Working at a children’s library has been a journey filled with endless possibilities and captivating discoveries. Among the many fascinating aspects of library education, one that has truly stood out for me, is ‘Engagement activities’.
What are Engagement Activities?
In the context of children’s libraries, engagement extends beyond simply making the books accessible. It includes actively engaging children in conversations, activities, and experiences that connect them to different aspects of the library. They need to feel a part of the physical space, the collection of books, the library’s values and interactions with its supporters. Engagement activities are to be designed in such a way that they foster a welcoming and inclusive environment while encouraging reading, learning, and creativity.
Some of these activities are reading aloud, storytelling, enactment, guided drawing, book discussions, arts and crafts, character alive and games such as treasure hunt, snakes and ladder, quiz etc.
Libraries foster a love for reading, develop critical thinking skills, and allow children to explore new possibilities. Engagement activities in children’s libraries serve as entry points for children to explore various themes and ignite their imagination. It enables them to embark on a journey of exploration and self-discovery. Additionally, it improves children’s overall learning experience. These activities bring libraries to life by incorporating elements of fun and interaction, transforming them into vibrant hubs that captivate the minds and hearts of children as well as youth.
One of the engagement activities we use is called ‘Character Alive’. Earlier this year, I got an opportunity to attend a week-long workshop hosted by Bookworm. It gave me valuable insights into what a library is and what it can be. While understanding the engagement activities more deeply, I chose ‘Character Alive’ as my main activity to engage children. My objective to do so was to observe its impact on children’s book preferences.
What Is ‘Character Alive‘
Character Alive is a creative and interactive library practice that aims at introducing books in a unique way. It involves personifying and bringing to life the central character from a book through a combination of dressing up as the character and interacting with participants. The primary goal is to pique participants’ interest in the book and encourage them to read it for themselves, not to narrate or reveal the entire story.
This activity is all about immersing yourself in the character and enjoying the experience while creating a lasting impression on the audience. By introducing characters from diverse themes, I aimed to open up our extensive collection of books. Actively involving the children in the activity allowed me to observe them and the connections they made with the books.
Planning and Preparation
- I begin by thoroughly researching and understanding the objectives, processes, and procedures of ‘Character Alive’ activity
- Then, I identified a group of children from classes 4 and 5 to conduct this activity. To effectively engage them, I closely observed their responses, interests, and preferences.
- Next, I delved into our diverse book collection, looking for books that aligned with different themes
- After reading these books multiple times, I prepared to personify the central character in each story. Further I also identified related books which would be displayed during the activity.
- In order to actively involve the children, I introduced a collaborative element by encouraging them to choose a book of their liking for their own ‘Character Alive’ activity.
Throughout the process, my role was to guide and support the children by reading out the books to them, discussing the activity’s intricacies, and assisting them in gathering the required materials to bring their characters to life.
I organised a total of six sessions. After each performance, we dedicated time for free reading, of the book from which the character was taken. This helped the children gain context and place the character as a part of the whole story. Meaningful discussion ensued. Finally, the activity culminated in a memorable character meet and greet session, where all participants dressed up as their favourite characters and engaged in conversations, exchanging book recommendations and insights.
Throughout the planning, preparation, and execution of the “Character Alive” activity with children, I gained many valuable insights and emotional experiences. The following highlights stood out:
- The impact of a “Character Alive” sparked curiosity and increased the children’s connection to the story.
- Children had a better understanding of the story and characters after being introduced to them through a “Character Alive.”
- The preparation process for activity, including a thorough understanding of story and characters was crucial for engaging the audience.
- “Character Alive” had a charismatic impact on children, which prompted discussions and personal sharing among them.
- The “Character Alive” activity was fun and exciting, revealing many layers of the book, characters, and emotions. From portraying the character to being the character is something I felt shifted for me through these sessions.
- Presenting a collection of books with similar themes after the “Character Alive” activity helped children connect and engage more with the books.
- Observing students’ participation after each session revealed that visual representation of a character. Followed by reading the story can enhance the observation of the story’s details and emotions.
- “Character Alive” prompted a variety of insightful, engaging, and enjoyable conversations among the children. It provides a way to discuss difficult topics or emotions such as grief, anger, sadness. Children were eager to share their thoughts and experiences during follow-up book discussions.
- The book selection was a challenge in the preparatory phase as the books. I wanted to open with the children needed to represent multiple themes, contexts, and stories. It took time to go through various books and select the appropriate ones.
- Preparing for the Character Alive activity required a lot of preparation, setting up the environment and gathering all the items to dress up like the character. It was challenging to get items that were similar to the actual get-up of the character. Yet the children came up with ways to help each other in the process
- Initially, the process of the activity was unclear and it was challenging to identify what can be done after a Character Alive. However, after the first two sessions, the process and the objectives became clearer and more enjoyable for me.
- Some children were confused about the concept of Character Alive initially as they were not familiar with it. But with each session, they were eager to know more stories through different characters.
- To meet the objectives of the activity it was important as well as challenging for me to ideate in a way that the activity was fun, engaging, and informative for the children. To ensure that the activity promotes engagement and participation of the children.
This Library activity project introduced me to a fun and meaningful way to engage children. It taught me way to inculcate a love for reading through books and character. It helped children engage in reading and conversation, exploring themes and characters from diverse books.
The Character Alive activity provided them with a platform to creatively express their thoughts, interpretations, and experiences, and connect and engage with the books in a unique way.
The activity also enabled me to observe and reflect on the children’s responses, learning, interactions, and choices while engaging with this Library engagement activity.