West Dunbartonshire Education Development & Support Unit

We are a school library service which lends novels and non-fiction books, CDs, DVDs and artifacts to the schools within our local authority. Every year we lend over 1,000 topic boxes (containing up to 30 books, maps, CDs etc) on anything from “Mary Queen of Scots” to “Litter and recycling.”

The new Curriculum for Excellence (recently introduced in Scotland) puts great emphasis on literacy and reading and responding to literature are seen as central to the learners’ development. To help schools respond to this new curriculum we have begun to develop Novel Boxes, which are class sets of novels, with a book of activities for the teacher. It is these boxes which we will use our LEAP Grant to develop. We will spend the money on sets of such popular titles as The Lighthouse Keeper’s lunch and the Owl who was afraid of the dark. Because of the freeze on Council Tax our budget has been cut drastically.

Our local authority (West Dunbartonshire) has the third worst levels of child poverty in Scotland. In 2011 it had the highest level of unemployment in the UK. There is a very strong link between poverty and poor literacy. Books are a luxury for families living on benefit and children rarely have opportunities to read outside the classroom. We would encourage schools to allow children to take these novels home, where there is a knock-on effect of other family members reading and sharing books with their children.