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Neath Port Talbot libraries celebrate the magic of reading on World Book Day

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This year Neath Port Talbot Libraries will be celebrating World Book Day with an open invite to all children to come and visit the library and discover the magic of reading.

It follows on from the successful Summer Reading Challenge campaign ‘Be a Reader’ when more children than ever took up the challenge of reading six books over the summer months.

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As a result of the pandemic it is probably more important than ever that libraries become a place where children grow to love books and become readers for life. They are also special places where children and adults can share the love of reading with others, and read together, something lots of us have missed over the last two years.

To help everyone become a reader one thing that has been important for the Library Service has been the abolition of fines for the late return of books.

This is something that was achieved in March 2021.

Fines have long been seen as a barrier preventing people from using the library and they don’t belong with the modern welcoming image of public libraries which is all about being open, equal and accessible to everyone.

If you’ve not been able to get back to the library before now and have any overdue books then do visit your local library where you’ll be welcomed back and the staff will be delighted to take the books off your hands! 

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This is just one of the many steps that the Library Service has taken to help people reconnect with libraries. The biggest of those steps is the new Neath Library which is due to open in the summer.

It promises to be a special place that will create many new generations of readers and bring people together once again.

And if you can’t get to the library the Library Service’s wide range of online resources are always there for you 24/7. As well as having more ebooks and eaudio books than ever before you can also read local, national and international newspapers and read the latest magazines through the Libby app.   

Cllr Peter Rees, Neath Port Talbot Council’s Cabinet Member for Education, Skills and Culture, said: “On World Book Day this year there has never been a better time to visit the library and discover the value of reading.

“New libraries, new resources and the return of events to libraries mean that they are once again beginning to thrive. By removing the barriers to reading our libraries are improving the well-being of children and young people, providing them with opportunities to have the best start in life and be the best they can be.”

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(Lead image: Swansea Council)

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Books & Literature

Author uncovers the lost tale of Swansea fairground legend

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From Swansea Bliz survivor to fairground strongman – an author discovers his grandfather’s fascinating story as The Welsh Hercules.

In the early half of the 20th Century, Jack Lemm was a household name in Wales. As the Strongman star of fairgrounds and Music Hall, he was famed for his feats of strength, wrestling and his dangerous headlining act, The Whirl of Death.

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Times and entertainment trends change, however, and now the once-famous showman is almost forgotten.

For one man, however, the story of the strongman had special meaning. Glaswegian Steven Blockley had always thought that his Great Grandfather deserved to be better known.

“I never actually met Jack,” he says. “I grew up listening to my uncles and aunts telling fascinating stories about all his incredible achievements around the Swansea area and I always knew I wanted to write a book to bring them to a wider audience. As I dug further into his past, however, even I was surprised by what I found.”

Looking into the background of Jack, Steven and co-author David J Thacker uncovered a rich life story and the perfect antidote to our troubled times.

Steven continues, “Jack lived through some harsh years – he was on HMS Lion at the Battle of Jutland in World War 1 and was a survivor of the Swansea Blitz in the Second World War – but his focus was always to put family first and to provide for everyone at home, even if doing so took him away from them.”

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David takes up the story. “Jack came from a Greek family and his given surname was actually Lamnea, but his exploits on stage and at fairs all over the UK, including at Neath, were not always popular, especially with his authoritarian father.

“A lot of the tension in our book comes from that relationship, of a son trying to live up to the ideals of his father.”

The resulting book, The Welsh Hercules, took over a year to research and write but in doing it Steven found a kind of resolution.

“While we were writing the book, I turned 60. At that age, Jack was still doing 40 shows a day at the fairgrounds and even after he retired, he was helping roadworkers outside his house to fix the roads!

“Age really was just a number for him and I think that’s a great attitude to have.”

The Welsh Hercules tells the story of Jack, from his humble beginnings on Swansea Docks through to becoming a renowned boxing coach and fairground star. It takes him through two World Wars, as a survivor of the Battle of Jutland and the Swansea Blitz, and introduces a whole new world of showmen, acrobats and colourful characters.

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But at its heart, Jack’s story is one of family – of the challenges met, the hearts won and the enduring romance of a Showman and his wife.

The Welsh Hercules is available in paperback on Amazon priced at £11.99

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Books & Literature

New video aims to help parents’ bedtime storytelling stage fright

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Whether it’s ‘ROARING’ like a bear, acting out sword battles with pirates to performing an alien impression, night after night parents transform into their inner thespian to become the ultimate storyteller.

However, despite delivering performances that will last a lifetime in children’s minds, a new survey has revealed the underlying anxieties and bedtime stage fright many parents face before and during each nightly performance.

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The survey of 1,000 parents, commissioned by Aldi’s baby and toddler brand Mamia, has found two thirds of parents confess to feeling embarrassed, or lacking in confidence when reading to their children.

Indeed, almost one in four (23%) say they were jealous of other parents who don’t get embarrassed, while over a third (38%) skip parts of the story or rushed through sections just to get to the end.

The underlying reasons for feeling embarrassed stems from tiredness (35%), challenges doing different voices (34%) and not making a story dramatic enough (27%).

Frustrated parents up and down the country also pinpoint their reading ability as a barrier to reading to their kids, with 15% to their reading level not being great.

The new study has been released to coincide with Children’s Book Week (2-8 May), alongside a storytelling masterclass to help parents to conquer shyness, add some flair to their reading and even tackle voices.

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Aldi’s free Storytelling Masterclass features professional actor Sandy Grierson, a father of two and star of numerous Royal Shakespeare Company productions.

Sandy’s top five suggestions for overcoming bedtime storytelling stage fright

  • Conquering shyness: Remember you are delivering a story to your kids, not theatre critics. Simply, take a deep breath, slow down and immerse yourself in the book! 
  • Struggling with accents: If no matter how hard you try you still can’t pull off a region or robot accent, why not try to change your tone instead, using high or low voices.
  • Dynamic & engaging storytelling: Let the book be your guide. For instance, if you see a full stop, then pause to build a dramatic effect. If you see a word written in all caps or big font, then give it some welly and bellow it out. Maybe if you see a sound effect, such as a pirate’s ‘Arr Matey’, then give it your best shot!
  • Let the page guide you: It’s not about the quality of your reading, it’s about the quality time you are spending with your kids. In this scenario, I suggest let the image on the page be your guide. If the bear is roaring, let out a big roar like a bear. The book isn’t here to trick you.
  • Bored of reading the same book: If you want to mix-up your storytelling why not use a real-life story or blend relatives into the book you’re reading. So, whether it’s the time Grandad became a pirate, when Mummy joined the circus to a sibling morphed into an animal, it’s just a fun game. Also, you never know, you might just have a bestseller on your hands!


To read or not to read to children has never been in question, with the average parent reading four times a week for 20 minutes each time.

In fact, over half (58%) believe that reading bedtime stories to children is important for their development and more than a fifth (22%) are making a conscious effort not to finish work late so they can enjoy a story with their child.

Despite these challenges, a heart-warming 96% aim to read to children every night, with a third (34%) saying it’s the highlight of their day and three quarters feeling they’ve missed out on valuable time spent with their little ones if they’re not able to squeeze in a bedtime story.

Of the respondents, almost two thirds (62%) said that they’d be interested in getting tips via a storytelling masterclass to help them read better bedtime stories, which is why Aldi’s Mamia has teamed up Sandy to help parents finesse their storytelling.

Sandy Grierson, Actor, said: “I’m a father of two and stage actor so often I’m at work when it’s story time. Then, when I’m not it can sometimes feel a bit like a busman’s holiday.

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“So believe me when I say, at bedtime, you’re probably better off not being a professional actor. Nonetheless for those parents who suffer from bedtime story stage fright, be it struggles with accents, dramatic delivery to reading capabilities, I hope this Aldi Mamia masterclass is a helpful tool to make bedtime stories with children a moment to savour, not stress over.”

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Books & Literature

Drag Queen Story Hour comes to Swansea

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Three libraries across Swansea have announced a Drag Queen Story Hour on Saturday 19 March.

The fun and interactive kids event will take place at Swansea Central Library, Oystermouth Library and Morriston Library.

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The sessions, run by a group called Drag Queen Story Hour UK , say they provide fun and interactive kids shows with amazing and talented drag performers.

On their website the group say: “Drag Queen Story Hour UK wants to show the world that being different is not a bad thing, and by providing imaginative role models for children to look up to, we can change the world book by book!

​”We bring you 5-star performers who have performed all across the UK in schools, festivals, museums, nurseries, private events and more! Drag Queen Story Hour UK has been honoured to have performers who have been received so positively all across the country.”

Aida H Dee, founder of Drag Queen Story Hour (Image: Drag Queen Story Hour UK)

Swansea Libraries say pre-booking is essential if you’d like to attend.

(Lead image: Drag Queen Story Hour UK)

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