Thursday, 3 August 2017

Some fabulous picture books

SloughIt was lovely to see this girl immersed in her picture book during a library visit last week. And what a fantastic time it is for picture books. These have particularly delighted, impressed, moved and/or intrigued me in recent months. (Not all are new, just newish discoveries for me.)

A Lion in Paris by Beatrice Alamagna
Quiet by Katie Alizadeh
Sam and Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen
Welcome by Barroux
Ada Twist Scientist by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts
The Fox and the Star by Coralie Bickford-Smith
Baking with Dad by Aurora Cacciapuoti
The Cloud by Hannah Cumming
King of the Sky by Nicola Davies and Laura Carlin
The Pond by Nicola Davies and Cathy Fisher
If I Had a Dinosaur by Gabby Dawnay and Alex Barrow
The Day the Crayons Came Home by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers
I am Henry Finch by Alexis Deacon and Vivianne Schwarz
The Knight Who Wouldn’t Fight by Helen Docherty and Thomas Docherty
The Everywhere Bear by Julia Donaldson and Rebecca Cobb
The Boy Who Lost His Bumble by Trudi Esberger
A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston
Here I Am by Patti Kim and Sonia Sánchez
15 Things Not to Do with a Granny by Margaret McAllister and Holly Sterling
Zeki Can Swim by Anna McQuinn and Ruth Hearson
The Bear and the Piano by David Litchfield
My Name is Not Refugee by Kate Milner
One Cheetah One Cherry by Jackie Morris
Ossiri and the Bala Mengro by Katharine Quarmby and Richard O’Neill
The Journey by Francesca Sanna
Mi and Museum City by Linda Sarah
How to Find Gold by Viviane Schwarz
A Rainbow in My Pocket by Ali Seidabadi and Hoda Haddadi
Grandpa Green by Lane Smith
How to Hide a Lion at School by Helen Stephens
There’s a Tiger in the Garden by Lizzie Stewart
Sun by Sam Usher

Friday, 7 July 2017

School libraries and librarians and their importance

new milton bus

This is the fabulous library at New Milton Primary School.

I believe passionately in the value of school libraries and librarians. In the last couple of years a number of schools have made their librarians redundant, a truly shocking act that will have long-term consequences for children’s reading and wider learning. Budgets for libraries have diminished drastically in all too many schools, again something that will have a big negative effect.

Last week saw the publication of a valuable literature review of school libraries, exploring current provision in the UK and evidence of school library impact. It demonstrates clearly the benefits of an effective school library and librarian in relation to reading skills and enjoyment; wider attainment; attitudes to learning; resilience; independence; self-esteem. There is a useful run-down of the elements of good school libraries. (Librarians come top of the list.)

For those who haven’t seen it, this is an excellent outline of the role of the school librarian by Alison Tarrant, School Librarian of the Year 2016.

On Principals Know: School Librarians are the Heart of the School several US school principals talk about the importance of school libraries and librarians.

Here is author Cathy Cassidy on the transformative impact of school libraries and school librarians: ‘Where there is a school library – and that mythical, magical creature, a school librarian – there is hope .…. School libraries are awesome. They are a refuge for the lost, the lonely; a haven for the bookworm; a hotbed of creativity, revolution and adventure. School libraries often contain book clubs and cake and laughter, as well as shelf after shelf of brilliant stories, dreams, other worlds. They teach young people how to find their wings and fly, and without them we’d be lost.’

There are links to more articles and reports on my previous blogs on school libraries.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

A round-up of recent news and articles about children’s and young people’s reading

manchester girl readingI’ve always loved the Reading Girl statue by Giovanni Ciniselli in Manchester Central Library. The perfect illustration for my latest haul of children’s reading news.

The National Literacy Trust’s important annual literacy survey has just been published. Great to see that rates of reading for pleasure continue to rise. Sadly, though, 40% of 8-18 year-olds enjoy reading little or not at all, with significantly more boys than girls in this camp, far more secondary age students than key stage 2 pupils, and more pupils from white ethnic backgrounds than other ethnic backgrounds. Pupils who enjoy reading were found, not surprisingly, to spend more time reading, to read more widely, to have higher reading scores and better comprehension.

Reading with children starting in infancy gives lasting literacy boost. Shared book-reading that begins soon after birth may translate into higher language and vocabulary skills before elementary school, according to US research.

Children’s reading improves if parents have positive views about their potential and are given ways to support reading effectively at home. A new survey shows big benefits to funding parental support for reading, especially for boys.

There are lots of excellent tips for raising a reader from the New York Times.

Do listen to Dr Vivienne Smith talking about why reading is important, not least for empathy and mental health.

Author and former teacher Jo Cotterill has great ideas for developing reading for pleasure. I also recommend this Scottish Book Trust blog on the subject.

A tweet by year 5 teacher Lauren Butterworth demonstrates how important it is to model reading behaviour: ‘The biggest influence on reading for pleasure in my class has been me reading – the kids love asking me questions.’

‘The essential components of a KS2 reading scheme’ is full of valuable pointers. The final essential on the list? A teacher who loves reading.

One of my greatest joys at primary school was when teachers read to us, and I loved it especially when it happened outside. A recent article explores the value of taking reading lessons into the open air.

Many primary schools are moving away from the carousel guided reading model. For teachers looking for guidance on this ‘How I teach whole class reading’ is useful, as is ‘ How to switch to whole class guided reading’.

Boys’ reading attainment is frequently addressed. A recent article suggests that girls’ reading problems often fall beneath the radar.

An anonymous English teacher ponders on the implications of the lack of reading by English teachers. It’s well worth reading the comments too, and this response from another English teacher.

New research demonstrates that children’s learning and comprehension do not differ between printed and digital books. Comprehension is dependent on content, not medium.

‘Inappropriate content’ is a useful discussion between an author and a bookseller about why age banding children’s books is unhelpful.

Last but definitely not least, an inspiring animation from We Love Reading.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Entrepreneurs Tackling Illiteracy – Project Literacy Lab

project literacyThis is the august Royal Institution, venue for last week’s exciting Project Literacy Lab event, which I felt very privileged to attend.

Project Literacy is an international partnership between Unreasonable Group and Pearson which aims to eliminate global illiteracy by 2030, by helping entrepreneurs deliver successful rapid growth ventures. Given that over 758 million people, 10% of the world’s population, lack basic literacy, it’s an exceptionally ambitious target. A year on from its inception, Project Literacy already touches the lives of over 10 million people across 30 countries. The entrepreneurs’ brief TED-style presentations about their ventures were inspiring, with lots of moving stories. One that has stayed with me was of a grandfather engaged in an anti-recidivism project determined to learn to read so he could read to his granddaughter. Some of the initiatives develop children’s and/or adults’ literacy skills directly, in several cases through brilliant apps and other accessible technology. Mobile phones have a reach that was previously unimaginable. Other projects do not tackle illiteracy head on, but nevertheless have a major impact. By making solar lighting available in homes with no access to the electric grid, Angaza enables children to study after sunset. The affordable, reusable sanitary pads produced by AFRIpads mean girls no longer skip school or drop out due to lack of menstrual products.

Literacy is vital, for individuals and for societies. Nisha Ligon of Ubongo, a great educational entertainment programme, said ‘once children learn to read, they can read to learn’. Entrepreneur and Project Literacy co-founder Daniel Epstein spoke of the link between literacy and life expectancy. Lily Cole, Project Literacy’s amabassador, told us the rate of violent crime is double among illiterate people, and that literacy is key to combating radicalisation and AIDS. Infant mortality goes down 30% if mothers are literate.

An amazing afternoon.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Children’s books in translation

IBBYI was very lucky to attend the IBBY UK event on books in translation this week. Translator and children’s book expert Daniel Hahn chaired a fascinating panel discussion with Helen Wang, winner of the Marsh Award for Children’s Literature in Translation for her translation of Bronze and Sunflower by Cao Wenxaun; Joy Court, books editor of The School Librarian and co-editor with Daniel of Riveting Reads: A World of Books in Translation; and Sarah Ardizzone, whose renditions into English of a wide variety of French books have won many plaudits and prizes. (I made a very small contribution to the Riveting Reads book, championing Sarah’s superb translation of Alpha by Barroux.)

The panellists talked first about the importance of children’s books in translation. Without them children miss out. They miss out both on books that are culturally specific and books that are universal. Children need books that are windows, doors and mirrors, Joy said, quoting the famous words of Rudine Sims Bishop. Children have the right to be omnivorous, Sarah told us, paraphrasing her own translation of part of Daniel Pennac’s wonderful book The Rights of the Reader.

People often think of translated books as worthy, but thankfully most are not. They are just great reads. Thankfully too, the amount of books available is growing, though publishers rarely see a good financial return on them. Prizes for books in translation raise their profile and give translators the validation they deserve. Books in translation can now be nominated for the Carnegie and Greenaway awards which has increased their exposure. One, Wild Animals of the North by Dieter Braun and translated by Jen Calleja, reached the Greenaway shortlist this year. Hopefully the Riveting Reads publication will also build awareness of the wealth of fabulous titles that children can enjoy.

It was particularly interesting to hear about the role of the translator. Daniel described it as a mix of artistry, craft and creativity. Translators need to be editors. As Joy said, the literary quality of a translated book is all down to the skills of the translator. Translating the words is just the start of the process, Sarah explained. Helen spoke about the work involved – seven drafts to achieve something that reads well. All asserted in one way or another that the key is to be true to the spirit rather than the letter of the original text. Metaphors are apparently particularly tricky. We heard that it is crucial not to over-edit: not to produce a book that is beautiful to read but smoothes out the quirks of the original. The quirks can be what make a book, but translating them into the appropriate vernacular is an extremely hard task.

A great evening, full of insights, and very thought-provoking. Thank you IBBY!