Sunday, 6 August 2017

Teachers' Reading Group - Getting Started

Late last year, I read an excellent book called "Building Communities of Engaged Readers: Reading for Pleasure" by Teresa Cremin, Marilyn Mottram, Fiona M. Collins, Sacha Powell and Kimberly Safford.  The book is based on two studies by the UKLA (United Kingdom Literacy Association) on teachers' knowledge of children's literature, and how they can improve it and build reading communities in their classrooms. 

Earlier this year, I was lucky enough to fly to England and research reading for pleasure.  I met with Teresa Cremin and heard her keynote at the UKLA National Conference.  She was very inspirational and it was a highlight of my trip.  I was really keen to share her work with the teachers at my school.  I felt it would be an excellent way to work with teachers and help them to better help their students foster a love of reading.




Less than a week after I returned from England, I persuaded our DP to let me attend a staff meeting and administer Teresa's Teachers as Readers questionnaire (choose the 'Review your practice" tab).  This is part of the Open University's Research Rich Pedagogies website.  I copied the questionnaire and made a couple of little adjustments (like changing 'literacy coordinator' to librarian).  I didn't want the teachers to do it online as I wanted to collect the results myself.  

Part of the questionnaire has the teachers name six children's authors, six children's poets and six children's picture book authors/illustrators.  I had several teachers come up to me later on to tell me that they had remembered more names after they handed in their questionnaire, or that they were embarrassed that they couldn't name more authors.  One put a little sad face directly on her questionnaire!  It definitely got them thinking about their knowledge of authors.

My main aim for administering the questionnaire was to initiate our own Teachers as Readers project at my school.  I was told this would need to be voluntary; I would have to convince our teachers to give up their own time to be part of this project.

The following term, I was able to get ten minutes to talk about my trip at a staff meeting.  I  chose two things to talk about, that I thought would be of particular interest to teachers - Empathy Lab (see my SLANZA conference slides to find out more about that) and Teachers as Readers.  

I started by emphasising the importance of reading for pleasure.  I shared some research from the OECD (Slide 2 below).  This had quite an impact - I could hear mutterings and surprised comments arising from it.  I also shared other research (Slide 3), showing the impact reading for pleasure has on academic achievement.  I talked about the fact that reading is not just learning to read, but wanting to read.  The will as well as the skill.

Then I talked about the Teachers as Readers work done by Teresa and her team.  I reported back about the results from the questionnaire (Slides 6-8).  I compared our results with those from the 1,200 UK teachers that Teresa's team surveyed.  We were quite similar in our knowledge of writers, worse when it came to knowledge of children's poets, and better in our knowledge of children's picture book writers/illustrators.  Then I shared the conclusion from Teresa and her team based on the results of the research (Slide 9):




I talked about phase two of the Teachers as Readers research, which was a project to help widen teachers' knowledge of children's literature and build communities of readers in their schools (Slide 10). 

Then I flicked over to the last bit of our research (Slide 11).  This was our teachers' own rating of their repertoire of children's books.  Only 25% of them gave themselves a seven or more.  I said that I felt that they should all be aiming for a seven or above, for the reason I showed them in Slide 9 - to support their students in their development as readers they need to have a good reading repertoire.  I said that if they were interested in improving their rating, I would be running our own Teachers as Readers project.  I went over this in Slide 12.  I didn't want to put them off by talking about the questionnaires involved or the length of the project, but I did want them to know what they were signing up for.

I sent them out an email after the staff meeting, with a Google doc attached so they could indicate what the best times were for our Teachers' Reading Group, and how often they wanted to meet.  And then I crossed my fingers!  I was hoping for four teachers, one from each of our Year 3-6 teams.  I got nine!  They teach from Year 1-6 (in fact, one was a new entrant teacher who didn't even have any students yet!).  I also have another two teachers who can't attend in real life but did join our Goodreads group.

I ended up with two Teachers' Reading Groups, as I didn't want to have to turn anyone away.  I have a Tuesday lunchtime group and a Wednesday after school group.  The consensus was for fortnightly meetings, which has worked well.  Having the two days has also proved useful, as we've had teachers switch between the two as commitments come up.

So, I started with the questionnaire and that highlighted the gaps in some teachers' knowledge and made them feel uncomfortable.  Then I showed them the research that proved why it's important, and I think those two things really helped get teachers on board.

In my next post I'm going to summarise what we covered in our first five sessions.  The "Building Communities of Readers" booklet is a big help if you are going to run Teachers' Reading Groups as it goes through what you can cover in each session.

I am SO pleased with how things are going - I am having lots more conversations about books and reading with teachers, even those not in my Teachers' Reading Groups!  I think running the project has positioned me as an expert in children's literature and reading for pleasure in a really visible way.  There has also been some lovely feedback from the teachers about the impact on their students.




Another benefit that arose after I administered Teresa's questionnaire on our staff, was that I encouraged our principal to promote reading by having his photo taken each week while reading various picture books.  This has proved a popular segment on our library's Facebook page.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

#slanza17 - Wednesday

Reading for Pleasure Presentation
#slanza17 - Unconference
#slanza17 - Monday
#slanza17 - Tuesday

Wednesday, the final day of the conference, arrived all too quickly.  I was just getting warmed up!  The keynote (Flipping the Format - How Contemporary Teens Connect to Story) was from Adele Walsh, who I had the pleasure of meeting the day before (although it took me a while to realise I was talking to a keynote speaker!).  I'll admit I was worried that because the focus was on teens I wouldn't get as much out of this keynote, but it turned out to be one of my favourite sessions!  Here are some of my notes (you can find more in the tweets from the day, below):


  • This padlet has all the websites referred to
  • Commit to the world of teens - it's not about you!
  • Embrace discomfort, otherwise you're not learning
  • Digital is not just ebooks - expand your thinking.
  • Digital storytelling, transmedia storytelling - telling stories through multiple platforms
  • The majority of teens online are creating content, making stories.  Digital stories aren't less important than other stories
  • Stop saying 'in real life', digital life is real tool, being online is real life for teens
  • Don't take over their content creation, support them in what they're doing
  • Stories are not just the written word, they're video, photos, emoji
  • 'Reading' can be a loaded term for teens, but they're used to stories being everywhere - connect with their world
  • Adele runs the 'Inside a Dog' website. Teens are involved in content creation for the site, including creating the longlist and shortlist of the Inky awards.
  • Have bookmarks with book covers and checkboxes (Love this idea! I'll be using it).
  • Got feedback on what teens want to feel in a digital community, how they felt about the site.  Going to relaunch.
  • Teens love to discuss book covers (will try this in my book club).
  • Dog Advisory Board for website, teens advising.
  • Polandbananasbooks - popular book review site (can we do something similar with our kids?)


How many of these do you recognise?



The last keynote was from Steve Braunias - "How I Survived the Bad Librarian at Mt Maunganui College, and other tales".  He was hilarious.  I immediately reserved "The man who ate Lincoln Road".  

For me, the conference finished after lunch.  I didn't attend the library tours because I had already visited one of the libraries and to be honest I quite liked the idea of beating the traffic!

A big thanks to the organising committee - I think the event was extremely well run and I really enjoyed the new additions, the quiz and the unconference.

Here are the final lot of tweets for the conference:


Saturday, 22 July 2017

#slanza17 - Tuesday

Reading for Pleasure Presentation
#slanza17 - Unconference
#slanza17 - Monday
#slanza17 - Wednesday

Day Two of the conference, Tuesday, started with an author breakfast.  Those of us staying on-site were lucky enough to be able to hear from Stacy Gregg.  Stacy is a popular author at my school, however because I considered her to be a "horsey" writer I hadn't read her books myself.  After hearing her speak I can't wait to read her books!  The details behind each of her stories were fascinating.  For example, she wrote a letter to Princess Haya, daughter of the King of Jordan, asking if she could please write her story, and ended up travelling to Jordan to meet her.   

A lot of Stacy's stories involve embellishing real life events to make them fiction, she likes to write strong women role-models and she loves to write books about places she wants to visit (so she can go there to do research!).  I am very keen to ask Stacy to speak at my school one day.




The keynote was by Hamish Curry, from design thinking firm NoTosh.



Here are some of his key points:
  • It is important to take the time to really understand our problems before trying to solve them.
  • Sitting by a window is an incredibly powerful way to allow yourself to relax and slow down 
  • To see how students are using a space, at three different times during the day put a dot on a floor plan to show where students are 
  • We need to have visible learning and model the same practises we want students to do - Hamish suggested doing this in a bunker room in the library
  • You need to work out patterns and what they mean, make connections
  • Use 'hexagonal thinking' as a tool for thinking, ask good questions to connect concepts together
  • When you are prototyping you need to be open to feedback on how you can make something better
  • Management is about problem solving, leadership should be about problem finding, pattern finding
  • Don't start analysing in a secret laptop, do it in an open, visible way
  • There is a difference between space and place - place has belonging, character, community
  • Get the students to speak to search - once they start asking a device a question, they'll ask more because it's easy
  • We should be inspiration service providers
  • When you want to share an idea you don't need an hour, ask for ten minutes - everyone has ten minutes
  • Put things on ceilings and floors to surprise people
  • How do we create space to slow people down so they can relax and enjoy - e.g. corners, windows.



A bunker room with visible learning




This was for a local history unit.  The teacher buried a suitcase on the grounds for the students to find.  They were totally engaged and the teachers enjoyed the unit more too.



There is more from the keynote in the tweets from the day (below).

Following the keynote, I attended Georgi de Stigter's session "Digital Technologies #FTW (For the win)".  Here is a link to her slides.  It turned out to be mainly on Google Forms which I have used before, but I did learn some more tips:

  • Use a linear scale so students can choose from 1 to 5
  • Use humour in the choices e.g. 'never, ever, ever' or 'you are the best'
  • Use sections to take students to different questions depending on if they answer yes or no
  • Ask open-ended questions e.g. 'why do you think...?'
  • Ask students and staff how effective you are e.g. 'On a scale of 1-5 how helpful do you find the library staff?' and 'What can we do better?'

Next up was Rachel Van Riel's workshop "Improving your Library Environment without Spending a lot of Money".  Here are my notes:

  • Angle bookshelves to face the door
  • There is a difference between destination and impulse.  Impulse is not planned, whereas people will ask for a destination e.g. toilet, reserved books, photocopier, OPAC.  Keep your impulse items in the best places as people will search for the destination ones.
  • We should learn from retail.
  • Paco Underhill - "Why we buy: the science of shopping" (I've reserved this)
  • We need a rest for the eye - don't fill up every wall with posters
  • Trial different locations for things and see what works
  • There shouldn't be a visual clash with books e.g. posters.  It is better to focus on the books
  • Use smaller Dewey signs to be less intrusive
  • Bay ends are rests for the eye, don't cover them with posters or books
  • Put face out books amongst the shelves, sometimes in the middle, sometimes to the left or right
  • Let the book jackets do the talking
  • People will go through a space e.g. doorway, when there's more space around it (so don't narrow the space with trolleys etc nearby)
  • Don't shut yourself away, get out on the library floor as much as possible
  • Let pillars and staircases sing - don't cover them with posters
  • If you have glass display cases put them in the foyer as they're transient areas
  • Bookshelves should always be more than 70% full, preferably completely full, otherwise people will think that the best has gone
  • Empty shelves signal that you don't have enough books

Participants in this session had been invited to send in photos of their libraries so that Rachel could give suggestions.  I'd been too busy working on my presentation to send mine through, but I did manage to catch up with her on Wednesday and she generously went through some of my library photos too (she did say in her email to participants that she would be around on Wednesday for free advice, so I wasn't stalking her!).  I'm going to do another post about the advice she gave me and show some before and after photos as I put it into practice.  


After lunch was Hamish Curry's workshop "Designing Library Discoveries".  Hamish talked about how children don't learn how to work AS a group, they're just asked to work IN a group.  They need to learn what collaboration looks like.  He said we need to spend as much time analysing a problem as solving it.  We are answer rich, question poor.



Hamish asked us to write down on post-it notes two challenges and two opportunities that had come out of the conference.  We put them up on the whiteboard and then they were grouped into common themes.


Next he showed us "the squid".  We picked a topic and then came up with three questions, then switched into answer mode.  The idea is to switch from question mode to answer mode, not work through each thread separately.  Then we had to circle the two best questions and two best answers (we hadn't got far enough through so we circled "future answers" in the expectation that some good ones would have been generated if we had gone further!).



I found some more free tools and resources from NoTosh.

My final workshop was with Joanna Ludbrook - "Ka-boom! Working with Primary Classes, Creating Solid Foundations for Life-long Learning".  Here are my notes:

  • Good site for list of topics covered during library classes - https://www.crsd.org/page/552
  • A Google a Day challenge - http://www.agoogleaday.com/
  • Recommended books:
    • 'How to read a story' - Kate Messner
    • 'The children who loved books' - Peter Carnavas
    • 'Keys' - Sacha Cotter*  Joanna had a set of keys that she uses to prompt children to create their own stories with.  That sounds like fun so I'll be giving it a go at our school.
    • 'Chester & Gil' - Carol Faulkner*  Joanna asks children to define the qualities of Chester and Gil and it promotes good discussions.
    • 'The three bears (sort of)', and 'Little red riding hood, not quite'  - both by Yvonne Morrison. These books are great to encourage children to question what they read.
    • 'Mr Archimedes' Bath' - Pamela Allen.  Joanna uses this book alongside Aesop's fable 'The Crow and the Pitcher' to illustrate the scientific theory of displacement.
  • Make jars of physical things to represent a book.
  • Include volunteer hours and duties in your library reports
  • "What's-on-Wednesday" - shared at the unconference
*These two books were the only two I didn't have and are both out-of-print! I managed to pick up copies on Trademe.


I was able to catch up with Rachel Van Riel at the end of day to get her opinion about how adding reading for pleasure to the curriculum has impacted reading and libraries in England (for my NZEI scholarship).  We talked for an hour and a half - she is so generous with her time, and such a lovely, knowledgable lady to speak with.  I walked her back to her room, which was in the same boarding house as mine, however I still managed to get lost trying to back to my room!  Fortunately there were helpful librarians to point me in the right direction!

The day ended with the conference dinner.  The entertainment was great but hard to describe so here's a link to the conference Facebook page with photos and videos of the evening.

Here are the tweets from the day:


Thursday, 20 July 2017

#slanza17 - Monday

Sunday - Unconference
#slanza17 - Tuesday
#slanza17 - Wednesday

On Monday, we started with a lovely powhiri and welcome in the chapel.  The first keynote speaker was the amazingly awesome Rachel Van Riel.  Other tweeters did a great job of taking photos of slides and recording key points from her session, so do have a look at the tweets from the day (below).  Also, she did a session in the afternoon, "Putting Readers First - A New Approach to Book Promotion", that I couldn't go to because I had to do my own session at that time (sigh!), so it's good to see the tweets from that too.  Here are my notes from Rachel's keynote:
  • It can be hard to find stimulus in libraries, even though they are filled with riches.
  • If you say that others have to understand our system then this is not friendly, it's functional.  Retail is friendly.
  • We shouldn't be saying "it's always been like that" we should be reviewing and changing space.
  • We need to check what the message is on the outside of the library when the door's shut
  • There is too much clutter, too many notices.
  • We need to organise the books as invisibly as we can - the organisational system is for us not our students.
  • Students need to be able to see into the library, so there's something to go in for.
  • Putting a cloth on a table feminises it.
  • Books are better in the middle of the library not around the edge.
  • The clearer the better, don't clutter.
  • Watch where people go, where they spend their time in the library.
  • Don't put all the tables together, integrate them with shelves - it breaks up the noise.
  • If your shelves make corridors Rachel calls these "corridors of faith".  You have to have a reason to go down them.  Instead use a discovery layout to entice children into areas.
  • Your eyes go first and your feet follow.
  • Don't go with a multi-coloured scheme.  Plan for a colour scheme - a designed environment has a different feel to it.
  • Teachers shouldn't be teaching the same kind of lesson as in classrooms - it should be a different learning experience.
  • Seating and books should be close together.
  • Vary the heights of seating.
  • Always have books in the eyeline.
  • The "sale" is not made at the desk - can you make it smaller?
  • Only one in five patrons goes to the desk for help - it requires a certain level of confidence and commitment. 
  • How do you provide a service to those who don't come to the desk?  You need to come to them.  The librarian should be out on the floor.
  • Choice is difficult so offer a lot of smaller choices that are varied and changing.
  • Metal shelving is unattractive!  We are not a warehouse anymore.
  • Not having face-out books makes choosing difficult.
  • Drop the props from book displays.
  • Don't let posters overwhelm books below.
  • Mix different kinds of books to open up reading choices.
  • Let the covers of the books shine.
  • Change libraries from control and process.


Her book is well worth a read

The next session I went to was "Coding Stories and More in the Library and Beyond - Scratch Junior" by Felicity McKay.






We did the above activity using Scratch Junior.  It was quite intuitive and a lot of fun.  I've had Scratch Junior on my iPad for a while but have never made the time to explore.  I'm going to introduce this app to our school's Digital Leaders next week, and see if they can make something book-ish.

The next session was Anne-Marie Hartley's "Library Advocacy: What I Learnt from a Turtle".  I actually went to primary school with Anne-Marie, but have only recently reconnected with her.  I liked the way she talked about the fact that a turtle makes progress only when he sticks out his neck.  A message to us all to be brave!  Here's some more notes on what she said:

  • It is important to connect with teachers, students and parents - they can be your advocates.
  • She is available after parent/teacher conferences to talk to parents on how to support literacy
  • Encourage students to write to authors (I think they could tweet too!)
  • Actively solicit feedback from parents about the library.
  • In her book club (which is large), a different student is nominated each week to introduce a book, show book/film trailers about it, give author info and activities related to it.  This is very popular.

My own session on "Reading for Pleasure - Ideas from the UK" was at 2pm.  I shared the slides here.  I was nervous, as expected, and my laptop crashed four times just before the session but everything went reasonably smoothly after that and I was happy to have it done and dusted so I could enjoy the rest of the conference without worrying about it.

Next up, Rosemary Tisdall and Jo Buchan were presenting a session called "Creating a School where all Staff are Readers".  We did a quick game where we had to guess the children's book title from synonyms of it (e.g. instead of "Hunger Games" you have "Famine Amusement").  I think that would be a fun book club activity.  Jo shared some slides - I was gratified to see that I was not the only person talking about Professor Teresa Cremin's work.  She also shared research showing, among other things, that only 22-24% of NZ students get the opportunity to talk about the things they read in class.  Then Rosemary showed us her wonderful selection of books and made us all want to read them!  I've added some to my wishlist.  One other note I have from this session is to look into this site, which involves using visual strategies to address literacy development.





 The SLANZA awards followed and Kids' Lit Quiz guru, and fellow Hamiltonian, Julie Huggins was one of the worthy recipients honoured.



After dinner was the Quiz night, which I thoroughly enjoyed.  Fortunately I found myself in a team with librarians who knew a lot more about the classics than I do!  There were some great categories e.g. literary couples, literary history, literary geography.  We came second equal and I picked up a book to take home for the library.  Thanks team!

Here are the tweets from the day:


#slanza17 - Unconference

Reading for Pleasure Presentation
#slanza17 - Monday
#slanza17 - Tuesday
#slanza17 - Wednesday

Yesterday was the last day of the School Library Association of New Zealand (SLANZA) 2017 conference.  As usual I had a fantastic time, met old friends and made new ones, and came away with a list of amazing ideas to try in my library.  I'm going to recap the highlights of the conference so I can make an attempt at working out my priorities for next term - one of the drawbacks of being around so many inspiring people is the quantity of ideas far outweighs the time available to implement them!

For a lot of us the conference began on Sunday, when there was an option to attend an unconference in the evening.  I arrived at the venue, King's College, late on Sunday afternoon, as the traffic on the way up from Hamilton had been very heavy all the way.  Note to self - don't forget that Sunday afternoons are when Aucklanders return from wherever they have been for the weekend!  

For the first time, I was staying onsite, in a boarding house.

King's College


A helpful way to remember your room!

The unconference started at 7.30pm.  For many the format was new, but luckily I've been to a few educamps so I knew what I was in for.  Well, mostly!  There was an interesting exercise where we were shown a few polarising statements and we had to stand in certain places of the room depending on how we felt about them.  Then a few passionate people from either side of the spectrum were invited up to share their viewpoints.  There was a statement about whether we need labels on books, and another on whether we need non-fiction collections for research anymore.  I do feel this could have gone terribly wrong!  Controversial icebreakers can create divisions and we had only just arrived.  Fortunately everyone was well-behaved.  

We also had a smackdown, where participants share their favourite tips and ideas.  Here's a link to the slides.  I think different things will have appealed to different people depending on their circumstances, here are the ideas I was particularly interested in:

  • 60-second bookshelf.  Mandy Ditzel from Garin College promotes new books or happenings at the library at her weekly assembly.  I do a very quick promo of books at our short, morning tea staff meetings.  I'm wondering whether I could pop into some of our team assemblies and do some quick book promos for our students there.  That way I could tailor the books to the right age level.  I might try and get to a different one each Monday - it doesn't help that they're all on the same day and start at the same time!
  • Sarah Toh from ACG Parnell College talked about her interactive space.  She has a new activity every three weeks and does things like origami, chess and blackout poetry.  We have regular chess players in our library so I was interested when she said that they do interactive chess - where each player has three turns and then a new player takes over.  I was also reminded that I should make our chess books prominent at lunchtimes.
  • Robin Achmad at Green Bay High School talked about creating a popular series clearfile with a list of the titles in order, and cover images.  I think a blurb about the series would be good too.  
  • I have our book club kids make their own Kahoots about books but it was suggested that a library orientation Kahoot works well.  Then I wondered whether I could incorporate one into one of my library skills sessions.
  • Joanna Ludbrook from Houghton Valley School does "What's-on-Wednesday" which is an event around books - like guests, Youtube videos, quizzes etc.  Student librarians help organise it.

We also had a couple of group discussions from topics people had suggested on a Padlet.  The first one I went to was on suitable books for primary kids.  Censorship has been quite a hot topic on the library listserv this year but for younger kids we do have to make book selection decisions based on their age, and there are no clear guidelines.  Among other things we discussed the fact that sex education does not start until Year 9. 

The second group I went to talked about good display ideas.  A simple one I liked was to use a fishing rod and say "Get hooked on a book".

Here are the tweets from the day:


Wednesday, 19 July 2017

#slanza17 - Reading for Pleasure Presentation

#slanza17 - Unconference
#slanza17 - Monday
#slanza17 - Tuesday
#slanza17 - Wednesday

I am just starting the last day of the SLANZA (School Library Association of New Zealand) 2017 Conference.  I will be writing up more about the conference later, but I promised to share my slides so I'm doing that now.

I had way more slides than I could actually use during the presentation, but instead of deleting them I shifted them to the end as 'bonus' slides to be looked at later! 



I warn you, just visiting all the websites I've linked to could drag you down a rabbit hole you won't leave for weeks - but it will be fun!  I talked a bit about the "Teachers as Readers" project that I am facilitating at my school.  Watch out for a blog post about that shortly too.  

I'm happy to answer any questions that may arise, just email me - msimmsnz@gmail.com.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

The Key Ring Challenge

Near the end of March, I was reading an article in The Sapling about the wonderful Desna Wallace, librarian at Fendalton Open-Air School in Christchurch.  Desna described her most successful reading promotion, which involved key rings and tags that she issued to her Year Six book club.  I thought that sounded fantastic, and promptly stole the idea!  I am pleased to say that in the few weeks it has been running in the Terrifying Night Howlers (our book club) it has been equally engaging.

We had a rather fragmented start to the book club, with me flying off to the UK soon after we got started.  We had over 30 Year 5 & 6 students at one point, but I knew from experience that not everyone stays.  However, it didn't drop as much as I thought it would, and it was hard to have enough time for everyone to contribute to our conversations.  I trialled using the Seesaw app to communicate with students, to try and extend the conversations outside of school.  Teachers throughout our school use Seesaw in their classrooms so I knew everyone would be familiar with the app.  I had some success with it, but not as much as I wanted!  I am going to try and sort out some logistical details and give it another go.

This term, I have ended up splitting the club in two, with 12-14 students in each, to make it more manageable.  We meet on Thursday and Friday at morning tea.  Both groups are still called the Terrifying Night Howlers - the name the kids chose for themselves last term.  I never get tired of hearing that over the intercom!

I had some of the students, those who were keen, make a Terrifying Night Howlers logo for the first tag on their key ring.  We ended up with four designs, which we shrunk down and laminated, and the other kids chose the ones they wanted.



The first key ring challenge took place over two weeks and involved shadowing.  I was very fortunate to have been sent the books in the FCBG book awards.  The students read the picture books to each other and then voted for their favourites.  I have to admit I have never done shadowing with my book clubs before but I was inspired by how keen librarians in England were on this process.  Our students really enjoyed discussing the books and voting on their favourites. The overwhelming favourite of both groups was Chicken Nugget by Michelle Robinson and Tom McLaughlin.  I will be interested to see what the children in England, Scotland and Wales have selected when the winner is announced on 10 June.



I also plan on shadowing the NZ Book Awards for Children and Young Adults.  I was hoping we could look at the junior fiction but there's not a lot of time between when the shortlist is announced and when the awards are announced, particularly when there are holidays in between.  It looks like it will need to be picture books again.  There is a link to generic activities you can do to work with the awards finalists.

Next week's key ring challenge will earn the students a "Film Star" tag.  I have kept in contact on Twitter with a teacher in Norfolk and we are going to swap videos of the students giving a short pitch for their favourite books.  I'm really not sure whether we will be able to do the filming in 30 mins but we will give it a try!

I am enjoying creating the key ring tags using Canva, which I use to design a lot of my posters as well.  The '5' will be for students when they have attended five book club sessions.



We are having a lot of fun with the key ring challenge - thanks Desna!

Saturday, 1 April 2017

The Good, the Bad and the Trivial: My Trip to the UK

Last week, I arrived back in the country after spending three weeks in the UK.  This was part of an NZEI scholarship I received to find out more about reading for pleasure initiatives there.  


The Good

I had the most marvellous trip - the people I met were enthusiastic, generous with their time and full of ideas that inspired me.  I was incredibly well looked after by everyone I came in contact with.  I was met at the airport and given a place to stay in London.  I was picked up in cars and ferried around, sometimes over multiple days.  I was shouted school lunches, pub lunches and dinner (with mushy peas!).  I was given train advice and taken to meet authors, to poetry/jazz evenings and to football games.  People took time out of their busy days, sometimes even their weekends, to talk with me and to share their passions.  To give me books and information packs and USB sticks filled with documents.  I feel very blessed to have been able to plan the scholarship trip of my dreams and for it to have exceeded my expectations.

I have already begun a big project based on research from the UK.  My trip has provided me with many other items for my "to do" list that I will attempt as time allows - for example, ideas for book clubs, author visits, award shadowing, shared reading, storytelling, building empathy and bringing librarians and communities together.  As I implement them I will blog about them, and I will also share these ideas when I present at the SLANZA conference in July.

I have been in contact with a few of my new friends from the UK already, and will follow up with some more tomorrow.  I know that they will continue to support me in the work that I do and I hope to show them that their ideas will make an impact in New Zealand too.

Another good thing that I have to bring up, actually an amazing thing, is the work of the succession of Children's Laureates that have worked in the UK since 1999.  Chris Riddell, the current Laureate, is an absolute hero to libraries, his advocacy work is tireless.  Plus, he draws on walls everywhere!


At CLPE, London

At Seven Stories, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne

At the Norfolk Children's Book Centre

I want walls like these, possibly something to start with the next illustrator who visits!  I'd also love a NZ Children's Laureate, and Kyle Mewburn agrees.  It would great if we could make that happen.

And finally, there are some amazing trusts and agencies that support reading.  Actually, BookTrust manage the Children's Laureate.  I love the nationwide Summer Reading Challenge that is run by the Reading Agency.  It is very visible and has recognition across the UK, as three quarters of a million children take part.  The ability to promote one event and have schools working with public libraries seems like a great way to coordinate resources and spread a single message.  World Book Day, supported by all the major agencies, is another event that every school I visited seemed to do something for.  By the way, I got snuck into the main London event and managed to see Chris Riddell live...





The Bad

While I was lucky to be in the presence of some amazing people doing wonderful things, I also have to mention the difficult circumstances in which many were managing to operate.  In England, Year 6 students have to sit SATs.  This appeared to be the overwhelming focus of their entire year, until the final eight weeks after exams when they got to enjoy other things like art and school productions.  A lot of the great initiatives I saw only went up to Year 5, because Year 6's had no time for things like reading for pleasure.  We can only hope that the way these tests narrow what is taught, and become all-consuming, does not happen in New Zealand.

It was so rare for a primary school librarian to exist that the mere mention of my title was cause for discussion.  In Scotland, I was told that they have never had primary school librarians, and that many of their secondary school librarians are under threat.  In England, I was warned it would be difficult to find primary school librarians to talk to.  This was not actually a problem but it was clear that there are far more primary schools without librarians than with them.  Many librarians that I did meet were worried about the future of their jobs. 

While I was in the UK I saw articles like this one, talking about a "budget crisis" facing schools, with one school governor saying "we can no longer afford books/pencils/IT".  Another article talked about what is happening at secondary level:
School trips, after-school clubs, sports fixtures and summer schools are being cancelled, while school premises are falling into disrepair, IT equipment is out-of-date and schools are unable to buy text books for new GCSE courses...
Public libraries have been decimated too, and many are staffed by volunteers.  "Since 2010, 8,000 librarians have been made redundant across England Wales - a quarter of the workforce - while the number of libraries has fallen by 340 since 2008".  The same article said that book budgets have been first in line for cuts and one of the two main categories of books not being replaced is children's books.  The Chief Executive Officer of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals stated that:
As a nation, at exactly the moment when we ought to be investing in literacy and skills, we have allowed at least 10% of our public libraries, and many of our much-needed school libraries to close while many others have been forced to implement drastic reductions to opening hours and services.
It is an incredibly hard time to be a librarian in the UK and I was feeling very happy that New Zealand didn't seem to be experiencing the same problems.  And then I came back and heard about 178 New Zealand schools that don't have a library and 74 jobs being lost at Auckland Libraries.  We're still nowhere near the crisis levels that the UK's libraries are facing but we need to be actively advocating for our libraries now, because there's no guarantee that's not in our future.  Especially since the government has frozen the school operations grant that school librarians get paid from.  I hate to get all "union-y" on you but when you see what can happen it makes it really important that we put pressure on the government through the collective power that a union can provide.  If you are not in the union, please consider joining.  And then you can apply for a scholarship too!


The Trivial

Here are some other, slightly less important observations from my trip:

  • It is easy to reach your step goals in London!  With a ten minute walk to my nearest train station, then lots of walking from the tube to my end destinations, I was blitzing my targets with no problem whatsoever (in fact, on some mornings I was waking up with sore legs, I didn't realise I should have upped my fitness levels before travelling!). 
  • I could see that I caused distress to the staff on trains and in hotels.  This wasn't intentional, however it is clear that the English do take the drinking of tea very seriously.  If you then decline their offer of coffee, well, let's just say that I could have been saying that I wasn't going to breathe air.  It was incomprehensible to them.
  • English traffic lights have a red-orange phase just before the lights turn green again.  I like this, it's a great way to get your handbrake off and get ready to go.  I wonder why we don't have this in NZ?

I did get three days of sightseeing on my trip, and had some evenings out.  Here are a few photos to prove it:

Warner Bros. Studio Tour

Chris Lam Sam, a Kiwi author launching his first book with Angela Keoghan
- "Inspector Brunswick - The Case of the Missing Eyebrow"

Edinburgh Castle

St Paul's Cathedral

Fulham vs Blackburn at Craven Cottage

Punting at Cambridge