MOSCOW, April 23 (Xinhua) -- Galina Kitaeva was carefully laying out handmade thumb books in a museum showcase, as if she was presenting some exquisite craftwork.
Those thumb books, some as small as finger nails, were made by teenage students across Russia, from Kaliningrad in the west to the Far East.
A 12-year-old girl made a palm-size thumb book out of renowned Russian fairy tale Scarlet Flower, which contains a vivid portrait of the heroine and the wonderland.
Kitaeva works as a volunteer in the Moscow Museum of Ex Libris and Book after retirement. She enjoys talking with young visitors here as well as the books, her silent friends.
"It is not a book, but a work of art," Kitaeva smiled while putting the flower book into the showcase.
Those thumb books are award-winning works in a handmade miniature book competition held recently by the museum and other organizations.
This time, under the theme of "my favourite fairy tale," young competitors chose stories they loved, selected certain chapters and draw full-color illustrations. Finally, they bound all the sheets of paper and made their own books.
"Annually we hold a national competition for children in Ex Libris and miniature books and literature. This year the event attracts children from 55 of Russia's 83 regions," Ludmila Shustrova, curator of the museum told Xinhua.
According to Shustrova, a competition like this effectively arouses children's passion for reading.
To read the fairy tale is just the first step, then they should also "play roles in the story, and draw illustrations for a certain part of the text," she said, adding all these require creativity and vivid imagination.
After another similar competition dedicated to Anton Chekhov, Shustrova received lots of emails from school teachers. "Thank you for prompting children to start to read. Thank you. They read Chekhov again," they said.
According to Shustrova, school programs in literature have been much fewer nowadays, and it can be very hard for a teacher to explain classical literature in two to three lessons.
Those competitions, which are literary in nature, could help children better understand great names in Russian literature as well as classical works.
Besides handmade miniature book competition, the museum also hold regular literature and reading lectures for young readers.
Holding a glass box of micro-carving books on rice and pearl, Shustrova explained to a group of teenagers about the crafts explored in carving.
Since the area on a grain of rice was very limited, the sculptor need to hold his breath and size the brief moment between two heartbeats to carve. "Otherwise the work will be ruined," Shustrova told the children sitting around her.
During the lecture, she asked the children about their favorite writer. "Pushkin" was the answer she got from a girl after a few seconds of thinking.
Shustrova said the museum serves as a charming "second classroom" for primary and middle school students. Listening to stories about book evolution and making thumb books by themselves are far more interesting than attending a regular school course on literature.
On April 23 every year, the museum usually invites publishing houses, book stores, authors of children's books and young readers to mark the annual World Book and Copyright Day.
For eight years, Shustrova, Kitaeva and their colleagues have been working on these reading programs. "What makes us happy is that such museums for children start opening in other regions. They adopt our practices," Shustrova said.
Tatiana Gubina, executive secretary of Council of Moscow Museum of Ex Libris and Book, said books will never die in this electronic age.
"A book is a source of information and it does not matter if you read it from an electronic screen or a piece of paper. Anyway it is good that children start to read again."