Book Share Ideas to Get Art Students Reading in English

Today I’m sharing two book initiatives easily adapted for international Art and Design Schools, which will help students have easy access to reading in English (something which needs to be part of any school-wide English strategy).


The first initiative is in the MacRobert Arts Centre, part of Stirling University.


Second is 'Scotland's Design Museum': the V&A Dundee.

Getting your student population to read in English is a key part of any school-wide English strategy.

#01: The V&A Design Book Library

The first inspirational book initiative is the reading library at Dundee’s V&A Museum.

It’s part of the greater Inches Carr Resource Centre. Its shelves are filled with haphazardly arranged books.

Anyone to rummage through and settle down to read.

V&A Dundee

Why The V&A Design Book Library Works

    Firstly, the building itself is free and public

    Anyone can access it. The book collection attracts visitors (so good for a gallery or space you NEED to generate footfall).

    The building is relaxing and otherworldly.

    The modern architecture by Kengo Kuma & Associates is a pleasure to sit within. 

    The books are not arranged in any order

    V&A Dundee

    Space & Presentation

    “It’s not always about the view,” one of the books declares.

    Great architecture has a presence, an ambience, an attention to detail and a choreography of elements that elevate what’s within.

    It helps you be receptive to the art and ideas it’s there to preserve and present.

    Being in the V & A makes you feel as if you’re in a huge, still boat. That’s a peaceful mindset, and conducive to a right good read.

    The shelves are messy and not in alphabetical order – or genre order.

    When presented in a jumble, book covers and titles call out for your attention.

    You pick up something you would have never looked for and feel like you found it.

    And that’s the magic of books.

    Once they are in your hand, you want them badly.

      V&A Dundee

      It’s All About the Books

      The V&A’s reading collection is curated intelligently.

      Young visitors are catered for, as are design and architecture aficionados.

      Causal browsers are more than served by the visually enticing range of books.

      The V&A have created a space where families can sit and share books.

      It doesn’t feel like a library. No one guards the books. No one zealously guards the silence.

      The huge building swallows up individual voices and provides a wonderful, muffled soundtrack of people finding the glockenspiel in the installation downstairs, blasts of music from the wall-to-wall projection of scenes of contemporary dance (Michael Clark: Cosmic Dancer); excited, thrilled shouts of children and the faint noises of the cafes all make for calming waves of sound.

      You may not have intended to come here to sit and read, but you most likely will – and it’s wonderful!

        V&A Dundee

        #02: The Stirling University Book Share

        On a different scale, Stirling’s MacRobert Art Centre is offering anyone a Blind Date with a Book‘.

        Here, secondhand hardback books have been wrapped in brown paper and left out for the public to take home.

        Intriguingly, there are three clues on the wrapping to help you decide if the contents will be your cup of tea.

        Why This Works

        Stirling University gets many international students from around the world. Its location (set out of town) can give a lonely student experience,  particularly during long holiday periods.

        The books are for anyone – student or art centre visitor: a gentle gesture of goodwill and sharing.

        The MacRobert are not just giving away free books, and saving them from landfill, they are actively encouraging reading and trying new things.

        With this book initiative, they are giving out caring, and implicit permission to relax and ‘coorie in*,’

        Their use of Scottish language here welcomes all people into our culture, while looking after everyone’s health and wellbeing in the gentlest ways.

        Which book do you think this one is?

        V&A Dundee

        *‘Coorie in’ is a Scottish expression, meaning to snuggle down and get comfy.

        Art School English

        Students and early career artists need confidence-boosting PRACTICAL creative experiences in English.

        Reading can have a big role to play in this.

        Refresh existing English book collection by presenting them in interesting ways.

        invest in especially attractive, visual books which depicting interesting cultures/arts/designs, and create an immersive English experience.

        Make a book space conducive to reading

        Art students don’t need any more English ‘lessons.’ 

        Find out what is possible.