Tag Archives: children’s libraries

Let children choose their own books (part 2)

“If it hasn’t got any words in it, you’re not having it!”

My sister Mary and I overheard a mother saying this at Woking Library a couple of weeks ago and we just looked at each other and sighed. Should we have said something, or would that have just put her off libraries all together? If I’d been at work I’d have laughed and told the woman how good the book was but as a visitor I didn’t feel I could say anything.

Michael Rosen talks about helping children understand what they are asked to read and suggests you “Take children to a library and encourage them to borrow anything that they want. Keep doing it.” Perhaps libraries should have signs telling people to let children choose their own books?

I must say how impressed I was with Woking Library! It’s like a fantastic book shop with the emphasis definitely on books, unlike many newly refurbished libraries I’ve seen. I chatted with some really friendly staff and picked up loads of ideas I’d like to use at Langley.

 

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Fairy tale crafts

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Our fairy tale craft session at half term produced some great results! Using kitchen roll tubes,  coloured paper and felt tips, the children created some lovely characters, based on the library’s fairy tale books. Then they covered cereal boxes to make little stages on which to act out the stories. A couple of the boys went beyond the books and thought that sharks should get a look in too.

My 3 worst children’s book displays

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  1. Football fiction
  2. Enid Blyton
  3. Kate Greenaway and Carnegie Medal shortlists

Displays are usually a good way to promote children’s books and you can measure their success by how often you have to keep topping them up. These three displays were hopeless as the books hardly moved at all.

You’d think football stories would be popular, especially with boys, but they never seem to get borrowed from our library. The children were more interested in taking home the laminated badges I made of Aston Villa, West Brom, Wolves and Birmingham City for the display than they were in the books themselves. All I can think of is:

  • the books aren’t funny, scary or exciting enough
  • children aren’t stupid and they know Theo Walcott and David Beckham didn’t really write the books
  • kids would rather play football than read about it

The Enid Blyton issue is a bit different. Lots of single author displays work well, especially if they’re tied in with a film like Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson books in the summer, but the Blyton books were ignored. Even when I mix her books with others in a general adventure books display she isn’t popular. I loved her books as a child so perhaps I’m a bit biased and should just admit defeat and move on.

I was really disappointed that my display of the Kate Greenaway Medal and the Carnegie Medal shortlisted books last year didn’t really work. The display was full of lovely books but only a few were borrowed. (Exactly the same happens with displays of book prize shortlists in the adult section.) I think I was expecting parents to pick up the books for their children because they’d been judged so highly, but it just didn’t happen. Perhaps it’s because

  • people are suspicious of literary prizes, thinking there’s a bit of snobbery involved and the books won’t be very accessible
  • the books that appeal to the judges are less attractive to children
  • the books covered a wide reading age so the display wasn’t focused enough

Should I just give up on these books or can you suggest other ways for me to promote them?

Fishy crafts

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Last Friday in the library, during half term, we made underwater collages by sticking torn bits of coloured paper onto cardboard fish. Luckily, our brilliant volunteer, Ayshea, was there to help as it was so popular we had to run a second session later in the morning. It’s a really simple and fun technique you can apply to any theme.

All you need are:

  • some cardboard fish – 2 per child per hour (I used cereal boxes)
  • small torn pieces of coloured paper, especially patterned pieces, sorted into colours (weekend newspaper magazines are good)
  • PVA glue and paintbrushes (remember to apply glue onto the cardboard and then again over each piece as it’s stuck down)
  • googly eyes
  • blue poster paper for background
  • green paper for weed
  • white paper for bubbles (the children’s excellent suggestion)

Surrounded by books – afternoon tea in the library

Photo from Look after each other!

Local author, Marilyn L Rice, has written a lovely account of Monday afternoon tea at Langley Library in her blog, Look after each other!. The weekly afternoon tea (with Marilyn’s homemade cakes) for over 55s is one of our most popular regular events and is typical of the things happening in local libraries nowadays. These community events get people into the library, making libraries important places in their lives and it’s good that library services emphasise their importance. But we’ve got to be careful not to lose our unique look and feel in the drive to save money by sharing our buildings. It’s great to have spaces large enough for community rooms but look at those books surrounding the women in the picture – it’s not surprising that they talk about what they’ve been reading and all leave with piles of books in their arms! Having children’s activities in rooms full of books has the same effect (with its impact on literacy and attitudes to reading) – you won’t get the same inspiration and atmosphere in a typical community room, however bright and beautiful it is.

Neil Gaiman: “No such thing as a bad book for children”

Neil Gaiman gave a wonderful Reading Agency Lecture at the Barbican yesterday about how important reading and libraries are and talked about their future, especially for children and young people.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how we should let children choose their own books and Gaiman agrees: “A hackneyed, worn-out idea isn’t hackneyed and worn out to them. This is the
first time the child has encountered it. Do not discourage children from reading
because you feel they are reading the wrong thing. Fiction you do not like is
the gateway drug to other books you may prefer. And not everyone has the same
taste as you. Well-meaning adults can easily destroy a child’s love of reading: stop them
reading what they enjoy, or give them worthy-but-dull books that you like, the
21st Century equivalents of Victorian ‘improving’ literature. You’ll wind up
with a generation convinced that reading is uncool and worse, unpleasant.”

Third favourite dead dog?

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This year’s Creepy House Summer Reading Challenge was very popular and I loved the spooky theme but the one problem was it all happened too near Halloween. Now October’s here libraries start thinking about Halloween displays but I don’t want to get the same creepy books out again yet so I’m going to try and get the kids thinking about their top tens of various book characters. I’ve started with a simple “Which witch do you like best?” and I’ll probably add “Twit twoo’s your favourite owl?” and maybe “Ghoul be the scariest ghoul?” You can tell I enjoy my work.

We love top tens in our family and my children never disappoint me – Jack’s always happy to tell me that Monica is the Friend he fancies most and Tess, when very young, once referred to her third favourite dead dog!