Welcome to the blog of the Tasmanian branch of the Children's Book Council of Australia!

Saturday 29 June 2019

Enduring Love of Books

Join Johanna Baker-Dowdell and her personal insights as she interviews Dr Robin Morrow AM.

When I met Dr Robin Morrow it was like meeting an older version of my bookworm self.

Dr Morrow, who founded The Children’s Bookshop in Sydney, was holidaying in Tasmania, but made some time to meet me at Launceston Library, a venue we both thought fitting.

I was interviewing Dr Morrow ahead of International Children's Book Day, but our conversation extended beyond that topic to her appointment as the Australian representative on the International Board of Books forYoung People (IBBY) and the importance of books and reading for children.

She told me it was now as important as ever for children to have books.

"Tactile paper books are important, especially for babies and toddlers. They need to have the drama of turning the pages and examining the end papers,” Dr Morrow said.

Image credit: Paul Scrambler, published in the Examiner 30 March 2019.

"We have to fight to retain librarians in schools and the libraries people have access to so every kid has access to books."

Dr Morrow also told me how IBBY Australia helped pay for library vans that could drive on rubble to visit children not allowed to go outside after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan.

"They went in with librarians and storytellers to the children and it was the most wonderful thing. They even got children to tell them their favourite book that they had lost, because they'd lost everything, and they would try to get the actual book to that place. It's goosebumpy stuff.”

She is the first Australian IBBY judge for the Hans ChristianAnderson Award since Dr Maurice Saxby in the 1980s.

I mentioned my grandmother, who was a teacher librarian and involved with the NSW Education Department before she retired, had spoken about Dr Saxby when I was younger.

This led us on a different trail, in which I discovered Dr Morrow knew my grandmother well, as both had worked on different sides of the book industry in Sydney.

Working as a journalist in a smallish regional city in a small state means it is likely I will interview people I know, or who know my family, but it was a thrill to meet someone who held my grandmother in such high esteem.

Dr Morrow's own love of books started when her mother read to her as a child, but it was an "amazing English teacher" who fired up the passion for her future career.

"My theory is behind every keen book person there is someone. Sometimes it will be a bookseller or a librarian or a teacher or an aunt or a grandparent; somebody who just gives books, or drags you into the library,” she said.

For me this person was my grandmother.

By the time we finished talking I felt like I’d gained a great aunt as well as a kindred book spirit.

Johanna is a journalist and author of the book Business & Baby on Board.


  1. I have had the pleasure of meeting Robin on a number of occasions and have always been impressed with her knowledge, experience, grace and dignity. Her passion for the distribution of quality literature to children and young people in need through her work with IBBY is inspiring. Robin is a wonderful advocate and a worthy Australian representative.

    1. I whole-heartedly agree Leanne. She hugged me as we left, so I think she felt the same connection :)