Saturday, August 30, 2014

31st August International Bat Night

The 18th International Bat Night will take place this weekend. The last weekend in August has been set aside to celebrate bats since 1997. While people who live with bats in their neighbourhood may not be that enamoured of them there are good reasons to ensure their continued existence. Although this may be questioned since the linking in the news of fruit bats and the Ebola outbreak. While this is supposedly an International event, it appears to be about preserving colonies of European bats and Australian Bat Night is celebrated in March.

The children I teach are nearly as interested in bats as they are in sharks, maybe because they fly but aren't birds and maybe because they are fascinated with the way they hang upside down and use echolocation. Consequently the library has nearly as many bat books as shark books. Of course the most popular stories are the series by Brian Lies that started with Bats in the Library, Janell Cannon's Stellaluna  for which we have toys or puppets, Jeanne Willis' Daft Bat and the very old Robert Dickins' Boris the Bat, but many of the non-fiction readers are just as popular. Nicola Davies' Bat Loves the Night, one of the Nature Storybooks series is one of my favourites. Below are the most popular titles.

Monday, August 25, 2014

24th August Ruth Park (1917 - 2010)

Today would have been the birthday of New Zealand born Australian author Ruth Park who wrote for both children and  adults. But I was pleased to learn on her website that she wanted to write more for children as she saw that as a challenge. She is well known for the children's classics The Muddle-Headed Wombat  and Playing Beatie Bow. My clientele cannot read either of these independently yet so they are more likely to meet Ruth, reading When the Wind Changed; The Gigantic Balloon or The Big Brass Key which are in the library.

When I first started teaching every child knew and talked about When the Wind Changed. Now the students I teach have parents who don't want their children reading this book because 'it has a gun in it'. The world has changed. In some ways my students are very connected to the world because of technology, yet because they are not allowed to or do not watch the news, there is much less conversation about national or international news, what is happening in their community or other communities within their city. Their general knowledge, vocabulary and knowledge of idiom and proverbs has diminished. They haven't heard the saying about being careful not to pull a face in case the wind changes and it stays like that. Thus, I'm always in a read or not to read?  Old books that are part of Australian children's literature deserve to be read, even if they need to scaffolded by their historical setting. Recently I did this with Junko Morimoto's Kojuro and the Bears, another story 'with guns' and I was amazed by the discussion that followed.

Ruth Park will also be remembered as the mother of other Australian Children's literature stalwarts, Kilmeny and Deborah Niland.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

21st August Book Week Part 4

Another Book Week initiative that has been a big success is the the wide reading contract that we handed out at the beginning of term. Many of the students had completed the Premier's Reading Challenge,  then read another thirty books so that they could have lunch with the principal in the 'secret garden', so many of them were looking for a new directive. This grid directed their reading for pleasure. Many parents used it as a guide when borrowing from the library too. We had a large bin of textless books, another of picture book biographies, and yet another of graphic novels and toon books which made it easy to locate the books. As each activity was completed the box was coloured in or crossed off. When completed the students brought their grid and a photo of themselves reading to the library for a small reward (a goody bag with eg. a bookmark, sticker, rubber and badge). The photos are on display pegged onto ribbons in the library. The students in extension literacy classes had to do it and record on the back the titles of some of the books they read for certain categories. Many teachers and parents commented on how it made students vary what they read and look at things they may never usually contemplate reading.





in the car

to Mum

a non-fiction book

a book that became a movie


a book with a blue cover

with a friend, a book they recommend

A wordless book

in the dark with a torch

a book with chapters

in the kitchen

a book with your name in it

a book that won an award the year you were born

at the library

something on a Kindle, computer or iPad

in your pyjamas

listen to a story

a book based on a true story or a biography

some riddles or jokes

a book published this year

some poetry

with Dad

a comic, toon book or graphic novel

a book from a series
Return completed grid to the library with a photo of you reading from one of the boxes.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

20th August Book Week Connect to Reading Part 3

I didn't purchase all of the Eve Pownall shortlisted books because many weren't easily accessible to children under eight years. So it was hard to go past Jeremy which my students loved. I had read this to them long before it made any shortlist and when I was making up my Clayton's shortlist for the CBC Sydney event in April I told the audience that Jeremy was the most borrowed 2013 Australian picture book in my library so something in this book certainly connects to its audience and my clientele.

Once it made the shortlist we read it again. The children all had kookaburra stories to share. They live in homes with trees and verandahs. This lead to possum stories too. And then we looked at who was telling the story and whether or not it was true. We used Greg Reid's Kookaburras  book from Macmillan's Australian animals series to see if the time framework for Jeremy's growth was compatible with the lifecycle of a baby kookaburra. We read the kookaburra facts on the endpapers as well. The students decided it most definitely could be true. They especially liked that they found out that female kookaburras can have two or three chicks at a time so the chicks that he flies off with could well be siblings.

Next we read Possums in the Roof , a very old book by Julie Morris which is also a story based on real events and looked at the connections between it and Jeremy. Here mother possum has twin babies who get caught under the tiles in a roof cavity. The boy who lives in the house discovers their existence and tries to save them with his father. The students listed many similarities or connections starting with the first person narration and the fact that this book says that it is true. These books were perfect for teaching connections and focussing students in on text-to-self and text-to-text connections.

 These two stories started requests for other true stories about animals so I went looking and was pleasantly surprised to find we actually have quite a few. See the titles on this pinterest page.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

19th August Book Week Connect to Reading Part 2

I shared the shortlist for the Picture Book with my four classes of Year 2 students. I agonised over whether to buy The Rules of Summer as I thought the illustrations were quite dark and the rules worded rather negatively and that I would need to do too much scaffolding to do it justice in one or two thirty minute library lessons. I thought I would wait and see if it won and then decide. Well it did win and I am still not sure what I want to do!

The other shortlisted books were fun to share and easy to use the connection theme with. We stared with King Pig  because the students all wanted to read it. They thought it would be funny and they 'love' Nick Bland books. We book talked it in pairs where the students had to focus on what made it funny and discuss whether or not it had a message or theme. They easily recognised the theme but were surprised that a humorous story could have a serious message. This prompted revisiting other books they knew such as Click Clack Moo Cows that Type  and Farmer Duck.

It also led effortlessly to The Windy Farm which also looked as if it would be humorous. Similarly here the students worked out that this was not only funny but had a deeper message. Two of the classes were currently studying the environment and were keen to talk about energy sources and how common wind energy was. This led naturally to the book Energy Island  by Allan Drummond which tells the story of Samso, a Danish island that is powered by wind energy.

I thought Toby the character in Parachute  may have been too young for my Year 2 students to relate to, but in their Book Talk pairs they quickly began to talk about fears and make connections to themselves. The subject of 'security blankets' arose and one class and I revisited Lisa Shanahan's Gordon's Got a Snookie in order to once again look at the connection between humour and serious themes. The other three classes talked more about overcoming fears and we used Sonya Hartnett's  Come Down Cat to make connections, both literally with cats and heights, but inferentially about how to and when to be brave.

And lastly,  Silver Buttons  which was my favourite and the easiest to get the students involved in. We talked about small increments of time and what could be done in them. We timed activities with stopwatches. We looked at what is 'momentous' and what is 'mundane' and argued the story events inclusion or not.  The Book Talk final discussion was to sum up the book in one word. I was amazed by how well the students did this. There was the obvious 'minute', but others were 'time', 'life', celebration', and 'importance'. I used At the Same Moment Around the World and Just a Second as either pre or post reading.

King Pig  and  Silver Buttons were the most popular of the books we read when the students voted.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

18th August Book Week Connecting to Reading Part 1

It is Children's Book Week in Australia and the theme 'Connect to Reading' has meant some very insightful reading has been happening in my library. My 5  to 8 year olds have been reading from the Early Childhood and the Picture Book shortlists. We have been connecting these titles to other older books that they may not have known too.

We haven't done any art or craft activities yet. I am saving the Reading to Connect activities for fun in the library this week when we will draw with rainbow pencils and paint with mud, as Ann James does in I'm a Dirty Dinosaur, try to draw a duck in a minute inspired by Silver Buttons and make plastic bag parachutes to float our teddies off the second floor down onto the playground.

So far though we have made text-to-text connections between the two lullabies on the Early Childhood shortlist Baby Bedtime and Kissed by the Moon. We played lullaby music and lay down on the mat as I read.

We read The Swap and connected it to Pat Hutchins 1985 classic The Very Worst Monster which is also about sibling rivalry and the need to get rid of a sibling.

We read Banjo and Ruby Red  and connected it with many books Year1 and I had read last term when we looking at chickens and foxes in picture books and talking about stereotypes. The children thought it reminded them of Albert and Lila,  a chicken and pig story where they help each other to outwit a fox and The Chicken Thief  because 'the hen and fox become good friends'. This connection also led to us reconnecting with Bear and Chook the good friends in Lisa Shanahan's award-winning books.

And although we live near the beach, the concept of grommet was very new to my students, so to read Granny Grommet and Me  we first looked at some surfing books and the news report about granny grommets. One of my students connected this story with Olivia Learns to Surf because in it Olivia is taught to surf by her grandmother. We quickly visited it, but the children were much more interested in talking about sea dragons so that is where we went, off exploring them. The book Seahorses and Seadragons led us to connections of all kinds especially once the students discovered from the maps that they could be found in the sea off Sydney. Next we read another Australian picture book Seadragon Sea  by Margaret Spurling.

The shortlisted Early Childhood books were well received by Kindergarten and Year 1 students, but The Swap  and Banjo and Ruby Red  were the most popular by far when we pretended to be judges and voted, so for once the judges agreed with the children which often isn't the case. It is a fitting tribute to Jan Ormerod to have her last book achieve such an award!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

5th August National Underwear Day

Who would have thought, a day to celebrate underwear! It is a great topic to celebrate in a Prep school library because it is a topic explored in a large number of children's picture books. When I type 'underwear' in my subject search for my library there are over forty books I can use to make a display, so that is just what I will do tomorrow. Of course there's all the Captain Underpants titles, with another one about to arrive very soon, all the Claire Freedman Aliens in Underpants series, and Todd Doodler's Bear in Underwear series, but there are many stand-alines too. It is interesting too, how many of these books are accompanied by a toy! Obviously they are sellers. Our latest toy is the elongated orange frog from New Zealand author Juliette MacIver's  The Frog Who Lost His Underpants. If you haven't read Sir Scallywag and the Golden Underpants do and share it with a class. It is fun!  

Here is just some of the titles in the library: