Frankie Jaiyeola, from State Library of Queensland, is the first recipient of our Librarian Storyteller of the Year Award. With her passion for engaging storytelling and excitement for children’s literature bursting from her entry, the judging panel awarded her first prize. 

Frankie got the rare opportunity to read two CBCA shortlisted titles for Story Box Library (SBL), Ellie’s Dragon and Norton and the Bear, plus future SBL release Night Noises. The SBL team interviewed Frankie for a special feature, sharing her experiences of being a librarian, her passion for kids’ books, and the wide-ranging benefits of nurturing a love of reading and literacy in children.

Describe your journey to becoming a librarian 

Growing up, I wasn’t really surrounded by many books, but in no way was I deprived of stories. Instead we would make up our own stories and put on our own shows. I saw libraries as quiet spaces for serious work, and so… not for me, unless I was going to be quiet and serious. 

Then as a drama student looking for a place to study at State Library, I came across The Corner ‘a creative space for under 8’s and their grown ups’. The space caught my eye. Filled with magic, wonder and play, it reminded me of when Mary Poppins used her magic to jump inside a painting. It was like a living, breathing, real life picture book!

What I loved about The Corner was how stories were brought to life. There was so much reading aloud between families, acting out, dressing up, improvising and continuing the stories off the page. I could see that these kids were developing a love for stories, books and libraries by being in this space and for the first time I felt like I could belong in a library, just me being me and not putting on some other kind of ‘serious hat’. I just had to be involved, and so after volunteering for a while, I got a job there and have never looked back! 

What are some of the things you love most about being a librarian?

Since working at State Library of Queensland, and even more so after becoming a parent myself I have experienced how a library can be the heartbeat of a community. A place for learning and discovery where all are welcome. 

I am so lucky to primarily work with families with young children in my role at State Library. I get to help create the very first library experience for so many little ones. We have babies come in for the first time at as young as 3 months old and I get to see those little ones learn to crawl, walk, talk and of course learn to love books and singing. It is such a privilege to be part of that early journey for families helping to create a lifelong love of literature. 

For some parents it’s their first time back in a library for many years too and so the sessions we run can also be a bit of a gateway to what the wider library network has to offer and I love being a part of that discovery.

Why is it important to engage children in a love of reading from an early age? What do you think are some of the best ways to do this?

In our modern world, there is so much information competing for our attention. Our brains are constantly flitting from one thought to another contributing to higher levels of stress and anxiety among our populations and I believe books can be an antidote to this!

When we read a book not only do we gain a deeper understanding of the world around us but also our heart rate and blood pressure drops and we relax. Reading to young children is not only beneficial for them now but is also like giving them a gift to their future selves, another tool to put in their wellbeing and lifelong learning toolkit. 

Reading a variety of books at home and also finding authors, illustrators and storytellers that reflect us and our community can help our little ones feel a sense of belonging in the world of books too. This is what platforms like SBL are great for as well as visiting our local libraries for storytime sessions.

Describe your experience producing story reads for Story Box Library. How does Story Box Library’s high quality story production differ from other digital story platforms used in libraries?

I had a great time being on the other side of the screen for the SBL reads. Feeling a tiny bit like a celebrity for the day. What struck me was the attention to detail the team took when recording each read, really striving for near perfection… so different to the experience of a live story session when the face to face connection can be so forgiving. 

The high quality production of SBL really takes the picture books to the next level, creating a blend between a standard story read in a library setting and a high quality production and sound effects which really engage children and adults alike.

What is your advice for future entrants of the next Librarian Storyteller of the Year Award?

If you’re like me and you love sharing stories with children, love watching the storytellers on SBL and are curious to see what it’s like on the other side, make sure you enter the next SBL comp, you may surprise yourself! What have you got to lose? Before you hit record on your entry, remember to take a few deep breaths, be yourself and imagine your little library friends are sitting behind the camera smiling back at you.

Read more about the inaugural Librarian Storyteller of the Year Award here.

Explore the full collection of CBCA Book Week 2021 story releases here.