Knowledge Matters blog

Behind the scenes at the British Library

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Experts and directors at the British Library blog about strategy, key projects and future plans Read more

15 May 2024

Telling Stories That Help Children Learn to Read | User Stories

Telling Stories to teach reading

Salina Khatun is the founder of Kindle Corner, an organisation that runs free storytelling sessions at the British Library, and across Camden, for children aged 0 – 12.  

I taught for thirteen years as a primary school teacher: education has always been my passion. When London was in lockdown for the Covid-19 pandemic, I’d recently given birth to my third child. I started worrying about children whose parents weren’t teachers, and thinking about what I could do to support disadvantaged kids who were stuck at home. 

I believe strongly in the importance of education, and I know that storytelling creates a love of reading. If you’re creative in your movements and your facial expressions, children will want to engage. So I decided to start doing storytelling sessions on Zoom. Within three days, I had 250 attendees – not just from London, but from around the world. 

 

I held weekly storytelling sessions 

At the British Library, there’s a space called the Story Garden, which, as a teacher and as a mother, I would use to tell stories to children. After the lockdowns ended, Global Generation, the charity that created the garden in partnership with the Library, asked me to speak to Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, about why the space was important to the local community in our borough, Somers Town. After the talk, I told the director of the Story Garden that I’d be happy to hold weekly storytelling sessions for free, for the local children. We had a good turnout – up to 20 children coming to each session. That was the start of my storytelling organisation, Kindle Corner

In July 2022, the Library asked us if we would deliver sessions based on the themes of their exhibitions, and our relationship has grown from there. I love everything about the Library: it’s a gem, a space where everyone can learn. I’d like to see families using the Library to create a culture of reading for their young children as they grow. 

 

Group storytelling creates a feeling of togetherness

The sessions are popular because my team is passionate about telling stories. Group storytelling creates a feeling of togetherness for families. Our stories explore topics like visiting the dentist and taking care of nature. I especially like telling stories about emotions: how it’s okay to be happy or angrythe important thing is what you do with those feelings. I like to use humour, and let children take part, so that the sessions are fun. 

We focus on kids under 12 years old. Everybody, from all walks of life, comes to our sessions. We welcome a mix of every group you can think of who lives and works in Somers Town. We hope to raise a community of children that love stories. I believe that this will bridge the gap between children who aren’t read to, and children who come from affluent homes who are read to all the time. Children can enjoy Kindle Corner events even if they don’t speak English. 

 

We bring the world to children

The government’s 2022 literacy framework states that the two components for success in literacy are that children love reading and learn phonics. Children who don’t do this at an early age will not thrive in the education system and therefore won’t get the results they need to pursue a great career. When they struggle with a science text, or a maths question, they will be left behind. This is why I’m so passionate about what I’m doing. My vision of success is a child in Somers Town picking up a book every single day. 

We bring the world to children. Through a storytelling session, we can teach a child about Egypt; about the importance of looking after plants; about their own hygiene. We’re not just teaching them to love reading; we are planting the seeds of values. We also use the children to bring the adults along. For example, we want both adults and children to know about the concept of recycling. 

 

We empower a lot of mums

When you’re a teacher, parents don’t like approaching you, because you’re an authority figure. If they think I’m just another mum, they feel they can trust me. But as time is passing and they realise that I run Kindle Corner, that’s great because it’s inspiring. 

I've got a seven-year-old son, and daughters who are three and five. I don’t allow Kindle Corner to interrupt my time with my children in the afternoons. If you run a business or a charity, it can work really well around childcare. We’ve found that we empower a lot of mums. 

 

Storytelling is a powerful tool 

In spring 2022, I applied for the funding Camden Council offers to community projects, to grow my organisation. When our bid was successful, I was able to hire an administrator and another storyteller. Then we were spotted by the Francis Crick Institute, a biomedical research centre on Euston Road, and they asked us if we could do science-based storytelling sessions for them.

Next, Camden Council approached us and asked us to run storytelling sessions about the circular economy: recycling, sharing and upcycling. Storytelling is a powerful tool to influence and educate people. Rather than delivering a workshop and telling everybody that they need to recycle, we deliver a story showing why recycling is important. It’s a better way to communicate with people. These days, Kindle Corner has a brilliant team of 24, many of whom are volunteers. 

Last year, we started working with Google. They asked me to write a story about myself and my work, and I realised that I’d done a lot in only the first year of running Kindle Corner. We've also started delivering storytelling sessions for families in the Library's Last Word community hub every Thursday. 

As told to Lucy Peters

07 May 2024

Get into the heart of the Library with our new Bloomberg Connects digital guide

Bloomberg Connects app in the British Library

We’re pleased to launch our free digital guide to our London St Pancras site, which helps you explore our iconic Grade I listed building, taking in its history, architecture and collection items.

Users will discover the stories behind our artworks around the building, get a peek behind the scenes and find out about our dynamic event and exhibition programme.

Reckon you’re already an expert on all things British Library? Put your knowledge to the test with our quiz questions dispersed around some of our pages. How many red bricks did it take to build the Library? You’ll need to download the app to find out!

You can use the app during a visit to guide you around the building, before arrival to help you plan your way around, or after you’ve visited to learn more about things you may have missed. 

How to access our digital guide

You can access our digital guide from the comfort of your own home or via our WiFi onsite. Simply download the 'Bloomberg Connects' app from the App Store or Google Play.

Download the Bloomberg Connects app

Bloomberg connects logo NEW

Once you have downloaded the Bloomberg Connects app to your mobile device or tablet, search for 'British Library' to access our guide.

How to use our digital guide

On the app, you'll find floor plans, video content with transcripts, audio clips and more. Explore all floors of the British Library and discover some of the extraordinary artworks on display.

When visiting the British Library in London St Pancras, look for Bloomberg Connects Look-Up Numbers next to collection items in the Sir John Ritblat Gallery: Treasures of the British Library and next to artworks on display around the building. Use the Look-Up Number or scan the QR to find related content in the app.

Look out for further content being added to the app over the coming months.

About Bloomberg Connects

Bloomberg Connects is a free app offering digital guides to over 350 museums and cultural organisations around the world. We are delighted to work in partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies to make this digital guide possible.

01 May 2024

Helping your research – 1 May 2024

Our teams have been working since last year’s cyber-attack to find ways to restore access to as much of our collection as possible, while ensuring that we do so in a way that is secure, safe and resilient. We’ve recently made some improvements to our services that we hope will make researching here a little easier.

We know the past months have been frustrating and we really appreciate your patience and understanding as we work to restore all our services. We’ll share more on upcoming improvements as soon as we can.

Reading Room

It’s now easier to get a Reader Pass

We’re now able to issue photographic passes again, and these will last for one year. The pass will allow you to use our Reading Rooms for personal study, use our free Wi-Fi, access items on the shelves and order collection items to consult. This means anyone with a Reader Pass can order collection items in the Reading Rooms.

If you have previously been issued with a temporary paper pass, you will need to revisit Reader Registration onsite to exchange it for a photographic pass. You must bring identification with you when you visit Reader Registration. Find out more about getting your Reader Pass.

You can access more of our collection

We’ve restarted the transfer of collection items between our two sites, which has expanded the range of collection materials available for Readers to order.

You can use our online catalogue to identify the items you need and their location, but please check their availability before visiting the Reading Rooms by contacting our Reference Services team. You’ll still need to visit in person and complete paper forms to order collection items at the moment. Find out more about how to use our collection right now.

Hands with manuscript.

View digitised collections on the history of the Silk Road

The International Dunhuang Programme (IDP) is celebrating its 30th birthday with a brand new website boasting improvements designed with researchers in mind.

Bring the history of the Silk Road to life through digitised collection items, information about manuscripts, printed materials, photographs and other resources. Explore the website.

Need some help?

If you want to check if an item is available, need advice navigating our collection or aren’t sure how to start, our Reference team is here to help, whether you have a Reader Pass or not. Message our team and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.