This is how we learn dragons can be beaten

This is how we learn dragons can be beaten
Book Week celebrates the wonderful world of Australian children's books
21 August 2015

‘Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.’ G. K. Chesterton

Every year, the Children’s Book Council of Australia recognizes Australian children’s literature through Book Week.

Reading corner in the kindergarten class at Gilmore Primary School, Canberra, 1996–1997, nla.pic-an12942921-11

It’s a week in which we in the wide Australian book-loving world join with the Council to celebrate the wonderful world of children’s books—the objects themselves, their creators, and (of course) the small readers for whom they exist.

In children’s books the power and art of the written word is first discovered. So, too, very often, are pictures, and the many ways in which word and image may work together and apart.

The elements and themes that make up a great children’s story are those found in all good literature: language, character, momentum, suspense, humour; love, loss, pain, fear, and joy. We—readers, co-readers, listeners—are drawn out of ourselves, and we return with new knowledge and understanding. We learn that dragons, of any size or shape or kind, can indeed be beaten.

Author Anthony Horowitz has written on the value of reading to and with children:

I’ve written 40 books, visited perhaps 500 schools and met thousands of children, and everything I have experienced has persuaded me of the astonishing power and the value of narrative fiction…

Reading teaches empathy. It puts back the connections that may be lost when everyone is plugged into their own iPhones and iPads, cocooned from the real world in hoodies or Beats.

If this sounds a touch highfalutin, personal experience has shown me what, to most teachers, will be obvious. Children who read are more articulate, more confident, better informed. They shine.

We at the National Library celebrate children’s literature, in large and small ways, every week of the year. Our terrific Education team welcomes and tours school children in their thousands. We host special readings and events. We encourage research in to our rich holdings of children’s literature, including the collections of Marcie Muir and Kerry White. We publish award-winning children’s books and support initiatives in our wider community. And when we go home at the end of the day, many of us read to and with our own children.

The Children’s Book Council of Australia’s Children’s Book Week 2015 is from Saturday 22 August to Friday 28 August. This year’s theme is ‘Books Light Up Our World’. The Library congratulates the Children’s Book Council of Australia for this and the many other ways in which it promotes, encourages and celebrates children’s literature in Australia. We also congratulate the Council on its 70th anniversary this year.

To all readers, young and young-at-heart: may you spend Book Week reading books!

Wolfgang Sievers (1913–2007), Unidentified student reading at the Peninsula School, Mt. Eliza, Victoria 1960, architects Bates, Smart and McCutcheon,  1961, nla.pic-vn3072838