HAVE any of us ever asked children what they would like to have in their school libraries? You’d be amazed at some of their candid replies.
Our aim then, dear parents and teachers, should be to make our school libraries as child-friendly as possible.
Physical set-up: Is there any way we could help change the present set-up? Most children I spoke to find it dull and boring. They want fresh coats of paint in soothing colours; none of those frilly garments that adorn the shelves but practical easy-to-reach physical arrangements. Some suggested beanbags to loll around in while they read. Others want magazines that are more suitable for their age group, including those on computing, automobile engineering, nature/travel, or simply easy-to-read pictorials, that are not too “wordy”. My own offspring wants easy-to-reach revolving racks for books and magazines.
Library skills: A retired librarian bemoaned that many students have not heard of the Dewey Decimal System. Why? Because no one has taken the trouble to explain how books are arranged in a library. Hence, one often finds books and magazines slotted back higgledy-piggledy into shelves. It would certainly help if teachers and library assistants take the trouble to explain the proper use of the library and drill them into recognising symbols and icons that are used in marking/numbering all pusat sumber (resource centre) properties. This would go a long way in helping children locate reading materials that interest them.
Special corners/spots: At an international school in Kuala Lumpur I once visited, I was impressed with the innovative use of corners and wall space to attract pupils. There was a Speakers’ Corner where teachers, volunteers and children took delight in storytelling, poem recitals, sing-a-longs, public speaking, etc. There were even lessons, such as Social Studies, where guests of different nationalities were invited to speak on their cultures and customs.
Read-aloud marathons: Children could be asked to take turns to read aloud from a particular book. This would boost their self-confidence.
Billboards: At the school I visited, words like, “All-time favourite read”, “A brilliant must-read” etc were put up by the children themselves on a billboard. I was certainly impressed with the illustrations and synopsis put up to promote a new or old title.
Projects: Apart from book publicity, the school organised contests offering attractive prizes, courtesy of the PTA of course. There were contests for story-writing, book cover illustrations and art and craft (bookmarks, banners for festive celebrations, quilts, posters, etc) . How about a Blank Book Contest? Contestants were each invited to fill a blank book with their creative stories, complete with illustrations. Excellent idea for teamwork!
Books alive: You could have a Writers' Workshop, through which imaginative children can adapt short stories into plays – excellent nurturing for future writers!
Debate, anyone? Book versus movie! Which is better? For example, books like Lord of the Rings, the Harry Potter series and To Kill a Mockingbird can get students’ juices going as they ponder and criticise both the author’s as well the director’s versions of the book.
Nothing like a good yarn: Get children to tell stories they have read or even heard about. It would improve their oratorical skills as well as their creativity. Short stories are excellent for this activity. For example, House of Usher or even the Disney television programme, Are You Afraid of the Dark?
Jokes/humour: Have a side-splitting day by inviting all class clowns to present something funny. The Speakers' Corner is a good venue for stand-up comedians to try their materials. They could impersonate their favourite actors/characters, tell amusing anecdotes, limericks or riddles. Call it “Laughter is the best medicine” hour or something!
Bookworm report: Instead of boring and monotonous notebooks, why not have children write on a sheet of A4-sized paper:
a) The name of a book they have read
b) Did they enjoy the book? Yes/No
c) Their favourite character
d) The most-hated character
e) Their favourite scene, etc
Other ideas: The pusat sumber should live up to its name. Apart from books and magazines, there should be a whole lot of learning materials stocked up in school libraries. For example, game sets such as Jeopardy, Scrabble and chess should be included in the list of must-haves.
Encourage children to come up with ideas for games that could be sponsored by the resource centre – such as a treasure hunt where clues could be obtained from literary sources,or a quiz with answers to be derived from the non-fiction section?
The ubiquitous computer: I don't believe that any resource centre is complete without these wonderful, modern-age tools. With the dawn of the information age, our children are being taught how to use the computer and surf the Net to enhance knowledge and learning.
I believe that with enough encouragement and participation by both teachers and parents, the pusat sumber would indeed be a source of fun and fruitful learning for our kids.
So, parents and teachers, care to join me in my newfound crusade? Let’s not see the library as just another mausoleum in which books and magazines are entombed. Bring them to life and make them living monuments as a tribute to our quest for knowledge.
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