While living in Maryborough in Queensland, I took a trip to Melbourne to visit Dromkeen – a graceful old home that houses a fantastic collection of Australian children’s books. This home with its artworks and books inspired me to connect children and reading in a home setting. I came back to Maryborough very keen to start up a reading club that would bring children and books together. Booknook Blue began soon after in 1987.
In Maryborough I welcomed up to 20 children, from year one to seven, including my own four children. We read just about everything, from non-fiction, humorous books, comics, current paperbacks, escape stories to realistic fiction and notable picture books. We looked at Classics and fantasy – all genres really.
Children enjoyed art and craft activities related to books. We played literary games, visited book shops, celebrated parties and participated in book week activities. From a backyard scavenger hunt based on a picture book to creating a mural or writing poems, the children liked keeping busy. We had dress up parties and lots of fun.
$2 every week helped pay for art/ craft materials, stickers and contributed to book buying for the club.
Every Thursday afternoon starting around 4pm. Parents collected their children at 5.30pm. Booknook Blue started in Maryborough in 1987 and finished in Kenmore 2002.
I started the meetings in a blue room in our Maryborough home. “Booknook” suggested cosiness and intimacy.
Yes. You only need a small enthusiastic group of kids who are happy to belong to a club with reading and book fun activities. You do need a strong sense of commitment and love of children’s literature. An ability to get alongside and communicate with children is important too.
My club usually ran for an hour and a half after school. Preparation time included 1-2 hours per week, that is finding the right books, gathering resources, organising and some photo copying.
It’s wonderful to see the children enjoy books. Their imagination, language and knowledge is increased as well as the social factor of kids meeting other kids. Confidence in reading and choosing books is gained too. It’s good to see their interests develop and nurtured. The rewards are positive from parents and feedback so encouraging. The kids liked being part of something unique. Exposing children to a wider variety of books is wonderful.
In Maryborough the children and I made a reading granny from calico. We dressed her up on an old chair with different costumes to match the book she read. We also enjoyed reading in the park, spread out on blankets with baskets of books. It was relaxing and fun.
My favourite picture book writers/ illustrators are Margaret Wild, Pamela Allen, Bob Graham, Mem Fox, Brian Wildsmith, Colin Thompson, Greg Rogers and Jeannie Baker. For young adult fiction I like Wendy Orr, Garry Disher, Isobelle Carmody, Gary Crew, Shaun Tan and Martine Murray. I also love Margaret Mahy and Margaret Beames from New Zealand. Too many to mention!
By listening to what the kids tell you. Find out what they like to do, discover their hobbies and interests. Sometimes a child will be into a “series” book and they are so happy to read the next one in the series. Others like books about animals and experiments, or things like air disasters. Girls may be into reading horse books or boys might like magic, science or joke books.
“Book club encourages me to read and write in a friendly setting. I am excited about going to book club where I belong.” Sophie
“Book club shows me good books and authors to read. It makes reading and exploring books fun.” Gina
Book club gives me inspiration to read lots of books. It is fun.” Rachael
Very few. Mostly we run out of time so you do need a well planned and organised venue. Friends usually sit with friends, try to encourage a quieter reader with a more confident person. Keep the pencils sharpened! Keep the activity simple. Be fair with rewards and no showing off!
You need a safe, comfortable room and access to a table. It helps to have big cushions on the floor and a crate of books.
Parents can read stories or help with craft. They can tell stories about the past by being a guest speaker. They can assist in driving children to bookshops and talking about their experiences at book club when the children come home. Donations are good.
I look for ideas in the art/ craft section of the junior library. Watch out for inexpensive art books on sale in shops, fetes and ask primary teachers for their ideas. Look at the displays in shop windows and hunt out bargains/ freebies from art specialist shops. Shoe boxes, cereal packets, sponges, papers etc all come in handy with the kids.
Lots of enthusiasm and a sense of loyalty to the children. Be passionate about the literature, words and pictures. Involve yourself with the local libraries and book shops. Read yourself. Know what’s out there and be prepared to give to the children and community.
Gina “I have very enjoyable memories of book club in Maryborough. The first to come to mind was cutting coloured card, drawing pictures and gluing sheets relating to different stories, characters and authors and book awards in my scrapbook. It was exciting to have a “book” that I made and that I could keep, which contained a growing record of books as well as my art efforts. I also remember a food day where everybody had to bring a plate of food inspired by a book.”
Sophie “I liked mixing with different aged kids from different schools. It encouraged me to read and write in a friendly and enjoyable setting. I was excited about going to book club where I belonged.”
Mrs Trish Milne – “Booknook Blue provides an excellent catalyst for reaching the children’s skills – whether in a writing capacity or in a drawing one, or even dramatic one. It continues to attract inquisitive minds to explore books. What I see as the biggest challenges facing Booknook Blue is its capacity to appeal to so many different children, each from unique backgrounds, inevitable bringing so many different interests.”
Mrs Narelle Lightbody – “ For the past two and half years I have had two girls involved in Margaret Gibbs and her Booknook Blue club. I have found the club to be of great benefit for my children. They have always looked forward to going and enjoy the club immensely. The resource material Katrina and Kirsty have obtained from Margaret has been used on several occasions for their school projects, lecturettes and just for general sharing and information. We have found the information was of interest to both the children and teachers. During the course of the book club, Margaret has told the children titles and authors who write and illustrate for specific ages and interests. I have found that this has made it easier for the girls to be able to confidently choose their own books both at bookshops and our local library. Since attending the book club I have found that they are now also reading a greater variety of books. The girls always feel safe and happy in the warm and caring environment that Margaret manages to create at every book club. I know both girls and myself will miss Margaret and her family when they leave the town.”
Mrs Ruth Lighbody – Oh Margaret, I do passionately believe in the value of reading for children. Books stimulate imagination so much. Pictures of the past in people’s own words awaken an interest in history. Books inevitably increase a child’s vocabulary and appreciation of language. In fact, I believe the ability to read is magical, because the wisdom and knowledge of the ages can be found in books and oh! The sheer enjoyment.”