Q&A with workshop facilitator Patricia Garrido


As part of my personal project, I have been gaining a firsthand insight into the workshops and children’s activities at Casa del Lector. I have been thrilled by the enthusiasm of those that facilitate the workshops and activities and their eagerness to help me with and to participate in my project. The following blog post is a translation of a series of questions that I put to Patricia Garrido regarding her experiences as a workshop facilitator and her opinions on the best ways to generate an interest in literature and culture amongst young people.

How long have you been running workshops for children?

I have been running workshops with children since 2004.

 What is the typical format of a children’s workshop?

  1. Presentation of the workshop leader and of the workshop (if it is a small group then I also like to get the children to present themselves.) I try to get the children’s participation right from the very start by asking them questions (often I find that that they don’t know exactly what the workshop is going to be about) and I use the element of surprise and humour to keep them interested in the topic. 
  1. Development of the workshop: The function of the content of the workshop will vary depending upon the nature of the workshop but I almost always use stories (made up stories, traditional ones or stories taken from books) and then I set out the creative project from there. The  project is prepared in such a way that all children that attend the workshop will be capable of finishing it (using templates or stencils, patterns or guidelines etc) and so that the more creative  members of the group can also contribute their own ideas towards it. 
  1. End of workshop. Before finishing, I like the children to show the work they’ve produced to the others and to respect and admire the work of the other children.


What do you think of the facilities for children at Casa del Lector?

The area called the ‘nube’ (the cloud) is perfect for workshops because it has lots of natural light; it is a very large and versatile space and can be adapted to any type of activity.


What do you believe is the best way to generate interest in literature and culture amongst young people?

The best way to capture an interest in literature and culture amongst young people is to try to share your enthusiasm for works that you admire and to teach them about these literary or cultural ‘treasures’ in a playful, fun and creative way.

What tools or methods do you use to capture an interest in literature and culture?

I do this through the use of storytelling- ensuring that the illustrated books  that I use are good quality, giving the children the creative tools to develop their own imagination: through theatre, painting, writing and arts and crafts. I want to show them that it is a source of enjoyment and that they too can create something original.

What do you like most about running children’s workshops? 

I like working with children who never fail to surprise you, show a keen enthusiasm and at times can be so lucid and original.

(Answers translated from Spanish to English,thank you Patricia for your answers).


The Garden of Happiness

Last Friday I attended a fantastic workshop at Casa del Lector called ‘Taller de construcción colectiva: El jardín de la felicidad’ which translates as ‘Collective construction workshop- The Garden of Happiness.’ The workshop tied in with the current exhibition ‘Villa of the Papyri’ as ‘The Garden of Happiness’ refers to Greek philosopher Epicurus’ philisophical commune in Athens which was known as ‘the garden.’ Epicurus is a key figure in the exhibition on the Villa of the Papyri as it is quotations from his philisophical works that guide us through the exhibition and the exhibition also features an ancient scroll containing Epicurean texts.


The Epicurean philosophy was to secure tranquility through the pursuit of happiness and this is exactly what this workshop aimed to do- to exercise creativity and create an environment of tranqulity and happiness for all participants. Epicurus found happiness growing vegetables in his garden and before starting to create the mural each participant was asked to reflect upon and draw on paper the different components that would make up their own garden of happiness. Before starting the creative process , the workshop leader also showed the group a powerpoint presentation illustrating the work of different artists who have found inspiration in nature. Amongst these artists was British artist Andy Goldsworthy who created art out of materials that he  found in the countryside.

images (2) andy_goldsworthy03


The session that I attended was the second of a two part creative workshop, open to all ages, ran by Marina Fernández Ramos. Marina runs a range of participatory projects with local people throughout Madrid. In the previous session, the 15 participants had began creating their own collective mural, that expressed their collective artistic vision. The workshops used simple techniques of printing onto fabric to create the mural-using vegetables including mushrooms, peppers, courgette and aubergine as printing tools (in homage to Epicurus’ garden).  The idea was to take the vegetables and transform them into your own unique stamp that could then be used to print images or text onto the canvas. This simple artistic technique was achievable for all participants regardless of their age or artistic ability. This was important as the participants ranged in age from age 4 to aged 50. It was also an unusual technique that tried to stimulate a new creative experience. In the first session they used only green paint however in the second session they used a range of different coloured paints, working to transform and integrate the painting, building upon the achivements of the first session.



The workshop brought together people of a range of ages and abilities, making it a unique creative experience. Each person was able to make their own contribution towards the mural and together they created something bigger and better than they would have been able to separately. All those that attended the workshop were very proud of the final product and relished the opportunity to create something original using rather unconventional techniques. The mural now hangs in one of the classrooms in Casa del Lector, so that all that pass through it can experience ‘the garden of happiness.’

The finished product:



If you are interested in further participtory projects ran by Maria, check out this link to one of her projects ‘Tejiendo la calle’ (knitting the street): http://www.ruralc.com/2013/11/tejiendo-la-calle-un-proyecto-de-marina.html

Image 1: classicalwisdom.com

Image 2: artedestosdias.blogspot.com

Image 3: www.revistanamaste.com 

Rest of images: taken by me at the workshop

Guided visits for schools at Casa del Lector

An important part of Casa del Lector’s cultural programming is the guided visits for school children (for those in primary, secondary and high school).  Maria Anna Zazzarino runs regular guided visits of the exhibitions (at the moment ‘La Villa de los Papiros’) for school groups at Casa del Lector. This post will offer a firsthand insight into what it is like to run these guided visits, as well as her take on the best ways to get children/young people interested in literature and culture.



How long does each guided visit normally take and how many children/young people normally attend each tour? 

The visit last abouts 1 hour and there are normally around 25-30 children or teenagers that attend each visit. The visits that I run are for school children aged 12 and above. 

How is the guided visit structured?

I first introduce students to the topic by giving them background information on what we are going to see and where and when it happened (historial context). I then give a general introduction to each room and then stop at the objects or works that best illustrate the main point of each area. Students can ask questions or make comments at anytime during the visit.

What do you think is the best way to keep the children/young people engaged on the tour?

The best way to keep them engaged is by keeping it simple and making connections with things from their daily experience or knowledge. Paying attention to the things that they say during the exhibition  in order to get to know them better is useful. Talking to them  rather than lecturing them and introducing anecdotes can also help. 

What do you enjoy most about running the guided visits?

The way that children are capable of complex thought and connections. At times we tend to over-simplify the content without realising that although children/teenagers may not have the theoretical knowledge they can come up with very creative interpretations of what they see in front of them. 

What do you think is the best way to get children involved in literature and culture?

The best way to get children involved in literature and culture is to provide a a playful approach to the content and adapt it to their personal interests. 

Which part of the current exhibition on ‘La Villa de los Papiros’ do the children generally find most interesting?

They normally like things that are closer to their own  experience. In ‘La Villa de los Papiros’ they always enjoy the section devoted to Roman graffiti as they can clearly see the connection with things that they normally see in their everyday lives. 



*Many thanks to Maria Anna for her responses*

Recycle your books!

descarga (1)

There are some stories which you know off by heart. Imagine if you could transform them? This was the premise of Casa del Lector’s workshop ‘Recicla tus libros’- Recycle your books. A creative workshop for childen aged 8-12 which takes old books and allows you to transform them into your own unique story. Lead by Código Cultural, a co operative made up of a multidisciplinary team of professionals, the workshop reinvented old books through painting, colouring, sticking, cutting and remodelling.

Each child came along to the workshop with an old book, perhaps it was a book  that was now too young for them , or it was a book given to them by a friend that they had read countless times. The books came in a variety of shapes and sizes, a testament to the diversity of the written word. The workshop leaders asked the children to name the different parts of the book as well as well as the different elements that make a story.


We were given a brief summary of the history of books and stories illustrating how far books have come since the papyrus scrolls of ancient rome and the first stories written on stone, caves, wood and wax. Up to the 12th century most medieval manuscripts were written by monks who would produce giant books by hand whereas today an entire industry is dedicated to the publication of books. They also told the children about The National Library of Spain, Madrid which has a copy of every single book published in Spain and requires an ever expanding amount of space to accomodate the vast quantity of books.


They asked the children ‘what is recycling?’, whether they recycle at home and what different ways there are to recycle books. The children gave some great answers including giving their old books away to other children, giving them to a library, giving them to school to give to the younger children and participating in a ‘fiesta de libros’ where they were able to swap their old books with other children. All the children agreed that we should never throw books away as there are so many fantastic alternatives.


To stimulate the children’s imagination and get them into a creative mindset they played a word game. The workshop leader went round and asked each child a question and they had to respond with the first word that came into their heads. The questions  ranged from ‘something that transforms into somehing else?’, ‘an ancient word?’, ‘a place that you like?’, ‘a smell?’ This was a great exercise to stir the children’s imagination and it was interesting to see the weird and wonderful answers that they came up with. The workshop leader compiled a list of all the different words and suggested that the children use this array of words as the basis for their own story.

In the next part of the workshop the children were able to become  writers and illustrators of their own books. On the tables were scissors, glue, paper, felt tip pens, coloured fabric and tissue paper and using these materials they transformed their old books into something new. It was not just the appearance of the books that they changed but the content too- changing the title, adding new characters, adding new text to give the story a different spin. At the end of the workshop the children were able to take away a book entirely of their own creation and were encouraged to continue this creative exercise at home with other books that they no longer read.

This workshop led me  to investigate online other ways that people have recycled and reinvented books- here are a few of my favourites:




Image 1: www.efectividad.net

Image 2: www.topteacher.com.au

Image 3: commons.wikimedia.org

Image 4:  www.estandarte.com

Image 5: www.sbplibrary.org

Image 6: 9mesestv.com

Images 7, 8 & 9: inhabitat.com

Tablets, papyrus and parchment- a day in the life of a Roman school.


Tying in with the current exhibition on the ancient library of Naples (‘La Villa de los papiros’), this workshop for children aged between 7 and 11 relived a day in a school in ancient Rome. Through this creative workshop, parents and children were able to discover the writing tools that were used in ancient times and learn the difference between papyrus scroll and parchment. The session began with a question and answer session to see what the children already knew about the topic followed by a more detailed explanation of the first reading and writing tools. Workshop facilitator Patricia Garrido told the children how the very first books were made of papyrus, a thin paper like material made from the pith of the papyrus plant. Parchment on the other hand was a  writing material made from animal skins such as sheepskin, goatskin or calf skin.  Roman school children were not allowed to write on paper (papyrus) as it was considered very expensive. To write, they would use slate tablets, just small enough to fit into your hand, and a stylus- used to write and erase numbers and letters.


They also learnt about the education system in Ancient Rome, where children often didn’t attend school until the age of 7  (much to the envy of the Spanish children). The children were fascinated to learn that Roman children were often accompanied to school by a Greek salve who would follow them from place to place, carrying their possessions for them. From birth, Roman children were given an amulet to wear (called a bulla) to protect them from bad spirits and they would wear this to school each day.. In the spirit of this, each of the workshop participants was given their own amulet to wear for the duration of the workshop and to take home.


The workshop allowed the children to exercise their creativity. Each child was given the task to make their own scroll to create a collective library. They were able to write whatever they liked on the scroll, making sure to write the name and title of their scroll so that the other children would know who the author was. Once all the scrolls were finished (with the help of the parents), the scrolls were placed in a makeshift ‘library’ so that the children could read each other’s scrolls. The children wrote about a variety of topics, from their favourite basketball team to their favourite jokes,  accompanied by drawings and images.



In the final part of the workshop the children made their own writing tablet using cardboard to mirror the wooden exterior of the tablet and black plasticine to create the wax interior of the tablet.  Once they had finished making the tablet, they had a go at writing and erasing numbers and letters. The children were all very proud of what they were able to produce and I felt that they all learnt a lot from the workshop and relished the opportunity to create something unique. It was great to see parents and children give up part of their Sunday afternoon to participate in a cultural workshop


Image 1: www.historyforkids.org

Image 2: http://casalector.fundaciongsr.com

Image 3:  www.vroma.org

Image 4:  http://casalector.fundaciongsr.com

Image 5: www.bibleandscience.com

The majority of children’s events and workshops at Casa del Lector take place in their fantastic children’s space, ´la nube´ (the cloud).  This beautifully decorated area provides an ideal space for children to escape into their own universe. It is a space to learn and to create but above all, due to its open planned and felxible layout- it is a space that adapts to the rules of play.

Casa-del-Lector-Aldaba-CEE-3 casa-lector-5

One of the key ideas behind Casa del Lector’s workshops with young children is using literature as a didactic tool. This particular workshop that I attended in the “Nube” was for children aged 2 to 3 years and their parents (or grandparents as the case may be) and had the format of a tea party. The workshop was led by Sara Igelsias, specialist in literacy and reading for families and the early years. The workshop aimed to use literature, games and song to stimulate different senses.

On arrival to the workshop, each child was given a plastic teacup, inside the teacup there was a card with a face inside that expressed a certain emotion. Sara used this as a starting point, to introduce the idea of the tea party that was to form the basis of the workshop and to get the children interacting with one another and with the topic of emotions. Keeping 20 young children engaged for a prolonged period of time is no easy task however Sara’s enthusiasm and professionalism ensured that the workshop stayed on track.  She used a variety of methods to hold their attention: singing the welcome words at the start of the workshop, acting out parts of the story and reciting a poem to music.The workshop fused traditional children’s books and resources with games on the digital tablets and  interactive whiteboard as well as video clips. The books included in the workshop were well known children’s books which helped the children to learn about and engage with topics such as emotions, shapes and objects.

“El libro con mordisco”  by Herve Tullet (www.cocobooks.es)


“La gallanita roja” by Byron Barton (lamagiademirar.blogspot.com)


“!A comer!” by Lucia Serrano  (http://blog.cuatrogatos.org/blog/?p=4)


Casa del Lector emphasises the importance of using technology as a learning aid which allows the children to exercise their creativity. With the help of their parents, the children used the digital tablets provided to access a game where they were able to lay the table for their very own tea party. This was a great activity for the children and their parents to do together as a bonding exercise and something that the children seemed to really enjoy. Later, Sara used the innovative learning  programme “Avokiddo” to do a group game on the interactive white board, again related to the topic of emotions. “Avokiddo” is a very creative resource, that specialises in quality educational apps for children and has been received with great enthusiasm by kids, parents and educators.


In the final part of the workshop, the children were able to decorate their teacups with brightly coloured stickers, something that they took great delight in doing. Keeping with the theme of food, the workshop ended on a comedic note as  Sara showed us how, with a little imagination, 2 forks and 2 pieces of bread can become a pair of legs…

Charlie Chaplin doing the bread dance:



My name is Bethany Ashcroft and I am a 22 year old graduate of English and Hispanic Studies. I am currently undertaking a 10 week placement through the Leonardo da Vinci ‘Arts Across Borders programme’ at Casa del Lector in the Matadero, Madrid.

Casa del Lector is a cultural centre funded by the Fundación Gemán Sanchez Rupirez whose primary interest is in readers and the art of reading. The director of Casa del Lector is the writer and ex minister of culture, César Antonio Molina. Casa del Lector experiments with the written word in all its different forms, looking to promote literature as a multidisciplinary art. They believe that good reading skills allow us to engage with, to understand and to appreciate the world around us.


Casa del Lector is a unique cultural space where the professional and the public domains collide. It is a venue which welcomes all ages, adults, teenagers and children alike. Casa del Lector hosts a range of activities to suit a variety of interests.Expositions, conferences, courses, creative workshops, presentations, film screenings as well as applied investigations all feature in the centre´s diverse cultural programming. Casa del Lector is a centre of innovation which is always open to new projects. The building itself is a work of art-with its open planned, modernist layout, it is hard to believe that it was once one of the warehouses of the old slaughterhouse!  I am thrilled to have been given the opportunity to experience first hand the day to day running of this fascinating cultural centre and hope that this blog will give others an insight into the work of Casa del Lector.


As part of the programme I will be completing a personal project where I will turn my attention towards Casa del Lector’s work with young people. The Casa del Lector are striving to create a generation of young people with a passion for literature and culture, something that is of great personal interest to me. I feel that in this modern age of Smartphones and Xbox, young people often do not recognise the value of the written word, and that this is a great tragedy for society as a whole. Rather than  seeing technology as a direct threat to literature, Casa del Lector uses technology to illustrate the changing face of the written word. Through use of kindles, tablets and apps they show how technology can enhance readerly and cultural experiences.


Children’s activities and workshops are a key part of Casa del Lector´s cultural programming, with a lot of regular faces attending on a weekly basis. Casa del Lector offers workshops and activities for children of all ages, from just 9 months to teenagers. They also have strong links with local schools in Madrid, offering guided visits of the current exhibitions.

In my upcoming posts I will share some of my experiences at Casa del Lector, with particular focus upon their ongoing work with children and young people.