Carpe diem

16 05 2013

According to Learning for the Future, one of the three key roles of the TL is that of curriculum leader and many are wearing that hat as they guide the implementation of the Australian National Curriculum in their schools.  However, for many, much of what is done for that is a behind-the-scenes role as resources supporting its various strands and outcomes “magically” appear just as they are needed, and little thought is given by the classroom-based teachers just how the resources might have been identified, located, evaluated, selected, acquired and processed so they are right there when required.

But on May 22 the National Simultaneous Storytime will give us an opportunity to be the star on the stage rather than the guide on the side.   This is a chance to work with all teachers across all year levels to share a story and develop a range of before-and-after activities that are tailored to the needs of each class so they can fully appreciate both the text and the experience.


This year’s text is The Wrong Book by Nick Bland and it really can be used across all ages. Thoughtful collaboration and planning will allow  all levels to experience a shared event (one-school-one-book is a phenomenon in the US) and  might even help dispel the myth that picture books are for little people.

For starters, the publishers have given permission for it to be

  • presented as a readers theatre
  • presented as a story telling
  • presented as a puppet show
  • translated for multicultural storytimes

So, immediately there are some ideas that will engage the older students particularly if they are charged with creating a presentation for younger students. Each idea has the potential for a host of associated learning opportunities from investigating the best sorts of puppets to use and designing and creating these to learning how to use your voice with no other props to tell a story, that could form the basis of a very productive partnership between TL and teacher.

Other sites have ideas too, but be warned – they take more effort than photocopying a blackline master or template. Shoosh-and-colour is not an option. Share the ideas with your colleagues (they might even spark some original thoughts) and decide how you will work together to make this event more than a ten-minute time filler.

The page from the official site gives suggestions for books with similar themes as well as other titles by Nick Bland so if you are not in a CPT situation, perhaps there’s an idea for a parallel program in the library.  During the day, take photos, tweet, post on Facebook , exploit social media to get others involved and afterwards tell your parents what their children did and how much they enjoyed it. Even having students create a bookmark that says

I enjoyed sharing The Wrong Book by Nick Bland with thousands of others during the National Simultaneous Storytime today

is a way of reporting to parents and putting them in the picture and the library in the spotlight.

There’s an app from iTunes; teaching notes; even a Braille version – the only thing there is NOT is an excuse to avoid being involved and seizing the opportunity to provide a leadership role and demonstrate why your school has and needs a teacher librarian.

Be pro-active.  Be visible. Be out there.  Your job may depend on it.

The 2013 Challenge

1 01 2013

There’s a certain symmetry about 2013. The calendar won’t have any of the pretty patterns of the last 12 years like 12/12/12 but 20 + 13 = 33 and if you convert 2013 seconds, you get 33 minutes, 33 seconds! Just perfect for a reading challenge that will follow on neatly from the National Year of Reading 2012 and keep the library at the hub of reading in your school.

Challenge both staff and students to read for 33 minutes, 33 seconds as a whole-school session to kick off a year of reading for this time on at least 13 occasions during the school year. Given the Australian academic year of 40 weeks, that’s about once every three weeks of trackable, traceable opportunities that can show your school is doing its bit to try to improve those global reading rankings. Invite the local media along to the kickstart so the word is spread and there is a sense of accountability to continue. Formally schedule those 13 sessions into the school’s program, perhaps instead of an assembly or pastoral care session, so that they are must-do events that everyone, including staff, participates in.

Use the challenge to reach out and show those who think that because Internet access is so easy, books in libraries are not necessary that they still have a very real place in the education of our young. The format may vary but story is as old as humanity.

Have the students help you organise 13 Literary Luncheons and invite prominent community members, particularly political candidates in this election year, to come to read aloud to the students. Make each session for a target age or interest group rather than aiming for one-size-fits-all each time. (Offer to help them with selecting an appropriate title, and prepare a tips’n’tricks sheet with suggestions for successful reading aloud because it can be daunting for the uninitiated.)

Introduce students to new titles, authors, genres, and series that they might like to explore and challenge them to try 13 somethings that they haven’t tried before. Devise ways for them to share their new discoveries with their friends. Get them talking and writing beyond the library’s walls about what they’re doing.

Help students track their individual 33.33 sessions with a catchy slogan, an online or print record, and a certificate to acknowledge their efforts. Make their efforts achievable, visible and valued. Hold a celebration presentation and invite the media to that too.

Schedule 13 newsletter or blog posts that inform parents about the challenge, about how to support reading at home, about titles, authors, series and genres that their child might like, about anything that connects the library to the learning of their child.

Start 2013 with a focused, structured plan that immediately puts the library at the hub of the school for the year – it will spread like ripples in a pond. And share your ways of building on 33.33 and 13 so we can all learn from each other!

Dear candidate/local member

18 03 2012

Could we ask you to please have a closer look at the current LP and ALP policies on devil-ution in school staffing and budgeting?

Among other negative repercussions, in Australia it has resulted in the loss of separately staffed teacher librarians in our nations schools, primary and secondary.

Without adequate funds, principals have been forced to cash in specialist positions to ensure classroom teacher staffing. This has been going on since Kennett led the way in Victoria, where now only 13% of primary schools have teacher librarians. Tasmania followed suit with school autonomy and now only has 29 qualified teacher librarians in 125 K-10 schools (23%).  The Northern Territory has 13 qualified teacher librarians in 151 government schools.  New South Wales and Queensland are now threatened with the disease of “independent” and “locally empowered” public schools.

Australia is now in the embarrassing position of having 46% of our adult population unable to cope with day to day literacy needs, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Core Skills for Business (DEEWR, 2008) has stated “this can create problems in the workplace that prevent a business from reaching its full potential….OECD research has revealed that raising a country’s adult literacy by just 1 per cent leads to a rise in productivity of 2.5 per cent and a 1.5 per cent increase in GDP.”

Teacher librarians improve literacy.  They promote the love of reading. build literacy skills (including spelling, grammar, vocabulary and writing skills!) which are a key to the digital age and raise NAPLAN literacy scores.  Over 60 studies have demonstrated this.  No research has demonstrated that school based management improves student learning outcomes.  It does, however, devolve responsibility and save government spending.

In this National Year of Reading, we ask you to consider instead the long term financial cost of having a nation of non-readers, students disadvantaged by not having the professional knowledge and passion for reading of qualified teacher librarians.

If you wish to have further information on any of these issues, please don’t hesitate in contacting us. We trust you will act in the best interest of our nation’s students and an informed democratic society.

Thank you for your time and consideration,

Poverty the problem

17 03 2011

Stephen Krashen says take the money from all that testing and put it into access to books for kids in low socio-economic areas.  Not teachers and their teaching, not schools, not teacher education but poverty is the real cause of illiteracy. Kids from families with higher incomes have books.  Access to books encourages reading.  Lots of reading helps writing, spelling, grammar, and overall academic achievement.

The solution to kids with poor reading skills? Not decoding instruction, but access to books through school and public libraries.  As Stephen has said in the recent YSL Advocacy conference, “When students are hungry, have serious health problems, and have not read much because of the absence of books in their environment, all the determination, hard work and inspired teaching in the world will be of little use.”

Read more of Stephen Krashen’s articles on his website.  Listen to him on YouTube.  Literacy needs libraries!

Teacher librarians are…vital…, especially in schools where home literacy practices don’t…support school literacy practices.

1 11 2010

Bendigo Advertiser 1 November 2010  excerpt from  “Storytime in Eaglehawk” by Lauren Mitchell:

Fellow lecturer and Bendigo Regional director of the Children’s Book Council of Australia Sarah Mayor Cox says if parents read one story per day to their child, by the time the child starts Prep, they will have heard more than 1800 stories.

“You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to see how much more familiar those children will be with a really important and fun part of the school day,” she says.

“They will be able to sit and listen for longer, and will be able to discuss more confidently the story they have just heard.

“Who wouldn’t want to give their children a head start like that?”

Sarah says local schools are working very hard to make sure they are offering the best literature programs possible, however governments needed to do more.

“I think the biggest contribution the community can make is to urge politicians to put education at the centre of all their policies and to fund education better,” she says.

“The federal government is currently conducting an inquiry into the state of libraries in schools.

“Twenty years ago, most schools had a qualified teacher librarian. Their role was to connect students with books and resources, needed for pleasure reading and for educational purposes.

“This isn’t the case anymore, and I don’t think many of the community realise this.

“Teacher librarians are of vital need, especially in schools where home literacy practices don’t value or support school literacy practices.

Town Hall Debate? Ask Tony and Julia about school libraries

16 08 2010
Better Schools Need Better School Libraries

So there’s going to be one or two more debates.  Ask Julia and Tony about Better Australian School Libraries.

Australia’s public schools have lost over one third of their qualified teacher librarians (TLs) in the last 15 years (See state by state statistics). 3200 new or refurbished BER libraries are great. But they are only warehouses without qualified staff. Technology is great. But worth little without qualified TLs helping teachers and students to find and analyze deep web information to build new learning.

What can a federal government do?

Collect the needed workforce data. Tie technology and resource grants to appropriate staffing. Fund tertiary training programs and sponsor places. Develop national standards. Highlight international research linking well-staffed and well-supported school libraries with student literacy and learning in the National Curriculum. Develop leadership programs so school leaders can build and evaluate effective school library programs.

Australian research has found a direct connection between well staffed and resourced school libraries and NAPLAN reading results. International research shows student test scores are higher where their libraries are more fully staffed and where teacher librarians work collaboratively with classroom teachers.

Ask the candidates what they will do to increase student literacy and learning through support for a qualified teacher librarian in every school.

Stories from the School Library

24 05 2010

A late submission for the Committee?  Listen to this NOW:-) and send it to everyone you know!

Stories from the School Library

The stories in this audio journal were collected  for the California School Library Association.

“Strong school libraries build strong students and lifelong learners”

Support Indigenous Literacy in NT schools by staffing them with TLs

31 08 2009

It can’t hurt Indigenous Literacy Day that they have the Prime Minister’s wife as a patron.  I wonder if she knows how poorly off school libraries are in the NT?

95% of NT schools have NO school librarians!  which may go a long way towards explaining illiteracy.

Most schools in the NT have budget of less than $1000 per year for their libraries.

School library collections in NT remote schools (the majority) do not have a large range of resources often used to develop pre-reading skills such as  big books, games, puzzles, posters and charts. Students in these schools do not have access to magazines, maps,  or newspapers which are especially useful for reluctant readers (often boys) and teenage readers.

Nearly half the schools in the NT do not have access to traditional learning technologies such as videos, DVDs, CDs and CD-ROMs.

So is it any wonder that we must try to do something to help indigenous students to learn to read?

Our own local teacher librarians group did its bit by purchasing donated books of local children’s literature reviewer, Dr. Kerry White (The Source).  The book sale that kicked off at the Illawarra School Librarians Association meeting on 2 July at Wollongong Public School finished with almost $2000 raised for the Indigenous Literacy Project,

We can also help by supporting our colleagues in the NT in lobbying federal members regarding staffing and resourcing of school libraries there.  They have written to their local minister of education:

The Australian School Libraries Association: Northern Territory Branch (ASLA NT) wishes to bring to your attention the growing trend towards the removal of teacher librarian positions in many schools in the Northern Territory.  We are very concerned about the negative impact this trend will have on student learning.

Let’s support them with a message to our local federal members to let them know there are many ways we can support indigenous literacy. The most significant one would be by resourcing quality school libraries staffed by certified teacher librarians.

Tell them that studies in the US, Canada, Australia and the UK have provided strong evidence that school libraries with certified teacher librarians can have a positive impact on student literacy and learning (Jones 2007, Lance 2000, 2002, etc., Small 2008, Todd 2003, and others). These are some of the findings: Student reading scores increase. Students read more. Students say they enjoy reading more. Students are provided with “materials that present more diverse points of view and that better support the curriculum.” Students score higher in (US) English Language Arts tests. Students have increased cultural identity. Collections of print and digital resources to support teaching and learning are more dynamic. Students value teacher librarians as teachers, when they are helped to become independent critical information seekers. (Further reading at

Indigenous Literacy Day?

A good day to write a letter!!  Perhaps project manager, Karen Williams would also forward a letter to patron Therese Rein (I don’t suppose anyone would have her email address?).  Perhaps Ms Rein could gain someone’s ear to support our colleagues in the Northern Territory in making sure every school has a well-resourced library and a teacher librarian to support indigenous literacy.



Teacher Librarians: A Dying Breed?

11 06 2009

NSW Children’s Book Council President, Carol Keeble, has written a fine editorial in this month’s newsletter urging all who value books and literacy to lobby local, state and national legislators about the need for teacher librarians and school libraries.  We post it here with permission.


Teacher Librarians: A dying breed?

Teacher Librarians: A dying breed?


Click here for a sample letter with current correspondence with the Shadow Education Minister, ChristopherPyne.

Kids and books

12 02 2009

The $A42 billion stimulus package passed through the Senate today means lots of investment in primary school libraries around the country, which is fantastic news. Let’s hope students are able to get plenty of access to the resources, beyond the weekly scheduled hour (or less) that so many seem to be restricted to.

If anyone still needs convincing that kids and books are the perfect combination, then here’s the definitive proof, demonstrated in just 92 seconds. 

Thanks to Jacquie Porkchop in Canada for sending this link.  No, that’s not her real name, but she knows who she is.