Islay book club wins First Minister’s reading challenge

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An island’s reading project inspiring a love of books among primary pupils has won a First Minister’s top challenge.

Bookberries book club started as an after-school club by a group of parents, with support of teachers at Port Charlotte Primary School on Islay, and has just been announced the worthy winner of the First Minister’s Reading Challenge 2018-19.

Bookberries, which received the Community Reading Culture Award, was among 19 schools, one library and one book club honoured at a ceremony in Glasgow.

The Minister for Mental Health, Clare Haughey, also joined the celebration event and presented the Reading Inspiration Award.

With only a library van to serve the island, Bookberries started their own lending system. They encouraged pupils to log their books using their reading passports and set up their own personal challenges like sharing books and recommendations with friends.

Bookberries Book Club has been so successful that P5-P7 pupils have also expressed interest, resulting in Narnia and Harry Potter sessions for their age group in June.

Before the book club started, there were quite a few reluctant readers. However, Bookberries has helped develop a better understanding about which books the pupils like, as well as linking the activities to storytelling and illustrations.

The First Minister’s Reading Challenge was launched in 2016 for P4-P7 and the third year has expanded to include all primary and secondary schools as well as libraries and community groups. The Scottish Book Trust, the national charity changing lives through reading and writing, delivered this exciting reading initiative on behalf of the Scottish Government and every school in Scotland was invited to take part.

The First Minister said: ‘I’m delighted that over 1,100 primary schools, secondary schools, libraries and community groups from every local authority in Scotland participated in the third year of the First Minister’s Reading Challenge.

‘My warm congratulations to all those who have taken part – the submissions demonstrate that Scotland really is a country of readers, and showcase the hard work of the pupils, teachers and librarians who were involved. Even more schools registered for it this year, and it was wonderful to see so many examples of how a shared reading culture can build and improve relationships within a community.’

Port Charlotte head teacher Maggie McLellan said: ‘I was  not surprised that our book club won the community culture reading challenge as it is has been absolutely amazing with lots of excitement, fun challenges, games and craft activities, book related snacks, stories and more.

‘It takes a community working together, from energetic parents, enthusiastic and open minded teachers and of course  imaginative children to make a reading journey so memorable – one that actually made eyes sparkle!

‘Bookberries aimed to bring stories to life and build the foundations of a life long love of reading, while challenging barriers and prompting learning through reading fun and play.  The positive response from the children suggests we are  on our way to achieving this goal- we couldn’t be prouder that the children of Port Charlotte Primary have had their club recognised through this fantastic achievement, they are all stars!’

Bookberries will be sharing some of its book club fun with the whole island on August 5 at an all-day fundraiser, serving tea and cakes with a timetable of children activities for all age groups from birth to P7.

Money raised will go to Port Charlotte Primary and Bookberries book club to help keep up the magic.