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.
After the old junk-food advertisements were (thankfully!) taken down from above the school canteen, it was looking a little drab, so a friend and I painted this sign one weekend. I drew the lettering freehand on a large piece of paper, then cut out the letters to make a stencil. Unfortunately, it happened to be very windy on the day I tried to put it up on the wall, so my struggles with the enormous cut-out would have been hilarious if there had been any onlookers (though the swearing wasn’t pretty). Somehow I managed to stick it up long enough to draw the outlines on the wall… eventually.
I really like the fruit and vegetables we painted within the lettering, but in retrospect I think the bees buzzing around may be a little too suggestive of flies (or is that just me?). I also think the lettering is a trifle too large, and I regret not having painted the background. Overall though, it’s a big improvement, and the colours fit in nicely with the existing rainbow painting and the murals we painted on the nearby columns.
I spotted this stunning mural on a wall at a local high school. Given that the architecture of this building is fairly basic, I can speculate that this mural has vastly improved its appearance.
The dramatic black borders and flowing river design give a coherent background which looks great at a distance, while the beautifully detailed designs of the animals sustain interest for closer viewing. I presume the students at the school were involved in the production of this mural, at the very least for the hand prints, but probably for a whole lot more than that.
Elephant display made from pages of a dictionary
I thought a full-size elephant display would have some impact with the kids, but I couldn’t decide how to relate it to books. Until, one day when I was working in the library and disposing of some old student dictionaries, I realised that the grey print of the dictionary pages would suit an elephant’s hide. I drew the outline of an elephant onto large paper, then pasted pages of the dictionary over the whole thing. By orientating the pages in different directions, I found that the stripes of the text gave some definition to different parts of the animal, then I simply painted in some shading to give some roundness to the end product.
To involve every kid in the school, I asked them to choose to decorate either a flower or a water drip, which I then individually blue-tacked to the wall. Their efforts gave the finished display both colour and movement, and they were delighted with the results.
To maintain interest in this display over the course of the term, each week I added a few little mice to the picture. Each mouse was reading, holding or playing with a book. Each class enjoyed trying to spot the tiny mice hidden on the display.
I suspect when we take this display down we’ll have lots of entries into the draw to win the elephant – most of the kids are very keen to put this one up on their bedroom wall!
For some time, I had been quite keen on the idea of a tree in the library. It was only after I started to draw it that I realised how big an undertaking it was. Even without leaves it took up an entire wall of my house!
On the bright side, it didn’t actually matter if my drawing wasn’t accurate (unlike the time I chose to paint a representational picture of the Earth). On this occasion it didn’t matter too much how I drew or painted the branches – if they weren’t quite correct it just added to the charm. Being partial to the graphics used in the computer game “Plants & Zombies”, I shamelessly copied their grassy knoll as a base for the tree, and stuck the whole thing up in the library with Blu-Tak.
Every child in the school was given a leaf on which to write their favourite reading topic and decorate to their heart’s content, and it was exciting for them to see the tree “grow” as their efforts were added. Each week (along with their leaves) I added an extra part of the picture: a kookaburra, a koala, a possum, a treehouse, a tyre swing, a goanna, a worm and a beetle. By adding something week after week, I’ve found that these displays avoid becoming background wallpaper. When each class arrives in the library for their weekly lesson, the first thing they do is rush to the display to find the new addition.
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.
Planet earth library display
Close-up of Australia with popular children’s books
This display was more of a challenge than I expected. Most of the displays I had done to date were simply fun illustrations rather than accurate representations. After all, who would notice if a bridge were wider than it should be, or a tree was off-centre, or if a nose was a bit bigger than it really ought to be? But when I started drawing this poster I suddenly realised that if I left off an Indonesian island, or if Taiwan was in the wrong spot, or if my map of Australia was missing a bay… disaster! Anyway, it worked out OK in the end (or at least no-one in our multi-cultural school complained that I’d left off their birthplace) and my map-drawing skills improved to boot! Every child in the school decorated a star and placed it on the wall, so the end product looked great with around 400 colourful stars surrounding the earth.
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.
One of our students, who rarely showed any interest in anything school-related, put up his hand in the library and suggested that the next poster should be a space scene. We were so excited at his unprecedented enthusiasm that I got to work immediately to produce this poster. It wasn’t quite complete at the time, but I was keen to put it up as soon as possible… which turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Each week I added something to it (a martian, some comets, a rocket, etc), so the kids were quite excited to visit the library and spot each new addition. Towards the end of the term, kids were making suggestions for the next addition, which was great!
Our P&C Fundraising committee decided that they wanted a thermometer to show their progress and enthuse contributors. Amongst the clutter in my garage (which stores everything but the car), I found this old piece of chipboard. A friend and I painted a fun and friendly design and added coins made of gold foil that catch the light nicely (though they look rather dull in this photo). The central “tube” of the thermometer is made of white cardboard which I remove and replace each year to start fundraising anew. The kids love colouring in the thermometer with red texta after each fundraising event.