Our main duty as Ambassadors is to raise the awareness of the importance of reading amongst a wider audience. But how can that wider audience be reached? That was the hardest part of our job. We held a lot of workshops for children, but we tried above all to reach adults. We gave lectures to teachers, future-teachers, librarians and parents. The emphasis of these lectures was on poetry. Our motto is “a poem a day, keeps the doctor away”. At special moments during our lives, we turn to poetry. Poems embellish announcements of births, deaths and marriages. But there is poetry for every day, concise but powerful. If we teach children to play with language and poetry, they spontaneously get pleasure from reading. Whoever reads, learns new words. Words that can carry you, as a seagull is carried on the wind. And the wind carries you wherever you wish to go.
The Dutch newspaper Het Parool gave us the opportunity to appeal to a large audience. They published our poetry columns. It was our intention that parents should read the columns aloud at breakfast every Saturday morning… Last week the columns were published by our Dutch publisher, Querido, in an anthology with the title Poëzie hardop (Poetry Aloud).
When we started out as ambassadors two years ago, we realised that we did not have an Embassy. We had neither a driver, nor a butler, nor did we have a cook. That’s why we initiated the creation of a real Children’s Books Embassy. It has been realised in the Children’s Book Museum in The Hague. As far as we know, this is the first Children’s Book Embassy in the world. There are paintings by the Dutch master painter and illustrator, Philip Hopman, with allusions to classic children’s books. And there is also a beautiful library. This wonderful, inspiring place, enables everyone to share the magic of stories with one another. In a special mini-studio in the Embassy, everyone can become a Book Ambassador themselves by recording a short video and explaining why their favourite book is so special, and why everyone should read it. The Book Ambassadors receive a special passport, full of useful tips for making such Book Videos. If you’re curious about these Book Videos, pay a visit to the Children’s Books Ambassador’s website! There you will also discover a lot of videos with the favourite books of Dutch authors and illustrators. And if you ever come to Holland, we invite you to visit the Embassy yourself.
On social media, using our own iPhones, we made a number of videos to promote reading. They are shown in libraries and schools, and at parents’ meetings. We just showed you one of these short videos: Children Do What You Do. And now our term as Ambassador is almost over. Next week we will hand over the official title to Manon Sikkel, with lots of confidence and pleasure. We built an Embassy; maybe she can arrange the driver, the butler and the cook… Good luck, Marion.
Monique & Hans Hagen
3 april 2019