New centre promoting children’s reading opens in Prague
A new Czech Children’s Book Centre has recently opened in Prague with the aim of promoting quality children’s books by small publishers and encouraging a love of reading among the young. The institution, located at Janský Vršek just below Prague Castle, also serves as a meeting place for authors, illustrators and readers of all ages.
“We want children to meet the authors, to ask them all sorts of question about how a book is created and why it is important to read,” says Jakub Pavlovský, director of the newly opened Czech Children’s Book Centre.
The centre, which has been operating since mid-September, officially opened just a few days ago as part of a larger project called Children’s Book Trail, which includes an annual literary and dramatic festival for children.
The institution, located in a small but charming space in Janský Vršek, is mostly financed from the so-called Norway Grants and it was in the Scandinavian countries that its founders looked for inspiration, says Mr. Pavlovský:
“The biggest inspiration was the Norwegian Children’s Book Institute, which has been running for some time, but when it was launched, it actually only had two employees and worked from a basement. So we thought it wouldn’t be a problem to start in a small space and develop from there.”
The space also serves as a bookshop of the Meander publishing house, which specializes in children’s literature. Its owner Iva Pecháčková is one of the founders of the new Children’s Book Centre. She says promoting small publishers is one of its main goals:
“There are a lot of small publishers, like Meander, who still have their old books at home or in their warehouses. These books have been awarded all sorts of prizes, but because booksellers are only interested in new products, the small publishers, who create the most beautiful books, have no way of getting them on the market. So this is one of our goals.”
The centre has already organised about a dozen workshops and meetings on its premises, but, as Jakub Pavlovský points out, they also want to travel outside of Prague, visiting school children across the country. And, although most of its activities are aimed at young readers, the centre will also offer programmes for adults, he says:
“We have traditional art workshops focusing on books by different publishers. In addition to that, we also organize debates with authors and children and then we have what we call reading sessions. Their aim is to teach educators and librarians to work in a slightly different way to make children interested in what they are reading and really think about it.”
The centre will also team up with other institutions, such as the newly opened Museum of Literature and will organize exhibitions focusing on Czech artists illustrating books for children and young adults, such as Petr Nikl and Jiří Sopko.