Crafty storytime

In many public libraries, storytime ends with the group engaging in craft. In these settings, parents and carers expect this activity and library staff accept it as part of the programme. Depending on what is offered, the experience for the children involved ranges from superficial and tokenistic to open-ended and meaningful. Examples of activities, which are usually linked to the story or theme of the session, include colouring in a printed picture, making a puppet using a template (‘here’s one I made earlier’) or creating cakes from playdough.

Craft at storytime is often adult-centred with a focus on sheets and templates

Colouring-in

Image by _Alicja_: CC0 1.0

Children certainly gain some skills from these craft activities. They have the opportunity to practise fine motor skills and develop their hand-eye co-ordination. They also interact with their parents and carers, as well as their peers, thereby extending their communication and social skills. If the activity is open-ended, they are able to explore their creativity and self-expression. But is that why we offer craft at storytime? Recently someone said to me that we’re not educators and that craft is a fun activity that will encourage the children to want to return to the library. My opinion is that there needs to be a reason for including craft at storytime beyond the fun factor. In addition, whilst we are not teachers, we are role-models for parents and carers. This is clear in the literacy aspect of storytime when we demonstrate how to develop and extend children’s language skills. It can also be true for the craft element.

Let’s make craft at storytime child-centred and open-ended

Drawing

Image by marimari1101: CC0 1.0

As an early childhood teacher, I find the ‘craft at storytime’ issue problematic. I believe in the competency of young children and their ability to create and learn and discover things for themselves. When I first graduated, my approach to teaching was heavily planned and adult-centred. I used worksheets and very directed art activities when working with the children. Returning to university, I was introduced to the work of the educators in the preschools of Reggio Emilia. Considered by many to be the exemplar of best practice in early childhood education, their rich image of the capable child informs the decisions they make about the experiences and materials they offer the children. Inspired by this child-centred approach to learning, I allowed my class freedom and time to use the materials available to them in whatever way they wanted to. They had many opportunities to work with different media, discovering how they could use it and producing sophisticated pictures and models. Most importantly, I didn’t use pre-printed sheets or templates, and I didn’t expect everyone in my class to make the same thing in the same way. Whilst I understand that it is not possible for this acquisition of skills and knowledge to occur in a public library setting, I don’t think we need to resort to ‘cookie-cutter’ approaches to craft at storytime. If we can encourage everyone (including staff) to focus on the process of creating and not on a recognisable product, then we are taking a step towards embracing the messy nature of creativity.

Let’s embrace the messy nature of creativity!

Painting

Image by EvgeniT: CC0 1.0

Now that I work in a public library and am involved in storytime, I am struggling with the craft element of the programme. I know both parents and library staff expect me to provide activities for the children. I find that I am trying to come up with experiences that are open-ended but ‘acceptable’ to the adults (i.e. the end-result looks like a dog rather than a series of scribbles or randomly placed pieces of collage!). And all the while I feel I am letting the children down by not encouraging them to explore their creativity and develop their skills. This issue is definitely a work-in-progress for me. I am searching for a way to remain true to my beliefs about young children and creativity, whilst working within a system that still prefers a cute mass-produced item to a messy individualised one. Watch this space as I navigated the quagmire that is craft at storytime…

Advertisements

May the Fourth…be with you

Tomorrow is May the Fourth, the day chosen (for obvious reasons) to celebrate all things Star Wars. Across the globe, fans will come together to watch the films, share trivia and dress up as their favourite character, channelling their inner Jedi or venturing to the Dark Side.

Stormtroopers

Image by aitoff: CC0 1.0

Incredibly Star Wars Day has its origins in a political event. On 4th May 1979, Margaret Thatcher won the British general election and became the country’s first female prime minister. Her party, the Conservatives, placed an advertisement in newspapers, which read “May the Fourth Be With You, Maggie. Congratulations” (Star Wars, n.d.). This was then adopted by Star Wars fans as the date for their annual event. I love the fact that a unifying international celebration has emerged out of a polarising political victory (for many in Britain).

Star Wars Books

Image by tunechick83: CC0 1.0

Star Wars, like Harry Potter, has spread beyond its original medium to include a whole range of franchised materials. Unlike Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings, it started life as a film, which quickly became a book. More films and books followed the release of A New Hope (Star Wars: Episode IV), along with action figures, Lego products and video games.

As with Harry Potter, Star Wars has become a way into reading for many children. Through their interest in the characters and settings, they have been encouraged to tackle the challenges of the written word. This is the reason why it is important for parents, teachers and librarians to embrace popular culture and not frown upon children engaging with it.

R2D2

Image by aldobarquin: CC0 1.0

I have a great fondness for Star Wars. It was the second film I saw at a cinema (the first, Snow White, doesn’t really count, as I left it screaming and crying after seeing the close-up of the wicked stepmother’s face!). And yes, it was the original 1977 release. I loved it and the experience of watching it stayed with me for a long time. I remember wanting to wear my hair like Princess Leia and collecting the first action figures. In fact, I feel a movie marathon coming on!

Tomorrow, May the Fourth be with you. Look out for events at libraries either near you or in a galaxy far, far away. And remember, as Yoda says, “Do. Or do not. There is no try” (The Empire Strikes Back).

There’s a lot to love about storytime!

Storytime is a core component of any early literacy programme in a public library. It usually consists of stories shared with a group of young children, along with songs and action rhymes and sometimes followed by a craft activity. The session can be multi-age (from birth to 5 years old) or differentiated by developmental stage (baby, toddler and pre-schooler). The latter would be the preferred option, because it allows the storytime to be targeted to the specific needs of the group, which differ greatly in terms of physical, linguistic and social development. However, a multi-age storytime is usually the norm in  smaller libraries, where there are fewer staff to conduct sessions and groups tend to be less in size.

Storytime includes singing together as a small group…

Singing Together

Sing-a-long with Ms. Cann by NJLA: New Jersey Library Association: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

A number of early literacy initiatives have partnered with public library services to achieve their aims of improving outcomes for young children. These include First 5 Forever (Australia) and Every Child Ready to Read @ your library (USA). Whilst these include storytime sessions as part of their delivery, they also focus on educating parents and caregivers about their role as their child’s first educator and the impact they can have on their language and literacy development. This includes sharing with them the benefits of reading aloud, singing and talking with their children; something that is obviously modelled by librarians during storytime.

and as a big group!

Singing Together

SJ Earthquakes Storytime by San José Public Library: CC BY-SA 2.0

So what are the benefits of storytime? They include:

– developing language skills, both receptive and expressive
– developing pre-literacy skills, including:

Print motivation – thinking that books and reading are fun
Vocabulary – knowing the names of things
Print awareness – recognizing print and understanding how books work
Letter knowledge – understanding that each letter has its own name and sounds
Narrative skills – being able to tell stories and describe things
Phonological awareness – being able to recognize and play with the smaller sounds that make up words

(MacLean, 2008)

– encouraging a love of books and reading
– encouraging social skills through sharing the experience of storytime as part of a group

These are also the benefits of reading aloud to children, which is why many early literacy initiatives focus on educating parents and caregivers, encouraging them to keep reading to their children (the issue of not doing so is covered in an interesting article in The Conversation).

Storytime also strengthens the bond between the child and their parent or caregiver as they share the experience and participate together. This is especially true in baby sessions where the emphasis is on face-to-face engagement as songs and rhymes are sung.

Baby storytime often includes sharing books with your little one

It's Never Too Early To Start To Read

Book Babies by Multnomah County Library: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

There are a number of excellent articles about the role public libraries can play in encouraging the development of early literacy. These include:

Guidelines for library services to babies and toddlers
New Zealand’s public libraries and early literacy
Early literacy framework and strategy for Australian public libraries
Early literacy programmes in public libraries: best practice

Many library and literacy associations have resources for supporting the development of literacy skills, both at home and in a library setting. The Public Library Association, a division of the American Library Association, has a page of resources entitled Early Literacy, while BookTrust in the UK has information about why reading matters and tips for both families and practitioners.

In short, storytime helps to lay the foundation for the development of the literacy skills that children will need at school and throughout life. Alongside sharing books at home, it sets them on the path to reading. However it is also about forming connections: between the children as a group, between them and the presenter, and between the adults. From these can come friendships and the creation of a community within the library. And what a beautiful thing that is!

Storytime: Then and now

When I was an early childhood teacher, my favourite part of the day was storytime. I loved choosing and reading picture books and chapter books to the children I was working with. It was a special time for them and for me as we shared the joys of reading together. Since moving into the library sector and commencing work in a public library, I have become involved in the storytime programme offered to our customers. It has been  interesting for me to discover how these sessions are similar to and yet different from those I took as a teacher.

Both are about sharing a love of books and are focussed on reading one or two picture books as a group. This supports early language and literacy skills (more on this in the next post), which are further developed through singing nursery rhymes and action songs. As an early childhood teacher, I had the luxury of a whole day in which to separate these activities into two group times; one for sharing books and another for singing together.

Storytime at the library with teddies!

Special Storytime

Pyjama Party by Mosman Library: CC BY 2.0

There are however a number of ways in which the two storytime sessions differ. The first is the audience. In a classroom, I was reading to a group of children, with perhaps a parent or assistant listening in. In the library environment, there are children (obviously!) in the group, but there are also adults: parents, carers, other library customers and staff. This can be a little uncomfortable as it feels much more like a performance than a shared experience! Related to this is the expectations of the parents and carers who come to the library with their children. I feel there are books I would happily read to a class which I couldn’t read to a storytime group for fear of offending or upsetting the adults (Doctor Dog by Babette Cole springs to mind, with the advice of “Don’t scratch your bum and suck your thumb” to prevent worms!). In addition, I think there are certain expectations around the craft activities which often accompany storytime sessions (again, I will be exploring this issue in an upcoming post).

There is also the difference in relationships between myself and the children present in the two settings. With each day spent with the children in the classroom, my knowledge of their personalities, backgrounds, interests and preferences grew, so that I knew which books would engage them and which ones would fall flat when read aloud to the group. This contrasts strongly with the children who attend the library storytimes. Whilst there is a core number who come most weeks, many come infrequently, making any relationships transient. This means it is harder to know what will work and what won’t. The age group of the children also differs between the two settings. In an early childhood classroom, the children are of the same age and developmental stage, which means, as the school year unfolds, it is possible to extend them through book choice, building more complex language and literacy skills. However, in a library storytime, the group is often multi-age, from about 2 to 5 years old, with a wide range of developmental stages from toddler to preschooler. This makes it more difficult to choose books, because of the different attention spans and comprehension skills. If I select a book to suit the younger members of the group, the older ones are unlikely to be challenged. However, I would lose the attention of the younger children if I read a longer, more complex story.

Sometimes you are required to wear a funny hat during storytime!

Despite the differences between the two storytimes, I are really enjoying being part of the early literacy programme in my library service. I know I am making a difference in the children’s futures, both at school and beyond. And that feels good. I am sure I will adjust to this new way of sharing books with young children and find ways to overcome the issues I have encountered.

Over the coming weeks, I will be exploring different aspects of storytime within a library setting, as well as providing links to resources and organisations that may be of benefit for those working in this area of library programming.

SaveSave

Ten reasons to love libraries

In last week’s post, I quoted Joanne Harris’ Twitter thread on getting children to read. I have been inspired to write a similar list to celebrate National Library Week. So here are ten reasons to love libraries:

1. Libraries are free to join and free to use.

The library is like a candy store where everything is free.

Jamie Ford

2. Libraries are safe places for many people.

A library is not just a reference service: it is a place for the vulnerable. From the elderly gentleman whose only remaining human interaction is with library staff, to the isolated young mother who relishes the support and friendship that grows from a baby rhyme time session, to the slow moving 30-something woman collecting her CDs, libraries are a haven in a world where community services are being ground down to nothing.

Angela Clarke

3. Libraries contribute to a democracy by enabling anyone to access knowledge and information.

The library is central to our free society. It is a critical element in the free exchange of information at the heart of our democracy.

Vartan Gregorian

4. Libraries open their doors to everyone, regardless of background.

A library is a place that is a repository of information and gives every citizen equal access to it.

Neil Gaiman

5. Libraries contain resources that promote learning and enjoyment.

The library is the temple of learning, and learning has liberated more people than all the wars in history.

Carl T. Rowan

Public Library

Wallsend District Library, NSW by State Library of NSW Public Library Services: CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

6. Libraries provide programmes and activities that build skills, expand minds and form connections between people.

Libraries store the energy that fuels the imagination. They open up windows to the world and inspire us to explore and achieve, and contribute to improving our quality of life.

Sidney Sheldon

7. Libraries build a sense of community, both within their walls and outside in the wider world.

The truth is libraries are raucous clubhouses for free speech, controversy and community.

Paula Poundstone

8. Libraries enable patrons to access digital technology and resources, thereby bridging the digital divide and allowing greater equality of opportunity.

We must also promote global access to the Internet. We need to bridge the digital divide not just within our country, but among countries. Only by giving people around the world access to this technology can they tap into the potential of the Information Age.

Al Gore

9. Libraries encourage a love of reading for all ages through the provision of resources and services.

Libraries are the future of reading.

Courtney Milan

10. Libraries have wonderful staff, who are knowledgable, friendly and helpful.

Librarians are the coolest people out there doing the hardest job out there on the frontlines. And every time I get to encounter or work with librarians, I’m always impressed by their sheer awesomeness.

Neil Gaiman

Public Library

Brown Library by VWCC Media Geeks: CC BY-NC 2.0

Neil Gaiman expresses the value (and importance of libraries) wonderfully:

But libraries are about freedom. Freedom to read, freedom of ideas, freedom of communication. They are about education (which is not a process that finishes the day we leave school or university), about entertainment, about making safe spaces, and about access to information.

So head down to your local library and enjoy all that it has to offer!

Getting children to read

This week, on April 2nd, it was International Children’s Book Day. Established by the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY), a non-profit organisation bringing children and books together, its aim is “to inspire a love of reading and to call attention to children’s books” (IBBY, n.d.). Last year the theme was Let Us Grow With the Book; this year, it is The Small is Big In a Book. On Twitter, #InternationalChildrensBookDay has generated tweets celebrating all that is wonderful about children’s books.

Let’s celebrate children’s books!

Children's Books

Image by AnnieSpratt: CC0 1.0

Inspired by International Children’s Book Day, the fabulous Joanne Harris posted a thread on Twitter about getting children to read. Here are her suggestions:

1. Read aloud to your children as regularly as you can. It’s the best way to interest them in reading from an early age.

2. Let them see YOU reading for pleasure. If you don’t read, how can you expect your children to do it for themselves?

3. Talk about the stories you enjoy-in books, in films, in games, on TV, in the papers. Make your children aware of the scope of their own imaginations.

4. Stop thinking of your child’s reading as an achievement to be graded. Make it a pleasure, and your child will develop happily, at their own pace.

5. Never present reading as a duty, or a chore, or a punishment. That’s a surefire way to put your child off reading forever.

(Harris, 2018)

Reading for pleasure, anytime, anywhere…

6. Never criticize your child’s choice of reading material. Whatever it is-comics, magazines, encyclopaedias, or something you consider to be trashy or worthless-be grateful that they’re reading at all.

7. Is your child reading something that you consider to be problematic? Don’t worry. If they read widely, the other things they’re reading will counterbalance whatever it is. Or use the opportunity to discuss the book with them, non-judgmentally.

8. Never, EVER use phrases like “the classics” or “quality fiction”. It makes books sound boring, elitist and old.

9. If your child is a reluctant reader, try reading them the start of a really exciting book, then being “called away.” Leave the book lying around. Or tell them about an exciting book, before saying; “but it’s not really suitable for kids.”

10. E-books. Comics. Audiobooks. Fan fiction. Non-fiction. These things are ALL books. Let your kids choose what they want to read. And never, EVER allow the words “proper books” to pass your lips.

(Harris, 2018)

Caught reading…

This advice echoes that of Neil Gaiman, which I included in my post about reading for pleasure. As parents, educators and librarians, we can use these suggestions to encourage the children we know to catch the reading bug. In this way, all young people, regardless of their background and circumstances, will come to love books and the magic contained within their pages.

Picture books about love

Having started February with a post about Library Lovers Day, I thought I’d end the month with a selection of picture books about love. I have decided to focus on the concept of love (what it is and what it feels like), rather than the reasons for love (I love my mummy because…). Interestingly, almost all the books I have chosen use animal characters to explain what love is. Sometimes big ideas or themes are presented in this way because it makes it less overwhelming for young children. They are still able to relate to the content, but can do so from a distance.

Picture Books About Love

No Matter What
Written and illustrated by Debi Gliori

No Matter What

“I’ll always love you, no matter what…”

“No matter what?” Small asks. But what if he turns into a bug, or a crocodile, or even a grizzly bear? Small has all sorts of questions about love, and his mummy must reassure him that her love will never, ever run out.

This is a fabulous book about unconditional love. Small is in a bad mood and bangs and crashes and breaks things. When Large asks him what is the matter, he says, “I’m a grim and grumpy little Small and nobody loves me at all”. But Large reassures him that “Grumpy or not, I’ll always love you no matter what”. Small then asks if Large will love him if he is a bear or a bug or a crocodile. To which Large replies, “I’ll always love you no matter what”. The last few pages contain bigger questions about love: does it break and does it go on after you die. Large responds to the last question with wise words:

“Small, look at the stars-how they shine and glow,
but some of those stars died a long time ago.
Still they shine in the evening skies
love, like starlight, never dies.”

No Matter What is beautifully written and illustrated by Debi Gliori, who has created many brilliant children’s books. Her pictures are full of little details that enhance the reading experience for both children and adults. Large and Small also feature in the book, Stormy Weather.

Love Is You and Me
Written and illustrated by Monica Sheehan

Love Is You And Me

This adorable book, by bestselling author Monica Sheehan, helps us to remember that LOVE-whether between a parent and child, best friends, or even a dog and a mouse-is the greatest gift of ALL.

This rhyming book shows us what love is. Each double-page spread covers an aspect of love; “Love is sweet. And love is grand!…It’s a smile in your heart. It keeps us together when we’re apart”. The accompanying images of a dog and a mouse clearly reinforce each phrase. There is lots of white space around the words and pictures, making it appealing to children. A very accessible and enjoyable book about a big concept!

Monica Sheehan has also written and illustrated another book featuring the two characters from Love Is You and Me. Entitled Be Happy!, it is “a little book for a happy you and a better world” (Simon & Schuster, 2018) and complements this book about love perfectly.

I Love You Too
Written and illustrated by Stephen Michael King

I Love You Too

You love me and I love…you too.

I love Stephen Michael King’s work, both as a writer and an illustrator. In this simple book, four friends spend time together whether “the world is filled with sunny days…windy days [or] rainy days”. They roll down a hill, look at the stars, fly a kite and jump in puddles. Love is about being together and sharing experiences; “Whatever the weather, there’s something I know, you love me and I love…you too”.

Stephen Michael King has illustrated a number of children’s books by writers such as Margaret Wild and Glenda Millard. He is also the author and illustrator of the fantastic (and very moving) Mutt Dog, as well as the creator of two Snail and Turtle books.

Love
Written and illustrated by Emma Dodd

Love

Love is in the morning when you wake and smile at me.
Love is when we talk together, happy as can be.

One little rabbit finds love everywhere, but knows that a mummy’s love is always the best love of all.

Another beautiful book with simple illustrations and rhyming text. Some of the pictures are also highlighted with gold, making them even more appealing to young children. Like Love Is You and Me, a different aspect of love is introduced on each double-page spread; “Sometimes love is quiet and it needs no words at all. Love is there to catch you when you are about to fall”. This is a lovely book to share with a child.

Like Stephen Michael King, Emma Dodd has been both an illustrator for other writers and for her own work. She has created the Dot and Dash series about a dog and a cat and has also illustrated the Amazing Baby series of interactive books.

Love Is My Favourite Thing
Written and illustrated by Emma Chichester Clark

Love Is My Favourite Thing

Plum has lots of favourite things-catching sticks, her bear and her bed, but really, LOVE is her absolute favourite thing.

She loves her family, and they love her. But trouble loves Plum too, and sometimes she just can’t help doing slightly naughty things.

I love Plum (also know as Plummie)! And I love this book by Emma Chichester Clark about her dog, who has her own blog called Plumdog Blog (hilarious and well worth checking out). This story is told from Plummie’s perspective (as is the blog). She begins by listing all the things she loves, but love is her favourite thing. However trouble likes Plummie and she ends up jumping in the duck pond, ripping a cushion and grabbing someone’s bag (well, it did have an ice-cream in it!). After being told off by her mummy, she is afraid that she will no longer be loved; “My whole world was black. I stared at the darkness. I knew they wouldn’t love me anymore”. But of course they do! Because, like No Matter What, this book is about unconditional love.

Emma Chichester Clark is the creator of the Blue Kangaroo and Melrose and Croc series. She has also illustrated a number of classic children’s stories, including Pinocchio, James and the Giant Peach and Greek Myths. And there are several more Plumdog books featuring the irresistible Plummie.

You Can Never Run Out Of Love
Written by Helen Docherty and illustrated by Ali Pye

You Can Never Run Out Of Love

You can run out of biscuits…
And you might run out of milk…
Or clean socks.
You can run out of money, and ideas, and energy.
But you can never, never, run out of love.

A joyful and tender story of the everyday, extraordinary love that inspires us to help friends and reach out to strangers.

Love that will never run out.

This is a wonderful book about an important aspect of love (and one that children often find tricky when it comes to friendships): the limitless nature of love. The words and pictures complement one another as they show the different things that we can run out of: biscuits, bread, energy, chocolates, socks, time, money and patience. Unlike all these finite things, “you can never (no never, not ever), you can never run out of love”. This is because “love doesn’t come in a bottle or jar” and “you don’t have to charge it”. And of course, paradoxically, “whenever you give some, you’ll always have more”. This book would make a great starting point for a discussion about love and friendships.

Helen Docherty has written a number of children’s books, most of which have been illustrated by her husband, Thomas. As an illustrator, Ali Pye has worked with authors including Rose Impey and Jill Lewis. Her book, Copy Cat, was published in 2016.

The Love In My Heart
Written by Tim Bugbird and illustrated by Nadine Wickenden

The Love In My Heart

Join Big and Boo as they journey home and discover that anything is possible with a heart full of love.

I particularly like the illustrations in this book. Hearts have been incorporated into the pictures as leaves, raindrops and clouds. Children would enjoy finding them on each page, adding another element to the reading experience. This book is also interesting in that it is about the way we view things when we look at them with love. Thunder becomes a song and flowers smell wonderful. Boo, the little rabbit, finds that the journey home is better when it is made with someone you love. Tim Bugbird and Nadine Wickenden have also worked together on another children’s book: The Perfect Gift.

I hope you have enjoyed this collection of books about love. Maybe they have inspired you to move beyond the “I love my mummy, because” books into the more profound and meaningful books about the nature of love. These are perfect for building compassionate and caring young children (and adults!).

All images taken by the author. All quotes taken from the blurb and contents of the book.

SaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSave

International Book Giving Day

This Wednesday, February 14th, is not just Library Lovers Day, but also International Book Giving Day. First conceived in 2012, this volunteer initiative is now held in over 30 countries. The aim is “to get books into the hands of as many children as possible… [thereby] increasing children’s access to and enthusiasm for books” (International Book Giving Day, n.d.). The International Book Giving Day website provides three easy ways to celebrate the day, while their Facebook page allows you to connect with others who are participating in the event. There are also a number of resources available for use, including bookmarks, bookplates and posters. This year, these have been created by Elys Dolan, a children’s author and illustrator from the UK. They are fabulous and free to download from the website.

International Book Giving Day 2018 poster by Elys Dolan

Book Giving Day

Image used with kind permission of International Book Giving Day

So get involved by buying or donating a book to a child. They might just catch the reading bug as a result of your kindness. Whatever you choose to do, have a happy International Book Giving Day (and Library Lovers Day) on Wednesday!

 

SaveSave

Love letter to a library

In February, there are several events to celebrate the love we have for both libraries and books. In Australia, one of these is Library Lovers Day, which is held on February 14th. An initiative of the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA), the theme this year is love letters to libraries and focuses on “the love that we all hold for libraries and how they help to shape our national identity” (ALIA, n.d.). With that in mind, here is my love letter to the library of my childhood…

Askew Road Library

Dear Askew Road Library,

You captured my heart from the moment I walked through your doors as a small child. You weren’t grand or beautiful like some of the other libraries in Hammersmith. In fact you were quite unassuming and plain. You may not have been much to look at, but inside you were rich with treasures. And I loved you. You opened up a world of imagination and knowledge to me. I spent hours with you, browsing your shelves and finding a quiet spot to read. I have so many happy memories of growing up with you. Although there have been many other libraries since we first met all those years ago, you have always had a special place in my heart.

Thank you for being a big part of my reading journey and for sharing your books with me.

The ALIA website contains ideas and resources for celebrating Library Lovers Day in your library. There are also a series of love letters written by Australian authors, such as Jackie French and Natalie Jane Prior. Here’s a very funny one from Tony Wilson, who wrote The Cow Tripped Over the Moon and Hickory Dickory Dash

Love Letter

Image used with kind permission of ALIA

Join in the fun and celebrate all that is wonderful about libraries. Maybe you could write your own love letter to a library or go on a blind date with a book. Whatever you choose to do, let your library know how much it is valued and appreciated.

Guest post: Olivia’s top five favourite books

To kick off the New Year, we have another guest at Tales From The Children’s Library. I’ve invited Olivia, my seven-year-old niece, to share her five favourite books with you. Over to you, Olivia…

Here are my top five favourite books:

Olivia's Books

1. Up the Faraway Tree
Written by Enid Blyton and illustrated by Mark Beech (cover)

Up The Faraway Tree

One day, Robin and Joy read about the Magic Faraway Tree in a book and decide to go meet Joe, Beth and Frannie themselves. The five children have all sorts of exciting adventures together, including being captured by the Enchanter Red-Cloak in the Land of Castles, a birthday treat for Joy in the Land of Wishes, and a delicious visit to the Land of Cakes!

It’s a book that is funny and cool at the same time. It makes me happy when I read it. My favourite character is the squirrel that brings the cushions up the tree. He is really cute.

This is the fourth book in The Faraway Tree series, the first two being The Enchanted Wood and The Magic Faraway Tree.

2. The Folk of the Faraway Tree
Written by Enid Blyton and illustrated by Mark Beech (cover) and Jan McCafferty (interior)

The Folk Of Faraway Tree

Stuck-up Connie refuses to believe in the Faraway Tree-until Joe, Beth and Frannie take her to the Land of Secrets and the Land of Treats!

But then the tree starts dying, and nobody knows what’s wrong. How can they save the magical Faraway Tree?

This book makes me laugh and it makes me feel happy. My favourite story from it is ‘Up the ladder-that-has-no-top’.

This is the third book in The Faraway Tree series.

3. We’re Going on a Bear Hunt
Written by Michael Rosen and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury

We're Going On A Bear Hunt

We’re going on a bear hunt.
We’re going to catch a big one.
What a beautiful day!
We’re not scared.

I like this book because when I was little, we used to read it a lot and I like the illustrations. My favourite page is going into the big dark forest.

4. Violet and the Hidden Treasure
Written by Harriet Whitehorn and illustrated by Becka Moor

Violet And The Hidden Treasure

Can you solve the case of the hidden treasure?

Violet has spent her holiday exploring India, including visiting the beautiful palace of the eccentric Maharajah where she meets his very special cockatoo. But when she returns home, Violet is surprised to receive a visit from the Maharajah’s butler, asking her to look after the bird. Because the cockatoo holds the secret to the Maharajah’s fortune, and someone is trying to bird-nap her to claim the treasure!

Can Violet discover who the culprit is?

In this book, Violet has to solve the mystery of the hidden treasure, which is a cockatoo. I like it when Violet finds the cockatoo. The characters in the story are Violet, Rose, Art, Angel and Rajesh.

This is the second book in the Violet series, the others being Violet and the Pearl of the Orient, Violet and the Smugglers and Violet and the Mummy Mystery. The next installment, Violet and the Mystery of Tiger Island, will be released in July 2018.

5. Harper and the Night Forest
Written by Cerrie Burnell and illustrated by Laura Ellen Anderson

Harper And The Night Forest

When Harper and her friends visit the mysterious Night Forest, their plan is to capture the magical Ice Raven. But little by little the fairy tale secrets of the forest come to light. The children soon realise what it would mean if the Ice Raven left the enchanted woods for ever…

I like this book because it’s a very mysterious book. My favourite character is Smoke the wolf (mine too), because wolves are one of my favourite animals. Harper is a girl from the circus of dreams. She has a magic umbrella and a cat called Midnight. She goes on adventures with her friends, Nate, Liesel and Ferdie.

This is the third book in the Harper series, the others being Harper and the Scarlet Umbrella, Harper and the Circus of Dreams, Harper and the Fire Star and Harper and the Sea of Secrets.

Thank you, Olivia for sharing your favourite books with us. Maybe she’s inspired you to try a new book or author!

All images taken by the author. All quotes taken from the blurb of the book.