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School Library Guidelines

Supplement for  Nursery Schools and Units

Why books ?

The library in the nursery school or unit

Library stock
Promotion and use
Library management

The nursery school/ unit library and the community

Parents are the first educators of their children
Links with the public library service
The Schools Library Service

How to contact the School Library Service

Download a copy of these guidelines (PDF Format)



"Language development is crucial to living and learning...Learning and language development are greatly assisted when children have access to a well-stocked library of story and information books suited to their needs, interests, race and culture, and when books are available in their areas of play."

Curricular Guidance for pre-school Education,
CCEA, 1997 ISBN 1 856 78 7698

Books support all the main elements of the young child’s learning. Within the nursery curriculum, all activities should be planned holistically to develop the full range of children’s abilities. Library book provision and use form an integral part of the planning for teaching and learning.

Why books?

Books make a positive contribution to children’s pre-school experience by:
Helping to establish good, secure relationships with adults
Extending their experience of life
Encouraging talk about their own experiences, fears and anxieties
Introducing them to the pure joy of story and rhyme
Developing concentration when focused on story, rhymes, poetry
Promoting a positive attitude to learning through early experiences with the printed word
Personal, Social and emotional development  
Promoting manual dexterity in handling books and turning pages
Promoting hand/eye co-ordination
Developing left to right orientation as a precursor to learning to read
Physical development
Encouraging self-expression in response to books
Affording an awareness of colour and shape
Experiencing rhythm in story and song
Learning that there is meaning in picture
Developing their own imagination
Creative/aesthetic development
Listening and conversational skills in response to story
Discovering that the printed word has meaning
Extending their own vocabulary
Language development
Affording an awareness of size, order, shape, pattern, repetition
Providing information about themselves
Demonstrating how things work
Allowing children to make observations and simple predictions
Extending their awareness of their environment, e.g. nature, weather, concepts of time
Early mathematical/scientific experience


The library in the nursery school or unit

Libraries have a contribution to make to creating a stimulating and challenging environment in the early years.

Effective library provision will be underpinned by a policy statement, which should outline aims and expected outcomes. It should consider:

Accommodation and atmosphere
Promotion and use


There are a number of options for library provision in the nursery school or unit:

Separate quiet room
Book corner
Classroom collections

Accessibility is the key to effective provision. While classroom collections will be an essential feature of book use, a separate library room helps to introduce the concept of the library as a different kind of experience for both children and adults.


The library area should be bright, warm and welcoming. It should be well-lit with adequate power-points if storytapes and CD-ROMs are to be used. The area should be carpeted, with low chairs and cushions and attractive soft furnishings. Shelving units should be sturdy and stable, with low level shelves and no sharp corners, and with sloping shelves for face-on display of books and other materials. Browser boxes for picture books provide safe and accessible storage. There will also be a need for a range of storage for other materials in different formats.

The library area should offer space to display children’s own work, with wall space and notice boards for posters and illustrations.


Library stock

Nursery schools/units should stock at least 11 items per child. Where books are available for home loan, this figure may need to be higher

Library materials should include:

Board books
Novelty and lift-the-flap books
First concepts, e.g. size, shape, number, myself, time, weather
Multicultural books
Nursery rhymes and fairy tales
Picture story books
Large format books for use in group storytelling
Wallcharts, videos, audio tapes of music and rhymes,
CD-ROM etc.

Promotion and use

Effective use of books and other related materials fosters language development in children and improves their listening skills and concentration. The best introduction to books is on a one-to-one basis with an adult, but children should also be encouraged to look at familiar books by themselves and in small groups.

Storytelling sessions with groups of children should:

Be part of the daily routine

Take place in the library or designated story corner
Include songs and rhyme for the children to join in
Include a mixture of familiar and new stories, with strong repetitive elements to encourage audience participation
Involve occasional guest storytellers - parents, librarians from the public library, other members of staff, storytellers from the outside community  

Library management

Record keeping of children’s reading activities can help monitor their progress
Books must be in good condition and attractive to children, so that they are encouraged to use and care for them properly
Shabby and damaged books should be withdrawn
A guaranteed annual budget for library materials will be required
New titles should be added regularly to stimulate interest
The range of stock should be reviewed regularly to ensure that it provides opportunities for progression and challenge


The nursery school/unit library and the community

Children should have experiences which encourage positive attitudes about the value of reading both at home and at school.

Parents are the first educators of their children

Involve parents as much as possible in reading activities
Lend books for parents to read with children at home
Encourage parents to join the public library with their children
Welcome parents into school to read with children or listen to storytelling
Publicise any initiatives or activities related to parents and children in libraries
Consider organising your own early language initiative involving parents

Links with the public library service

The school can show by example the value it places on reading and libraries. It is important for children to become familiar with the public library and to understand that they are welcome there. The school can help by:

Organising visits to the nearest public library
Inviting public library staff to come for storytelling
Volunteering children’s artwork for display, where appropriate.

The Schools Library Service

Your Schools Library Service may offer some or all of the following services:
Loan of additional resources, including tapes, videos and posters
Advice on purchasing stock, or a purchasing scheme at good discounts
Talks to staff or parents groups
Advice on setting up and managing your library, including furnishing and equipping it


How to contact the School Library Service

Tel. Nos.

BELB 02890 491058  
NEELB 02825 664117  
SEELB 02897 566400
02897 566457
SELB 02837 525353  
WELB 02882 244821
02866 322886

02871 272322



These guidelines were written for LISC (NI) by librarians from the five Education and Library Boards, Northern Ireland.


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