Creating a reading space the whole school can enjoy

Jane Jackson

Jane Jackson is Marketing Manager at BookSpace, an independent company whose products and resources are designed to develop a love of reading and writing amongst primary-aged children. Our range of creative writing products, WordSpace, stimulates and inspires children to write creatively and our innovative book display furniture is designed to create reading spaces with instant visual appeal which banish the image of a dull library forever. We also offer a free design service for schools looking to revamp their school library.

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A good environment for reading is probably just as important as the book itself. Jane Jackson, marketing manager at BookSpace, shares her top tips on how to create the ultimate reading-zone.

Creating a school reading culture is high up on most headteachers’ wish lists. But presenting reading as an attractive offer isn’t always that easy. While most young people find electronic media instantly attractive so motivation is not an issue, we have to work much harder to make books appealing.

Children of all ages expect retail standards of product presentation, and will turn away from bookshelves that look boring and old fashioned. If you’re looking at create a new reading space for your school, think carefully about where to site it. Unused classrooms are a common choice and work well in that they generally offer a reasonably-sized space without too many exits to work around. Many schools will opt to use a more central space such as a foyer or atrium where more children are passing – it can be argued this will encourage previously reluctant readers to stop and browse more frequently.

Wherever you choose to site the new space, presentation of books is critical. Face-out displays are vital to ensure you capture the attention of children. Displaying books spine-on may mean you have vast amounts of books in the space but it won’t look appealing – in fact it can be overwhelming for many children. Selecting fewer books and displaying them well, even if you have to rotate the stock and keep some in a store room is a better option.

If you have the budget, opt to get a professional company to give you some designs – you’ll be amazed at the different ideas. Creating cosy spaces for children to browse and read the books is a good idea – again, it may be at the expense of a few extra rows of shelving but you’ll soon see the results when children are lingering over the books and issue rates increase.

"The plus side was that students would team up with each other, collaborate, share. The downside, as is typical, was internally assessing."

Before you look at creating a new space, consider carefully how it will be used and by whom. Will it be for class activities only, or will children be free to use the space at break times? Will it be for the whole school or just certain age groups? Consider creating different areas in the space for different ages and you can then ensure the shelving is at the right height for the child and that the shelves have been designed for the right type of books. Picture books for younger children will need face-out display across the whole shelf as they have virtually no spine. Whereas for older children, you can opt for paperbacks displayed spine on and just turn the odd one face-out and still get a great result.

Consider mixing some play elements in with the book display to create really special reading spaces that children want to visit. Hidey-holes, display frames, magnetic playboards, tunnels, display-boards and archways are all great for bringing your space to life and change children’s attitude to reading. The idea is to create spaces with instant appeal which banish the dull image of a traditional library forever. The visual stimulus of wonderful book covers, presented face-out at the right height to see and touch, is irresistible.

Have you created reading spaces in your school? Share your experiences below.

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