|14 Jun 2021|
The transformation has been created by Leaps and Strides, a design company specialising in bespoke school wall art, run by LEH alumna Ruth Mulholland, Class of 1992, so this was a project close to her heart.
The new space has been called the Jill Grant Reading Room, in memory of the much-loved teacher, who taught at the Junior School for 30 years and left a generous legacy in her will. An avid reader herself, Jill fostered a lifelong love of reading in hundreds of girls over the years and gave huge amounts of extra time and commitment to running the Junior School Library, which took up every lunchtime and many other hours.
The striking design has proved an instant hit with pupils who were very excited to see the new look: “It’s fantastic and beautiful,” said one member of Year Five. “I really like the quotes from the books – it makes you want to read them.” While another said: “The pictures and lines outside are very welcoming – it feels as if it is inviting you in.”
The Junior School’s light and spacious library opened on the top floor last year, leaving room for the old library to be turned into a dedicated reading space. The design starts in the corridor outside, and features a New Writers Wall, with space to showcase pupils’ work, such as book reviews and reading competitions.
On another wall, a mirror (prompted by the Virginia Wolf quote: “Books are the mirrors of the soul”) is surrounded by inspirational quotes from perennially popular children’s books such as Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan and Charlotte’s Web, as well as more eclectic figures including environmental campaigner Greta Thunberg (“No one is too small to make a difference”) and poet Amanda Gorman, who spoke at Joe Biden’s inauguration (“For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.”)
Then there are the full-length panels, each featuring a child reading, and bursting with colour and creativity, which depict some of the different worlds created between the covers, such as a forest, a space craft, a boat on a lake, a tree house and an underwater landscape. If you are logged in to this site, you will be able to see more images in the photo gallery below.
“Jill is still much missed and fondly remembered by all who knew her,” said Junior School Head Teacher Paula Mortimer. “The Jill Grant Reading Room is such a lovely, bright, calm and colourful space. The children absolutely love it, and I know Jill would have too. It’s such an immersive experience. The idea is that reading takes you on a journey and you are a part of the story. I can’t think of a better way to keep Jill’s memory alive among a new generation of young book lovers.”
Ruth Mulholland said: “I wasn’t a pupil at the Junior School but I was at the Senior School in the late 80s, early 90s (oh my goodness, now I feel old!). Leaps and Strides designed and installed the Science wall at the Senior School in 2019, which features some of the most famous women working in the world of STEM, alongside some LEH alumnae.
“Stepping back into LEH was powerfully emotive, especially sharing meetings with the LVI students, as I have such vivid memories of being that age at LEH myself. It is always a privilege to work with schools and I do feel especially proud to have been asked to design these legacy pieces for LEH. I am sure that we will work together again in the future, as L&S has lots more ideas for the wonderful facilities at both sites!”
Covid-19 restrictions mean that some of the soft furnishings have yet to be completed. The official opening of the Jill Grant Reading Room is likely to be in September.
To find out more information about Leaps and Strides, you can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org, or please check out their website www.leapsandstrides.com - or see their social media: Twitter/FB/Insta: @leapsandstrides.
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