AN AWARD-WINNING and world-renowned author has cut the ribbon on a North-East school’s new library.
Writer and illustrator, Cressida Cowell, officially opened the new school library at Skerne Park Academy, in Darlington, as part of her Life-Changing Libraries scheme in partnership with the Book Trust.
The Waterstones Children’s Laureate, perhaps best known for the How To Train Your Dragon series – which spawned acclaimed films and a Netflix television series – spoke to children about her work, their dreams and ambitions, and the importance of reading for pleasure.
She said: “Reading for the joy of it really improves children’s life chances, irrespective of their socioeconomic background. If you read for pleasure, you’re statistically more likely to own your own home, more likely to be healthier and wealthier, you’re more likely to vote – all of these great things unfold from reading.
“But how can you read for the joy of it if your parents can’t afford books, or your school doesn’t have a library? One in eight primary schools don’t, and children on free school meals are twice as likely to attend one of those. This isn’t fair, so that’s why I’m part of this very practical campaign to set up six gold-standard school libraries– joyful places full of books that are relevant to children’s lives.”
Skerne Park Academy was one of only six schools selected from among hundreds nationwide to receive a new bespoke library. Though each classroom previously had its own small collection of books, the school lacked a central main library – something staff and governors were keen to address.
Now additional plans are being drawn up to open the library to the local community, so parents and siblings of Skerne Academy pupils can also make the most of the joys of reading.
Head teacher, Sarah Hardy, said: “The library is phenomenal, and we are so thankful to the Life-Changing Libraries project for choosing our school to receive this amazing gift.
“Reading is at the heart of everything we do here at Skerne Park Academy. As well as teaching children how to read, it is our job to inspire a passion for reading, and with such a fantastic new space we now have the means to do so.
“The books are amazing with some old classics and newer titles, and I know our children can’t wait to take them home and share them with their families – especially the many books written by Cressida herself.”
Principal James Keating added: “It is wonderful to be selected to receive the books and the visit from Cressida. The library is a fantastic addition to the facilities within Skerne Park Academy, and will benefit the children now and for many years in the future.”
Upon her arrival at the library, Cressida was presented with a hand-drawn picture by ten-year-old Nicol Maslowska, who said: “It’s breath-taking to meet Cressida – she’s my favourite writer ever! I want to be just like her when I grow up. I’m even writing my own book like hers called How to Make Friends With A Dragon, but it’s not finished yet.
“I’m glad I got a chance to thank her in person for writing such special books.”