By Eden Hynninen
Bernadette Joiner – who has been a teacher for over three decades – has spent the past six years introducing children into an interactive world of literature.
Owner of renowned children’s hub Dromkeen in Riddells Creek, Ms Joiner aims to make it known for exhibiting the works of contemporary Australian children’s book authors and illustrators.
Sitting in her office armchair by the crackling fire, she spoke to the North Central Review about how it all began.
“This estate has had a 50-year history as a centre for children’s literature – it’s famous all over the world,” Ms Joiner said.
“It closed about eight years ago, but I relaunched in the hope of getting this generation loving books and the arts in forms of illustrations.”
She hopes to make Dromkeen a place where children can learn about the importance of tangible books.
“I want children to be able to smell the books and run their fingers down the spine,” she said.
“This place has nooks and crannies everywhere – family members can interact and sit in different parts of the room to read or do arts and crafts.”
Built in 1889, Dromkeen estate is now home to an author in residence, literary festivals, arts and crafts rooms and exhibitions of famous Australian children’s book authors.
“At the moment we’re exhibiting Mark Wilson – he’s our most successful children’s book creator in Australia. He has books published in nine countries in five different languages,” she said.
“He has a host of genres – endangered animals, the environment, Australian and art history.
“People think picture books are just for kids, but they’re not. Every time I pick one up I learn something new.”
As a teacher, Ms Joiner has used children’s literature to make links to any areas in a curriculum.
“If you think about science, when children are developing their concepts of the world, they see the moon in a book that has a part missing – you can talk to them how it scientifically works,” she said.
With links to the Children’s Book Council of Australia, one of the main aims for Dromkeen is to have story time on the first Saturday of the month.
“Here we can have readings, songs and craft activities all in the aim of providing rich family interaction and staying away from technology,” she said.
“I’ve also added a tea room here where we are now becoming famous for our vanilla slice.”
Upcoming events involve travel sketching, writing and illustration classes, blacksmithing classes and holiday cartooning.
Dromkeen Storytime is on the first Saturday of every month at 2pm in the main gallery – this weekend’s theme is ‘Mother’s Day’.
For more information visit www.dromkeen.com.au or call 5428 6799.