My volunteering experience at Northwood Library – Fiza

Fiza, 15, tells us all about her experience volunteering at Northwood Library this summer, to help with the Summer Reading Challenge…

ND Vol. Fiza

“During the summer holidays, I worked as a volunteer for the Summer Reading Challenge at Northwood Library to help gain more experience and knowledge on working with younger children. I remember when I was younger and could notwait to start the Summer Reading Challenge to discover more books, whilst receiving prizes every visit. I believe the Reading Challenge is an excellent way tohelp encourage children to visit the library more often; the prizes they receive oneach visit really help to motivate them and help them to enjoy reading. High enthusiasm was shared amongst all the children who participated in the challenge this year. The children I spoke to were excited upon each visit to see what new prizes they would receive and also which new books they were going to read.

I helped by creating resources, which would be used for events held at the library; I counted the gifts to make sure that we always had enough. I also gaveout the prizes to the children who came and helped out during the events. The events I helped out with were the ‘Animal Antics Game’, ‘Dear Zoo’ and ‘The Search for Indexia’s Secret’, an exciting treasure hunt. The friendly and helpful staff helped to guide me whilst I was helping with the events, this made the events a good learning experience for me. All the events that were held were always filled with intrigued children whowere excited to participate in different activities that were linked to theirSummer Reading Challenge. The events held were wonderful and allowed the children to get more creative whilst they learnt more about the library.

The library is a great community centre for people of all ages to visit and use all the resources that are available. Overall, I really enjoyed volunteering at the library and would like to do it again in the future.”


Organised by The Reading Agency and libraries throughout the country, the Summer Reading Challenge is aimed at encouraging children aged 4 to 11 to visit the library and read during the summer holidays.

My volunteering experience at Northwood Library – Maryam

Maryam, 16, tells us all about her experience volunteering at Northwood Library this summer, to help with the Summer Reading Challenge…

ND Vol. Maryam

“In the summer of 2017, I volunteered at the Northwood Library. I was visiting London from the United States of America. During my time at this library, I learned many new things about the culture and people of London. I found it to be an overall wonderful experience. Firstly, because of the sense of community. People who walked in to the library were greeted warmly, like old friends. Everyone spoke very politely to each other, and this form of speech was touched on majorly in volunteer training. The library staff were extremely helpful to the users. They would answer any questions they had and personally walk with them to find a book.

It was a positive environment for children and adults and the Summer Reading Challenge was a great way to encourage children to continue reading over the summer. In the United States, when our neighbourhood library hosts a similar reading challenge, children must write down 10 books that they read over the summer and hand the paper in to receive a prize. In the UK children must visit the library 6 times over the summer to complete the challenge, ensuring that they come to the library regularly to check out books.

I found the events in the library to be thought provoking and fun for the children. I have never seen children so excited to find and read a new book. It was a beautiful scene to watch children eagerly fill out their booklets and show up a few days later to receive a prize for all their hard work. My experience volunteering at Northwood Library this summer was entirely positive, and I will be sure to bring some of these ideals back to my local library in the US.”


Organised by The Reading Agency and libraries throughout the country, the Summer Reading Challenge is aimed at encouraging children aged 4 to 11 to visit the library and read during the summer holidays.

My volunteering experience at Northwood Library – Umar

Umar, 14, tells us all about his experience volunteering at Northwood Library this summer, to help with the Summer Reading Challenge…

ND Vol. Umar

“My name is Umar and I am from the US. I came to London this summer to spend time with my family. During that time I wanted to volunteer at the library. I had an amazing time volunteering at Northwood Library. The library was filled with activities for the children to do. The staff were always very helpful and made sure I was busy all the time. At the library there were always kids enjoying books and doing activities. I always enjoyed helping the children with anything they might have needed. The library was very close to where I was staying so I could walk there for my volunteering.

The Summer Reading Challenge at the library was very well set up. The children had a great time coming in each visit for their new prizes. All the children loved collected their Starborgs collectible cards. I enjoyed helping out with the Summer Reading Challenge. My role as a volunteer was mainly to help setting up the Summer Reading Challenge for the children and help out with activities.

Comparing Northwood Library to the libraries we have in the US, I would say the librarians at the UK libraries are much more helpful and care more about the children than in US libraries. Overall I had a wonderful experience working at the library. I always looked forward to coming to the library to volunteer on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. It was nice watching the children enjoying their Summer Reading Challenge prizes and their books. I had a wonderful time volunteering at the library and hopefully the next time I come to London I will come back there.”


Organised by The Reading Agency and libraries throughout the country, the Summer Reading Challenge is aimed at encouraging children aged 4 to 11 to visit the library and read during the summer holidays.

Literary Challenge 2017 #7 Novels by Asian or Black Authors


As part of the Literary Challenge 2017, this time Hillingdon Libraries staff review books written by Asian or Black authors. How much do these authors’ backgrounds influence their works? Is being Asian or Black relevant to their writing?

We read and review fiction books on a set theme every month, for you.

1. Swing Time by Zadie Smith

71YzYD54WTL‘Swing Time’ is the story of two mixed race girls growing up on estates in NW London who meet at dancing classes and become friends. The book moves backwards and forwards between London and West Africa, where tourists travel back to find their roots. One of the girls, Tracey, goes to a performing arts school and then gets a small part in a West End musical. The other, the narrator (who is never named), gets a job with a celebrity, Aimee, who was a pop-star sensation idolised by the girls when they were growing up. Aimee decides to build a school in West Africa and on one visit to the school decides impulsively to adopt a 3 day old baby (is this sounding like anyone you’ve heard of?)! This is a complicated and wide-ranging novel of a friendship. Zadie Smith is a wonderful writer but I enjoyed an earlier book, ‘On Beauty’, more than this.

4 out of 5 stars. Carol – Northwood Library

2. Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin

71ulM8lh6CLI have read this novel as part of the Hillingdon Libraries LGBT reading group. I loved it, but I found its atmosphere too oppressive at times, just as the room in title. The story is mostly set in a less than glamorous Paris, where an American man meets a group of men, each with his own burden and tragedy. He then enters a troubled relationship with an Italian waiter, Giovanni. The author is able to write about beautiful moments of love, then to drag the reader deep into claustrophobic scenes. Despite the general tone, there are occasional moments of comedy and even camp. James Baldwin was very good at playing with stereotypes and identities. Being black and homosexual allowed him to see things in a distinctive way, a point of view that not many talented writers have. ‘Giovanni’s Room’ is a remarkable work, but I probably will not read it again.

4 out of 5 stars. Federico – Northwood Library

3. A Bend in the River by V.S. Naipaul

028206‘A Bend in the River’ deals with different ethnic groups uneasily interacting in an unnamed African country. Salim, the narrator, associates mainly with other Asians and regards black Africans with caution and white Europeans with reverent bewilderment. As a member of an ethnic minority without the benefit of recently relinquished colonial power, he and his community lead an insecure existence as insular outsiders. It’s a little disturbing to find black Africans treated with a mixture of suspicion and disdain, in contrast to the evident (though not uncritical) attraction to whites. In the case of the professor’s much younger wife, Salim carries this to the extent of an affair. His shop expropriated and given to an African, Salim ends the affair and leaves the country. While gripping in narrative, the novel seems deliberately inconclusive.

3 out of 5 stars. Mike – Eastcote Library

Have you read any of these books? What are your favourite novels by Asian or Black authors? You can borrow all these books from our catalogue. Thanks for reading!


Jennifer Killick – An Author Interview

Yiewsely Library Volunteer, Brandon, 14, recently interviewed Jennifer Killick, author of Alex Sparrow and the Really Big stink. Alex is a super-agent in training who uses his lie detecting skills to communicate with animals and solve mysteries! Brandon met Jennifer following one of her fantastic creative writing workshops for the Summer Reading challenge.




What inspired you to write this book?

I have always loved stories, especially reading and writing them. However, I was scared that the publishing agency would reject my book. But, when I had my eldest son and this made me strive to push on and inspire others.

This also made me go back to university to study more on literature.

Are you considering writing a new series of books or continuing the current Alex Sparrow series?

I have planned for another book in the Alex Sparrow series to be released next year and will perhaps be creating a new series the following year.

Are you happy with the reviews and success of your book?

So far it has had very good reviews and of course has been selected to be cover


ed in the Summer Reading Challenge running throughout the summer.

Hopefully, the second book in the series will have the same success.

What do you think when you get a reception at a place such as a library where children are always eager to participate in your activities?

I absolutely loves it and that it is really nice, especially if the children smile!

Having your book being is amazing, I hopes that my books will continue to grow rapidly in terms of interest.

Do you hope to write with another author in the near future?

I hope to write a book with other authors, they sometimes check my books to see whether they are ok to publish.

Do you think you will ever stop writing books?

No, I will never stop writing.

I also think that writing keeps me sane and that doing the opposite makes you unhappy as a person.


As a child, was it your aim to write or be an author?

As a child, I was always dreaming about something to with books.

It has also been a massive 15 years since I first started writing.

Was there ever a point where you wanted to stop writing?

There were plenty of points where I didn’t want to write anymore due to the publishing house always changing their minds about publishing my book constantly. Although this may have caused an issue, I persevered.

What do you think is portrayed in your writing?

I think my personality and characteristics come out when writing books, and that I will never stop writing books and that most people think that after reading my book, I am stubborn and determined.

Do you plan on selling books internationally?C673A08A-CD59-4B03-944C-9483C5A4A652

I do hope to expand my ‘business’. However, my humour is very British in my books, but that can be adapted. My books were more about less comedy and having more action.

How did you end up writing books for children?

I wanted to write books for women at first but accidentally started writing for children!

Want to meet Jennifer? Book a place for her workshop at Hayes End library on Friday 6th October 4-5pm by emailing (for ages 8-12)

Copies of Alex Sparrow and the Really Big Stink are available in Hillingdon Libraries, visit our catalogue here to see where or to place a reservation.