Inspiration, Innovation & Information for school libraries and learning.
Prompted by two novels about what happened after Macbeth
When I was at school, I studied Shakespeare. I well remember the fun of Midsummer Night’s Dream, the romance of Romeo and Juliet and the drama of Macbeth. One standout memory, however, would have to be the prophecies of the three witches from Macbeth. Who could forget the iconic lines:
“Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble” ?
Here I am, two generations later, reintroduced to those three evil, almost supernatural, characters with their capacity to so accurately prophesise future events.
My memories were rekindled reading Tania Roxborogh’s Banquo’s Son and its sequel Bloodlines. These are the first two books of a trilogy, set in 11th Century Scotland after Macbeth had killed the king and was then eventually killed himself. The stories are ably researched and beautifully written. In both, the evil witches materialise as fascinating and ghoulish characters who make oblique prophecies, which both guide and confuse the seeker.
I eagerly await the publication of the third in the trilogy: Birthright (due in April 2013). In the meantime, I have been pondering what it was in a story about the royal lineage of Scotland, 10 centuries ago, that has held me so enthralled.
(image used with author’s permission)
My ponderings take me beyond the story and its setting and I delve into the question of why I choose to read? The themes of these books, like most enduring literature are universal and timeless. They are the themes of “humanness”.
The general themes of both of these books can be summarised as:
Maybe you recognise one or more of these themes from your own recent reading?
I am reminded of times in my life when I have been confronted by similar conflicts and choices. Maybe that is why I found these two books so captivating. Although I was reading, ostensibly, about the struggles and conflicts confronting Fleance (son of Banquo), I was also reading about myself. Set in a different time and place, his struggles and dilemmas were no different to those that have confronted me in varying degrees throughout my life. That is why I am so captivated by these stories. I can relate to the” humanness” of the characters.
So why do I read? Maybe I read to understand myself and my human foibles.
Much more interesting than self help books!
And I can’t wait for the sequel.
By Jan W
I recently read STOP WHAT YOU’RE DOING AND READ THIS! , Vintage Press 2011. It is a collection of essays written by people who are passionate advocates for reading.
I was particularly taken with the final essay, by Dr Maryanne Wolf and Dr Mirit Barzillai. Dr Wolf is the Director of the Centre for Reading and Language research at Tufts University. Dr Barzillai is a researcher whose current work focuses on the implications of technological innovation on reading processes.
Their essay “Questions for a Reader” talks about how ‘momentous and semi-miraculous’ it is that the human species ever achieved the ability to read. It then discusses the fact that an ‘expert reading brain’ is developed over time. This process can be short-circuited at any point by poor instruction, impoverished environments, lack of opportunity or motivation. The essay also discusses the ‘plasticity’ of the human brain, enabling the ‘reading brain’ to adapt itself to whatever is required by the reader.
They go on to share their thoughts and concerns about the current transition from printed to digital text and the possible effects of this change in terms of our traditional definition of an ‘expert reader’ – one who thinks, infers, imagines, connects, reflects and gains insights into their life and the lives of others.
As today’s children are increasingly immersed in digitally dominated formats for reading, the authors pose these questions:
Huge questions, with real resonance in terms of literacy teaching and learning in the 21st century. What do you think? Share your thoughts with us.
STOP WHAT YOU’RE DOING AND READ THIS!can be readily borrowed through interlibrary loan if it is not available from your local library.
flickr image by oddharmonic
We Give Books is a free site that includes some wonderful eBooks from classic picture books such as ‘Madeline’ to popular Dorling Kindersley non fiction titles incorporating stunning colour photographs.
‘We Give Books’ is more than just an eBooks site as it promotes the enjoyment of reading together with our ability to help others. Penguin group together with the Pearson Foundation are working with non-profit literacy partner campaigns in various parts of the world to foster the joy of reading for many children.
By joining the site you can select which of the four current campaigns you wish to support and for each eBook you read online Pearson will donate a print book to your chosen literacy project. Over one million books have been donated so far and you can see a list of completed campaigns here.
New books are added every month with the current 200+ titles being available for varying length of time from seasonal to perennial depending on authors and publishers terms. Hard copy books are donated to campaigns monthly and include some titles from the ‘We Give Books’ selection as well as others from DK and Penguin that are appropriate for the needs identified by the literacy partners.
The books are intended to cover a variety of reading ages up to ten years old with a balance of independent and read aloud titles. You can search for books by clicking on the All Books tab which enables you to select an age group or author. Alternatively you can browse the three main categories: New Releases, Popular, Classics. The technology used on the site is Issuu which allows the reader to turn the pages of the book, zoom in and out, and enjoy the reading experience. Resources for educators include reading activity ideas.
This is a wonderful site to visit with a class for shared reading in the library and to talk about the enjoyment of reading for all. It’s also a great way of introducing eBooks to families who can access the site from home and share the online reading experience with their children.
How would you use this site in your school?
The world opened up for Dr. Ben Carson when his mother turned off the TV and made him and his brother read two library books a week. From the slums of Detroit City, now a famous neurosurgeon, Ben knows what he’s talking about. Dr Carson was recently in Auckland talking to Duffy Books children.
For the above and lots of other quotable reading comments, see Books in Homes: Read about it
image used with permission
flickr imagy by Moyan_Brenn
If your school is exploring the use of eBooks in learning and teaching, and looking for an alternative platform thenkeep a close eye on ReadCloud.com.
ReadCloud, set up by Jeremy LeBard and Lars Lindstrom in 2009, is based in Melbourne
,. It provides software solutions for schools interested in providing digital books for students, offering a digital distribution mechanism for eBooks in a ring-fenced school-wide social community.
Using this platform, teachers can set up clouds for their classrooms and add eBooks which can be automatically synced to student devices. The platform is interactive - both teachers and students can annotate these eBooks and the annotations can be shared live as text, picture or video, offering students opportunities for both independent and participatory learning, and allowing them to build context around what they read.
Students are able to filter the annotations so that they see teacher notes, their study group notes or just their private notes. They can also access dictionary, encyclopaedia or reference databases from a learning toolbar simply by highlighting a text inside the eBook. ReadCloud also offers students the ability to post about their reading on Twitter and other social net-working sites as they move through the story.
Students can read either on or offline on computers, tablets or mobile devices (PC/Mac/Android/iPad/iPhone). EBooks currently owned by the school can be uploaded to the platform, and new titles can be purchased from the ReadCloud bookstore as PDF/ePubs and are yours to keep forever.
There is a yearly licence fee, which is roll-based but also dependent on your cloud storage requirements
Explore the site – I think it will offer real opportunities for schools moving into the third millennium and wanting to capitalise on their ultra-fast broadband connection.
If you have used ReadCloud share your experiences with us here.
Guess what percentage of New Zealand’s 15 year old students are among the top performers internationally in digital reading? The January 2012 In Focus reports on the OECD’s PISA results from the the 2009 survey on the proficiency of 15 year old students in 16 OECD countries in locating and assessing digital resources. More than 17% of New Zealand students are among the top performers in digital reading, on a par with those from Australia and Korea. However, New Zealand, along with the other participating countries, also has a significant number of low performing students who are unable locate crucial online information even when given explicit directions on how to scroll and navigate across web pages.
The findings included:
PISA makes the following observations, which have implications for teaching and learning in your school and for targeting of your library’s services to support student achievement:
Are you doing something to capitalise on students’ strength in digital reading to create opportunies to increase overall reading mileage? ( digital and/or print) Please share your success stories with us.
What it is about fiction that I find so fulfilling?
I have just finished a most enjoyable holiday novel, and have been pondering on what it is about reading a good fiction book that makes me sigh, want to read more and want to find someone to talk to about it.
This particular story, was made up, but was based on real life. It felt real to me. I was transported to a different time but I could relate to each of the characters. I could relate to the plot. I could relate to the place or setting.
In other words, I felt connected. And, I gained through reading it.
I was deeply absorbed by story and couldn’t put it down. I wanted to follow through after the book had finished to find out “what next?”
So; back to my original question: Why fiction?
Non fiction feeds my factual brain, my desire to know “what”. Fiction feeds by emotional brain, my desire to know why. The authorJulian Barnes wrote: “Books are where things are explained to you. Life is where things aren’t”. I have always been a person who wants to know why.
The books that I remember most vividly are those that have evoked an emotional response from me. This realisation makes me reflect on the concept of emotional intelligence (EQ). Research indicates that our success in life is as much dependant on our EQ as it is on our IQ. Consequently it follows that anything that strengthens our emotional intelligence can enhance our capacity for success in life.
Well, reading fiction, stories about people, their interactions, their inner and outer lives, their adventures, fantasies and romances, their successes and failures must surely enhance my social awareness and my understanding of people. Surely this leads to enhanced social abilities and a more mature IQ?
I am reminded of the well publicised adage that “Kids who read succeed”. In particular, the New Zealand based research “Competent Children, Competent Learners” lead by Kath Wylie. This study reinforces that children who choose to read are more successful learners across all curriculum areas as well as being more socially integrated.
Surely this is what we want for all our students!
Why do I read fiction?
Well, there are the obvious reasons :
Also, based on my previous reasoning, I also read fiction to succeed.
All this leads me to ponder on yet another question. Do girls and women read more fiction than boys/men? And if so why, and what are the consequences? That is another discussion for another time.
…And the book that set me wondering about all this? I highly recommend “Ithaca” by Lynley Dear. This beautifully written novel, spans family generations in Scotland, London, New Zealand, Germany and modern Jerusalem. It was mostly the New Zealand connection that drew me in, especially since my holiday travels took me to many of the places mentioned in the book.
by Jeannie S
"Reading is a foundational skill for 21st-century learners. Guiding learners to become engaged and effective users of ideas and information and to appreciate literature requires that they develop as strategic readers who can comprehend, analyze, and evaluate text in both print and digital formats. Learners must also have opportunities to read for enjoyment as well as for information. School librarians are in a critical and unique position to partner with other educators to elevate the reading development of our nation’s youth." - Excerpt from the School Librarian's Role in Reading Position Statement
Now, as we start the new school year, take a look at this position statement. It is a good time read through these resources and plan to purposefully implement some new strategies for reading in your school this year.
How will you measure your impact? Plan to capture the evidence of the library impact and add it to your arsenal of data for advocacy.
Does the introduction of iPads and e-books make a difference to students reading in the school library? During 2010 Westburn School librarian, Sylvia Junovich, observed a significant drop off in the amount of reading related use of the school library during break times. The library was busy, but mainly with computer activities and games. She discussed her concerns with staff and as a result, they decided to purchase two iPads for use in the library. These have been loaded with interactive picture books (see the blogpost on Q-books) and word-finds. They are being used by small groups (2-3 students) at a time and a system of change over has evolved, usually self managed by the children with only minimal intervention by the Librarian.
She is delighted to find that the enthusiasm for leisure time reading in the library is returning. Reading the e-book Hairy Maclary on the iPad has had a spin off effect of children going to the library shelves to find the hard copy of the same book. This has generated a surge of interest in Lynley Dodd’s books again.
With Westburn’s multi-cultural population, international students have enjoyed reading and hearing books in their own language. Sylvia finds this particularly exciting since print copies of these books in other languages are not easily accessible.
Having these iPads available has given her a guide for purchasing further e-books or replacing worn out hard copies of some titles in her library.A few students have asked to use the iPads for research purposes, but so far, leisure time interaction with books has been the main focus. Sylvia sees huge potential with the iPads opening up an increasing range of reading material for students. Her next move will be to get them used during class visits to the library.
She says that with these tools “transliteracy is not a problem, possibly due to the fact that many of our children are already using e-resources at home. Not keeping pace with this trend would be counterproductive to helping students to become life-long learners”.
Enthusiasm and the willingness to read are integral factors in developing reading competencies. At Westburn School the introduction of these two iPads has certainly worked in those areas.
Do you want to hear more about a reader’s experience of a book, their reactions, and interactions with the themes and content? Then why not introduce your readers to the dynamic world of Bookcasting?
Rather than a Book Trailer that introduces and summarises a title, Bookcasts can be thought of as “aesthetic video responses to books.” A bookcast focuses more on sharing the reading experience by promoting the reader’s personal response to a book having taken some time to reflect on what they have read. The most common format used for bookcasts are videos that can be shared via YouTube.
Take a look at this example of a bookcast for Shaun Tan’s “Arrival” which talks about readers’ experiences of the arrival from real to virtual worlds.
Further information with an interesting comparison of the book trailer and a bookcast for the book “Monstrumologist” is available from the Bookhenge blog.
For a teacher’s response to the concept of bookcasting see this really interesting recent blog entry by Frances Wittman. What a great way to capture your students’ creativity and ‘voice’ as readers. It would be great to see some examples relating to New Zealand writers’ works.
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