Getting children involved in reading, the Ingrid Källström way 

Swedish pedagogue and children’s librarian Ingrid Källström’s workshops at the Raja Tun Uda Library in Shah Alam have been a delightful and enriching experience for both children and parents alike. 

With a focus on sparking creativity and interest in literature through reading and arts-and-crafts exercises, Ingrid’s workshops also provided a unique Swedish perspective on children’s books.

“The workshops were well attended and the children enjoyed the workshops. They had new experience in these workshops,” she says excitedly.

With over 40 years of experience in children’s library services, Ingrid’s passion for literature and her interaction with children shines through in her workshops. 

“I love being involved in the children’s library. This is due to my interest in literature and the interaction with children,” adds Ingrid whose career started as a preschool teacher in her homeland.

She was animated when speaking about the workshops here.

“We had some challenges. The children did not know each other. They had no clue who I was, and then we had different languages in play as well.

“I obviously used some Swedish, the children communicated in Bahasa Malaysia, and there was English as well.”

However, despite facing language barriers and unfamiliarity among the participants, she found invaluable support from the library for the Malay language component of the workshops, contributing to their success.

The workshops, tailored for children aged 5-8 years, offered a new and engaging experience for the participants. 

Ingrid’s use of recycled materials added a creative and sustainable touch to the activities. She also took the opportunity to engage with parents, who showed great curiosity about Sweden, its lifestyle, school system and books.

Reflecting on the participating children, Ingrid noted their initial shyness but observed a remarkable transformation as they delved into the creative activities. 

“These kids, they were very shy to speak but when it came to doing their activities, they were initially confused but once they got going, they didn’t want to leave.

“That, I think, is a good reward,” she says with a satisfied smile.

She emphasized the importance of nurturing children’s curiosity and reading habits, encouraging parents to lead by example by reading themselves and providing access to books at home or through libraries.

“Children must read. They must be curious. They must open books and look at their content, and then talk about it…the stories will be familiar when you talk about them.”

She emphasized that parents too must read.

“They must pick up reading habits. The children will do what their parents do. They see you reading, they will also start reading. 

“You need to have books around you, and if you don’t have your own books, the library is perfect for that. 

“We must encourage reading in our free time and to experience the joy of reading. It is for pleasure, for fun,” stresses Ingrid.

She was also quick in pointing out that reading has numerous benefits for children, including improving literacy skills, expanding vocabulary, fostering imagination and creativity and enhancing cognitive development.

Furthermore, she said, children’s literature offers valuable insights into different cultures, perspectives and moral lessons that can benefit society as a whole.

“The Jom Kita Bincang programme is a good start in getting everyone involved in children’s literature.

“I am sort of overwhelmed by all the enthusiasm and feedback I got from everyone – the children, parents and teachers.

“This is an important work in which I played a small part. I am very proud of that.

“I love to come back to do this for the Malaysian children,” she notes at the end of the interview.

Ingrid’s participation in the workshops was part of the Jom Kita Bincang! (Let’s talk about it!) exhibition at the Raja Tun Uda Library in Shah Alam. 

It is an exhibition that explores how children’s literature can further the dialogue on sustainability, health, rights and social issues. The exhibition runs from 27 February to 10 April at the library.

The exhibition is a collaboration involving the Embassy of Sweden in Malaysia, the Raja Tun Uda Library and the Malaysia Board On Books For Young People (MBBY). Its royal patron is the Raja Muda of Selangor, Tengku Amir Shah.

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