By Sonia Contreras and Cristina Sanchez

03 July 2019 - 15:44

Woman writing in a notebook
'Librarians evaluate students’ reading comprehension by asking questions about the characters, plot, context and vocabulary in the story.' Photo ©

Gift Habeshaw used under licence and adapted from the original

Sonia Contreras and Cristina Sanchez are librarians at the British Council Young Learner Resource Centre in Madrid. They tell us how to set up storytelling events, writing clubs and more. 

Organise a reading club for teenagers

We run a reading club for teenage learners of English. Our main purpose is to help them to find books that they want to read, which we hope will encourage a lifelong habit of reading. But we also encourage the learners to access English language books. 

Librarians evaluate learners’ reading comprehension by asking questions about the characters, plot, context and vocabulary in the story. We find that this encourages learners in their reading, and builds their confidence in the library staff.

Learners solve challenges based on the books, such as finding story settings on maps. They also use clues to solve riddles about story characters. This involves preparation time by library staff, so we recommend that you decide early in the process how much time you can give to the initiative. 

We also offer prizes like posters, bookmarks and bags, and organise a party at the end of the academic year to recognise learners' commitment to reading.

If English language books are in short supply, you can look for corporate or charitable sponsors. We work with The Reading Agency, a charitable organisation supported by Arts Council England. They provide a new collection of books each year for learners who sign up.

Host a writing circle that is organised by language level

We recommend that librarians wanting to hold a writing circle invite an English teacher from a local school to volunteer as the mentor. A teacher can help learners to create stories with descriptive language and a range of vocabulary. They might also be able to give tips on scene-setting and character development.

Group learners by their language level, ideally based on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) framework. 

You can give each session a theme, like poetry, short story writing or article writing. An alternative format, especially for higher level groups, is a freer session. Learners can use the time to develop their own writing, and the mentor can offer advice and assistance.

For extra motivation, we publish our learners' work in a yearbook, and give book tokens to selected authors. 

Arrange a code club for learners who are interested in technology 

You don't have to be a coding expert to host a code club. Ours is an initiative by the Raspberry Pi Foundation, who have resources and guidance for setting up your own. 

You will need access to computers in the library.

Register yourself and your library on the site, if you choose to use this set of tools. Then, you can download promotional posters, permission forms, classroom rule posters, star coder certificates and project tutorial handouts. 

We host weekly, one-hour sessions. We do a project in each session, and encourage coders to be creative and solve problems together. Coders also explain and demonstrate their inventions, so there are plenty of opportunities to use functional English. 

Have storytelling events for young children

We host English language storytelling sessions for two groups, aged 3-6 and 6-9. It is a safeguarding requirement that parents or carers attend with their children. In our experience, the events help parents to get involved in their child's language learning. 

We recommend contacting local schools and cultural centres to find local storytellers. Our storytellers prepare arts and crafts activities related to their chosen book, and sometimes use videos and songs to help the children follow the story. 

Follow these steps to safeguard the children who attend your sessions

If your library has a safer recruitment process, we recommend that you use that process when recruiting staff or volunteers.

When working with children in your library, we recommend that one library employee be designated to manage any incidents. 

Get written parental consent for any clubs that children join. You can add a code of conduct to that consent form, which includes expected conduct for children, parents and carers, and library staff. 

Before taking photographs or videos, get written consent from the child and their parent or carer. 

You can find more detailed safeguarding advice here. 

Find our opportunties in Spain

Read English language learning material in Spanish

You might also be interested in