Book Week; or, why stories matter.
Book Week is one of my favourite times of the year in Library Land. My first year in the library, we didn’t do much at all, apart from posters and a display of my favourite CBCA shortlisted books. Last year, though, I hit my stride. We had a slam poet and a cartoonist in to do workshops and talks to students, and we had our first annual Great Evans Read-In.
This year, the Evans Festival of Stories, as it’s becoming known, is looking even bigger. Because I’m working on a limited budget, and I want to create some different opportunities for our students, I’ve been a bit liberal with my interpretation of this year’s theme, “Australia, Story Country.” We have a British expat author coming, who writes dark speculative fiction and does martial arts. We have a purple haired, studded jacket wearing author, who plans on marrying Idris Elba, and whose first novel deals with Maori culture, werewolves, and PMS. We have a yank coming out to run a beat making workshop with some of our music obsessed kids. We have groups of kids lined up to write a book in a day. And, we have plans for an even bigger Great Evans Read-In this year, with more people reading, more costumes, and hopefully more cupcakes.
So, where does the limited budget come in? That’s a great question. I’ve had some fantastic support from our authors and workshop facilitators, who have helped out by giving me a really great deal on their appearance fees – still valuing their time and expertise, but also recognising our budgetary constraints. We’ve had numerous offers of support from our school community to help out with catering – which is a huge deal, when I have a literary lunch/morning tea on 4 days in the week! Students are being charged a minimal amount for attendance at author events, and any costs that aren’t covered by that will come out of my library budget – this will allow students who may not have the funds to attend, the opportunity to get to be a part of our celebration of stories. With some careful planning, and incredible support by our school community, the whole shebang should come in at under $1,000.
Why am I going to so much trouble for Book Week in a high school though? A friend asked me a few weeks ago this exact question, followed up by “but isn’t book week just for primary school kids?” My answer is twofold. Firstly, you’re NEVER too old to celebrate the power of stories. I’m an unapologetic story junkie, and a self-confessed author stalking fangirl. I truly believe that stories are essential – food, water, oxygen, these things keep us alive, but stories give us something to live for. Whether it’s a fantastical story about a magical school, or a harrowing tale of teenage love surrounded by the spectre of cancer, stories create worlds for our imaginations to live. They allow us to think, and dream, and feel. And, most importantly, they allow us to consider the importance of our own stories: in a world filled with tales of wonder, our chapter, our volume, our verse, matters. Our story matters. And that’s the most powerful gift my library can give to our students, I believe.
Secondly, I teach in a school with an Intensive English Centre. There’s such diversity of experiences in our IEC students, both in their lives, and in their experiences in schooling. I want them to know that their stories are important, and I want them to be able to experience the excitement, the wonder of the book week experience that those who have traveled through primary school in Australia take for granted as part of their cultural experiences.
And finally (I know I said twofold, and this is a third point – I take liberty with numbers when it suits me!) Book Week gives me the opportunity to get my fangirl cosplay on. Last year saw me come to school as Wonder Woman, Dorothy, Doctor Who (Four, in case you’re wondering), Hermione Granger, and the Mad Hatter. This year’s list is still being worked on as we speak, but will include Harry Potter complete with invisibility cloak – I’m going to be away from school on the Friday, sadly. So, what are your plans for book week? And, more importantly, do you have any costume suggestions for me? I’d love to hear them!