Insights into Manchester Part 8: National Bookstart Week and the Magic of Reading
“I’m on my way”, I tell Suzanne Wild, a Service Development Officer for Manchester Libraries, who I am meeting this morning.
The sun shines on the nape of my neck and seems to emanate from all angles of the sidewalks as well. I am heading to Gorton, an area in Manchester where the City Council Depot is located and where the Books to Go office is. Spring has arrived in Manchester and lately, flower sightings have been welcome affirmations that the persistent Mancunian rain paid off. As I wander down this back road, I am hard-pressed to find real flowers peeping through the sidewalk. So I settle for the next best thing: Tchaikovsky’s “Waltz of the Flowers”. Insert headphones. Walk onward.
In a suddenly transported state of mind, the shining sun plants flowers in my footsteps. Seeing The Nutcracker with my family used to be a Christmas tradition. I distinctly remember my anticipation leading up to the opening act. The lights would dim and there would be a moment of silence before the magic began. I loved to relish that moment. I would dwell in the silent presence of anticipation, waiting for the curtains to draw and reveal all that I had dreamt of.
Before I knew it, I had arrived at the Gorton depot. Suzi was waiting for me there and together, we were going to work counting out and placing book copies into bundles ready for distribution during National Bookstart Week.
Bookstart is the world’s first national bookgifting programme. It ensures that children and families across England and Wales are given access to free resources through their local nurseries, libraries and schools that encourage reading for pleasure from birth. Every year, National Bookstart Week sees this project at its peak - Events and distribution are organized around a chosen book and delight ensues. This year, the spotlight is on Lucy Cousins’ A Busy Day for Birds.
I had never seen that many copies of a single book before. The depot was filled with boxes and storage containers that we spent the morning filling up, labeling, and sending off. Throughout our time there, the depot truck drivers came by to pick up the packages and deliver them to their respective destinations. As mechanical as the process may sound, it felt magical to be a part of this chain of events. Actually, I was standing on the cusp of a magic moment. These books were on their way to meet children across Manchester. Kids would soon get to marvel at the rich colors and the delightful coos and caws of Cousins’ work. We were there, standing in the silent presence of anticipation waiting for that first act to begin.
I don’t think a book can arrive in a child’s hands by accident. Books mobilize people. Before the orchestra strikes its first chord, an innumerable amount of forces align to make sure all runs smoothly. As we packed up the boxes, the books seemed to whisper “I’m on my way”. And there I was - sitting in the audience waiting for the curtains to pull back and for the magic of reading to begin.
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