“Children can only aspire to what they know exists.”
Glasgow Children’s University, 2016
This statement illustrates the philosophy behind the Children’s Library club, offered to pupils of St Mungo’s Primary School every Wednesday from 3 o’clock, with students from the School of Education at the University of Strathclyde having full responsibility for planning, organising and running this experience.
St Mungo’s Primary school is located directly behind the university library, but the 5 minutes walking distance between the 2 buildings is ultimately a barrier between two separate communities. Although the physical distance is minimal, the distance metaphorically is immense and the prospect of the University campus was abstract to the pupils in St Mungo’s Primary, many of whom were actually unaware of its size, opportunities offered and even its existence. This is further highlighted in that I, as a student entering my fourth year of study, was equally unaware of the existence of the school.
This after school club enabled children to see for themselves the wonders of the huge library, specifically the vast range of children’s books covering a variety of exciting topics and the technology and research methods that could be utilized to help them make interesting and relevant discoveries.
Through inviting groups of pupils into our library, supporting them in researching topics of interest, and encouraging them in team work while being independent in their own learning, we hoped to enlighten pupils to the captivating environment offered in the University. 4 weeks of exploring informative resources, increasing knowledge and enthusiasm and co-creating presentations to display this, accumulates in a visit from parents, who are also invited to the library to see for themselves the experience their children have had.
We hoped the experience would reintroduce the university, the library, and further education as a whole, as things pertinent and accessible to everyone, regardless of their current social, economic, political or cultural status.
Being the initial organiser and key point of communication between the school and the university, I had the opportunity to immerse myself in an experience which has enabled me to develop, not only an enhanced passion for books and working with children, but professional attributes which shall be utilised in my future career as a teacher and which shall be strengthened throughout my professional life. I feel I have gained vital experience of leadership as I took responsibility for the creation of the club, planning and organising timings, resources, considerations of safety and “housekeeping”, recruitment of fellow students and lines of communication to maintain the efficient running of the sessions. This in turn led to attributes of resilience and problem solving being developed as several obstacles were addressed and overcome: lack of communication and issues regarding commitment being just some of these.
As I was undertaking my final 3 month block placement in the months from January – March, for me this meant keeping in close contact with the students who had volunteered to run these sessions, ensuring the club was of a sustainable nature, instructions and advice being passed to successive groups.
The benefits reaped from this project were not only apparent in the children who took part, but also in the students from the university who organised and supported the sessions. Students across all 4 years of study took part in various 4 week blocks, working together, liaising with other professionals and experiencing numerous obstacles and challenges throughout their work, implementing skills of cooperation, problem solving and communication in order to address these and maintain the consistency of the club. The success experienced in this first year of the clubs creation has evoked a huge sense of pride in me and has ultimately given me the confidence to continue with opportunities like this in the future, taking a leadership role in other experiences that I find exciting and worthwhile that spark my personal interest and passion. The sustainability of the Children’s Library Club means that students who have taken part this year can go on to carry the club forward, using their prior knowledge and experience to influence its progression.
I sincerely hope this initiative will continue for many years to come as we continue to work together to collaborate the communities of university students and staff, and the parents, pupils and teachers of St Mungos Primary.