Sail away on a story…

Tall Ship Mural

Pirate Ship Library Display

What’s not to like about a pirate ship? It embodies the spirit of adventure and brings to mind history, stories, excitement, action, romance and heroism. All the things that spark the imagination and encourage young readers to dive into a new book.

As I was painting this gorgeous vessel, I kept imagining the faces of the kids as they walked into the library to see it for the first time. I wasn’t disappointed – the gasps of delight were wonderful to hear.

Instead of asking the students to create their own artwork, or colour in a small picture as I usually do, this time I asked them to write a short imaginative line or two, as though dipping into the middle of an exciting novel. Thus, our lovely library ship is sailing on a wonderful sea of words. Kids come close to the artwork to read all the terrific ideas making up their ocean. Here are some of their efforts…

Words on the waves

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More words on the waves

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… and just a few more wonderful wavy words.

Pirate Ship Close-Up

Pirate Ship Close-Up

Wide view of our latest library display

Wide view of our latest library display

A flight of imagination across the library wall

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I had no particular reason to choose a hot air balloon as this term’s topic for our library display… I just thought the kids would get a kick out of it. To relate the topic to reading, I gave one of the pilots a book to hold, and I painted a bookish banner across the balloon. Then I decided that each child could colour a little house, but I had trouble thinking of a way to relate houses to reading… until it suddenly occurred to me that each roof was book-shaped. Problem solved!

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Robot librarian teaches his minions

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Some of the students at our school are particularly keen on the big library displays I put up each term. One afternoon a kid pulled me aside in a corridor to give me his big idea for the next picture. His verbal description being highly detailed (he’d clearly thought about it for some time), I asked him to draw a sketch so that I knew exactly what he meant.

The very next day he delivered a beautiful drawing to my office – quite detailed and carefully drafted – and I said it would be my pleasure to take it on board as the next display. At that point I had no idea how difficult it would be to turn someone else’s pride-and-joy into a huge painting. It was extremely challenging to keep as closely as possible to his original idea, whilst at the same time adding the extra detail and adaptations I needed to make it work at a large scale. Anyway, this lovely robot was the result, all thanks to his inspired idea!

As the weeks of the term went by, I added a robot parrot, a robot dog, some robot snacks, a wind-up mouse and a robot instruction book. The kids each coloured or created a little robot minion of their own.

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Not very happy with this one, but you can’t win ’em all

New Books Poster

After an author visit at our school, I decided to take down our welcome poster and put up a poster highlighting our new books display. It took me a while to think of an appropriate picture to use, but I eventually thought that a stork delivering new “baby” books would be fun.

This poster looked great when I drew it as a small A4 line drawing, but I must admit I wasn’t very happy with the end product. For starters it looks more like a pelican than a stork. And the eyes turned out quite strange, even after many attempts. Oh well, luckily the kids aren’t as picky as I am. And it’s still nice to have something fresh and new on the libary wall, even if it ain’t perfect.

Sporty kids love reading too

Sports poster
By featuring a particular genre of book in a display, and making available a selection of those books, I’ve found that we can generate quite a bit of enthusiasm amongst the kids in their borrowing habits.

One day the librarian and I decided to make a display of sporting books. I painted these cute little characters individually, then ranged them around a picture of a book with a sporting quote printed inside. I stuck some sponge behind the book graphic which gave a nice 3-D effect.

The kids loved the cute characters and the sporting books flew off the shelves for several weeks — particularly the non-fiction titles, which was a nice change. We raffled off the poster afterwards, and it was quite a popular competition.

Olympic fever

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I painted this quick-and-easy display for the London Olympic Games. I simply found a couple of small pictures and, using a grid to ensure the figures were vaguely in proportion, transferred them onto large paper. Time was short, so I painted them quickly in flat colours.

To link the theme to the library, I gave the weightlifter a barbell made of books, and I gave the hurdler a large book to jump over. Then, to get the students involved, I drew a simple medal with the words “Champion Reader” written on it and photocopied it onto gold cardboard. Each of the kids in the school wrote their name on a medal, cut it out and punched a hole in it to attach a ribbon. It looked great when several hundred medals were hanging from the ceiling, swaying nicely in the breeze.

The display made a great backdrop when the school was visited by Paralympian Matthew Cowdrey. And when the display came down, each child proudly wore their own medal home.

Kids love spooky stuff

I made this poster to highlight the spooky and scary books we had in the library. The mini-books on the poster could be opened to show information on vampires, werewolves, ghosts, etc. The kids were tremendously excited by the appearance of this poster, and vast numbers participated in the raffle to win it when it was taken down.


Library poster for book week

Library poster for book week

This was my first attempt at a poster for book week. I was only a parent volunteer at the time, so I can’t remember why the librarian asked me to make a display, but I enthusiastically complied.

I bought an end-roll of printer’s paper from a recycling store. The quality of the paper is lovely and the size makes it easy to do large displays without having to fiddle about sticking lots of smaller pieces together. I printed out a bunch of book jackets to use as the bricks in the bridge, and the kids enjoyed identifying their favourites.

I was astonished at the response from the kids – I thought they’d be a little blase about a new poster in the library, but they absolutely loved it. The larger displays have the most impact, and it’s great to see them goggling at a new picture I’ve just put up in the library. Anyway, this was my first one and it has since led to many more, which I’ll put on this blog in coming days.

Once a year I do a larger display which involves every kid in the school, and they are by far the most satisfying for all concerned. But posters like this one continue to be popular – so much so that when we take them down we now hold a raffle. The winner takes it home to put on their bedroom wall.