Wuhan Children’s Library
In China, there is a gorgeous city with the Yangtze River passing through, named Wuhan, the capital of Hubei Province. This city has a public library, the Wuhan Children’s Library (https://bit.ly/2jZMNI9) which provides free services for 1.5 million children.
The library building is an excellent historical building under cultural relic protection. In the past 88 years, it has been quiet and elegant, and received little public attention. However, it is different now. It is becoming an eye-catching and dynamic paradise for local children to read happily and grow up healthily. The dramatic change can be attributed to the new space in the library, Tusen Ord. Tusen Ord is a children’s imaginative reading space, the first in public libraries in China. Its Chinese name “Qian Zi Wu” implies “many words in the house”. Since the project was introduced from Sweden, its English name adopts the word from the Swedish Tusen Ord, meaning a thousand words.
Tusen Ord in Wuhan
Tusen Ord in the Wuhan Library covers an area of 296 sq m over two levels and was constructed at a cost of about 1 million yuan (approximately US$155,000). The facility consists of six activity areas, including a Wish Tower, Rainbow Bridge, Chu Room, Swedish House, Mysterious House, and Dream Theatre. The design of each area is integrated into four elements of character, place, wish and question, with props and facilities used to carry out activities, and equipped with some excellent children’s books and specially designed reading spaces.
Tusen Ord in Borlänge
The design of the facility is modelled on the Tusen Ord in Borlänge, Sweden, retaining some Swedish characteristics and incorporating a large number of Chinese elements. The Swedish Tusen Ord (thousand words) is a project sponsored by Young Eagle, the Kulturcentrum Asken, Studieförbundet Bilda and the Swedish Church in Borlänge with assistance from the library in Borlänge and the Future Museum (https://bit.ly/2rHEGDd ; https://bit.ly/2Geln9T)
Details of the Facility
In Wuhan’s Tusan Ord, children may make their own wishes in the centre of the Wish Tower. They can play games together, during which they get to know that dreams will come true through mutual help and hard work. Children can take a panoramic view of Tusen Ord from the Rainbow Bridge, looking at figures on the Photo Wall and stories on the Window Wall. There is a Story Telling Cabin and mini-world drawers in the Swedish House. Children complete tasks using their hands and minds and enjoy experiences of great value.
Many interesting games are available including chess and silhouette stories with story background boxes. Children can happily enjoy using their imaginations and being creative while playing games or working at the tables. Many unexpected treasures are awaiting discovery by the children in the Mysterious House. Open question and answer sessions allow the children to think outside the box under the guidance of their teachers. In the Dream Theatre, children make full use of the costumes and props on stage to play various roles in the performances, show their dreams and experience life’s joys.
China’s intangible cultural heritage items, such as Peking Opera mask, dough sculpture, mini kites and paper cutting are reflected in the decoration of the space.
Chu Room takes Hubei characteristics of Chu culture as its decorative style, setting up three activity scenes: a mini ancient opera stage, Chinese hieroglyphic printing, and the game Huarongdao, in three kingdoms of ancient China. Children can direct their own activities, shadow play, experience typography and challenge ancient Chinese folk puzzle games.
Tusen Ord emphasizes flexibility in its design. Since its opening in 2016, library staff have changed exhibitions and presentations to ensure that children using the facility maintain their curiosity. New scenes and theatrical enhancements have been used to stimulate children’s imagination.
Through scenes, props and activity design, children use their imaginations under the guidance of teachers to create their own stories around the four elements of character, place, wish and question. They act out the stories and present them using art, music, dance and drama. Children of all ages find their favourite reading spaces and read books while lying, sitting or lying on one’s stomach. Librarians combine picture books and activities, taking a picture book story as a blueprint, creating an active atmosphere, and using stories as the launching point for the activity being undertaken. The children participate actively in the story, involve themselves in the plot and think and act creatively.
Tusen Ord has helped the library successfully attract more readers. In 2017, 964,454 readers entered the Wuhan Children’s Library, enjoying reading and participating in the activities. Because of the remarkable impact, a school, Po Yang Street Primary School, has introduced the Tusen Ord project to build its Sunshine Castle learning centre, which has benefitted more than 1,400 children aged from six to twelve years. A new space, modelled on Tusen Ord but with different scenes, has been constructed.
Chinese children when compared with children in other countries are frequently perceived to be lacking in imagination. Through the efforts of librarians and teachers in China and the construction of new imagination space in public libraries and schools, the present situation is likely to change. To give more children opportunities to experience Tusen Ord, Wuhan Children’s Library plans to develop chain branches in more areas of the city and promote the concept to the entire city of Wuhan and eventually throughout China.
Xushuiqin currently works in the Wuhan Children’s Library in its counselling and training department. She is responsible for children’s reading and the promotion of research. She has combined her love of reading with the love of children and is proud of the achievements of librarians. Xushuiqin received a master’s degree in library Science from Central China Normal University in 2012. She was a member of the cultural delegation who visited the Kulturcentrum Asken (Asken cultural centre) in Borlänge, Sweden, in 2015 and received training from the teachers working in Tusen Ord. From September 2015 to December 2016, Xushuiqin participated in the planning and construction of Tusen Ord in Wuhan and has been responsible for activities planning, compiling lesson plans and teacher training. 徐水琴 email@example.com