This morning I spent a fair amount of time in the Creepy House. Along with a number of Not Too Creepy Characters by the names of Tilda, Ollie, Saeed, Rhys, Liv and Zoe – not forgetting Baskerville (who is a
dog, in case you didn’t guess.)
If you are aged between 4 and 12 and love reading books, or if you are the parent or grandparent of such a child, then you
might just know what I am talking about. Today was my first session as a volunteer on this year’s Summer Reading Challenge, the theme of which is – CREEPY HOUSE (pause for a scary howling noise – you know the kind of thing I mean.) You can
find the Creepy House – and the Summer Reading Challenge - at any library throughout the country.
Last year’s theme, regular readers may (or may not)
remember was Story Lab – Story Lab being the laboratory in which the stories which end up in the books our small fry love were invented. I loved Story Lab but most of the people I have talked to (librarians, mums, dads, carers) all think that Creepy
House will be much more popular (if scarier.) Last year I sat at a desk next to an enormous green dragon made of papier mache. He did an ace job at encouraging littl’uns to come over to the Story Lab desk so I had cause to thank him. This year,
the wall above my head, as I sit at what I like to call The Creepy Desk, is festooned with a black cobweb and some alarmingly multi-coloured spiders, all knitted apparently by the library’s Knit & Natter Group. Now that I know the Knit & Natter
Group gets involved in such exciting projects I may just have to join. I can knit and I can natter, after all. It sounds like a group just made for the likes of me.
Creepy Desk is covered with a fabulous table cloth which is black with silver cobwebs all over it. On the Creepy Desk I have a store of scratch and sniff stickers (“Even smellier than last year!” I tell all my young customers), four beakers containing
colourful stickers, some prompt cards in case I can’t think of anything to ask the young readers and a poster declaring that this is the Creepy House desk – just in case the cobweb and scary spiders haven’t given the game away. To one side
I have a trolley with boxes of registration cards and files containing everything else I need to do my creepy job.
I have done my homework by reading up on all
the characters mentioned above so that, if challenged, I sound as if I know what I am talking about. My favourite character so far is Ollie who tells jokes. Here is a sample: What did the mummy ghost say to the baby ghost? “Don’t spook till
you’re spooken to!” I tried it out on Mr B but he didn’t get it straight away. It’s probably the way I tell ‘em...
I lost count of
the number of children I registered for the Challenge today. At one point they were queuing several deep and I had to keep saying “Sorry to keep you waiting” as if I were a proper shop assistant. This happened whenever four children from
one family arrived at the desk, which necessitated the completion of four registration cards and much muddle over names and ages. My main difficulty (and I remember it well from last year) was the unusual spelling of so many of the names. I always covered
myself by exclaiming: “What a beautiful name” (for a girl) or “What an unusual name!” for a boy. I think I got away with it, most of the time. Though there were one or two children who might have been a boy or a girl and whose names
didn’t offer any clues either. It made it very difficult to know which box on the registration card to tick. Boy? Or girl? It would have been rude to ask, don’t you think? At the very least such an enquiry would have earned me a glare from the
Loving Parent in question. Incidentally, the Duchess of Cambridge may be interested to know that not a single George arrived at my table this morning – but presumably in five years’ time, there will be dozens of them queuing up.
The idea behind the Summer Reading Challenge is to keep children reading during the long summer holidays. It seems that many who were pretty good readers at the end of term
regress alarmingly over the course of the summer. There’s nothing like a Creepy House and some smelly scratch and sniff cards to turn a youngster into a bookworm.
I will do my (creepy) best...