In Praise of National Simultaneous Storytime 2016

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Jen Sherman

Staff Writer

Jen is an urban and cultural geographer who did a PhD on public libraries and reading. As a researcher, her interests are focused on libraries, reading, book retailing and the book industry more broadly. As a reader, she reads a lot of crime fiction, non-fiction, and chicklit. And board books. All the board books. You can also find her writing about books for children and babies at Instagram: shittyhousewife / babylibrarians Twitter: @jennnigan

National Simultaneous Storytime (NSS) took place across Australian libraries, schools, and bookshops last week. These kinds of mass reading events (organised reading events that unite a large audience) have become important and exciting parts of the reading landscape. NSS began in Australia in 2001, and is an annual campaign organised by the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA).

It is, essentially, one hour of one day where almost every pre-school aged child across Australia is reading the same book (or having the same story read to them). On the 25th of May, 2016, at 11am, children in schools, pre-schools, libraries, and bookshops all over the country were reading I Got This Hat by Jol and Kate Temple and illustrated by Jon Foye, a book about all the different things people put on their heads. (The NSS book is always written and illustrated by an Australian author and illustrator.)

ALIA describes NSS as “a colourful, vibrant, fun event that aims to promote the value of reading and literacy, using an Australian children’s book that explores age-appropriate themes, and addresses key learning areas of the National Curriculum for Grades 1 to 6 and the pre-school Early Learning Years Framework.”

NSS is now in its sixteenth year and is embraced by libraries all across Australia. The event promotes reading and literacy, the joy of books, Australian authors and illustrators, storytime activities in public libraries, and social reading for families. Often, local celebrities and politicians get involved, and there are costumes aplenty.

NSS 2016 at Narellan Library in NSW, Australia.

Early childhood kids arriving at Parkes Library for NSS, Parkes, NSW

NSS at Parkes Library, Parkes, NSW

Children’s libraries, and children’s events in libraries, have a long history. Now, in an era where public libraries often have to justify their existence and funding through quantifiable metrics such as circulation figures and visitor counts, storytime have become (as one library consultant put it) “a cash cow that gets people through the doors.” Storytimes are important events that encourage regular library use, early literacy, and teach parents and caregivers to read to their children.

NSS is storytime on a much larger scale, a wonderful celebration of an everyday activity that occurs in schools, libraries and homes all over the nation.