The heart of a school is the library, and when schools invest in dedicated library staff, literacy flourishes.
Last week, I saw the difference that great librarians make, not just in fostering a love of literacy, but also in the well-being of a whole school community. Colleen Wright and her enthusiastic library team at Bunbury Catholic College go above and beyond to make their library an exciting, safe and welcoming space. And not just for students. They love welcoming authors and illustrators.
Visiting the BCC library feels like being a rock star. There are giant book cover posters and cleverly curated displays extending the themes, character details, and setting of stories. The last time I was there, the team built a huge lighthouse – with a working light!
This time my visit focused on The Dog with Seven Names, a novel the Year Eight students are reading. This wartime story, set in the Pilbara, is told anthropomorphically through the eyes of a small dog, separated from its owner. During the novel, it’s given seven different names; Princess, Dog, Flynn, Engel, Pooch, Genji, and Florence. Colleen’s library team created an amazing display for each. Some are shown below.
Other library displays included dogs in literature and information about anthropomorphism. There were dress-up your dog images for students to contribute to, student-made newspaper articles based on events in the story, a brilliant ‘make an alternative cover’ activity, and a competition to guess which dog belongs to which teacher. I’ll post more about these great extension ideas soon.
As if all this wasn’t enough, we had a morning tea with students who’d read a certain number of books, and one of the students, Jess, crafted a beautiful necklace for me. It’s based on the cover image with a small dog and a separate aeroplane tag. I Iove it.
Thank you Bunbury Catholic College for a fabulous visit and for all the great things you do to inspire a love of reading in your students. You are literacy superstars.
Dogs and Reading are two things I love. The fantastic Story Dogs program combines both. Story Dogs help young readers at risk. Their mission is: To make reading fun for children, so they become confident lifelong readers. When children read to a dog, the outcomes are amazing! How wonderful that the non-judgemental nature of dogs can help make this magic happen.
The Story Dogs’ mantra that No child should be left behind in literacy has always resonated deeply with me. I’ve wanted to sign up with Harry for years, but volunteers need to turn up every week. Even in Covid times, I travel a lot for work, so I’m excited to announce that I am now the proud sponsor of … Buttercup and Sally.
Sally and beautiful Buttercup will be visiting the Year Two class at Parklands School in Albany every Tuesday. Part of the sponsorship funds Buttercup’s bright orange jacket and I was invited to forward a logo. I didn’t have a logo, so have adapted an image from my other website, Animals who Talk. Seeing it on Buttercup as she moved between young readers last week was the most wonderful feeling.
Story Dogs say that when children read in a non-judgemental setting, the children’s focus improves, their literacy skills increase and their confidence soars. The accepting, loving nature of dogs gives this program its magic and helps children relax, open up, try harder and have fun while reading to a friendly, calm dog.
I’m so proud to be a Story Dogs sponsor. Maybe you’d like to get involved as well …
Thank you Jen McRae, Kathryn Le Gay Brereton, Joanna Thiel, Sally Thomas, Carly Talbot, and Buttercup for your wonderful facilitating.
The school year is winding up. Library, school and conference visits are mostly completed, and even in Albany the days are warming. It’s now the season for intensive writing time at my desk.
First up, I’ve returned to a long ago YA novel called Shadows Walking. I began this story in 2002 (I know). Shadows Walking is set in wartime Papua New Guinea and current time California/Australia. I’ve had to mega-edit the latter! The book was optioned for publication long ago but that lapsed and by then I was busy with Lighthouse Girland then the others in the ‘Light’ series as well as PhD research and linked novels …
Re-reading the old manuscript has been interesting, wondering whether it’s worth putting in the months of effort needed to tighten and reshape the story. I’ve decided yes, and so far I’ve removed some characters, lowered the age of my central character as well as done some serious slash and burn editing. The good news is that I can see that I’ve improved in my craft over the past fifteen years.
Since 2002, when I walked the Kokoda Track to research this story, another Kokoda linked title has been published. Photographs in the Mud (2005) shares similar themes to Shadows Walking and in some ways is a crystallisation of the longer novel, but only in some ways. Returning to the novel is timely; this year I’ve been honoured by people approaching me at conferences and schools to say how much they enjoy Photographs in the Mud. It was my first picture book (not one for young children) and I’m grateful that in these days of books going out of print so quickly, Fremantle Press have kept this one. Hurrah for them. Another fun part of returning to Shadows Walking is revisiting photos from the trek. Here is a collage. I look so much younger.
I’m hoping to complete my through-edit soon. Then I have a list of other projects I’d like to start, none of which involve war!
The West Australian Young Readers WAYRBA have announced their three shortlists and I’m thrilled that The Shark Calleris included amongst the 16 titles in the 2016 Older Readers’ category. I’m in good company; the list features six international books, nine from Australia and one fellow West Australian title; Norm Jorgensen’s fun The Smuggler’s Curse. There are also lists for Younger Readers and Picture Books with terrific Australian titles on both.
Being shortlisted for a children’s choice award is a wonderful thing. Committed teachers and librarians make up many judging panels, but when the power to choose is handed over to kids it makes being selected such an honour. Young readers make honest critics. As part of the judging process they’re asked to read titles on the lists and evaluate them as ‘terrific’, ‘good’, ‘okay’ or ‘awful.’ Fingers crossed that my ‘Shark’ doesn’t receive too many of the latter!
For WA creators there are still challenges involved in bringing a book to the attention of readers – there are so many other great books from interstate and overseas. The annual WAYRBA lists help ensure that Australian settings such as ‘Abalone Cove’ (Greens Pool) and Broome, which appear in The Shark Caller, reach a wider readership. Thank you to the organising committee for their hard work behind the scenes and teachers, please help your students access the WAYRBA titles, encourage them to vote – and to be gentle with the ‘awful’ slips…
Just a very quick post to share this photo of Bunbury Primary School’s entry statement sculpture.
Dianne with south-west librarians Catherine Richards and Marina Harris
What a fabulous way to greet visitors; with someone enjoying a book. And what a powerful statement about the value of literacy. On my way to the school library I saw boxes of fun dress-ups in the school yard for lunchtime imaginings. Children went about their games in colourful, frilly and funny outfits.
So simple, so brilliant!
Thank you to the librarians at Bunbury and Capel Libraries for organising my visit.