Westminster Education Forum Seminar

Last month,  Give a Book attended a really interesting seminar called ‘Encouraging and supporting reading-next steps, policy options and school library provision in England’ run by Westminster Education Forum.  The morning was split between panel discussions, short presentations and audience questions. The early morning session was chaired by Lord Davies from the All Party Parliamentary Group for Literacy and the later one was Baroness Jones.

The morning session was about school libraries and there were a great many interesting speakers including Lord Tope (Chair of the Libraries All Party Parliamentary Group). With the help of CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals), this group commissioned a report called The Beating Heart of the School on school libraries and their importance to the success of a school. This report covers four main issues: The first part was the state of play, provision across the UK. Secondly what is good school library provision and why is it so important? Thirdly what does a good school library look like? And fourthly, school libraries and educational achievement, the views of Headteachers. Recommendations were made in each area. For more details see the full report.

After the first panel, which included Tricia Adams(School Library Association) and Emma Hopkin (Bloomsbury), there was an inspiring presentation from children’s author John Dougherty who spoke about how we can inspire children to read from an early age. His comments on children reading and how they are taught was very insightful. One clever analogy used was that if we wanted to persuade children to eat lots of chocolate, how would we go about it? Would we talk about the wrappers and have a look at one chocolate bar, ask them to draw a picture one day, give them a taste of cocoa powder or sugar on another, or would we just surround them with different varieties of chocolate and get them to try various ones until they found some they liked? When it comes to children and reading, should they not just be surrounded by books or reading material? Would this not encourage reading for pleasure?

The later panel session was titled Reading for Pleasure and how this can be supported and the panel included Viv Bird (Booktrust) and Barbara Band (CILIP) as well as Jane Bass, an inspirational Headteacher who spoke of the way they had transformed their school into a reading school where all the children and staff are involved in various reading for pleasure initiatives and projects.

The last presentation and panel discussion was on improving literacy in schools and we were given various examples of reading schemes and phonics and Jane Davis (The Reader) spoke about setting up the City of Readers in Liverpool.  All the sessions included question and answer sessions from the audience which included Headteachers, librarians, literacy experts and various reading organisations and charities.

There was much debate on how things could improve, what works and what doesn’t, but most importantly it was an interesting forum on reading and reading for pleasure and how many different organisations are out there to help and if we all work together much change can happen! An inspiring day indeed!


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