like about them?
  • What is your favourite genre to read? What do you like about it?
  • Which author do you most admire and why?
  • What is it about your favourite childhood book that makes it so memorable?
  • Were you a reader when you were young? How did you get into reading?
  • Do you enjoy reading your own stories – have you ever cried or laughed out loud at one of your own stories?
  • What makes a story exciting in your opinion?
  • At what age did you start reading?
  • When a new book comes out in a series you like, do you re-read the whole series up to that book?
  • If you find an author you like, do you read everything they’ve written?

Other questions

  • How would you like history to remember you?
  • What were you like at school?
  • If you weren’t a writer, what would you want your job to be?
  • Do you have lots of author friends? Do you all know each other?
  • Do you like living where you are?
  • Have you kept in touch with friends from school?
  • Would you rather stop writing or stop reading?
  • What was your favourite subject at school?
  • What is your favourite food?
  • What genre of music do you enjoy?
  • Have you ever had any other jobs?
  • What did you think you wanted to be when you were still at school or have you always wanted to be an author?
  • Do you like being famous?
  • What would your job be if you weren’t an author?

How to avoid asking questions that may be rude!

There are some questions that we are taught never to ask – how old are you? How much do you earn? Do you have a disability? Are you gay? It’s personal information that somebody may not be comfortable sharing. However, it may be that the question is really relevant to you. Perhaps you want to know if the earnings are going to be enough for you personally if you make it a career. Maybe you have a disability and want to know if it will affect your chance of obtaining a literary agent or publishing deal. So here are some ways of asking those questions without causing offence. These questions do not ask what you want to know directly, but they open the path if the author wants to share more.

  • How old were you when you first started writing?
  • How old were you when you published your first book?
  • Do you think you will continue to write all your life?
  • Do you get paid per book or per publishing deal?
  • Is it possible to make a living from writing or do you need another job alongside?
  • How many books did it take before you could leave your day job to focus solely on writing?
  • Do you think a writer with a disability should write a character with that same disability?
  • Is it possible to write a character with a disability if you have not experienced that disability yourself?
  • Do you think writers should include more LGBTQAI+ characters in books?
  • Can an author write authentically about LGBTQAI+ if they themselves have not experienced living that life?

I hope these questions will help you when an author visits your school. The authors are usually just as excited to meet you as you are to meet them! Enjoy the visit 😊


Top 10 Writing Tips by Author @RLCoverdale #Top10WritingTips #TuesdayBookBlog #Writing

Thank you to Shelley Wilson, author who contacted me to create this. Check out her other #Top10WritingTips too!

Shelley Wilson Author

Learning from mentors helps us to improve and evolve in our chosen field. I still recall the advice given to me at the start of my writing journey.

To help other writers, I started a feature whereby established authors shared their words of wisdom and top ten writing tips.

It was a huge success and I was delighted to bring the feature back for a second season! You’ll find all the Top 10 Writing Tip articles here.

Meet Rachel Coverdale

Rachel Coverdale was born and bred in the beautiful North Yorkshire countryside in North East England. Raised with copious amounts of animals but without the distraction of a modern TV set, she turned to books and her own imagination for entertainment. Animals were and still are a huge part of her life and inevitably they made their way into her stories. Believing strongly in fresh air, nature and outdoor…

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Ethical Dog Breeder Interview #1

The Coggles, bred by Sue Lascelles

Thank you for agreeing to this interview. I’ve loved following the crazy activities of your bunch of puppies which you affectionately refer to as the Coggles.

  • My book, “The Boy Who Dared” (sequel to “The Boy Who Couldn’t“) will reveal the horror of unscrupulous puppy farms, (also known as puppy mills) where dogs are treated as commodities, their welfare is neglected resulting in many of the puppies born with life-limiting defects and illnesses. People often think the only alternative is rescue dogs, but there is a case for ethical dog breeders such as yourself also. What are the positives of buying a dog from a breeder?

A good breeder will give their puppies everything they need to grow up into healthy well balanced dogs. Their parents will be fully health tested, thus reducing the risk of inherited diseases & defects, such as hip dysplasia, or Collie Eye Anomaly. My dog was genetically tested for 11 different breed specific defects. She was clear of all of them.
Both puppies & Mum will be correctly wormed & fed good quality food, which again, gives them the best chance of growing into strong, healthy adults.

The puppies will be exposed to many different sights & sounds at the appropriate age, things like vacuum cleaners, washing machines, different surfaces, and objects. They will be given appropriate things to play with & supervised at all times, as well as being handled & introduced to things like nail trimming and grooming. They will be introduced to children and adults in a controlled manner to make it a good experience for them.

All of these things help to make a calm, confident adult dog, who is easy to live with.

  • Can you tell me, what made you decide to breed these puppies and do you plan to repeat the process some time?

The whole reason for breeding these puppies was the Mother. She is quite simply the most amazing dog I have ever owned. Her temperament is second to none, she is steady, calm, kind and has a phenomenal work ethic. She competes at agility & has won an incredible amount of prizes, as well as qualifying for many finals.

Not only this, but she is a lovely type of dog with good conformation – If any one of these things hadn’t been present then I wouldn’t have bred from her (I have her full Sister, who has all of the same attributes, except her temperament is not as good. I would not breed from her).

I also knew a dog who had all of the same attributes & he was the only dog that I wanted to use.

  • Just as puppy mills can be a bad start for puppies, a bad owner can be a terrible life for these fur-babies. What checks did you do to make sure that your puppies were going to safe homes?

I was very lucky that all of my puppies went to people who were known to either myself or the owner of the Dad.

  • I witnessed how attached you became to your Coggles. How did you deal with handing them over to their new families?

That was the hardest part of the whole thing. The puppies had become part of my family. I had fed, them toileted them, played with them, cuddled them & nursed them for 2 months. To then hand them over to someone  else & wave them off reduced me to tears – there are tears in my eyes as I am typing this now 2 weeks later. Even though I know that they all have fabulous homes & there was no way I could have kept them all.

  • What is your favourite breed of dog and why?

I have to say Border Collies are my favourite breed. They are intelligent, loyal, & great fun. They will give you 100% every time you ask them to do something. Their work ethic is second to none, they really would work until they dropped.

They are happy to just be with you. Their learning ability is limited only by their owner’s imagination. They are incredible.

  • Each dog breed has its own characteristics, needs, strong points and weak points. What type of human do you think your breed of dog is best suited to? (Please name breed.)

The Border Collie owner needs to be active, they need to have a sense of humour, and be prepared to work hard to keep their dog amused. Collies are amazing dogs, but they are certainly not for the faint hearted or weak willed. If allowed to, they will take control of their humans and become unmanageable. They need to be occupied, or they will become destructive and unruly. In short, you get out what you put in. If you are lazy and inconsistent a Collie will be a nightmare dog. If you are prepared to put in the effort and time, you will be rewarded with the best friend you could ever wish for.

  • If somebody reading this interview wanted to breed their dog, what would you warn them about that you wish you’d been prepared for?

Oh gosh, so many things. This has been the hardest thing I have ever done. I was prepared for the hard work, but my first and most important warning is BREEDING IS HARD WORK – REALLY HARD WORK.

Be prepared to lose everything, I came so close to losing the puppies’ mother & all of the puppies. This is a very real possibility. Do not think it won’t happen to you. It might.

If you are doing it to make money, then don’t bother. I barely broke even & probably made a loss. You need at least £2000.00 readily available should things go wrong.

I was not prepared for the emotional side of breeding. I consider myself a strong level headed person, but I was reduced to tears more than once. It is emotionally draining and incredibly tiring.

  • Many people underestimate the time, cost and commitment of adding a dog to their family. Do you have any advice to help in any of these areas?

No advice, as such, but just a few things to consider.

Firstly the cost – A dog is a huge financial investment, they need regular worming & flea treatments, as well as annual boosters. Obviously there is their food to consider, a 12kg bag of good quality dog food is upwards of £50 and the price is increasing almost weekly. These are regular outgoings, but you must also consider the costs of veterinary treatment should something go wrong. Insurance starts at  £300.00 per year.

Then there is the time that your puppy will need – A puppy needs almost constant supervision for the first few weeks. An adult dog will ned to go for a walk at lest twice a day, whatever the weather, they need to be trained,  played with, groomed, and given affection. If you cannot commit to this daily then a dog just isn’t for you.

If you want to go out for the day, you will either need to take your dog with you or arrange care for it. The same goes for holidays. Dogs are there 24/7.

They will shed hair onto everything you own, walk around your house with muddy feet, chew things, steal things  & probably wee on things when they are young. In short they are hard work. Constant hard work.

  • I know you love horses as well as dogs (and possibly other animals too). What is it about dogs that you love so much?

Where do I start on that one??

My dogs make me laugh, every day, without fail. They are completely without ulterior motives. They love you unconditionally for who you are. They don’t care if you are rich or poor, beautiful or ugly, fat or thin. They never judge & are always there when you need them. They are always pleased to see you. They are great fun, they get you out & about when you perhaps wouldn’t bother.

They are great ice breakers when you meet new people. I have made so many great friends through my dogs. But mostly my dogs are my best friends and I love them.

  • If you decided to breed one of your dogs again in the future, what would you do differently?

I’m  not sure I will ever do it again, but if I did, I wouldn’t wait until my dog was 6 before breeding, I think with hindsight that the ideal age is probably 2 or 3. I also wouldn’t have a litter of puppies in winter, it makes everything so much harder.

Apart from that, I think I was pretty happy with how I raised the puppies & how they turned out. It was an incredible experience & on the whole I thoroughly enjoyed it. I learned so much about puppies and breeding.

I have a new respect for good breeders who produce happy, healthy puppies for us to have as our best friends. It takes so much commitment – both emotional & financial.

Thank you so much for your time. Puppies are so tempting, but you’re right it’s a huge commitment, so I’ll stick with just the one big dog I already have. For now!


When Life Gives You Rain…

There are staycations and there are staycations.

Struggling to think of a decent Christmas present for my difficult-to-buy-for husband, I hit on the brilliant idea of a three-day walking holiday in the Lake District and we could take the dog too. My brother’s rental holiday home was available the first weekend of Spring half term so I booked it.

Then Storm Eunice hit. Before we’d even set off! The met office was telling everyone not to travel unnecessarily, the road we were due to take, over the top of the Pennines, was the same road in which I’d once been stuck in a snowdrift overnight many years earlier and is notorious for blizzards and drifts. The stupidity of planning a hill-walking holiday in the north of England for February struck me forcefully in the face!!!

So we stayed at home for a day. I sulked and my husband listened to music.

The next day we had to decide whether we were going to make the 80 mile journey west, to The Lakes for the remaining two days, or stay home. The area of England we live in appeared to be the only place in the whole British Isles that wasn’t being battered by Eunice. The weather forecast for The Lakes was 100% rain. Nothing against my husband, but if I’m going to be trapped indoors, there’s only so much TV, book reading and chatting I can do. I’d rather be stuck in my own house with all my belongings where everything I want is to hand.

Now I had to make a head decision: I couldn’t spend another two days sulking. We decided, although we were home, we were still going to treat the last two days as a holiday. The location of the holiday just happened to be our home town that’s all.

What a different view you get of your home town when you treat it as a holiday destination – I thoroughly recommend everyone to try it. We started with a relaxed, pre-breakfast walk into the High Street with our dog and stopped off to have coffee and a slice of something nice at a newly opened coffee shop, sitting outside continental-style.

Next we had a walk around the river admiring the stunning view and the ducks, swans (and seagulls).

Once home, we enjoyed a lovely lunch cooked by my talented husband then I chilled out reading a book and he listened to some music.

In the evening we went to the newest micropub in town, which I’d never been in, followed by The ELO Tribute Band at the local (and very posh) theatre.

Sunday was the last day of our staycation. It was finally raining (pouring) here, so in the morning, instead of being trapped in a holiday home, I was able to turn to my writing and editing and hubby was able to grab his guitar to practice some songs for an up-coming gig.

We treated ourselves to another fabulous lunch (very cost effective as we’re strides from Aldi), then in the afternoon we travelled our longest journey (10 miles) through the torrential rain to watch “Dog” at the pictures. (Brilliant by the way.) Then for tea, we pushed the boat out and devoured an Indian takeaway.

A student at school frequently asks me “how can you be so happy all the time?” The answer, to quote Oscar Wilde, is “When it rains, look for rainbows.”

I truly believe connecting with nature helps you feel grounded and is good for mental health. All the children’s books I write help children to connect with nature. You can buy my books here: