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!

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”

Making reading fun

27 03 2008

Yesterday I had an enjoyable morning listening to Lynne Kelly speak about extending gifted students in the classroom.  Once again I was reminded about how much these strategies overlap what TLs can offer in schools. One parent made a comment about her daughter’s teacher insisting that the daughter not read non-fiction, that she was required to read fiction.  Sigh.  Is our education system really so inflexible?

Dr Alyson Simpson, senior lecturer and director of the primary bachelor of education program at the University of Sydney, has something to say about reading.  She uses terms like  interest, passion, curiosity, play and wonder when talking about developing literacy in our students.   Great stuff.   Author Jackie French lends her voice to the discussion as well.  You can read the press release for her book here.

Food for thought

25 03 2008

I’m off traipsing around country Victoria at the moment, so until I have time to write more, here’s a couple more examples of the importance of reading.

1. Paul Jennings on Radio National. I was listening to this recently while sitting in my car in the supermarket carpark. It was close to 40 degrees, my little fuel gauge warning light had been flashing for the last few kms, so I had to turn the engine off and hope like crazy it would appear on the website so I could listen to it in it’s entirety. As you can see, it did. The interview with Paul Jennings starts about half an hour in, if you don’t want to listen to the whole program.

2. Last year, the US officially had the highest incarceration rate in the world. It’s not hard to find statistics based on this large imprisoned population, as well as articles discussing the rates of illiteracy amongst inmates, and the apparent cause and effect relationship between education and crime. In my search for more local statistics of a similar nature, I came across this site from Canada, the Adopt a Library Literacy Program, created by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and other agencies.

It is the belief of the creator and supporters of the Adopt A Library Literacy Program that there is a relationship between youth illiteracy and crime.

While there is no conclusive evidence to support this claim, the statistics seem to indicate a strong relationship between low literacy skills and increased levels of crime in later years; the higher the level of literacy, the lower the crime rate.

“Better to see them in libraries now than in trouble with the law later”
-John Kennedy, founder of the Adopt A library Literacy Program

A literate society is more productive, healthier, and globally competitive. As a developed nation, we therefore have to ask policy makers and ourselves if it is more cost effective to invest in literacy initiatives now or attempt to recoup the immeasurable costs that are associated with higher crime rates later.

Individuals with limited literacy skills have fewer opportunities for training and employment, and fewer options in life.

65 percent of Canadians entering prison for the first time cannot read or write well.

Sobering thought, that last bit.

To me, these two unrelated stories strangely compliment each other.

Happy Valentine’s Day

13 02 2008

I told my interstate husband last night that I had already emailed off my Valentine’s Day letter.  He was quite right to be confused, considering he hadn’t received it.  You see, it wasn’t addressed to him. 

Dear Lord Archer,

I have decided to mark this Valentine’s Day by writing to you to tell you about the love affair I am having with your books. It’s been going for some time now, off and on. It began in the 80’s sometime with Kane and Abel and has recently been reignited with Prison Diary I and II.  I’d love another day in bed with Prison Diary III, but it seems to have lost it’s way between homes in our recent move. I am keeping an eye on the old address, in case it finds it’s way back.

I confess, there have been many others, and I will continue to stray for many years to come, but it’s nice to know there’ll always be an Archer novel resting on my library shelf, waiting to be rediscovered and relocated to my beside table.  Truth be told, one of the many advantages of having children is that it destroyed much of my memory, allowing me to start the affair all over again, enjoying the first thrills anew.

I’ve recently joined forces with a fellow Australian teacher librarian (and others) to promote school libraries in Australian schools. The continued decrease over many years in library staffing and funding is one of great concern to many.  Not only do we believe (and the research supports) that libraries and teacher librarians have an impact on student learning and literacy, but also that reading is at the heart of all learning, and to foster a love of reading requires time and the opportunity to explore books.

It was with great excitement that we read about Gordon Brown’s National Year of Reading. It’s the kind of policy we readers dream of. Although it doesn’t say much about the role of school libraries, it is still wonderful to know that somewhere, reading is promoted as something to be enjoyed and savoured, instead of assessed and graded.  It would be interesting to know if the programme is being encouraged in HM prisons.

Thankyou for the many years of enjoyment you have given me, and many more to come. 

Yours sincerely,
Leonie Paatsch
Melbourne, Australia

From the website of No. 10 (Downing St.)

8 02 2008

Can we do something like this too, Mr Rudd? It sounds heavenly, and I’d love to be a reading coordinator.

 Gordon Brown and Education Secretary Ed Balls were joined by a group of schoolchildren and children’s writers at 10 Downing Street today for the launch of the National Year of Reading.

Children from City of London Academy and Loxford School of Science and Technology created ‘reading corners’ with beanbags and cushions and chatted with the Prime Minister about their favourite books.

The 2008 National Year of Reading has been launched to help build a greater national passion for the pastime among children, families and adult learners alike.

At the launch, Ed Balls called for every employer, school, library, college and local authority to get involved and sign up to the campaign by logging on to the National Year of Reading website.

Mr Balls said:

“I want every school, college, library and employer to pledge to join in with the Year of Reading by signing up online. If local communities, authors, broadcasters, celebrities and employers come on board we can really bring about a long-term change in the nation’s attitudes to reading.

“Books are at the heart of the Year’s activities but all reading ‘counts’. Newspapers, magazines, poetry, song lyrics, screenplays and blogs will all feature as part of the Year’s activities.”

Campaigns and activities to boost reading throughout the year will be led by 146 ‘reading coordinators’ working with local authorities.

Suggested activities include employers making their work place more reader-friendly by turning their old smoking rooms into mini-libraries and encouraging parents to spend ten minutes a day reading with their children.

Want to know more?  There’s this from the Telegraph,  or watch the story on youtube (link below).

In response, the BBC asks, do you need to read books to be clever? Apparently Victoria Beckham claims to have never read a book, but I don’t believe everything I read. 

True literacy bubbles and froths with joy

4 02 2008


Accolades to our very own “feral word herder” and Hubber, Peter Macinnis, who has extolled the role of libraries and especially teacher librarians as a part of his latest Ockham’s Razor contribution. He ends his talk, “Is the book as we know it dead,” with the following:



The vapid politicians who carry on about Australian history, meaning dead-white-male history, are also the ones who most commonly bleat about “literacy”, which means simplistic reading and writing skills that can be tested.  These enemies of education with their foolish lists are yesterday’s men.  True literacy bubbles and froths with joy, even when a dead political hand is placed on it, and the new literacy will, teachers willing, sweep their foolishness away.


But who will teach this new sort of literacy?  Not the teachers of English, computing or science: they lack the skills and the time.  Among the professionals of education, only one group can do it.  Oddly enough, they are the very people most at threat from those who say the Book is Dead.


Some call them school librarians, but they’re really teacher-librarians, people trained both as teachers and as librarians.  Rather than getting rid of them and their libraries, we need to fund them better, far better.  We need more, not fewer, libraries, more, not fewer, teacher-librarians.


I care about remembering and transmitting Australia’s story.  The explorers weren’t the sort of people who learned lists of dates, they were people who questioned things and chased a brighter future.  If Australia is to have a future worthy of the explorers, we must educate our young.


Testing doesn’t improve literacy, teaching does, and our teacher-librarians sit at the heart of inspirational teaching. Politicians who don’t understand that are selling us all short.


Click Here to hear the entire program or read the transcript. 


Click Here for more on Peter’s exciting book on the truth of Australian explorers,

 Book cover

Australia’s Pioneers, Heroes and Fools (Pier 9, 2007).



Dear Julia Gillard, part 2

23 01 2008

Remember our very first blog entry Dear Julia Gillard,  part 1? It seems like a lifetime ago, undertaken when the ALP was still the opposition party.  Now Julia Gillard is the Federal Minister for Education, as well as deputy PM.  It was high time I paid her office another visit.

Regular readers will know how much we loved Agnes Nieuwenhuizen’s article in The Age earlier this month.  We know the link was emailed many times to our education minister, but here at The Hub,  we wanted to really make sure Julia read it.  Thus the “Hub Hamper” was born.

Hub hamper

That’s a framed and laminated copy of the article.  A pink cup and saucer, containing a selection of teas, coffee and drinking chocolate.  A few sugars on the side, and some Arnott’s bikkies. A letter from us is tucked away in there as well.

I headed into Werribee, with The Hub spokesmodels on board.  It seemed a good omen that there was a carpark available just metres from the office. We all hopped out and took a few photos to mark the occasion.

It was a brief visit.  I just explained why this hamper was being presented on behalf of Australian teacher librarians. The staff member smiled and told me he would leave it on her chair so she would definitely find it.  Yay!

Hub spokesmodels

Introducing the Hub spokesmodels.

Miss 7 on the left is intrigued by politics. She refused to go to bed on election night until the winner was announced.  I suspect she would have burst with excitement had she even glimpsed Ms Gillard herself.

That’s my previously mentioned budding entomologist on the right.  At 5 years of age, she is a fluent reader.  After looking over the ballot paper last year, she told me to vote for the “what women want” party.

The Hub spokesmodels are dressed in their favourite outfits.

Yet another perspective on reading

16 01 2008

Thanks to Nella for not only sending a letter to Julia Gillard, but also sharing it with us all. The issue of reading during school holiday times also highlights the importance of reading. I admit  I was unaware of the Summer Reading Program, and am happy to be able promote it here. Click here  for Nella’s letter.

“Many studies have shown that, during school holidays, especially during the long summer holidays, children lose reading skills and have to spend the first two months of the year relearning skills they had prior to the holidays.  In homes that do not have a reading culture or strong parental literacy skills, this produces a significant loss of literacy skills.”
Also check out the website for the Summer Reading Club.  Read what superpowers our Australian authors would like to possess! I have to get off the computer now, my 7 year old daughter is getting desperate to explore their activities for kids.

Letters to Julia

14 01 2008

Well done everyone!  Agnes Nieuwenhuizen’s article has been read just over 100 times in the last 24 hours.  How many of you followed up with a note to Julia Gillard?  Did you let us know about it? Thanks to those that did, but we need lots more to get to our target of 100 letters by the end of the week.  I admit, I haven’t, but I hope to hand deliver a copy of the article and a letter to her office personally tomorrow.  I might include some tea and biscuits to enjoy while she reads.  Hmmm, perhaps it is time to invent the Hub Hamper….

Thanks to Bini for letting us know that Australia does indeed have two literacy ambassadors, author Christopher Cheng and poet and author Steven Herrick.   At least, they were ambassadors for National Literacy and Numeracy Week in 2007.   You can read about them here.  You’ll see at the top of the page the words, “An Australian Government Initiative”.  Clearly they use the word “initiative” in it’s broadest possible sense.  

The four 2007 National Literacy and Numeracy Week (NLNW) Ambassadors are experts in their fields, offering years of experience, and sharing a passion for the importance of developing these key skills in Australian children.

Hmmm.  It doesn’t really say HOW the Government supported the Ambassadors to share their passion with Australian children. Did they fund their travels throughout the country to allow them to speak to school children far and wide, or at least as far as you can get in one week? Did they saturate the media promoting this epic event?  Let’s hope this token effort at promoting literacy (and numeracy) follows the Howard Government, and we see a real celebration of our authors in this country. 

Now get writing to Julia, and then send an email to us!