Never Judge a Book by its Cover

Library Girl

Image courtesy of iosphere at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Oh but we do……every day of our lives. A multi billion pound advertising industry relies on us doing just that – judging a book by its cover. Of course I am talking both literally and metaphorically here. How do you choose a book for yourself or your child? Most people will initially say the cover. Why? Because it’s the first thing we see and the first impression we get. If that’s all wrong we are quick to assume the content must be all wrong and we move on to the next far more captivating cover honing us in. It’s the same with people. Like it or not, everyone’s done it at some point, whether consciously or unconsciously. If we’re not attracted to a person’s looks we make unsubstantiated judgements about them and can be less inclined or perhaps a little bit intimidated in getting to know them. Does that make us a nation of insincere, shallow creatures? The mere existence of this familiar adage shows we do frequently need reminding that ultimately what counts is not what is on the outside but what is on the inside. That is where the true interaction and satisfaction lies but sadly accepting this fact often evolves through experience opposed to instinct.

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog on Children’s Libraries Built to Inspire showing photos of some incredibly innovative designs but the reality is that with many of the smaller local libraries struggling to get funding we need to look deeper to truly appreciate their benefits. Without libraries where else do we get free books? No matter how much cheaper books become to buy, a free book will always remain priceless. Even when they cost just one or two pounds to buy, not everyone can afford to endlessly dish out a pound for a new book, it soon adds up. Not everyone can afford a tablet to benefit from the numerous free e-books available and even if we can, there are so many other things a growing family demands.

So do we still think first and foremost a library’s diminishing funds should be spent on making it look pretty? Surprise, surprise this brings me back round to what is important and that is the interaction, connection and experience we gain from visiting a library, the long lasting effects. With National Libraries Day approaching this Saturday 7th February, it’s the ideal time to take a closer look at some of the events libraries are hosting around the UK to help encourage children to read and nurture a lifelong love of reading. Below is a summary of the types of events and library activities on offer, many free of charge.

Reading groups: choosing and discussing a mutual book with other children creates a reading challenge which can boost their understanding of the book as well as encourage them to read a greater variety of books which inevitably entails reading ones they may not have initially picked themselves.

Writer’s Workshops: provide hands on practical tips on creative writing methods and the opportunity to learn from others work and present their own writing. They demonstrate how regular reading can trigger new ideas and strengthen their individual creative writing style.

Illustrator’s Workshops: can inspire children to create their own stories with pictures and develop visual imagination and dexterity. Understanding the entire creative process involved in picture book publication can spark a new perception of what reading is all about. Many reluctant or struggling readers in particular can quickly get overwhelmed with the sheer amount of words in front of them. Understanding what the illustrations and images are conveying can help so many readers to break a book down into manageable sized reading chunks.

Meet a published author: We all know that when someone expresses an endless passion for something we can’t help but be drawn in too. Meeting a professional author in person and discussing their newly published book demonstrates to young writers what is achievable, offers first hand knowledge of the author’s thought processes behind the book and instigates a new found enthusiasm for reading.

New author book launches: in the same vein a new author can quickly spread their excitement of achieving publication for the first time. They can offer fresh advice on how to become an author, discuss the drive behind the patience and determination it took to become a published author and tweak a child’s interest with something new to the book market.

Story time: Most libraries run regular story telling sessions for various age groups. These may involve quietly listening to a weekly featured book being read out loud, incorporating simple book crafts or puppetry to involve the children by animating the story or inviting a professional story teller to perform.

Book Festival Events: are frequently hosted at libraries. Talking about books whilst being surrounded by books makes for the ideal venue. Book festivals are a time when all the above events are multiplied and brimming with excitement, enjoyment and genuine interest.

So go on what have you got to lose? Check out your local libraries for any upcoming book events and let me know how you get on.

National Libraries Day – Sat 7th February

Children’s Libraries Built to Inspire

How can we expect to inspire our children to read by taking them to drab, functional and soulless libraries? That’s certainly how some libraries in the UK have left me feeling. Children’s expectations of a daytime outing have been set high in recent years. Libraries today are having to compete with the emergence of soft plays, climbing walls, laser combat, science centres, Harry Potter and Peppa Pig worlds; so a room simply filled with books alone may have seemed exciting twenty years ago but is probably considered mind-numbingly dull for the majority of children now. Visiting a library is not as high up on many parent’s agendas as it used to be – and that includes me. There are too many other far more exciting activities out there or easier options with the e-book dramatically increasing in popularity and printed books reducing in price across the world. So what incentive does a child have to go to a library anymore and how can libraries prevent themselves from becoming redundant?

Libraries need to become places where children want to return to, again and again. Wouldn’t it be magical if it felt like physically walking into a story and feeling the wonder of thousands of options to choose from? Being able to voice-activate a book search so a holographic version of that book appears in front of you would bring it to life and by detailing its shelf location and any hidden reading nooks from which to read it could provide some adventure. It’s not the lack of imagination from people preventing the change; unfortunately in most cases it’s the lack of available funding.

So here is a selection of impressive libraries worldwide that have already taken the experience to the next level.

Brentwood Children’s Library, Tennessee, USA

Library Brentwood TN USA

Above: photo by Peter Nash found on brentwoodlibblog.blogspot.co.uk

Children’s Area, Dok Library, Netherlands

Library Dok Delft Netherlands

Above: photo found on www.aatvos.com

Children’s Library Area known as Tio Tretton in Kulturhuset Art Centre, Stockholm, Sweden.

Library Sweden Tio Tretton

Above: Photo found on PInterest

The Tio Tretton above is for 10-13 year olds whilst the Rum för Barn below is for the younger ones.

“My Tree House” Green Library, Singapore

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Above: Photo found on www.daily-dose-of-art.com

Library of Picture Books, Fukushima Prefecture, Iwaki City, Japan

Library Picture Book Iwaki Japan

Above: Architect: Tadeo Ando; Photo found on Pinterest and more pictures here.

Children’s Library, Kansas City, USA

Library Kansas City Inside

Above: Image found on bookriot.com

……and the outside is equally as impressive!

Library Kansas City Outside

Above: Image found on bookriot.com

Library Discovery Centre, Queens NY, USA

Library Discovery Centre Queens NY USA

Above: Image found on soyouknowbetter.com

Children’s Area of Murray Bridge Library, Australia

Library Murray Bridge Australia

Above: Image by Sam Noonan found on architectureau.com

Cerritos Millennium Library, CA, USA

Library Cerritos

Above: Image found on PInterest

ImaginOn Children’s Theatre and Public Library, Charlotte, NC, USA

Library Imaginon Charlotte USA

Above: Image found on imaginon.org

The Library of Muyinga, Berundi, Africa

Library Muyinga Africa

Above: Architect: BC Architects; Photo found on inhabitat.com

Also take a look at:

Swiss Cottage Children’s Library, London UK

Mexico City Children’s Library, Mexico

The Seed Library, Johannesburg, South Africa