Friday, 13 May 2016

Introducing our Reading Wonderland

Last week we opened our new library space and our students got VERY excited!  Here's proof:

A neat feature is the little creatures, hidden doors and adorable bugs that can be found in the room if you look hard enough.  Spotting these was the reason for a lot of the extra noise!  Here's a few of them...


For a long time I lamented over the lack of space in our library.  Considering we have 750-800+ students, our 89m2 library was often jam packed.  "It's like a club" was a teacher's comment after venturing in one lunchtime.  

In January 2014, I made a proposal to the Board of Trustees to enclose the library courtyard area.  I was given the go ahead to get some quotes but my happiness was short-lived as incorrect concrete had been laid and therefore walls could not be erected on it.  The cost of digging up the old concrete and then laying new concrete made the project unaffordable.

For some reason this area wasn't very popular!

I considered taking over a bit of our adjoining resource room, but a giant air conditioning unit would have to have been moved.  In the end I looked at enclosing the courtyard with an outdoor screen, much like cafes often have, in order to weatherproof it and be able to lay carpet.  This revised proposal was accepted late last year and all systems were go!

Esther, our library assistant, suggested I put tiered seating in the room and then she found an apprentice builder who could do it for us.  I love the different dynamic this creates in the space.

My vision for the area was to have a theme so that students feel they are in a special spot, quite different from the rest of the library.  I ended up asking our very creative teacher aide, Jenna, to make a meadow/forest mural that went around every wall in the space.  Considering the walls are made of corrugated iron, glass, and wooden slats, I asked Jenna to go with quirky and whimsical art that incorporated the different surfaces, and then I showed her some art I liked that I'd saved in Pinterest.  I also asked for a blue sky ceiling where students could see different shapes in the clouds.  Because I like to be difficult!  And then I left Jenna to it because I knew that what she came up with would be way cooler than I could imagine.  And it was!

Naming the Room

I wanted the room to have its own identity so it needed to have its own name.  We held a competition last week to see what the students could come up with.  We had 379 entries; here are some of the key words that kept appearing: forest, garden, reading, nature, magic, enchanted, paradise, mystery, secret, fantasy, dreamland, wonderland, kingdom, peaceful, beautiful.  Aren't they lovely words to have associated with the library?  The winning entry was 'Reading Wonderland'.

The Opening Ceremony

My enthusiastic library advisory group, the Mighty Magical Moustache Girls, helped organise an official opening ceremony, which took place during morning tea on Tuesday.  I invited the staff involved with transforming the courtyard, our senior management and our Board of Trustees (although unfortunately, apart from our principal and DP, none of the Board could make it).  We also had some reporters from the Te Totara Times and we invited our book club, the Ferocious Bookworms, because the Moustache Girls felt we needed more of an audience!

We had a shared morning tea of the very sugary variety and then I thanked the Board of Trustees for their support and some of the Mighty Magical Moustache Girls thanked key staff and talked about our future plans for the room.  I announced the winner of the naming competition and then she cut the ribbon and declared the Reading Wonderland open.  Esther and I had blown up lots of balloons and put them in the room so everyone had a bit of fun with those.  It was short and sweet, which is how I like my ceremonies!  Here is the report from the Te Totara Times (also short and sweet!).

Communicating with the Community

Throughout the creation of the mural I posted photos to our library Facebook page.  These had positive responses, with many of our community knowing our artist Jenna, as she is also a parent of children in the school, and a teacher aide here.

I also shot the video of the children's reactions to the Reading Wonderland and shared this with our community on our school website and our school and library Facebook pages.  I don't think photographs would have done justice to the noise levels and extreme levels of excitement!

I invited parents to come in and view the Reading Wonderland and we saw some new faces, which was great. 

Plans for the Reading Wonderland

I am looking forward to the Reading Wonderland being a place where our classes are read to, where students can read with each other, and where we can also run some special activities.  At present it hosts the Mighty Magical Moustache Girls, the Ferocious Bookworms and the Ninja Unicorns in Uniforms (our creative writing group).  I have plans for a crochet group and we also want to do occasional craft activities and have reader's theatre sessions.  

I'm so happy to have such a great room.  It was definitely worth the time and effort involved with making it happen.  One of our Year 2 teachers told me that a reluctant reader in her class asked if the room would be open again at lunchtime.  Music to my ears!


  1. Wonderful work Michelle, I wish that all children in NZ had access to such a uplifting and stimulating reading environment.

    Regards Karen c.

  2. This is amazing! And such a great way to create engagement with your wider school community. This space will be loved for years and years and years...

  3. Amazing Michelle!!! Love it!!

  4. Thanks everyone! I was very lucky to have great people to bounce ideas off and then actually make them happen.