Wide range of reading strategies wins Kristabelle School Librarian of the Year award

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Winner: Kristabelle Williams is manager of the Learning Resource Centre at Addey and Stanhope School in London

A Manga Club and book “tasting menus” are among the strategies that have helped this year’s School Librarian of the Year create a “thriving reading culture” at her school.

Kristabelle Williams of Addey and Stanhope School, a voluntary aided state secondary in inner south east London, has been awarded the honour by the School Library Association (SLA).

Ms Williams is manager of the school’s Learning Resource Centre and impressed the judges with her “unremitting and consistent focus on ensuring the best futures for her students, making reading, researching and library use the norm”.

The award is for 2020 and 2021 after judging last year was delayed by the pandemic. Nominations are now open for the 2022 awards.

Addey & Stanhope is a 300-year-old co-educational school for years 7 to 11 in Lewisham. Among the many strategies Ms Williams employs are a Manga Club, book “tasting menus” and Books Up – a mash-up of the games Taboo and Heads Up. She is the only member of staff in the LRC but judges praised her for creating a “thriving reading culture”.

The judges’ award citation added: “Kristabelle has been instrumental in celebrating how reading for pleasure and mental health/wellbeing are intertwined, never stopping adapting and innovating to engage and encourage students.”

The library service thrived during the pandemic as Ms Williams included books in lockdown care packages for families, delivered weekly live lessons remotely and supported students with remote learning and reading. She used BookTrust’s Bookbuzz programme and the Free Books Campaign to encourage book ownership, too.

Quoted in a recent article for Books for Keeps magazine, Ms Williams said: “Whether young people read or not is often due to cost, access and content. In a pandemic where the public faces further unemployment and child poverty crises, book gifting has, is and will continue to be an important part of what our school does.”

Ms Williams has now used her experience during the pandemic to implement changes going forward, including retaining a click-and-collect loan system and continuing remote community building.

The judges added: “Book deliveries to form rooms have created valuable opportunities for tutors to engage with and encourage their students’ reading, and use of Show My Homework to set weekly reading tasks, quizzes and book discussion has enabled Kristabelle to build rapport with some students she wouldn’t normally be able to reach.”

Speaking after receiving her award, Ms Williams said it was a “huge honour”. She continued: “I am lucky to work with such wonderful students and staff and thankful to the librarians, educators and young people who I have learnt from throughout my career. The incredible work of all the Honour List librarians shows the vital impact well-funded and professionally staffed school libraries have on students’ literacy, learning and wellbeing. Now more than ever, it is important that we make sure every school has one.”

The four other librarians who were shortlisted on the 2020/21 award’s Honour List are:

  • Claire Marris, the library manager at Toot Hill School, an 11 to 18 secondary in Nottinghamshire.
  • Terri McCargar, head librarian at Latymer Upper School, an independent day school in west London.
  • Rose Palmer, former reading advocate at The Oaks Primary School in Ipswich.
  • Éadaoin Quinn, school librarian at Enniscorthy Vocational College in Co Wexford, one of 30 school libraries in the Republic of Ireland that receive extra funding to combat educational disadvantage.

The 2022 School Librarian of the Year Award will split, for the first time, into primary and secondary categories. There will also be two new awards:

  • The Enterprise of the Year Award will celebrate “one-off or progressive school library projects” which develop literacy, community and independence in children.
  • The Community Award will celebrate the high-quality community partnerships that exist in so many schools across the country.

For further details, visit www.sla.org.uk/school-librarian-of-the-year-award


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