New Voice Project journalists Daisy and Herbie, both 15 years of age, go out and sample the literary lay of the land in perennially most liked library in England, ‘York Explore’. Director Arran Leith buys them both a flapjack, sits back, and catches up with the craic.
York Explore has always done a cracking job. Once known as York Library, the organisation straddles the worlds of borrowing books, archiving books, celebrating all things digital, offering space for play for children, and providing some of THE best Tea and Scones this side of Windsor Castle. And so it was with a tremor of anticipation that New Voice Projects scribes Daisy Mason and Herbie King visited the forementioned establishment armed with only a notebook and pen, Tintin style. This, reading friend, is what they found.
Firstly, architecture. Daisy says, “The architecture of the York Explore is fantastic. The first impression from walking across the piazza is that the wonderful historic elements of the building sing out and can make you pause, but when you go inside everything seems very modern, contemporary, and digital. The plans either side of the door make the library seem a bit welcoming and an efficient workspace.
Herbie concurs: “The library’s interior is very different compared to the exterior. The interior is modern and technologically up to date with a nice place to relax with comfy sofas dotted around. Anyone can chill and read their favourite book. There is a children’s play area so parents relax and read whilst their children have fun playing in the play area. Whereas, the exterior looks like an old 19th/ 20th century building, shown by the old white pillars which hold up the entrance and the dull worn down bricks. This quite surprised me as I thought due to the exterior that the interior would also be old fashinoned, but it wasn’t, it feels very modern.”
One of the first impressions made by entering the building is the admirable energy put into collecting participants for the ‘Summer Reading Challenge’. Our two intrepid reporters were especially enamored with this as they’d spent the previous weekend dressed as your favourite badboy, Dennis the Menace, as part of New Visuality’s partnership with Acomb’s ADAM Festival (Acomb Dance Art Music). Says Daisy, “The Beano reading challenge is a great idea. It helps children to read more than they usually would. Giving it the Beano treatment can really engage the children and make it seem more fun than if you just told your child to read lots of books. Because it is celebrating 80 years of the beano, adults will courage their children to take part as they probably would have read the Beano as children. This will help their children later in life as they will be able to read on a better level.” Herbie is similarly enthusiastic, no doubt buzzing from his own experience as a Dennis the Menace avatar the previous weekend. “The Beano summer reading challenge has a fun mischievous character, Dennis, who all children could enjoy. I should know, as I spent most of Saturday dressed like him. He has fun and enjoyable traits which are bound to make children laugh and enjoy reading these comics.
The summer reading challenge is a great way for children to have fun whilst reading so the children have a great learning opportunity from this whilst also winning prizes with each book the children read which I think is a great way of learning of you earn rewards for learning which will inspire more kids to read as they will have something to play with or admire at the end of it all.” Once we’ve got Herbie on the subject of books there ain’t no stopping him. “‘The Faraway Tree’ is a favourite of mine, because when I used to read it years ago I felt as if I knew the characters. Relatable characters of course makes you want to read on, especially great for younger audiences as it won’t feel as much of a fantasy. It’s somehow more real, and of course children can also learn valuable life lessons from stories. There’s inspirational people and actions, and teamwork. If a young reader sees their favourite characters work together to overcome something this would inspire them to do things as a team.”
Daisy is keen to flag up her preferred tome, though with some caution. “I’ve read a lot, and books often reflect what I like, dislike, and experience, whilst I’m reading them. However, there is a standout. The book that comes closest is A fever of the Blood by Oscar De Muriel, I think this because it is so engaging and there are lots of surprises throughout the story, I bought it because the front cover looked very interesting and the blurb sounded unique to any other book that I have read.”
Arran Leith is a New Voice Projects director.