Binding commitment

By Danielle Wright

Danielle Wright finds a busy kids' book club in Mangere Bridge that's about a lot more than reading and writing

Mangere Kids Book Club. Photo / Supplied
Mangere Kids Book Club. Photo / Supplied

On a wet Friday afternoon, we head to Mangere Bridge library for its monthly children's book club. We're surprised to see a packed library with around 25 eager bookworms aged between 5 and 12 already seated around the feet of librarian Loryn Tompsett.

Kathryn Gow, 12, has been coming since she was 5 and the thrill clearly hasn't worn off. She has even dressed up for the session and is wearing head-to-toe purple - from the striped socks on her feet to the purple flowers in her hair. Another girl arrives wearing a mermaid costume - it's obviously a day of the month they all look forward to.

"We treasure our library," says Kathryn's mum, Karen. "I took the kids to storytime sessions when they were babies and we've used this library as a resource ever since: my kids love Loryn."

Venture to any library around Auckland and you'll find equally enthusiastic children's librarians creating a real sense of community for their young bookworms. And unlike at similar bookstore events, it has nothing to do with selling books or making money. New Zealand children rank relatively high on international literacy scales, although getting them to read for fun is a battle globally.

Book clubs are a way for children to experience books in a more social way.

At first, when told the age range for the book club was 5-12, I couldn't see how both would be kept interested, but as the event unfolded I noticed the bigger kids enjoying looking after the smaller ones. Surprisingly, although books are all around the children - I notice a particularly useful one titled How to make Stonehenge out of Biscuits - they weren't the focus, unlike at an adult book club.

Instead, the older children help the younger ones to find pencils and paper and to listen to instructions, figuring out how to work in groups while Loryn and a few mums help them problem-solve.

Each event is themed and, because it's music month, Loryn puts the kids through their paces in a music quiz - first with verbal questions and later with pictures. The first is about Justin Bieber and his birthplace. One girl says: "I don't know this person. I don't watch television." She did, however, know what a trio was, recommending the band Rush as an example.

The kids all know Loryn very well and she doesn't mind when, trying to explain who Gin Wigmore is, one says loudly: "Can you just carry on!"

To them, it must seem as if they have replaced their primary school teacher with the nicest person in the world, with only a grandmother's smile and not a moment of impatience. It's no wonder Kathryn has returned every month for seven years.

As well as warm fuzzy moments, the children also learn things, such as what a clarinet is - not something you clean a toilet with, as one girl suggests.

At the end of the book club, a trolley is rolled out with new books and the children choose a couple and head outside to the playground, under the watchful eye of Mangere mountain on the horizon, and with a pile of books tucked under each arm.


Bookish

• Mangere Bridge Kids' Book Club is on the first Friday of each month at 3.30pm, 5 Church Rd, Mangere Bridge, (09) 636 6797. Take a look at their blog at mcclibraries.wordpress.com

• If you can't make it to a book club, there are great resources online to join virtual book clubs - there's even an edible book festival, where kids from all over the world can bake cakes in the style of their favourite books. Follow your favourite book publisher, such as @HarperCollinsCh on Twitter or at spilltheinkbooks.com

• Sign up to Puffin Books' Beak Speak newsletter or search online for your favourite author's websites, which also often contain fun online games. There are also sites dedicated to book reviews by kids, for kids, such as spaghettibookclub.org Some children have been coming to the Mangere Kids' Book Club for seven years.

- NZ Herald

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