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readilearn: Libraries: A wondrous universe to explore — A guest post by Dimity Powell

  • Published on June 22, 2018

Dimitiy Powell writes a guest post about the importance of school libraries

This week I am delighted to introduce you to award-winning children’s author Dimity Powell.

Dimity likes to fill every spare moment with words. She writes and reviews stories exclusively for kids and is the Managing Editor for Kids’ Book Review. Her word webs appear in anthologies, school magazines, junior novels, as creative digital content, and picture books including The Fix-It Man (2017) and At The End of Holyrood Lane (2018).

She is a seasoned presenter both in Australia and overseas, an accredited Write Like An Author facilitator and a Books in Homes Role Model Volunteer in Australia.

Dimity believes picture books are soul food, to be consumed at least 10 times a week. If these aren’t available, she’ll settle for ice-cream. She lives just around the corner from Bat Man on the Gold Coast although she still prefers hanging out in libraries than with superheroes.

In this post, Dimity shares her love of libraries and explains why it is important to ensure every child has access to a library at school and every reader a local library.

Welcome to readilearn, Dimity. Over to you.

 if books were portals then the library was my universe - quote by Dimity Powell

If books were portals into other places and times, then the local library was my universe.’

This simple notion must also include my primary school library, which utilised the space of just two normal classrooms, tucked away on the second story of one old building. More of an afterthought than an intentionally built resource refuge. Yet it was crammed to bursting full of books. I remember spending hours ambling up and down the narrow avenues of bookshelves, each towering well above me, rainbow coloured spines providing decoration and the promise of enrichment.

A librarian whose name I can no longer remember but whose presence remains with me like a birthmark revealed the secrets of the Dewy System to me in my school library.

Dimity Powell was one those kids who loved books more than other kids

I was one of those kids who loved books more than I loved other kids (being shy suited spending time with stories better than being in the playground), so I guess the library was a natural place to gravitate to, to be with my ‘friends’.

Dimity Powell says primary school libraries are uber cool

These days, however, it’s not just the shy bookish kids that frequent school libraries. IT opportunities attract kids to the resource centre like ants to a picnic. Primary school libraries are purpose-built, technology imbued, uber cool places to hang out in on a hot day – literally, but also because games, lounge areas, exhibits and competitions are at their hub.

A place that is safe, welcoming, socially stimulating, fun and, let’s not forget, filled with a billion other worlds to explore, is a place no child can resist visiting…at least once. Even if the intention of spending time in the library has shifted for some kids, at least they are in a world of words and visual stimulation and therefore, possibilities. I’m a great believer in the power of osmosis by association, that environments can influence.

Therefore, I was shocked speechless and dismayed beyond measure to learn that the high school my child attends has but one or two shelves of physical books in their resource centre. Walls and shelves are bereft of fiction-based book titles. The atmosphere is one of slick modern minimalism. There is not a Dewy chart in sight.

Dimity Powell says a library without books is like land cleared of trees

I get this approach of course. Tomorrow’s kids are riding a wave of IT-based pedagogy; it’s easier and more efficient to access textbooks online not to mention easier on their backs not having to cart them around.  I presume this is less of a financial burden on the school as well, allowing them to redirect tight budgets for other resources. However, the sheer barren atmosphere of a bookless library left me feeling empty and sad and hopelessly bereft, rather like seeing a track of verdant bushland cleared for a housing development.

Where will all those ‘friends’ dwell now?

The differential beauty of school libraries from other centres harbouring resources and literature for children is that we, the parents and caregivers, the guardians of our children’s well-being and best interests, are not there.

In this case, that’s a good thing. Why? Because it allows a young child to wonder through the vestibules of stories for themselves with minimal influence, and less judgement, giving them the time and freedom to deliberate, muse, sample, and choose the story that enchants them best; to establish ownership of their decisions then be rewarded for doing so instantly by the story they journey into. Until children can drive themselves to the local library or book shop, this is a unique opportunity for them to experience, constituting special moments in their psychological development.

Jackie French says books are not broccoli

As Jackie French once stated, ‘Books are not broccoli!’ It may take several ‘tries’ before a fledging reader finds the book that tempts them enough to want to read it to the very end. Imagine when they do, how that might stimulate their appetite to read more.

children who read more, survive better, says Dimity Powell

Simply, if kids read more, they will survive better in today’s and in tomorrow’s world. They will learn empathy, improve literacy, increase caring; all powerful attributes to unleash in a community.

To neglect our school libraries and ignore their demise to the point of their extinction in our schools is a travesty that cannot be understated. Without them, we remove our young people’s chance to explore worlds and systems they simply cannot replicate online. We deny them the right to wonder through a sensory land of infinite possibilities and discoveries and strip them of even more human interaction, the very basis of storytelling.

Why remove a wondrous universe where children may look up, around, from side to side, behind and through for answers, not just down, creased in half over their devices.

Vive la expansion of this universe!

#schoollibrariesmatter

#booksmatter

#readingmatters

Thank you guest author

Thank you, Dimity, for sharing your thoughts about the importance of reading and the value of maintaining our school libraries. I am sure all of us are nodding in agreement.

Morris Gleitzman quote about the power of reading

Postscript: Earlier this month, Dimity and I, along with others from our local literary community, had the great pleasure of attending an inspiring lecture by Australian Children’s Laureate Morris Gleitzman. Gleitzman says that his role as laureate is a very simple gig. He says, “My job is to remind those that need reminding that stories, sharing them, reading, reading to each other is incredibly important.”

He says“Every time we open a book, it has the potential of bathing  us in the joyful light of possibility.” He says, “When every child finds the book that is right for them, and they are transported, it is virtual reality beyond their dreams. It is making connections with hearts, feelings and imagination. When we read a character off a page, there are always parts that we can create. It’s a build your own friend exercise.”

Of course, we couldn’t agree more.

You can access an easy-to-share printable version of Dimity’s post here: Libraries A wondrous universe to explore – a guest post by Dimity Powell.

Discover more about Dimity and her writing at:

www.dimitypowell.com

or connect with her on social media:

Twitter: @DimityPowell

Facebook: Dimity Powell Author

Linkedin: Dimity Powell

Instagram: Dimity Powell

Dimity’s books are available from many great bookshops all over the world (please support them!)

or via Boomerang Books online and Amazon.

P.S. Who Stole Santa's MailHave You Seen My Spots?The Fix-It ManAt the end of Holyrood Lane

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Comments

    A wonderful post about libraries, Norah. I really loved the library in Auckland, New Zealand and it had lots of physical books. I have had to cut back on physical books at home as we just don’t have the space and I never want to give any away. I now buy collectors item books and all the rest I buy as ebooks.

    Hi, Robbie. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I must admit I tend to buy adult material as digital or audio books now, but I still prefer paper picture books. I think it’s okay for us who’ve grown up with books in our hands and know the delight they offer. I think young children still need to develop that.

    What a pleasure to meet Dimity. Books are definitely food for the soul, and it’s sad to see libraries downsizing or closing. I get such a thrill when walking into my local library. I feel I can go anywhere in the universe ❤

    I’m so pleased you enjoyed Dimity’s post, Tina. Your joy in books and libraries reflects Dimity’s and my own.

    Excellent post Dimity. That was sad to read. Despite the digital world taking over, I don’t think it’s reason to take away libraries. The little ones especially need to learn what it feels like to hold and look at a book that can take them away to magical places. Libraries cannot be replaced by digital reading. Even as a writer, there are just some books I can only keep and read in paperback. Thanks for visiting and sharing this at Norah’s wonderful blog. 🙂

    Thank you for reading and commenting on Dimity’s post, Debby. What she shared about her daughter’s school library is sad, isn’t it? I find it appalling that so many don’t consider libraries and librarians, especially in schools, to be of value any more. I think a library, and a trained librarian, should be the hub. I, of course, agree with you about the need for little ones ‘to learn what it feels like to hold and look at a book that can take them away to magical places.’ Oh, the places we go …

    I definitely believe in the power of the library and feel it is very important for children to be let loose in them regularly. They have story telling, games and a coffe shop in our local one in Portsmouth and it is also a place for the elderly to come in to meet, be taught how to use computers and interact with the children. A learning one stop shop.

    Thank you so much for reading and commenting on Dimity’s post, Sally. Libraries have transformed over the years to be community hubs, haven’t they? As you say, “A learning one stop shop”. As long as they don’t ditch the books, I’m happy for them to add incentives to get people there.

    Love the idea that picture books are soul food! I agree with Dimity about the power and wonder of libraries. I hadn’t thought of books also leading children to be better adjusted to the world. We should all be working to maintain our libraries. No one wants a clear cut forest.

    Books really are soul food, aren’t they? Especially those special ones that seem to have been written just for us. And I agree with you about books and forests. While paper for books may be made from forests, there’s no need to wipe out whole forests for books.:)

    Wonderful post celebrating libraries and all they do for children and the community. I love a ‘real’ book and hope they continue to be part of our lives for a long time to come.

    Thank you so much, Marje. I thoroughly enjoyed Dimity’s post and am pleased you did too. Libraries are such special places, I can’t imagine them becoming obsolete, and I totally agree with you about “real” books.

    I am amazed at how high tech libraries are today. They offer so much support to kids. I hope books don’t disappear and become digital. I find it hard to work on a computer then sit down and read a digital book — it’s hard on my eyes. It makes me wonder what it’s doing to kids. I would think a book in hand would offer another experience and a way to unplug.

    I agree, Patricia. Libraries are very different nowadays from when we were growing up, aren’t they? I think libraries are wonderful resources for finding out information in many different ways. I love my digital books now. I can have them with me wherever I go and I can carry a whole library in one hand. However, I second your hope that books are not entirely replaced by digital editions. There is nothing like sitting down with a good book and turning the pages one by one. I think all children still need that sensory experience with “real’ books. There is nothing to match the sight, smell and feel of a new book. (P.S. You mention digital books being hard on your eyes. Have you tried reading with white print on a black background? I find it much more comfortable reading that way and not nearly as tiring.)

Please share your thoughts. I love it when you do.

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