Tales from work experience during National Bookstart Week

Posted June 25, 2014 by Guest blogger

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Tales from work experience during National Bookstart Week

Creative Writing student, Alex Costley, shares her perspective on National Bookstart Week in Northern Ireland as part of her week’s work experience with the Book Trust NI team.



It’s National Bookstart Week! I couldn’t have picked a better week to spend with the Book Trust Northern Ireland Team. They work closely with Libraries NI for National Bookstart Week, to distribute free books and activities through their Rhythm and Rhyme sessions.

The launch event for National Bookstart Week took place in Bangor library. We arrived early and helped set up the room for the 40-50 nursery school children that we were expecting, and I learnt a little more about what Book Trust hopes to achieve. Each year, National Bookstart Week has a different theme, and this year’s is ‘My Hero’. Each child on arrival received a My Hero activity sheet, onto which they drew their own Superheroes and designed their very own Superhero mask.

NBW NI Bangor Mayor ambassadorAfter completing the activity, the chosen book for National Bookstart Week was read by Libraries NI staff, with plenty of props and some of the nursery children in costume helping to re-enact the story! This year’s book was Super Duck by Jez Alborough, and was thoroughly enjoyed by everyone including our VIP guests, the Lord Mayor and Cathy Martin (Book Trust NI ambassador). The children really enjoyed seeing the characters from the book come to life right in front of their eyes.

After a quick lunch Kathryn and I were off to a Rhythm and Rhyme session at Finaghy Library. The children (and parents) sang along with the bells and toys, which really brought the rhymes to life and encouraged engagement. The informality of the whole thing was refreshing and lovely to see. I really like how Book Trust is trying to smash the idea that libraries are only for the literary elite, they’re for everyone!


No events for me today I was in the office helping with the admin work - the amount of organisation these things take is amazing! Every two minutes Liz or Kathryn were on the phone checking people had resources and making sure they knew what was going on, organising for books to be sent out or chasing up those that had mysteriously been lost.

My main job for the day was sorting and making an inventory on all the books we had in the office, including all the dual language and sensory books for children with different needs. I knew that Book Trust gave out plenty of books (clue is in the name) but it had never occurred to me to consider children who are maybe blind or deaf or who have parents that are not English speakers.  With these resources they can enjoy books just as much as anyone else. There were well over a thousand books in all to be counted and catalogued but I had great fun flicking through some of them. I think my favourite was I’m not cute by Jonathan Allen about an owl chick that wants to be known as menacing and scary.


Today Kathryn and I made our way to Outer West Sure Start. I'd never even heard of Sure Starts before this week so I had no idea what to expect. All I really knew was that they were some sort of family support centre. What I wasn't expecting was a fully decked out place with a kitchen and a special play area and a room full of beanbags, pillows and rugs where we were able to run our Rhymetime session in absolute comfort. The time came, the Bookstart Bear was ready, and the kids poured in like a veritable flood. There were more than twenty children, from very young babies to nursery school age all singing and dancing and just having a really good time. Kathryn and I were able to see Book Trust's good work in action when each child received a Bookstart+ bag full of books, pencils, and activities.  


NBW NI Duncairn bannersToday we were for the brand new Duncairn Centre for Culture and Arts in North Belfast, which is based in a lovely old church which has been renovated inside to make it a great space - everywhere you looked there was something else interesting to see, be it the stained glass windows or a balcony overlooking the main space. This was another National Bookstart week event so the ‘My Hero’ theme remained. All I can say is that I hope some children’s hero was the big blue bear who waved, danced, and hugged because I was the one inside that bear!


NBW NI Duncairn Bookstart BearSuch is the life of an intern, one minute you’re doing important paperwork and the next you’re handed a bag full of blue fluff and asked to dance around in it. Let me tell you it is no mean feat to manoeuvre your way around when your stomach is suddenly a metre wide and you can’t see your shoes - add in some small children tugging at your tail and dying to be high-fived and it is a recipe for disaster. Being in the suit, I couldn’t see the event taking place, but I could hear some of it and Polly Poppet, the entertainer brought in specially, had the kids really interacting with the book. Thankfully I didn’t stand on anyone or drop my head off and it all seemed to go very well, I was even praised for my bear-antics (Disneyland here I come) and told if they needed a bear costume volunteer, I would be getting a call!


So in the space of a week I went from having a vague idea what Book Trust did and what their vision was, to being the literal mascot of their flagship programme, Bookstart. It was a fantastic experience and if they would take me on again I’d be back there in a heartbeat. 



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