'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Thursday 18 July 2013

Guest Post: Story Box Library

KBR is delighted to welcome Nicole Brownlee, Founder of the exciting new Australian children's literature resource Story Box Library. Here she tells us how it all came about.

The journey towards creating Story Box Library first began last year when I was sitting in my daughter’s classroom. I was watching with interest the teacher's use of the interactive whiteboard to show a picture book being read, which the teacher had sourced from the internet. The children were engaged and the story was lovely; however, what stood out to me was that it was an American actor reading an American book. Upon further investigation it became apparent that this resource is used frequently in many classrooms around Australia, not just my daughter’s.

While there is nothing wrong with American literature, I have an incredible passion for Australian children’s literature, and the role it plays in the lives of Australian children. As an experienced teacher, I have loved using quality books in my classrooms for a huge variety of reasons: as a facilitator for discussions on various themes, as a demonstration on how to write various text types, as a focus on a mathematical concept, or to simply share with my class the wonder and excitement of a good book. 

I am also a mother, and the joy of reading with my children is immense. Yet things are changing. The introduction of e-books and book apps is changing the way we read. Some of the better-quality ones are simply wonderful, but I have noticed that the act of storytelling is sometimes lost in a bid to interact with the bright things on screen.

All of this left me thinking a great deal. Where is the Australian equivalent of the site I was exposed to in my daughter's classroom? Is the decline of librarians in Australian schools (and their subsequent expertise in literature) going to mean that our children have limited access to those wonderful books that our Australian authors and illustrators work so hard to create? 

So after much research, consultation with, and support from the Australian Children’s Literature Industry, Story Box Library was born. 

Story Box Library has been a labour of love for over a year. In creating it, I am trying to address the issues mentioned above.
  • I want to create a resource that showcases the fantastic array of Australian books aimed at primary school-aged children. 
  • I want to create a resource that can be used as a facilitator for discussion in a classroom, and simultaneously be a place where time-poor teachers can come for ideas and inspiration. 
  • I want to create a resource that explores the creative process behind the books, giving our children an insight into the hard work and skill required to be an illustrator, author, publisher or librarian.
  • I want to create a resource that complements books, not competes with sales. 
  • I want to create a resource that ensures children are completely engaged in the story being told, with a focus on the storyteller and tale.
  • I want to create a resource that acts as a read-aloud model for parents and carers. After all, when you have had little or no experience, this can be a nerve-wracking task. 
  • Perhaps most of all, I want to create something that our children can take pride in, that they recognise themselves in, and feel connected to.   
I hope that I am achieving that. It is still early days and we have yet to launch our official website, but the ideas are pouring out of my creative team at an incredible rate. I have to keep reminding myself to slow down and focus on one thing at a time. But that’s a good place to be, right? And to be a mother with two children whose constant question to me is, 'Mum, can we put this book up on our website too?' means that I am one of the luckiest people in the world, because not only can I see the effect the resource is having on my own children, but it also gives me a great deal of hope that other children will be equally impacted.

I would like to invite KBR readers to come along on the journey with me. You can get a taste of what you can expect from Story Box Library by visiting our ‘coming soon’ site.  Here you can sign up for updates, and/or follow us on Facebook or Twitter. We are also running a crowd-funding campaign through Pozible and would love your support. We plan to launch our official site in August with a bunch of fabulous storytelling segments and associated materials and, let me tell you, the books and talent we have is sensational! I hope to see you there.