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Saturday 3 October 2020

The Kids’ Own Book Cubby at Hobart Library

An ongoing project to involve children in creative writing and self-publication now has a place for others to share and read these ‘stories in the impressive Kids’ Own Cubby at the Hobart Library. Find out more about Victoria Ryle’s work with children and how this is informing a doctoral study.

Kids' Own Cubby - with books to read!

“That was fun!” “That was better than I thought it would be!” Overheard reactions as the class of 4/5s filed out of the children’s area of Hobart library recently. They had just deposited their ‘published books’ in the Library’s newly acquired Kids’ Own Book Cubby (Built by the Clarence Plains Men’s Shed). 

These cheerful children had each succeeded in publishing what I term a micropublication in the space of two hours! A challenging task for the children, and a valuable opportunity for me to observe with my researcher’s hat on. Based on many years’ experience, I have noticed that the nature of this challenge is a slippery beast depending on the age, expectations and abilities of the young authors in question. 

Creations from the Hobart Hotdogs

First, these bright and sparky 10 year-olds and their teacher have to overcome a common misconception that the publishing process centres on a writing task. This particular experience of publishing is about creating a book on 8 pages that fit on a single side of a piece of A3 paper – so little room for stories in chapters or other extended narratives! Rather it is a multimodal and artifactual task (Pahl & Rowsell, 2012), that demands a multi-layered weaving together of visual and written ideas and materials that typically do not include graphite pencils, erasers or colouring pencils. 

Children bring with them a wide variety of learning styles, individual self-expression and understanding of the audience and purpose to this time-limited task. While we had discussed the theme of ‘little joys’, as individual authors they had control of the decision making process and were free to deviate. 

Many children dive into writing with confidence, but some children need to chat while they rehearse, curate and bounce their ideas around. Some children think visually, and some demonstrate a natural spatial awareness of the layout and design of the eight pages including front and back cover. 

An open-ended approach makes for a good assessment opportunity for teachers, revealing as it does the procrastinators, the collaborators, the perfectionists and the dashers. Teachers are often surprised to notice that different children than usual shine in this rich arts-based context. 

Through my research journey to date, I have deepened my understanding of this particular process of publishing as constructed through relationships, and practice that is emergent, intuitive, material, and embeds intra-action with the book as artefact. In short it is embedded in the Deleuzian concept of affect (Deleuze & Guattari, 1987) providing an encounter that delves beneath the surface features of a typical literacy activity (Boldt & Leander, 2020; Sherbine, 2018). 

The three classes who participated in these September workshops, have been given the brief of producing a collective narrative that they will illustrate, inspired by the work of Tasmanian illustrator Daniel Gray-Burnett. The book that will eventuate will be the inaugural publication to mark the launch of Hobart Library’s Book Cubby. 

In the meantime the Book Cubby is in residence in the Hobart Library where the librarians report it has proved popular during this school holidays. It is not fully complete, and currently houses a small collection of books by children for children, including the Bee Book by children of Goodwood, All Emotions Allowed Here  and In the Tree Castle by young children from Goodstart Claremont. The Book Cubby awaits many more books by young Tasmanian authors, and an official launch to come. 

Victoria Ryle 
Victoria Ryle is a PhD candidate researching publishing books with children as authors at the University of Tasmania. You can follow Victoria's research https://www.publishingbookswithchildren.com/
She is also the co-founder of Kids’ Own Publishing and designed the prototype Kids’ Own Book Cubby in 2007. There are now 20 Book Cubbies spread across Australia and New Zealand. 

Boldt, G., & Leander, K. M. (2020). Affect theory in reading research: Imagining the radical difference. Reading Psychology, 41(6), 515-532. https://doi.org/10.1080/0270711.2020.1783137

Deleuze, G., & Guattari, F. (1987). A thousand plateaus: Capitalism and schizophrenia. University of Minnesota Press. 

Pahl, K., & Rowsell, J. (2012). Literacy and education. SAGE Publications. 

Sherbine, K. (2018, June). Track Star+ thing power: Be (com) ing in the literacy workshop. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy. https://doi.org/10.1177/1468798418777847

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