Children's Book Shuffle

Dr John Worthington MAPS MSPS

Educational and Developmental Psychologist

"A Children's Book Shuffle is a proven free' community based book exchange activity suitable for rural, regional and city communities, unitizing existing resources, technology and providing a highly effective and efficient vehicle for positive corporate promotion"

Where did the Book Shuffle concept come from?

Many schools throughout the world undertake a range of book collecting activities and the Children's Book Shuffle is an innovative project based on sharing books within and between communities. The Book Shuffle concept as developed inAustralia was one outcome of my PhD early literacy research (1997-2001) at The University of Queensland. In this longitudinal research I examined issues surrounding the literacy development of children in 30 families. Part of the research focused on how families used books at home from the time children started preschool to the end of Year 2. In looking at the changing number of books the research showed that while all the families valued the books very highly, most families reached a limit in the number of books they could use at any one time.

What did the research find?

The research found that books usually arrived in homes as birthday gifts, Christmas presents or as special gifts from parents, other relatives or family friends. The patterns of books leaving households typically occurred when parents sorted through the home collection because of the need for more bookshelf space, to give books to other families with younger children or to donate books to charities or school fetes. While the number of books each family had at home varied greatly typically this number ranged from about 100 to 250 and thus children's books represented a significant investment.

What is a Book Shuffle?

Essentially a Book Shuffle is a community activity whereby families 'donate' there unwanted children's books into a central pool (typically at a school/s). These books are checked and stamped, to identify that they were donated to the Book Shuffle. The books are then displayed and in an organized way children view the collection and select a specific number of books to take home to keep. The number of books being and average of the total collected divided by the number of participants. A range of related literacy activities are undertaken at the same time to raise awareness of literacy and the importance of books at home and at school. The accompanying pictures illustrate a Book Shuffle underway at a primary school.

What did the pilot study find?

The pilot project was successfully completed at four suburban primary schools in Brisbane, West End State School, Kelvin Grove State College (Junior School), Somerset Hills State School and Holy Family Catholic Primary School. The schools represented a range of SES areas and were from both the government and private sectors. The outcome of the pilot project was that literacy and books were discussed and promoted in the homes and schools, and that unwanted resources in terms of several thousand books at an estimated value of $35 000.00 to $40 000.00 (in second hand books) were 'shuffled'. In addition the sponsors, The University of Queensland and Snap Printing received a significant local and broader publicity.

The Book Shuffle as a promotional tool

The pilot project received very positive coverage in both print and electronic media in Queensland and elsewhere in Australia. UQ NEWS December 11 described the activity as "A pilot project of a simple idea to recycle unwanted children's books" (p. 12), while the Southern News detailed on December 13, how "The trial involved parents donating books and the pupils choosing their favourites to take home" (p. 12). There was a long segment broadcast by Channel 9 inBrisbane showing the activity at one school, the ABC radio broadcast a number of interviews.

I have also promoted the concept in Singapore on a visit there in September 2001 and inCanada in July this year.
The several schools including the initial four pilot schools have indicated an interested in continuing the project and a small number have continued to annual Book Shuffles.

I believe the my research (1997-2001) and the pilot study shows:

  1. the concept of a Book Shuffle works
  2. that school communities of different sizes, SES status and systems can participate
  3. that larger organizations can use the Book Shuffle to effectively promote their 'business' and public image in a highly efficient and positive way
  4. the concept requires minimal community and or school resources in terms of staff time and funds yet utilizes existing resources (unwanted books at home)
  5. parents are more than happy to 'donate' unwanted books from home to support other families in their local community
  6. at a local level business will support a Book Shuffle (as Snap Printing did in the pilot project)
  7. that the Internet can be used to efficiently provide resources to participation schools
  8. that different communities can support and participate in a Book Shuffle and that groups within communities who have more book based resources are happy to have their extra books 'Shuffled' to another setting.

What needs to be done to make the Book Shuffle successful as a larger scale project aimed at particular communities?

Given the success of the pilot project and the continuing interest from schools I would like to be able to facilitate a significantly larger project. Such a broader project could be focused towards a) a limited number of rural communities where the local township and all the local schools (government and private) could participate collectively, and b) regional towns and specific city communities where the collected resources could be shared within schools and across schools within the local area.

As part of this plan the "Sponsors Name, Children's Book Shuffle" would register schools or other interest groups via the Internet. These schools and or other organizations would then be supported by a resource package with other materials provided on the Internet. In addition specific question and answer support would be provided via a dedicated Email address.

The sponsors / promoters would have numerous opportunities to present their corporate profile in the surrounding publicity, they could incorporate their business mane into the Book Shuffle Logo which in turn would go into each home and be highly visible as part of t?e Internet support package.

If you wish to participate in developing the Book Shuffle as a vehicle for promotion of your organization contact Dr Worthington.

The model of the Book Shuffle has been promoted inAustralia,Singapore andCanada. Since then a small number of schools in Brisbane successfully conducted their own Book Shuffles.