In the latest SCIS Publisher Spotlight, Story Box Library explores innovating reading and learning with stories.
Digital learning is complementing traditional teaching methods with innovations. While classroom time is key in children’s development and learning, platforms like Story Box Library (SBL) bring stories to student’s fingertips.
Designed to be used by educators across a variety of ages and curriculum requirements, Story Box Library’s growing collection of stories and resources bring engaging learning options to any classroom.
Story Box Library’s Education Specialist Jackie Small says, “Story Box Library’s unique format of traditional storytelling presented digitally with the inclusion of support features provides educators with essential multimodal texts that convey meaning through written, spoken, visual, audio and gestural languages.”
“Resources such as SBL are essential because they meet a need for a society that has become increasingly multi-modal.”
Partnering with educators to enhance education
Saving time for educators, subscribing schools can now search SCIS to find stories from the entire Story Box Library (SBL) collection. This means all SBL titles, including storyteller images, can be downloaded and incorporated into school systems.
Along with MARC records and the corresponding ISBN numbers, SBL collections seamlessly integrate into school cataloguing systems. The SBL digital resource is now even easier to access for educators and students in Australia.
In keeping up with technological demand and developments of our changing world, SBL offers a complementary learning opportunity for educators and schools. Enhancing classroom learning and saving teachers time, teachers can engage students in a lifelong love of learning, reading and inspire curiosity, creativity and play.
Stories connect us to the rest of the world. While students discover stories in a safe, online space, their reading and literacy skills improve. Stories help children and young minds not only establish language and literacy skills but also create frameworks of the wider world, their community, friends, family, and their identity.
“Stories are thoughtfully curated based on thematic and literary value,” says Jackie.
“This makes them perfect springboards into a wonderful world of discovery and learning both in English and other key learning areas.’
Innovative classroom tools for all educators
Story Box Library’s additional expert-designed classroom resources help teachers save time in the classroom, assist in class preparation, and align with the Australian Curriculum. Designed to be used alongside story reads, and adapted seamlessly to any educator’s specific needs, SBL’s education resources make learning fun. Built-in features like playlist and search filter functions allow educators to find and save stories according to themes, topics, or their own personalised requirements.
“I like to think of our additional resources as creative seeds for educators,” Jackie says.
“They provide them with diverse and engaging ideas that provide children with opportunities to listen to, view, speak, write, create, reflect and compare texts within our library while also developing other skills such as metacognition, social skills, and critical and creative thinking.”
Based on unique themes, story structures and language features of each story, Classroom Ideas are flexible, adaptable and easily accessible for any Educator’s specific needs. Downloadable PDFs feature practical discussion questions and activity ideas aligned with curriculum areas. Stories also come with Student Task Sheets, which are grouped by themes and designed to be used independently by students. Students are provided with three task options towards meeting achievement standards via downloadable PDFs.
Recently released, SBL’s new Graphic Organisers and Thinking Tools assist students into becoming critical readers, designed to provide opportunities for deeper learning. With more in development, the first release of resources includes a Y-Chart, Character Profile, Story Map, Plot Summary, List Template, T-Chart, Venn Diagram, Menu Planner, Recipe Planner and an Interview Planner.
Connected to a world of stories
With one login, the entire school community of teachers, students and their families access to a world of diverse, high-quality stories. SBL is safe, secure and trusted by educators around the globe, and helps create curious and understanding young minds.
Story Box Library is working with partners like SCIS to inspire young minds, assist educators, and encourage a lifelong love of reading and learning.
Story Box Library is a subscription based educational website, created for children to view stories by local authors and illustrators, being read aloud by engaging storytellers. With a world of stories and educational resources, it’s Storytime, Anytime!
www.storyboxlibrary.com.au| @storyboxlibrary | Story Box Library
Melissa Wastney, Read NZ Te Pou Muramura, introduces school libraries to Hooked on NZ Books He Ao Ano, an online platform and literary community for readers aged 12-19.
The looks hook people in, but the blurb brings it home (literally, I always leave bookshops with a lot of books.)
This book deserves all of the praise it receives; it is a beautifully told, undeniably raw, and extremely emotional read…
Once I had read this I was able to understand that although New Zealand claims to be diverse and accepting, racism affects our day to day lives, whether you are able to see it or not…
– Quotes from some recent Hooked on Books reviews.
At Read NZ Te Pou Muramura we want to encourage all of us to read more, and at the same time acknowledge the social aspects of literature; how books bring us closer to each other.
In the words of American writer Patricia Hampl, ‘’If nobody talks about books, if they are not discussed or somehow contended with, literature ceases to be a conversation, ceases to be dynamic. Most of all, it ceases to be intimate. Reviewing makes of reading a participant sport, not a spectator sport.’’
Building a community of readers who discuss books, and growing the next generation of critics is what Hooked on NZ Books He Ao Ano is all about.
Established four years ago by Peppercorn Press to complement their print journal NZ Review of Books, Hooked on Books is an online platform and literary community for readers aged 12-19.
Read NZ adopted the programme in 2020 and would love your help to find enthusiastic young readers to review the latest New Zealand books for us.
How does it work?
First, we match readers with new books: mostly novels, but also non-fiction, poetry and essays. Our reviewers live everywhere from Invercargill to Kaitaia.
We ask for the reviews to be emailed back within a month, and the reader gets to keep the book.
Our editor works with the reviewer to edit the piece so it’s the best it can be. This can sometimes involve a week of revisions and emails but is always an encouraging and supportive process.
We publish the final version of the review on the Hooked on NZ Books website, and share it with our wider community. The best review from each month is published on the official Read NZ website.
Read NZ CEO Juliet Blyth says the purpose of Hooked on NZ Books is to grow the audience for home-grown literature, to provide another space for young writers to be published and to nurture the next generation of critical readers in Aotearoa.
“Our reviewers have the opportunity to respond personally and critically to the latest reads while together building an online resource about NZ books and a genuine platform for their voice.
“Anyone can say that they loved or loathed a book, but it’s much harder to say why. Reviewing is important because well-argued reviews can influence what gets published and what gets read,” she says.
We at Read NZ would love your help to identify young readers and writers aged around 13 – 19 to participate.
We welcome enquiries from school librarians and teachers, but we’re also happy to work directly with young readers.
The publishing and writing industry has changed a lot since I entered it in 1975.
In the early ’80s, I published Australia’s first high adventure fantasy novels from a small office attached to a secondhand bookshop. I even typeset books on a hulking IBM machine that had dials to tell you when to go to the next line. One dial was colour-coded, the other had numerals. If a line ended on, say, yellow and the number 8, I would type y8 at the end of the line. When I’d finished a page of such rows, I’d hit a button, and the page would print out ‘justified’. The tricky part was that the dial might land between yellow and blue. Type a b when it should’ve been a y, and that line would be out of whack.
To save typing out the entire page again – there might be five lines incorrectly spaced – we would type out the lines, cut them out and paste them over the printed page (I tell students that’s where cut and paste comes from). If there were typos – they could be many – we’d type out the word and paste that over the typo. Tricky to get straight, so sometimes we’d type a few words out so the line would be easier to superimpose over the error/s.
I mention the above because today designers with InDesign can do all that for you and it comes out (mostly!) perfect. Back in the ’70s and ’80s, we had to re-type the entire manuscript on a machine like the above. And that was costly. An 80,000-word novel would cost around $1,000 to get typed – a stack of money back then.
So current technology saves both time and money. But it also makes us work faster and harder. In the decades I mentioned (and into the ’90s) I might have received ten letters a week. People used to be careful and say everything they needed to in those letters because it would be two weeks before expecting to receive a reply. It’s just too easy to dash off an email without thinking. My ten letters (that’s a maximum guess) are now 40 emails in a day. If I count all the spam etc., I get two dozen emails before midday. So time is no longer on our side. My modest effort in the decades mentioned was so simple. I’d give the printer the laid-out sheets of text and, voilà!, it would come back as a printed book. I would have the stock delivered to the distributor. I’d send out review copies, and that was it. Nowadays, social media can easily be a job in itself, and all the digital and print-on-demand (POD) platforms would fill another job. Admin and reading email could well give another person a job.
One of the upsides is that the internet is a great leveller. I’ve always been a micro-press. That is a one-person show. Needless to say, I’ve had small distributors that don’t have the market penetration of the bigger distributors. The internet puts Ford Street’s website up against even the biggest publishers’ sites. With their great SEO, major publishers may come first in search engine results, but we’re still there beside them. Brick-and-mortar shops only have limited space on their shelves. Understandably, they’ll take the big-name authors over lesser-known authors. So this means you’ll be lucky to see Ford Street titles in many bookshops – but on the net, you’ll see all of Ford Street’s books and every other micro press’s books. So too, with digital publishing. I see no reason why smaller presses shouldn’t be rubbing shoulders with the major publishers’ digital books when it comes to distribution and display.
It’s funny how people have the perception that if a micro-press publishes a book, it can’t be any good. ‘Hey, if it were good a bigger publisher would’ve published it.’ Right? Wrong. In recent years this micro-press won the Gold INKY award, the Family Therapist’s Award and the big one, the Children’s Book Council of Australia’s Picture Book of the Year award.
What do I like about being a micro-press?
It means I choose what I publish, and if I find a promising but unpolished manuscript I can choose to work with the author and hopefully turn it into a gem. This kind of editorial nurturing was more common to publishing in the past, but it seems to me that this rarely happens within most large publishing houses now, driven as they are by marketing teams and strong competition to sell ‘units’. A-list authors have to come from somewhere, though. A-list authors rise from B-lists. Knock out the B-list and exactly where the A-listers are supposed to come from?
For me, every author/illustrator is on my A-list.
I do not have to appease a marketing team.
Distribution. Publishers who distribute other publishers’ books present their books first. So if a bookseller runs out of time or their budget is gone, lesser-known publishers may not be represented in bookshops.
Competition from high-discount book stores. Major publishers mostly dominate sales to high discount stores. Books sold in places like K-Mart are often sold as loss leaders to draw in customers. Regardless, the more books you print, the cheaper the cost per book. No matter that they’re sold at a 70% discount, big sales are still profitable.
Cashflow. Creatives, printers, designers, editors, scanners are all paid upfront. But from the moment a book goes to all the above, to the moment it brings in money, can be eight months to a year. So if you’re a micro-press publishing 15 books, that’s a lot of money tied up before you can expect recompense.
Lack of staff. A micro-press owner needs to be a jack-of-all trades.
Export (distribution problems).
Inability (time/money) to visit major book fairs: Bologna, London and Frankfurt.
Speaking as an author … what are the challenges?
Low pay. Most authors, like me, have manuscripts lying about that took up to a year to write but have never been published. So that’s no pay for a year’s work. But that’s all part of the gig.
You have no benefits such as sick pay, holiday pay, an employer’s super scheme.
Isolation. COVID-19 has shown that solitary life doesn’t suit everyone.
Contracts. Agents don’t usually send out manuscripts. Some charge 15% commission of their authors’ ELR/PLR/CAL income.
And the benefits?
Self-employed, no travelling to work.
ELR/PLR/CAL/workshops for helpful advice.
Most people don’t realise that authors/illustrators generally make more money from school/library/festival visits than they do from their actual writing. An 80,000-word novel can take up to a year to write. The average advance might be $4,000. Spread that out on an hourly basis, and you’ll see creatives are working on a low wage. But then take into account royalties, PLR/ELR/CAL and presentations in various venues, and it works out pretty well.
Like many authors, my way around financial shortcomings is to have several jobs. It certainly makes my life varied!
– Paul Collins
Book cover supplied by Ford Street Publishing.
Stay tuned! We have more great articles aimed at promoting the importance of the published word scheduled for 2021.
create a freely available, online database of children’s books by and about Australian Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Peoples;
encourage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children to be engaged in their learning through increased cultural understanding;
provide a resource that supports incorporating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures into learning environments;
map books against the Early Years Learning Framework and the Australian Curriculum;
offer teaching resources related to these books to support children’s learning;
enhance the quality of culturally appropriate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander learning activities; and
support teachers to integrate contemporary and traditional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture into their work with children.
Our project coincides with the need and the right environment for this Resource. Movements around the world are highlighting the importance of #OwnVoices to create books. Publishers are ramping up their publishing programs of children’s books to reflect a wider diversity of voices. Grants, fellowships, mentorships and awards in this area have increased. At the same time, organisations are prompting individuals from wide-ranging backgrounds to participate in story making. Initiatives like the Spinifex Writing Camps, developed by the Indigenous Literacy Foundation, are bringing together published children’s writers and illustrators to work with Aboriginal children in communities across Australia. Initiatives such as these encourage youthful voices to write and illustrate their own stories. The NCACL Resource reflects these changing times.
This project reflects expanding publications in this area. Recent publishers like Children’s Ground and the Indigenous Literacy Foundation, along with the long-standing major publishers in this area, Magabala Books and Fremantle Press, are examples. Over 30 books in this area are in publishers’ programs for 2020. The new Resource highlights this growth.
After mapping out this project’s goals, activities and deadlines, 35 individuals across Australia, chosen for their broad expertise, joined a collective to comment on the books selected. Moderators guided these individuals and considered their commentary, while the Project Team and an external Reference Group monitored the project as a whole. An essential task included determining the functional requirements of the Resource, that is, what do we want the Resource to do? Our database designer, 372Digital, then considered these and created the database. At every development, NCACL’s Website Manager guided the database’s implementation.
The Resource has all the usual search filters for finding a specific author, title, publisher, publication date, audience and subject plus an annotation for each book. Added strengths include linking books to the Early Years Learning Framework and the Australian Curriculum, free teaching resources presented as hyperlinks for each book, identification of a location, the cultural groups and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ language in the books, where these could be identified. The Resource also offers free text searching of annotations. This provides access to such topics as writing techniques and styles as well as artistic media and techniques. Any words featured in the annotation are searchable.
A special feature is the facility to share your search results by a once-off registration which appears at the top of every NCACL webpage — look for Login/Register. Thereafter, searchers can choose their book ‘favourites’ and share these with colleagues using a variety of social media such as email, Twitter, Facebook and Messenger. Favourites can also be printed out for personal use.
DEMONSTRATING THE RESOURCE
There are currently over 300 children’s books in the Resource. To provide an insight into strengths and potentials for teacher librarians and teachers, in particular, one Australian Curriculum level and subject area will be examined along with the books retrieved. The aim here is to demonstrate searching strategies, techniques for broadening and narrowing the selection, depth and scope of books retrieved. One example of a particular curriculum and year level will demonstrate the potential of the Resource.
The example chosen is Year 6 HASS — History. This curriculum area covers ‘experiences of Australian democracy and citizenship, including the status and rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, migrants, women and children’. The Australian Curriculum code for this area is ACHASSK135.
RETRIEVING BOOKS USING THE CURRICULUM CODE ACHASSK135
This particular Australian Curriculum Code retrieves 19 books with the audience level ranging from five years through 12 years of age. Each book will have its own audience range. The range reflects what we know about children and books — that a child’s chronological age does not always correspond with their reading and comprehension age.
Publication dates for these books range from the earliest, The Aboriginal Children’s History of Australia by Aboriginal Children to the latest, Young Dark Emu: A Truer History. The collection of 19 books includes Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal creators working together and/or independently. A variety of publishers are presented including small (One Day Hill) and large (Allen & Unwin), longstanding (Magabala), mainstream (Walker Books), specialist (Omnibus and Little Hare), community-based (Kadjina Community) and educational (Era Publications and Board of Studies NSW).
This set of books reflects a range of styles and genres, with a concentration on stories which enable young people to experience the lives of others. Autobiographies such as Tucker and The Shack That Dad Built and biographies such as Albert: Albert Namatjira and the Hermannsburg Watercolour Artists, Amazing Australian Women: Twelve Women Who Shaped History, Old Tucker Man, Yinti, Desert Cowboy and Jandamarra enable young people to experience the lives and times of others.
IDENTIFYING LANGUAGE AND PLACE
Several of the books in this collection identify a specific location and/or language spoken by those living in the area. For example, the language identified in Albert: Albert Namatjira and the Hermannsburg Watercolour Artists, is the Western Arrernte language (C8). The location for this story is (NT SF53-13). These alphanumeric codes are provided by AUSTLANG, developed by the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS). AUSTLANG uses alphanumeric codes to identify both language and place. These relate to a map available from AIATSIS either in hard copy or through their website’s online map. The title Wulungarra Stories in Walmajarri and English identifies this story’s language as English, Walmajarri/Walmatjarri language (A66) (WA SE51-16) and its location as Western Australia (WA). Many of the 300-plus books in the Resource identify both location and language. To find other books relating to place and people, the subject filter includes these in an alphabetical list.
The Subjects search filter is a drop-down menu, which offers a simple way to find subjects of interest. Concentrating on the curriculum area studied in Year 6 HASS — History, several subjects are repeated in these 19 books, usually with different
Below are just a few of the subjects included in this modest collection of 19 books: agriculture, aquaculture, biographies, children as artists, children as authors, colonisation, injustice, livestock, outlaws, Papunya (South Central NT), and Warlpiri people (C15) (NT SF52-04). Should a subject be of particular interest, other books with this same subject can be located through the Subject filter’s drop-down menu.
Sometimes the subjects are broad. For example, ‘Social life and customs’ is a broad subject listed for a few of the Year 6 HASS — History books.
Searching this subject throughout the entire Resource retrieves 28 books. This broader subject may retrieve a collection of books which a teacher or teacher librarian wishes to explore further.
Two other interesting subjects featuring in the Year 6 HASS — History curriculum books include: children as artists (31 books) and children as authors (30 books). These offer the possibility of retrieving books that feature children as creators. Considering Year 6 HASS — History curriculum, these books offer children as writers and illustrators along with their interpretations of history in such books as Papunya School Book of Country and History and The Aboriginal Children’s History of Australia.
Young children are able to more easily understand history, time periods and adults’ life experiences by reading biographical works such as Kicking Goals with Goodsey and Magic and Pilawuk: When I Was Young. Autobiographical books serve a similar purpose with books such as Tucker and The Shack That Dad Built. Reading and studying these books enables young people to experience the lives of others in different times and places.
Invariably there are young people fascinated by the meaning of words, including those in different languages and details of specific environments. The HASS — History collection includes two examples. One is a dictionary of words and phrases, Nganga: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Words and Phrases and the second example is a picture book, Walking with the Seasons in Kakadu that identifies the Aboriginal seasons, plants and animals in this particular location. Another book, Wulungarra Stories in Walmajarri and English, is bilingual, with both Walmajarri and English featured along with 14 short stories about life in the Kadinina Community.
SEARCHING FOR HISTORICAL SUBJECTS
This particular Australian Curriculum code suggests historical events and documents will form the basis for some of the stories. These can be retrieved
through the Subjects drop-down menu. For example, words reflecting specific historical times and documents occur as subjects in this particular collection of books:
Aboriginal Australian soldiers Alfred’s War
Colonisation Old Tucker Man
Wik Judgement My Place
Stolen generation Nyuntu Ninti (What You Should Know) and Pilawuk: When I Was Young
SEARCHING BY FREE TEXT
At the top of the web page, there is a long search bar. The words inside say Search by Title and Annotation. Entering words in this search bar will pick up words located anywhere in the books’ annotations. For example, words about artistic style and media, writing styles, and genres may appear in the annotation but not in the subjects. Checking the annotations of several of these books featuring Year 6 HASS — History curriculum, the following words can be retrieved in the Search by Title and Annotation: naïve style, maps, photographs, song, rhyme and allegory. This is a small sample, but it is an indication of wide-ranging topics available in the Resource. Topics such as these may capture the child’s imagination as well as extend the curriculum being studied.
EXPLORING TEACHING AND OTHER RESOURCES
Each book includes a range of external hyperlinks that offer teaching and other resources, usually four or more, to explore each book. These are extraordinarily diverse. These links explore different aspects of each book, enhance understanding of the content and, most importantly, many are highly engaging and can be used in the classroom or at home. Sources vary widely and include newspaper and magazine articles, YouTube, oral history, animations, artworks, musical presentations, dance, educational activities and other enriching experiences intended to extend the books in multiple ways. These reach children with different interests and abilities. Some of these resources are aimed at adults to inform them or for the adult to interpret for the child.
Listed below are some of the types of resources available.
Musical and play productions
Readings and performances of the books
Curriculum plans and activities
Extension activities featuring art, music, dance, writing and other creative activities
Films, videos and recordings
Information, visual and written, about place and communities
Take Bruce Pascoe’s Young Dark Emu as an example. The types of resources for this book include:
a Guardian newspaper article outlining ways to use this book with young people;
an ABC program featuring a digibook, with short clips prompting students to consider the relationship between Indigenous people and the land around them;
a question and answer session with Bruce Pascoe; and
a teachers’ guide featuring learning activities linked to the Australian Curriculum.
Resources such as these extend the book, inspire young people and encourage an inquiring mind.
Teaching and learning is a collegial activity which involves sharing resources with friends and colleagues. The Resource is designed for sharing ‘favourites’. Located at the top right of each web page there is a Login/Register button. By completing the required details, you are then able to ‘choose’ books which are your ‘favourites’, compile these as a list and send them via a hyperlink to a friend or colleague who then can download these details. You can also share your favourites on the usual social media platforms. This sharing facility ensures that the Resource reaches people far and wide, easily and quickly.
Most importantly, these books offer stories by and about Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Peoples. Interweaving stories and history: these deepen our respect and understanding of each other.
The Resource is a database of children’s books aimed at young people from birth through 12 years of age. For this article, the curriculum area Year 6 HASS — History is used to demonstrate the rich potential of the Resource created by the NCACL. Exploring even this small collection of 19 books demonstrates that the Resource offers wide-ranging topics and stories, with the potential to reach children with various interests and abilities. There are innumerable types of stories, some told in Aboriginal languages, many located in specific communities, many written in different styles and illustrated with wide-ranging artistic media. The choice is wide. Most importantly, these books offer stories by and about Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Peoples. Interweaving stories and history: these deepen our respect and understanding of each other.
Abdulla, Ian 2014, Tucker, Omnibus Books, Norwood, SA.
The Aboriginal Children’s History of Australia, 1977, Rigby in association with Island Heritage.
Austin, Debbie (as told to her by her uncle, Banjo Clarke), Old Tucker Man, One Day Hill, Camberwell East, Vic.
Bin Salleh, Rachel 2018, Alfred’s War, illus Samantha Fry, Magabala Books, Broome, WA.
Brian, Janeen 1996, Pilawuk: When I Was Young, Era Publications, Flinders Park, SA.
Freeman, Pamela 2018, Amazing Australian Women: Twelve Women Who Shaped History, illus Sophie Beer, Lothian Children’s Books, Hachette Australia.
Greenwood, Mark 2013, Jandamara, illus Terry Denton, Allen & Unwin, Crows Nest, NSW.
Heiss, Anita, Goodes Adam & O’Loughlin Michael 2016, Kicking Goals with Goodesy and Magic, Piccolo Nero, Carlton, Vic.
Kamholtz, Damien 2006, Albert: Albert Namatjira and the Hermannsburg Watercolour Artists, illus by children, Openbook Australia, Adelaide, SA.
Laurel, Yangkana (Madeline) 1999, Wulungarra Stories in Walmajarri and English, Kadjina Community, Fitzroy Crossing, WA.
Lowe, Pat 2000, Yinti, Desert Cowboy, illus Jimmy Pike, Magabala Books, Broome, WA.
Lucas, Diane 2005, Walking with the Seasons in Kakadu, illus Ken Searle, Allen & Unwin, Crows Nest, NSW.
Muir, Aunty Joy & Lawson Sue 2018, Nganga: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Words and Phrases, Black Dog Books/Walker Books Australia, Newtown, NSW.
Nawili, Rak & others, 1995, Rak Nawili, Board of Studies NSW, North Sydney, NSW.
Papunya School & Nadia Wheatley 2001, Papunya School Book of Country and History, illus Papunya School and Ken Searle, Allen & Unwin, Crows Nest, NSW.
Pascoe, Bruce 2019, Young Dark Emu: A Truer History, Magabala Books, Broome, WA.
Randall, Bob & Hogan Melanie 2011, Nyuntu Ninti (What You Should Know), ABC Books, Sydney, NSW.
Russell, Elaine 2004, The Shack That Dad Built, Little Hare Books, Surry Hills, NSW.
Wheatley, Nadia 2018, My Place, illus Donna Rawlins, Walker Books Australia, Newtown, NSW.
This article was first published in ACCESS, Vol. 34, No. 4, November 2020. Reproduced here with permission. ACCESS is the professional journal of the Australian School Library Association Inc. (ASLA).
The Australian Publishers Association’s Alex Christopher talks to Cengage publisher, Simone Calderwood, to learn more about the landmark series Our Land, Our Stories, how it was developed and its reception in the classroom.
Perspectives from Australian Indigenous peoples on topics such as the Stolen Generations, the Frontier Wars and racial stereotyping are now available to be experienced in primary school classrooms across the country through a new resource — developed in partnership with Nelson Cengage and the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS). The resource, titled Our Land, Our Stories, features contributions from leading Indigenous writers such as Bruce Pascoe and Lisa Fuller and incorporates stories written by children and their families from communities across Australia.
“Our Land, Our Stories is a whole-school, primary school series that explores Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, histories and cultures. It includes rare and historically important photographs, artwork and audio-visual resources from AIATSIS’s vast collection. It comprises three sets of resources for lower, middle and upper primary. All components link explicitly to the Australian Curriculum and the Cross-Curriculum priority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and histories and more specifically, to Country/Place, Culture and Peoples.
“The series components include: three teacher resource books, nine big books and 45 cards for each stage of lower, middle and upper primary. QR codes are included and these enable both students and educators to watch videos, see photographs and most importantly, hear language that further extends students’ understanding of a specific topic. Each teacher resource book also includes a copy of The Little Red Yellow Black book written by Bruce Pascoe and AIATSIS.
“Our Land, Our Stories was in development for about three and a half years and the idea for the series came about through AIATSIS reaching out to Nelson Cengage as they wanted to have a visible presence in the primary educational space. Nelson Cengage were thrilled to work in partnership with AIATSIS as we knew that this government organisation is the caretaker of an amazing database of significant photographs, artworks and audio visual materials that we could include in the series. We also knew that the partnership with AIATSIS would also lend authenticity to the series as they were involved in every element of its production, checking every work for accuracy and ensuring that the content was culturally appropriate and persons depicted were represented accurately.
“We wanted to create a resource that aligned with the Australian Curriculum but also enabled educators to see how the cross-curriculum priority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures could be applied to every learning area in the Australian Curriculum, not just Humanities and Social Sciences. The intention of the series is to represent the voices of First Nations peoples from all across Australia, from remote, regional and urban areas, to celebrate contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and address prevailing misconceptions.
The resource is aimed at both Indigenous and non-indigenous students – for indigenous students, they can read these books and cards and see themselves reflected in the stories. For non-indigenous students, it is an opportunity for them to read about the importance of Country and cultures to First Nations peoples and to find out about the significant achievements and contributions of many Indigenous people. The teacher’s books empower educators to teach about First Nations peoples, cultures and histories with confidence and throughout the teacher’s books, the various protocols and discussion points are outlined and explored. And we haven’t shied away from those topics at the upper primary level that some educators may wish to explore with students but may not know how to do so – the books and cards look at our history from an Indigenous perspective and explore many sensitive topics.
“The writing process was an interesting one! As the publisher, I really wanted to ensure that we had a vast range of authors from all over Australia as traditionally many resources such as this have tended to focus on stories from peoples from the Northern Territory – but I wanted this series to be broader. For the lower primary big book stories, we commissioned three children and their families to write the stories and these three children come from very different places. Josie and her family are from Thursday Island in the Torres Strait and myself and an AIATSIS photographer, spent a week with Josie and her family. We then travelled to a remote area in Western Australia to Yilka Country to hear Orlando’s story and finally we travelled to the Sunshine Coast and spent time with Shae and her community to hear her story.
“I also reached out to a number of different writers around the country and was thrilled that writers such as Bruce Pascoe, Professor Gary Foley, Shelley Ware, Lisa Fuller, Elder Carolyn Briggs, Professor John Maynard. Nayuka Gorrie and so many more were able to contribute to the series.
“Our Land, Our Stories has now been available for about a year and educators have embraced it wholeheartedly and often exclaim that there is nothing like it in the educational marketplace. It has been very successful as educators realise the many ways that it can be used in the classroom and the components can be used from lower to upper primary, even in secondary school classrooms.
“I feel immensely proud to have been part of this series as I truly believe it has the potential to change how people think about our history. It also enables students to understand that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are diverse, rich and multi-faceted. “The winning of the two EPAA awards was a wonderful acknowledgment of Our Land, Our Stories by the Australian Educational Publishing Industry!”
Organised by the Australian Publishers Association (APA), the prestigious annual Educational Publishing Awards reward excellence and innovation in the industry. The event offers colleagues and industry professionals the opportunity to network and celebrate achievements. Awards are judged by a panel of peers, and each year teachers and booksellers vote for the coveted Publisher of the Year award.
Kiwi kids love animals and this year the SPCA Reading Challenge brings together books and creatures in a fun summer competition. Melissa Wastney, Read NZ Te Pou Muramura, introduces New Zealand school libraries to the SPCA Reading Challenge.
Read NZ Te Pou Muramura (formerly NZ Book Council) has joined forces with SPCA to get kids reading more books over the holidays.
The SPCA Reading Challenge is an interactive website. Children aged 5 and up are invited to register for free and choose an animal team to ‘play’ for. Players log the books they read over the summer, along with a star rating and short review. A leader board keeps track of the teams as they move up and down the rankings accordingly.
Launching on December 14, the SPCA Reading Challenge will run until January 22.
The initiative follows two previous competitions – the Super Smash Reading Challenge in 2019, which teamed T20 cricket and books, and the Stay Home Book Club which ran over the national lockdown period in 2020.
Guided by children’s feedback, the SPCA Reading Challenge features an improved book logging system and teams arranged by age groups.
Paper Plus gift cards are up for grabs every day of the competition. There are lots of books to be won too, thanks to the support of Wellington publisher Gecko Press. To win a specially-curated bundle of books about animals, children can send in a picture of themselves reading to a pet, farm, or wildlife animal, or even a stuffed animal friend. The top readers in each team will also win Paper Plus gift cards at the end of the competition.
Read NZ Te Pou Muramura CEO Juliet Blyth says the reading challenge is a fun new way to address the well-documented ‘summer slide’ in learning over the holidays.
“We’re so excited to be running the Reading Challenge again this summer. We want more children to read more, to experience the joy of reading and hopefully encourage other whānau members to pick up a book too,” she says.
“Research tells us over and over again that reading for pleasure is the single most important factor in a child’s educational success, and our competition is a great way to support reading over summer so that when children return to school in the new year, their learning hasn’t suffered as a result of the long break.”
“At Read NZ we think it’s really important that children find reading fun, and our partnerships with the SPCA, Paper Plus and Gecko provide plenty of opportunities to read and learn about animal welfare and win cool prizes.”
SPCA National Education Manager Nicole Peddie welcomes the initiative and says SPCA feel fortunate to be involved in the exciting challenge for Kiwi kids.
“With the right books summer reading can be a fun and enjoyable activity for children to sustain the reading levels they’ve worked so hard to achieve over the school year and we think animals, be them companion, farmed, wild, even prehistoric or mythical, are a cool topic to read about!”
“Animals are not only interesting to read about, but they also make wonderful, supportive reading buddies. We know that practice makes perfect. However, many children dislike reading aloud in front of their classmates, even their family sometimes. However, an animal companion won’t judge a child’s mistakes and will calmly listen to and enjoy their company.”
“As such, practising reading with an animal companion, even a toy version, can help children associate reading with pleasure. When reading becomes enjoyable, children are likely to do it more often, improving both their skill and confidence along the way. Plus, most animals enjoy this calm and relaxing interaction too,” says Nicole.
Read NZ is grateful for the generous support of Paper Plus and Gecko Press for the prizes on offer.