SWEDEN
BOOKworms Fave Books and Coffee Breaks at Libraries in Sörmland County

We wanted to capture the joy of reading.
We wanted to establish a firm relationship with children and young people.
We wanted the library to be a room for readers.
We wanted to give children and young people worthwhile leisure activities.
We wanted people to realise that library visits can be great fun.
We wanted young people to meet other young readers.
We wanted to create enjoyable activities for children and young people – reading, writing, discussing, watching films, meeting and mingling with authors.
We wanted to encourage creative writing.
We wanted children and young people to make the library their library.

Summary

BOOKworms – Book clubs at libraries in the County of Sörmland have meant that library activities for children and young people have received a real injection of new energy. New ideas, new methods, all sorts of experiences have been tried and tested, successfully or not. Children’s librarians have developed new professional skills. We started in 2007 with 11 book clubs in 8 of the County’s municipalities. Now in Autumn 2009 there are 16 book clubs. We’ve found that smaller libraries and branch libraries have proven to be very suitable as book club venues.

The Aims and Targets

Children and young people who love reading meet regularly at a book club – BOOKworms. Regular meetings at their local library allow participants to evaluate the book they’ve read. Conversations with other partcipants reinforce their own reading experiences. Libraries in Sörmland were interested in trying out new methods of promoting and stimulating reading for children and young people. Many Swedish public libraries, including libraries in Sörmland, have prioritised reaching all children in school rather than their leisure time.

Target Group

The target was to reach at least 100 children and young people. In the first year over 117 kids registered their interest. Most of them are between 10 and 12 years and the majority are girls. It’s proven difficult to get older youths – and boys – to show and interest, even if this situation has improved somewhat in later years. Many of the participants have had other ethnic backgrounds than Swedish.

What We Have Accomplished

Coffee Breaks in the Library This is one of BOOKworms most important elements. The bookworms sometimes come directly from school and like to start off with a snack. The coffee break also gives them the chance to have a good chat before starting to discuss the books. Our idea is that participants and librarians together decide on the content and structure of the meetings. BOOKworms is based on on the participants’s own activities and so far this has surpassed expectation. Book discussions based on Aidan Chamber’s method are the foundation of the book clubs. Other elements are book dramas, writing reviews for publication in the library and on the library’s web site, reading aloud, exchanging book tips, literary discussions on different themes and genres such as fantasy, true life stories, sports books, horror and crime novels, “the best book I’ve ever read”, adventures in spooky cellars, writing the next chapter in an unfinished story, discussing book covers, and, as well, getting acquainted with the library. Each participant received a reading journal to keep a record of what they’d read. A couple of book clubs made a film with book tips and screened the film in the club.

Mutual Visits and Get Togethers We organized some shared activites so that bookworms from neighbouring munici-palities could get together. The book club in Gnesta stayed the night with friends from the Malmköping book club.

Read the Book – See the Film – Meet the Author

A book club in Eskiltuna read Moni Nilsson’s book The Hop. It proved to be a great read and club members suggested that they should see the film based on the book. Several other clubs did the same with the result that they all wanted to meet the author. Moni Nilsson visited Eskiltuna, an event the bookworms found really exciting.

The Book Jury and Summer Camp for the Bookworms

All of the book clubs read intensively in preparation for the yearly Book Jury vote (The Book Jury is a national project to elect the year’s best children’s and young people’s books) and being able to travel to Stockholm for the grand final in May was a great experience. It was the first time in the Capital for many of the bookworms. Visiting Stockholm’s Cultural Centre and meeting a nationally-known compere, watching authors receive their prizes and signing books and postcards was a memory to treasure. A visit from authors Katarina Kuick and Johan Unenge paved the way for a Summer Camp adventure. Watching the 29 participants read, write, tell ghost stories and generally spend time with each other was a knock-out and something we’ll build on in the future.

Success Factors

BOOKworms was a shared commitment with an organised structure and a distinct idea. The focus was on children and young people who like to read. The libraries parti-cipated with their time, facilities for coffee breaks, time together and a professional reception. There was room for individual ideas based on the librarians’ initiatives, competence and professionalism. There was a positive “we-feeling” in the BOOKworms groups – among parti-cipants and leaders alike. The shared activites contributed strongly to this. Receiving small gifts and tokens has shown itself to be an important factor in engendering a feeling of membership in BOOKworms. The bookworms have received reading journals, books, key holders, bags, postcards, membership cards, shared coffee breaks and participated in competitions, etc. BOOKworms has raised the status of reading and readers. Friends of the book- worms have asked them for book tips. The nerd-label has disappeared and being a member of BOOKworms has become quite popular.

The Leaders

The creativity shown by the leaders and their ability to embrace the children’s and young people’s own ideas has been impressive. Each librarian and leader has had the freedom they need to organize BOOKworms based on local conditions. BOOKworms has functioned as an umbrella encompassing the different forms taken by the book clubs in the difffeent municipalities. Shared planning meetings have helped to spread ideas and methods that other book clubs have been able to use. Everything started with a visit by the author Katarina Kuick who introduced us to the idea of book discussion groups as a method. In preparation we had read Nothing by Janne Teller, a book that leaves no-one unmoved. For a few magical hours we discussed this book intensively and deeply – with no two views being the same. Katarina’s exposition of the discussions using Chamber’s model gave the leaders a solid foundation to work with.

Difficulties

Sometimes it’s been difficult to find time for planing and meetings, but on the whole things have worked out well. Large groups of kids invading the library at the same time has sometimes been a bit of a bother. Different levels of reading skills among the participants has been an occasional problem. One leader chose three categories of books: easy, average and demanding. Another way of coping with this problem was to read the books aloud.

Appreciated and Applauded BOOKworms has had considerable impact. The project has been written about in the local press and in a number of articles published during the year. BOOKworms has also been presented at various seminars and study days.

The Future

BOOKworms will be prolonged one year at a time, possibly with changes to form and content. Leaders have discovered that arranging book clubs generates a lot of positive energy and would like the project to continue. BOOKworms has strengthened and broadened interest in reading for a group of children and young people who we see as ambassadors for libraries, books and reading.

The Sörmland County Library has functioned as project-coordinator with responsibility for administration, meetings, transport, planning and economy. We are grateful for subsidies granted to the BOOKworms project by the Swedish Arts Council.

Karin Zetterberg
Unit Manager of Eskilstuna City Library

Translated by Greg Church

Unit Manager of Eskilstuna City Library