Category Archives: reading

Creating a reading community – Goodreads

goodreadscontemp

Encouraging young people to read has never been harder – on the one hand. Recess and lunchtimes at our school attest to a full-to-bursting library, but on closer inspection our boys are socialising around the games on their ipads. On the other hand, the technology we sometimes blame for a drop in an interest in literature could also become our saving grace in bringing the passion back in reading.

Photo source: http://pinterest.com/kellianneauthor/books-and-reading/

This year I’m keen to experiment with Goodreads as a platform for reading, sharing and discussing literature. There’s been a decent amount of interest from Year 9 and 10 English teachers, as well as from my team in the library. So, why am I so passionate about Goodreads?

Goodreads is the best of social media. I think it can work very effectively in schools. Just as blogging provides students with a real audience, peer as well as global, so does the Goodreads platform extend reading from a solitary experience to one which can be shared with a whole community. While the Premier’s Reading Challenge is a positive step in encouraging young people to read, I’m looking at more than the completion of a limited list of recommended reading, I’m interested in a platform where students can see what their peers are reading, where they can have a conversation around their reading.

Photo source: http://www.mybookcorner.com.au/articles/798-davide-cali-15-good-reasons-to-read-a-book.html

Reading can be much more than completing a book; within Goodreads it can involve:

  • rating
  • designating a shelf
  • reading reviews
  • writing reviews
  • connecting with classmates to see what they’re reading, rating, reviewing
  • connecting with broader community for the same class community for a text studied – the whole unit can take place within the class group
  • easily finding similar books in the genre, author or a series
  • following people to see what they’re reading, eg students could get ideas from each other or follow their teacher’s list to broaden their reading scope
  • following people to see their ratings and reviews
  • joining or creating discussions
  • following authors and becoming a fan to see their biography, see what books they’ve written, their series, what they’re reading, their latest activity eg. reviews/discussions; sending them a message, comparing your reading tastes to theirs; discovering their blogs and booktrailers/videos
  • creating your own groups or joining public ones

Melbourne High School is full of boys who respond to being stretched and challenged. They are often reading at a sophistocated level and appreciate the opportunity to read beyond a generic list for their age group. Goodreads allows students to browse eclectic group topics, for example, the group for The Year of Reading Proust or Old Norse Literature.
The virtual Book shelves default to “read”, “currently reading” and “to-read.” Students can add more individualized shelves to their profile, organising books by genre, reading challenge, books loved or loathed, by discussion group, and more. The possibilities for teachers are varied. I can imagine rich discussion of texts including all students in a way not possible in class. Social media connects students to each other, and beyond the classroom; it creates opportunities for real conversations, for many literacies, for digital citizenship.

Some teachers have said that they enjoy the competition aspect of Premier’s Reading Challenge. Goodreads provides this also –

goodreadschallenge
If you like the competitive aspect of a reading challenge, you can tailor this challenge to suit you either in the form of a class challenge, a year level challenge, or whatever you like. You could create your own list of books, different levels of difficulty, selection of genres, or you could leave it open.
Students will feel at home in the Facebook-like functioning of Goodreads. They are so used to being connected, it makes more sense to them and is more engaging than a traditional classroom where they don’t often share their learning. It’s fun and it really does encourage reading.

I’m looking forward to seeing how teachers customise Goodreads to their classes and teaching styles. I’m hoping we’ll bring our students back to a love of literature, ideas, good stories, powerful characters, clever plots and controversial issues in the form of books.

Of course, there is more than one way to engage our students in reading. As I’ve mentioned before, students will be enriched by Judith Way’s high-quality Readers’ Cup program. In any case, reading promotion in schools will be most successful when you engage students in a relational way, providing opportunities for them to have conversations about how they felt or what they thought about a book.

Photo source: http://pinterest.com/kellianneauthor/books-and-reading/

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Our 5th Reading Ambassador shares his reading memories, habits and favourite reads – Sai Ponnaganti

This has been reposted from the Melbourne High School Library blog.

Sai Pannaganti is our 5th NYOR Ambassador 2012.

What are you reading at the moment?

I’ve started The Hunger Games – I’ve read the first one & the third one [Mockingjay] & I’m reading the second one at the moment [Catching Fire] – it’s not really confusing reading them this way, it makes sense – for me. The first one was really involving & engaging; the third one is better, but darker. I’ve also started reading Shiver  [Maggie Stiefvater], it’s about vampires & a bit chick lit, but I like it.

What was you first reading memory?

It  would probably be reading TinTin & Asterix  – I read them all. They’re really funny – I didn’t actually pick up on all the puns in Asterix at the time, but I looked through them again when I was older – all the way through, they’re all puns. They’re so good. I also read Star Wars books & Aussie Bite stuff, too. I remember in kindergarten correcting the teacher for skipping out parts of the stories that were being read to us – that really annoyed me.

Where’s the most unusual place that you’ve ever read a book?

That would probably be while walking – in Year 3 I got into trouble from my parents & teachers because I was walking upstairs reading – I literally was reading while I walked everywhere. I never fell or tripped – you get used to it.

What book / story has made a lasting impression upon you?

The story that has made a really great impression on me because I didn’t like the character was probably Perfume [Patrick Suskind] – it was horrible & I couldn’t get it out of my head. He was a totally psychotic character & his actions were disgusting. I don’t really want to remember it but can’t help it.
There are a few books that I remember in a positive way – Harry Potter, for example, & The Hunger Games will stay with me because it’s so realistic – the third one in particular – and I can really empathize with the characters, especially the main character even though I found her really annoying at the same time. I felt the same with His Dark Materials [Philip Pullman] – I felt a great deal of empathy with the characters & felt quite depressed at the end.

Thanks, Sai, for sharing your reading background with us, and to Denise for the interview and photo.

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Our esteemed Reading Ambassadors (in the spirit of National Year of Reading)#NYOR

h.koppdelaney’s photo on Flickr

It’s always good to have an excuse for peeking into young minds in terms of what they’re reading, probing their earliest reading memories. We’ve been featuring our Reading Ambassadors in the Melbourne High School blog – except for the first who wasn’t keen on being published.

You can read the interviews with Padraig Gilligan and Alan Ng; you won’t be disappointed.  My favourite discoveries in these interviews are the idiosyncratic pieces of information such as Padraig’s comment:

I really enjoy reading on trains because even if you don’t get a seat, which is sometimes not an option, you have these nice little chronological markers – in the form of the stops & stations that you go through – so you know how long you’ve been reading & how long you have left to read.

And Alan’s brave reading of Thomas Mann’s Doctor Faustus

Sitting in an airbus A320 at 2 o’clock in the morning on the way to Thailand for a holiday – a reunion with relatives. The book was Doctor Faustus by Thomas Mann. It was very difficult to read the words, it was really, really packed & I’ve got to admit it was really hard to read. But I finished the book – it was confusing but consuming.

You really can find out a lot about people by what they read if you ask the right questions!

Picture by Joel Robinson found on Brain Pickings

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Stop telling me I’m wasting my time on Facebook

I’m a little tired of people telling me I’m wasting my time on Facebook.

Yes, I do enjoy keeping an eye on what my friends and colleagues are up to, seeing photos of their weddings, new babies and celebrations, particularly when they don’t live close. But I also use Facebook professionally. I’m a teacher librarian – I resource the curriculum, and that means I need a constant stream of information coming to me. Facebook, my Twitter network, Google Reader, my Diigo and Delicious network, my Vodpod network – all connect me to what I need to do my job. The same goes for what I’m interested in.

Some read the newspaper, others do it differently.

I don’t know what you see on your Facebook page but this is a cross-section of what I see –

You get the idea…

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Rest, recharge, and ready for another term!

National Gallery of Victoria (Städel exhibition)

I don’t know how non-teachers survive with so few holidays.  I’m not feeling guilty about teaching holidays though because that’s what I do, and I work hard, so if you’re not a teacher and feeling resentful, why don’t you do a teaching degree?

Seriously.

Teaching is one of the most satisfying careers. Yes, it can be frustrating, infuriating, depressing, tiring, all-consuming – but it’s definitely a privilege to have a hand in shaping young minds, the shapers of our future.

For me, working with people who love shaping those young minds is more than satisfying. Some of these educators are at my school, and many are elsewhere, and I’m grateful to them wherever they are.

Photo courtesy of Jane Hewitt on Flickr (Great quotes about learning and change)

I’ve really enjoyed these two weeks of holiday, and  balanced a nice mix of everything I need to recharge – enjoying the company of good friends, catching up with news and exchanging stories and ideas; going out into various parts of Melbourne in the winter (Melbourne has its own Winter style which I really like); appointments(!); domestic chores (not fun, but inevitable); reading and thinking, reflection and re-evaluating, shifting perspective, gathering strength and resolve, making plans for the new term ….

Amazing that I managed to pack in so much in the two weeks, including (possibly too many) musical concerts, for example, the Goodbye Hamer Hall concert in which my younger son played in the Melbourne Youth Music orchestra, the Tim Burton exhibition at ACMI, and I also went to see the European Masters from the Städel Museum in Frankfurt. AND I still had a lot of me-alone-time.

I finished reading Will Grayson, Will Grayson – a young adult novel written by John Green and David Levithan about two separate Will Graysons whose chance meeting changes their lives – and I’ve also started Seth Godin’s Linchpin (incidentally, Seth has just shared a free e-book) and Ali Shaw’s The girl with glass feet. I hope the reading doesn’t stop but somehow school projects always spill into the evenings and reading only begins just before my eyelids glue themselves shut.

The Tim Burton exhibition made me want to drag all the students out so they could be inspired by Tim’s prolific and imaginative illustrations. I could see so much potential for students writing, drawing, animation, sculpture, photostory, film-making – so many possibilities. I think the exhibition inspires because it shows early work back as far as school, and makes you want to have a go at all that zany creativity yourself.

So, what is my direction for third term? Well, apart from existing partnerships with classes, I want to trial more of my Writing Prompts. I want to give Howard Rheingold’s expert crap detection program a go, as well as teach some serious critical thinking.

Apart from stuffing my literature blog with new reviews by different members of my community, I’d like to take some of the ideas from Joyce Valenza’s Reading Wiki and run with them. There’s so much in this reading wiki too, and this one is bursting at the seams with resources for teacher librarians.

Plenty to do, and I’m even starting to get a little excited. I hope that you all have a great term, and for those of you in the middle of things, be inspired and re-inspired!

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Filed under Collaboration, creativity, Musing, reading, Teacher librarians, teaching

Melbourne – Centre for books, writing and ideas

Did you know that UNESCO bestowed on the city of Melbourne the title of City of Literature as part of its Creative Cities Network?

Maybe you did, but did you also know that the Arts Minister, Lynne Kosky, announced two days ago the creation of The Wheeler Centre: Books, Writing, Ideas. It has been named after the founders of the Melbourne-based Lonely Planet travel guides.

From 2010, Melbourne will have a new kind of cultural institution. The Wheeler Centre. A centre dedicated to the discussion and practice of writing and ideas. Through a year-round programme of talks and lectures, readings and debates, we invite you to join the conversation.

The city of Melbourne is home to an impressive collection of literary organisations, including the Victorian Writers’ Centre, Express Media, the Australian Poetry Centre, the Melbourne Writers Festival, Emerging Writers’ Festival and the Centre for Youth Literature.

These organisations will reside at 176 Little Lonsdale Street, a newly renovating wing of the State Libray of Victoria. I still remember the Melbourne Public Library housing the National Art Gallery, the Museum of Melbourne and the Planetarium.

Now it is the home of the Wheeler Centre for Books Writing and Ideas.

Browsing the Wheeler Centre’s website, I discovered a remarkable short animated film for the New Zealand Book Council.

No doubt some wonderful initiatives will be coming from these literary organisations, like the Summer School Novel Writing workshop in January 2010 organised by the Victorian Writers’ Centre.

 And if you ever doubted the connection between reading and writing (as if you would), you’d be advised to read what the Victorian Writers’ Centre writing tips state at the top of the list:

A few good tips to develop your writing.

Every experienced writer reads widely. Professional writers always recommend reading as a way for the writer to learn their craft. Reading widely can enhance your writing technique, broaden your scope, multiply your ideas and deepen your understanding of literary form in all its variety.

And if you’ve ever been confused by punctuation rules, think about following the great French author, Gustav Flaubert, in his ‘musical’ rules for punctuation:

Flaubert’s rule was that a pause of:

one beat equals a comma

two beats equals a semi-colon

three beats a colon

four beats a full stop

That’s what I call simple rules of punctuation.

Thanks to CMIS Fiction Focus for the alert.

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Have we understood picture books yet? What is YA literature?

shaun tan

Shaun Tan and Markus Zusak, two of Australia’s favourite and most talented authors/illustrators, have received international acclaim by winning in two of the major categories at the Deutsche Jugendliteraturpreis, Germany’s most prestigious awards for children’s and YA books.

zusak

Shaun Tan received first prize for the Picture Book category for his Tales from outer suburbia and Markus Zusak won the Youth Jury prize for The Book Thief.

bookthief

According to Tim Coronel in Publishing Perspectives, the award jury commented on Tan’s book that

 ‘the way that pictures and words work together in this carefully designed book is perfect.’

The Youth Jury also commented on Zusak’s story that 

‘many individual stories of the experience of youth in the Second World War have been written, but none match up to the narrative of this book.’ That’s a serious recommendation, especially from a German judge, considering the enormous output of literature on this subject.

tales from outer suburbia

The whole problematic issue of picture books and their audience continues to generate debate. In our school library, the picture books shelf conceals many illustrated stories worth deeper analysis in the classroom, but few will remember this as they pass them by.

Shaun Tan describes his picture books on his website:

They are best described as ‘picture books for older readers’ rather than young children, as they deal with relatively complex visual styles and themes, including colonial imperialism, social apathy, the nature of memory and depression.

red-tree

Understanding Shaun Tan’s thinking behind his picture books is a key to understanding just where Tan’s books belong. Michelle Pauli has written a very interesting article about Shaun Tan in The Guardian. Although Shaun’s books depict ‘a surreal world of bizarre animals, skew-whiff buildings, dreamlike landscapes and invented languages’, his books are far from fairy tales or pure fantasy, and that is because ‘Tan’s worlds, however fantastical they may appear on first glance, have their own internal logic. It is what he describes as “groundedness”, and he regards it as crucial to the success of the stories’.

“By itself, just to draw crazy creatures has limited appeal – if I had to give up one thing it would be the wild imagination. When the work becomes too detached from ordinary life it starts to fall apart. Fantasy needs to have some connection with reality or it becomes of its own interest only, insular. In The Lost Thing, to have creatures flying around is unsatisfactory without the context. It works because it exists in opposition to the world in the rest of the story.”

the-arrival

The fact that we still cling to narrow categories, such as ‘picture books’ and ‘Young Adult’ not only confuses readers but also pre-judges and precludes books from taking their place in the world of serious literature. Yes, many people understand and appreciate the complexity of Tan’s picture books and graphic novels (The arrival), but many more won’t give them a second chance when they see the children’s book award sticker or don’t even see them at all if they’re displayed in the children’s section of the book shop. As Tan says,

One bookseller in Australia took the children’s book award sticker off The Red Tree as he felt he could sell more that way, and sold an extra 30-40 copies a month. It’s about simple things like font size – people think they can judge the age a book is for by the font size and assume that it’s for little kids if it has a big font, but that’s silly. I don’t worry too much about those things as the creator because I figure that the books will find their own audience and sometimes I like the idea that they can give adults a surprise pleasure.

It’s interesting how readers feel there must be a definite meaning within the symbolism of Tan’s books. Tan himself avoids being pinned down to a single interpretation.

Tan is reluctant to delve too deeply into the “meanings” of his fables. Towards the end of The Lost Thing he writes, “Well, that’s it. That’s the story. Not especially profound, I know, but I never said it was. And don’t ask me what the moral is.”

If artworks cannot be pinned down to a clear and definitive interpretation, then picture books of Tan’s calibre are surely written and illustrated with the same infinite possibilities in mind. How could an artist have predicted, for example, all the interpretations that would come out of his or her painting? One thing is for sure – so-called children’s books, such as those by Shaun Tan and Markus Zusak, are fertile ground for rich discussion.

This has been cross-posted at Fiction is like a box of chocolates.

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