Now and Forever November

At the beginning of this year, flushed with optimism and excitement, a new children's laureate contemplated the things he would include in his laureate calendar. Not just months, other stuff too.

His plan was for a year-long paying of respect to the ways stories change us, usually for the better if we have adequate lighting. A calendar year, the laureate hoped, that would culminate in a glorious celebration of stories and everything they've always offered us, and still do now, and will forever.

Well here we are, Now And Forever November, close to the end of the year. Time to celebrate, right? Let's break out the fizzy drinks and the sparkling lights and the sparkling fizzy librarians.

Hmmm. Maybe not. I don't want to be a party-pooper, but maybe we're not quite ready to fully celebrate just yet.

Don't get me wrong, there are lots of things about stories that are worth celebrating. We get to have spills and thrills, horror and hilarity, ideas and insights, all from the comfort of our own reading pillow. We discover that in our imaginations anything is possible. We get to see what individuals like us are capable of. The more we read, the more we develop our creativity, empathy, bravery, strength, honesty, intelligence, curiosity, cheekiness and wisdom almost without realising it. And when young people finish a story and turn back to the real world and notice the size of some of the problems there, they only flinch briefly because they know they have the power. The power to make their future.

If, that is, they've been plugged in. Here at laureate headquarters, we're concerned some of them might not have been. School libraries, those most precious examples of renewable energy, lighting up young minds and imaginations, powering every part of education, are doing it tough. We'd always assumed their life-giving energy would be renewable forever, but across the land too many school libraries are dimming and some are already dark.

So this month's laureate calendar activities are a little different. This month, yes, we are celebrating. But it's the sort of celebration that involves going out and showing just how excited you are about something by saving it from extinction.

Here are two activities to get you started, one for kids and one for grown-ups.

Kids, your activity is to take one or more of your parents to your school library. On the way, remind them that everything they hope for in your school years will happen spectacularly better if you spend at least a part of each day being guided through the realms of reading, and being initiated into its limitless possibilities, by an experienced, highly educated, infinitely wise professional guardian of all that is precious in our human journey. A national living treasure, you can explain, known in the staff room as a teacher librarian.

Then stand back and see if your folks reckon your school library matches up to those possibilities. They may spot some clues that it doesn't, like not many books, or none. Or only nought point three of a teacher librarian, or none.

Parents are very good in situations like this. They want the best for you, so they won't hold back. They'll find out who they need to have a chat with to improve your school library. It might be the school principal, or someone in the education department, or their local member of parliament. Yes, those sort of chats can be a bit difficult, but don't forget that parents are strong and determined and don't give up when the going gets tough. If you don't believe me, ask them to remind you how many times you filled a nappy and they still let you live at home.

Grown-ups, here's your activity. When the kids invite you to check out their school library, go. If they don't get around to inviting you, go anyway.

Libraries are collections of books, and also collections of people. When the two work together, kids' lives are transformed. And that's really worth celebrating.

Go back to the Stories Make Us Calendar.