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Little Hands

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Karina Brink’s formative reading experiences

konik2.jpgNot too long ago, in a faraway land, before she had books to review, short stories to write, a post-doc thesis idea she couldn’t resist and the dream of translating great South African novels in to Polish, Karina Brink had little hands and this is what she read …

Karina’s earliest memory of books and reading:

Confession time: When I was a child I loved books and stories, but hated reading them myself (until I was 13!). So my earliest memories of books, or rather stories, are of somebody reading them to me, usually my grandfather who was a magnificent storyteller as well. I remember that whenever my brother Krystian and I visited our grandparents (which was often) our grandfather would tell us stories, known ones but also some invented by him. Our cousins Ala and Tomek lived with our grandparents, so he always had a small kindergarten group around him, listening. He also bought us an LP player and many LPs with fairytales and we listened to them every night before falling asleep. So most of the stories I remember from childhood came to me as sounds only, not captured into physical objects one could page through.

Later at school, I only read what was absolutely necessary. I asked my friends to tell me about the rest.

And then when I was 13, we were living in the States and it was decided that I would not take Spanish at school since I knew two other foreign languages and was supposed to concentrate on my English. During the Spanish classes that the others took, I sat in the school library. In the beginning I just played with the computer that was there, mostly drawing on it. And I became friends with the librarian, Mrs Nellie Fahy. It was she who saw me wasting away at the computer in the middle of the library and started suggesting books to read for me. I liked her so much that I felt I had to oblige, so the first book I read was Squanto, Friend of the Pilgrims by Clyde Robert Bulla. I loved it so much that I picked up another book, and then another, and the rest is history.

There was a time when I was so addicted to reading that I read constantly and it got to a point when my parents had to put a stop to it, so that I would sometimes go out of the house and live my own life as well. I had painful withdrawal symptoms at first. Now, I can control it a bit better, but it is still an addiction.

Karina’s picture books:

The book I mostly liked being read to me was the Russian folktale konick.jpgKonik Garbusek (literally Little Hunchback Pony) by Piotr Jerszow. The Polish version was so beautifully illustrated that I could never get enough of simply looking at it. I found two images from it (cover and inside illustration) on the web (attached).

Karina as an adult, on children reading and the secret of the right book:

I have no children of my own, but I always remember that moment in the library when Mrs Fahy gave me Squanto, Friend of the Pilgrims to read and know that there is a book out there for everybody. So whenever I meet children and adults who say, like me back then, that they don’t like reading, I try to find a book for them that will open up the world of literature to them. When one knows somebody a bit better, it always works.

Aims of The Little Hands Trust
• To support initiatives that promote reading for enjoyment.
• To mentor African literary artists, including writers, illustrators and editors, to produce creative, suitable and appropriate children’s storybooks for children of various ages with a focus on early childhood (ages 0 to 9 years).
• To collaborate with African publishers to increase and sustain publication of children’s books in African languages. To initiate and support translations of stories between African languages, from African languages to ex-colonial languages and from ex-colonial languages to African languages.
• To help to orientate and educate adults in the importance and significance of reading to and with children.

 

Recent comments:

  • <a href="http://karinamagdalenaszczurek.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Karina</a>
    Karina
    September 18th, 2008 @12:02 #
     
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    Dear Alex, after sending you my memories of my 'reading past', I decided to get in touch with Mrs Nellie Fahy. I hope that I found the right contact details for her. A few minutes ago I sent her a letter, hoping that she will reply. Will let you know what happens...

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  • <a href="http://alexsmith.book.co.za/" rel="nofollow">Alex Smith</a>
    Alex Smith
    September 18th, 2008 @13:52 #
     
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    What a good idea! Perhaps if Nellie replies, you could direct her to this link and she could add some of her formative reading experiences as a comment -- then this will become a blog with a real history.

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  • <a href="http://karinamagdalenaszczurek.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Karina</a>
    Karina
    September 19th, 2008 @13:27 #
     
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    Alex, she wrote back last night!!! I'm overjoyed. I haven't heard from her for something like 15 years. This is really wonderful for me. We are communicating by fax, but I will certainly tell her about this link. Will keep you posted! :)))

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  • <a href="http://alexsmith.book.co.za/" rel="nofollow">Alex Smith</a>
    Alex Smith
    September 19th, 2008 @15:51 #
     
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    Wonderful, I know I'm an email behind (still editing that novel, my eye-balls are burning!), but I look forward to hearing more about the fax from Nellie at the Bloggers Meeting on Monday evening...

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