Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Four Things I'm Excited about in 2018: #3 Reading Buddies

#1 Library Llamas
#2 Patron of Reading
#3 Reading Buddies
#4 Book Week

In another project inspired by Jon Biddle (see my Patron of Reading post for the first), we are going to be trialling Reading Buddies in our school.  I saw Jon's blog post in December and thought it sounded like a nice way to help promote a love of reading in some of our students who could use extra encouragement.  The idea is that each student is assigned a staff member (not necessarily a teacher) who spends a bit of time each week talking with them about books and what they are reading.

I took this idea to our DP, who was supportive but mindful of the workload of our teachers.  We have decided to start small, with our priority learners teacher, myself, and two of the teachers from my Teachers' Reading Group.  We are currently waiting for the students to be selected, then we are ready to go.  To start with, we will be working with a few of our Year 5 & 6 students.  

I often help students select books to read, but don't often spend a sustained period of time with one particular student.  I'm looking forward to experiencing this different dynamic and seeing whether it can have an impact on a student's reading life.  I'm also hopeful that as a group we can discuss what books and techniques are working for our reading buddies and build on each other's knowledge.  With any luck the trial will be so successful we'll be able to entice other teachers to join in, but in the meantime I am just happy, and excited, that we get to give it a go.

Monday, 12 March 2018

Four Things I'm Excited about in 2018: #2 Patron of Reading

#1 Library Llamas
#2 Patron of Reading
#4 Book Week

During my trip to England last year, I got to meet Jon Biddle, a teacher who helped set up the Patron of Reading scheme.  According to the website, a Patron of Reading is: 
a school's special author, poet, storyteller or illustrator.  The school and the patron develop a relationship over a period of time.  Everything the patron does is related to helping encourage and develop a reading for pleasure culture in the school:  book quizzes, blogs, book recommendations, discussions, plays, poetry bashes, blogs, book trailers and visits.  The possibilities are virtually endless.
 I love the idea of being able to form a deeper relationship with a Patron, and keeping in contact with them in between multiple school visits.  We've only ever had single visits from authors/illustrators in the past, which means, in most cases, one talk with accompanying slides to groups of anywhere from 60-300 children.  I'm not saying that these events aren't worthwhile, they are very inspirational to our students.  However, once I saw what could happen with a Patron of Reading I was very keen to give the idea a go.  Fortunately, I got the support of our DP, so this year our school has it's first Patron of Reading!

The first step was to choose a Patron.  We decided on an author to start with, and I suggested Dawn McMillan.  Dawn visited our school in 2014, and in addition to speaking with our younger students, also ran a writing workshop for our older budding authors.  I like the fact that Dawn has published a number of books, including many educational readers that our students will be familiar with.  But what appealed to me the most was the fact that she relates so well to the students (being an ex-teacher probably helps!) and she seems to be such a positive, enthusiastic person.  I emailed Dawn about the idea, with a link to the Patron of Reading website.  Within hours she had replied, saying that she would love to do it.

Photo courtesy of Dawn McMillan

Our first visit from Dawn is due to take place on 5 April.  We have a number of activities planned, with a focus on Dawn meeting our Year 5 & 6 students in this first visit.  With over 740 students at our school, we didn't want to spread Dawn too thin!  She has agreed to an interview with a few of our Library Llamas for their Youtube Channel, and I'll be taking the opportunity to sit down with her face-to-face and talk about ideas for future visits, including one in May which will be during our Book Week.  We have so many other things that we can do, Dawn herself has already provided me with a nice long list!  I'm so excited about seeing what we can achieve together.

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Four Things I'm Excited about in 2018: #1 Library Llamas

#1 Library Llamas
#2 Patron of Reading
#3 Reading Buddies
#4 Book Week

I've been meaning to write about some of the exciting things I have planned for this year.  These are the projects, schemes, clubs and events that are a joy to organise and something I eagerly look forward to being a part of.  We all need a few of these in our working lives, and this year I have at least four that make me smile and put a spring in my step.  I'm going to share these over the next few days, and the first one I'm going to talk about is our Book Club and their Youtube channel.

At last year's SLANZA conference, Australian keynote speaker Adele Walsh introduced me to the world of Booktube, specifically polandbananasbooks.  It was a revelation - I never knew that world existed.  At the time, I wondered "can we do something similar with our kids?" but it wasn't until lamenting the unloved folder of our written book reviews that I decided to give it a try.  So this year, I have launched our booktubing Year 6 book club.  It's a big club, around 25, and that makes group decision-making a bit time consuming.  However, I believe that book clubs are a great place to encourage student agency and empowerment, two popular goals in the wider education community.

I set up a blog to help communicate with the club members (I shared the link with their parents via the Seesaw app).  As some of our members don't have parents signed up to Seesaw I won't be able to rely on it as my main form of communication, but it does help me keep all relevant information in one place.  In my first post, I shared the work of some younger booktubers for inspiration.

Our first decision was the name of the club - the Library Llamas!  This was decided on Tuesday, and apparently we also needed a song and a dance - who knew?!  That book club meeting has to have been the noisiest one in the history of all book club meetings - it was loud!  And the tune got stuck in my head, watch it at your own risk:

Some of our students chose not to be in the song and dance.  Some will be doing other, less performance-based videos, others are going to work behind the scenes and help plan the videos.

Coming up next week we will be looking at how to organise the production of more videos - book reviews, interviews, scenes from books etc.  I think we'll have to break into smaller groups, but we can do brainstorming sessions for ideas as a whole.  I already have an interview set up in April, with Dawn McMillan, our new Patron of Reading (read more about that tomorrow!).

I'm really excited about this project because it has so much potential and I'm not sure where it's going to take me.  The enthusiasm of the kids is infectious, even if I have to tell them that thinking about "merch" is a bit premature, and hitting 1,000,000 subscribers is a bit too big of a target!

My ultimate goal is to connect with other students within our school, our country and internationally, and share our love of books.  It would be great if we could have some book conversations with other students through the comments sections in our videos.

Watch this space and I'll document our journey.  And if you could subscribe to our channel, that would make our Library Llamas very happy :)

Oh, and on a side note, I've learned some very interesting information about llamas.  Did you know that they are considerably bigger than alpacas and have longer faces and banana-shaped ears?  (I didn't want to accidentally put a photo of an alpaca on our channel so I needed to research the difference!).

Sunday, 21 January 2018

My 5 Star Reads from 2017: Fiction, Non-Fiction and Poetry

At the beginning of the year, I always find myself surrounded by new books that have appeared on other people's "best of" lists.  I sheepishly go and pick up piles of reserves from the public library - when you have a lot you have to ask at the desk instead of getting them yourself from the reserve shelf.  I even reserve books on my mother's library card because her public library has a wider range of books than mine!  At the same time, I attempt to not become a hermit, and to pay some attention to my family.  It's not always easy!  Anyway, I have broken the spell long enough to finish off my best books from 2017.  My best picture books are here.


The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
This is a beautifully written book about a girl, a witch, a swamp monster, a madwoman, a young man and a Perfectly Tiny Dragon.  It deservedly won the Newbery Medal last year.  A must read for any lovers of fantasy.

Artichoke Hearts by Sita Brahmachari
Mira Levinson is 12 and of part-English, part-Indian heritage.  Her grandmother, Josie, is dying of cancer and Mira has to work out how to deal with the imminent loss of a very special person in her life.  At the same time she is dealing with bullying, friendship and first love.

This is a very powerful book that would be suitable for mature Year 6 and up. 

Beetle Boy by M G Leonard
I loved this book about a boy, Darkus, whose dad has disappeared, bugs who can communicate with humans, an evil woman (who reminds me of Cruella De Vil, but with bugs), and bad men who want to turn Darkus into a pie.  There's lots of action, combined with facts about beetles.  It turns out that's a great combination!

The Boy in the Tower by Polly Ho-Yen
Ade lives with his mother in a tower block.  His mother has become mentally unwell after an attack and Ade is having to shoulder more responsibilities to look after them both.  As if that isn't enough, strange plants appear, buildings start to fall down, and the world he lives in begins to change, while his mother sleeps on...

This is a fabulous, unusual, survival story, with well-rounded characters and some moments so tense I had to skip ahead a bit to make sure everything would be okay!

The Pest in the Nest (Rabbit & Bear #2) by Julian Gough, Jim Field (illustrator)
A bird arrives, makes a racket and really upsets Rabbit.  I love the developing friendship between Rabbit and Bear, and the patience Bear shows as he helps Rabbit, whose "brain is getting into a fight with the world".  One of our Year 2 teachers read this to her class, I thought they might be a little young, but they LOVED it!

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Meets World by Shannon Hale & Dean Hale 
This book is funny and filled with action.  It has references to Marvel characters, squirrels with cool names, and an evil villain - a very enjoyable read!  (It was also nice to read a book with a great deaf character in it).

The Wild Robot by Peter Brown
Roz is a robot who is shipwrecked and ends up on a remote island.  She has to adapt to the different conditions there, and deal with the local animal population, who think she is a monster.  Her adoption of an orphaned goose egg is a catalyst that leads to her and the other animals learning from one another.

A beautiful survival tale that celebrates nature, kindness and friendship. 

The Wizards of Once by Cressida Cowell
I'd highly recommend listening to the audiobook of this story, especially if you like the lovely Scottish accent of David Tennant.  He does great voices for the characters, and we loved the way he says 'spoon'!  The story itself is humorous, well-paced and full of interesting characters.


Whoosh!: Lonnie Johnson's Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions by Chris Barton, Don Tate, illustrator
An interesting non-fiction picture book about Lonnie Johnson, his life and his inventions, including his most famous invention - the Super Soaker.


Wet Cement: A Mix of Concrete Poems by Bob Raczka
I am not a huge poetry fan, in fact, this is the fourth year I've blogged about my 5 star reads and this is the first book of poetry I've ever included.  This is a very clever collection of shape poems, you really have to see it to understand how brilliant it is.  The poems and the shapes fit perfectly together, making a book ideal to share with people who claim they are "not a huge poetry fan"!

Sunday, 7 January 2018

My 5 Star Reads from 2017: Picture Books

Here are the brilliant picture books that I gave five stars to in 2017:

Du Iz Tak by Carson Ellis
Some insects watch as a plant grows.  Such a simple premise for a story and yet it is turned into something very special.  The illustrations are quirky and fun, but it is the fact that the whole story is told with an invented language that brings this book to a whole other level (and it's not too hard to work out what it means).  This was a 2017 Caldecott Honor book.

Billions of Bricks by Kurt Cyrus
A counting book with rhymes that flow off the tongue.  As an added bonus, looking at a construction crew at work will be of interest to many readers.

My New Friend Is So Fun! by Mo Willems
Elephant & Piggie books are hugely popular at our school.  I'm not sure how I missed this one, but I'm glad I got there in the end.  Piggie has a new friend, Brian the Bat, and Gerald and Snake are worried they will be forgotten.  A sweet story about friendships.

Daft Bat by Jeanne Willis, Tony Ross (illustrator)
Last year, I learned about the wonderful work done by the Empathy Lab, and this book came up as one that is good for encouraging children to think from someone else's perspective.  Bat is new to the neighbourhood, and the other animals quickly decide that she is daft, after all, she has asked for an umbrella so her feet don't get wet!  Wise Owl encourages the animals to try looking at things from Bat's point of view, and once they are all hanging upside down from a tree it all makes sense.

The Thank You Book by Mo Willems
In this, the very last Elephant & Piggie book, Piggie decides to thank all of her friends.  Gerald is convinced that Piggie will forget someone...but it's not who we think!  A very fitting end to a fantastic series.

The Covers Of My Book Are Too Far Apart by Vivian French, Nigel Baines (illustrator)
This is a must for libraries.  A fantastic book that gives answers to all those statements librarians often encounter, like "reading's rubbish", "I can't find a book I like" and "pictures are for little kids".  The fun illustrations ensure the book doesn't seem too preachy.

The Paper Dolls by Julia Donaldson, Rebecca Cobb (illustrator)
I was blown away by this book.  The rhymes are effortless and a joy to read aloud.  It's a wonderful story about an imaginative girl and her paper dolls, the power of memory and the beauty of passing on shared activities between generations.  This was an easy pick for my four year old niece's birthday.

Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin, Betsy Lewin (illustrator)
Farmer Brown's cows start leaving him notes asking him for things and when he doesn't give in to their demands they go on strike.  A very funny book that deals with the power of communication and negotiation.

My Pictures After The Storm by Eric Veille
This is a quirky book that deals with "before" and "after" in a hilarious way.

Tadpole's Promise by Jeanne Willis, Tony Ross (illustrator)
This was another book that tickled my funny bone this year.  Tadpole and caterpillar fall in love, and caterpillar says "promise that you will never change".  Some good information about the life cycles of tadpoles and caterpillars, with a deliciously dark ending!

The Legend Of Rock Paper Scissors by Drew Daywalt, Adam Rex (illustrator)
This humorous book is an excellent read aloud if you can give it the drama it deserves.  There are lots of fun battles as we learn the legend behind the game rock, paper, scissors (or as I  would say "paper, scissors, rock").  When you're reading it with kids, allow time to play the game afterwards!

Something Else by Kathryn Cave, Chris Riddell (illustrator)
This was another book that was recommended as being great for sparking discussions about empathy.  It's about a creature called "Something Else" who struggles to fit in because he is different, yet when he meets another creature who is also different he initially treats him the same way.

And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, Henry Cole (illustrator)
I learned about this sweet story at a Diversity in Picturebooks seminar.  It has caused a bit of a stir in some communities, as it is about two male penguins who become partners and raise a penguin chick.  It is based on a true story, which happened at Central Park Zoo.  I'm happy to say it has not caused a fuss in our library.

The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken
This is a gorgeous book - the artwork is beautiful to look at.  It's also a lovely, offbeat story about making mistakes and fixing them by coming up with something even better.  Some of our teachers with students who are perfectionists have been particularly interested in sharing this book.

After The Fall: How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again by Dan Santat
It turns out that after Humpty Dumpty had a great fall he became terrified of heights.  Santat tells the story of Humpty Dumpty facing his fears with brevity, humour and sensitivity.  This is also an absolutely gorgeous book to look at, the cereal aisle is a particular standout!

Here We Are: Notes For Living On Planet Earth by Oliver Jeffers
Another incredibly beautiful Oliver Jeffers book.  It came about after he brought his newborn son home from the hospital and started explaining the world to him.  It talks about things like being kind to one another no matter what we look like and looking after the world we live in.

Fox by Margaret Wild and Ron Brooks (illustrator)
In this sophisticated picture book, a magpie who can't fly and a one-eyed dog become friends, but then along comes fox.  The ending is so emotionally powerful, and dark, that it makes this one of the most unexpectedly shocking books I have ever read.

My Dead Bunny by Sigi Cohen, James Foley (illustrator)
Another sophisticated picture book described as "a hilarious rhyming tale about a zombie bunny who comes back to visit his owner".

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Starting a CoL Librarians' Group

Earlier this year, I got the chance to meet with some lovely librarians in Ipswich.  They are part of a group called FLAPS, which I was so impressed with I shared it as part of my presentation at the SLANZA conference in July.  Here's the slide I used:

Once I found out about FLAPS, I was very keen to see if it could be replicated in NZ.  I felt that this idea might work within the framework of a Community of Learning (CoL).  My school became part of a CoL last year, and it seemed like a good idea to take an existing structure that the government promotes and gives funding to, and work within that.  I like the fact that the meeting takes place during the day, not after school when many of us have a lot of other things to juggle.  I also thought that meeting once a term is not a prohibitive amount of time, and therefore hard to refuse!

I could have approached the other librarians in our CoL directly, however I wanted to have the explicit approval that being discussed at the CoL principals' meeting would bring.  I have to admit that I was keen for the principals who value their libraries and support their librarians (like mine) to be positive role models on those who hardly think about their libraries at all.  I also felt like it was the best option for getting librarians, library assistants, teachers with library responsibility and teacher aides who don't normally go to any other meetings.  Having an email forwarded to you from your principal implies that they are keen for you to go and happy for you to be away for the time needed.

Going down this route did mean having to be patient.  It took several months before librarians were discussed at the CoL principals' meeting (to be fair, they were in the process of setting things up so had lots of other things that needed to be covered).

Once it had been agreed that we could run a CoL Librarians' Group I emailed all the principals in our CoL, talked about setting up a meeting and asked them to pass on the email to anyone involved with their school library.  I asked them to indicate which days would suit them best on a Google doc that covered a couple of weeks later on in the term.  I had set the time as 9.30-11.30.  A bit later on I followed up with an email directly to the librarians of schools which hadn't responded, as I suspected there were a couple whose principals had not passed on my email!

Twelve librarians (I'll call them that although some were teachers, teacher aides etc) from nine schools attended our first meeting on 28 August.  We had seven primary schools, one intermediate and one high school.  It was held at my school and we started by getting to know each other better and talking about our hours and the conditions at our schools.  I was reminded how lucky I am to work in a big school that has a generous library budget.  I showed everyone our library and talked a bit about how we ran things.  As usual, when I am surrounded by librarians I pick up little things that will help improve my job.  Like when students have overdue books recommending that they take out an eBook instead.  Simple but not something I had been doing.  I was pleased that there was an offer from another school to organise and run the next meeting in Term 4, and we decided we would have stocktaking as our theme.

Our second CoL Librarians' meeting was held at the end of October.  We had librarians from three new schools attend!  Our new host seriously upped the ante and made a slideshow about her library and how they handled stocktaking.  It was interesting to hear about a wide range of stocktaking practices and Esther and I picked up some good ideas around training student librarians too.

Looking forward to 2018, I've had offers from our lovely National Library ladies to help should we require it, and we may pull in outside experts too. 

Overall, I'd say that the CoL Librarians' Group has been successful.  It's not a big burden to organise, I've met some new librarians from our local schools, acquired and shared knowledge, and it appears that everyone is happy for it to continue.  If your school is in a CoL, I would definitely recommend setting up a CoL Librarians' Group.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Teachers' Reading Group - The First Five Sessions

At the end of May, I started a Teachers' Reading Group at my school.  I have nine teachers who attend fortnightly, on either a Tuesday at lunchtime or a Wednesday after school.  Interestingly, of the nine there are three teachers who are in their first year, at our school and in teaching.  This is actually all of our first-year teachers, so I had a 100% success rate signing up that group.  It is a shame though, that it appears that they're not being introduced to more children's authors as part of their teaching qualification. 

I also have two teachers in the 1-3 year category, and four who have been teaching for over ten years (including one who has taught for over thirty), so I have a wide range of experience levels.

I selected each of the topics for the meetings from the "Building Communities of Readers" booklet by Teresa Cremin, Marilyn Mottram, Fiona Collins and Sacha Powell.

First Meeting

Our first meeting was on "widening knowledge of children's authors and contemporary writers".  We went over more of the teacher questionnaire results.  In particular, we talked about how a lot of teachers had written the names of authors who were their childhood favourites, and there was a lack of current writers.

I gave the teachers copies of reading for pleasure research (from my earlier presentation at a staff meeting).  I wanted them to always have that to remind them of the importance of reading for pleasure.

Everyone signed up to Goodreads and we set a goal to have read a book by the next meeting.  I brought some good books from our library, as I've done at each of the meetings since then.  I take a piece of paper and record the barcodes so I know what's gone where.

Second Meeting

This meeting was about "reflecting upon personal reading histories and current practices and exploring consequences for classroom practice".  However, it started with sharing the books that we had read (which we do at every session) and then going over a few of the results from the student surveys I had helped our teachers carry out prior to the meeting (I ended up doing eight classes - 200 children).

It was surprising that within each class there was a range of answers to the same question.  For example, in each class some students thought their teacher read aloud every day and some thought it was less than once a week!  We talked about individual class results, which showed that when teachers read aloud more often (as indicated by the answers from the majority of students), their students were more likely to believe their teachers definitely read and that they love reading.  

The teachers went on to discuss the difficulty in protecting read aloud time when other things encroached on it, and shared ideas for dealing with that.

Then we looked at our personal reading histories and how they could be shared with students - doing things like talking about the books we liked when we were children, or bringing in old books from home.  During the conversation, one of the teachers mentioned that she did reading recovery as a child.  I asked how she felt about sharing that with her students and she said she hadn't thought about it but was happy to do so.

At the end of this meeting, I took a photo so I could share it on the library's Facebook page and let our school community know what we are up to.

Third Meeting

Our third meeting was about "planning, organising and sustaining regular opportunities for children to read independently for pleasure".  We talked about the opportunities children have to read independently for pleasure, where they get to read, and how it gets worked into the school day.

We also looked at the questions in the student questionnaire about whether students liked reading, whether they thought they were any good at it and whether they read with anyone at home.  We discussed the fact that 66% of our students read more at home.  The most common reasons they gave were because they have more time, their favourite books are there, it's quieter and they're more comfortable.  The students who read more at school felt they did so because "it is a subject" (in other words they have to!), because it's busy at home and because there are more books at school.

We talked about ways to encourage children to discuss their reading with each other.  I shared something that I'd seen work well for a teacher several years ago.  She sat her students down in the library and before they returned their books she gave them time to talk about them with each other.  A lot of teachers from our Teachers Reading Group have now been doing this with their classes and it is very successful.

Fourth Meeting

At this meeting we looked at "extending knowledge of children's comics and magazines".  I brought in a huge selection of graphic novels and we browsed through these.  I'd recently been looking at the borrowing histories of some of our "priority readers" and could see that several had found their passion for graphic novels.  I talked about some of the more popular graphic novel series that had hooked these developing readers.

During this session a Year 2 teacher reported back about what happened when she talked to her class about her own reading journey.  I found her story really heart-warming, so I asked if she could write something so I could share it, and here it is:
This week I shared with my Year 2 class how I found it hard to read when I was little and that a beautiful lady, Mrs Howl, helped me to learn to read.  This created a discussion about Paula's role when she comes into our class at reading time to help some students.  The discussion took many directions with the tamariki [children] saying "we read together to help each other".   One beautiful 6-year-old said, "wow, if you didn't learn to read then you wouldn't be able to be our teacher and teach us how to read".  Another boy said, "as long as you try your best you can learn to read or do anything".  I shared that is why I love to read as the passion and support from Mrs Howl made me want to keep trying to learn to read.  This meant that after lots of hard work I was able to read my own chapter book and now any book I wanted.  Year 2's are so fantastic and it was definitely inspiring sharing my own reading journey.  I observed some of my students sitting on the mat listening with big smiles on their faces.  It was a beautiful, honest, feel-good moment that I will remember so thank you Michelle for inspiring me to share my history with my class.
This teacher said that in particular some of her lower achieving students were very inspired by hearing her story.

Fifth Meeting

The fifth meeting was about "discovering useful information about children's out-of-school reading habits, cultures and practices".  We talked about valuing all kinds of reading - online, paper-based, recipes, signs, receipts, games etc.  I shared the idea of reading rivers and gave them some handouts about it, including Jon Biddle's example on the Research Rich Pedagogies website.  I also showed them the one I had made.

A reading river is where you record everything that you read over the course of 24 hours or a weekend.  It helps the children to notice how much they are reading when they don't realise it.  It's also really good for teachers to get an idea of what kids are reading at home.  Our teachers were very enthusiastic about this, they liked the idea of putting reading rivers up on display so students' peers could see what they are reading.

I was pleased to see that one of the teachers took this idea and shared it back with the other teachers in her team.  The impact of the Teachers' Reading Group is moving wider and I'm really happy about that!

As we have gone along the teachers have got to know one another better (none of them are from the same team and several are new to the school).  We have had some great discussions around reading, not always directly related to what we've been covering!  I'm learning a lot and the cross-team pollination of ideas has been wonderful.

We have just had our sixth meeting, with a guest speaker talking about poetry.  I'll cover that in my next post, as this one is already quite long!

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Teachers' Reading Group - Getting Started

Late last year, I read an excellent book called "Building Communities of Engaged Readers: Reading for Pleasure" by Teresa Cremin, Marilyn Mottram, Fiona M. Collins, Sacha Powell and Kimberly Safford.  The book is based on two studies by the UKLA (United Kingdom Literacy Association) on teachers' knowledge of children's literature, and how they can improve it and build reading communities in their classrooms. 

Earlier this year, I was lucky enough to fly to England and research reading for pleasure.  I met with Teresa Cremin and heard her keynote at the UKLA National Conference.  She was very inspirational and it was a highlight of my trip.  I was really keen to share her work with the teachers at my school.  I felt it would be an excellent way to work with teachers and help them to better help their students foster a love of reading.

Less than a week after I returned from England, I persuaded our DP to let me attend a staff meeting and administer Teresa's Teachers as Readers questionnaire (choose the 'Review your practice" tab).  This is part of the Open University's Research Rich Pedagogies website.  I copied the questionnaire and made a couple of little adjustments (like changing 'literacy coordinator' to librarian).  I didn't want the teachers to do it online as I wanted to collect the results myself.  

Part of the questionnaire has the teachers name six children's authors, six children's poets and six children's picture book authors/illustrators.  I had several teachers come up to me later on to tell me that they had remembered more names after they handed in their questionnaire, or that they were embarrassed that they couldn't name more authors.  One put a little sad face directly on her questionnaire!  It definitely got them thinking about their knowledge of authors.

My main aim for administering the questionnaire was to initiate our own Teachers as Readers project at my school.  I was told this would need to be voluntary; I would have to convince our teachers to give up their own time to be part of this project.

The following term, I was able to get ten minutes to talk about my trip at a staff meeting.  I  chose two things to talk about, that I thought would be of particular interest to teachers - Empathy Lab (see my SLANZA conference slides to find out more about that) and Teachers as Readers.  

I started by emphasising the importance of reading for pleasure.  I shared some research from the OECD (Slide 2 below).  This had quite an impact - I could hear mutterings and surprised comments arising from it.  I also shared other research (Slide 3), showing the impact reading for pleasure has on academic achievement.  I talked about the fact that reading is not just learning to read, but wanting to read.  The will as well as the skill.

Then I talked about the Teachers as Readers work done by Teresa and her team.  I reported back about the results from the questionnaire (Slides 6-8).  I compared our results with those from the 1,200 UK teachers that Teresa's team surveyed.  We were quite similar in our knowledge of writers, worse when it came to knowledge of children's poets, and better in our knowledge of children's picture book writers/illustrators.  Then I shared the conclusion from Teresa and her team based on the results of the research (Slide 9):

I talked about phase two of the Teachers as Readers research, which was a project to help widen teachers' knowledge of children's literature and build communities of readers in their schools (Slide 10). 

Then I flicked over to the last bit of our research (Slide 11).  This was our teachers' own rating of their repertoire of children's books.  Only 25% of them gave themselves a seven or more.  I said that I felt that they should all be aiming for a seven or above, for the reason I showed them in Slide 9 - to support their students in their development as readers they need to have a good reading repertoire.  I said that if they were interested in improving their rating, I would be running our own Teachers as Readers project.  I went over this in Slide 12.  I didn't want to put them off by talking about the questionnaires involved or the length of the project, but I did want them to know what they were signing up for.

I sent them out an email after the staff meeting, with a Google doc attached so they could indicate what the best times were for our Teachers' Reading Group, and how often they wanted to meet.  And then I crossed my fingers!  I was hoping for four teachers, one from each of our Year 3-6 teams.  I got nine!  They teach from Year 1-6 (in fact, one was a new entrant teacher who didn't even have any students yet!).  I also have another two teachers who can't attend in real life but did join our Goodreads group.

I ended up with two Teachers' Reading Groups, as I didn't want to have to turn anyone away.  I have a Tuesday lunchtime group and a Wednesday after school group.  The consensus was for fortnightly meetings, which has worked well.  Having the two days has also proved useful, as we've had teachers switch between the two as commitments come up.

So, I started with the questionnaire and that highlighted the gaps in some teachers' knowledge and made them feel uncomfortable.  Then I showed them the research that proved why it's important, and I think those two things really helped get teachers on board.

In my next post I'm going to summarise what we covered in our first five sessions.  The "Building Communities of Readers" booklet is a big help if you are going to run Teachers' Reading Groups as it goes through what you can cover in each session.

I am SO pleased with how things are going - I am having lots more conversations about books and reading with teachers, even those not in my Teachers' Reading Groups!  I think running the project has positioned me as an expert in children's literature and reading for pleasure in a really visible way.  There has also been some lovely feedback from the teachers about the impact on their students.

Another benefit that arose after I administered Teresa's questionnaire on our staff, was that I encouraged our principal to promote reading by having his photo taken each week while reading various picture books.  This has proved a popular segment on our library's Facebook page.