The Australian Reading Hour – a perfect fit for school libraries

Anita McMillan
Knowledge and Learning Resources Manager
West Moreton Anglican College

It is exciting to be involved in a process where different industries band together to create a whole that is worth far more than the sum of its parts. It is both professionally and personally exciting when it’s all about what we love best – reading.

I’ve had the honour of working with the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) and a number of other book industry giants to take the Australian Reading Hour campaign to new heights. This year on Thursday 14 September we are asking all Australians to set aside one hour to read. Libraries, bookshops, publishers, authors, illustrators, politicians and corporations will all be involved.

As school library staff, we are in the perfect position to organise, facilitate (or at the very least encourage) such a reading activity for our entire school community – staff, students, parents and supporters.

What is the Australian Reading Hour?

The Australian Reading Hour’s premise is simple.

It’s about picking up an Australian book and reading for an hour any time during the day or night on Thursday 14 September.

The Australian Reading Hour is the first cross-industry reading campaign supported by the whole book industry – the Australian Society of Authors, the Australian Publishers Association, the Australian Booksellers Association, the Australian Library and Information Association, the Australian Literary Agents’ Association, and the Copyright Agency.

How can my school be involved?

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Register your school at readinghour.org.au, and download the school information pack from the ‘Resources’ tab.
  • Let your school community know about the Australian Reading Hour via newsletters, emails, your learning management system, the library site itself, digital signage and social media.
  • Create a display of your favourite Australian books in your library.
  • Leave some library books in your school’s staffroom.
  • Post on social media about your favourite Australian books and favourite time and place to read.
  • Post on social media about what you will be reading for the Australian Reading Hour on 14 September.
  • Create a reading nook that will encourage your readers to come in and read in the library.
  • Host a reading lunch hour or reading camp-out.
  • Tweet about the Reading Hour on the day, using #brbReading (stands for Be Right Back – Reading).

How can I find out more?

The official Australian Reading Hour website provides the opportunity to register and access resources.

ALIA has put together an event site, with lots of useful ideas and information.

The Australian Reading Hour is managed by Cheryl Akle, Better Reading. You can contact Cheryl via email: cheryl@betterreading.com.au.

Enjoy leading and encouraging your school community to take one hour out of their busy schedules on 14 September, to read.

Self-advocacy through evidence-based practice

Cathy Costello
Teacher librarian
Campbelltown Performing Arts High School
http://www.virtuallibrary.info

As teacher librarians, we can become frustrated and feel we are victims of occupational invisibility – that our contribution to whole-school programs and student outcomes is unseen and undervalued. This feeling may be due to the nature of our work in empowering colleagues. As a result, our contribution is often swallowed up in the successes of others (Oberg 2006). Our invisibility is also because, while we can see the impact we make on a daily basis, we can usually only offer anecdotal evidence regarding our contributions (Hay & Todd 2010; Lamb & Johnson 2004–2007).

To remedy this, we need to throw off the victim mentality and advocate for ourselves. We must become proactive. We must self-promote and make visible our contribution. To this end, we need to gather hard evidence to unequivocally prove that we make a difference (Bonnano & Moore 2009; Hay & Todd 2010). According to the Australian Library and Information Association (2004), excellent teacher librarians ‘undertake research which informs evidence-based innovation in school library programs’. Likewise, Hay & Foley (2009) advocate that, to build capacity for student learning in the 21st century, teacher librarians need to employ evidence-based practice to support a ‘continuous improvement cycle’. Similarly, The NSW Department of Education and Training (2010) has posited evidence-based practice as one of its foremost recommendations in creating sustainable futures for school libraries.

By undertaking evidence-based practice, we will not only be provided with hard evidence to show how and why teacher librarians make important contributions to student learning. We will also have an avenue for reflective practice that helps us to evaluate and constantly improve our teaching and learning programs (Gordon 2010; Todd 2003).

Evidence-based practice does not require exceptional analytical skills. We just need to begin gathering proof that we make a difference to student learning (Todd 2003). We can begin on the evidence-based practice journey by collecting documentation such as student work samples, student reflections and surveys, observation notes, focus group feedback, rubrics, peer reviews, lesson plans, checklists, critical feedback, circulation statistics and test scores (Lamb & Johnson 2004-2007; O’Connell 2012; Todd 2003).

One tried and true method of undertaking evidence-based practice is within a Guided Inquiry process. The Guided Inquiry framework is not only a model for promoting higher order thinking and information literacy skills, it also provides a mechanism for conducting evidence-based practice (FitzGerald 2011; Todd 2003). The Student Learning Through Inquiry Measure (SLIM) was originally developed as an assessment tool for use during the Guided Inquiry process (Gordon 2010; Kuhlthau, Maniotes & Caspari 2007; Todd, Kuhlthau & Heinström 2005). The SLIM toolkit also provides the dual purpose of allowing teacher librarians to undertake effective evidence-based practice (FitzGerald 2011; Scheffers 2008).

If we, as teacher librarians, want to be taken seriously as education professionals, we need to be proactive and self-promote our research findings using evidence-based practice in our schools. By doing this we can prove the contribution we make to improving student learning outcomes and demonstrate continued improvement in our teaching practices. To reinforce our own research findings, we can also direct teachers and executives to the strong empirical evidence of other academics who likewise prove the difference teacher librarians make to student achievement (NSW DET 2010; Oberg 2002).

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Ignite wide reading with diverse resources at your school library

Josephine Laretive
Teacher librarian
Moriah College, NSW

School libraries have a vital role in the provision and promotion of quality and diverse reading materials that inform, value and ignite reading. Promoting ‘a reading culture through the active promotion of literature’ (Australian School Library Association, 2004) is one of the ASLA teacher librarian standards. Promotion and access to varied reading materials ‘helps students to engage imaginatively and critically with literature to expand the scope of their experience’ (Australian Curriculum: English v8.3). Encouraging wide reading and access to a variety of reading materials increases students’ interests and motivation to read (Miller, 2012). ‘Numerous research studies prove that wide reading improves children’s comprehension, background knowledge, vocabulary, fluency, and writing’ (Krashen, 2004 as cited in Miller, 2012). Furthermore, literacy development and achievement is benefited by recreational reading and reading for enjoyment (Merga, 2016).

The following resources have made a difference to the diversity of reading resources available to children at my school library, adding to the existing range of imaginative and informative books. The resources that follow also link to the Australian Curriculum in that they provide access to imaginative, informative and persuasive texts in different formats and for different age levels.

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Planning on renovating your library? Think again

Laura Fleming

Think your library needs a renovation? You might be right, but before spending unnecessary money on a major overhaul, you might want to think again. I receive inquiries all of the time from schools whose libraries are not used, and thought that renovating their space was going to do the trick. Oftentimes, even with a big referendum that allows for a state-of-the-art renovation, those spaces continue to be unused.

The solution to turning a library around is NOT a renovation. It is the culture.

Upon my arrival at New Milford High School, in New Jersey, I walked into a library that was unused and that was referred to by my principal at the time, Eric Sheninger, as a ‘barren wasteland’. We didn’t have the luxury of a big sum of money to renovate our space, so we were forced to think of other ways to change it. Those changes focused not on how the space looked, but on transforming the culture of the space.

Thanks to a few core changes, our space went from being completely irrelevant to our school community to what Eric described as a ‘thriving learning metropolis’.

Continue reading Planning on renovating your library? Think again

Mackay libraries unite for award-winning Anzac project

In 2016, the ANZAC 100 Mackay Remembers: Field of Poppies Project received the Queensland School Library Association's Brian Bahnisch Award. The facilitator of the project, Margaret Spillman, shares her story, and how the community worked together to commemorate the ongoing Anzac centenary in a meaningful way.

Margaret Spillman
Teacher librarian
Mackay West State School

During the lead-up to the Anzac Centenary I wondered how we as a school community might honour the memory of those who served. In particular, I wanted a way for our students to be actively involved, as the future of the Anzac traditions lies in the hands of our young people. I was inspired by the Sea of Poppies outside the Tower of London. While the poppy might commonly be used for Remembrance Day, I decided to use it for our project as well because it is such a strong visual symbol for all those who served.

My concept was that students would create a poppy using a red plastic plate. This would have a soldier’s name written across the front. It would be attached to a bamboo stake and ‘planted’ on the front lawn of the Mackay Regional Council building in the week before Anzac Day 2015.

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Termly themes: a year in the school library

Angie Morris
Head of Information Services
Redeemer Lutheran College

The library as a space is a complex idea. It serves as a learning space, a research space, a social space, an innovative space, and a flexible space (Chan & Spodick, 2014) — especially in a school context, where the library is viewed as a place to extend the curriculum. In addition, the teacher librarians who have redefined their libraries in recent years to remain relevant to their clientele can testify to the importance of creating a cultural space as well. This is not a new idea; concerts have been held in the Library of Congress since 1925 (Brown 2014, p. 391).

To ensure my senior school student clientele did not completely miss the benefits of enjoying the library as a fun place to be, I pulled the idea of themes from my 28-year experience as a primary teacher. I sought meaningful ways to link ideas together and to provide a structure to organise displays and activities in the library. I trialled this in 2016 with some success. In collaboration with our library staff and teacher librarians in the OZTL_NET community, we decided on four themes — one per term.

Continue reading Termly themes: a year in the school library

Collector, curator or collaborator?: Suggested PLNs for school library staff

In SCIS's Term 1 issue of Connections, Jennie Bales, adjunct lecturer at Charles Sturt University, wrote an article about the collaborative nature of school library professionals. 

With her article, Jennie curated a list of social networking sites for readers to add to their personal learning network. 'These include some personal favourites and represent a balance of different foci and curators: professional associations, corporate services, teacher librarians, and leaders in the information services field', Jennie explains.

Blogs & Websites

Bright ideas
http://slav.global2.vic.edu.au
Bright ideas is maintained by School Library Association of Victoria & State Library of Victoria. The page includes general coverage across multiple aspects of library services, technology and pedagogy. Members can contribute and comment.

Services to schools: create readers
http://schools.natlib.govt.nz/blogs/create-readers
Maintained by the National Library of New Zealand’s Services to Schools, this blog includes content across various aspects of library services, with a strong focus on literature and resource sharing. Members can contribute and comment.

AHS makerspace
https://ahsmakerspace.wordpress.com/author/anneweaver
AHS makerspace is a school library site maintained by Anne Weaver, with a focus on makerspaces and examples of library practices.

TinkeringChild
http://tinkeringchild.com/travelling-with-a-makers-eye
This blog is maintained by Jackie Child, a practitioner with a passion for makerspaces and hands-on learning.

Continue reading Collector, curator or collaborator?: Suggested PLNs for school library staff