Lego theme nights in bid to promote book borrowing

THE classic Lego set, which kept youngsters entertained in the days before computer games and smartphones, is enjoying new found popularity among children in a Scottish library.

Eight-year-old Howie McNeill gets stuck in to some dinosaur building. Picture: Lesley Martin/TSPL
Eight-year-old Howie McNeill gets stuck in to some dinosaur building. Picture: Lesley Martin/TSPL

The revival of the Danish-owned building toy, spearheaded last year by the Hollywood blockbuster, The Lego Movie, prompted Edinburgh City Council to set up Lego nights at the library to encourage children, especially boys, to develop a love of books.

Open to seven-11-year-olds, accompanied by an adult, the free fortnightly sessions at George IV Bridge are credited with boosting visitor numbers threefold.

The nights have themes such as spaceships and dinosaurs with books on the subject placed temptingly nearby.

Fiona Myles, development officer at the library who came up with the idea, said: “Our new children’s library opened last May but I felt that one of the problems was getting boys to come in.

“When they are toddlers their parents bring them in but for whatever reason, once they reach primary age it can be more difficult to get them to read.

“Then I read a blog about Lego clubs in the US where they are really popular and thought it would be worth a try.”

One obstacle was the cost of the Lego but a £300 award from the Brownlee Old Town Trust was matched by the council.

Myles added: “The Lego nights are attracting a mixed group of about 15 children, mostly boys. They might not all borrow books but at least they are coming in and know it is a good space to be in, a fun place to be.”

Ben Hammer, nine and his brother Ian, seven, both pupils at Liberton primary, were among the children enjoying last week’s “dinosaur” themed Lego night.

Taking a break from a big rectangular table around which over a dozen children were building dinosaurs, Ben said: “I like Lego because you can build what you want from your imagination.”

Steven Hammer who had accompanied his sons to the club said he was a self-confessed AFOL – Adult Fan of Lego.

“They are really tapping into the adult market with special edition collector items.”

Howie McNeill, eight, from Longniddry in East Lothian, who films his Lego creations with an app on his iPad, said: “It’s my first time here and it’s quite fun. I’m learning about construction and it makes me inspired to build things.”

Alan McNeill, Howie’s father, said: “My favourite toy was Lego when I was younger. I’m really interested in what’s going on here tonight as we’re looking at setting up a similar thing in our village.”

Jasmine Fassl, head of schools at the Scottish Book Trust, said: “Lego is a great way to attract the attention of children who might not otherwise ask to go the library. It will hopefully encourage them to borrow books, as well as encourage families to explore the great services their library offers.”

Emma Owen, spokeswoman for Lego UK, said: “We’re thrilled to see Lego being used to encourage children to continue reading as it’s such an important part of childhood development. We wish the library every success with the evenings and to show our support, we will be donating a further box of Lego to the initiative.”