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Staircase of knowledge!

I’ve seen a number of inspirational bookcases and book promos in public places, but this one is really great!!

Located at the University of Balamand in Lebanon, the book staircase, called the Staircase of Knowledge, has been built next to the university library.

Wouldn’t it be awesome if this idea could be ‘built’ into some of our schools or created as an entry to the library.

Well worth exploring!!  Love it!!

Sometimes the message imparted by a simple illustration is profound.   This is one of them.

Gawler Books

Her – Garry Disher

Sometimes there are novels you read that are great, then there are others which grip you like a clamp, dragging you – body and soul – into the centre of time and place that is so graphic and so real that you are left shaken by what you have read, experienced, felt and learned.  I found myself shaking as I got to the last pages of this book, moaning to myself that no, it couldn’t end like this.

Set at the turn of the century, riddled with the dirt and dust of small Australian country towns and mixed with the desperate poverty that few today realize or knew was as harsh and unbearable as it really was,  a young girl is sold by her father for nine shillings and sixpence to a scrap man who offers them money to provide food for their other children.  The child he buys is just three years old.  Two other young children bought in previous years have lived with him for a while.  They are now aged around 20 and 12.  Their owner, the scrap man, controls their every movement.  Their fate was sealed the day they were bought.  As the youngest lives her squalid life in her new family, her constant companion is her thoughts about the day she would run away.

This story of abuse, brutality and survival is set against the historical background of country Victoria prior to and after WWI and through the hideous time of the ‘Spanish flu’ pandemic that hit Australia in 1919.   This was a difficult read.  Heartbreaking and very graphic it is suited to mature age readers.  Disher is truly one of Australia’s most outstanding authors.

Rating: *****
Theme Fiction:
Historical Fiction, Social Issues
Suitable: Years 10-12+

 

 

Promoting a love of reading has been taken to a new level by retired Italian school teacher, Antonio La Cava. 

In 2003, after teaching for 42 years, La Cava built a portable library containing 700 books.  Dubbed the “Bibliomotocarro”, he has been driving his portable library around villages in southern Italy ever since.

Reminiscent of my own childhood memories of hearing tinkling music outside my house which heralded the arrival of the local ice cream truck, the sound of the organ announcing the arrival of La Cava’s Bibliomotocarro brings a flock of excited children to his mobile library. 

It takes an experienced teacher such as Antonio La Cava to sum up my own feelings about how reading is being approached in schools:

A disinterest in reading often starts in schools where the technique is taught, but it’s not being accompanied by love.  Reading should be a pleasure, not a duty.”

Just recently I published a post on NovaNews, my other blog, about my own conviction that the joy of reading is being killed by the requirements of the English curriculum in our schools which dictate that novels, referred to as ‘class texts’, should be read, analyzed, discussed and analytically pulled to pieces so that students develop a sharpened appreciation of an author’s craft.

Writing in this post I found myself lamenting the continuing disinterest in promoting a love of reading by English teachers and republished a post I wrote some four years ago:  Do required reading and class texts inspire a love of reading?  The following extract from that post highlights my strong belief that we need to focus more on developing in our students a love of reading.

Over the years, I’ve had lots of ‘heart-to-heart’ chats with senior students about books and reading habits.  Many have expressed their dislike of class texts and the inherent requirement to analyze texts to death.  Many of my chats have been with reluctant readers, who openly confide that they just don’t like reading.  Teasing out the reasons for their disinterest has almost always come down to their experience of being required to read specific books that they have found boring and then having to spend copious amounts of time – often a full term – analyzing, discussing and handing in written reports.

These conversations always leave me feeling bereft.

I’ve spoken with English teachers often about this issue, but always have the same facts thrown at me: students need to study class texts over an extended period of time so as to hone their analytical skills, their critical thinking skills and their appreciation of the classics. This ‘full stop kind’ of response invariably allows no openings to my pleas to  incorporate additional or alternate opportunities aimed at inspiring students to read, read and read some more – just for the joy of it!

Yes, I’ve also faced the argument that I’m not an English teacher who has an allocated number of periods a week within which to teach a curriculum and ensure that students complete inherent required assessments.  I’ve also been reminded that I’m a Teacher Librarian who has lots of time to spend dreaming up, creating and staging a range of enticing literary activities.

Well, yes, I guess that’s correct.  A big part of my job as a Teacher Librarian is indeed to inspire a love of reading.  And that’s just what I do and will continue to do for as long as I work as a Teacher Librarian!  I make no apologies for this!

I’m passionate in my belief that reading is a core skill which underlines all educational achievement.  We need to ensure that we inspire students to read, to read anything and everything they possibly can.  We need to ensure that students leave our classes and schools with an embedded love, desire and appreciation of just how much reading can bring to their lives – forever.  Reading does not just fit into English or Library periods, but is a skill which extends across all aspects and subjects of the curriculum.

As a Teacher Librarian I constantly grapple with the issue of engaging students with literature.  Over the years, I’ve devised many an alternate approach to put books into the hands of students in my school.   Many of these alternate approaches were incorporated into Literary Festivals I organized at one school.  I have also blogged, written and presented about some of the many activities, programs and events I have organized over the years in my library sessions.  If interested, have a read of this post: Engaging readers: Tried and tested ideas that work!

Perhaps it’s time for all of us – secondary school English teachers and Teacher Librarians alike – to step back and take a look at the nature of our program content and question whether what we are doing is encouraging or discouraging our students to become lifelong readers.

NovaNews: Do required reading and class texts inspire a love of reading? November 8, 2015

 

With summer coming up and that time of year when trying to think of what to buy for family and friends floods the market, this has to be the perfect gift for book lovers!

A lounge chair for the beach designed specifically for book lovers!

With a hole cut at just the right spot, bookworms can lie comfortably while continuing to read that ‘can’t put down book’!!

The perfect present for those who have everything!!  Read more about it on this Insider post or purchase one online from Amazon.

Just love it!!

Every now and then I publish a post on my other blog which has as much relevance here on BevsBookBlog as it does on NovaNews.  So here’s my recent NovaNews post.   It would be great to have some feedback from my many readers here!

 

Timetabled Wider Reading sessions has been a given in each of the school libraries in which I’ve worked throughout my career.

Working in senior libraries, Wider Reading sessions have been scheduled with each class once a fortnight during an English period.  With the English teacher accompanying the students into the library, I’ve always felt that the session is as much for the teacher as it is for the students.   In the hope that the teacher will take on board my words of wisdom and exciting titbits about the latest great reads and their authors, I always try to pitch my enthusiastic words carefully.

Sadly though, there has been many a time when I’ve ‘lost’ the teacher to the photocopier, to the quick trip back to their desk for the forgotten whatever, to a quick/long chat with another teacher who happens to be in the library at that time or to any number of ‘more important than teaming with me in the library’ reason that calls the teacher away.  Then there are the times when the scheduled session with me is cancelled at the last minute: the students need to finish an essay, an assignment, a something or other which they will be doing in the library during their scheduled session.

Undoubtedly, these occurrences confirm in the minds of the students that their Wider Reading session really isn’t as important as their regular English period; that the Wider Reading session is a just a ‘filler’.  Students are always ready for a ‘zone out’ session.  Bad signals are easily sent and even more easily received.

Very disappointing.

Those times dampen my enthusiasm.

Those sessions however, when the English teacher has been on the same page as me, the teacher librarian, and has worked hand in hand with me,  the students are focused and engaged.  Those sessions are absolutely brilliant and rewarding because it is in those sessions that I am sure that the the students are really achieving my end goal – developing a love of reading!  It is these kinds of sessions which continually bolster my own enthusiasm to continue inspiring students to read.  It also confirms my belief that the role of teacher librarians in promoting reading and its value with both students and staff across our schools is of undeniable value!Knowing full well that the students’ sessions with me once a fortnight are but an isolated burst, I depend on the English teacher taking on board what I have to offer so they can reinforce it with their class during regular English periods.

Perhaps it was in an attempt to engage the English teachers more fully in the Wider Reading sessions, that in one school I worked, the library team decided to give the Wider Reading sessions a new slant.  In consultation with English teachers, the teacher librarians devised a program in which various aspects of writing style were the focus.  The program, liberally peppered with examples from novels in the library collection, was presented once a fortnight when students came in for their ‘Wider Reading’ session.  With a workbook to complete, there was an expectation that students would complete ‘homework’ and present it for correction by the teacher librarian.

The program was very well thought out and was great at highlighting writing style to the students.   Giving students ideas to improve their own writing style, the students were unwittingly being forced to read novels for a purpose: examining authors’ writing style.

As good as these sessions were though, the program unsettled me.  I found myself questioning the purpose of the Wider Reading program we were presenting.  Almost overnight, we seemed to have lost the opportunity to use this once a fortnight session to freely expose and encourage students to develop a love of reading and recognize for themselves the deep seated value that reading can bring as a lifelong skill and instead replaced it with an additional English period where the focus is on reading for the purpose of eliciting a written response.

We no longer had the time to explore other exciting programs which had been a part of our previous Wider Reading sessions:

  • cross age reading activities in which Year 10 student selected, considered and then read picture story books to the Preps – an activity which had a huge impact on all participants
  • a poetry showcase venture which was completed in conjunction with our local public library
  • a Writer in Residence program in which Year 10 & 11 students could be inspired to read and write
  • author visits which inspired and ignited interest, passion and reading

My passion is to encourage the growth of a reading culture in our schools.  As I’ve said so many times before, I passionately believe that reading is the cornerstone of all education.  Reading has an indelible impact on students’ ability to write.

So, at the bottom of all my thoughts rests one question: How can we make the most of that precious once a fortnight Wider Reading session to inspire in our students a love of reading?

Indeed – food for thought.

Paddington Bear

If bears featured highly in your childhood reading ….. and if Paddington Bear happened to be one of your favourites ….. you’re going to love the quirky innovation introduced to the British public by the Royal Mint!

Just recently two new designs featuring Paddington bear on 50p coins have been entered into circulation!


Exploring the city, Paddington can be seen checking out top tourist attractions – St Paul’s Cathedral and the Tower of London.

So if you’re a British resident or if you happen to be visiting, be sure to check your change careful to catch a glimpse of one of the world’s most popular bears!

Read more about the Paddington Bear inspired coins in this promo piece by Alex Landon (Secret London, 13 August 2019)

Apart from being a great story with a plot that has more twists, turns and red herrings than many other whodunnits I’ve read, the writing style adopted by Anthony Horowitz is brilliant.  Having created a perfect murder mystery, Horowitz surprises his readers by implanting this story into another story, all the while telling the story as the independent narrator.  In short, this is a story within a story within a story!   Written in the style of Agatha Christie, Horowitz succeeds in holding onto the identity of the murderer right up to the last page.  A great read!

Rating: *****
Theme Fiction:
Detective/Mystery
Suitable: Year 9-12+

Yikes – the end of the year is fast approaching!!

If you’re like me, it’s about now that you start to rack your brain trying to decide on presents for family and friends!

Well – if your family and friends are anything like you – book lovers – then the task this year is simple!!

Check out Book Lovers to purchase the perfect present for those important to you!

With slick ‘sayings’ and a variety of paraphernalia in an abundance of colours to choose from, the hardest part of shopping this year may be deciding which one and what colour!!

“The Great Book Scare”

So let’s be honest!!

Have you ever had a squirmy feeling when you’ve seen a student in your library sneeze or cough while holding a book?  What about when you’ve noted that a particular student appears to be super unwell ….. almost probably running a temperature …. while browsing through books in the library?

Have you ever wondered, as the sneeze hits the book or the coughed on hands flip through the pages of the book, whether it’s possible for other students, or heaven forbid, for you yourself to ‘catch’ the germs deposited on the book if you should be the next one to touch the book?

No reason to laugh here, because this was exactly the thinking during the ‘Great Book Scare’ when it was thought that an infection could be caught just by borrowing a book from the library!

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, fear sprouted in both the US and England that contaminated books, particularly those lent out from public libraries, could spread deadly diseases.  At a time when epidemics of tuberculosis, smallpox and scarlet fever were rampant, this frantic panic instilled a fear of public libraries.

Joseph Hayes, writing for the Smithsonian.com, has written a fascinating and comprehensive article outlining the history of the Great Book Scare:  When the public feared that library books could spread deadly diseases (August 23, 2019).

Well worth a read!