Bookworm Kids Club

Sunday, 8 March 2009

When it gets cold outside, head to The Bookworm for a cozy kids’ treat

The Bookworm sits like a chartreuse gelato block in a nest of grey, just south of the corner of Gongti Beilu and Sanlitun Lu. Inside this gelato block, however, it is far from icy. The atmosphere bubbles with warmth, partly from the winter sun peeking through the glass ceiling and partly from the throng of regular clientele poring over books with piping hot mugs in hand. The vibrant yet cozy and mellow environment of The Bookworm make it a wonderful weekend hideout for parents and kids.

Made up of a nest of book-lined rooms, The Bookworm’s facilities include a bar and cafe offering tasty morsels from breakfast to late night snacks. Its pancakes and sandwiches are named after authors and literary characters, making ordering fun for the kids, especially the Willy Wonka pancake – stuffed and drizzled with chocolate sauce. Other tot-tempters include cakes, sandwiches, french fries, smoothies, fresh juice and fruit bowls.

An extensive borrowing library is available for the entire family (RMB 500 a year for family membership, RMB 300 for individuals). Kids can also pull up a mini bench and flip through the children’s book section, pausing to scribble on a blackboard. Crayons and paper are available upon request, and a selection of books for kids awaits purchase in the back room. There’s even an upright piano tucked neatly into a book-lined wall, so child virtuosos can plink out a tune.

But Sundays are the true kiddie draw-card at The Bookworm, when The Bookworm Kids Club – a storytelling time for children ages 4 to 7 – takes place. Creative types with laptops and academics clutching tomes are pushed aside as the wee ones traipse up the stairs for an hour of literary enjoyment. Things kick off at 11am with a story read by regular contributor Terri Adams, an American teacher and grandmother of ten. “I like to read books that are well-illustrated, books that are animated so I can use plenty of body language and have lots of involvement with the characters,” she says. “And of course, I do all the voices.” Terri tailors her storytelling to suit both older and younger children and makes a special effort for kids who speak English as a second language. After an engagingly narrated story or two, Terri spends time with the kids afterwards on crafts or interactive games.

On occasion, the Kids Club will feature a special guest. In recent months, they have welcomed acclaimed British children’s author Julia Donaldson, Australian author Peter Osborne, illustrator Ann James, and Chinese author Xu Zhaohui.

Kids Club is the brainchild of Jenny Niven, events and marketing manager for The Bookworm. After talking with her brother David, who runs Club Football in Beijing, and noticing a dearth of activities in Beijing for kids not interested in sports, Jenny decided to start a reading group for kids and approached Bookworm owner Alexandra Pearson with the idea. “I think it’s nice to have something for kids with an educational emphasis,” she says. “I wanted to provide an environment where kids can really enjoy reading.” Jenny strives to offer titles that are harder to find in China and also likes to feature books that relate to China in some way.

Currently, The Bookworm Kids Club runs for one hour every Sunday at no cost and no commitment to attend. Kids simply come along and join in. Earlier in the year, the Club was offering a Book Club reading program for kids aged 8-12, which may be revived as winter sneaks up. Watch The Bookworm website for details.  

The Bookworm. Daily 9am-2am (Kids Club: Every Sun at 11am). Bldg 4, Nansanlitun Lu, Chaoyang District (6586 9507)

First published in beijingkids magazine and on the beijingkids website.

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