BA (Hons) Illustration staff and students developed a reading and drawing project to invite families from the local asylum seeker community into the University Library.
The University of Portsmouth has been helping children from asylum-seeking families to enjoy books and reading.
BA (Hons) Illustration staff and students developed a reading and drawing project to invite families from the Portsmouth City of Sanctuary (PCoS) asylum seeker community into the University Library.
Working with Anita David from PCoS, children and their families with little access to books and who did not have English as a first language, were able to enjoy books from the Library’s Near and Far World Book (NFWB) collection, which are authored from across the world and translated into English.
The families were linked up with students who read to and listened to them reading. The students also mentored older family members to take on the responsibility to read to, with and listen to younger children, while also developing their own language skills. Further activities included drawing the characters from the stories with the children and playing games based on the books.
Reading to children you’ve never met and not knowing their story preferences is quite some feat. However, the students taking part have a great understanding of illustration and narrative for a targeted audience.
10-year-old Karina from Afghanistan, said: “I loved the books at the library, I met so many nice people there. Now I like to read every day.”
Ash and Hirina, both 16 year old Action Asylum volunteers, also buddied up with the students in the project. They said: “It was a really amazing experience, to volunteer with university students and to visit the university library.”
Following a pilot project from the previous year, Illustration students led the project that formed part of their course studies. Level six students also created picture books for the young readers as part of their final-year projects.
There was a fun and relaxed atmosphere and it was clear that those involved loved taking inspiration from the books for drawing as much as reading. It was a delight to observe this. Language skills improved and the children began to find out interesting facts about their birth countries, the country they were now living in, and lived in a world of imagination for a short time.
Poppy Ryder, level six Illustration student, said “I enjoyed reading picture books to small children and being able to help the local community.”
“I liked reading to the little kids and seeing their drawings, which worked well for young children,” said Eunsoo Choi, level six Illustration student.
Billie Samuel, level five Illustration student, said: “I really enjoyed it when the children started engaging with the book I was reading, after picking out their books from such a large range available within the NFWB collection.”
Adult family members enjoyed the opportunity to explore the University Library and sign up for free membership, so they could continue to borrow books for the children or themselves and make use of the library space at their leisure. One family member said: “It's a great opportunity for my children to take part in a reading project in a different environment.”
The four-week programme was developed by Dr Karenanne Knight, Senior Illustration Lecturer, and Greta Friggens, Faculty Librarian for Creative and Cultural Industries, who have been working together on the (NFWB) collection, which includes Outside In World Children’s Books in Translation (OIW).
I enjoyed reading picture books to small children and being able to help the local community.
Dr Knight said: “After some on-site training, and lots of fun, they were ready to read beautifully. Reading to children you’ve never met and not knowing their story preferences is quite some feat. However, the students taking part have a great understanding of illustration and narrative for a targeted audience. Greta and the wonderful staff in the Library enabled the reads to take place on Saturday mornings.”
Greta said “Over the four weeks, the confidence of both the University students and the asylum seeker children grew enormously. There was a fun and relaxed atmosphere and it was clear that those involved loved taking inspiration from the books for drawing as much as reading. It was a delight to observe this. Language skills improved and the children began to find out interesting facts about their birth countries, the country they were now living in, and lived in a world of imagination for a short time.”
The NFWB collection and reading project is an example of how students, staff and individual departments are working with the University Library to develop community projects. It has also contributed to the University Library's successful application for Customer Service Excellence Accreditation.
Kath Shakespeare, Interim University Librarian, said: “Not all University Libraries are able to offer access to their communities. We are very lucky here at Portsmouth and the collection has now become a hub for community reading, as well as for the project. A big thank you must go to Rosy, a member of our staff, who volunteered her time to make sure that the parents were as happy as the children throughout the four weeks.”
The NFWB collection continues to grow and is available to a wide range of students, staff and the wider community.