Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Reading for Pleasure - The Countdown is On!

There are 37 days and 15 hours until I fly out to London on my scholarship trip to find out more about reading for pleasure initiatives in the UK.  Just typing this causes flutters of anxiety and I have to take a deep breath to relax.  I am really excited about the trip, I just still have a lot to do.  I have had a recurring dream where I am trying to find everything to pack and I am running late to get to the airport (so I try not to stress about the trip just before I go to sleep!).

Things are actually coming along nicely.  Here are some highlights:

  • I extended my trip because I found out about the UKLA National Conference, which is on "Finding and sharing pleasure in reading" and takes place in the University of Cambridge!  It happens the day after I was initially going to leave, so I am now staying until the 19th of March.  Thank goodness I have an understanding principal.
  • I am getting to visit schools in London, Hertfordshire, Ipswich, Norfolk and Scotland.
  • I have appointments with a number of Trusts and non-profits who support reading.
  • I am going to a day-long course on reading for pleasure.
  • I am visiting Seven Stories in Newcastle upon Tyne and the Norfolk Children's Book Centre.
  • I am really lucky to be meeting with Professor Teresa Cremin.  She is a prominent education researcher who has been doing a lot of work on reading for pleasure.  I talked about her book at the bottom of my last post.

I am also treating myself to a Warner Bros. Studio Tour on The Making of Harry Potter.  I had to find something to do on my weekends!

It has taken a lot of work to coordinate all the different visits, and I still have a couple of places to confirm.  Relying on email takes time, and patience, as I know that my requests may be just adding to a busy day for the people who receive them.  That said, I have been blown away by the number of people who have offered to: organise days with them that include visits to other schools in their area, drive me around and help me with accommodation.

Investigating all the places I'm going, and people I'm seeing, has lead to some interesting ideas already.  I've discovered mood boards


and fun library games


It is a challenge not to get pulled down the rabbit hole and spend days exploring online when I actually need to work out other things like what clothes to take and how to fit them into a suitcase!

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

My 5 Star Reads from 2016: Children's Non-Fiction, YA and Professional Reading

This is the last of my blog posts about my best books of 2016.  On Sunday, I posted about my best children's fiction and graphic novels and yesterday I added my best picture books.


Children's Non-Fiction



Finding Winnie:  The True Story of the World's Most Famous Bear by Lindsay Mattick (Caldecott Medal 2016)
This is the story about how the great-grandfather of the author came to buy the bear, Winnie, that would eventually provide the inspiration for A.A. Milne and his famous stories about Winnie-the-Pooh.  The fact that Winnie's journey to his eventual home at London Zoo took place during World War 1 makes it particularly interesting.  Here is a video about it.





Last year, the theme for our Book Week was "Spies and Detectives".  As a result, I read a lot of books about spies, and this was by far the best. It has lots of interesting information and useful tips.








This is a fantastic true story about a group of children who live near, and often work in, a rubbish dump.  When a man offers to teach music to the children there aren't enough instruments to go around.  The ingenious use of rubbish to build instruments has a big impact on the students and their families.  Here is a 60 minutes report about the orchestra.  It's a really inspiring watch.



Young Adult


I don't read a lot of YA but some of the books I read last year were amazing so I thought I'd share them too.


Fire Colour One by Jenny Valentine
Sixteen-year-old Iris has a self-absorbed mother and has become a little obsessed with setting fires.  She is brought to see the dying father who she's never met in an attempt to claim his fortune for her greedy mother.  Three words to sum up this book - revenge is sweet!








The Good Braider by Terry Farish
This is the free verse story of Viola, who journeys from war-torn Sudan to Cairo and then Maine.  Her struggles with learning how to adapt to a new culture while respecting her old one, will resonate with immigrants and also provide an insight for others.  A powerful book.








The Weight of Water by Sarah Crossan
This is another free verse story about an immigrant and the challenges she faces.  In this case, Kasienka and her mother are Polish and have moved to England to find the father/husband who has left them.  Kasienka encounters racism and bullying as she tries to deal with problems at school and at home.  This is a moving, beautifully written story.






Professional Reading



I found this book so interesting I did a blog post on it back in April.  I did finally get to see the film of the same name, if you get a chance I would recommend seeing it (as well as reading the book!)








I am not the only NZ librarian who has been inspired by this book, as evidenced by the fact that SLANZA (the School Library Association of New Zealand) has invited Rachel to be a keynote speaker at their conference in July.  The book inspires a lot of reflection on how librarians promote books and reading.  There is also a series of four videos of Rachel sharing her ideas, the first one is here.






This book was recommended by a keynote speaker at an educational conference I went to.  It is about the problems that can arise when we compare individuals to an "average" person.  I was blown away by how it managed to challenge the assumptions in some of my thinking.  Here is Todd's TED talk.








Building Communities of Engaged Readers: Reading for Pleasure by Teresa Cremin, Marilyn Mottram, Fiona M. Collins, Sacha Powell and Kimberly Safford
I read this book because I am lucky enough to be meeting with Teresa Cremin when I am on my scholarship trip in England in March.  The book is based on two studies by the UKLA (United Kingdom Literature Association) on teachers' knowledge of children's literature, and how they can improve it and build reading communities in their classrooms.  I think this information may offer a way in the door so that I can work with our teachers to enhance their students' engagement with reading.  This is something that I have been looking to develop after realising that I know very little about the ways our teachers model a love of reading in their classrooms.

Monday, 2 January 2017

My 5 Star Reads from 2016: Picture Books

Following on from yesterday's reviews of my favourite children's fiction and graphic novels, today I am going to look at the picture books I gave 5 stars to in 2016.



Chicken Clicking by Jeanne Willis
A humorous, cautionary tale about a chicken discovering the delights of the internet - first through online shopping, and then by finding a "friend".








11 Experiments that Failed by Jenny Offill
This amusing book teaches you how to conduct science experiments by coming up with hypotheses to check.  Of course, the experiments in this case include investigating questions like "can a washing machine wash dishes?" and the results are often messy!





This is a Ball by Beck and Matt Stanton
I love it when teachers read this book aloud to their classes.  I can normally tell it's happening when the howls of outrage start.  Everything in this book is wrong, which makes it a whole lot of fun to read.








How this Book was Made by Mac Barnett
There is a crazy little video to promote this book.  The book is equally wacky, which always appeals to me.  It also has some interesting details about making a book (which do need to be separated from the parts about pirates and tigers!).








Tell Me the Day Backwards by Albert Lamb
Just before he goes to bed Timmy Bear tells his mama about his day.  However, he tells it in reverse, starting with what has just happened and then talking about what happened just before that, and so on.  I think this bedtime story would inspire parents and children to have some fun and share their own day in the same way.






Undercover: One of these Things is Almost like the Others by Meagan Bennett
This is a wordless picture book that has readers look for the odd one out.  The choice of the "different" objects is really clever and often humorous.  It was surprising how much fun I had with this one!







A Bike like Sergio's by Maribeth Boelts
Here's what I wrote about this book in my post about diversity in picturebooks last year - Ruben finds a lot of money that has fallen out of someone's purse, enough to buy him a bike like his friend Sergio's.  He struggles with what the right thing is to do with the money, given that his family sometimes doesn't have enough money for everything on their grocery list.  A nice story that acknowledges income equality and has a great ending (but it doesn't involve a bike).





How to Put Your Parents to Bed by Mylisa Larsen
Babette Cole's illustrations are just delightful in this role-reversal story about a girl putting her parents to bed.  This is one of those books that parents will enjoy as much as their children.









Guess Again! by Mac Barnett
This is the second Mac Barnett book on my list.  He has obviously had a lot of fun with this book, as he sets up a rhyme so that the logical answer is very clear...and then chooses a different answer altogether!  I can't wait to see what our students think of it, this was a holiday read so I haven't had a chance to share it yet.







The Forgetful Knight by Michelle Robinson
This rhyming picture book has a twist at the end, and I would recommend reading it through before reading it aloud, as I think it makes it easier to understand how best to read it.  The narrator seems confused about what has happened in his story about a knight who sets off on an adventure...on a horse? By himself?  With a sandwich?  With a sword?  A lot of fun and definitely one for repeat readings.






A Family is a Family is a Family by Sara O'Leary
What a special book that celebrates the many different kinds of families there are.  Children in a classroom talk about what makes their families special.  A gentle and warm book that belongs in school libraries everywhere.









Flight by Nadia Wheatley
This is a powerful and moving sophisticated picture book.  It evocatively illustrates what refugees may go through in order to flee their homeland.  It would be a great book to accompany any current events discussions about refugees.






Up tomorrow, a hodge-podge of children's non-fiction, some YA and some awesome professional reading.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

My 5 Star Reads from 2016: Children's Fiction and Graphic Novels

Here are my best reads from 2016 (not necessarily all published in 2016).  I have enjoyed going through my Goodreads account and remembering all these wonderful books.


Children's Fiction



Leroy Ninker Saddles Up by Kate DiCamillo
I purchased this book after one of our Year 1 classes got completely and wonderfully hooked on the Mercy Watson series.  I wasn't sure the magic would transfer to a book in which Mercy only makes a cameo at the end.  I needn't have worried, this is a special book that the kids enjoyed as much as I did.  The love Leroy has for his horse is something very sweet.








Booked by Kwame Alexander
I loved Kwame Alexander's last verse novel, The Crossover and was happy to find this one just as enjoyable.  Here, twelve-year-old Nick plays soccer and has to work out how to deal with girls, bullying and his parents' divorce.  The book is beautifully written and it has a rapping librarian called The Mac.  What's not to love?!








The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell
This is one of those special books that takes you to a different place and brings it, and the people in it, completely alive for you.  Add to that the fairy-tale like quality, the setting of the Russian wilderness, plucky children and loyal wolves...a real winner.









Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story by Nora Raleigh Baskin
I had a real lump in my throat at the end of this book, and that doesn't happen to me very often.  The book focuses on the lives of four children in different parts of America, in the 48 hours prior to the 9/11 attacks.  I particularly liked the inclusion of the character Naheed, who is Muslim and wears a hijab.







Save me a Seat by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan
This book switches between the perspective of Ravi, an Indian boy who has just emigrated to the U.S., and Joe, a boy in his new class.  I love that it provides an insight into the challenges faced by someone adapting to a new culture.  It also deal with bullying and with Joe's auditory processing disorder.  A great book for having discussions about the value of trying to understand how other people are feeling.


The Last Kids on Earth by Max Brallier
Oh yeah, this book was FUN!!!  Combining a monster apocalypse, zombies and loads of humour within a part-text, part-graphic novel format.  I've loosely classified this as horror but it isn't really that scary.  We haven't processed this book yet but I know it's going to be very popular, and I can't wait to read the next one in the series.






Graphic Novels



The boy who crashed to Earth (Hilo #1) by Judd Winick
This is another incredibly fun book, which has been extremely popular with our students.  D.J. lives in a bustling family with siblings who all seem better at everything than he is.  Then he comes across Hilo, a boy who has lost his memory and appears to have fallen from the sky wearing nothing but silver underpants. 

Hilo has such an infectious energy, he makes you smile, want to stay "outstanding!" all the time and greet people by saying "aaaah!!" (read the book to find out why). 



Saving the Whole Wide World (Hilo #2) by Judd Winick
Yippee!  The second book is as good as the first!  D.J., Hilo and Gina are back trying to stop alien creatures from destroying the earth.  The third book is out in February and will be a great way to start spending this year's book budget!







Small Things by Mel Tregonning
I had very high expectations about this book because it had been raved about by several of my fellow librarians (I had to wait impatiently while it was ordered in for me).  I was not disappointed, I was immensely affected by this book. It is powerful in its simplicity, needing no words to connect you with the main character and soak up his feelings.  Desna, a school librarian in Christchurch, has written a more in-depth review of this book here



Mighty Jack by Ben Hatke
Jack lives with his mum and his younger sister, Maddy, who has autism.  One day he trades his mum's car for a box of seeds (because Maddy, who doesn't usually speak, asks him too).  The seeds create a magical garden, which leads to lots of crazy adventures.  

This adaptation of Jack and the Beanstalk ends on a huge cliffhanger - if you haven't already read it you might be better to wait until September when the second one comes out. 



Tomorrow, I will move on to my top picture books for 2016, followed on Tuesday by children's non-fiction, a little bit of YA and some professional reading.

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Gearing up for Summer Lending

I have five days left of school and we've just completed our stocktake (apart from the nagging of the slowpokes to return their books).  Now my attention is turning to our summer lending.  We've been lending over the holidays for six years now.  We started with a trial, by issuing books to our Year 4s on the last day of term, with a signed parent permission slip.  Now we open for one afternoon a week over the holidays. We lend to parents as well as students, in the hopes of building a lasting relationship and having them continue to borrow when we are open on Friday mornings during the term.  There's no permission slip anymore, but students have to be accompanied by their parents.

We have also built a relationship with Hamilton City Libraries.  For the past three years, we have run their summer reading programme from our library.  We promote and administer the programme and in return they provide us with the necessary materials and also come in for one afternoon in the holidays to run some activities with our students.

On the week before Christmas we offer "mystery books", an idea borrowed from Hamilton City Libraries.  We choose library books and wrap a couple up and put them under our "tree" with a tag indicating what age group they are aimed at.  We try to pick some of our newer, shinier books with a broad appeal.  This is always very popular.

The quieter days tend to be the weeks straight after Christmas and New Year's when a lot of families are away.  This year for our 4 January opening we are going to have our origami books out, along with some origami paper taken from old library books.  I hope that will be a nice activity for families to do when they visit, and also one that won't need a lot of supervision so I can still issue books at the same time.  I'm lucky in that Esther, our library assistant, will also be around, but her hours are for doing projects over the holidays so I try not to pull her away from that too much.

This year we are also running a Reading Wonderland competition.  The Reading Wonderland is the revamped area of the library that was completed this year.  To celebrate our first year with this lovely new space we trying to encourage our students to come up with creative ideas about the area.  Here's the poster to explain more:




I had to redo it to include things like the maximum length of the items and how many times students could enter.  Hopefully I have covered everything now.  I have no idea how it will go but hopefully it will provide students with a fun, creative outlet over the holidays.  Then I will find out how to turn the best entries into a book.  I suspect it will be more time-consuming than I anticipate, a side-effect of most of the projects I seem to come up with!

Last year I made a summer reading brochure to advertise what the library had to offer over summer.  This year I decided to use our newly established TT TV channel to promote the various library activities.  At the last minute we decided not to do an episode in the final week, which meant we made a bigger episode than usual this week, containing three different segments about the library!

             *start at 3:17

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Diversity in Picturebooks





On Thursday, I attended the inaugural picture book seminar at The University of Waikato.  The theme was "Diversity in Picturebooks".  There were 15 speakers from public libraries, tertiary institutions, school libraries and the National Library, as well as a teacher, writers and an illustrator.  It was a wonderful mix of approaches and content, a diverse line up to discuss diversity!

I don't have the time to do justice to the speakers and the topics they discussed, so I thought I'd mainly just share a few of their book recommendations (with mostly just three book covers each or this post will be huge!):

Professor Bronwen Cowie 
- Launch of Waikato Picturebook Research Unit




Gameedah Jonas, Hamilton City Libraries
"Diversity in Picturebooks in Public Libraries"

Gameedah recommended the resources on diversity from the ALA's site.



Plus "Last stop on Market Street" by Matt de la Pena, "Whoever you are" by Mem Fox and "My two blankets" by Irena Kobold, which are great and I already have in my library.


Rosemary Tisdall, National Library (or Mrs Tisdall, if she was previously your Form 2 teacher!)
"Diversity in Picturebooks at the National Library's School Collection"

Mrs Tisdall, okay, Rosemary, talked about diversity in relation to religion, identity, family, occupations, culture, gender, LGBT, physical appearance and disability. 



Add to these "Mirror" by Jeannie Baker, "Azzi in Between" by Sarah Garland and "Fiapule" by Catherine Hannken, which we have at school and are awesome. And then lots more on top of that.  As well as working for the National Library, she runs her own agency, as a children's literature and educational resource consultant, so no wonder she had plenty of books to recommend


Joan Gibbons, Wintec Library
"How Picturebooks Present Māori Knowledge and Values"

Joan looked at the way three picture books expressed Māori values and knowledge of the world.



Unfortunately, "Haere: Farewell, Jack, Farewell" is now out of print.


Gerri Judkins, previously librarian at Southwell School, now retired
"Diversity in Beliefs, Culture and Refugees"

My lovely friend Gerri drew on the recent IBBY congress in Auckland to discuss picture books that highlight diversity.  She was inspired by many of the poster presentations which featured picture books, and the conversations she had with the presenters.



Gerri also mentioned "Old Hu-Hu" by Kyle Mewburn (teaching materials here) and "Badger's Parting Gifts" by Susan Varley as examples of books that deal with dying and grief.


Dr Darryn Joseph, Te Pūtahi-a-Toi Massey University
"The Price of Reversioning Picturebooks to Te Reo Māori"

Darryn's talk was a fascinating exploration of the idea that "cultural integrity is more important than cultural exploration".  When books are published in English and then translated into Māori, attention needs to be paid as to whether the books selected are culturally appropriate.  Darryn spoke about the lack of agency for the Māori character in the book "The Little Yellow Digger", which he did not really notice until the book was translated into Māori.  He also described why "In the Night Kitchen" breaks tapu.  I would love to hear Darryn speak again, hopefully he will return next year.




Kate Morgan, Matangi Āwhio - Auckland Point Kindergarten, Nelson
"You Have to Start with Something"

Kate held a University of Waikato Summer Research Scholarship "investigating picturebooks to promote young children's understandings of queer cultures, gender and family diversity".  She selected 60 children's books published between 2005 and 2015.  Here are her top six favourite books:




Here's another one on family diversity, plus two more that have been published since her study:



She also mentioned "Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress by Christine Baldacchino.


Trish Brooking, University of Otago
"Navigation to Safety:  Using a Human Rights Lens to Develop Empathy and Validate Refugee Children's Experiences"

Trish recommended this website address - mirrorswindowsdoors.org/wp/themes/news.  The whole site is well worth a look.




Janette Kelly-Ware, Wintec
"Two Daddy Tigers and a Baby Tiger and Other Research Stories"

Janette noted that during her research with preschoolers no child ever suggested that you could not have two mummies or two daddies.





Marilyn Blakeney-Williams, University of Waikato
"Using Picturebooks in Diverse Primary Classrooms"

Marilyn talked about her study of how two teachers used picture books in Year 4-6 classes.




Brenda Bicknell, University of Waikato
"Using Picturebooks as an Integral Part of a Mathematics Programme to Cater for Diverse Abilities and Interests"

So basically this talk was about using picture books to teach maths, and it was great.  Brenda mentioned a few things that I will look for the next time I purchase a picture book about counting - has it got the number spelled out?  Does it have pagination, and if so, is that distracting (as another number on the page)?  Does it count forwards or backwards or both?  She also mentioned that teachers can find contextual maths problems from the book they are reading at the moment e.g. "Counting on Frank".  Brenda is another person I would love to hear more from, but actually that is everyone!



Brenda mentioned lots of other picture books - "One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish" by Dr Seuss, "Ten, Nine, Eight" by Molly Bang, "One is a Snail, Ten is a Crab" by April Pulley Sayre, "Ten Black Dots" by Donald Crews, "How Much is a Million?" by David M Schwartz and "Measuring Penny" by Loreen Leedy.


Nicola Daly, University of Waikato
"Picturebooks in Initial Teacher Education"

Nicola talked about how teacher educators were using picture books to teach different learning areas from the New Zealand curriculum.  For example, teaching science using "Koro's Medicine", maths using "The Nickle Nackle Tree" and social and cultural issues using "The Woven Flax Kete".

Nicola noted that picture books were being used extensively across the curriculum in teacher education for multiple purposes.



Nicola is also responsible for the New Zealand Picture Book Collection, an excellent website which links picture books that reflect "diversity in New Zealand society" with "specially designed, curriculum-linked classroom activities.



Sarah Johnson, Writer and Editor
"Wooden Arms/Poupou Tauawhi"

Sarah described the editing process for her book "Wooden Arms".  There were a number of changes made that related to Māori cultural practices depicted in the book.




Deborah Hinde, Illustrator
"Picturing Diversity:  An Illustrators' Role"

Deborah gave a fascinating insight into the work that she does to ensure that she uses her awareness of cultural and physical diversity to accurately illustrate a text.  The amount of research that she does was a real eye-opener.  For example, she looks into things like what coconuts really look like, what kinds of crabs would be in Fiji and what types of wheelchair someone might use depending on their disabilities.  




Sharon Holt, Writer and Publisher
"Helping English Medium Schools and Preschools to Access More Diversity in Te Reo Māori Picturebooks"

Sharon talked about how she came to self-publish her "Te Reo Singalong" books.




During the breaks we were able to look through books that speakers and attendees were invited to bring in to share.  Here is a look at some of the ones I'm going to buy: 




Nicola and her team hope to run this picture book seminar again next year, and if so I will be first in line to attend.  I have so much to share back with the teachers from our school, loads of books to purchase and a lot to think about in relation to diversity.  A day well spent.

A final recommendation from me:



Ruben finds a lot of money that has fallen out of someone's purse, enough to buy him a bike like his friend Sergio's.  He struggles with what the right thing is to do with the money, given that his family sometimes doesn't have enough money for everything on their grocery list.  A nice story that acknowledges income equality and has a great ending (but it doesn't involve a bike).