Amid concerns over the declining number of children’s libraries in Turkey, a pioneering new attempt is being made to encourage children and their families to take up the reading habit.
Turkey's first ‘Interactive Library for Kids’, opened recently in Istanbul, has become home to both local and foreign youngsters in an attempt to broaden the traditional library into a center for the whole family.
"These types of libraries are known as ‘family centers’, ‘play centers’ or ‘community centers in different parts of the world’,” the project’s general coordinator, Esra Akcay-Duff told Anadolu Agency, speaking during Turkey's 50th National Library Week.
"Ours is very much similar to those; it is a library as well as serving as a place of learning, discovery, playing games and socializing both for children and parents."
The library, which is for children aged 0-9, aims to promote reading by twinning it with interaction and socialization; families come together with their children to read and play with them.
Akcay-Duff says: "Our aim is to ensure that children get socialized here in an enjoyable atmosphere and they are encouraged to read, accompanied by their peers and parents.
"When families come together and discuss the training of their children, the library will also serve as a place for sharing, cooperation, and helping each other."
Moreover, the library will also offer support to parents as child experts will regularly train families on issues such as child-rearing, domestic violence, child development, psychology and children's rights.
The project is the first concrete step in a government-backed 'Reading Children' project which aims to examine children’s libraries across Turkey and offer projects to develop them, besides pioneering the establishment of new branches nationwide.
Akcay-Duff says already-existing libraries for children in Turkey are too few in number and not designed properly in terms of capacity, physical structure and usage.
Excluding schools, Turkey only has 46 children’s libraries nationwide according to 2012 data cited by Marmara University academic, Gussun Gunes.
The number of regular children’s libraries in Turkey has been declining day-by-day due to a lack of promotion, claims Isil Ilknur Sert, an academic from Istanbul University’s Department of Information and Document Management Studies.
She stresses that already-existing libraries should be promoted to citizens by advertising and promoting.
The library in Ozgurluk Park, in Istanbul’s coastal Kadikoy district, opened on March 19, to offer “families a chance, leading them to see how to spend their leisure time actively with their children in daily life,” says Ackay-Duff.
Free for everyone, Istanbul’s ‘Interactive Library for Kids’ may be the future for a new generation of young Turkish people, a place where “actors, actresses, plays, imaginations, tales and books change every day”.
by Esra Kaymak and Ayse Humeyra Atilgan
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