Cliftonville children, parents and teachers celebrate opening of fabulous new school library

Children enjoying the new library at Cliftonville primary school

Cliftonville Primary and Pre-School was a buzz of excitement on Friday (January 12) as the official opening of the new library was celebrated.

The event had been eagerly anticipated since the renovations began during October half-term. The school had outgrown its existing library so had located a new space to house its wonderful collection of books and be an inviting and inspiring place where children can develop and indulge their love of reading.

The new space was somewhat drab and boring and so needed bringing to life with the help of a team of generous volunteers.

The project was co-ordinated by parent Leona Baker who managed to source free paint materials from Lovelys Art Gallery and persuaded some artistic fellow parents to donate their time.

Back at school, the KS2 Reading Ambassadors created a shortlist of book characters and quotes for possible murals which were put to the vote by the rest of the children.  The artists then worked with this brief to create stunning murals incorporating the children’s interests.  Over half term, some staff members got to work painting the walls with the chosen colours ready for the parents to work their magic.

The children and staff were in awe of the amazing designs that soon brightened up the walls with a KS1 mural by Amber Harrison celebrating many of the children’s favourite picture books, a KS2 mural by Catherine Chinatree honouring one of their favourite novels – Malamander by Thomas Taylor – and a non-fiction mural by Louise and Janet Mackie embodying a quote from “The Secret Garden” by Frances Burnett.

A much-loved canvas including over 30 book covers created by Year 6 teaching assistant Lucy Mills was also hung in pride of place.

School librarian Dale Hedges arranged the bookcases to create three distinct spaces and money raised and donated by the PTFA was spent on bright and comfortable furnishings that complemented the artwork.

The final touch was the replenishing of the book stock to ensure the children are able to access a wide variety of reading material with books that match their interests and spark their imagination.

The Reading Ambassadors created a wish list of books and research was conducted into high quality children’s literature published in the last five years and those that promote diversity to allow children to “mirror their own lives and provide a window to the experiences of others”.

The Margate Bookshop kindly donated £2500 worth of books following its successful crowdfunding campaign to raise money for books for local schools and a further £1600 was raised in school via an Usborne readathon event and £245 from a Scholastic book fair.

On Friday, the Reading Ambassadors gathered in the library with senior leaders, governors, representatives from the PTFA, the parent artists and owner of The Margate Bookshop Francesca Wilkins.  Also in attendance were two local authors – Carnegie nominated Sam Gayton and ex-pupil Paul Deslandes.  Both authors had previously attended the school to work with children and met many of the youngsters again at the 2023 Margate Bookie Festival.

During the afternoon, speeches were made by some of the children to thank all those involved and share what it means to them to have a working school library. Bouquets of flowers were then presented to the volunteers.

Kate Greig, the CEO of the Coastal Academies Trust of which Cliftonville Primary School is a member, cut the paper chain and declared the library officially open. The guests then spent time enjoying cake and chatting while admiring the artwork and perusing the books.  The children especially loved choosing their cupcake via their favourite book and acted as hosts handing out cake to the guests.

The library is open all day to children and each class visits at least once a week which is always a highlight for them. The school hopes to be opening the library after-school to families soon and also has plans to run a Story and Song group for parents with babies and toddlers.

They are currently participating in the Tesco Stronger Starts scheme to fund this and customers can vote for their project with a blue token instore at the Tesco stores on Northdown Road, Margate and Canterbury Road, Westbrook until mid-March.

Assistant headteacher and English lead, Julie Mayhew, said: “We are very proud of our new library which is now the heart of our school. We are so grateful to all the talented and generous members of our community who have contributed to creating it. It is brilliant to see the children enjoying the space and the impact it is having on children’s love of learning and reading.”

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