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Bantry school's ‘no screens' reading sleepover a big hit

November 2nd, 2018 7:11 AM

By Siobhan Cronin

Principal Dympna Daly reading at the ‘fireplace' in the hall during the sleepover in the school.

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In the same week that a Kinsale student was chosen as an ambassador to launch National Book Week next week, a local national school held an innovative ‘Reading Sleepover’ night.

As Sarah Fitzgerald (14) heralded the start of Book Week from this Saturday, Dr Dympna Daly, principal of Our Lady of Mercy National School in Bantry, brought one of her ideas to fruition.

Dympna is passionate about encouraging children to read. She organises library cards in Bantry library for all the pupils in the school. And, at an international literacy conference in the UK recently, she heard about schools in Finland having a Reading Sleepover night to boost pupils’ interest in books.

‘So, after much quizzing of Elspeth, a Finnish school librarian from the Aland islands, the idea resurfaced in West Cork,’ Mrs Daly told The Southern Star.

Last Friday, Our Lady of Mercy NS pupils were invited to attend the reading night, along with their parents. 

‘They had to buy a ‘golden’ ticket to gain admittance and entered the hall that first class teacher Ms Sweetnam, had designed with a specially-created set including a beautiful ‘fireplace’ to give the room a cosy feel,’ explained the principal.

Pupils, parents and grandparents arrived in school at 8pm with air beds, mattresses, sleeping bags, duvets, pillows, flashlamps, pyjamas, teddies and of course … books! 

Staff were on hand to welcome them and help them to settle in.The heating was on and the halla was lovely and comfortable. Noel O’Mahony of Bantry library kicked off the night with a story from Michael Carroll’s book about bringing the cattle from Whiddy Island through the water to Bantry for the fair. ‘You could hear a pin drop,’ said Mrs Daly.

Mrs Daly and Mrs Power followed up with stories from Big Books: Room on the Broom, Peace at Last and the Brown Paper Teddy Bear. At one point, Mrs Power had adults and children alike marching around the room like soldiers.

There was even time for hot chocolate for the children and tea for the parents. 

‘There was some fun time for the children and some pillow fights, but gradually all returned to their corners to continue the reading with their parents,’ said Mrs Daly. ‘Then the lights were turned down and we started reading with the aid of flashlamps.’

Mrs Daly explained that just three pupils opted to go home, but all the others settled down for the night. ‘The only rule on the night was that you could read until you fell asleep.’

 Mrs Daly spent the night on the rocking chair, reading and keeping an eye on all the visitors.

She noticed that amongst the books the children had chosen to bring were old favourites including Anne of Green Gables, Michael Morpurgo’s Lucky Buttons, Roald Dahl’s Matilda, Annie and Harry Potter’s Chamber of Secrets.

‘All were sound asleep by midnight and by 6am the first pupil was awake and reading again with their parent,’ said Mrs Daly. The last of the children had awoken and left the building by 8am.

‘It was a very special night and parents spent quality time with their children reading real books, showing that we really can exist without our screens,’ added the school principal.

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