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).

Continue reading Self-advocacy through evidence-based practice

Highlights of Connections 102

Here are the highlights from Connections issue 102, which is now available online. To download a PDF of the latest issue, please select this link.

Tinkering, making and building in the school library
With the increasing popularity of makerspaces in schools, school libraries are frequently seen as the leaders in hands-on technologies such as coding and robotics. Jackie Child shares ideas for engaging students with computational thinking — and resources to make it as easy as possible for library staff.

A thank you to libraries and ELR
Mem Fox shares her experiences with libraries and children’s literature, and emphasizes the need for trained librarians in all schools.

The great escape
In 2017, the CBCA’s Book Week theme is ‘Escape to Everywhere’. Sarah Bakker offers suggestions for using the shortlisted books to inspire creative writing activities.

Genrefying the fiction collection
Susan Davenport discusses the genrefication process of Radford College’s senior fiction collection, and how the school community has responded.

Read, respond, celebrate: engaging with the CBCA short list
Josephine Laretive suggests ways to explore the CBCA’s short list, providing students with rich learning experiences.

How are you using SCIS?
Ben Chadwick provides insight into the way subscribers use the SCIS platform – and how these statistics are being used to inform decisions about the next chapter of SCIS.

School libraries support digital technologies
Martin Richards explains how libraries can extend their offering of digital technologies, using some practical examples.

School library spotlight: Glen Eira College
Karys McEwen, College Librarian at Glen Eira College, talks to SCIS about what’s happening in her library.

SCIS is more
SCIS Manager Dr Ben Chadwick shares information about the new SCIS system, coming soon.

Website & app reviews
Nigel Paull reviews websites and apps relevant to the education community.

As always, we hope you enjoy this issue. We welcome any feedback you have about this issue or any ideas you have for future Connections articles or blog posts. Please email connections@esa.edu.au.

Happy reading!

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.

Continue reading Ignite wide reading with diverse resources at your school library

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.

Continue reading Mackay libraries unite for award-winning Anzac project

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

SCIS cataloguing standards update: Dewey or don’t we?

There has been some discussion at SCIS about how schools treat picture books that rhyme. It has been SCIS practice to classify stories in rhyme picture books as poetry, with each book allocated a Dewey Decimal number. However, feedback in workshops and surveys indicate that this did not reflect the preferred classification in schools.

The Information Services Standards Committee (ISSC) meets regularly to discuss and make revisions to the SCIS Standards for Cataloguing and Data Entry, and this issue was recently discussed during a teleconference with the committee. The decision was made on behalf of the ISSC to classify stories in rhyme picture books as fiction, intending to make browsing easier for students and staff in schools. This will also save you the time spent changing the classifications manually.

If you have any questions about this update, please contact scisinfo@esa.edu.au.

We are interested in learning more about how you manage resources so that our standards continue to reflect schools’ needs

We want to make sure our catalogue records continue to meet the needs of our subscribers. Can you spare ten minutes to complete this survey so we can understand how resources are being managed in school libraries?

All survey respondents will go in the draw to win a $250 book card.

Digital resources to use on Harmony Day

Harmony Day is celebrated on 21 March, coinciding with the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and following Victoria’s Cultural Diversity Week (12–20 March).

We have created catalogue records for the following digital resources:

Harmony Day : recipes for harmony [website], by the Australian Department of Social Services (SCIS no 1753238)

This website provides information about Harmony Day 2016 and information about the multicultural make up of Australian society. It also provides news feeds, access to free resources, and ideas about how to celebrate the day. Included is access to ‘Recipes for Harmony’, an online resource featuring recipes, cultural profiles and personal stories from every-day and high profile Australians. It also includes a teacher resource to accompany ‘Recipes for Harmony’, which provides example lesson plans, work sheets, ice breakers, and other classroom activities.

Y challenge : celebrating diversity [website], by the Australian Red Cross (SCIS no 1753460)

The Y program encourages young people to explore and celebrate Australia’s cultural diversity. It also helps them develop projects that promote fairness, respect for one another, participation and a sense of belonging among their school and local communities.The program is divided into three sections (Description based on online preview). The program is divided into three sections: Explore, Inspire, and Take action.

Harmony Day Stories (SCIS no 1753463)

Experience three stories that are part Australia’s past, present and future – Renata, Kofi and Anh. Download the Harmony Day Stories app today to watch each stories come to life with augmented reality, a cool new interactive experience (Taken from the app’s description). Available from both Apple and Google stores.

Share our pride, by Reconciliation Australia (SCIS no 1753479)

Developed by Reconciliation Australia, this website introduces its readers to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, cultures, and perspectives. ‘Share our pride’ was designed to raise awareness and break down cultural myths and barriers in order to build respectful relationships.

Roads to refuge, by the Australian Red Cross (SCIS no 1696317)

Roads to Refuge is designed to give students, teachers and the community access to relevant, factual and current information about refugees (Taken from website).


To find more resources celebrating cultural diversity on SCIS OPAC, you can ‘Browse by subject‘ using a range of different subject headings, such as: Harmony Day (Australia); Cultural diversity; Multiculturalism; or Cultural enrichment.  You can also check out the carousel on our homepage, featuring books that promote a variety of multicultural perspectives.

If you use any other websites or resources that celebrates cultural diversity and encourages cultural awareness, we’d love to hear about them. You can leave a comment here or send us a tweet at @schoolscatinfo.