2020 was a difficult year, children missed months of school and when Larkspur approached us in the summer about setting up a project, it felt more important than ever to reconnect children with books and the pleasure of reading. The past year had tested us, but instead of viewing the restrictions as obstacles in our path, we saw this as an opportunity to adapt our ways and work around these barriers to reach our end goal. With every step taken at Larkspur, we aimed to inspire the children and cultivate an environment which put reading for pleasure and books at its core.
We began by gifting a book to every pupil to welcome them into the new school year. Titles included, The Worrysaurus by Rachel Bright, perfect for young ones who may be feeling nervous about starting school, Boy in the Tower by Polly Ho-Yen which was featured in the 2019 Empathy Book List and High Rise Mystery by Sharna Jackson, her debut novel which was a huge success on the children’s book scene.
One in 11 (9.4%) children and young people said they do not have a book of their own at home, rising to one in eight (13.1%) children from disadvantaged backgrounds. (https://literacytrust.org.uk/research-services/research-reports/book-ownership-and-reading-outcomes/)
Having a book to call one’s own is something that many pupils at Larkspur had never experienced.
“Books are the windows through which the soul looks out. A house without books is like a room without windows.” (Henry Ward Beecher 1862)
Beecher states that a house with books is better decorated than if it were filled with the grandest furniture. Books are not just décor for shelves, owning them does not merely mean we have possession of them. They are doors which we unlock the imagination and vision inside to learn the art of reading for pleasure.
As the year was coming to an end and with Christmas approaching, we wanted to bring a little joy to schools who had endured so much over the last 10 months. We gifted each pupil another book to take home and enjoy over the Christmas break. Titles included, Today I’m Strong by Nadiya Hussain, Santa Gets a Second Job by Michele D’Ignazio and The Night Bus Hero by Onjali Rauf.
The author visit from Maz was truly amazing and the staff thought it was brilliant, my words to Maz were they were ‘buzzing’.
Following the success of Maz Evans’ virtual author visit in November 2020, we decided to bring another author to Larkspur (virtually) for the Year 1’s & 2’s in June this year. Emma Perry (author) and Rikin Parekh (illustrator) were a huge hit with the children, many of whom were promising illustrators. The visit was based around Emma’s new book ‘THIS BOOK HAS ALPACAS AND BEARS ‘with a wonderful demonstration from Rikin on how to draw a character from the book. These virtual visits have brought such joy to the children at Larkspur and generated a buzz of excitement around books and reading for pleasure whilst fuelling their creative sides.
“The children delighted in drawing alongside the illustrator and now they too wish to be illustrators, which is fantastic.”
The library space was our biggest project with Larkspur. Together with FG Library and Learning we created a beautiful space for the Larkspur pupils. We successfully created a brand-new library space for the children to enjoy, providing over 250 books. We hope that each book will provide a rich experience for every child and is a source of inspiration for the children. The library is a place where they could read what they wanted, to choose which worlds to explore and discover.
“They have created a space that is tranquil and inviting and given us the opportunity to find pleasure in reading again.” (Kerry-Headteacher)
As our year with Larkspur was coming to an end, we decided on a final project. From Page to Picture or the ‘blind date’ book project combines reading for pleasure with a creative activity. The year 5&6 book group were given the author and title, but a blank front cover and would then design a front cover based on their interpretation of the story. Their first title was ‘The Strangeworlds Travel Agency’ by L.D Lapinski.
“the book group really engaged with the project, even drawing comparisons between the story and another book they had read.”
Over the year we watched as Larkspur grew into a reading school, putting books and the pleasure of reading at its heart. When we first spoke to Kerry at Larkspur in the summer of 2020, we discussed the power of books and what their presence in the school would mean to the children. The area in which Larkspur is situated was described as an ‘island’ with ’few people ever coming or going.’ Books, thus were not only the key to escapism figuratively speaking but something that would help the pupils to look beyond the borders of their town and out into the world.
The Whole School Library Project has been generously funded by the Marks Family Charitable Trust.