The Library as Publishing Hub: Children’s Books by Children and for Children in the Kids’ Own Book Cubby
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The Library as Publishing Hub:
Children’s Books by Children and for Children in the Kids’ Own Book Cubby

Libraries are repositories of community and personal histories recorded in all forms. Libraries throughout history have had the technology and space, both of which have provided support and inspiration for people of all ages to tell their stories. As you read this (perhaps in a library yourself), people are sitting in libraries and writing down their thoughts, dreams, and memories in the hope that publication will bring them a wider audience. Many published works began their lives on library surfaces and screens. Libraries are more and more actively facilitating this process, as described recently by Henrietta Verma in the Library Journal:

At the low-cost end of the spectrum for libraries is providing relatively hands-off assistance for local scribes: dedicated space for them to work in, perhaps together, and books that will aid them in jump starting their creativity or improving their writing skills… Using this approach, a library can foster a welcoming environment for local ingenuity and perhaps boost circulation. Tapping expertise from local authors can promote engagement and build community.

Kids’ Own Publishing was founded in Ireland in the 1990s to make books by children and for children, books which reflected children’s own families and communities. Founders Victoria Ryle and Simon Spain established the Kids’ Own model as one of adult artist-led book-making workshops, resulting in the publishing of beautifully designed offset printed [End Page 68] books in small numbers. Funding for these was raised by the community, usually through schools. Children worked with artists over several weeks, a term, or a year to have their voices heard in book form. Among these was the first known published book for children written in Cant, the language of the Travellers, titled Can’t Lose Cant (2005).

Kids’ Own Publishing (Australia) was established by Ryle and Spain in 2007 and has since published over 120 books. (Kids’ Own Publishing Partnership continues in Ireland.) From the Northern Territory, Christmas and Cocos (Keeling) Islands and Western Australia, and wild coastal Ceduna and Coober Pedy in South Australia to the suburbs and surrounds of Australia’s City of Literature, Melbourne, children in communities all over the country have told their stories in published form. Books have been published in English as well as Kriol, Vietnamese, Mandarin, Dinka, Nuer, and other home languages. The rapid evolution of digital printing, with the resulting lowered setup costs and ease of versioning, has made these multiple editions possible. Edith Cowan University researchers Yvonne Haig and Caroline Barratt-Pugh, reporting to the State Library of Western Australia on the efficacy of a partnership publishing project, said that the Kids’ Own Publishing model

is a powerful strategy for giving people, including those from diverse backgrounds, an opportunity to tell stories that are important to them and in the process to engage more deeply with literacy practices and with their local library. [Findings from the evaluation] further suggest that others are attracted to these types of highly personal, instantly and simply published texts and are keen to read them as well as being motivated to write their own books.

Enter the Kids’ Own Book Cubby. The Australian Concise Oxford Dictionary defines “cubby” as “a very small room; a snug or confined space; in the Australian vernacular, a cubby house is a child’s playhouse.” The Kids’ Own Book Cubby is, then, a child-sized, cosy reading room-within-a-room, a bookcase that children can be inside.

Standing 150 cm tall, the Cubby assembles from four sections into a mini-library in minutes. Children are invited to come inside to its packed bookshelves through a small arched opening, easy for them but not so for adults. Kids’ Own founder Victoria Ryle designed and developed the Book Cubby in Australia, after relocation from Ireland. She tells the story of being discovered there by a small person while putting books away and being scolded, “Mummies aren’t allowed in here!”

The exterior front and side walls are lined with Perspex shelving packed with published “origami” or “hotdog” books with colorful covers, beckoning child readers and...