It's not something I've ever thought about wanting, but being in a press release is quite cool! It also means I can finally talk about this exciting opportunity that has come my way.
Back in April, I read a blog post that really got me thinking. It was by my friend Jeannie Skinner from the National Library and it described a visit from Miranda McKearney, social entrepreneur and co-founder of the Reading Agency and Empathy Lab. The article mentioned that reading for pleasure is specifically included in the UK national curriculum, there's a reading for pleasure civil servant in the Department of Education, and Ofsted inspectors (like our ERO review officers) have questions to ask schools around reading for pleasure.
I immediately started wondering whether having reading for pleasure as something that inspectors have to look at, was something that could be leveraged by school librarians. If inspectors have to look at whether the school has "welcome and conducive reading environments" and "access to rich collections of literature," do schools then pay more attention to their libraries? I am very lucky to be in a school which values its library, and library staff. However, I know this is not always the case in New Zealand and I wondered whether it would be worthwhile trying to emulate the UK's approach.
I remembered that NZEI had scholarships for support staff and I took a look at their website to see when the applications closed for those - less than two weeks away. A sign! And now here we are, I found out my application was successful back in August and have had to keep quiet until after the announcement at NZEI's annual conference.
Here is what I will be doing for my scholarship:
- Recording and disseminating the latest international research on the academic benefits and increased empathy skills that arise for students who are reading for pleasure.
- Ascertaining whether the UK's increased emphasis on reading for pleasure has had a positive impact on the working conditions of its school librarians. If so, I'll look at what could be done to replicate this in New Zealand.
- Looking at the ways in which UK teachers and librarians are promoting reading for pleasure in their schools, including how they specifically include their culturally diverse communities in their reading for pleasure initiatives.
I booked my flights on Wednesday and I was on cloud nine for the rest of the day. I arrive in London on 26 February 2017 and leave on 17 March 2017. I have somewhere to stay, thanks to Jeannie Skinner and a chance encounter at the IBBY conference last month. I am beginning to put together some places to visit, thanks again to Jeannie and also to author Peter Millett, who thankfully does not seem to have a limit on the amount of favours he does for people.
If you have any suggestions for schools/organisations to visit in the UK, or any book-related things to do, I'd love to hear them.