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National Children's Book Week: Let's Book
    by Cathlena Martin


The 2004 Children's Book Week runs this week from November 15 to the 21st with the theme of "Let’s Book." This year’s slogan is, "Let's rock.. let's roll... let's move...… let's go...let's discover... let's fly...let's do it all ... with children's books." Since it began in 1919, this annual event has been sponsored by the Children’s Book Council in order to encourage positive reading habits in our children. The week usually falls right before Thanksgiving and is a time for schools, libraries, booksellers, and parents to actively put a book -- a picture or a chapter book, a pop-up book or a novel -- into the hands of children so that they can experience reading as a priority in their lives.

Children’s Book Week is popular around the country and has even found its way into the plot of a work of juvenile fiction. In Tilly's Strange Secret by Christine Noble Govan, published in 1952, the title character, Tilly, a fourth grade girl, plans a special celebration for Book Week. Her new school is so poor, though, that they cannot afford books for a library, or even to support the bookmobile’s trip from the county library. Tilly's total love of books spurs her to begin a personal project of building a library for her class. She plans to raise enough money to start the library, but she is frustrated with each passing day that goes by without bringing in enough for the books. Tilly longs for her and her friends to have their imaginations kindled by the sparks of plots and characters that she knows will fly from the books that will fill their library.

Happily, just in the nick of time, the library fund gets a $100 windfall. And with this and the other money she has saved, Tilly, her two close friends, and her aunt go to the book store and enact something similar to what happens every year when the Caldecott and Newberry Committee members meet to decide which books shall receive their annual prizes. Govan describes the friends’ sorting through the possible books for their library: "The next hour was like playing the most delightful game. Each girl took turns choosing a book from the piles around them. Then the title and the price was written down neatly on the pad by Aunt Ellen. As each one chose a book she said why she thought it would be a good one for the school" (84). They continue the selection process until all their library funds are spent on new books for the class, and the class celebrates their new library during Children’s Book Week. Govan’s book is a touching tribute to the importance that children themselves place on books, and why it is so necessary for us adults to help nurture the presence of books in their lives.

Copyright 2004 © Cathlena Martin


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