Guide for Running a Community Library

Created with particular thanks to Gloria Addae Serwaa and the many Ghanaian librarians and teachers I have spoken to. This is very much a working document, so do send any suggestions to contact@readingspots.org

1. Purpose of the Library

From our perspective, these are the main reasons that we would like libraries to exist – you may well have other ideas of particular aims for the library – do get in touch!

  • To promote the value of reading as an enjoyable and relaxing activity in itself, as well as highlighting its clear link to improving literacy, extending people’s perspective on the world, and gaining knowledge in various different forms.
  • To provide fiction and non-fiction resources to improve the educational opportunities of children and adults.
  • To provide a quiet place to study or to read with light in the evenings and weekends.
  • For communities to bring themselves together around education and reading.
  • To support communicates in encouraging children and adults to be creative, to have ideas, and to dream.

2. Running the Library: Key Responsibilities for the Library Committee

Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him.”  (Maya Angelou)

  • The committee should ensure that the books are kept in excellent condition, by educating pupils and adults on arrival about the library rules (listed below) and how to take care of the books.
  • The library should have excellent security to ensure that the books are safe.
  • The committee should ensure that the library is appropriately cared for, using the guidelines for ‘Care of the Library’ listed below.
  • The committee should do all they can to promote the use of the library through speaking about the value of reading in different schools, at various community information centres, and through religious organisations.
  • The committee should ensure that there is a permanent librarian/s who can advise pupils on which books to read, and ask them questions about their reading to encourage them to ensure that they understand the books, and think reflectively about themes in the books.
  • Pupils should be encouraged to record their reading in the ‘Readers’ Diaries’, if available.
  • Local schools in the area (if more than one school) should draw up a timetable for using the library during the school day.
  • The library should also be open after school, in the evenings, and on Saturdays. It is highly important that library hours remain consistent, so that the children and adults can know exactly when the library is open, otherwise they may lose interest.
  • The committee should set up a weekly pupil book club – suggested guidelines for activities are given in this booklet. This could be primarily pupil run. A community could also consider setting up an adult Book Club – do contact us if you would like further support in providing a set of texts for this purpose.
  • A sign in book should be kept detailing all those who have used the library (name, age, date, time, along with any visitors from outside the communities and issues that arise).
  • Remember that having good quality books is better than having shelves and shelves of unused books – books should not be added to the library unless they are likely to be read and are in an excellent condition.
  • The Library Committee should consider how they can make the library an engaging and attractive environment, whether by displaying or hanging pupil work, organising for wall art, or displaying educational posters.
  • If it is clear that all of the above factors are taken care of, we may look into providing some support with IT education.

3. Inspiring Reading

“Few children learn to love books by themselves. Someone has to lure them into the wonderful world of the written word; someone has to show them the way.” Orville Prescott from “A Parent Reads to his Children”

Here are some brief suggestions for how the librarian or teacher I/C the library might support children in developing a love of reading and of learning:

  • Reading aloud
  • Storytelling (can be from a book or from the aural tradition)
  • Creating plays based on books
  • Quiz competitions based on reading
  • Singing songs
  • Reciting poetry
  • Asking questions about the book as you read, possibly using the list of suggested questions given in this document below.
  • Point to pictures- improving vocab.
  • Using educational puzzles and games
  • Inviting guest speakers to the library to offer a different perspective and offer different role models for children.
  • Set up other clubs linked to the library (e.g. dance club/choir/puzzles/wildlife club etc)

 

4. The Basics: Library Rules

“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.” (Jorge Luis Borges)

The following rules are merely suggestions based on practice within the Abofour Library, but I think they demonstrate best practice for excellent care of the library:

  • Each person must register with the librarian or teacher in charge when you enter the room.
  • No food or drink aside from water should be permitted in the library – this includes gum.
  • Children should not sit on the desks.
  • No book should be removed from the library, unless there is a loaning system set up by the community.
  • The library should be a silent place, unless a specific group activity is taking place.
  • Pupils should make every effort to turn the pages carefully at the corners, to avoid damage to the books.
  • Books should be returned to the place from which they were taken, with the spine facing out to the room.
  • No bags should be allowed in the library – these should be left outside or hung on pegs.
  • Librarians could consider asking pupils to take their shoes off to reduce the amount of dust in the library.

 5. Care of the Library

“The very existence of libraries affords the best evidence that we may yet have hope for the future of man”  (T.S Eliot)

The following comprise the key duties that should be led by the librarian, supported by other volunteers, pupils and members of the library committee.

  • The floor should be swept at least once a day to remove dust (to prevent it settling on the books).
  • The book shelves should be wiped thoroughly at least once a week, and the floors mopped. Furniture should also be wiped.
  • Every half-term there should be a deep clean where dust is removed from books, and the entire room is cleaned.
  • All books should be stamped.
  • All books should be placed on the correct shelves (shelves should be organised according to ability for fiction, and subject, in the case of non-fiction).

6. Hosting a Book Club

“Libraries store the energy that fuels the imagination. They open up windows to the world and inspire us to explore and achieve, and contribute to improving our quality of life. Libraries change lives for the better.” (Sidney Sheldon)

The ideas here are all thanks to the readers in the Abofour Book Club, initially established by Gloria Addae, and now led by Mr Cofie. I hope that we can pull together many ideas for reading activities from great initiatives across Ghana.

Gloria indicated to me that the Book Club meets every Friday at 8am. The session starts with a prayer, and the reading of minutes from the previous meeting. The sessions then comprise of both ‘formal’ and ‘informal’ activities.

Formal Activities

Each week 2 or 3 ‘formal’ activities are chosen by the President of the society.

1. Discoveries

Pupils share things that they have ‘discovered’ from reading that week – these could be facts from within non-fiction books, or anything related to their reading.

2. Book summaries

3 pupils asked to summarise books that they have read. The President of the society asks further probing questions to extend understanding and get pupils to engage in their reading. 

  • Moral of the story – questioning on whether it is a good moral? Do they want to follow that moral?
  • How is the story related to what is going on in our society?
  • Was there any central problem in the book? How was it solved? (see questions further down for further ideas).

3. Vocabulary:

  • Pupils identify new words they learnt in the book and meanings.
  • Literary devices used in the book e.g. personification, simile, metaphor, hyperbole, oxymoron, irony, satire, sarcasm etc

4. Debate:

On an issue within the book – e.g. ‘The book ended well’. Discuss. 1 minute per speaker. 2 on each side.

Informal Activities 

  • Riddles (pupils say a riddle and the rest of the club have to guess)
  • Pick and act (pupils pack out words (e.g. book characters) and have to act in that word)
  • Truth or dare (pupils are either quizzed on a reading related topic, or dared to do a reading-related activity).
  • Question time by President or ‘hot seating’ – one pupil has to pretend to be a character in a particular book, and the others have to ask questions about his thoughts on various topics.
  • Competition in pairs- quizzed on books.
  • Articulate (words in a hat – pupils have to describe the word in teams without saying the word itself)

Pupil responsibilities

 There should be various roles of responsibility in a well-established book club.

President – presides over the meeting (so it can run without a teacher)

Vice-President – assist the President and can preside if President not there.

Secretary –  write minutes of the meeting in the official Book Club Book, and read the minutes at the beginning of next week’s meeting.

Organisers – they remind people of the time for the meetings and arrange the room. Choosing particular people to make sure the library is tidy.

Porters– make sure order is maintained during meeting – break up arguments and keep noise down!

Responsibilities of the Executive Board:

  • Offer invitations, and encourage to use the library.
  • Keep activities of the library ongoing.
  • Visit younger classes to explain the benefit of reading, and highlight good stories.
  • Keep the book club running.

 

7. Suggested Questions to Encourage Reflective Reading

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” (Dr Seuss)

These are suggestions of questions to ask pupils from Primary 3 – Junior High School 3 to ensure that children are thinking when they are reading books.  These questions encourage pupils to go beyond summarising the content of a book. These questions are mostly to ask after reading, although some can be asked before or during reading the book.

Basic

  • From the book cover, what do you think the book will be about?
  • What do you think is going to happen next?
  • Who is your favourite character in the book? Why do you like them?
  • What have you learnt from the book?
  • Did you find any words difficult in the book? If so, have you looked them up?
  • Did the pictures help you to understand the story better?

Intermediate

  • What do you think the title tells us about the book?
  • How would you feel if that happened to you? (After a particular event).
  • Was there a particular problem in the book? How was it solved?
  • What was the setting of the book? Did the author make it vivid? How did he/she achieve this?
  • Did the book end as you expected?
  • What is the ‘moral’ of the story?
  • Which character interested you most? Why was their character interesting?
  • Does the title of the story give a good indication of the novel? How would you rename it?
  • Would you recommend this story to another child? Why?

Advanced

  • What made you choose this book from the shelf?
  • Are there any literacy devices used in the book (e.g. metaphors, similes, personification, onomatopoeia).
  • Are there any themes in the book that relate to current society? If so, what can we learn from the book with respect to the issue?
  • Can you think of an alternative ending?
  • Whose perspective is the novel given from?
  • Can you think of how the story might be told from a different perspective?
  • Look back to the first page of the book. Did it captivate your attention? How? Could it be improved?
  • Does the start of the book give you any indication about how it might end?
  • Which character do you identify with most? (Who is most like yourself?) Explain!
  • Is there anything in the book that you disagree with?

Possible Written/Dramatic Activities

  • Pupils could summarise the book in 100 words. (Perhaps emphasise that summarising involves highlighting key points, not repeating various sentences).
  • Pupils could create their own record of the all the books they have read and summarised.
  • Pupils could look up all words that they do not know in a dictionary and keep a ‘vocab list’ in a special books.
  • You could act out parts of a book with your friends.
  • You could practice reading a section of the book expressively to read to family and friends.
  • You could write your own ‘Part 2’ or sequel to a book.
  • You could write an alternative ending or beginning to a book.
  • You could create a different front cover or title for the book.
  • You could write the story from the perspective of a particular character.
  • You could make a list of different characters in the book and their qualities and behaviour – you could then act in the behaviour of those characters with your friends.

8. Contact:

Do email us with any thoughts on how this guide might be improved.

contact@readingspots.org

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