Dragons Today Winter 2013-14 - page 9

D R A G O N S T O D A Y . w i N T e R 2 0 1 3 / 1 4
Add to this the 150 pupils in the swim
squad and the 140 involved each week
in sculling – and a host of minor sports
from fencing to karate in which children
participate and compete nationally and
internationally in over 33 fixtures - and
there really is something for everybody.
The Dragon has the scope to provide
balance, providing enough opportunities
for the best to continue being the best,
whilst also giving everyone a chance to be
competitive. Our aim is that every child,
regardless of ability, should leave the
Dragon with happy memories of sport
and eager to continue playing.
The statistics demonstrate that levels
of team participation are high:
Helen Mastrantone
The large, comfortable library is at the centre of the Dragon and the
Librarian is at the heart of its place in school life.
Dragons Today
Helen Mastrantone who joined the school in 2012.
Where were you before the Dragon?
I studied English at Bristol University before
my PGCE at Oxford University. Then I
taught in a secondary school in Abingdon
for three years, while also doing an MA in
English. Having decided I wanted to move
into school librarianship, I became a library
trainee at All Souls College, Oxford; I
then studied for an MA in Librarianship at
University College London. I worked at the
Bodleian Law Library while I was studying,
and briefly at charity Family Links, before
starting my first professional library post at
the Dragon.
What is the role of the librarian
in the modern prep school?
If you ask a class of 8-year-olds how many
of them like books and reading, nearly all
the hands will shoot into the air. But if you
ask a class of 13-year-olds, will you have the
same response? I’m always thinking: how
can I keep as many of those hands in the air
throughout those five years? (Not literally of
course, that would be tiring.) I’m convinced
that if you “go off” reading between the ages
of 8 and 13 then something has gone wrong
for you; either you have not had access to
the right books or something has happened
to make you lose your confidence. So my
role is to keep everyone in touch with their
inner reader – I know everyone’s got one!
How do you go about building
the Dragon school library?
I’m spoilt for choice - there are so many
amazing authors and beautiful books for
children being produced all the time. One
of the most important things I do is listen to
what the children want to read; if someone
says “Ma you HAVE to get this book for
the library – it’s AMAZING”, then I will
usually add it to my shopping list. The library
collection is definitely a team effort and I
hope everyone feels represented when they see
what they can choose from. People need to be
free when they read; recommendations and
suggestions are great but until you have the
right book in the right pair of hands at the
right time, the magic just won’t happen – so
choice, experimentation and communication
are all really key. This applies to non-fiction as
well as fiction, of course.
How does using the library help
shape a Dragon?
I hope that Dragons leave the school having
been influenced by the library in two ways.
Firstly, I hope that they identify themselves
as “readers” – that they see reading as part
of their daily lives, just as they see sport,
or even eating and sleeping. Secondly,
I hope they understand that being clever
isn’t about always having the answers, it’s
about knowing how to find the answers.
I demonstrate this daily to the children by
being almost unbelievably ignorant of the
most simple things, but always finding a
book that will tell me what I want to know.
Just today I embarrassed myself with my
patchy knowledge of photosynthesis – but
I could find the right book and the right
answer in seconds. That’s power - and it’s
a power I hope to bestow on all Dragons!
What were your favourite books
as a child?
Some of my favourites were
Little Women
by Louisa M. Alcott,
Anne of Green Gables
by L. M. Montgomery,
by Roald
Dahl and the
Malory Towers
series. I think
I identified with imaginative, passionate
characters who got into trouble by being
a bit too opinionated and impulsive;
characters like Jo, Anne and Darrell all had
to learn about their strengths and weaknesses
and decide what sort of people they wanted
to be. That really helped me when I was
growing up. I will never forget the moment
Anne cracked a slate over Gilbert’s head, or
when Darrell slapped Gwendoline in the
swimming pool. (Disclaimer: I have never
done either of these things!)
The other book that left a huge impression
on me when I was about ten was
. Never before or since have I been so
completely transported into another world,
and I still get a shiver down my spine when
I see the cover of the edition I had as a child.
Team Selection 2013
– 87% of boys
– 88% of girls
– every Upper School boy
– 61% of boys
Rounders & Netball
– every girl
in Years 5 to 8
1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8 10,11,12
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