Poetry in the Library: Effective and Confident Communication

By Scanlon, Hazel | School Librarian, Autumn 2013 | Go to article overview

Poetry in the Library: Effective and Confident Communication


Scanlon, Hazel, School Librarian


Mount Sackville Secondary School is a girls' school situated in Chapelizod, Dublin. It is a Catholic fee-paying school with over 630 students attending. The school library is managed by one full-time professionally qualified librarian who is assisted by a team of volunteer student library assistants at lunchtimes. The library holds around 7,000 items including books, DVDs, audiobooks, magazines and newspapers. It contains seven internet linked computers for student use. The library uses the Heritage library management system and also has Heritage Online for student use. The school sees the library as highly important, and the library is supported through regular planning meetings and by the provision of an adequate budget.

Introduction

Reading and writing poetry can help to increase literacy levels in students according to Hughes (2007). Reading aloud has also been identified by the UK's National Literacy Trust (2012) as something to be encouraged in schools, as it boosts literacy. School libraries usually contain a poetry collection which can be a fascinating world for students to delve into, once they have been encouraged to try, and have been exposed to the diverse range of poets and poems which they may not come across in the classroom. I have found that our poetry section has been under-used in the past, with students often heading straight for the fiction section, some of them not aware that the poetry section exists never mind what good reads it might contain.

With this in mind, I have tried three methods of promoting literacy in the school library through poetry and would recommend them:

* Poetry Corner--students read poetry aloud in the library

* Poetry resource display--set up a poetry resource display during Poetry Corner sessions and at other times

* Have a poet visit the library to do readings of their poetry and to answer the students' questions.

Poetry Corner

Poetry Corner is a regularly held poetry reading session in our library. Poetry is read aloud from the corner of the library, where a microphone, amplifier and reading stand is set up. Students read either a poem they have written themselves, or a poem of their choice from the library's poetry collection. English teachers encourage students to participate, and advise them on the techniques of writing poetry. Any student may read--students can be from any year group, and can join in at any stage during the year. They might want to read at just one session, or at every session or just occasionally. A Poetry Corner Secretary is appointed, a student who helps to host and organise the event and liaises with other students. We hold Poetry Corner on the last Friday lunch time of every month. It is also advertised with posters and at assemblies.

As a sort of special extension of Poetry Corner, we held a series of readings in the library at every lunch time in the week running up to the Christmas holidays. This was called Christmas in the Library. Members of school staff were invited to choose a poem or extract from a book on a Christmas or winter theme and to read their piece aloud. This proved to be a huge success, with a festive atmosphere created in the library for the events. Poetry on a winter theme proved popular, with poetry's ability to create a seasonal atmosphere through arrangement and choice of words highlighted.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Poetry Resource Display

This is simply a display of library poetry books and other resources that I set up for the days when we are holding a Poetry Corner session. I choose a selection of interesting and appealing poetry books and display them on a table, visible and close to where the students enter the library. I display a sign saying 'Some of our poetry books'. The audience browses though the books on display and some students even choose poems on the spot to read out.

I recently added a couple of very interesting poetry books to this display. …

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