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Reading in a digital world


Reading for me is a deeply ingrained need and not having a book immediately to hand is like having a part of me missing. Even so, carrying a heavy paperback in a Mary Poppins size bag doesn’t create that glamorous image I aspire to when going into central London on a date or night out. However, the thought of sitting on the noisy, crowded Central line train for an hour with nothing to do but people watch or listen to the thud, thud of bass notes leaking from someone’s headphones fills me with dread and anticipated boredom. Pokemon Go doesn’t work underground and I’ve never got into candy crush (I’d far rather read). Luckily, I always have books downloaded, both on my phone and mini iPad, so I can disappear into the parallel universe of a novel whenever I’m travelling.

It is also very useful to have when the date I’ve arranged to meet in a particular coffee shop at a certain time turns up somewhat late. There’s nothing worse than sitting like Billy-no-mates at a table on your own, staring into the bottom of a cup of lukewarm tea.

Sadly, I’m not as young as I used to be (who is?), so have to make more of an effort to fight old age. Exercise is good for you – so they say. Hence my membership at Fullwell Cross gym. The only problem (apart from aching muscles and exhaustion) is that I find pedalling on a bike or working on the cross trainer deadly dull. Time drags watching the seconds click by. I’ve tried reading paperbacks but my ability to multi-task doesn’t stretch to cycling, reading and holding pages open with one hand at the same time. But with my iPad it’s easy. It sits happily propped in front of me and I just need to tap it to turn to the next page. I have the same book downloaded as on my phone and other devices (okay, I admit I’m a geek) and joy of joy it automatically asks me if I want to sync to the latest point read. The screen even tolerates the odd drop of sweat that proves I’ve had a good workout or that the air-con in the gym isn’t working.

So, while I still love reading physical books, I wouldn’t be without eBooks on my phone, iPad and computer. The only place where I would never read an eBook is in the bath. Water and devices are to be avoided at all costs as I know too well from experience – and expense.

Post Author: Nina Simon

On Friday 16 September readers around the world are celebrating eBook Day! Redbridge Libraries offer a free eBook download service via Overdrive. For more information on how to download free eBooks please visit our website.

Join in on our celebrations and tell us how you’ll be enjoying eBook Day by using the hashtag #eBookLove across Social Media!



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Creative play with glass

I had been promising myself for ages that I would make time and book myself on a creative workshop at Valentines Mansion, and I am so pleased that I did and to add to the pleasure,  I had talked one of my old school friends into joining me so it gave us time to have a catch up too!

So we spent an enjoyable morning yesterday under the guidance of Amanda Seljubac on her Fused Glass Workshop, me creating my very own glass design on a coaster and my friend Tracey making both a window hanger and a coaster.

The morning started with us all arriving and introducing ourselves, it was a nice small friendly group of 9, all keen to get started. We were given books to look through for inspiration and then shown examples of other people’s work to help us focus on what we wanted to create.  Amanda talked us through the various materials that would be available for us to use and passed them around for us to familiarise ourselves with.

My goodness, that was an eye opener, so many different forms of glass; frits and powders, stringers, confetti, millefiori and glassline pens plus other materials which we could incorporate such as copper, glassline paper and tinned copper wire.

First things first, we had to come up with our design idea, I plumped for a phoenix type bird from one of the books that we had looked at, perhaps a bit ambitious but hey ho, in for a penny, in for a pound! Amanda recommended that I draw around my coaster and then sketch my design freehand into the space which I did.  Then the fun began, I used different coloured glassline pens for the outline of my bird, then frits to infill the body and confetti on the wings with stringers for the tail feathers. I used a very thin paint brush and tweezers to help me, I kept adding more and more to my bird as I strived for the look I wanted. Each tiny piece of glass had to be glued onto the glass and boy was it fiddly! But the experience gripped me with a passion. The final piece to my puzzle was to add some copper wire into the tail feathers as it changes colour during firing, but Amanda told us that it was unpredictable, so I wanted to see what would happen.

My friend Tracey managed to create a lovely glass hanger commemorating the birth of her first granddaughter using tiny copper feet and yellow powders with millefiori flowers either end. But bitten by the bug, she also decided to do an abstract coaster using larger pieces of coloured glass and stringers!

One other lady on the workshop had been to numerous classes before and had made two items, one a beautiful abstract coaster for which she had cut the glass into curves and fitted different colours together. Susan who sat opposite me had made a beautiful Kingfisher on the water’s edge whilst another lady made a window hanging gift for her mother’s 80th birthday.

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All of us are eager to see our final creations which will be ready to collect at the weekend and agreed that we thoroughly enjoyed the workshop and would like to do it again.

Afterwards, we enjoyed the sunshine by having lunch in the grounds of the mansion at the Gardeners Cottage Café, talking about the workshop and catching up on old times. The perfect end to a perfect day.

Amanda is one of the resident artists’ that have a permanent studio on the top floor of the mansion, which, in a past life, had been the servant’s quarters. To find out more about her work visit her website:

Amanda specialises in stained glass, pottery and stone carving. If you fancy taking a peek at her studio or any of the other artists in residence, you can do so on one of the regular Open studio days. For details of the next one or to discover what other events are coming up visit the Valentines Mansion website:

Post Author: Cathy Pace

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National Libraries Day: Users Reveal What the Library Means to Them

Every year, libraries everywhere provide joy, help and knowledge to their community. From their countless shelves lined with books waiting to be read, to the fantastic staff who help organise all the activities, there’s always something to gain from spending time at the library. That is why on Saturday 7 February National Libraries Day was celebrated, to appreciate all the wonderful things that the library does for its users. I went to Redbridge Central Library to see what was going on to mark the occasion.

It was very fitting to mark the whole occasion on the birthday of one of the most widely read and loved authors, Charles Dickens. So it only seemed right to have a Victorian theme running through the celebrations on the day. Nick Dobson was on hand to provide an insight into the life and career of Charles Dickens through pictures and readings from actor Allan Yeoman. Something a little bit more creative for the children was the crafts session where you could make your very own Victorian set of accessories including hats and fans. Seeing all the finished products almost transported you right back to the 1800s!

NLD mans comments

I was very lucky to have been given the task of finding out what the library really means to the community. Armed with a camera, clipboard and coloured pens I asked children, students and adults to complete the sentence ‘to me, the library is…’ to understand what it is that they will be celebrating about the library. I had some fantastic responses. Some people had so many answers they had to write them all down. Many of the students seemed to mainly appreciate the peaceful surroundings in the study areas, allowing them the right environment to succeed in their studies. The younger library-goers seemed to love the books and the activities on offer at the library. Other people wanted to celebrate specific services of Redbridge Central Library, including Redbridge Museum and the fantastic Heritage Services.

NLD boys comments

Being at the library on any day is always a great experience, but being there on National Libraries Day really makes you truly appreciate everything that the library is and does. Without the library, where would we be? I asked myself this as I walked away from the studying students, the cheerful children and all the other people enjoying what the library has to offer. I realised just how fortunate I am to have such a great facility on my doorstep.

Visit the website for more information on your local library

Post Author: Raeesa Mukhtar

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A celebration of libraries and the Arts: Fabula Festival is a true success!

After hearing about the library being jam-packed on Saturday, for the first full day of the Fabula Festival, I did not want to miss out. So, I went to along on Sunday to enjoy the talks, stalls and the company!

There’s something about being in the library on a Sunday, when it’s not usually open, that makes it feel all the more exciting. The doors opened at 11am and the library was ready to welcome everyone and anyone who wanted to enjoy the various authors coming to discuss their books and the creative workshops to get those creative juices flowing!

Fabula Festival is all about celebrating libraries and the arts, so it was really great to see people of all ages walk through those doors as it proved that there really is something for everyone at the library. A personal favourite of mine was the Ubuntu Arts workshop that had a glorious array of colourful beads, paper and decorations to create your own greetings card – be it for a birthday or a wedding, there was a chance to make any card you could think of.

Even I got stuck in with this one and was delighted to hear that everyone was enjoying themselves. There was a gentle buzz of children whizzing around the library for the treasure hunt and excited murmuring of the crowds waiting to see their favourite author. It really was the perfect way to relax on a Sunday afternoon, I thought to myself as I reached over for the box that overflowed with sequins and ribbons.

Fabula butterfly girlFabula boys cards

Not far away from the greetings card stall was Knitters which also attracted young children, parents and grandparents. One little girl beamed with excitement as she exclaimed her intent on making a woolly hat – yes, what a smart and convenient idea for this chilly time of year!

Just behind the Ubuntu Arts stall was a heart drawn on the window and in the heart were all these fingerprints of people who had visited the festival. Not only was it pretty to look at because of all the different colours people had chosen for their fingerprints, but it was a way of physically capturing the wonder of the Fabula Festival.

Fabula heart

There was also a very important guest at the festival. The Deputy Mayor of Redbridge popped by and perused the goings-on and she even left her fingerprint on the window display! 

I peeped around to see what else was going on and found the ‘Restart Party’ which was offering help and advice about maintaining and repairing technology – something that we can all benefit from these days! There was also a cake decorating workshop that got everyone’s mouths watering. All the author events were extremely popular which was more than understandable as they included: Clive Bloom, Khalil Ali and Claudia Lord-Lynch.

You could just tell that the day would be a successful one. As big groups left the library all in a good mood after the events, more people entered, ready to experience the Fabula Festival!

Post Author: Raeesa Mukhtar

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The Summer Reading Challenge Proves To Be A Rewarding Experience For Both Young Readers And Volunteers

My name is Simi and I am currently volunteering as a Summer Reading Challenge volunteer at Redbridge Central Library. I wanted to become a volunteer because I see it as a good opportunity for me to work with children and young people as I want to work with children in the future. As an avid reader myself, I also wanted to encourage reading amongst children.

At the start, I was provided with my own name tag and Mythical Maze t-shirt (which I must say, is pretty comfortable!) I particularly enjoy having conversations with the children about what they love about reading their favourite book. From what I’ve seen, some young children love it when they are asked even the simplest questions about the books they read such as their favourite characters and favourite part of the book.

What I find challenging is communicating with young people around the age of 7-9 years because they often lose interest in reading. I found that children below the age of 6 are more engaged in reading books, maybe because the books they read have pictures that relate to the story whereas older children read books that have less illustrations. So the challenge for me is to get them to maintain their interest in their books.

Working at the library provides me with a safe and quiet working environment and also a chance to persuade parents to encourage their children to join the Reading Challenge as often, the parents approach me and ask me to suggest books for their children.

This year’s Summer Reading Challenge is based on a “Mythical Maze” – and what a wonderful theme it is! Children love to explore and that is exactly what the word mythical suggests. It promises magical things for them to discover and enjoy. The great thing about volunteering as a reading activist is giving out prizes, often the final prize which is the medal, certificate and the last sticker for their maze. Some of the younger kids enjoy receiving their prizes which also acts as an incentive for them to read more books and get more prizes.

It’s always fun talking to children and young people and interacting with the other volunteers. The staff are also very helpful and encouraging. It can also boost your confidence and improve interpersonal skills. I would definitely recommend volunteering at your local library for the 2015 Summer Reading Challenge. As for me, I will definitely be looking forward to volunteering again next year.

For more information on volunteering visit the Libraries page on the Redbridge-i

Guest Author: Simi Menon 

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Tazeen Raza Tells Us Why She Loves Volunteering At The Library

It’s safe to say that Redbridge Central Library has been familiar territory to me since I was 8 years old and I remember I had always envied the librarians because they would get to meet so many people at their workplace. I love meeting new people and seeing new faces so I wanted to do something that would help me to achieve this, which is why I decided to volunteer at the library.

I worked here in 2012 at the age of 14 and was amazed at the magical effects books had on children. I was pretty fortunate to notice the excitement dancing in every child’s eyes as they told me how Harry defeated Voldemort or how Sabrina saved the day. Such enthusiasm meant a highly deserved reward which was gratified with smiles that stretched wide and eyes that further lit up. It was amazing! At the same time I got to know the staff there so when summer sadly ended and it was time to go back to school, I would often receive a pleasant smile or a nod from the librarians who knew me. I felt like I had accomplished my goal in getting to know new people.

The next year I did not volunteer and quickly became thirsty to be in that friendly company again, to be surrounded by the over-excited yet adorable children itching to read. So at 16 I volunteered again wanting to know what changes had been made in my absence. Luckily I have been surrounded by an even friendlier group of staff and volunteers. This year I have been able to meet more of my contemporaries from neighbouring schools that I did not know of before and I really recommend volunteering in this way as it erodes any inter-school hostility that may exist.

So I have made new friends and have become well acquainted (also re-acquainted) with the staff. But the one thing that has changed or caught me by surprise, rather, is the increasing intellect of the children! They are so smart and at such a young age. The best example is of a 7 year old girl who had read all of the Harry Potter Books. All of them! How did I know that she had read the entire collection instead of the first and last page? Well, she recounted the entire collection and quoted pages too. Remarkable for such a young girl who will, I am sure, go far in life.

This is a great opportunity to learn an important life lesson: that we can learn from those that are younger than us. Being the youngest in my family, I never fail to point this out but it is great to finally implement it myself. I will always remember that little girl because of her great motivation to achieve her goal at the tender age of seven but, sadly, she will never know it (mainly because she was only visiting Ilford in her holidays!)

Learning is a vital stepping stone and it’s all around us, constantly ready to be taken in any shape, way or form and this is my favourite part of volunteering at the library. Be it from the staff, parents or even children, I have learnt key qualities including patience, perseverance and praise!

If you would like to volunteer, just pop into your local library and enquire.

Guest Author: Tazeen Raza

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The Voice of Volunteers: Zal Canteenwala Tells Us What It’s Really Like To Volunteer At The Library!

My name is Zal Canteenwala and I am a ‘reading activist’ – as a part of the Mythical Maze Summer Reading Challenge. You can find me volunteering at Wanstead Library this summer and for the remainder of the year, seeing that I also serve at the library on weekends!

I struggle to recall the first time I ever visited a library as it has always been an integral part of my life, the same as it was for my parents. However, I do remember visiting Fullwell Cross Library as a young child at least once a week with my mum and dad. Then we moved to Wanstead and I discovered Wanstead Library where I used to attend craft or activity sessions during the holidays with my younger sister.

Since the library has always been a part of my life, it was an obvious choice for volunteering. I decided I wanted to contribute to my community when I was about twelve, but being twelve, there were not many places that were willing to take me at that age. Despite my ease with the library, I simply had no concept as to the amount of work the librarians undertake and perhaps as a consequence, I did not anticipate precisely how rewarding working at a library would be.

Dare I say I have acquired multiple skills while volunteering at the library – the most obvious ability that I have refined may be the way I interact with children. It is quite challenging to retain a child’s concentration for an extended length of time and therefore finding I have the capability to achieve this has definitely boosted my general self-esteem.

The absolute best and most defining moment of my experience thus far, was this Easter when I volunteered alongside Katie, and together with the Branch Manager, Mrs Bird, we made paper masks with children. That event was so worthwhile simply because we were inspiring children from a variety of different backgrounds – many of whom were experiencing the library for the first time.

When I was a child, I was a LEGO junkie, so I was really looking forward to the LEGO workshop which took place on 13 August. However when I was younger, I was invariably much more adept at breaking things than following instruction manuals, so I can only hope that the children found my presence inspirational!

I never cease to be amazed by the wide range of people that the library attracts: from young children with cautious parents, grandparents to adolescents who pretend to study (but tend to get distracted by their ever beeping mobiles). For someone like me, who enjoys interacting with people, it is the perfect place to be!

If you would like to volunteer, just pop into your local library and enquire.

Guest Author: Zal Canteenwala