Friday, 30 September 2016

Reading for Pleasure - The Start of an Adventure

It's not something I've ever thought about wanting, but being in a press release is quite cool!  It also means I can finally talk about this exciting opportunity that has come my way.

Back in April, I read a blog post that really got me thinking.  It was by my friend Jeannie Skinner from the National Library and it described a visit from Miranda McKearney, social entrepreneur and co-founder of the Reading Agency and Empathy Lab.  The article mentioned that reading for pleasure is specifically included in the UK national curriculum, there's a reading for pleasure civil servant in the Department of Education, and Ofsted inspectors (like our ERO review officers) have questions to ask schools around reading for pleasure.

I immediately started wondering whether having reading for pleasure as something that inspectors have to look at, was something that could be leveraged by school librarians.  If inspectors have to look at whether the school has "welcome and conducive reading environments" and "access to rich collections of literature," do schools then pay more attention to their libraries?  I am very lucky to be in a school which values its library, and library staff.  However, I know this is not always the case in New Zealand and I wondered whether it would be worthwhile trying to emulate the UK's approach.

I remembered that NZEI had scholarships for support staff and I took a look at their website to see when the applications closed for those - less than two weeks away.  A sign!  And now here we are, I found out my application was successful back in August and have had to keep quiet until after the announcement at NZEI's annual conference.

Here is what I will be doing for my scholarship:

  • Recording and disseminating the latest international research on the academic benefits and increased empathy skills that arise for students who are reading for pleasure.
  • Ascertaining whether the UK's increased emphasis on reading for pleasure has had a positive impact on the working conditions of its school librarians.  If so, I'll look at what could be done to replicate this in New Zealand.
  • Looking at the ways in which UK teachers and librarians are promoting reading for pleasure in their schools, including how they specifically include their culturally diverse communities in their reading for pleasure initiatives.

I booked my flights on Wednesday and I was on cloud nine for the rest of the day.  I arrive in London on 26 February 2017 and leave on 17 March 2017.  I have somewhere to stay, thanks to Jeannie Skinner and a chance encounter at the IBBY conference last month.  I am beginning to put together some places to visit, thanks again to Jeannie and also to author Peter Millett, who thankfully does not seem to have a limit on the amount of favours he does for people.  

If you have any suggestions for schools/organisations to visit in the UK, or any book-related things to do, I'd love to hear them.

Monday, 26 September 2016

Raising Readers: School & Home Connections - Part 2

Creative Commons CC0 from Pixabay

Last week was the final week of the National Library's online course; I posted about the first couple of weeks here.  In weeks 3 & 4 of this five week course, we were put into seven different groups and given a list of scenarios to choose from.  My team chose to look at improving transitions between early childhood and primary, and primary and secondary school libraries.  We bounced ideas off each other and then our team leader pulled them together into a document and shared that with the other groups.  It was great to focus on different areas and then be able to learn from and comment on other groups' ideas.  I have a page of little notes saying things like "have a theme for holiday reading" and "take photos of origami made by families"!

During this time, I scheduled a meeting with my principal.  I had so many ideas from the course to work with but I focussed on our school's strategic plan and what I could do to support that.  It went really well and I am hoping that I will have more time to spend on library initiatives next year.

In the last week of the course we were asked to plan an initiative for our school and given a planning sheet that had really useful questions to consider.  I chose to look at increasing the amount of parents who visit our school library and take out books.  In particular, I want to work on a kit collection that I mentioned in a blog back in October last year (para.5).  If we have high interest items like telescopes, microscopes and sewing machines, to lend only to parents, then that will be a drawcard for them to come into the library.

The sharing of these initiatives meant I have access to detailed plans from other participants to refer to.  Some considered the same goal as me, bringing more parents into the library, from a different perspective.  Others had completely different initiatives.  All of them have given me more things to consider and their plans are a blueprint to how they can be done.

One of things I was concerned about was just how I was going to find the time to implement all these amazing ideas I was getting excited about.  Jeannie addressed this in one of her emails, and linked to a wonderful article by Robyn Pearce which gives her eight top time tips.  I have heard most of these before but it was great to be reminded of them and take stock of whether I actually do them.  The one that really stood out for me at the moment was about taking time for important, non-urgent actions.  Having a split role between library and ICT often means the urgency of an ICT "emergency" takes priority over library activities.  The advice to make an appointment to work on long-term goals is one I'll be taking in the new term.  I'm going to have an hour put aside every Monday where I will close my doors, ignore emails and focus on library initiatives.

If you have the opportunity to do this course then I would highly recommend it.  I think we have come a long way from the days when you learned only from your tutors.  These days smart course providers are also tapping into the wealth of knowledge that exists in the other participants in the course.  The combination of Jeannie and Tino's excellent course structure, their in-depth knowledge AND the experiences and ideas of the other course participants has made this Raising Readers course one of the highlights of my year.

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Raising Readers: School & Home Connections - Part 1

I've just completed two weeks of this online course offered by the National Library.  I've been on the back foot a bit, having recently finished running our Book Week and then our Book Fair.  The timing was not great to be starting a course, and I told myself not to, but one of the moderators is the wonderful Jeannie Skinner so I just couldn't resist. 

One of the suggested extra tasks is to share a blog post about some of what we have been learning.  In the first week, we had several articles to read and a few videos to watch.  A report from ERO on parents' views on engagement with schools brought up the fact that many parents would like more contact when students do positive things, rather than just when their child does something wrong.  I see this as something that libraries can do really well.  I started a Facebook album called "Stories from the Library" which had photos of students reading and doing other positive things in the library.  It has fallen by the wayside a bit as other things have taken up my time, but I can see the benefits in this context.  

I am really keen to ask a teacher to do our own school version of this awesome video, showing parents how to get the most out of sharing books with their children:

There are over thirty of us doing the course and it is interesting to read in the discussion forum what others are doing to connect with parents around reading.  There are so many great ideas!  

This is the end of second week, and I think everyone got a lot of interesting information from the self-review and "reading walk through" worksheets.  Going through your school thinking about how your reading culture is made visible to visiting parents is a very worthwhile exercise, and the questions on the worksheets quickly brought to my attention areas that can be improved.  Our foyer could definitely have some more messages and displays that show how much we value reading.

I'm also keen to attract more parents to our library when we are open before school on a Friday, and to promote to them the importance of reading aloud and reading for pleasure.  One of the worksheet points was about communications with new entrant parents and I see this as a great way to hook them early into visiting the library.  I'm going to approach our new entrant team leader and see if it's possible to talk with new parents on their transition visits.

Well, that's it for the first two weeks.  Next week we start a group project, which I am looking forward to.