Tuesday, February 28, 2012

28th February Jan Berenstain

I'm not sure if this is an example of serendipity, but it is certainly a bit unnerving. In my library, series of picture books are kept in blue boxes on the bottom shelves. We do this because these are the most popular books in the library, there is a lot of them and if they are interfiled on the shelves, the shelves are always a mess. Today one of the kindergarten children had the box of Berenstain Bear books off the shelf so that she could browse through it to find the book she wanted. Later in the lesson I asked her to put it back on the shelf and she picked it up to do so and the bottom of the box gave way and all the books dropped onto the floor. She was devastated, but we picked them up and I assured her we could fix it or make a new box. Then later when I had a few minutes between classes I checked my email, to find that I had an email from the head of prep saying that Jan Berenstain had died. Certainly not good news, but given her age (88) and her immense body of work it was one way to be reminded of her presence in our library. In fact, so often it is one of her books that a child brings to me and saying, 'I can read this by myself'. It is the first book they have read by themselves and they are so excited that they want to read it to you. I never get sick of hearing Inside Outside Upside Down or He Bear She Bear because of the joy that goes with them and the excitement that comes with the creation of a new reader.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

22nd February Robert Baden-Powell (1857 - 1941)

Robert Baden -Powell, the founder of the scouting movement was born on this day a long time ago. I have had reason to think about scouts in the last week or so, as I am serialising Jill Tomlinson's The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark for Year 1 at the moment. I have read this very funny story about Plop, a baby barn owl many times before and it has never failed me, but this year I am noticing that I have needed to stop to explain more than usual. Why? Well I think it is because the children that I teach no longer have some of the experiences that the children in the story do. They have a bonfire in their backyard and their father lets of fireworks. Boy scouts have a campfire, play in the dark, sing camp songs and drink cocoa. The children I teach only get to see fireworks in a distant display. They have no close experience and they do not seem to know any scouts. There are several scout halls and scout packs in the vicinity, but their cohort are not among those who attend them. My son was a cub and then a scout and it provided him with a chance to excel, something he couldn't do at school and it does seem a shame that not as many children have the chance to experience the outdoors in this way. The picture book version of the book certainly helps to show the students what a scout looks like, and Paul Howard's coloured illustrations certainly add to the book, but the humour of the novel has gone so I still prefer to read it. Look for both versions and the Berenstain Bear series of books has many that feature scouts as well.

18th February International Asperger's Day

Today is International Asperger's Day, a day when organisations and communities promote an understanding of Asperger Syndrome. Asperger's is a condition on the Austism Spectrum and it is named after Hans Asperger, the physician who defined what it is and helped to have it recognised. The day is held on his birthday. In Australia Professor Tony Attwood is a strong advocate for children with Asperger's and he is always quick to explain that these children see the world differently not wrongly. There is an amazing film clip of Clay Marzo, a surfer on Youtube with Tony Attwood speaking about Asperger's throughout. And a good book to share with children, especially if you want to introduce the rest of a class to Asperger's in an effort to understand a classmate's behaviour then search out All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome by Kathy Hoopman. She has also written some short novels who have children with Asperger's as the main characters and are set in school.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

17th February

Today is Banjo Paterson's birthday so off I went to assembly this morning to talk about him. We had fun with Mulga Bill's Bicycle and I reminded the children that it was in fact Banjo Paterson who wrote Waltzing Matilda. We have two illustrated versions of this poem to choose from. The newer version done by Freya Blackwood even includes a CD with John Williamson singing. Freya does an amazing job at capturing the dry, drought-ridden rural Australia and her illustrations make explaining the vocabulary, such as 'billabong' and 'jumbuck' much easier.

Our school is taking part in the NSW Premier's Reading Challenge as we usually do, but this year we decided that because 2012 is the National Year of Reading we would try just that bit harder to increase the number of children who participate. So far so good. I am spruiking at assemblies. The principal and staff are taking part and writing down on their list every book they read to a class or to themselves. The principal has even written in the newsletter about books that she has read. So far she has written about The Little Refugee by Ahn Do and Bruce Whatley and Ziba Came by Boat by Liz Lofthouse and Robert Ingpen. She shows the children books that she has read or reads an excerpt to whet their appetites and then the children come rushing to the library to borrow them. Today she read the opening sentences of Stuck by Charlotte Calder so of course lots of children wanted to know what happened. The beginning of the school year has certainly started well reading-wise!