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DROWNING IN BOOKS

A celebration of books in every classroom – Jonathan Brough, Headteacher

When I make decisions that shape and develop my school, I work from two core premises: first, that good teachers never forget what a privilege it is to be entrusted with a child’s education. They know that all pupils must grow and develop into the most happy, successful and fulfilled people that they can possibly be. Second, if you wander into any library or bookshop, you encounter individuals with certain common characteristics. They are smiling. They have achieved that happiness, success and fulfilment. They are fortunate. They are blessed. This is because they have been told one of life’s great secrets: if you love books, you can not only learn, but you can also unwind. You can escape.

A sea of literature must surround children, inviting them to dive in and explore new territories


So, at the heart of any school, there must be books. An eternal festival of books should be celebrated in every classroom – a sea of literature (both fictional and factual) must surround all pupils, inviting them to dive in and explore new territories, forging new friendships and fresh discoveries. Books should feature in all lessons, clubs and assemblies . . . and, of course, there should be a blend of comforting favourites with exciting discoveries.

Exploring the range of living things? Share Jan Brett’s The ThreeLittle Dassies. Contemplating the nature of God? Gain an extra insight from Douglas Wood’s Old Turtle. Investigating circles? Put it all into context with Cindy Neuschwander’s Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi. Finding a few unexpected guests in a French lesson? Time to reach for Pef’s Rendez-moi mes poux! Yes, from time to time schools may make exciting, inventive use of an extract from a good work – this is nothing new, teachers have always done it for comprehension activities – but it’s not a book, and the satisfaction of a gripping narrative can only be found in a full published work. Books are where true value lies.

Of course, a school’s book stock is never big enough, and budgeting decisions have to reflect a commitment to providing the best: at my school, one of our pupil committees is empowered to check that we have all the titles every child wants on our shelves... and if something is missing, we order it that day. We ensure children recommend books to each other, and we welcome visiting authors to speak to children about their work: in Autumn 2010, Nick Butterworth, Ali Sparkes, Tim Bowler and Jeremy Strong came through our doors. We still run regular visits to our local community library (when did those disappear from most schools’ timetables?) and actively encourage pupils to become full members, capitalising on incentives such as the summer reading challenges.

Our children love books. They love reading. They love thinking. They love life.

BIO
Jonathan Brough is the Headmaster of Hurlingham School in Putney. Before this, he was Head of English in two boys’ schools, Deputy Head at Bute House in Hammersmith and Head of Prep at City of London School for Girls. He now teaches Latin to every child in Years 5 and 6, leads three whole-school assemblies per week (often accompanied by firm favourite puppet Mischief,) and is always to be seen joining in something or other around the school, regularly getting sidetracked by philosophical discussions with children. He places enormous emphasis on happiness being central to everything that goes on and strongly believes that all individuals make greatly valued contributions to school life. Outside school, Jonathan is married to a leading international lawyer and lists interests including reading and writing fiction, multimedia authoring and travel.

www.hurlinghamschool.co.uk