Thinking about children’s books in a global context

A comment in an online forum led me to this BBC Radio 4 episode – A World Beyond Alice.

This was a fascinating documentary about the dominance of English-language publishing for children’s books, touching on the differences between marketing and publishing structures in different parts of the world, historical influences on publishing for children (apparently English-language publishing houses led the development of publishing for children, so the whole arena began in an English-centric environment), and even what would in Australia be termed the ‘cultural cringe‘: an assumption that one’s native language works were somehow not quite good enough for the international market.

I am planning to listen to this program again, and in the meantime have been doing some research. I have heard of IBBY , The International Board on Books for Young People before, and their biennial round-up of great children’s literature from around the world is wonderful, but why is it so hard to find material written from and about other cultures? Is it the cost of translating work into another language – a similar economic barrier to that of creating audio books?  Is it the lingering tentacles of the late dominance of the British Empire? There are very few (if any) schools in Australia that do not have children who are either recent immigrants or the offspring of migrant families – are they not being marginalised by not having a variety of cultures (including that of their families or ancestors) represented in reading materials in our libraries? This is separate from the complex and emotionally-explosive issues surrounding literature by the Indigenous Australian peoples, but perhaps there are parallels to be drawn…


Going back to the radio program that inspired this post, there is much that books born of other cultures can teach our children. The sight and sound of different landscapes and environments, the rhythms of different ways of life, the love and importance of families expressed in different customs. To use a very Asian saying, people all over the world are “same-same but different”, and experiencing the stories of other cultures through literature is one way we can help our children understand this fundamental truth of humanity.

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Online again, astonishingly!

I hope this isn’t going to jinx myself, but after a few months of this app not working, I have updated everything – app, iOS, my work wardrobe – and finally it seems as though I am returning to the world of mobile blogging!

School holidays are over; in fact we teachers went back to work last Tuesday, and tomorrow sees the return of teeming hordes of freshly washed, shod and barbered boys to the hallowed halls of my workplace.

Actually that’s kind of ridiculous – my library is in the Junior School ie primary, so the halls are often crowded, somewhat noisy, and quite grubby by the end of the day! “Hallowed” generally doesn’t get a look in.

We had a very busy Professional Learning week, with lots of great sessions run by staff in the school. I’ve seen quite a lot of articles recently about in-house inservicing, and how powerful it can be in building a learning community, and I think that perhaps my school is making progress in that direction. I am also thrilled to say that I was able to help in that progress by assisting a fellow Teacher Librarian to present a small session on accessing our online Library services. We were a bit worried by the small turnout, but decided to assume that we were the victim of circumstances (ie 8am session on the Friday, when most people were trying to get their rooms organised for tomorrow). We have since sent out invitations to each minischool to come to a tailored version of the session and were very pleased to receive plenty of enthusiastic responses! I think this was a very effective lesson in Don’t Take It Personally – by trying again in a more flexible way we have been able to reach many more staff.

Professional Learning Week had lots going on:
* Differentiation through language, use of content in a variety of media, using technology to make content accessible, using technology to help students express their understanding
* Child Protection – Duty of Care – process to follow when something seems ‘not quite right’
* First Aid – I will forever more associate CPR with the rhythm of Staying Alive
* Backwards Design – I am a huge fan of this approach to instructional/ curriculum design
* Library staff meeting – we will be doing more with far less this year, so lots of challenges ahead
* Curriculum focus


And throughout it all, a major refrain was that our focus is on educating our boys – everything we do as teachers is about how we can help our students learn the skills, knowledge and attitudes that will shape them into young men we are proud to know.

I hope that I can contribute to that process of growth in some positive ways – I will certainly do my best to do so!

Standing desks?

If it is good enough for Claude Monet, I should take this idea seriously! Public Domain image via Wikimedia Commons

This idea has been floating around the internet for a little while now. I just read an article about trialling standing desks with students at school, using pedometers to measure activity levels over time, which said that the measurements showed increased activity across all grades, the younger the student the more they moved about. Anecdotal reports from teachers claimed higher attention/engagement from students too, although this was not specifically measured – that sounds like a great opportunity for someone (not me, but someone in the education-engagement research field).

Working in a school library I have break-time supervision duties every day, and often find that the easiest way to get some work done while keeping an eye on my customers is to put my laptop or iPad on the end of a bookshelf right in the middle of the Library. I am able to answer emails or read articles while still being aware of what’s going on around me, and I am very easy for students to find when they need help.

Looking around my office with built-in cabinetry, I am not sure how I could change this space to allow a standing desk with or without a stool… I suppose some kind of mini-table or shelf arrangement on top of my existing desk would work…

A quick online search and I have found an excellent set of ideas here, a Pinterest collection here, an amazing idea for putting a desk over a treadmill to keep you moving gently all day here, and of course Lifehacker has a collection here.

I am quite interested in trying this, but will have to think further about what I can do to set it up in the space I work in.



Things I am reading about online…

I do this a lot: check on my Twitter feed, click a few links, think “wow, so cool, how interesting”, or “I don’t agree with that” and then move on. Similarly with reading blog posts from educators I follow, or articles in various online or print media – I read, reflect, and tackle the next job.

Today is a Tuesday, which means I have only one class (I make up for this with heavy days on Monday, Thursday and Friday, and an extra dose of meeting on Wednesday). So Tuesdays are the day when I can tackle that flicking through tweets, reading professional articles, plan lessons, work on the Library displays, tidy my desk… well maybe that last one gets neglected. Perhaps I should also make Tuesdays my day for blogging?

Anyway, this morning I am thinking about an upcoming ASLA Tas mini-conference, where I am going to speak about the role of social media in professional learning, so I’ve been cruising through my Twitter stream and reading very interesting things!

Thing 1# The Art of Listening by Library Girl. She talks about her first day at her new school, finding out that she was supposed to be prepared for a staff activity and having to come up with something on the spot. This turned out to be a fantastic opportunity for Library Girl and her staff to really focus on the role of the school library and how they could work together. I am really inspired by this and would love to try something similar…

Thing 2# Online Building Offline Relationships by George Couros. This blog post reminds us that online vs offline is an artificial and unhelpful distinction. The video at the end of a young teacher using an online form to better connect with her students is great. George also links to two posts by Dean Shareski on the topic of “digital dualism” – here and here.

Thing 3# September is here! September is here! by Nikki D. Robertson. Nikki helps to run the TL Virtual Cafe – I think that I have been neglecting a great opportunity to learn from other TLs by leaving this in the ‘Different Time Zone- Too Hard’ Basket. The TL chat at 8pm Mondays is 10am here – halfway through my one and only lesson, but surely I can catch up after recess? Nikki has links to lots of other ways to connect with and learn from other TLs, so I am keen to look through these, especially the Global TL: Librarians Without Borders Google+ community.

Thing 4# The stream from the PETA conference today #petaaconf is interesting too.

Thing 5# The Book Chook always has something worth reading, and in this case something worth watching! Enjoy 🙂

Michael Rosen performs We’re Going on a Bear Hunt

Making Connections

Long time no blog – which is all the more reason to pull some ideas together.

BRAIN HUE Collection by Emilio Garcia 2010; CC licence BY-NC 2.0

It is now Term 4 of 2013, and there is very little left of the Australian school year. This has been a busy year for me, settling back into my school in Hobart, getting up to speed with developments in the Australian National Curriculum, the Australian National Teacher Standards, catching up on developments within my school library: WorldCat, LibGuides, ebooks, and attending plenty of Professional Development.

Professional Development is one of those tricky things, reminds me of a New Year’s Resolution  – you dive in, go hard for two weeks, but then life happens and the Big Plan dribbles away to a faintly guilty stain on your To Do list.



At the end of last month Hobart played host to the ASLA XXIII Biennial National Conference, 3 days of school library-focused ideas and discussions and presentations. I love going to events like this where I can be immersed in information that is so completely relevant to what I do, and meet people who work in the same field and have wonderful experiences to share. I always feel energised and excited and motivated – but then it is all over, and real life returns… My question is how do I make sure that the end of the conference is not the end of my learning? Lately I find myself dropping into social media (like blogs, Twitter, Google+ or Facebook) once or twice a week and just cruising through the links and ideas, seeing what is out there.

Following links has led me to the Global Read Aloud, which has given me a way to connect my two Prep classes with classes on the other side of the world to talk about books by Eric Carle.

Following links this morning led me to a report on how new library spaces were designed, built and are being used in seven Queensland schools – food for thought as I look at how my limited library space is used, and what else I could do to support our library uses.

Following links led me to a blog post about explaining Twitter to others, which had this fabulous video at the end:

This video really prompted me to stop thinking about blogging and get on with it! I have some more ideas to share in the near future…

And then I read a blog post by George Couros about connecting to others, and I really like the way he reframes the basic premise: the goal is not so much to be ‘connected’, (which I think sounds a bit like being permanently plugged into an electrical socket) but to be someone who connects – and as George pointed out, this is a verb, a conscious action on our part. It doesn’t really matter whether we are using a particular social media tool (ahem – this is a blog, is it not?) or going to conferences or speaking up in whole school staff meetings to talk about something happening in our classroom. It is the educational objective that matters, not the tool we use to get there.

By reaching out to connect with others we stretch ourselves.



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