LETTER TO THE EDITOR
I am writing in response to Lucy Shepherd’s plea for professional colleagues in the article ‘Why don’t all schools have a literary events co-ordinator?’ (BfK No. 178).
Many, many schools do – they are called School Librarians and about half of their working life is spent doing exactly what Ms Shepherd describes and more: shadowing the Carnegie, Kate Greenaway and other book awards, buying great fiction for the library, setting up readers’ clubs, getting the whole school reading or talking about books, initiating school or local area book awards or even international events with video-conferencing, taking assemblies to promote books and events, and organising book sales, author events, creative writing events etc for pupils and parents.
The other half of a School Librarian’s job involves teaching information literacy skills, liaising with all subject teachers, purchasing and managing online resources including our own websites and VLE areas, journals, reference and non-fiction books, managing the library software and running the library for all users during lessons and outside of lessons.
It seems from the Bristol Grammar School website that Ms Shepherd is actually an assistant Librarian in her school, so I am truly surprised that she seems unaware that there exist many groups to network in, courses in reader development and conferences which include ‘Meet the author’ sessions. I can only advise her to look further into www.cilip.org.uk (the people who run the Carnegie Award); they are the professional body for Librarians and will accept you as an affiliate member if you are not yet qualified. She can then join their Youth Libraries Group and their School Libraries Group. She may then decide to take a Master’s Degree in Library & Information Studies, after which one can then choose to spend two years or more proving one’s professional competency in order to become a Chartered Member of CILIP. The School Library Association (www.sla.org.uk) will also be worth joining as will the Federation of Children’s Book Groups (www.fcbg.org.uk), Reading Connects www.literacytrust.org.uk and Groupthing (www.groupthing.org.uk), among many others.
Probably the toughest part of the School Librarian’s job is getting teachers and Heads to recognise that we are fellow professionals with a lot to offer them, who need a reasonable budget for new stock and a reasonable staffing level to enable us to get out from behind the library counter long enough to organise all those wonderful literary events and information literacy lessons. Perhaps this is generally harder in state schools than well resourced independent schools? It would be great if Ms Shepherd would use some of her obvious energy and enthusiasm to support the right for every child to have the experience that she is able to give the pupils at her own school, by joining author Alan Gibbons’ ‘Campaign for the Book’. Sadly this is a movement that is needed, as too many schools today are without properly qualified Librarians and/or properly resourced libraries.
My thanks to Books for Keeps for an article highlighting some of the wonderful literary events that take place in schools. Let’s do our best to ensure that every school child has these opportunities.
Karen Hans, BScHons MA MCLIP
Librarian, St Martin-in-the-Fields High School, 155 Tulse Hill, London SW2 3UP
A new ethnic minority publishing house, Golden Destiny, has launched its first title, Step Back in Time to Ancient Kush by Kandace Chimbiri. It is the first title in what is to be a range of Black history-themed activity books aimed at 8-12 year-olds and their parents. The book reveals to children through puzzles and activities the little-known history of one of mankind’s earliest and longest-lasting ancient civilizations, the kingdom of Kush, based in what is now the Sudan. For further information contact email@example.com
Lance Salway writes…
Marjorie Darke was a perceptive writer of books for young people who came to writing late after a career as a textile designer. Her work included several books for young children, but it is her historical novels for older readers for which she will be remembered.
A common theme in her work was the response of young people to momentous events that change their lives forever, whether it be the coming of the railways in Ride the Iron Horse (1973), the rise of the women’s suffrage movement in A Question of Courage (1975), or the plight of young conscientious objectors during the First World War in A Long Way to Go (1978). Although the backgrounds to her books were scrupulously researched – these include the provincial theatre of the 1840s, the slave trade in 18th-century Bristol, and the lives of nurses at the front in the First World War – it is the vivid characters themselves who bring the historical events alive. The emotional power with which she told their stories distinguishes Marjorie Darke’s work from that of other historical writers for the young and it is this which makes her novels so compelling.
Cartoonist John Ryan, creator of the Captain Pugwash TV series and books, has died aged 88. The BBC commissioned the first series in 1957 after spotting potential in Ryan’s books about the tales of Pugwash and his nemesis Cut Throat Jake. His agent, Jane Gregory, said there was ‘a huge amount of love’ for the childish pirate and his shipmates, who included Tom the Cabin Boy and Willy. Mr Ryan is survived by his wife and three children.
Congratulations to Robert Dunbar who has had the honorary doctorate of Doctor in Education conferred on him by Trinity College, Dublin in recognition of services to children’s literature. Amongst his many other activities, Robert is a reviewer for BfK.
School Librarian of the Year 2009
Lucy Bakewell of Hill West Primary School, Sutton Coldfield, has been named School Librarian of the Year 2009 by the School Library Association. She is the first primary school librarian to be given the honour. The runners-up were Joy Wassell-Timms of Parrs Wood High School, Didsbury; Barbara Band of The Emmbrook School, Wokingham; and Lynne Varley of Sponne Community Technology College, Towcester.
The Guardian Children’s Fiction Award 2009
The winner is Mal Peet for Exposure (Walker Books). The runners-up were Morris Gleitzman for Then (Puffin); Bernard Beckett for Genesis (Quercus); Sally Gardner for The Silver Blade (Orion); Marcus Sedgwick for Revolver (Orion); Terry Pratchett for Nation (Doubleday); Julie Hearn for Rowan the Strange (OUP); and Siobhan Dowd for Solace of the Road (David Fickling Books).
Early Years Awards 2009
The winner of the Baby Book Award:
Chick by Ed Vere (Puffin)
The winner of the Pre-School Award:
Oliver Who Travelled Far and Wide by Mara Bergman, ill. Nick Maland (Hodder Children’s Books)
Best Emerging Illustrator:
Box of Tricks by Katie Cleminson (Jonathan Cape)
Chair of Judges Wendy Cooling said, ‘The winning books have that wonder that is so important for very young children; they will be read over and over again and adult readers will not complain at the “Again please!” There’s originality, imagination and excellent design in all three, always as much to enjoy in the pictures as in the words. These books hold the magic that really will lead children into reading.’
Solihull Children’s Book Award 2009
The winner this year is Storm Runners by Barbara Mitchelhill (Andersen Press). Pupils in Years 5, 6, 7 and 8 from across the Borough took part in the reading and voting process.
Northern Children’s Book Festival 2009
The Festival’s Gala Day will be held at Stockton Riverside College on Saturday 21 November. Children will have a chance to meet 12 of their favourite authors and illustrators, bringing the world of books to life via interactive sessions held throughout the day. The Gala Day will be the culmination of a fortnight of activities in schools and libraries across the North-East between 9 and 21 November. More information on the NCBF website: www.ncbf.co.uk