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We know how vital reading is for children. The National Literacy Trust has published a wealth of research into the benefits of reading. Some of their recent findings have been;

Children and young people who:

  • read daily are four times more likely to read above the level expected for their age compared with their peers who don’t read daily.
  • have good reading skills are four times as likely to have good financial skills than their peers who have poor reading skills.
  • are the most engaged with literacy are three times more likely to have higher levels of mental wellbeing than children who are the least engaged.
  • 9% of children and young people say they don’t have a book of their own at home. This means that for 1 in 11 children, the books at school provide one of the few opportunities they get to read.

Despite this, books often seem to be given a low priority when it comes to funding. When a school recognises a priority for reading, but they are struggling to find the finances to provide up-to-date books, where do they turn to?

One temptation is to fill the bookshelves with cheap box sets of books. These certainly have a use where you can get hold of quality books such as Roald Dahl or Enid Blyton, however, there is a danger of providing only long book series which can put some children off. Ideally, we want to provide variety, introducing children to new and different authors and styles of writing.

So, how can a school fund books and resources, when there is no money left in the budget?

Grants

These grants are specifically available to help schools spend money on books and are worth taking a look at to see if your school is eligible to apply. A number of schools in our area have had successful bids leading them to purchase hundreds of new quality books for their libraries.

Foyles Foundation is an independent grant-making trust that distributes grants to UK charities. They offer grants of between £1k – £10k to state funded schools. They prioritise primary school library and reading books. A key point in their application is to demonstrate how you will maintain the library in the longer term.

Another place to look is The Siobhan Dowd Trust, which works to give young people the opportunity to read and enjoy literature. They give away up to £2000 each month to schools to spend on books at their local independent bookseller. Among other things, they are looking for schools to demonstrate what they do to encourage a love of reading.

Sometimes the application for grants can be daunting but it is worth investing your time and writing a clear plan on how you intend to spend the money. To give yourself the best chance of a successful bid, there a number of places you can go to for support. We also offer an app you can purchase to help to write successful bids for your school.

If you are not able to get a grant there are other options you can consider.  Here are some ideas that have come from the schools we work with;

  • Incorporate a book group into a breakfast/after school club, with the termly fees helping to pay for books.
  • Set up a stall at a summer fete, sports day or parents evening, inviting parents of year 6 pupils to buy a book to donate to the school as a leaving gift. Schools we have worked with have benefitted from an extra 50-60 books in their school as a result.
  • Ask that the PTA host some fundraising events for your school library.  Invite your local bookshop or school resource providers, e.g. Education Resources Service, along as they may have ideas to help or support your efforts.
  • Approach your local businesses. Some have funds allocated for helping projects such as school libraries or may be looking for something local to support.

There are always new ideas popping up as publishers step up to help schools in need. Usborne reps often have a special offer to get free books for schools, and Puffin World of Stories invite a set number of schools to take part in their courses and research, in return for gifting hundreds of books. Scholastic provide touring books fairs, with a percentage of the sales coming back to the school in books. Book Life also offer match funding on books purchased with them.

Another cost-effective way of keeping your books up-to-date is to subscribe to a service that provides bulk loans, such as the Education Resources Service. Services like this operate across the UK offering subscriptions to borrow books and artefacts, plus support and advice to manage your library. If you do not have one in your county then it’s worth approaching one in a nearby county as a lot of services are now reaching further to help schools outside their area. You can also go to the School Library Association for support, a map of services can be found by visiting https://www.sla.org.uk/branches.

Lastly, speak to the other schools around you, see how they are funding their school libraries and share best practice. You never know what ideas might pop up.

We hope to have given you a drop of inspiration and some new ideas to help get your library stocked up. We must, of course, emphasise that the best way to set up and maintain a good school library is through appropriate allocated funds each year. If your school is starting to look at budgeting for next year, it’s worth using The National Literacy Trust research previously mentioned to build your case. Regular, small injections of new books by new authors give children more opportunities to discover a book they love, and a love of reading.

Sally Harrison

Sally Harrison

Sally is the School Library Service manager for Juniper Education. She has worked in primary school and public libraries for 17 years and as a children’s book reviewer. She is a chartered librarian, a member of the Association of Senior Children’s and Education Librarians and has been a board member of the School Library Association.