Nahum the Gramotnik and the Hogwarts Professors; Top Extraordinary Children’s Libraries in Moscow

April 7

Children's libraries have remained an option of choice even with screen-obsessed kids. Seeking to engage kids in reading, the librarians make book pages go live and offer quests, workshops, and games. To celebrate International Children's Book Day on April 2, has made a selection of extraordinary children's libraries in Moscow.

Grandma's Fairy Tales

In 1919, the Moscow Council of Workers', Peasants' and Red Army Deputies decided to procure books for the regional Sushevsko-Maryinsky Workers' Club to enlighten the proletariat. This has started the history of Surikov Library No. 46 with its children's branch located at Mikhailovskaya Street 15 in the Koptevo District. The library boasts 77.5 thousand books. They include the poems of Ivan Surikov, a self-educated poet. Many grand parents have been reading Surikov's memoirs "Childhood" to their grandchildren.

"Surikov's father was a merchant who sold vegetables and eventually metal goods, and Ivan helped him all his life. We offer tours around Surikov's Moscow to show sites where the Surikovs lived and worked. Zamoskvorechye District is included in the route. Few 19th-century buildings have survived, but we tell the stories of those missing and show the buildings that replaced them and what is in them now," Zoya Isaeva, the director of Surikov Central Children's Library No. 46, said.

This excursion feels like a grandma's fairy tale to kids. It makes them want to know more and read about Moscow and Surikov and learn about his life. According to Zoya Isaeva, the library's efforts are aimed to help children fall in love with books. Every year the library celebrates the Day of Nahum Gramotnik. It is related to Surikov in a way because his poems are dedicated to peasant life.

"The Prophet Nahum's day was celebrated on December 14 in the old days when peasants finished their farm work and sent children to school. So we hold meetings with children's book publishers," Zoya Isaeva said.

The library has launched a new project recently. Children explore the Moscow Central Circle stations of the urban rail line and the history of its sites. The tour begins in Koptevo, which houses an 18th-century manor house of Mikhalkovo by the Golovinkie Ponds.

 Surikov Central Library is more like a community reading club. Boxes with brightly colored books are everywhere, and children can choose whatever they like themselves with no need to ask permission from librarians. There are lots of coloring pages and jigsaw puzzles. The soon-to-be-opened comic book room will offer workshops teaching kids to draw their favorite characters' stories.

"While libraries are known to be quiet, ours is a different story. We let children be noisy, play and run around. Being relaxed, they are more likely to want to pick up a book. This approach has worked well. More than one generation has grown up here and brought in their kids," Zoya Isaeva says.

Gaidarovka is another library with a rich history. Vasily Klyuchevsky, a Russian historian at the turn of the 20th century, bequeathed his personal book collection to Moscow. The collection gave rise to a children's library in 1915. The library moved from Bolshaya Kommunisticheskaya Street to 5 Rostov Embankment in 1964 and was named after the writer Arkady Gaidar a year later.

Photo by Yulia Ivanko,

With more than 217,000 books, magazines, and audiobooks in its collection, it ranks among the city's largest libraries. It has also taught children to enjoy reading. First-graders love the annual Eirst-Class Readers event. They watch the Why Go to Libraries cartoon and have a look at the top best books for their age, including First-Graders by Agnia Barto and Big Little Girl by Maria Bershadskaya. Parents are offered a separate book list to motivate young readers, such as Oscar Brenifier's Why am I going to school? and Mihaelin Mandy's School Is Great and Yuliya Kuznetsova's Read Fast - How To Help Kids Enjoy Reading.

Many today's authors write for children. They present their works at the Kora short-story festival held by Gaidar Central City Library.

The Psychology of Kolobok and the Amazing ABC

Pioneer Children's Library No. 211, located at Bolshaya Dorogomilovskaya Street 7, has developed its proprietary methodology to engage children in reading. The library owns more than 32 thousand books.

"We are running Darya Panchenko's Art Studio. Darya is our staff psychologist and artist. She asks children to read a fairy tale or story for each class. During the class, she asks them to draw a picture of what they have read and explains psychology concepts. This time Darya asked them to read a fairy tale about Kolobok. I wonder what we will see in class! The studio always has a long waiting list," Araksia Zholobova, Pioneer Library director, said.

The librarians help schoolchildren to enjoy textbooks as well. They invite top experts is different areas to discuss future jobs.

The children's unit of Svetlov Central City Youth Library, located at 24, Bolshoy Tishinsky Pereulok, welcomes children with its brightly colored interior design and furniture. The library's activities include regular meetings with children's authors, such as Evgeny Sosnovsky, the author of motivating poems. Sosnovsky's DruzhiMishki - Amazing ABS has the following lines. "How do we know everything? How do we figure it out? We need to read books! Any doubts, kids?"

Book Garden Bed and a Colorful Giraffe

Bainki Children's Library No. 207 Located at 43 Bolshaya Filevskaya Street, teaches children to value both books - about 24.5 thousand in the library - and the material of which they are made and care about the environment.

"Vitaly Bianki wrote books about nature, and we hold the complete set of his works, so we decided to focus on the environment," Vladimir Golovachev, the library director, said.

In spring, our readers join the Book Garden Bed campaign to grow flowers on the windowsill. Each pot carries its gardener's name, and if you point a smartphone at a QR code, you can read the flower's name and story.

"We hold the regular contest "Top Eco-Friendly Families in the Zapadny District." Participants show how they save natural resources, such as electricity," the director said.

Besides, the library hosts the annual Crystal Knowledge Tree event. Moscow University chemistry experts teach children to grow salt crystals and make chemical experiments. This activity inspires them to read more about chemistry. The Kalevala Land is a class where children learn to write the Kalevala lines with goose quill pens.

The Ecotravel project is in the pipeline. The library invited Irina Konyukhova, the wife of traveler Fyodor Konyukhov, to talk about Kalmykia. Viktoria Shanina, a travel book author, will tell children about Kamchatka.

"It's difficult to keep up with the changing world. But we can teach children to enjoy sitting wrapped in a blanket on a windowsill with a book and a cup of tea. While were closed for renovation, many readers were afraid that we will never open again," he said.

Barto Cultural Center at Children's Library No. 178 also teaches children to care about the environment.  Located at Dmitry Ulyanov street 24, it owns 64 thousand books with many of them dealing with environmental matters. The Colored Giraffe Book and Eco Club is focused on books about nature.

"Each meeting of the Colored Giraffe discusses an animal or plant, or natural phenomenon. Three to seven year olds read books aloud and do arts and crafts using eco-friendly materials," Irina Koloskova, the library head, said.

Things Harry Potter Would Have Never Dreamt of

The staff members at Akhmatova Central Library No. 197 located at 34 Krylatskie Kholmy Street know too well that the magic of technology is more appealing to kids than the charm of fairy tales. They came up with an idea to connect reading and digital innovation. The children's library boasts 60 thousand books. To engage children in reading, librarians offer them some electronic games and a technology lecture. The lecturer looks very much like a Hogwarts professor.

"With maximum open spaces and technology and minimum bookshelves, the library relies on the Smart concept. For example, we offer an interactive table and interactive floor. By touching the table screen, kids can talk with a cartoon character who asks them to guess what time of the day or which family member it is going to show in a second. It's a great way to learn some simple ideas about the world. The floor shows a display where kids can, for example, clean up the ocean by jumping on animated garbage cans or banana peel and making them disappear. The floor offers 84 games," Vladimir Kosarevsky, the library director, said.

The smart library has automated most processes. Kids find it exciting to grab books using technology. They can use an RFID scanner to look for a book in the room. And return their books at the e-station by scanning their barcode and dropping a book into a book return machine.

Vladimir Kosarevsky says Harry Potter is the most popular book character. But kids also like books by Valentin Berestov. The writer's daughter Marina often comes to share her books and talk about her famous father.

"While library bears the name of Anna Akhmatova, it is not a mere chance that we are strongly connected with Berestov and the children's department bears his name. The Akhmatovs and the Berestovs were evacuated to Tashkent during World War II where Anna Akhmatova used to give small parties for young writers. Valentin Berestov was invited and read his poems, which Anna Akhmatova praised. Her compliment inspired Berestov so much that he soon made a magic writing career," the director said.

Vladimir Kosarevsky is sure that the library is in for such serendipity, too. There are amazing projects in the pipeline. Such as developing the book collection audio guide.


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