READING and a love of books is taking centre stage at The Wellington Academy with the official opening of the newly revitalised library and the launch of the school-wide literacy strategy.

The library has been redesigned to nurture a love of reading and provide students with a sanctuary within the school where they can relax with a book, or enjoy a peaceful time playing word games like Scrabble or Bananas, or even reading related crafts such as making a bookmark.

As part of the official opening of the library, young adult fantasy author Ben Mears visited the school and gave Year Seven and Eight students a writing workshop, as well as talking to them about his own experiences of writing, and being a self-published author before securing a publishing deal for his latest three novels, A Sock Full of Bones, The Green Ink Ghost and The Shadow of Grayrton Mire.

Ben said: “I was honoured and delighted to open the library at The Wellington Academy. I struggled with writing at school but I learnt that it was quality over quantity that matters and libraries helped me a lot. Libraries can be your retreat and hiding place, where you can be alone yet surrounded by friends.

“My biggest piece of advice for young writers would be to write about something that you’re passionate about – if you end up falling into a project without that passion it will show in your writing.”

The Wellington Academy, which is part of The Royal Wootton Bassett Academy Trust, has renewed its literacy strategy with the library at its hub, and embedded it into every subject and curriculum area.

Director of English and lead on literacy at The Wellington Academy, Becky Lyons, explained: “The new revamped library is a real strength in terms of maximising space and the opportunities for literacy for everyone across the school. We want to really encourage and nurture a love of reading as when you’ve got that, you’ve got the foundations to build on for all areas of learning.

“The new library is core to the school-wide literacy strategy and we want to move away from the perception of going to the library being a chore. All years are able to drop into the library as they wish, with a separate area for our Years 12 and 13 to study. Years 7 to 9 also have a dedicated library lesson each week and read for 60 minutes weekly.

“Each teacher in the school is involved in reading too by displaying their favourite book or current read in their classroom window. We’ve also made sure that all texts for every subject is available in the library. However, it’s important that the students see this as their library, not ours, and that they can suggest what they want to see here and their favourite reads too.”

A new reading scheme at The Wellington Academy is also helping the school’s youngest readers to nurture a love of books thanks to pairing up with mentors from the Sixth Form.

Twenty-five Sixth Form students have volunteered their time to support their reading mentees who are in Year Seven, and each pair spend a term together reading and exploring the books further, which helps develop understanding and comprehension skills.

Becky Lyons added: “Covid-19 has had a huge effect on our students, especially those who have this year arrived with us from primary school. Many need extra help with reading skills and literacy, and by working to develop these it can have a massive impact on their success in their other subjects too.

“The pairs are really enjoying the new programme and we can already see the benefits. The Year Sevens really love reading with someone and building bonds with the Sixth Formers. By coming out of the classroom and working with the older students they’re taken out of their comfort zones, but they can also relax more into their learning as it’s not a teacher listening and working with them. Our Sixth Formers can also really relate with their mentees too as they’ve been in the same place as them before, they can understand exactly how they’re feeling. It’s great to see the two year groups come together.”

Thanks to the success of this programme so far, the school is now working to extend the scheme to more students by partnering with the local community and military units to bring in more people to support the young people in developing their reading skills.

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