The Rainbow Library

ReaditDaddy’s wonderful campaign encouraging parents to read to their children has really caught the book blogging community’s imagination. The basic premise is to support and encourage people to read aloud to their children, and to work with other agencies to raise awareness. ReaditDaddy is busy blogging, reviewing and spreading the word and twitter seems full of positivity and commitment for the project.

I spent yesterday pondering how best to join in and support the campaign. I already read (a lot) to little miss rhino and we visit the library every week. I am passionate about the power of language and a strong believer in the importance of positive, quality books in childhood but I didn’t know what I could offer to the project other than a blog of support. I spent a lovely morning browsing blogs and reading around the project. I got learning and I got inspired.

Here are a few of the things that chimed with me when I read them.

The lovely Clara Vulliamy said:
“And if you hang onto only one thing:
of course they will love the books, they love the person reading them!”
And “Books aren’t ‘good for you’ like vegetables – they’re wild creatures you’re letting loose.”

I love that! ‘Wild creatures you’re letting loose.’ That really caught my imagination… and so began my cunning plan.

Catherine from Story Snug commented that
“My only New Year’s resolution (which I haven’t managed as much as I would have liked!) is also to read more in front of my daughter, I want to be a better role model so that she knows that I also enjoy reading and it is not something that I just do with her.”
Sold! Any excuse! I will read more in front of little miss rhino. That is something I can actively change.

And then I found this blog from Library Mice
“But I can’t help thinking that if each newborn had a book fairy, we wouldn’t face the dreadful reality of children not being able to read, and not being able to enjoy books.”

What a perfect point. So many children don’t have a bookcase of their own, don’t get read to every day, don’t get taken to the library, don’t have access to brilliant books that teach them about the world and their potential in it. What a better place the world would be if all children did have a book fairy who could perhaps resolve some of that. How could I set some books wild and become a book fairy???

So my pledge for readitdaddy’s campaign is to set up a book box library at the local nursery where children can borrow a book and take it home to read. It just so happens that tomorrow is International Book Giving Day and I’ve already bought a few Catherine Rayner books to give to the nursery. Yesterday I ran the idea past the nursery and today I raided the shops.

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The nursery has a catchment area that reaches into local deprived areas. The majority of children don’t have access to a wide range of books outside of the nursery. They don’t have great language skills and they don’t have great role models. This is where Readitdaddy’s campaign needs to be reaching. It also means there were a few things to think about when putting it all together.

• The books might not get returned.
Hey ho. I’m setting books loose into this library and if they don’t come back then a child has a book in their home that they wouldn’t otherwise have had access to. I’m all fine with that prospect.

• The books might make it home but there might not be someone there who is willing, or able, to read it to them.
To counter this I have tried to include lots of books with pictures that tell a story and board books that children can explore independently.

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• The children (or parents) might not be interested.
I’ve tried to include really great books that will give children and adults a taste of wonderful language and illustration.

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But I’m very aware that these will be far removed from the day to day experience of a lot of the children. I’ve included some tv tie-in books to appeal to what they know and encourage the children to have a look. They might not have books at home but they’ll certainly know who Fireman Sam is.

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I have labelled all the books to say they belong to the Rainbow library and added a little notebook where staff and parents can keep a record of the books they take home. And now, the Rainbow Library is ready to rock.

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I’ve made a long-term commitment to the nursery to supply books for the library and support the running and use of it. In addition, I plan to monitor the books and see which children aren’t using the library, then I will go in to the nursery for an hour a week and read with those children.

Mission on!

How can you help?
Perhaps you could donate a book? Are you a children’s author or illustrator? Maybe you could donate one of your books. A book blogger? Maybe you could donate a review book? A publisher? Maybe you could send some review books this way. I promise that all review copies will be donated to Rainbow Library. A parent? Maybe you could sort out some books your child has grown out of and donate them?
Or… Perhaps you could become a book fairy and start your own book box library?
Perhaps you’ve done something similar and can offer me any advice or words of wisdom?

Tomorrow I will take the books to the nursery and set them loose. I’ll keep you posted!

UPDATE
See author and illustrator superstar and lady of loveliness, Clara Vulliamy’s blog of support for the Rainbow Library on her website here!

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41 thoughts on “The Rainbow Library

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  1. What a fantastic idea. Do please keep us posted on how it’s going. We’re trying to encourage parents at my daughter’s primary school to donate good quality used and unwanted books to our library to help perk up the stock but I like the idea of children choosing books to borrow and take home in a slightly less formal process. Good luck!

    1. Thank you. I’ll definitely do update posts and chat on about it on Twitter. I’m hoping that some of the nursery parents will donate books too. The majority of the books I bought were from charity shops, topped up with some new ones. Doesn’t have to cost a fortune.

  2. What a wonderful idea! I’d love to donate some books – please DM me your address and I’ll send a couple. Your post made me realise how lucky my son is to go to a nursery (run by the local authority on a fairly deprived council estate, with lots of children for whom English is a second language) which already has a thriving library – the children take home two books every Wednesday.

    1. Thank you so much for your support. It means a lot. Could you tell me a bit about how their library works? I’m intrigued by the idea of the children having a day when they take books home. How do the nursery work that? All tips and ideas gratefully received.

      1. They have portable book stacks – a bit difficult to explain but they’re vertical shelves with the books held in by elastic – which they stock up with a selection of books and get out once a week – Tuesdays for the morning children, Wednesdays for the afternoon ones. When the children are brought to nursery their parents/carers help them choose two books, which are recorded in a file kept by one of the teachers. Each child has their own named page in the file to record which books they’ve taken and when. Then on the following week they bring the books back (hopefully!) and once the books are returned and signed off they’re allowed to take two more out. The books are taken home in transparent bags labelled ‘School Bag’ which the nursery provides – I tried searching for them on the internet but couldn’t see any examples, but I could ask the nursery where they get them from if you want.
        I’m sure if you wanted some more pointers the nursery might be willing to discuss it with you. Their email address is admin@ethelred-nursery.lambeth.sch.uk The head teacher there is fantastic – it’s a gem of a place, where books are very much valued. There are even lots of books in the lobby area to encourage parents/carers to read to their children while they’re waiting for the nursery to open, and boxes of books everywhere in the nursery itself!

  3. What an absolute star you are! If anyone deserves a brilliant Book Fairy badge, you do and what a brilliant idea! I love the idea of International Book Giving Day being held on a day when people usually give each other something that will either be scoffed or will wilt away to nothing. Giving someone a book they can enjoy for years to come instead? Much much better idea.

    Great stuff Carmen and what a brilliant post!

  4. This is practical brilliance of the highest order. I’m giving you a small standing ovation. (only small because it’s just me in front of my computer screen- but it IS as big as I can make it)

    1. Actually I hadn’t thought of that but it’s a very good idea and VERY kind of you to offer support. I have no idea how to go about setting one up but I’ll get onto it and keep you posted. Thank you 🙂

  5. Good luck with the Rainbow Library Carmen (I love the name by the way). It is lovely that you are reaching out to children who may not otherwise have access to books (or parents who for whatever reason can’t or don’t read with their children). I would also like to send some books to you if you can DM an address that I can send them to. I have given books to friends and family but it means so much more to send to children who really would appreciate them.

    Have fun reading in front of your daughter 🙂

  6. A wonderfully creative idea to get books into the hands of very young readers whose families may not make it to the library. It’s been neat to see you inspire others! -Amy

    1. I will post regular blogs about the Rainbow library and how the children are getting on but obviously I won’t be able to post photos of the children or the nursery. Photos of books though, I’ll certainly be doing that!

  7. I feel rather embarrassed I’m only finding this post now – but what a great idea. I’m really excited to read about it. Last year I ran a book swap on a similar basis and I have to admit that stickers were a huge incentive for the kids – I gave them one sticker when they returned a book, and another when they took one out (so most of them would get two stickers). Also, if I ever found publisher freebies eg badges, posters, postcards, I’d give them away – kids were always delighted to get a freebie, and word spread like wildfire on freebie days, attracting other kids to the book swap, kids that might not have come otherwise.

  8. I’ve had this page bookmarked ready to read for ages, and I’m glad I finally got round to it. What a fabulous idea. I’ll certainly promote to my contacts in publishing companies, and I know that I have a couple of duplicate copies of books here which I could send to you – I just need details of where to…

    Good luck, oh book fairy extraordinaire!

    P.S. Also very excited to see the first book I ever project managed/designed/selected words for in one of your photos!

    1. Hi Beth, thank you for your kind words and offers. I will DM you address on twitter. I’m just starting to contact publishers re review copies so any support on that front would be v welcome.
      Now do tell… Which book???

      1. Yes! Perfectly selected though. The book works beautifully for all the ages at the nursery. The little ones love its simplicity and the older ones are able to read it independently. Perfecto!

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