It’s All Free but It’s not all Equal

From Day 1 of home learning all kinds of reading resources have flooded social media and filled our inboxes. Offers that a few weeks ago would have seemed too good to be true, are now the norm. Free resources are everywhere from audio and ebooks, to book related activities, workshops and story times.

With many children no longer able to access the books kept in classroom book corners and libraries there still exists an amazing opportunity both to keep children reading and to engage parents. However, the sheer volume of free book related resources on offer can be overwhelming. Though it may all be free, it certainly isn’t all the same quality.

Cutting Through the Noise

So how as a school do you direct your staff, parents and children to the most appropriate and useful of these reading resources?

The good news is you don’t need to start from scratch. Lots of organisations are already publishing and maintaining curated lists of free reading resources. Use one of these to generate your own list for teachers and/or parents that links to your home learning plan.

Creating and Curating Your List – Steps to Success

Where to Start…

  • Assign the task of creating and curating the list to one person or a small group so that as a school you aren’t duplicating effort. If you have a librarian use them. They are trained to organise information and quickly assess and evaluate the value of a resource.
  • Find an organisation you trust and use their list as a starting point. Try the School Library Association or contact a service you already work with or subscribe to such as a school library service or similar.

Organise Your List

  • Organise your list in a useful way under different categories (much like a library itself) so that it’s a quick process for others to identify the most appropriate resource for a particular purpose.
  • Along with a link give a brief description of the resource.

Choose Only the Best Resources!

  • Include only those resources that are relevant to the intended audience. They should be age-appropriate if being used directly by children. If you are recommending to parents as a teaching resource ensure that language, instructions and outcomes are understandable to a non-teacher.
  • Include only resources that are of good quality visually and in terms of content. Being free isn’t in itself a mark of quality. This is especially important if it is a resource you are recommending children use at home.
  • Remove resources that no longer seem to relevant. Long lists can become unwieldy and parents and teachers will probably only want to commit to a limited number anyway.

Keep up-to-date

  • Check, edit and update your list regularly so that all the links work. Not everything that was online on April 1st will still be freely available.
  • Add to your list as you see new resources become available. Social media is great for identifying new things (author-led events or books being read aloud for example) but remember to view beforehand to check for age-appropriateness.
  • Ensure what you include has sufficient content – for example not all free ebook services include up to date children’s books.

A Pearl Necklace

From an overwhelming, unorganised and random collection you will now have an organised list of appropriate and targeted resources to share with colleagues. Or to put it in a more aesthetically pleasing way…

“Consider collection as a bowl of loose pearls and curation as a pearl necklace…. Curation is what happens when particular pearls are selected from the bowl, and strung into a beautiful necklace…..The necklace, which has fewer pearls than the bowl, but which can be publicly admired and worn, is worth more than the sum of its parts”

(Dr Kay Oddone, Digital content curation: How to do it right! Schools Catalogue Information Service, April 3th, 2020)

Need advice on curating your list? Let us help

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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.

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