School Librarians of Aotearoa: Marama Keyte

Marama Keyte is the school librarian at Kamo Primary School in Whangarei. She has been a school librarian for five years, after many years in public libraries prior to having children.

Balloons in Kamo Primary School library

Why I am a librarian

I work at the wonderful Kamo Primary School (Whangarei) and have been here for one year.

I have always had a great love for books, when I was young I was often told to ‘ go outside, you’ve been reading inside all day”. I have great memories of driving to our local public library and getting my limit of books out and then reading all the way home in the car – if only I could still do this without getting carsick!

Five years ago when a job came up at a local school library for a few hours a week I jumped at the chance (my youngest was just about to start school so the hours worked perfectly). I had previously worked in public libraries, but that was over 20 years ago.

From the first day I absolutely loved it. I walked into a library that was hardly ever used and neglected but had so much potential, I worked incredibly hard reorganising, creating displays and thinking of ways to make it the space more inviting. By the end of my time there, the library was the hub of the school, filled with kids all hours of the day, hanging out in a bright welcoming space and reading.

Last year I needed a new challenge and more hours, a job came up at Kamo Primary School which was perfect. I walked into a well loved library with a school filled with passionate readers. I have the best job in the school, helping to create lifelong readers in a fun and definitely not quiet environment. It’s brilliant to have the freedom to experiment and do all sorts of crazy things to encourage the love of books, it’s a great privilege and a real joy to work here.

I have the best job in the school, helping to create lifelong readers in a fun and definitely not quiet environment.

The Magic of Books

I want our students to experience the magic of books just as I did when I was a child. Books should make you laugh, cry, think about things you’ve never thought of before. The best kind of book is the one that haunts you for days, the one you can’t stop thinking about, the one that imprints something on your heart and leaves a tiny bit of magic behind.

When I think back to my childhood I can remember the first chapter book that I read by myself (Little House on the Prairie), books that made me cry as (Charlotte’s Web), books that made me want to go on adventures (The Machine Gunners), books that made me laugh (Anne of Green Gables). I love it when a book I have recommended to a student reaches in and grabs them, becoming all-consuming until they have finished it and then they recommend it to all of their friends. This is the love of books I want all of our students to have.

Reading makes you bloom

My Days

I see 20 classes a week, each for a 45 minute visit, so the majority of my week is spent with classes (the mending pile continues to grow!). Class visits are why I love my job, my goal each session is to make their visit FUN!

I always start with a big pile of books that I have pulled from the shelves as well as new books. I then do a quick fire recommendation of each book (usually 20 books per session). There is always a bunfight over these books at the end! I promote a mixture of nonfiction, picture books, fiction, puzzle books as everyone likes something different. I’m honest in my recommendations, “this book has a really ugly cover, but the story inside is brilliant” and when promoting non-fiction I usually just find the grossest photo or gory fact, this gets them hooked every time.

We always have lots of laughs during book promotion.We then read a picture book and I try to fit in something fun, a game or a craft. We’ve done kids story based meditation, lots of art, heads and tails is a favourite as is Chinese Whispers. Last term each class had a different sea creature to draw while on their visit which linked in with the picture book we had read, and now we have a gorgeous collaborative art piece up in the library.

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Ocean art mural

Our library

We are so lucky to have such a big open plan library space with lots of windows which lets in so much natural light and warmth. In the summer we have a small courtyard that I open up and this is a popular spot to laze about on bean bags with a book in the sun.

I have just started to genrefy my fiction section (I have done this previously with great success). Although I only have a small section completed this is already a huge hit with the students. Books that have sat on the shelves undiscovered are now going out the door. One of my students loves historical fiction (she reminds me so much of Anne of Green Gables in the way she speaks), she always declares to me during her visit ‘Mrs Keyte, I just love that all the old-fashioned books are now all together.’

Towards the end of last year I set about the mammoth task of ‘simplifying’ our non-fiction section. This meant getting rid of decimal points, having clear signage for each section and giving it a huge weed. Our non-fiction issue statistics are now equal to our fiction issues and we have increased our overall issue statistics by 6000 issues in term 1 this year comparative to the same time frame last year. Sometimes less really is more!

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Picture Books

I’ve tried to put as many books as possible face-out, our face-out shelves in the picture book area are empty after every class visit.

Our wonderful caretaker is currently working to put my freestanding shelves on wheels, this is exciting as I will have a lot more freedom to move collections about.

Comfortable furniture is what we need and this is on my to do list this year. When I arrived we had tables and chairs everywhere, we now have two tables and this has opened up the space considerably.

Birthdays & mystery books

My favourite book promotion was a few years ago which was to celebrate Roald Dahl’s birthday. This was a three-day event and was so much fun. Each syndicate had their own themed day, a morning filled with activities followed by a Roald Dahl movie and popcorn in the afternoon. I read The Enormous Crocodile prior to the Junior event, on the day we had a morning filled with a kahoot quiz about the story, crocodile songs, a crocodile tug of war, 4 different crocodile craft stations.

The Middle years (yrs 4-6) was based around The Twits, we read the book together over a week, they then had a kahoot quiz, cold spaghetti eating contests, tug of war and a morning filled with making collaborative art pieces.

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Mrs Twit

The seniors (yrs 7-8) theme was Revolting Rhymes, where we made a collaborative art piece based on one of the rhymes and a Roald Dahl quiz. I’m not sure if I have the energy for a three day event again, but the whole school developed a love for Roald Dahl so it was worth it!

This year, our wrapped ‘mystery books’ have been a huge success. After reading their mystery book, I film a short interview with the student talking about the book and this is then played during our weekly in house school TV show.

More entry level books

There is a real lack of fantastic simple entry level chapter books aimed at boys in the market. It’s so easy to hook our young girls onto a series as there seems to be a plethora of easy to read chapter books in the market for girls but the same can’t be said for boys.

Non-fiction by genre

I am currently loving the trend of non fiction books about fabulous women and girls. I also really enjoyed the Stories for Boys Who Dare To Be Different, my boys (and girls) are really loving these types of books. We have all enjoyed the fact that it’s not a book just about sporting heroes but men from all walks of life.

I am always talking to students about great books I’ve read and to teachers at morning tea. But one that I really loved this year was Restart. It’s one of those books that you just have to hunker down with until it’s finished. It features a boy named Chase who is the school bully/sports hero, he falls off a roof and consequently develops amnesia. This story is his journey to discover who he was and if he wants to continue as this person or take a different path and have a ‘restart’. Brilliant read-aloud for year 6-8’s.

Marama Keyte
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Enthusiastic, passionate, and creative with a wee touch of crazy, Marama Keyte is the librarian at Kamo Primary, a year 1-6 school in Whangarei. Marama is always thinking outside the box to encourage her students to use their library, and spends many late nights madly pinning display, craft and book promotion ideas on Pinterest to use during her weekly class visits. Her two children are often used as practice audiences for circle time songs and jokes. .