Creating a living library with Wheatley Hill Community Primary School

Wheatley Hill Community Primary School’s Living Library

Award-winning author and illustrator Simon Bartram has painted a moonscape mural, which features Simon’s much-loved Bob the Spaceman character, in Wheatley Hill Community Primary School’s brand new living library. Staff and pupils have been working with Seven Stories to transform a former storage room into a cosy and inspiring library for children to read and share books.

Simon Bartram was brought to Wheatley Hill by Creative Partnerships, whose aim was to bring the excitement of books back to school, and he worked alongside Seven Stories’ reader-in-residence Beth Coverdale to run reading for pleasure workshops with Year 5 children to find out exactly what they wanted from their new library. The children have helped to choose everything from the colour-scheme and furnishing of the library to the books themselves. Simon commented, ‘Year 5 were brilliant – very enthusiastic and they have even contributed their own artwork to add to my mural!’

Beth Coverdale has worked across the school, holding story parties with the younger children and running creative workshops with Years 3-6. Beth’s highlights from her month spent at Wheatley Hill include, ‘the fantastic character ideas the young people have come up with in creative writing workshops, seeing the decision making skills and imagination from Year 5 pupils and the fact that all the classes now have favourite books.’ Most importantly Beth notes: ‘It feels like the whole school has started to enjoy reading.’

Seven Stories has worked with the staff at Wheatley Hill, running four CPD sessions, including a trip to Seven Stories, which provided them with creative and inspiring ways of using books in the classroom. Feedback from staff members has been positive with comments such as ‘Having Seven Stories knowledge and expertise was really helpful,’ another staff member remarked that since their creative sessions, ‘the children are now telling more stories and enjoying them more.’

Families Reading Together is a six week programme involving parents and children together. Families at Wheatley Hill visited Seven Stories the national centre for children’s books, had workshops at school and tried lots of creative, fun, new ways of sharing books at home. All families took books home to keep. “I enjoyed spending time with Ellie seeing how she enjoyed the stories and actions, now at home we use props with stories and make reading more fun.” Parent from Wheatley Hill Primary School.

The result of this school-wide project is a colourful and inspiring library, with an emphasis on quality of books rather than quantity; bright rugs and cushions will line the floors and there will be a ‘Book Talk’ notice board for children to pin up their own book reviews and pictures.

Staff hopes for the future of the library are high, with one staff member summing up the mood by commenting, ‘I want reading to become the heart of the school – a place where children will love to come and read.’