The Effective Information Literate Student

Effective information searching


It’s that time of year when most librarians go about teaching new students about information literacy and reteaching those that have seemingly had their minds wiped over the six weeks of summer. Luckily, since getting rid of having to teach information literacy and putting it into the hands of our teachers on a daily, lesson by lesson, basis (see previous posts for more information) I don’t have that ‘beginning of the year turmoil.’ Yet, I have been thinking quite hard about how the process of information searching works and how to help develop the habits in both our students and staff when it comes to information searching.


For the last couple of years these thoughts have progressed in my own mind after reading and conducting research and collaborating with many fantastic teachers. A lot of this work has gone into creating a new model for information literacy and learning (OPUS) more information can be found about this in future posts but an outline also exists under its own tab. What drove me to create this model was to insistence that there is a strong link between the process of learning and information searching. It seems a silly thing think to say because they are of course linked. Finding information is learning at is basic. However, all the models that exist for information literacy don’t take learning and teaching into account and this is the same with teaching and learning models omitting the links to information literacy.


OPUS is therefore the ‘glue model’ that sticks both these things together. However, this post isn’t about OPUS per se, it is in fact about some of the questions that led to its creation. Questions such as what makes a successful searcher of information? How can we ensure all students and staff are successful searchers etc etc.


Working with a number of teachers we set up an information experiment where we had two (science) classes of equal ability perform a number of tasks over the year. We mapped their abilities, their levelled pieces of work and their output against each other. They were studying exactly the same topics but one class was being taught explicit information literacy skills (through the OPUS model) and the other group had no explicit information skills taught to them. Group A (the group with information literacy training) was given a number of regular opportunities through the year to undertake research and prep (our version of homework – see previous posts for its link to information literacy) was given to aid and support this. Group B had fewer opportunities through the year to undertake research work and their prep was set in a more piecemeal way.


There were a number of things we learnt from doing this and this included, importantly, the teachers seeing the benefits of teaching information literacy within their lessons.  Over the next few months I will writing more about this project and it’s impact but for this post I wanted to look specifically about the impact frequency has in creating an effective information literate student.


The grid above shows how frequency of information searching has a correlative impact on the quality of a students ability to be information literate. One of the things we were hoping to prove was that by being frequently given the opportunity to undertake research students would become more effective searchers. This almost goes without saying, the more you do something, the more proficient you come at it. But it does still need proving. However, what we also found was that students that were being set research and given the opportunity to research on a regular basis were not only achieving better but were also putting more effort into their searching and so were being more effective.  If you look at the graphic above, one of the many we produced from our work, you can see how we categorized students based on the frequency of their research work and the effect their research was having. In terms of effect we looked at how effective their research skills were throughout the task and also at the end product and its success related to the task objectives.


We then plotted each of the students into the four categories from both of the groups. What we noticed was that the majority of students in group A appeared in the maximum effect and high frequency one. In fact 95% of students from group A sat in this category. In group B, the group with a low frequency of opportunities to conduct research, the students were a little more mixed  but the majority (67%) appeared in the minimum frequency minimum impact category. What the results were showing us was that those students that were being fed a regular diet of information literacy skills (through the OPUS model) and being given lots of opportunities to conduct research were being more effective in the quality of work they were producing.


Quite obvious when you think about but to see the specific impact that this was having on the students was brilliant and was justification of the style we adopted with group A. Not only is it about training, teaching and making explicit the skills of information literacy but just as importantly regular opportunities need to be given to allow the students to compound these skills and continue to improve. This then needs to be built into our lessons across the school with all teachers taking the opportunity to make these skills visible and to allow students the opportunity to undertake research regularly.



The Information Literate Classroom – expanding skills across the curriculum


When information literacy skills are not part of the everyday learning in the classroom they can only ever be ‘add-ons’ and no more.

When a teacher doesn’t embed these skills as part of their pedagogy and the ‘teaching’ of information literacy skills is done elsewhere they can again only ever be ‘add-ons’. As soon as someone else attempts to ‘teach’ these skills it immediately lowers the value students place in them as suddenly they are seen to be separate. Students get taught all the skills and knowledge they need by their teachers and see how subjects fit together by those teachers employing certain things across all subjects. For instance the ability to skim and scan, to successfully keyword and understand how search engines work and to reference materials etc etc are skills that are needed in all subjects so they should be part of the classroom teachers role to disseminate.

If the person in charge of information literacy in a school does not feel that their teachers are qualified or able enough to do this then they need to think about what they are trying to achieve. There’s a good chance that they are entirely missing the point of information literacy and what it means and what these skills should look like too. This happens all too often in schools where a public library approach to information is undertaken (this is in the few schools where information literacy is taken at least semi seriously). Let’s be honest, if you think that the skills that are needed are so advanced that teachers can’t become competent or able to teach them then is your precious nature of these skills stopping them from actually being useful skills? Because the skills needed are really not that difficult. They’re actually common sense and about making the skills of searching as explicit as possible.

To believe that these skills cannot be undertaken by teachers is also missing the entire point of teaching and creating true (not false) cross curricular and whole school approaches. If someone else is needed to ‘teach’ these skills then it is not cross curricular, or whole school and fundamentally I would question whether the buy in from teachers was so limited that this is why it is this way.

To make anything cross curricular and whole school it is the teachers that need to buy into it. They are the ones that will ultimately be doing it at the chalk face so they need to see that not only is it part of their role but importantly that it is a vital part of teaching and learning. They will see this by the person in charge of information literacy not running lots of training on a dry uninteresting subject but by showing them how these skills can improve the quality of learning that goes on in the classroom, and that it has a positive impact on their teaching. If they don’t see this they will ultimately not do it.

To get information literacy skills in the classroom and therefore across the curriculum you need to show the benefit of these skills to learning and teaching. The fundamentals of information literacy is understanding a gap in knowledge and then going about filling that gap. Yes there are other micro skills within this including digital literacy skills, referencing etc etc however the ability to know there is a need for information and to be able to find it successfully is the basis. Funnily enough these skills are also the basis of learning. That is why we have developed the OPUS model of information literacy and learning in our school. However even if you don’t employ a model such as this the core, base understanding and skills information literacy employ are just the same as learning. If we want students to become information and digitally literate these skills need to be employed by all teachers in all learning.

Just with any skill that is needed in learning these things go on in the outstanding classrooms. They happen because the outstanding teachers realise that it is their job to model and make explicit the skills that are needed to undertake a task. If they are asking them to write a letter they will model the correct method of writing a letter. If they are asking them to create a graph they will model the correct way to do so. This is the case whether they are an English or maths teacher or not. This is the meaning of true cross curricular, transferrable skills.

So we, as librarians, knowledgeable about information literacy and digital literacy need to be able to lead our teachers to see how these skills fit into their teaching. How they are fundamental to them, and how importantly they are already part of the outstanding classroom. As soon as this knowledge and this practice is shared and made explicit, and the impact of it is seen too then you start to get positive results.

So how do you quantify these skills to teachers? How do you show them that they are fundamental?

First you have to break them down. You have to show them that information literacy isn’t something to be scared of. Isn’t something that only certain people can be experts or specialists in. You need to show teachers that actually they are probably undertaking a lot of these skills already in their teaching. But it’s about taking the opportunity to make these things explicit to the students and modelling them so the students can see just how it should be done/should look.

The university of Bristol breaks down the skills of information literacy as the following for its students:

-understand what sort of information is required
-recognise where and how that information can be found, and develop an effective strategy for obtaining it
-use a variety of specialist online and printed resources – not just Google and the library catalogue – to find the information you need
-compare and evaluate the information obtained from different sources
-use the information ethically by understanding and avoiding plagiarism – for example, by citing your sources correctly

Now if this is good enough for a university then it is certainly good enough for a school. There is absolutely nothing in here that a teacher cannot do in the classroom. If they are helping their students to learn, are aware of the work that is being set of students etc etc then these skills are part of the learning process. To consider them otherwise is probably the reason very few schools take information literacy serious.

What we need to do is talk to teachers and show them how making these skills explicit will improve the quality of the work that the students are completing. Students are always needing to find information, whether for homework or research purposes and it is at this point that we need to work with teachers and show how the outstanding classroom makes this setting of work as explicit as possible. In the outstanding classroom the teacher sets meaningful work which ties into the lesson and learning and they talk to the students about how they might undertake the process. This includes answering any questions there and then that arise from the work, instead of allowing the students to leave the classroom unaware of exactly what it is they are being asked to do. This includes thinking about where they might find this information and how they might go about presenting it. Students leave having had these skills modelled to them and know what the finished piece is going to look like. These are all information literacy skills but they’re just made explicitly so. This is what we need to change.

The classroom is the place where information literacy belongs in a schoool and it belongs in the hands of the teacher. If we can make this happen by making the skills of information literacy explicit to teachers and students we can achieve a lot for the benefit of learning instead of a job title.

Escape the filter bubble – consult a librarian

filter bubble


Mentioned in my post last week, here, I spoke about the information filter bubble that exist on the internet today and through social media sites.

The importance in knowing this exists, especially if you work in an education setting, is massive. The internet is fantastic, a great invention and the potential it gives for learning and teaching is massive, however both these things, learning and teaching, are not reliant upon the internet. They do not need it to be successful and they should not rely on it. In the UK there is nothing that the curriculum requires of the internet however the internet can provide a lot to enhance aspects of learning and of collaboration.

But, and this is the Kim Kardashian of buts, how many know about the information filter bubble we are being forced into? How many teachers know that the Google factor is not what they have been led to believe it is? How many students take for granted that on any search they are seeing only the information that an algorithm wants them to see? And more importantly how many people have the skills and abilities to make sure they think around this and gather news and information from a range of sources to step outside the filter bubble?

We need to have a healthy diet of all types of information. We need to see things that make us uncomfortable in the news as well as things that confirm our beliefs. We need information desserts as much as information vegetables, however we need someone to enable us and to guide us to make sure we don’t end up with just information junk food.

Seeking information from a range of sources is how a student can get a fully formed understanding of a subject and therefore can begin to turn this into knowledge. However with an over insistence on Google our young people are being led to information that only goes about confirming their own biases, almost a never ending self fulfilling information retrieval prophecy.

In my last post I spoke about the librarian in school being the person with the ability to do this role and to help guide youngsters outside of the information bubble. Maybe I spoke imprecisely about the librarian being a filter themselves. Yes my main attack is on the filtering job that the internet does that places us in this information bubble but when I speak of a librarian as a filter I mean them to be the person who filters out the non needed informtation, the irrelevant stuff, but leaves a bigger picture of the subject being searched for. The Information dessert and vegetable of the required subject.

What schools need to do is think about how their students access information. They need to embed in their teaching policies, the accessibility polices and their SMSC policies the right for students to have access to a range of sources from all different viewpoints. If they do not do this and continue to leave information searching and retrieval to chance then we will be at risk of growing our young to be shut off from the ‘bigger picture’ and only believing in the picture that is being created for them.

Information literacy may not be the most interesting of subjects and at the top of most schools’ agendas yet it is in my respect one of the most important issues of our generation. How can we make sure schools do all they can to allow young people to be able to step out of their isolated information filter bubble?

The first step in my mind has to be the empowerment and trust in the school librarian as a curriculum leader to pursue in schools a balanced and thoughtfully analysed approach to information retrieval. For them to teach and further empower the classroom teacher tying their teaching and the children’s learning into thoughtful information retrieval, importantly not as a an add-on but as a fundamental part of learning. If this can be achieved in schools then we can give our students the opportunity they deserve to become fully rounded individuals instead of only believing in the information they have been forced to see as the truth.

By this can only happen if we position in schools someone who has this knowledge, ability and responsibility.

Someone like a librarian maybe?

Lancaster’s Reading Continuum

Lancaster's Reading Continuum

So I’ve written a lot about research around reading and how individuals read and the kinds of things you need to put in place to create reading cultures in schools. You can read these articles here, here, here, here and also here, as well as littered through the blog.

To extend upon my thoughts regarding a hierarchy of reading and how the activate the reading brain I’ve been looking at reading in terms of a continuum, i.e. a continuous sequence of improvement. Within this there seems to be three distinct stages that a reader goes through as they first learn to read and then become proficient in the act of. The first stage is the early reading stage, earmarked for 4-9 as young people move through beginning, emerging and developing  sub stages. Each of these can also be furthered categorised by the behaviours within them. As you can see overtime and as the individual moves through the stages they grow in ability and independence in reading until you get to the point where you have an individual that is highly able and independent in all aspects of their reading.

I have taken my thoughts on the reading brain and have placed these within this model. Therefore the main parts that create a successful reader; Knowledge, Curiosity, Cognition and Grit have behaviours attached to each of the sub stages. Within this it is then possible to be able to see where a student is with their reading and potentially what it might be that is holding them back (explained in this post about the reader at a crossroads).

As the child moves through the stages they will encounter the second stage between 10-13 and will travel through the expanding, bridging and fluent stages of being able to read. This marks the transition from learning to read to reading to learn as well as the primary-secondary transition. It is worth noting at this point that this is where a child may struggle in making the transition. If, for instance, there is something holding them back in their reading abilities then they will be caught in the limbo between stages requiring intervention to allow them to make the step between the two. It is at this point that this distinction needs to be made in what the root cause is before any intervention can take place. Looking at the behaviours associated with the key success criteria (Knowledge, Curiosity, Cognition and Grit) will give you a clear idea as the why exactly they are unable to make this step up.

Once a young person has traversed their way through each of the sub stages in this ‘reading to learn’ section they move on the third and final stage of reading. This final stage is where the reader gains mastery over the skills and passes between proficient, connecting and independent. Although I suggest that the age range for this is 14-18 it is important to note that all the age ranges are an ‘average’. Young people move through reading at their own pace and just because a young person may seem behind because they haven’t moved through these stages doesn’t mean there is anything ‘wrong’. However, it is also worth noting that not all readers will progress onto this final stage. Many will plateau at stage 2 and never move on. As mentioned stage 3 is about mastery and many of the skills are akin to those needed for GCSE and A-Level but not all young people pass these or undertake them (A-Level). These individuals may not be what we would class as ‘readers’: they have the ability to process texts and to gain information from them but this is the ultimate limit of their skills. In continuing to the final stage individuals need to be regular readers; they need to access a wide range of texts for different reasons; they need to be able to connect what they have read to other things they have read or know and they need to be independent in their reading. This is way more than being independent in their choices etc it is more along the lines of knowing where to find what they need, how to go about reading ‘around subjects’ and what to do if they come across something they don’t comprehend. These are definitely a lot higher level skills that some young people will never learn to use or want to use.

Utilising this model allows us to track our students in school and see where they fit into something like this. Using the behaviour criteria we have a distinct reason why they are where they are and what we can do to move them on through the stages.
Beyond this it is a understanding of how individuals read that can be used to explain the process to a non specialist. We are using it for both these reasons as well as a guide for parents in helping them to better understand the things they might be able to do to help their child.

As far as tracking goes we are already utilising it and it is giving us a much better picture of the students we are working with.

Inspirational Libraries don’t need lots of money

It’s brilliant to see pictures and write-ups of school libraries in the national press, hell anywhere really and the Guardian, with it’s reach is a great place for it to be (see here for the article)  However, it seems nowadays inspirational school libraries have to go hand in hand with lots of money, new buildings and refits and most likely be part of a new build academy. But when we look at the figures this only accounts for such a tiny amount of schools. It’s also worth noting that a building that looks ‘fresh and innovative’ doesn’t actually make an inspirational one it takes a lot more and the a lot of this comes from the person in charge. In the article some of the schools mentioned have made their librarians redundant and have removed large amounts of stock, putting them in the school’s basement.

The majority of schools don’t have the money to create what is now becoming seen as inspirational. With tight budgets and bigger restrictions on them, the loss of Building Schools for the Future money and too many school buildings needing desperate repairs (most schools in the country are 1960’s builds that weren’t meant to last past 25 years) there is no money for schools to spend on resourcing a library.

If we’re not careful we’re going to find ourselves in a position where librarians and schools know they can’t replicate this view of ‘inspirational’ so do not even try. However there is so much they can do and achieve on a limited budget and inspiration doesn’t need a rebuild or tens of thousands of pounds. What it really needs is very different and what inspirational can be is just as different too.

Over the last year we achieved something akin to this though our library space (note we are still a library as really every other name given to the space is what a library actually is). We are a state funded school and a truly comprehensive one. We take students from a large locality, have a pan of 225 and a roll of around 1400 with 25 feeder primary schools. We focus on the more academic subjects rather than BTECs and do not attempt to do anything ‘creative’ with our curriculum and learning to cater for low aspiration/ability (eg project based learning etc) we expect the best from our students regardless of their ability and adjust the support to allow them to excel.

The library is an extremely busy space. We have upwards of 100 students using it for a multitude of things on a break and a lunch and spend a lot of time listening to and working with students in understanding how they want to use the space and what they require it to be. Even though the work our library has had done on it was completed last year and over the summer the planning has been going on a lot longer through these discussions with students and staff. We’ve also made sure that we’ve kept abreast of wider school issues such as the impact of an increased pan, the need for more resources etc etc. All of this has enabled us to put a case forward for different bits to be completed.

One of these first things was to encourage the school to see the benefit of employing 1-2-1 tutors through the Pupil Premium funding as members of staff rather than agency staff to work with weak literacy and numeracy students. Alongside this we argued that the library would be a good base for them but that they would need an office space to work from. Coupled with expanding our computer room and creating a larger ‘research room’ with new technologies available to students we argued this would enable larger classes to use the space and solve the problem the school was having of finding bookable computer spaces. We even doubled the argument by stating that this would help fill the need, that had been grown from an increase in 6th form numbers, of supporting year 12&13 students during free periods with research help and resources.

In knowing that these were issues within the school we were able to argue the case that this small restructure of existing space rather than expensive alternatives was a much better option. This resulted in the school bidding for a small amount of money from the DFE (that all business managers should know about) to do a small amount of cosmetic work to expand the computer room and also create an office space. We already had 14 computers in this room and knew we didn’t want to spend money on any more plus laptops weren’t a route we wanted to go down. Laptops require more upkeep, need replacing more often than desktops and have too many issues related to them that would cause more admin and expense than was necessary. Instead we opted to introduce ipads, and other tablets into the room so classes and students could have a mix of equipment to access. We also knew from our own research that students who used ipads were more likely to use a number of information literacy strategies and skills than using a desktop or laptop as they could not copy and paste information or print straight from the web. Tablets require the students to make notes on what they are searching for and so their learning is much richer because of this. This has had a very positive impact on students’ skills as well as the quality of the work they are producing. These devices we paid for via a bid to our PTFA who were more than willing to help out with such a project that would enhance the learning of the students.

This wasn’t the end of the improvements either as we also put together a proposal of how we can maximise the space of the library and the stock we have. This was by removing our very old shelving units and purchasing some more durable, adaptive ones that could be moved and repositioned. This, for us, was a really big factor. The way we run our library is led by the students and staff that use it. We adapt as much as we can to their needs and how they want the space to be used. By having furniture that allows us to do this means that we continue to do this but with even more success. Again, we were trying to do this on a tight budget that would be feasible to achieve.

The shelving also had to be reflective of how we required the space in the library to be used so not only did we need it to be movable we also needed it to be placed in the room in such a way that it was conducive to how students used it. Previously the room was ‘split’ into different areas by the shelving however students wanted to have a stronger feeling of space with more of a flow. They wanted to have more individual seating for reading and they also wanted to be able to read with their own devices as well as the option to access devices from the library. A lot of the comments we had from students also revolved around the ‘feel of a bookshop but with the practicalities of a library’.

For our non-fiction books we had also been trialing a new way to organise these. I’ve written posts about this before but the idea is to not shelve books via dewey but in the way that students want to access them: so via the subject, the year group and the term that they are being studied.  What this mean though was that we also needed to think about how we could organise these books on shelving. Traditional shelving wouldn’t work as we wanted it to, so we needed to be a little bit more creative with what we were purchasing. We purchased all our furniture from Peters Books Suppliers in Birmingham. Not only do they have a fantastic range of furniture but their service and support is exactly what you would want. We even had a representative, free of charge, come and talk to us about his thoughts and advice based on what we said we required. This was invaluable as having an ‘outsiders’ opinion helped guide our own thoughts.

The result has been that we have been able to transform our library on a very limited budget. We accessed pots of money available to state funded schools, made sure we kept up-to-date with school issues where we could offer a solution and importantly kept true to what our students and staff wanted and how they wanted to use the library. We have been able to create what our users call inspirational and we haven’t done it with a rebuild or a load of money and we have also created the library space we wanted rather than have someone else design and dictate a space that might look good but is completely impractical.

So when you read these articles and look at these pictures and think that you never do this to your space remember that inspiration can be a number of things and that with intelligence and smart thinking you can make your own space the place you want it be without spending a fortune.





The Makings of a School Librarian

Makings of a School Librarian
I’ve been thinking a bit recently about what a school librarian needs to be to be successful. I’ve been working a little bit with some young librarians looking at going through chartership and the question arose from one of these conversations. I can’t remember the precise wording but it revolved around a question as to the different needs and skills of librarians in different sectors.

It was an extremely interesting question and one that required me a little time to think about what it was about a school librarian that was either different or just specific to a school librarian.
Therefore in this post I’ve tried to show what I feel is required of a school librarian and the reasons why. I don’t necessarily see these skills/personality traits as something that is only covered by school librarians but I do feel they are all vital in becoming a successful one.

1&2. Number one (and two) for me is to be adaptable. So much so I’ve put it twice! Twice because firstly I feel you need to be adaptable in both your processes but also in your beliefs around how a library can/should run.
Being adaptable in your processes for me is about having to change the way you go about things depending on your circumstances. In most libraries you can move from one to another yet things are always done the same. However, in a school this couldn’t be further from the truth. If you move from one school to another you need to be able to change and adapt to the way that your new school works. School libraries are very much at the mercy of the establishment they belong in and work in very different ways to each other depending on the needs of the school and opinions of the headteacher/school leadership.
Therefore, just because you have gone about things in one way in a school it doesn’t mean that it will be the same in any other.

The second adaptable then is that of the beliefs that you have in libraries. Many school librarians come into the profession from either public libraries or other library backgrounds and so already have a sense of how a library should work and what a library should be. These beliefs however must be taken with a pinch of salt in a school library. They really are unlike any other library. Even FE or HE libraries have little in common with schools. In reality a school library is a hybrid of other types of libraries with its own bit of crazy added in too.

What this means is that you really can’t come to being a school librarian thinking that you can put a public library or any other library model into play. You need to realise, acknowledge and importantly embrace that a school library can be anything and that that anything is solely dependant on what the needs of the students in the school are.

3. This adaptability in beliefs links to the next point to me which is being open minded. Open minded to changing your beliefs of how to run things but also open minded into what you might be able to achieve through a school library. Not many other libraries can have such a direct impact on daily, even hourly basis on your user. As I’ve mentioned many times before a school library needs to be responsive to its users and not demand its users to fit into its own model. In public libraries the user needs the resources so will adapt their practice to use it. However in a school the users, or students can easily decide they don’t want to use the library and they don’t necessarily need to. However, if you match your library to their needs and be open minded about this then what you can achieve is something really special, personalised to your students and ultimately a great success.

4. A resilient optimist. By this I mean you have to realise that it is impossible on a day to day basis to make the impact and achieve your goals. In a school these need to be long term things that you want to achieve and you need to be realistic in understanding that these goals and objectives might change at the drop of a hat as education so often does! You’re going to face disappointment and failure on a daily basis especially if it’s trying to work with other departments, however if you realise this and importantly accept it then it’s not that bad. Importantly it also allows you to realise that there are opportunities out that and that you need to take them whenever they arise and that you need to keep trying no matter what the setback is. Unfortunately too many librarians see this as being passive aggressive and thinking that everyone should listen to you and want to work with you because , well they just should. This may be the case but this attitude doesn’t achieve anything positive.

5. Thick skinned. Being a resilient optimist and having to face numerous setbacks also means it’s vitally important to gain a bit of a thick skin. In education and in many schools you will come across lots of people who are ‘in it for themselves’ and only concerned about getting one up, or looking good. Unfortunately this mentality seems to permeate most schools as it’s the kind of attitude that normally ends up getting what they want in the ever fickle bubble that is education. However, just remember that it’s not about being seen to do the right things it’s about actually doing it and doing it for the right reasons!

6. Reading Specialist. This is the final point and the one that I feel really embodies what a school librarian should be. OK, so a big part of a school librarians job is about information. Information searching, gathering and information literacy skills. But these are skills that are best delivered through the classroom by the teachers on a consistent explicit basis rather than an ad hoc one. The thing that is needed in schools and the thing that no one else is able to do is to be that of a reading specialist. What I mean by this is a person that has not only the knowledge about how we read and the science behind it but also about how we can engage readers and develop them in our schools. How we can promote and advocate reading and a reading culture across the our school community and importantly how we can use our knowledge and understanding of the individuals in our school to help them to improve their proficiency and ability in reading and so help improve their learning at the same time as helping our teachers to improve their teaching outcomes. This is the real thing that sets us aside from anyone else in school and the thing that can really make a difference.

The Reading Curve

Reading curve


There are so many factors that can potentially inhibit a child from becoming a reader. In my Hierarchy of Reading I highlighted a good many of these and the things that need to be in place that could help a child discover and continue to improve in reading.


A child’s reading journey can really be seen as a curve as over time with the right nurturing and the correct amount of effort their ability can increase. However, along the way this journey can be hampered as they come off the reading curve. Down to whatever setback that may occur the child may find themselves thrust off the reading curve. This could be down to entering the dreaded yr10 drop in secondary school when work becomes too much, studying texts take the pleasure out of reading and time becomes so limited. It could also be the child who doesn’t ‘get’ phonics. Who reading, instead of being a pleasure they enjoyed on their parents knee, is now a chore that they cannot do. Each of these setbacks signifies a child at a reading crossroads and it is about understanding this and the reason why before you can help put them back onto the reading curve of improvement.


This is the important role that a school library and librarian plays in the vital area of reader development. Many people will question what the use of a school librarian is in school and whether they are really just a fusty old person that stops kids from having fun and keeping warm in the cold weather. This may be the case in some schools and even in places where some school librarians claim to be all knowledgeable and vocal in the librarian world yet unable to actually ‘get ‘ what a school library is but in other places and in other schools there is a band of us librarians that are actually reading specialists. That have the knowledge in our schools that no one else does and that are able to make a real difference in keeping children on that reading curve.

Yes reading can seem very thin sometimes in terms of it being proven that it actually makes a difference to an individual on a day to day basis yet underlying what should be happening in libraries is this fundamental understanding of the child at the reading crossroads. Why are they in the position they are in? What is it that is stopping them from reading? Why have they dropped off the reading curve?

No one else in a school matters to the extend of being able to do something about this. no one else in a school has the capabilities to do something about it yet it is so important of we are to foster reading for pleasure and reading attainment in our schools that this does happen.

At every step and at every setback a library nd librarian should be there to set the child back in the groove of reading. This doesn’t just mean that schools need to put faith in their libraries and their librarians but it also means that school librarians need to do their bit too. They need to be that person tracking and monitoring reading. They need to be the reading specialist in their school can understands the child at a reading crossroads and be able to keep their students on their individual reading curves. They need to make sure they are employing in their schools their own version of Lancaster’s Hierarchy of Reading and that they understand the reading brain and how to make sure they are activating this in their students on a daily basis.

If they can achieve this then the future of our students in regards to reading is safe. If they can keep their students on that reading curve by understanding this then school libraries will grow into one of the most fundamental areas in the school.