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.