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Point of view of the my books my story exhibition. artworks on the wall and glass display cases.

Friday 22nd April 2022

Volunteering for My Books My Story

Written by Kaori Kameda

Do you have any favourite books?Kaori pointing to an elephant art piece inspired by the book Elmer.

Are there any stories you cannot forget for a long time?

The exhibition ‘My Books, My Story’ is a pop-up gallery created and co-curated by more than 50 youngsters between 4 and 18 who are in the care of the county council. All of the art in this gallery is inspired by stories or books children read, from the latest comic books to picture books that have been popular for a long time. Children worked with professional photographers and artists to give form to their thoughts and ideas about books and stories that had made an impression on them.

The children are all different, but they have one thing in common—the Infinite imagination.

In producing their art, the children showed a wide range of characters. Some children were able to form their images immediately, others could not draw well and had to erase their pictures many times, and some children had difficulty forming their images the way they wanted them to be. The pace at which they created their artwork varied. Nevertheless, the children were able to give shape to their originality and image as they created their artwork. Through interaction with professionals, they expressed what they loved with their open minds and hearts.

When I first saw the exhibition as a volunteer for this event, I felt overwhelmed by the children’s ability to express themselves. I was a little worried that the work of children in care would have a little dark or gloomy theme, but my thoughts quickly switched when I saw the many colourful pieces of artwork. Seeing the work that used photographs to express their images, and the hard work into their drawings using tape and soft materials, I knew that the children were full of confidence.

I participated in the exhibition as a volunteer because I was hoping for an opportunity to contribute something to the local community. Volunteering is a rewarding activity and makes me feel more connected to the community. As a student of Museum Studies, volunteering at this event was the perfect opportunity for me. The shopping centre is an unusual location for an art exhibition, but this meant that many families visited the event. By interacting with so many families, I was able to hear the conversations that parents and children have about the artworks and how they view the exhibition, which will inform future visitor research for the Heritage Service.

I have listened more closely to visitors’ conversations and learned the differences between Japanese and British parent-child conversations in exhibitions. In Japan, parents often give their children information about the objects on display, such as ‘It’s a stone statue from the 10th century’ or ‘It’s a Triceratops bone’, but in the UK, the most common questions I heard were ‘What do you think this is?’ or ‘What do you think this is made of?’ I feel this is a crucial question in encouraging children’s curiosity. I often heard the conversation at this exhibition, ‘What picture book do you think inspired this?’ or ‘Can you find your favourite book?’. It is impressive to hear them talk about respecting the children’s intentions.

This project is a fantastic opportunity to experience just how creative and expressive children can be. I truly hope My Books My Story event will continue to encourage children to express themselves freely and read for pleasure.


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