Book Bunker turns page on 25th chapter

For more than two decades, the Book Bunker at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead has been a place patients can escape the reality of being in hospital, entering another world through the power of literature.

The unique space was opened on August 14, 1997 by Australia's favourite children's author Mem Fox, and was the first of its kind in Australia, offering a warm, inviting and vibrant place where children and their families could come to read and let their imaginations flourish while in hospital.

Today, the Book Bunker is turning the page on their next big chapter – their 25th year anniversary.

“The Book Bunker has always been an oasis for children and their parents alike, providing books to fuel their imagination,” Eva Blaik, Co-ordinator of the Book Bunker, said.

“Looking back now on the number of families who have sought comfort in the Book Bunker over the last 25 years is quite remarkable. I’m so proud of what we have been able to achieve and how we’ve been able to help support kids in hospital.”

The Book Bunker is an initiative of Scholastic Australia and was specially designed to allow accessibility for children in wheelchairs, children with IV drips and children confined to bed.

The children’s library stocks 20,000 books for all ages, from babies to adolescents to ensure readers have a wide range to pick from. 

The books are regularly restocked and updated with the latest in children’s publishing from Scholastic Australia and other publishers, both Australian and international, as well as with books donated by the community.

Working like a library, patients can either visit the Book Bunker to borrow a book, or if they are too unwell, volunteers will take books around to the wards for patients to choose from.

It is also regularly visited by the Hospital Schools, with students using the books as resources to assist in class.

“Each month we lend more than 1000 books to children in hospital and it is wonderful to see how engaged children are with reading,” Bronwyn Jackson, Book Bunker Co-ordinator said.

“A book provides comfort, escape and an opportunity for parent and child to snuggle up together.”

“I remember one mother telling me that the first time her daughter sat up in bed was when she was reaching for a book from the Book Bunker. It was amazing to hear about the difference it makes.”

The success of the Book Bunker isn’t just attributed to the wide range reading material, or the cosy reading nook, it is also largely due to the passion and dedication of the librarians and volunteers. 

Thirty-three librarians and volunteers help to keep the doors of the Book Bunker open, ensuring children can unlock the power of their imaginations through reading wherever they are. Many of these volunteers having been there since the beginning.

“Every one of our volunteers has a passion for reading, but greater than that is their passion for sharing this with others. They are all so grateful to have the opportunity to do this through the Book Bunker for patients and their families,” Bronwyn said.

The Book Bunker is now one of four Scholastic Children’s Libraries around the country, with Book Bunkers also set up in The Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne, Queensland Children's Hospital in Brisbane and Perth Children’s Hospital.