Mrs. Gibbs

Booknook Blue in Maryborough

Why did you decide to start a children’s book club?

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.

How many children came to book club and what did you read?

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.

Other than reading, what other activities do you do in Booknook Blue?

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.

Is there a cost?

$2 every week helped pay for art/ craft materials, stickers and contributed to book buying for the club.

When did you run your book 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.

Where did the name “Booknook Blue” originate?

I started the meetings in a blue room in our Maryborough home. “Booknook” suggested cosiness and intimacy.

Can you run a children’s book club without a teaching background?

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.

How much time is needed in running a children’s book club?

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.

What are the main benefits in having a kid’s book club?

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.

Has there been a special memory at book club?

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.

Do you have some favourite children���s authors?

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!

How do you match the right book with the right child?

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.

What do the children say about Booknook Blue?

“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

Have you faced some problems in running a book club?

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!

What tips do you have for encouraging others to start a book club?

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.

How can I start with limited resources?

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.

How can parents help in book club?

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.

Where do you get your art ideas from?

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.

Booknook Blue is now no longer running due to family commitments and work. However, I am always eager to share my loads of books to school students.

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