Book Week is a wonderful community engagement event that, according to the Children’s Book Council of Australia, is Australia’s longest running children’s festival. Schools, libraries and other groups all around the country hold activities that engage children and their families with books and literacy.
My daughters’ school have a range of activities this week.Willy Wonka (right) and Mordonna Flood were particularly excited by school’s book parade. Heaps of kids dressed up in all sorts of costumes (ideally a character from a book, but there were some pretty broad definitions!)
Book week works at a number of levels. First, it engages children in literacy. At my daughters’ school there was a colouring competition, a competition to guess which teacher was hidden behind some of the Children Books of the Year, kids using puppets to act out stories, older kids telling stories to young kids and a range of other writing activities.
Second, it encourages teachers and librarians to organise activities and encourages them to think creatively about how they can use stories and books in the classroom. The Book Chook, for example, had a whole lot of suggestions. Our librarian was very busy and worked hard to get other staff on board. It really was a big focus for this week.
Third, it engages parents. At least at our school, and I suspect in other schools, this is the least successful aspect of the week. The book parade is pretty successful in bringing families to the school – there were over 150 parents, grandparents etc at the school for the parade. But essentially it is a fairly passive form of engagement – although the parents (I think we can safely assume mostly mothers and grandmothers) who worked hard on the costumes might beg to differ. A more active form of engagement was some classes invited parents into the classroom to tell stories.
The book fair in the library also drew parents in and did a roaring business. I was going to say that this was a successful form of engagement, but is it really active engagement? I guess it encouraged a whole lot of new books going to new homes and hopefully parents will take an interest in what their children bought. Regardless of how meaningful it was as community engagement, it was still a worthwhile event.
I wonder what other strategies could be used to engage parents? How could parents be more actively engaged. I think it is great the school encouraged parents to come into tell stories and this could be expanded. Maybe homework could include something like asking parents what their favourite book was. There could be a focus on kids reading to their parents (or vice versa). The school had a maths information evening for parents a while ago and are thinking of having one on literacy – maybe this could have been part of book week. I wonder what would have happened if the P&C was asked to be involved in the planning for book week? It seems to me that it is an opportunity to develop some partnerships between parents and the school but I wonder how many parents want to be involved in this way?
Book week is an example where the focus of the community engagement is on literacy, but it also helps build social capital. This year’s theme is “One World, Many Stories,” which lends itself to themes of social inclusion, accepting difference and creating belonging. The book parade helps to bring people together and build a sense of community in the school. All of which are important in social capital.
Book week is a great example of community engagement and thanks to all our teachers for making our day a fun one.