While Beijing is not exactly a book haven for everyone, luckily there are a lot of venues in town where you can grab a hardback and other printed materials. We’ve rounded up places where you can source books, and visited a bookstore in Sanlitun. Now a good addition to an already-limited list is the Art+798 Arts Reading Space in 798 Art District. We were there during the inauguration of the center last month and my very first thought was, “Oh, I want to stay here!”
The Art+798 Arts Reading Space evoked memories of my childhood reading afternoons, when I always indulged in encyclopedias. The quaint space and colorful walls of the center are a playful take on the imaginative travels that occur when kids start reading.
At the inauguration, the brains behind the center explained it utilizes a “Shared Director” initiative, in which parents of attending children can act as a curator. “The ‘day curator’ needs to help the staff in the hall to take care of other children who are engaged in reading and activities in the hall, and ‘remuneration for labor’ means that the curator’s own children can earn free use of the products in the space,” the ART+798 team said.
Besides this initiative, the Art+798 Arts Reading Space also makes use of the “sharing economy” model, where people can swap books and other learning materials at their Book Exchange corner. I can see this as a venue of interaction for many parents and young readers!
At the moment, the center has hundreds of children’s books in Chinese, English, and Italian. Many of these books are donated by the team behind the China Children’s Book Expo (CCBE), as well as several countries such as Norway, the UAE, Qatar, and Algeria. Lise Borresen, the head of press and culture at the Norwegian Embassy, said they share with the CCBE the same view of the importance of promoting books for children, as well as cultivating the love of reading and sharing books with children.
Borresen became very involved with the donations because of her reading experience during childhood. “I started reading late, and I also found it difficult at the beginning. But I found out that reading is just like entering a different universe. You go out of your own and you get completely involved in a book, and then you’re in a new world,” Borresen said.
The Art+798 Arts Reading Space team said they are working closely with Chinese publishers to acquire more books. Aside from all things related to reading, the center also has a workshop (pictured below) where children can create science projects, and a playroom for tots. There are mini-events such as storytelling, author meet-ups, and book signing, as well as seasonal camps and arts and theater classes for children.
Art+798 Arts Reading Space
Tue-Sun 10am-5pm. 3F Friendship Building, 798 Art District, Chaoyang District 友谊大厦(酒仙桥路2号798艺术区). (Meena Choi: 185 1521 7473, email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org)
Photos: Andy Penafuerte III, courtesy of CCBE and Art+798 Art Reading Space (featured and last photo)