Tuesday 25 June 2019

Bookish Counsel students celebrate Wellread award

Oisín McAuliff 3rd year from Cushinstown, Diarmuid Somers 3rd year from Cushinstown and Edward Prendergast 5th year from The Rower
Oisín McAuliff 3rd year from Cushinstown, Diarmuid Somers 3rd year from Cushinstown and Edward Prendergast 5th year from The Rower

David Looby

Two years in the making and lots of hard work by the students, parents and teachers of Good Counsel College, culminated in a very special PDST Wellread Awards ceremony in the Citywest Hotel in Dublin.

Good Counsel College became one of a small number of schools in the south-east, and indeed the country, to be recognised as a Wellread school and was a proud recipient of 'A Wellread School Award'.

The award recognises schools that actively work to promote a love of books throughout the whole school community and commit to support a culture where reading is valued and flourishes.

A large Wellread team - including students, parents and teachers from across subject departments - came together to steer the initiative. 'Reading leads to learning', Sheila McAuliffe, chair of the Parents' Council said. 'A huge amount of important work and activities took place over the last two years and our commitment to that is ongoing. The Parents' Council are happy to support the boys in this kind of action, and we are delighted to be part of a celebration like this'.

Student Eddie Prendergast said: 'It was a great day out and good to get the award. I like reading different kinds of texts and seeing the way language and words can affect the way I think about things'.

One of the college's teachers, Margaret Cushen, said the whole community got involved. 'It's great to see how everyone, - the students, parents, teachers, library, bookshops. embraced the PDST project, but it is even more satisfying to have the lads asking me could they borrow books, especially a lot of the new titles that we had sourced.'

The school community involved themselves in a variety of initiatives to awaken the reader in even the most reluctant. These included a well-tested 'Drop Everything and Read' and 'One Book, One School' initiative.

The whole school community read the same international best-seller, 'Touching the Void' by Joe Simpson, and shared their experience of reading it in a super-sized book club.

The author was so impressed that he contacted the school with words of encouragement, saying: 'I cannot stress enough how vital reading is for your work life, your social interactions, but above all for the expansion of your mind and the delight of your soul. Reading for pleasure teaches you so much without you even realizing it'.

The students also tried 'book-tasting' where a café style atmosphere was staged and they sampled ('tasted') new titles.

Writers visited the school such as Wexford's finest - namely, Billy Roche, Tina Callaghan, Caroline Busher, GAA star Brendan Cummins, Augustinian poet Padraig Daly and past pupil Edward Hayden. Spelling Bee and Countdown competitions became annual events.

'The lads were also only too willing to participate in 'Book dating' with the students in St. Mary's where they met and discussed titles read and recommended good reads to each other. Teachers in the school shared what they loved to read with each other and with students.'

New Ross Library reported that 188 new Young Adult members joined the library during the month of Good Counsel College's library membership drive. The average membership had previously been 22-32 per month. The Ken Hennelly Creative Writing competition was introduced into school tradition, in memory of the beloved past teacher of Good Counsel College and husband to Mary. Mary generously gifted the school with a perpetual trophy for the competition.

Speaking about the importance of encouraging reading, teacher Aoife Kinsella said: 'Good reading habits are essential to learning. Reading for pleasure in a technology driven busy world, really getting involved in a story, is something all our students deserve to experience. It has a positive impact on students' wellbeing and everyone enjoys some time out. Why not with a good book?'

Principal Mark O'Brien said: 'The entire Wellread team are to be commended for their vision, drive, and passion for the promotion of reading and literacy in the college community. Their work has led to a recognition amongst our young men that when we learn to read we can read for learning, pleasure and relaxation. Afterall, as Stephen King has often said "books are a unique, portable magic".'

New Ross Standard