Welcome to the blog of the Tasmanian branch of the Children's Book Council of Australia!

Saturday, 25 March 2017

2017 Reading Challenge - A personal list

This week Nella applies earlier posts with challenges to develop her own. A bingo template of ideas is added at the end to inspire our readers.

There are so many great challenges around but I decided to create my own.
Fairy Tale Retelling
Heartless by Marissa Meyer, Macmillan
Lady Catherine, whose delectable creations can alter a person's emotions, simply wants to open a bakery. Unfortunately, the King of Hearts wants her for his bride. A mysterious court jester, the Mad Hatter and a rook become involved.  Heartbreakingly sad.





Toilet Humour
Busting!  By Aaron Blabley, Omnibus
Lou is BUSTING for the loo. But the loo has quite a queue. Need I say more?


Post Apocalypse
The Road to Winter by Mark Smith, Text Publishing
Since a deadly virus and the violence that followed wiped out his parents and most of his community, Finn has lived alone on the rugged coast with only his loyal dog Rowdy for company. His isolation is shattered when a Siley – an asylum seeker- runs onto the beach. Interesting view of the breakdown in a society and the treatment of Sileys -very close to our present reality.


People who love words
The Moonlight Dreamers by Siobhan Curham, Walker
Amber craves excitement and adventure. Inspired by Oscar Wilde, she looks for other moonlight dreamers. A inspirational, heart-warming book about four very different girls trying to find their place in the world.

Seasonal
A Girl Called Owl by Amy Wilson, Macmillan
Coming of age story of a 13-year-old who, as winter approaches, uncovers her dormant power, finds her elemental father - Jack Frost, and learns about the need for balance in nature and in her human world. Younger readers.


Set in a Cult
The Special Ones by Em Bailey, Hardie Grant Egmont
Esther is one of the Special Ones – four teens who live under his “protection” in a remote farmhouse. The Special Ones are not allowed to leave, and they must impart wisdom to their online followers. Or they will be renewed.


Reading Time Online recommendation
Black by Fleur Ferris, Random House
Ebony Marshall, known as Black, is in her final year of high school. She can’t wait to leave the town and the curse that follows her.






Social commentary
I'm Australian Too by Mem Fox, Scholastic
Every Australian child should have this read to them - contents up until the last two pages are true. Now you know why Mem was detained trying to enter USA.




Road Trip

Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi, Penguin
Alice is an outcast, colourless and lacking magical talent. Whimsical and yet deep - growing up is difficult if you're different. For younger readers.Top of Form


Bottom of Form
Top of Form
Bottom of Form



Fairy Tale Retelling 
Toilet Humour
Post apocalypse
People who love words
First book in a series
Set in a cult
Historical character
Aussie outback
Verse Novel
YA with no romance
Reading Time Online recommendation
Social commentary
Dystopian
Green cover
Road Trip
Holiday
Set in Tasmania
Mental Health
Seasonal
On your TBR pile
Recommended by ReadingTimeOnline
Recommended by an Indie store
Award winner
Should have been an award winner
Truly frightening
400 + pages
Would make a great movie
“We need diverse books”

Top of Form
Bottom of Form
Top of Form
Bottom of Form
Nella Pickup
Reader
Editor's note: What a great bingo list - I have just added several of Nella's picks to my 'must reads' for 2017. I think I might start with The Road to Winter. Thanks Nella!

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Reading the Literacy Problem in Tasmania

Lyndon Riggall offers a thoughtful and challenging examination of literacy achievement (or the lack thereof) in Tasmania. Heed his call to all those engaged with children to work towards addressing the problems.

This year I am studying a Masters of Teaching at the University of Tasmania. As part of this course, I am engaged in a unit titled Foundations of Literacy: Processes and Practices, co-ordinated by Dr. Belinda Hopwood. Over the last week we have been discussing literacy in a Tasmanian context, and the implications, as always, startle. I’m sure many of you have heard the figure before, but the worst projections remain at 49% for functional illiteracy in Tasmania (that is, literacy at the level deemed necessary to carry out the day-to-day tasks of employment.) The outcome of the lecture and discussion we undertook was as harrowing as it was eye-opening: these issues are systemic, generational, and not going away.

Programs such as Launching Into Learning start children reading before they reach school, recognising that a major hurdle in our literacy landscape is that those who fall behind are easily left behind, and fail to ever catch up. LINC Tasmania offers courses in which adults can get support and learn to read, which lifts adult literacy levels and creates an environment in which adults need not be resistant and defensive about reading and writing, and will be able to share their skills with their own children and grandchildren. There are plenty of people doing remarkable work to help this problem, yet we cannot deny that the scope of it is frightening.

It has always struck me with some degree of horror when I see some of the figures related to literacy. A Roy Morgan poll taken in 2015 identified 60.9% of women as having read a book in the last 3 months, and only 41.3% of men. While I would certainly accept that my own rate of reading has been known to border on the classification of addiction, going twelve weeks without finishing a book of any kind strikes me as a huge blow to an individual’s personal development and understanding of the world. And yet it’s the norm. I know we read so much – in the papers, online, scrolling Facebook… but books are deep, contemplative, thoughtful things that make us better. And we’re just not using them enough.

So what can we do? We can support our libraries and organisations such as the CBCA whenever and however we can. We can remain thoughtfully open and contemplative about the content of books that we and our children read, but try whenever possible not to police as “valid” and “invalid” anyone’s reading choices that might be reduced to personal taste.

We can love books. Love them daily, love them publically, and love them openly. Because the problem of literacy isn’t solved in the classroom of “readin’, ‘ritin’ and ‘rithmetic” alone. It is solved on the library steps, where a young woman reads the new Tim Winton while she waits for the bus. It is solved in a child’s bedroom, where a father reads his son Where is the Green Sheep? before bed. It is solved in a lounge room, where a girl, her X-Box long abandoned, giggles in delight as she reads of a young Andy Griffiths siliconing himself inside a gradually filling shower.

I believe that we become an amalgam of the small group of people we spend the most time around. And if we want to be highly literate, if we want our friends, our children and society to be highly literate, we must model that literacy. It’s easily done, and if it’s done right it’s joyfully done, too. And it starts so simply. With the crinkling of a spine, and the words…

Chapter One. 


Lyndon Riggall is a writer and pre-service teacher in Launceston. You can find him on Twitter @lyndonriggall.

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Flis’s Books of Influence


Flis (better known than Felicity) is a Teacher-Librarian (on the Tasmanian critically endangered list) who, for all but one year of her career (starting in 1981), has been employed as a Teacher-Librarian in Education Department schools, initially in primary schools and more recently at Don College (Year 11 & 12) in Devonport.

I recently came across the following in my Facebook feed: 30 of the Best Books to Teach Children Empathy.

Some of the titles were familiar, but others not (possibly because it’s heavily American weighted). It prompted me to think about the books that influenced me as a child, or as a former primary school teacher-librarian. I wanted to share these – and would like to read your responses listing your influential books.
A Wrinkle in Time (Madeleine L’Engle) was the first science fiction book I discovered in primary school. I found myself fighting ‘IT’ in my sleep until the book reached resolution. The power of the story teller to invade my unconscious mind, as I slept, stays with me today. Another in this genre, Grinny (Nicholas Fisk), also based upon mind control, was entertaining and thought provoking. As a young person, I loved that it was the children who were able to resist domination and save the day.
I love a book that hijacks my emotions, whether it be tears, anger at injustice, or laughter. Goodnight Mister Tom (Michelle Magorian) was the first time I had read a novel about child abuse and the injustice that William experienced. Unfortunately I find his story replicated, in some way, in the students I teach. The sassy Galadriel in the Great Gilly Hopkins (Katherine Paterson) epitomised a child who protects her emotions by attacking the world that has disappointed her – again a child I see in my teaching career. Love You Forever (Robert Munsch) is a picture book I struggle to read as an adult, but is probably just a ‘nice’ story for a young person. The inhabitants of the nursing home in Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge (Mem Fox) tug at the heart strings.
Picture books I love to read aloud include Whistle up the Chimney (Nan Hunt) – Nan’s onomatopoeia ensures that the train sounds are articulated. The fun participatory read aloud, It’s a Perfect Day (Abigail Pizer), builds a cacophony of farmyard sounds as the story progresses. The minimal text story No ducks in our Bathtub (Martha G Alexander) relies on the pictures to tell the story of the battle between a heavily pregnant mother and her pre-school son, who desperately wants a pet. Stories from our Street and More Stories from our Street (Richard Tulloch) are six vignettes of family life, written in a most engaging manner and beautifully illustrated by Julie Vivas.
Winnie the Pooh (A.A. Milne) and Wind in the Willows (Kenneth Grahame) are stories I love to read, but usually not aloud. Pooh-isms are the vernacular of my childhood, and often caused confusion for visitors. The question: Would you like cream or ice-cream with that? was answered with: Can I do a Pooh? Sounds quite different to how it looks in writing! Winnie the Pooh was my deceased mother’s favourite story, and as she lay in a coma, we sat and read our favourite Pooh chapters to her – mine was an Eeyore story. My Grade 6 teacher read Wind in the Willows aloud as a class novel, and I have never been able to replicate her wonderful Ratty and Mole voices – but they are there whenever I read this book.
My two Christmas favourites are The Father Christmas Letters (J.R.R. Tolkien) and The Worst Kids in the World (Barbara Robinson). Tolkien’s letters to his children over twenty years, explaining the evil in the world (the Goblins) and present disasters (North Polar Bear), created the world inhabited 365 days of the year by Father Christmas. I too, wrote letters from Father Christmas to my children, once they started writing Christmas letters to Santa. The Worst Kids in the World is probably the best book to ever be included in a class reading library (Scholastic). The Herdmans take over the lead roles in the Nativity play and take the Christmas story to a whole new level.
Please add your favourite reads/read alouds that have influenced you in the comments section. The hardest part is signing in the first time – then it’s quite straight-forward. I’d really like to read your comments, and hopefully discover new titles.
Felicity Sly
Teacher librarian & CBCA Tasmania Treasurer



Saturday, 4 March 2017

A Learning Community: Devonport Council's Aspirations

Devonport Council sets a bedrock for a learning community through the Devonport Community Live & Learn Strategy. Mayor, Steve Martin, outlines  some key initiatives including innovative strategies to establish reading and literacy as a core expectation in the current Devonport Year of Literacy. It is not too late to register for the Building Brighter Stronger Families Conference next Saturday, 11 March.

In 2012, the City of Devonport Council (Council) consulted with the community to consider the concept of becoming a learning community; to recognise the importance of learning; and to task itself to promote learning wherever possible - especially reading. A Learning Communities Special Interest Group (Group) was formed with representatives from education, levels of government and the community. The purpose: to construct a strategy that reflected a holistic community approach to learning.  

The learning community strategy “Live and Learn” was launched by the Minister for Education, Jeremy Rockliff, in November 2015, highlighting Devonport’s vision to become well connected, vibrant, an innovative community and a place to lead, live and learn. The aim is to increase the quality of life and learning opportunities to improve and enrich Devonport’s social, cultural, economic and environmental well-being.
 
 

One of the first actions conducted by the Group was the Festival of Learning, a month-long event, September 2016, that celebrated lifelong learning, identified and promoted learning opportunities and event in the Devonport Community. Over 17 different organisations collaborated, conducting over 35 events ranging from a Young Writers Workshop, cooking for blokes to a storytime for pre-schoolers, trade challenges and a Living Lightly Expo.      

An opportunity to help children develop good reading and communication habits, gain self-confidence and foster a culture of saving ($) has recently commenced, “Reading Salons”. Ten local hairdressers are encouraging children to read a book out loud whilst having their hair cut and when finished, the children are rewarded with a monetary donation. Books were provided by Soroptimist International Devonport.

Devonport Council also boasts the Building Families Special Interest Group, which recently launched Devonport’s “Year of Literacy” which featured Mem Fox's national book launch of “Ducks Away”, the Building Brighter Stronger Families Conference 11th March 2017 for Tasmanian Early Childhood Educators and featuring Mem Fox, Steve Biddulph and Maggie Dent. 

There is much more to tell as Devonport heads towards becoming a true learning community. Watch out for Books for Babies and Supermarket Conversations. Devonport’s Year of Literacy has an extensive range of programs to interest the local and wider community.

Steve Martin
 
Mayor, City of Devonport 
Committee Member CBCA TAS 

Saturday, 25 February 2017

What’s Going on in Your Mind When You Read a Story?

This week, Amanda considers her personal reading strategy of visualisation – to picture and imagine the story's events – and her discovery that this is not a natural occurrence for many students. Read on to discover how visualisation contributes to understanding and engagement with the text?
  
For many years as a primary school teacher, a considerable amount of my time has been spent teaching children to read, and encouraging them to love stories. As an avid reader of children’s literature, this continues to bring me great joy. However, sometimes I face the interesting challenge of children who do not automatically warm to having a story read to them and don’t seem to care about the characters. There is nothing significantly different about these children, like most children they are usually well behaved, love talking, have great ideas, and work hard. They just struggle to sit for any period of time to listen to a story.

So, maybe I haven’t read them the right types of stories? I ask myself each year. But after reading Harry Potter, and books by Emily Rodda, Carole Wilkinson, David Walliams, Jackie French, John Marsden, Roald Dahl etc., I realised that there is nothing wrong with the stories, they are all wonderful. Most of the children in the class enjoyed them, and went on to read further stories by these authors independently. 

In discussion with a group of colleagues about this problem, the idea was proposed that maybe they can’t ‘visualise’ the story as it is being read. I was flabbergasted- really? Surely everybody is able to see the story unfolding in their mind like a picture or movie? ‘Visualising’ is also one of the first reading strategies that we introduce.  So, after the discussion, I was keen to find out, so I approached my class of grade five/six students. We had been reading ‘Kensuke’s Kingdom’ by Michael Morpurgo, a wonderful survival story about a boy falling from his parents’ yacht in the middle of the night into the Pacific Ocean. After a little thought and discussion, only three quarters of the students said ‘yes,’ they did ‘see’ the story in pictures or ‘like a movie’. 

Interestingly, most of the students who did not ‘visualise’ were the students who seemed to find it difficult to sit still and focus while the story was being read.

When I asked my daughter, age seven, what she did when she was listening to a story, she told me that she didn’t just visualise, she pretended she was the characters as well. She felt like she was in the story all of the time and she wasn’t just one character, she was all of them – whenever it was their ‘turn’ in the book. Being able to identify with characters at a deeper level, to empathise has recently been heralded as one of the many benefits of children engaging in reading experiences as it allows children to experience and become more sensitive to the feelings of different characters, the difficulties they face and the thought processes and strategies they use to navigate themselves through the challenges. (McKearney, M. & Mears, S. 2015). 

So, now to the challenge of encouraging greater visualisation and empathy. As I embark on a new year of reading stories to my Year 2/3/4/ class, I will be exploring ways to expand my repertoire of teaching strategies and conversations  that encourage all students  to ‘visualise’ the story and ‘empathise’ with the characters. Encouraging them to draw or create scenes from the story, plus some role play, might be a good place to start. Anything that will provide children with opportunities to understand and engage with stories on a deeper level is worth a try.

Amanda O’SheaTeacher, reader, children’s Author.

Reference:
McKearney, M. & Mears, S. 2015, May 13). Lost for words? How reading can teach children empathy [Blog post]. In The Guardian

Sunday, 19 February 2017

The Test of a Good Prequel

Join Jackie as she shares her thoughts on a new adventure set before the start of Ranger’s Apprentice series. Does it add to the overall experience?


Spotting a new John Flanagan novel in the bookshop is always a positive and it was an easy decision to purchase the second prequel to the Ranger’s Apprentice Series, The Battle of Hackham Heath.
Regular readers of the series should enjoy the glimpses the book gives of the earlier lives of favourite characters. If Gillan’s apprenticeship to Halt didn’t happen exactly the way an earlier novel described it, the version in this tale resonates satisfactorily with our knowledge of both characters. There is also the story of Cassandra’s mother, which fills in a gap in the story, and adds to our understanding of the close relationship between Cassandra and her father King Duncan.
The usual ingredients of adventure, acts of bravery and the battle against the series’ arch villain Morgarath are all present together with a battlefield struggle against seemingly insurmountable odds – just what readers of John Flanagan have come to expect! The battle sequence should particularly appeal to teenage boys.
I found that this novel met the true test of a prequel – it closed by bringing the reader so perfectly back to the start of the original series that I was forced back to my bookcase to re-read the first four novels of the series again.
I imagine that this will be the last Ranger’s Apprentice book to be published – after two prequels, The Lost Stories and a next generation novel in The Royal Ranger, the story seems to have been completed. But hopefully there will be many more novels still to come in the spin off Brotherband series, where there is always the chance of meeting one of your favourite Ranger’s Apprentice characters.
Jackie Gagnell
Reader

Editor’s note:  Having caught up with the fascinating The Lost Stories over Summer, now I have another to add to my wish list. John Flanagan has an informative and engaging website, The World of John Flanagan, that is worth a visit to find out more about the Ranger’s Apprentice and Brotherband series – visit and be entertained.