Category: Explore

Nethermains Primary School – Library Refurbishment

Last year we were contacted by Mrs Firth from Nethermains Primary School in Denny to give advice on book-banding their reading schemes. A Teams meeting and one visit to the school later and the school had signed-up for the Scottish Book Trust’s Reading Schools programme and wanted to create a school library. It’s amazing what can happen when like-minded people get together!

At this point there was no library – it had been disbanded as the space was needed for classes – a common problem for primary schools. However, I could tell Mrs Firth was determined and later last year she got in touch to say she had made space for the library and could we help.

It’s a wonderful shared space in the infant area that she felt wasn’t being utilised as well as it could be. She had already found some of the original library shelving and, luckily, the school had kept the books too. When we arrived to help a lot of the hard work had already been done but we used our expertise to get all the non-fiction sorted out, weeded and into Dewey order. We were able to provide support and advice on what was required next as well as practical help like giving them lots of new, up-to-date non-fiction.

We also used our connections at other schools to get them more shelving. This is a wonderful example of a school creating a vibrant library and reading culture without spending a fortune on fixtures and fittings. They have used what they had and what they could get for free and a handy janitor to put it all together. Where they have spent money, and this is what we advise all schools to focus on first, is on new books.

It’s important to get the pupils involved when you are getting new books and they invited me to go around each class with a box of new and exciting books to show pupils the different books we could get for their library. I took a wide variety of comics/graphic novels, picture books, non-fiction, dyslexia friendly, exciting and diverse authors and talked to the pupils about what they liked. There was something for everyone, including reluctant readers, and I came away armed with lists of titles, authors, genres and interests. It was a wonderful day of interacting with pupils who were enthusiastic, welcoming and kind and it helped to build a buzz about the library. I used these lists and my own knowledge to buy books for each class that will go into the library.

Each class also did some research online and voted for 3 particular books they wanted. This was a great way to get the children involved, for them to discover more books, increase their knowledge and ownership of the library.

When the new books arrived I had the pleasure of going back to each class to deliver the books and they were delighted to see what they asked for, as well as some surprises I bought based on their feedback.

While all this was going on, Mrs Firth and other staff were busy getting the library ready. Labelling, signage, displays etc. – all the hard work that it takes to build a library and make it the heart of the reading culture.

The library is ready and will have a grand opening tomorrow where parents can come and visit. I haven’t seen the finished project yet and I can’t wait.

BorrowBox Stats Through the Roof!

Staff and pupils in Falkirk Council have had automatic access to 1000s of eBooks and eAudiobooks through their Glow account since 2018. We provide this service for every school for free and as pupils/staff already have a Glow log-in there are no barriers to joining the library, just download the app and read or listen. It complements our physical collections and we wanted pupils to have access to a wide-range of audiobooks (CDs were on the way out!). Reading books on a device also offers lots of accessibility options like font-size, spacing, dictionary, colour of background etc. and can be used with Immersive Reader.

We started with a small collection and built it up over the years – new content gets added every month and we regularly give the collections an extra boost. The library has always been well-used but lockdowns and the roll-out of Falkirk Connected iPads has seen our numbers of active users and loans soar! Originally content was only for early years and primary, as that is who we provide our service to, but when lockdown struck we started to add teenage content to support our high schools.

From April 2021 to March 2022 we loaned:

17256 Eaudiobooks

23161 Ebooks

It’s makes our librarian hearts sing to see so many children using the service we provide and reading all these books. However, it’s not without challenges, we can have long waiting lists for popular books no matter how many copies we buy. We also need to keep building our teenage content as the service is quickly growing in popularity with older pupils.

Reviews of The Exploding Life of Scarlett Fife by Maz Evans from #FalkirkReadingTeachers’ Book Group

The Exploding Life of Scarlett Fife by Maz Evans is a fabulously funny story about a girl who has BIG FEELINGS which get her into trouble.

Find out what our #FalkirkReadingTeachers think – Warning! These reviews contain spoilers.

Ages 7-9






Review 1 – 4/5 stars

Scarlett Fife has Big Feelings. And she’s about to get into BIG TROUBLE.

Scarlett is on her last warning from her mum about her temper. She tries very hard to squash down her temper but when she does things start exploding! Scarlett is worried that this will ruin her Aunt’s wedding.

Spoiler Alert!

Scarlett finds out that her gran had the same problem when she was younger. She learns to control her temper a bit better and understand others. She also realises that sometimes it is ok to be angry.

I think lots of children would enjoy this book as it is easy to read with lots of funny parts. It is a good starting point for discussions on dealing with feelings such as anger and disappointment through events which will be relatable to most children e.g., friends making new friends, forgetting packed lunches etc. Reluctant readers may also enjoy this as the book includes lots of illustrations to support the text. The characters in the book also come from a range of backgrounds and family situations which could also open up discussions.

Good for – empathy, inference, reluctant readers, reading for pleasure.

Review 2 – 5/5 stars

Every time Scarlett gets angry things around her explode. She is on her final warning from her mother. She must learn to control her temper for her Aunts wedding or she won’t get to go to her favourite theme park.

Spoiler Alert!

Scarlett begins to learn lots of ways to control her breathing but there are accidents along the way. She learns that her Gran had the same problem as a child. She also learns that sometimes it’s good to be angry.

This book made me giggle from start to finish. I can imagine a lot of pupils will love it simply because of the trouble which Scarlett gets into. However, it also makes a good jumping off point for discussing anger, how we control it and the fact it is a healthy and natural emotion.

Good for – empathy, reluctant readers, curriculum links, reading for pleasure

Review 3 – 5/5 stars

Scarlett is having trouble with her big feelings.  Sometimes she gets so angry it feels like something will explode. She has a new teacher; a new girl has arrived and she’s way too very popular; and mum always seems to be grumpy.  Things just seem so unfair.

Scarlett keeps getting into trouble for being angry and spoiling things.  Maybe she can hold her feelings down and not let them out.  Maybe she can shut her eyes and things will just stop.  Maybe not.

Spoiler Alert!

Scarlett’s best friend Maisie is the voice of reason throughout this book and she tries to help Scarlett to stop being so angry and volatile.  There’s only one problem.  When Scarlett shuts her eyes and squeezes her big feelings down, she make things explode, literally.  Her friend Maisie is the only one who knows (until near the end when Gran notices (and the confides in Scarlett that she’s had the same experience).  Scarlett’s mum is the rock of the patchwork family.  She has a new husband called Jakob and he’s really nice.  Scarlett’s dad is lovely and still has a kind relationship with mum.  Dad is looking for love and Jakob is looking for his job, which he seems to have lost (Xenophobic boss).  Mum is stressed and Scarlett doesn’t want to add to that.

Scarlett’s favourite teacher goes off and she is worried about the new teacher (Miss Pitt-Bull). But, it turns out that she’s actually very kind and insightful.  All the teacher’s names are puns.  A great little device for reading this book to a young audience.  It would be a great class novel for P4 or P5 but, a lovely story for P3 as well.

The new girl, Polly is annoyingly nice, and she got the best part in the school play, and she’s popular….  However, it turns out that Polly’s dad has died and that makes Scarlett change her mind about Polly. 

Just wait until Polly’s mum get’s together with Scarlett’s Dad!

This book is an excellent vehicle for exploring relationships and pent-up feelings.  Scarlett is dealing with divorced parents who have had a “kind” divorce (not like Kevin’s parents).  Mum’s husband has lost his job and is going through a court case.  Dad is lonely (he also has a disability).  Aunty Rosa and Aunty Amara are getting married.  Mum’s working long hours and Scarlett feels neglected.

Although there are many facets to this story, you could have lots of great class discussions.  From a HWB perspective there is a lot to go through.  Scarlett’s feelings but, also all the things in her life that make it rich and varied and also a bit complicated.

From a literacy perspective there are lots of neat little passages to explore the meaning of all those odd phrases that adults use (and don’t really understand).

The concept of making things explode with your feelings just makes for such a fun story.

Good for – HWB, empathy, diversity

Reviews of Hag Storm by Victoria Williamson #FalkirkReadingTeachers’ Book Group


Hag Storm by Victoria Williamson is a spooky tale based on the atmospheric poem Tam O’Shanter by Robert Burns. It imagines his life as a boy growing up on a farm in Ayrshire and how he may have been inspired to write the famous poem. A perfect tie-in for Burns Night.

Find out what some our #FalkirkReadingTeachers think – Warning! These reviews contain spoilers.






Review 1 – 5/5 stars

12 year old Rab spends his time doing backbreaking work on his father’s farm. He misses his old life where he was able to attend school. One day he finds a Hag Stone in the field. When he looks through the stone, he can see witches gathering. He befriends a young maid working in town who warns him the witches will be after his sisters. Rab soon grows suspicious of his old cousin and is determined to stop her before Halloween.

Spoiler Alert!

Rab is wrong in his suspicions and the young maid is in fact the real witch. His cousin has been trying to protect the family all along.

Rab and his brother save his sisters in the nick of time!

This would be an excellent book to share with a class in the lead up to Burns’ Day. The story is inspired by the events in Tam O’Shanter and the links to the poem are clear.  (My current class loved listening to and retelling the story of Tam O’Shanter this year and I think this book would have been a good addition to the learning). The story is exciting and has a spooky element that I think older children would enjoy.

Good for – Inference, curriculum links, reading for enjoyment.

Review 2 – 4/5 stars

Rab works hard on his family’s farm.  Strange things start to happen when he discovers and strange stone which has the power to show him things he doesn’t want to see.  Rab starts to suspect witchcraft is afoot.  He needs help to fend off the evil forces but, who should he turn to.  The young maid from the big house seems to know about these things, maybe she can help Rab before his family are put in mortal danger.

Spoiler Alert!

Rab sees his mum’s old cousin, Betty, behaving very strangely in the lead up to Halloween.  She’s making dolls, chanting and going to the old ruined kirk.  She’s been like a granny to him, could she really be a witch?  She cursed the factor and now he’s ill…it must be true.  Things are starting to go wrong for Rab’s family and Halloween is fast approaching.

Rab and his family have been befriended by Morven, the new maid from the big house.  She’s lovely and they welcome her into their family.  She’s trying to help Rab uncover the truth about Betty.

Big spoiler.  Morven is actually the witch not cousin Betty.  Rab finds out just in the nick of time.  Maybe if he’d spent more time listening to cousin Betty’s cautionary tales, he’d have been more aware of what was really happening.

The story is structured around the events set out in Tam O’Shanter.  It’s draws on all the little stories wrapped up in the poem and suggests how Burns (Rab) might have neen inspired.  It’s a great tale for Halloween or Burns week. Great for discussing Burns and the folklore of his day.  Opens up the whole subject really well. It also gives a good platform for discussing the historic perspective of life in Burns’s time. What was it like?  How tough was it?  The novel actually contains a lot of solid historic facts about the Burns family and their migration from Alloway to Mount Oliphant.  It exposes the troubled relationships that his family had with their landlords and factors.

There are quite a lot of old scots words but, it’s not over done.  There is enough to start a conversation but, not so many that it becomes hard work.

There are also some great passages for discussing the relationships between siblings.  Do we have favourites?  Do we treat people how we want to be treated?  Are we always fair?

This is also a great witchcraft story.  It’s perfect for Halloween.

Good for – This is a great way to introduce pupils to the ideas and the story of Tam O’Shanter.  If the P7s are tackling Burns and Burns Suppers, then this would be a great read at Halloween or, even when in P6.  It’s a neat segue from the novel into the poetry.   It makes all the old scots a little less intimidating. There are some very clever passages where there are clues given as to what is going on.  That meta processing is something that you can go back and tackle afterwards.  This is a much easier introduction to Burns than diving straight into the poetry.

Review 3 – 5/5 stars

This book is based on the life of Robert Burns and inspiration taken from his poem Tam O’Shanter.

The book follows the story of a 12-year-old Rab who lives in Ayrshire on his family’s farm. He works hard to help his family make a living in hard times. When out clearing a field of stones one day he finds a strange stone in the field and his life takes on a strange turn of events. Looking through the stone, he is sure he can see witches and he’s now not sure his cousin Betty is all she seems!

Don’t judge a book by its cover! Don’t jump to assumptions! The mystery of the witch(es) will keep a reader hooked as will the reveal of the true identity of the witch, especially if the reader has guessed correctly. Yes, its’s a piece of historical fiction, but also a great adventure book.

I didn’t read the blurb before reading this – simply picked up the book as it was written by Victoria Williamson, one of my favourite children’s authors. I devoured the book on a cold and windy Sunday morning. I was immediately transported to 18th century Scotland; Victoria’s narrative voice and characters are very authentic and easy to read. For these reasons, I think even reluctant readers would enjoy it. It is a great story with a fab twist at the end that keen readers will spot but it’s also a good teaching point for prediction and inference. There’s obviously been a lot of research put into writing the book which adds to its authenticity so pupils would be able to get a lot of information about life in Scotland in the time of Robert Burns, or what life as a country farmer might have been like, in an accessible and interesting way.

My class also watched the live event with Victoria Williamson available through her publishers (Cranachan) website on Burns Night which they enjoyed as we’re also reading another of Victoria’s books. They enjoyed seeing their ‘author’. We have also entered the Magic Spell competition which was inspired by events in the book.

Truly, you could do a whole IDL topic on this book. You could investigate the Witch Trials in Scotland or America (second level) and follow this through to look at prejudices and stereotypes in modern society. Lots of scope for literacy activities from instructional writing, creative writing, poetry… You could view it all from a more historical angle looking at the reliability and variety of sources used to investigate the past and the use of artefacts in recreating past societies. You could compare rural and city living and jobs available today or in the past.

I cannot recommend the book and author enough. Read it to your class!

Good for – reluctant readers, curriculum links, inference, narrative, reading for pleasure

Review 4 – 5/5 stars

Based on Tam O’Shanter and the life of Robert Burns. 12-year-old Rab spends all his time doing back breaking work on his family’s farm instead of attending school. Rab gets fed up with the work and misses his old life and school but knows he has responsibilities to his family. Rab finds a Hag stone in the field and realises that the witches are coming for his family.

Spoiler Alert!

Rab misreads the situation and is taken in by a young witch who convinces him his old Aunt is the one putting his family at risk. Rab uses all his wits and knowledge to save his two sisters and triumphs in the end.

Good for – curriculum links

A terrific way to introduce the pupils to Robert Burns and Scottish literature but also contains a lot of useful information about life in rural Scotland at the time. Would sit well with a Scottish Topic as well as learning about Rabbie Burns.

Zetland Park Fountain Tales: Creative Writing Resource

Welcome to the Zetland Park Fountain Tales: Creative Writing Resource

Inside the Teacher’s Guide below and the supporting series of 12 creative writing tip videos you will find all the information that you need to deliver engaging literacy lessons that explore the mystery of the missing statue from the top of the Zetland Park fountain. The fountain is the only surviving element of the original park, and is depicted on a commemorative medal struck in 1882 to celebrate the opening of the park.

The videos and accompanying teaching resources and activities cover: genre, setting and atmosphere, characterisation, narrative voice, and different forms of writing. The short videos introduce these areas through three different characters linked to aspects of Zetland Park – a Victorian Lady linked to the opening of the park in 1882, an archaeologist on the dig site explored in 2019, and a fairy in the ten-door woodland fairy trail within the park. 

The learning material included are best suited to pupils aged 8 – 11 years.  You can use the resources any way you please, dipping in and out of activities as required.

To celebrate the Grand Re-Opening of Zetland Park in 2022, school children are invited to enter their stories into our Fountain Tales Creative Writing Competition. Entries close on 1st June 2022 and winners will be announced on 20th June 2022. Winning entries will be read out at the Grand Re-Opening Ceremony on 28th August 2022, will be placed on Victoria Williamson’s website, and will also be published as an e-Book on Borrowbox.

Submit you stories via email to and please include the following information:

  • Students Name
  • Name of school and class (if applicable)
  • Contact information (email and telephone number) so that we can notify you of the winners

The privacy notice for the Fountain Tales Competition can be found here.

Good luck!

Download the Zetland Park Fountain Tales: Creative Writing Resource Pack

YOTO Carnegie and Greenaway medals – longlist announced!



The UK’s longest running and best-loved book awards for children and young people, the Yoto Carnegie Greenaway Awards, have announced the longlists for 2022.

33 books have been selected in total – 18 for the Yoto Carnegie Medal and 15 for the Yoto Kate Greenaway Medal – with themes of community and connection, shared humanity and friendship all explored in the titles.

The Awards celebrate outstanding achievement in children’s writing and illustration respectively and are unique in being judged by children’s librarians, with the Shadowers’ Choice Award voted for by children and young people.

School Library Development: Sacred Heart Primary School Case Study 2

The new furniture has arrived and we created a story corner and senior comfy reading area for pupils to relax and enjoy their new books. Pupil Voice is central to Sacred Heart’s ethos and we consulted with pupils on how they would like their library to look. They asked for a nature theme, so we have an artificial grass story rug and nature-themed beanbags etc. A reading den was a popular request so we have an easily moved pop-up den in the story corner.


The picture books are all in front-facing browsers making them more accessible and inviting. The school used old ipad boxes to create fantastic displays on the walls.

The library looks amazing but the main difference is the wide-range of new books to appeal to every child. Pupils were consulted for their favourite authors, genres and interests but we also ensure that there are books for reluctant readers, dyslexic or struggling readers, comics/graphic novels, picture books for older pupils, diverse/inclusive books, wordless books and books in school community languages.

In many ways the easy part of the refurbishment is complete – we just have a few finishing touches to add. The most important part of a library refurbishment now begins: getting the most from your new library! How will the library be used? Who will look after the library? How can we make the library central to the school’s reading culture? What’s in the new library?

LRS will work closely with pupils over the coming weeks and help them explore all the exciting new books. Working with small groups of pupils we will find out their interests and direct them to new and diverse reading adventures.

Reading Schools Accreditation

In 2019–20, Falkirk Council piloted the Reading Schools accreditation programme as part of a FVWL RIC initiative. Evaluation showed clear evidence of impact on learners, learning professionals and schools as a whole.

  • 80% agreed that taking part in Reading Schools helped their school to support learners who are not enthusiastic readers
  • 85% agreed that taking part in Reading Schools helped learners to develop a love of reading
  • 70% agreed that taking part in Reading Schools supported learners’ attainment
  • 80% agreed that taking part in Reading Schools supported learners’ health and wellbeing

Based on the positive evidence of impact, the programme has been extended to all of Scotland’s schools.

Are you committed to building a culture of reading for your learners and communities? Research proves that reading for pleasure has positive impacts on learners’ attainment across the curriculum, supporting wellbeing, critical thinking, creativity, empathy and resilience.

Visit the website to find how to apply for accreditation and to find a range of very helpful advice and examples from schools who have gone through the accreditation process.


The Reading Schools team have arranged for a drop in session on Teams to give staff in Falkirk Council an opportunity to ask for any help or advice on the Reading Schools accreditation application. The team will also offer suggestions for best practice, tips for gathering and submitting evidence and general support for schools working towards becoming a Reading School.

The details of this session are:

Thursday 10 February 2022

Sign up here


Live Literature funding

Apply now for Scottish Book Trust’s Live Literature programme, a wonderful opportunity to invite an author to your school for £75 instead of £175. Scottish Book Trust will pay the rest of the fees and travel costs.

The current application window covers Live Literature events taking place before 31 March 2023. There will be a series of rolling deadlines throughout the year, up until the final deadline of 21 November 2022. Deadlines for each panel are listed below.

All applications should be received no later than midday on each deadline date.

  • 21 February deadline – 28 February panel
  • 25 April deadline – 2 May panel
  • 29 August deadline – 5 September panel
  • 21 November deadline – 28 November panel


The Falkirk Canals Classroom

Welcome to the Falkirk Canals Classroom, an activity pack for primary school students that celebrates the fascinating history of the Union and Forth & Clyde canals in the Falkirk area.

Below, you will find everything you need to deliver lessons on the canals, with hands-on activities to do on the banks and in the classroom, canal heritage landmarks and links, and multimedia exploration of Falkirk’s historic waterways. The learning materials included connect to every curriculum area, and you can use the resources any way you please!

Stack them together to build a lesson, use them to enhance a bigger topic, or work through the whole booklet!

In addition to the activities there are plenty of optional extras, extension ideas and links to further resources – so it’s up to you!

Find individual subject area packs, or the full version of the information below:

Falkirk Canals Classroom – full pack

Falkirk Canals Classroom – in full – click here to download pdf or view below

Subject area packs

1) History and the Canalsclick here to download pdf or view below

History and the Canals

2) Geography and the Canalsclick here to download pdf or view below

Geography and the Canals

3) Art and the Canalsclick here to download pdf or view below

Art and the Canals


4) Health & Wellbeing and the Canalsclick here to download pdf or view below

Health and Wellbeing on the Canals


5) Science and the Canalsclick here to download pdf or view below

Science and the Canals


6) Maths and the Canalsclick here to download pdf or view below

Maths and the Canals


7) Modern Studies and the Canalsclick here to download pdf or view below

Modern Studies and the Canals


8) Literacy and the Canalsclick here to download pdf or view below

Literacy and the Canals


9) Falkirk Canal Classroom Activitiesclick here to download pdf or view below