The Reading Realm Blog Series: Educators doing extraordinary things
Elizabeth is the head of the Schools’ Library Service in Guernsey. Here she talks about her role work with schools and the exciting launch of the Channel Island Children’s Book Award.
The Reading Realm Blog Series: Educators doing extraordinary things
Name: Elizabeth Hutchinson
Twitter handle: @elizabethutch
Link to blog/website: https://www.elizabethahutchinson.com/
What is your current position?
Head of Schools’ Library Service, Guernsey. I teach all year groups
When, how and why did you get into education? What did/do you want to achieve?
I have always worked in libraries apart, from a small interlude in hotels where I quickly realised that it was not for me. In 2003, I started work at the schools’ library service in Guernsey. It wasn’t until I started that I realised how fulfilling working with schools could be. I became head of the Schools’ Library Service in 2014 and have since become an international speaker and write regular columns for my professional magazine CILIP Information Professional. I blog regularly too. I am currently on the working party of the Great School Libraries campaign and I hope to help raise awareness about the importance of giving every child and teacher equal access to school libraries with professional support. I am proud to say that we have launched our own book award for children aged 9-12 called the Channel Island Children’s Book Award last year. We are hoping to engage those transition year groups in reading for pleasure by giving them something they own. They have nominated books and are now voting on their favourite from the shortlist.
How do you feel the education landscape has changed since you started in your role?
When I first started, the expectation from the schools was that we would keep their libraries tidy and up to date and read the occasional story. The school librarian’s role has changed so much since then. We support research skills, digital literacy and help our schools collaborate with others across the world. The need for school librarians to teach critical thinking and website evaluation has also increased significantly. The research shows that teachers who work alongside their librarian can see increased attainment in their students and because of this we are working in the classroom more than ever.
What are your earliest memories of reading and writing?
I have always loved reading. When I was old enough to go to bed and read to myself, I remember holding one hand on my light switch whilst reading. This was because my Mum usually wanted me to finish sooner than I wanted to, so if I kept my hand on my light, I could switch it off quickly so she would not know I was still awake!
I loved to write my own Mr. Men stories. I spent hours with my sister drawing their houses.
How do you try and foster a love of reading in children?
Working for the Schools’ Library Service, one of our main aims it to foster the love of reading in children. We do this by encouraging every school library to keep their stock up to date and loan some from our service too, so that there is a good rotation of up to date stock too. We run book group, book awards and bring three authors across for Guernsey for Book Week. We have been involved in the Patron of Reading Scheme and we look out for any other initiatives that we feel fits with our aims. Last year we started using Fiction Express that really saw engagement in our reluctant readers.
What has been your most successful reading or writing lesson or activity with children?
It is difficult to pick out just one. I think our book award shadowing has probably given us the most engagement. Children from all schools across Guernsey are invited to join groups to shadow these awards. We then invite four children from each group to join us at an awards lunch at our local public library. It is great to bring schools together to celebrate reading. We are hoping that our own book award will lead to something similar and with even more engagement in the future.
What advice would you give to parents whose children say they don’t like reading?
Keep trying. It is all about finding the right book and once you do, they will be on their way. Let them give up on a book they are not enjoying and never force them to read to the end. This just reinforces their opinion that reading is boring. Go to the library with them and let them select what every they want. Don’t be judgemental, but occasionally try to guide them. Offer to do the reading for them or loan audio books – we now know that listening is classed as ‘reading’ in the benefits you get.
Don’t give up! We know that children who read do better at school so take this journey with them.
What books do you remember from your childhood? Do you have a favourite?
I loved Enid Blyton and the Folk of the Faraway Tree was my favourite. I would have loved to grab a cushion and slide down the slippery-slip.
What was the first book that made you cry?
Michael Morpurgo’s ‘Private Peaceful’. I was on a plane and it was landing as I finished it. I was so engrossed that when I realised where I was and that I had tears pouring down my face I was a little embarrassed. It is amazing that books can do this!
What authors did you dislike at first but grew into?
This is difficult to answer as I don’t tend to stick to the same authors. If I am not enjoying something I tend to move on.
What’s your favourite under-appreciated novel?
I don’t think I have one…
Have you ever experienced reader’s block?
I regularly find myself not enjoying a book but I am quite happy to put it down and try something else. I am more often than not reading children’s fiction and love it when I have the time to read adult fiction. I can’t really allow myself to not feel like reading as it is central to my job.
Are you drawn to a particular genre or type of book or do you read a variety of genres?
I read a variety because I have to, but when I get to choose, I would normally go for a historical story.
What book are you currently reading?
- ‘All the light we cannot see’ by Anthony Doerr.
- ‘Leading for School librarians’ by Hilda Weisburg (for my PD Book club for school librarians)
Where’s your favourite place to read?
I regularly read in bed. If I have more time, then on my settee in the living room with the fire blazing and a nice cup of tea beside me.
Which books do you think have tackled the issues of diversity and difference particularly well?
- ‘Lies we Tell Ourselves’ by Robin Talley
- ‘I have no secrets’ by Penny Joelson
Which three books would you recommend to primary/ secondary school aged children and why?
- ‘The Explorer’ by Katherine Rundell
- ‘Ella on the Outside’ by Cath Howe
- ‘Kid Normal’ by Greg James and Chris smith
- ‘Sky Song’ by Abi Elphinstone
Sorry but I had to choose 4 as these are the books on our shortlist for our Channel Island Children’s Book Award. They are all well written with fantastic stories and characters. Diverse and enchanting.
Finally: in one sentence, what does reading for pleasure mean to you?
Reading for pleasure means being transported into another world/time/place and meeting different characters through the pages of a book.