The National Literacy Trust 2019 research reveals that only 26% of children now read daily compared with 43% in 2015. However, according to Anne Stokes, St John’s Manager of Learning Resources and librarian, “St John’s bucks this trend, especially with boys.”
The library is situated at the heart of the school and in the lead up to World Book Day – Thursday March 5 – the whole school is focusing on books. Anne has organised a myriad of activities involving all students and staff. There are many competitions: guess the book title from the hidden object, write a six word novel competition for staff and students, and a daily book quiz.
Students in Years 7 and 8 are performing poetry in assembly and participating in a book-buster competition. Years 9 and 10 are busy turning a classic novel into a graphic novel.
Classroom doors around the school have been decorated as book covers. The library itself has been transformed into the land of Narnia. You enter through a wardrobe festooned with fur coats, emerging into an icy world where the Snow Queen glares at you.
A book bake cake sale on World Book Day will raise money for book aid.
And every day students will be participating in the Living Books activity. “The idea behind Living Books is that instead of taking a book out the student borrows a person and asks them questions,” explained Anne. “This can encourage reluctant readers to read about a subject or a theme.”
Fifteen people, representing a range of subjects, are going into St John’s this week to become Living Books. They include: the actress – Ruth Wilson, Skeleton Bobsleigh silver medallist and world champion – Shelley Rudman, Ex Tongan international rugby player, coach at Marlborough Rugby Club - Elisi Vunipola, Innovation lead in developing driverless cars with Innovate UK – Rav Babbra, BBC Wiltshire Radio Breakfast Presenter – Ben Prater, and our local MP – Danny Kruger.
“The Living Books enjoy the experience as much as the students,” says Anne. “They suddenly realise how wonderful teenagers are.”
This was echoed by the Living Books who spoke to Marlborough.news. Ben Prater from BBC Wiltshire said, “I’d happily be a living book again. I was impressed with the curiosity of the students and the questions they asked. They seemed genuinely interested in the media. They all seemed to know how good local radio is when it snows !” Local radio reports school closures due to snow.