Storytime for grown-ups

At 11am on Wednesday 24 May, we marked the 17th National Simultaneous Storytime. Libraries across Australia, including our own Berwick Library, organised storytime events to read The Cow Tripped Over the Moon by Tony Wilson and Laura Wood.

Of course, it’s usually public libraries and primary schools that participate in National Simultaneous Storytime, but Monash University and Federation University librarians at the Berwick Library decided to give it a go.

Why read picture books as adults?

Aside from delivering a well-earned break from assignment writing and exam revision, the storytime event provided an excellent opportunity to engage university students in various ways.

Students could unpack the themes and ideas behind the stories in a more critical and reflective way than young kids. The Cow Tripped Over the Moon, for example, is a story about perseverance and fortitude. Lane Smith’s It’s a Book, teaches children about print and digital media, while remaining quite cheeky. The value of books like Mem Fox’s Where’s the Green Sheep? can be recognised as expanding children’s vocabulary, while Jackie French’s Diary of a Wombat can teach kids how to maintain a schedule. Early twentieth-century farmyard tales, like Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit stories, are parodied in Terry Pratchett’s Where’s My Cow?, a delightful story that sends up the lack of resonance between stories of animals, and the child readers who grow up in the city. Coming back to these stories as adults, and reading them with others, allows for new perspectives and meanings to emerge.

After the librarians read The Cow Tripped Over the Moon, students were invited to participate and read a picture book of their choice. As well as being highly entertaining, this provided students with an opportunity to practise public speaking and reading aloud in a relaxed, judgement-free environment. These presentation skills are necessary for oral presentations at university and, for education students, vital for the classroom.

Carlie Nekrasov (Federation University) and Zachary Kendal (Monash University) reading The Cow Tripped Over the Moon for National Simultaneous Storytime 2017.

Picture books at Monash University Library

During the storytime event, the Berwick Library picture books collection was showcased around the room, giving students a glimpse into a possibly undiscovered part of the collection.

The Matheson, Peninsula and Berwick libraries all have teaching materials collections filled with picture books, children’s literature, and all sorts of puzzles and games. These resources are ideal for education students needing materials for practicums or assignments.

Digging deeper

If you’re interested in digging deeper into children’s literature and picture books, you could take a look at some of the scholarly journals on the genre, available through the Monash University Library:

Children’s Literature
The Lion and the Unicorn
Children’s Literature in Education

Monash also teaches two units on children’s literature: ATS2519 Children's literature: A comparative study, and EDF3032 Children's literature, storytelling and the arts.

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