When I was growing up, I was always surrounded by books. My parents were avid readers and my grandfather wrote many books on Welsh agriculture. He was also a curator at the National Museum of Wales at St. Fagan’s – a heritage we are very proud of. In later years, my mother owned a bookshop and my older sister is now a published academic author. But for me, it did not come so easily. I always loved children’s books more than “grown-up books”, as I found them so accessible. It is easy to fall into the colourful world and stories of authors like Enid Blyton and Julia Donaldson.
However, I was inspired to read by my family, who I saw reading every day. I still remember when I read my first novel. It was called Redwall by Brian Jaques. I recall being able to vividly picture the scenes of the mice monks, the monastery and the evil rats. The book was very thick and it was a revelation to me that I could read something so big! It wasn’t until recently that I discovered that the author had written the book for the children he worked with in a school for the blind. No wonder I could so easily conjure the imagery of the book in my mind. It had been specifically written for people who find it difficult to access stories in the same way as others.
We are all different and we all access reading in different ways. Many children love the idea of books and always choose thick novels to read but find that too many words on a page can be intimidating. Many of our pupils here at Wellington College Hangzhou are bilingual and reading in another language is a skill they are still learning. I suggest different authors and genres that may appeal to them and we have created collections in the library specifically for pupils to choose from a wide variety of authors whose books have been adapted to suit emerging readers. Our Chinese and bilingual books are very popular as well and we are working with the teachers to make the selection even more appealing to the pupils. I also encourage pupils to come up with their own ideas, and have placed a suggestion box on the library front-desk where they can write down the names of books they would like to read. In addition, we are in the process of developing our e-bookshelf for online readers. Inspiring people to read cannot be done using a “one size fits all” approach. Having a vast library with a huge selection of books in it is only one of our many offerings.
Last week we held our first book fair in school, which provided pupils the opportunity to choose their own books to buy and read at home. We spent time throughout the book fair happily helping pupils find books they want to read for pleasure. Over the academic year, in addition to regular book fairs, the pupils can look forward to author visits, reading challenges, readathons, and book display competitions. Additional opportunities to get involved including joining existing initiatives such as the book fairs, becoming a volunteer Library Assistant and joining the Bookworms ASA. And of course, pupils can come to us anytime with suggestions for books, reading related games and activities.
We are passionate about trying to instill a love of reading in the next generation. This passion is what I will pass on to the pupils of Wellington College Hangzhou as the a school librarian. I relate to avid and reluctant readers alike and spend my time and energy finding books for them. I feel privileged to be able to come to work every day and be surrounded by the books from my childhood and I still love each one of them as old friends. I get to talk about books and also listen to the pupils and teachers tell me about books that are special to them. I love being introduced to new authors every day! My favourite part of the job is when someone asks me to recommend a book; the only problem is I can never choose just one – there are so many that I want to share!
Remember to pop into the library from time-to-time. You never know what you will discover.