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ROSA McMAHON, Bootiful books
Sunday, June 24, 2012
Norfolk is full of book lovers – and the numbers prove it.
For the fifth year running the Millennium library in Norwich has had more visitors and issued more items than any other library in the country – and across Norfolk new members rose from 2,129 in December 2011, to 5,190 the following month of 2012.
And on top of that, this year, on average, each person in Norfolk will borrow seven items, topping up the numbers and making sure books continue to be well read.
In celebration of these statistics and to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, Norfolk County Council has launched an online survey to reveal the county’s favourite children’s books from the past 60 years.
The top 24 titles were chosen by library staff, ranging from Dr Seuss’ Cat in the Hat, to Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar, to The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson, and Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
Norfolk libraries are keen to know which children’s classics stand the test of time.
And they don’t just want children to vote on the online survey, but adults too.
Lorna Payne, assistant head of services at Norfolk Library Services, said the survey would not only be celebrating the jubilee, but looking back over the years of children’s literature from the 1950s to today’s modern classics.
She said: “I make any excuse to talk about books and reading. There’s a real joy in it for everyone. It relaxes you and gives you time out.
“It’s never too late to sit down and read a book with a child, it’s all about spending time together.”
She added: “Essentially for children it’s about building up literacy. If a child is a great reader throughout their life then that has a big influence on their ultimate life chances. It enables them to build up confidence and explore their interests.”
UEA trainee teacher Emma Bond, 23, from Hethersett, also described the difference that reading makes to the classroom experience for a child.
She said: “It’s so important for the growth of their imagination and vocabulary.
“You can really tell who are the readers and who aren’t when you’re in the classroom.
“It’s all about getting the children to enjoy reading and allowing them to be transported to a completely different and often exciting world.”
Barry Stone, county council cabinet member for culture, customer services and communications, said the book selection for the survey has meant people have looked at what has changed over the past six decades.
But he added: “One thing I am glad that hasn’t changed is the British public’s love of reading and their enthusiasm for libraries.
“Looking through the chosen books made me really nostalgic. I hope that highlighting these titles will bring more families into the libraries to look at these and the many other fantastic children’s books on offer.”
Norwich-based author D J Taylor says he reads with his 12-year-old son Leo every night, having just finished reading Lord of the Rings together.
The author, who was nominated for the Whitbread Prize and longlisted for the 2011 Man Booker Prize, said: “There is an aura that comes off a book-ish child.
“And libraries are fantastic places to spend time. I used to live on the Avenues in Norwich, and spent a lot of time in the Earlham Library and loved my time in there.”
In terms of story lines he said he thinks that children are “quite keen on relentless moral mazes. They want to see villains get their comeuppance and the good to prevail”.
Keith Skipper, 68, writer and expert on local dialect, said his favourite book is the adventure novel Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson.
He said: “To read is to lose yourself in adventure and to allow your imagination to take hold.”
Carol Bundock, former BBC Look East presenter, runs a book club and says that so many children’s books are “beautifully illustrated”.
She said: “I truly believe the most important thing you can give a child is a love of books.”
To vote for your favourite www.surveymonkey.com/s/60yearsofchildrensbooks