In my job as a secondary school librarian, I am extremely aware that putting the right book into the hands of a student can make the difference as to whether or not they become a lover of books and even a lifelong reader. Ensuring we have a good range of relevant and diverse stock is a priority. It’s important to keep up to date with what’s going on in the world of children’s and YA publishing and to have an extensive knowledge of the stock available to students in the library. I might have a queue of pupils at lunch or only a few minutes during a class visit to help someone who isn’t sure what they want to read. I need to know what’s on the shelves and be able to think on my feet. Questions are key. I try to find out what books the student has recently enjoyed. Do they like mysteries? Humour? Lots of action?
Understanding a student’s reading level is equally as important in terms of suggesting books at an appropriate level or encouraging a child to try something more challenging. Along with discovering, through reading fiction, what it might be like to live in someone else's shoes, I also want students to browse our shelves and find books they feel are for them; whether that’s dyslexia friendly books or being able recognise themselves in the pages of the stories they find.
I am lucky enough to run a Creative Writing Club for years seven and eight. I tell the club members that I started writing when I was their age and there’s no reason why they can’t (with a lot of perseverance and hard work!) grow up to become published authors. The competitions and resources Young Writers provide always go down very well with our creative writing club, especially the chance to be published.
Last year we had a lot of fun with our mini crime story sagas and before half-term, we were writing poems for the Empowered poetry competition. I also allow students to work on their own writing projects over a number of weeks as I feel it’s important for them to explore their interests and curiosities. Right now, I have a student writing and illustrating a WW2 story and another working on a piece about modern-day piracy. The diversity of the fiction produced, and the hard work of the students always inspires me to get back to my own writing, and I feel lucky to be able to combine being an author with my job as a school librarian.
My latest book (for 9-12s) The Bear Who Sailed the Ocean on an Iceberg follows twelve-year-old Patrick who discovers a polar bear in the chest freezer of his parents’ garage. Who is Monty? How did he get there? And how will Patrick get him home to Greenland?
I am looking forward to seeing my book on the shelves in the library and hearing what the students think. They are my toughest critics!
THE BEAR WHO SAILED WHO SAILED THE OCEAN ON AN ICEBERG by Emily Critchley is out now in paperback (£7.99, Everything with Words)