STAFF have given up their own time to transform a Teesside school into a literary wonderland as part of a determined drive to encourage a love of reading in pupils.
Every spare area has been decorated with scenes from children’s classics including their very own Narnia, decorated with materials bought on ebay and Gumtree.
Teachers from St Mary’s Catholic Primary in Grangetown began the project during lockdown, coming in and painting to prepare for the children’s return to school.
At every turn the school is now filled with cosy story nooks, reading trees and inspiration stations, as well as having three new green screens where children are encouraged to develop their presentation and broadcasting skills.
Headteacher Anna McClurey, who is also primary strategic lead for English at Nicholas Postgate Catholic Academy Trust, said the staff’s hours of hard work is bringing great benefits.
She said: “The children absolutely love it. If you come into our school you will see them enjoying reading, talking about reading and developing their vocabulary.
“Children whose parents read to them at home have on average 1.4 million more words in their vocabulary when they start school. The biggest barrier to children’s learning is a lack of reading and language skills, so we have to provide them with a literacy-rich curriculum, with talking and reading at its heart.
“We need to take stories more seriously. Great stories are important for their own sake, but they can also enhance our whole curriculum. They have the power to open up the imagination, explaining difficult concepts and inspiring big ideas.
“Stories contain language we don’t encounter in everyday talk and research shows that just reading challenging novels aloud in lessons has a dramatic effect on boosting average reading ages.”
St Mary’s – which is rated Outstanding by Ofsted – has now ordered a book vending machine that will be stocked with a wide range of fiction and non-fiction texts.
Mrs McClurey said: “The theme is ‘Reading at St Mary’s is out of this world. Every time children read they move along the planets and when they win a star award they can choose a free book out of the vending machine.”