The Rainbow Library has come back to the Rhino Reading Room for a well deserved rest and repair during the summer holidays. By the time it goes back to the nursery in September it will have been running for six months. In that time I have seen such generosity and support. People have sent me loads of brilliant books for the library, and I have had wonderful advice, support and encouragement along the way. Thank you to everyone who has helped in these important first six months. It has made a real difference to the children. Special thanks to Kerry Haselup, Clara Vulliamy, Letterbox Library and ChildsPlay.
A big thanks to the nursery staff too, who have worked tirelessly for the children and never once moaned about lugging a heavy box of books out of the cupboard everyday. I’ve had the opportunity to watch them in action over the last six months and they really are a dream team. They know and understand every child and are there for every child, no matter what home life they come from or what extra support they may need. No child is turned away and every single one leaves as a happier, healthier and more confident individual. They truly inspire me when it all feels a bit pointless and making a difference seems unachievable.
Caitlin Moran wrote an awesome letter to her 13 year old daughter in the Times a couple of weeks ago. In it she said ‘always believe you can change the world-even if it’s only a tiny bit, because every tiny bit needed someone who changed it. Think of yourself as a silver rocket – use loud music as your fuel; books like maps and co-ordinates for how to get there.’ I love that! So I’m using the summer holidays to take stock, say thank you to all the wonderful people who have helped in the first six months and to plan how to change the world in the next six.
I spent some time last week sorting through the books that were in the library box, with my sticky labels and book bandages at the ready. When I set up the library I made a point of explaining to all the grown ups that I didn’t want them to be precious about the books, that I wanted the children to enjoy them and use them, and if that meant that a few books got sucked and ripped and eaten by the dog, then so be it. Some of the adults were wary of borrowing the books, nervous of the responsibility of having someone else’s book in their home. It took some convincing but the book box has been used regularly by about a third of the children and dipped into every now and again by more. I was expecting to have a big repair job on my hands. I was expecting rips and scribbles and missing pages and lost books. However, a bit of tape was needed here and there but only one book was beyond help. Even that one is going to be recycled into badges and activity sheets for the children. Part of not being precious about the books means that I haven’t kept track of how many I have added in along the way, so a few books might have flown the Rainbow nest and been adopted. I like that.
I’m feeling very proud of all the Rainbow Library children and their grown ups. They have embraced the library and helped make the first six months a success. My aim was to get books into the hands of the kids that most needed them and I feel that I have achieved that. They all have access to the library every day. Their daily story time session is enriched by the staff dipping into the library books, and I read with them once every few weeks. One of the best things I’ve been able to achieve is to give each child a book to take home and keep for World Book Day, thanks to the amazing generosity of ChildsPlay. Even now in the summer holidays children are still asking for books when they see me and the Rainbow Library has become a bit of a mobile unit!
But I think I can do more.
So what’s next?
First I want to get better.
When I take the library back to the nursery in September I will read with the children more frequently and for longer. I never quite managed to do it once a week and I often left the children wanting more because I had to go after an hour or two. That’s not really good enough. I want to be more organised and make sure I can give them more quality time.
I want to print or make activity sheets to go with the books I take in, for the staff to use or to keep in the library for the children to take home.
Sites like Playing By the Book are a wonderful source of book-related activities. I hope to be able to share these ideas with the staff at the nursery to support them with linking books and stories into their everyday adventures with the children.
Story sacks! I love story sacks! With help from Loll of Storyseekers fame, I’ve started work on a Martha and the Bunny Brothers I Heart School story sack to use with the children. I want to make puppets and toys and games and fun resources to enhance the books. I want to work with dual language friends and make a Polish one and a French one. I want the staff to be able to use them during the day and the children to be able to take them home and play with them with their families.
I’d love to organise a trip to the local library. The children’s librarian is wonderful and inspiring and I think the children would really benefit from seeing the ‘real’ library and all the joy it holds. Maybe it could encourage the adults to join the library for their children.
I want to work harder to catch the children who are falling through the net. There will always be children whose adults wont want them to use the library, for whatever reason. When I go in to read I want to try and have time to read one-to-one with those children and help them learn to love books.
Then I want to get bigger.
A friend is working on an exciting project to create a new child-focused community space in Brighton. I hope to be able to set up and maintain a branch of the Rainbow Library there. I’m thinking author and illustrator visits, book-inspired art sessions, story times, children’s creative writing sessions.
I have Ideas and Plans. But I’m open to more. If you have any links to activity sheets, printables or websites that could help then please add them in the comments box or give me a shout on twitter. If you have any great ideas that I can steal, please share.
If you are an artist or illustrator who would be interested in becoming a friend of the Rainbow Library and supporting it in any way- visits, activity sheets, or ideas to link with your books- I’d love to hear from you.
Thank you to everyone who has helped in the Rainbow Library’s first six months. Here’s to the next six and to changing the world a tiny bit at a time.