Collected thoughts

Author Talks

Only yesterday I was reading in our course content about author “visits” and talks via Skype and today this opportunity to be part of an online author talk with Jessica Townsend pops up.  A mass event like this definitely loses the intimate feel of a face to face visit, however I applaud Ms Townsend’s publishers for creating this event, which will hopefully include schools from across Australia, including schools that couldn’t normally afford an author visit.

Digital Literature

This has been all over my socials in the past few weeks – The New York Public Library have teamed up with ad agency Mother to release classic literature as animated Instagram stories.


In a re-run of last session, our reading is Joyce Valenza’s Revised Manifesto. Guys, I know it’s good but it’s also eight years old.  Is there nothing else inspiring out there?


It seems the content has been updated, but that update hasn’t made it to the mobile app yet (that I was using while on the train today).  So I have something new to tackle!

Doug Johnson’s Declaration of Student Rights to School Libraries.

In what ways can you provide students with access to a rich and diverse fiction collection to advocate their right to a school library?

Within the statements Johnson examines, what new challenges have you identified to develop your own expertise to improve the services the school library provides to students?

A fiction collection is vitally important to student learning.  Voluntary free reading, only possible if there are books and materials students want to read, would not survive without a fiction collection.  Voluntary free reading is a heavy predictor of reading ability and academic achievement – the more you read the better you read and the better you read the more you read.  Fiction can also breathe life into dull topics, abstract concepts or foreign times and places.  Fiction encourages empathy, imagination and creativity.  A school library collection without fiction would not be worth having.

As far as developing my own expertise goes, I have to realise that although I want to be really really good at this, I am coming to it as a newbie.  I don’t have much in the way of teaching experience.  So, while Johnson’s list seems easy, realistically, I’ve never tried. I’m not in a library.  I’m not even in a school or a classroom.  This list seems like it should be a given.  However, with declining library budgets, the constant refrain of a teacher librarian that they are given little time for library work (and spend most of their time providing RFF for teaching staff), and a LOT of students to get to know, it’s not going to be as easy as it sounds.


Johnson, D. (2018, August 10). BFTP: School libraries – a student right. Retrieved from

Excellence in Digital Literature: ADRIFT and Framed

In this course, I have struggled against to concept of digital literature.  The digital literature I’ve seen provides little improvement on a physical book save from the ability to increase font size and style for people with dyslexia or print disabilities (and occasionally a read aloud option).  Most digital literature is not interactive, or what interaction does exist is not meaningful and does not make an impact on the text.

I have come to realise that “early” exposure to excellent digital narratives has spoiled me for inferior offerings.  Many years ago I was involved in the playing, production and testing of text-based narrative games using ADRIFT software.  Items and people could be interacted with, however there was still as distinct storyline to be followed.  The fiction was truly interactive, and I was involved in that subculture over a decade ago.  ADRIFT specifically requires no programming experience, although some understanding of logic statements is essential for more complex narratives.  It is a platform where anyone can create a piece of interactive fiction and release it into the world.

However, my experience with interactive fiction is not limited to decades-old technologies.  Australian developer Loveshack Entertainment released Framed in 2016, an interactive comic style narrative.  This wordless narrative requires players to rearrange the cells of the comic to complete the storyline.  Sounds simple? It’s not! As the game progresses, the number of options increase, instead of swapping two or three cells, up to six cells are needed to be in the correct order to successfully complete the scene.  Some cells can be rotated and, later in the game, some cells need to be reused in order to succeed.  Framed 2 was released in 2017 and the complexity has increased.

Over the weekend I replayed Framed (having not touched it since I bought it on release in 2016 and played it through once then). My phone tells me it took a little over an hour and a half to complete.  I also purchased Framed 2, which increases the complexity and took me two hours to complete.  There are only two criticisms I have of the games.  First, is their age appropriateness.  While the noir style silhouetted characters don’t have a lot of detail, there is blood spilt, frequent smoking and frequent low-level violence that makes the game inappropriate for a younger crowd.  Younger players will likely find the game too frustrating anyway however it’s a shame that such a great digital narrative isn’t available too them.  The second criticism is the price.  Compared with most apps the $8AUD price tag is pretty hefty for a game that takes an hour and a half to two hours to play through.  However, if you compare it to the price of a movie ticket, or a book, it’s quite a reasonable price.

The work that has gone into producing Framed and Framed 2 is phenomenal.  It is an engaging, complex digital narrative.  Framed and Framed 2 are available on the iOS App Store and Google Play Store and are coming to Nintendo Switch.

Responding to Literature with Technology

Using technology to enhance responses to literature

When I think of technology, I think of computers, iPads, 3D printers etc, as is often suggested (Park, 2015).  However, technology does not need to be that complex.  Child (2018) suggests numerous ways technology was used to respond to literature and has included a variety of mediums, from iPads and computers to battery operated lights in pictures, play dough, and moving 3D models.

Curation is suggested as a strategy, however I feel the options for this are too limited for young students, and better suited to an older cohort, such as high school.  Book trailers may be something that could be done as a class in a younger age group but is also something that is better suited to older students who are more capable with digital technologies. The same goes for Google Lit Trips.

Gamification is given as an option for literature response.  I’m not really sure how that would work.  I don’t think that students playing a game is a response, and I don’t think game design (digital at least) is within the grasp of most students.  I understand the gamification incorporated into Inanimate Alice (Hovious, 2013), however that degree of complexity is not replicable by a single teacher – there is a team of programmers and designers behind Inanimate Alice!  On an analogue level, a choose your own adventure story would have a similar novelty and interactivity.Book cover: My Lady's Choosing

Coding activities are a possibility if the student cohort has experience with coding already.  The time involved in teaching students coding via the apps available to the school would take too long to warrant a coding activity to support literature response.  However, if students already have some coding experience and ability coding a simple program could be a possibility for a literature response activity.



Child, C. (2018). Literature and technolog y. Scan. 37. Retrieved from

Hovious, A. V. (2013, October 11). Exploring Inanimate Alice: A playful approach to literacy and learning . EdTech Digest. Retrieved from

Park, S. (2015, February 6). Taking student response digital. In International Literacy Association: Literacy daily. Retrieved from

Teaching and Promotion Strategies for Using Literature

A Whole School Literary Focus

Reading about Gravelly Hill Middle School’s Reading Culture reminded me of the article I read this morning on reading for pleasure by Andy Seed (2018). The key item that’s echoed across both articles is that the culture of reading has to come from the top – the school leadership need to be entirely onboard with it or it will not happen.  Regular, in-class time to read, where a teacher sets the example of reading, has immense lifelong benefits to students (Krashen, 2011).  Adults modelling reading encourages children to be readers.  Three of my five children are avid readers, and the two that aren’t are limited by their reading ability due to age (she’s 5) or disability (autism and intellectual disability) and both my husband and I are avid readers.

I found the concept of a whole-school read (Jewett, Wilson & Vanderberg, 2011) interesting, and would love to know more about how it worked – how they ensured students were up to a certain point in the book by the time the teacher had planned to cover certain content.  It certainly is one method of encouraging teachers across disciplines to collaborate, and I am intrigued by the middle school system there, in that a teacher might only teach seventh grade maths, unlike our mathematics teachers here who would most likely only teach maths, but would teach it across a variety of grades.

Classroom libraries aren’t a big thing at the moment in the schools that I have a relationship with so I found the requirement for the RVP for classrooms (Fisher & Frey, 2018) to have seven books per student, and school libraries to have twenty books per student quite interesting.  Daily book recommendations are also simple enough at an early primary level, but at an older level could become difficult for a teacher to keep up with.

Curriculum-based teaching

Reflect on your own and your professional colleagues’ knowledge of literature. Identify an occasion when you successfully connected a book with a child or group of students and how your knowledge of the book facilitated this process. Identify possible opportunities for a teacher librarian to respond to this research within the library and beyond to support teacher colleagues.

As a homeschooling parent, I had a good grasp of literature to support a wide range of curriculum outcomes, however there was never a requirement for the literature to be up to date.  Even when it was up to date, I haven’t homeschooled in four years now and so books that were relatively new then are five years old now.  I also have a wide range of ages in my own children (5-15) and so keeping up with all of their reading is difficult.  That said, I have gotten my 15yo to read The Darkest Minds series that I am also reading through, both my 15yo and my 10yo have read the Miss Peregrine series, as well as The Word Hunters by Nick Earls.  My 13yo son is very particular in what he reads and will read the same series dozens of times before moving on to something else (current obsession, Harry Potter).

Time in classrooms today is precious as the curriculum is full of more and more things a teacher is supposed to cover in a year.  It makes no sense to teach literature in isolation all the time.  There is good quality children’s literature to cover every aspect of the curriculum, although some subject areas can take more effort to find books on than others.  Lehman (2007) makes a good case for incorporating literature into every aspect of the curriculum.  There’s no reason you can’t point out punctuation or rhyme in a book you are reading for historical content.  Literature doesn’t not have to be taught in isolation.  I also appreciated the endnote about sensible use of basal readers if you are teaching somewhere that requires you to use them.

Careful selection of picture books can spark and inspire inquiry in the classroom (Murdoch, 2015).

Read Alouds

Reading aloud is an effective way to introduce a topic and engage students in thinking about the concepts (Braun, 2010), and is especially effective for including every student, regardless of ability (Robb, n.d.).

Responding to Literature

Reading aloud is almost a sacred cow in Early childhood education, and yet research shows that reading aloud can be detrimental to students’ reading ability if not selected and conducted well, and if overused (Lane & Wright, 2007).  They suggest three research-backed methods of reading aloud that enhance students’ learning – dialogic reading, text talk, and print referencing.  These methods, I believe, all have their place, depending on the focus of the lesson and the purpose of the book.  Print referencing is good for enhancing awareness of language conventions, spelling, and word prediction.  Text talk is useful for expanding vocabulary and dialogic reading is useful for introducing concepts, encouraging comprehension and making predictions.

Reading aloud picture books can introduce students to complex issues and deep ethical discussions in a much shorter time frame than engaging in a longer work such as a novel (Burkin, n.d.).  Kane (2018) provides a helpful list of strategies for teachers to ask better questions about the literature they are reading with their students to enhance learning and deep engagement.

Digital tools can be used for student response (Paul Hamilton, 2013), however I wonder about fair use and copyright issues with taking screenshots of purchased ebooks.  This is something I would need to investigate further.

Literature circles are an interesting concept however I am not investigating them deeply at this time because I don’t feel they are well suited to the age group and curriculum area I have chosen.


A CULTURE OF READING. (2010). Reading Today, 27(6), 38. Retrieved from

Burkins, J.  (n.d.). Breaking Barriers, Building Bridges: Critical Discussion of Social Issues. In readwritethink. Retrieved from

Braun, P. (2010).  Taking the time to read aloudScience Scope, 34(2), 45-49. Retrieved from

Fisher, D. & Frey, N. (2018). Raise reading volume through access, choice, discussion, and book talks. Reading Teacher, 72(1), 89-97. doi: 10.1002/trtr.1691

Jewett, P. C., Wilson, J. L. & Vanderburg, M.A. (2011). The unifying power of a whole school readJournal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 54(6), 415-424. doi:10.1598/JAAL.54.6.3

Kane, K. (2018, April 11). 23 teacher tips for asking better questions about books. In We are teachers. Retrieved from

Krashen, S. D. (2011). Free voluntary reading. Retrieved from

Lane, H. B. and Wright, T. L. (2007), Maximizing the effectiveness of reading aloud. The Reading Teacher, 60: 668-675. doi:10.1598/RT.60.7.7

Lehman, B. A. (2007). Skills instruction and children’s literature. In Children’s literature and learning : literacy study across the curriculum (pp. 43-56). New York, NY : Teachers College Press.

Murdoch, K. (2015, October 26). Inspiring inquiry through picture books [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Paul Hamilton. (2013, November 8). 5 effective reading response activities on the iPad [Video file]. Retrieved from

Robb, L. [n.d.].  Read alouds and differentiation: Introducing complicated issues. In Scholastic: Teachers. Retrieved from

Seed, A. (2018, Aug 30) A reading for pleasure manifesto. Retrieved from



Literacies and Learning

This module opens with comment on the changes in literacy in modern times, including the tendency to skim read rather than read deeply.  In the last 48 hours, The Guardian has published a piece about how modern readers skim, which doesn’t give their brain time to do the deep thinking they need.  That we aren’t reading deeply, using our critical faculties and we are going to lose them.

This is why I am so upset by the dumbing down of our course.  We aren’t given much to sink our teeth into.  There isn’t much that invites critical reflection.

Especially this module.  I feel like we are just rehashing old ground.  We covered literacy and multiliteracies in ETL401.  We covered critical thinking.  We’ve covered picture books for older children in a previous module.  And this reading isn’t building on our old work and deepening it.  It’s just more of the same banal fluff.

What evidence is there that the library supports transliteracy practices? What do you think could be done better?

My public library offers free wifi access, free computer access with basic word-processing and some limited use of the internet and paid computer use with full internet access.  They provide a free tech help-desk service every day where people who are having tech issues can have them solved by a librarian.  Outside of the library our community is well serviced with free computer classes for seniors, and the library has offered these also from time to time.

Literary Learning

So, apparently “literary learning” isn’t really a thing its just a term they made up for our course to differentiate it from literacy.  Literary learning just means learning through literature, which presupposes a degree of literacy for it to be effective.

Then, to illustrate “literary learning” we get to watch this inane video, set to Vivaldi’s Spring, that is a glorified slideshow showing covers of books, sorted into maths concepts.  The content would be more useful in a list form, for starters, and maybe something that some teachers may find useful, but its not an academic source.  The video isn’t even Australian and, in my experience, a lot of the books on recommended lists like this that come from America aren’t readily available in Australia.  The only use I can see for this video is perhaps “creative ways you can promote your own school’s collection to staff”. But that’s not what it’s in the module for.  Not to mention this video is now seven years old (and the other video we needed to watch is nine years old).

Literacy and Learning

In part two of a three part module we have three pre-internet definitions of literacy from 1979-1990.  When we finally get to a proper reading (that isn’t a slideshow or a video) its only available if you borrow the book from the uni library.  It’s not digitised.  We are covering critical literacy all over again.

Anstey & Bull (2006) provide a useful definition of multiliteracies from A. Luke & peabody (2000), describing flexibility and the need for continued learning to maintain mastery, they have ignored several elements of literacy, including context and community.  This is where Belshaw’s Elements of Digital Literacy (2014) does a better job of outlining the different aspects of literacy across contexts.

The Eight Essential Elements of Digital Literacies
The eight essential elements of digital literacies. Licenced under Creative Commons Zero licence (Belshaw, 2017). Retrieved from

The definition of a text as something consciously constructed is interesting and would have been useful in previous sessions’ discussions about the nature of information.  The list of semiotic systems: linguistic, visual, aural, gestural, and spatial is helpful to keep in mind when teaching multiliteracy.  We covered intertextuality when we looked at post-modern picture books but the additional information in this reading is useful for conceptualising what intertextuality really is.  Intertextuality simply means that a text is referring to other texts to enrich the readers’ experience.  One example is the movie Shrek which relies on solid knowledge of fairy tales and the conventions of fairy tales, such as a magic, transformative kiss, and an epic quest to slay the dragon.


Transliteracies in the Library

I have not taught (in a paid fashion) for a very long time.  Too long.  But reading about the things I need to teach, and they ways I can teach them through picture books (Anstey & Bull, 2006; Winch, et al., 2014) are making me excited about the prospect of teaching again.

Brueck (2014) talks about how we have nearly the sum total of human knowledge in the palm of our hand in the form of a smartphone with internet access.  However, this is not true.  Only a small percentage of the web is freely accessible.  A vast majority of the content on the web is paywalled.  Even on a publicly accessible website such as Wikipedia, less than half of the articles cited in wikipedia entries are open access, according to analysis done by the Wikimedia Foundation.   The vast majority of human knowledge is not accessible to the average person.  Just wanted to clear that up.

After viewing (Break, 2014), think about ways you could develop the understanding of teachers and students through collaboration and implementation in your library. Can you think of a possible application to support literary learning? Share your ideas in the Module 5 Discussion forum.

Understandings of what? I think that you’re sorely mistaken if you think that a majority of teachers think that everything is still linear.  I think the speaker is also forgetting that people in their late 30s grew up with computers and had the internet in their teens.  Perhaps he learned to read and write only from paper but that doesn’t go for everyone.  Even in my little corner of outer western Sydney, a high proportion of the staff at my local primary school have Masters degrees.  Teachers aren’t stupid.



Anstey, M., & Bull, G. (2006). Teaching and learning multiliteracies: Changing times, changing literacies . Newark, Del.: International Reading Association. 

Belshaw, D. (2014). The essential elements of digital literacies. Retrieved from <>

Brueck, J. [ideastream]. 2014, November 18). 2014  IDEA talk: Jermey Brueck – Developing transliteracy [Video file]. Retrieved from

Winch, G., Ross, J. R., March, P., Ljungdahl, L., & Holliday, M. (2014). Literacy: reading, writing and children’s literature. Retrieved from

Born Digital Literature

Hypertext Fiction

What year do you think this website was designed?

Continuing my rant about the dated course content is this delightful example of an academic course reading.  I understand that our current subject coordinator, Jennie Bales, is not responsible for updating the course so I know she is not to blame.  But this woefully outdated website is one of my academic readings for a masters level degree.  Even ignoring the dreadful site design, the content is out of date.  Even reading the first line of information “Hypertext fiction is found mostly online and in the form of CD Roms.” (Kozdras, 2010, para 1) shows you how out of date it is – modern computers don’t even come with a CD-ROM drive anymore.  Adding to this is the number of “error” and “404 not found” results I got when clicking on links from this page.  Every single link I clicked on was a dead link.  This is not an academic reading.  This is laziness.

Then we come to “reading” number 2.  Browsing in the “Electronic Literature Collection” that is older than any child in primary school today.  Everything on there that I clicked on either required Flash (which is still available but not supported by most browsers) or required downloading some other program to view it.

Inanimate Alice is painful in the first episode.  I’m told it gets better but I didn’t want to spend 15-30 mins viewing each episode 2-4 (beyond that they are paid only).

The content of these readings tells me that either our lecturers were incredibly lazy or hypertext fiction is a dying art that briefly flourished in the early noughts.  Whether hypertext fiction is a victim of the changes in technology or whether it’s just not really a thing anymore (and if it isn’t, why are we still covering it?)

Fan Fiction

Since we are talking about fan fiction, I thought I would share some crossover fan fiction that dropped into my twitter feed last week.

Fan Fiction 1 by @marauders4evr

Fan Fiction 2 by @marauders4evr

Fan Fiction 3 by @marauders4evr

Burns & Webber (2009) write about how teens’ attempts at writing fan fiction are dismissed as pointless, as they are not creating original characters and storylines, and that teachers push them towards original works.  This is the storyline (well a part of it) of Rainbow Rowell’s novel Fan Girl.  The protagonist, Cath, is a respected fan fiction writer, at least in her fan fiction community but faces opposition when she goes to college and enrols in a creative writing program.

The fact is, we are never writing from scratch.  We are not a tabula rasa.  Most women in fiction are based on one of three archetypes – virgin, mother or whore.  We use stereotypes all the time as a kind of shorthand.  We rely on our readers’ knowledge of pop culture or mythology or history to give them information about our character without having to spell it all out.  If you have a character who is into Star Trek and computer programming and wears glasses, you have a stereotypical geek.  When we write our stories we are drawing on our reader’s understandings of the world.  Is it that big a deal if the “world” in question isn’t our world but Hogwarts, or Middle Earth, or The Oasis, or the Land of Oz?

The readings for fan fiction are also dreadfully dated, with only one meeting the criteria of being written within the last five years. Online spaces change quickly!

Literature Apps

There is really very little to this section of the course content.  The most helpful thing is the brief (and in my mind, obvious) explanation of the differences between an e-book and a book app (an ebook requires another app to read it, such as Kindle, or iBooks) whereas a book app is an app in its own right.  Bird (2011) provides some useful questions to ask for selection purposes but it’s really applying book and other media selection criteria to an app.  It’s nothing earth-shattering.  It honestly comes down to the question I’ve been asking over and over throughout this course – what advantages are brought by having this available in app form? Is the app flexible enough to do what you want to do with it? Because if an electronic version doesn’t bring a distinct advantage then why do we bother?


Bird, E. (2011). Planet APP. School Library Journal, 57(1), 26. Retrieved from

Burns, E., & Webber, C. (2009).  When Harry met Bella . School Library Journal, 55(8), 26-29.  Retrieved from http://

Hayles, Montfort, Rettberg & Strickland (2006)  Electronic Literature Collection, Volume 1, (October 2006). Published by Electronic Literature Organization.

Kozdras, D. (2010).  Hypertext fiction: Interactive learning adventures in education Retrieved from

Graphic Novels

As I have written previously, I bought my first graphic novel this year as part of the Peter Grant series.  I now own six graphic novels – five from the Peter Grant series and also the Man Booker Longlisted graphic novel Sabrina.  As I studied graphic novels in preparation for my ETL402 assignment, I had a new appreciation for the genre.  I began to borrow and read a lot of graphic novels.  However, I’ve come to the conclusion that graphic novels just aren’t my thing.  I respect them as a genre, but they aren’t what I want to spend my time reading.  And that’s ok.

That’s also not going to stop me from checking out Kings Comics in Sydney this afternoon ;-).

Literature in the Digital Environment

Literature in the Digital Environment

How much of this is (toddlers and young children using iPads) experiential play and how much is actual literacy ie. engaging with and making meaning from information on the screen?

An iPad can be a useful teaching tool.  On a personal note, my now eight year old son, who has autism, intellectual disabilities and global developmental delay learnt to recognise and name all the letters of the alphabet before he started school, because he was engaged in and enjoyed using an app my mum had purchased that involved tracing the letters on the screen, with the app announcing the name of each letter.  However, they can only ever be a tool.  They are not teachers.  They are interactive only to the point to which they are programmed.  They can never be uniquely responsive in the way a parent or teacher is.

Proper experiential play happens with physical objects not just representations on a flat screen.  An iPad can never replace exploring the world.  Wise selection of apps can enhance learning but never replace real world experiences.

Some literacy activities can happen on a screen, such as my aforementioned anecdote about my son.  Struggling readers can read an electronic book, and tap the unfamiliar words on the screen to help with pronunciation, or they can have the book read to them and read along with it.  An interactive ebook may provide additional interest and engagement to a struggling reader who is disengaging with reading because it is seen as too hard.  However, the human element is not absent as it requires a skilled, knowledgeable teacher or librarian to select the best apps and titles to promote reading, and to provide supervision and discretion to observe who is using the iPad app for its intended purpose or who is just playing.

I am frustrated, again, with the dated articles we are recommended to read for this subject, especially on the topic of digital literature.  The article by Springen (2010) was published eight years ago, and much has changed in the digital media space in that time. Children’s book sales have increased, proving that digital media is not a threat to children’s publishing.  Barnes and Noble and Borders have gone bankrupt, and taken the Nook down with them.  While the article may have been informative in 2010 it doesn’t tell us anything new now.

Despite being a more up to date article, Cullen (2015) also fails to shine any new light on the issue.  She is overly optimistic about the skills that video games can teach (inquiry learning??) and while I am certain that there are some high quality games out there that promote problem solving skills, cooperation and inquiry learning, they are few and far between.  I also don’t think that Apple’s App Store ratings are the best guide to suitability and quality.  A game that is well developed and fun to play will get a five star rating regardless of whether it actually promotes any qualities we would like to see in our children or students, and fails to take into account whether it supports any learning goals.  There are many better curation tools available to use than the App Store ratings.

Choose one (trend) and evaluate its impact on the teacher librarian’s role in schools.

3. Curation in the app store continues to be a significant sales driver and signs are its role will continue to expand. (Friedlander, 2013).

Curation is one of the roles of the teacher librarian.  TLs need to be aware of what is on the market, whether an app supports the curriculum, whether it adds anything apart from novelty to the teaching and learning, whether it is a cost effective method of teaching and learning and what licensing is available for school use – can the school legally purchase one copy of the app to then put on a class set of iPads, or all the iPads in the school? A teacher librarian may not be given the resources to purchase a single copy of an app for evaluation purposes and may need to rely on reviews and personal recommendations.  If purchasing iPad apps and ebooks is within the scope of the TL, they would do well to find some reputable reviewers of both ebooks and apps for evaluation.

While Lamb and Johnson’s (2010a) article is old, it actually does stand up well.  I think this article should be supplemented with a list of more up to date book-electronic media cross-overs, however.  Reading some of this honestly makes me want to become a secondary teacher, as the technology and skills are just not there in primary schools.  An augmented reality picture book would be awesome.

Digital Literature

I’ve long contended that listening to audiobooks still counts as reading, and it seems the research backs me up (Dahl, 2016).  This article relates to adults specifically but I think it still applies, though in different ways, to younger children.  To a younger child, an audiobook serves a similar role to an adult reading a book aloud.  The child can be exposed to new words and concepts which will increase their print reading ability and confidence, especially if they are able to follow along in a print book at the same time. Even when reading and decoding is not yet second nature, audiobooks are still reading.

For young children, however, the best way for them to make connections between the different parts of their brain, and understanding the book, is by having an illustrated book read aloud to them (Kamenetz, 2018).  This method was shown to be the best for brain activity, compared with audio alone or an animated story.  This research suggests that when selecting illustrated ebooks for young children, the more basic, the better.

Think about how you process information and read. Are young people any different? Do they use technology differently to older people?

I know I read better from paper than the screen.  When I need to proofread my assignments I print them out, and if I have a particular research study that is vital to an assignment, I’ll print it out.  But the ease of screen reading in portability and not taking up any space wins out most of the time.  I can listen to audiobooks or podcasts but I need to be doing something else menial while I do it or else I can’t concentrate. I find they are best for when I’m walking or running, driving or doing housework tasks like washing dishes or folding washing.  I find online webinars really difficult to focus on due to the predominance of audio information, and I hate watching information-based videos, powerpoint presentations with audio etc as I would much rather just read an article about it.  Other people, especially those who have poorer literacy or are slow readers benefit from video based presentations.

My observation of young people using technology is limited mostly to my own children.  I do see them choosing more passive forms of entertainment on the iPad (YouTube videos) over interactive or creative apps (Minecraft, Toca Boca apps) where as I get too easily distracted to want to watch them, or will watch TV while completing other tasks such as folding washing.  Electronic media has benefits for older people, even when they are afraid of the technology.  Text size can be increased to deal with failing eyesight issues, and is more readily accessible than large print books (and an e-reader or tablet is a lot lighter than a large-print book also!).

Digitally decontextualised literary texts

Some electronic or digital texts, are simply a reproduction of the original content, with a NEXT button replacing the action of turning the page.  Blue by Pat Grant is one such example.  Lamb and Johnson (2010b) provide some useful suggestions for integrating multimedia into the classroom, rather than relying on print.  Picture books in the digital world (Yokota & William, 2014) provides some guidelines for assessing the suitability of electronic books for preschoolers to year two.  I disagree with the authors, however, that digital books have earned their place in the preschool and kindergarten classroom.  Young children still need the physical experience of a book, and I don’t think electronic books will ever replace that.  I also don’t think that a child under the age of eight who has never read an electronic book is missing out on anything.  Secondary students who are more adept with technology, and are more easily able to transfer their knowledge across platforms and subjects will get more benefit from electronic media.

When we talk about students’ experiences at home and at school, stating that they are far more engaged in electronic media outside of the school (Larson, 2009), assumes that students have reliable internet access at home and a device they can access it on, which is not always the case.  Rural students in particular, even if they are not facing poverty, struggle with unreliable internet access and limited access for purchasing a device or necessary repairs.  We cannot, and should not, assume that all students are enmeshed in electronic media, nor should we make that the be all and end all of classrooms.

Today (20th Aug) the Public Libraries in NSW Facebook page shared a link to this article which lead me to the Baldwin Library of Historical Children’s Literature. There are over 6000 titles of mid- to late-19th Century children’s literature from the UK and USA.  The digital archive could be useful when examining the period historically, such as learning about children’s toys (a suggested unit in Stage 2 science in NSW), examining racism in the past, and for secondary students studying history, or the history of child development, morality or even fashion.


Cullen, M. (2015, December 21). How is interactive media changing the way children learn. In EducationTechnology. Retrieved from

Dahl, M. (2016, August 10). To your brain, listening to a book is pretty much the same as reading it. In The cut. Retrieved from

Friedlander, A. (2013, November 26) Ten trends in interactive media for children from dust or Magic, Retrieved from No longer available

Kamenetz, A. (2018, May 24). What’s going on in your child’s brain when you read them a story? In KQED: MindShift. Retrieved from

Lamb, A., & Johnson, L. (2010a).  Divergent convergence part 1: Cross-genre, multi-platform, transmedia experiences in school libraries . Teacher Librarian 37(5), 76-81. Retrieved from 

Lamb, A., & Johnson, L. (2010b). Divergent Convergence part 2: Cross-genre, multi-platform, transmedia experiences in school libraries. Teacher Librarian 38(1), 64-69. Retrieved from

Larson, L. C. (2009). E-reading and e-responding: New tools for the next generation of readers. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 53, 255-258. Retrieved from

Springen, K. (2010, July 19). The digital revolution in children’s publishing. Publisher’s Weekly. Retrieved from

Yokota, J. & William, H. T. (2014). Picture books in the digital world. The Reading Teacher, 67(8), 577-585. Retrieved from
This article includes some useful selection criteria to inform collection development of digital texts.

Selecting Children’s Literature (Module 3)

How have your various roles based on your age, family background, societal position, religious beliefs and profession influenced your stance on censorship of children’s literature collections?

I come from a conservative Christian background, and still attend church.  I grew up in the middle class suburbs of outer western Sydney and (with extended family help) I was able to go to private schools.  My parents were both educated.  My mum has a diploma of teaching (it wasn’t a bachelor’s degree in the 1970s) and my Dad went to uni when I was a 8, studied part time while working full time, got a Bachelor’s degree and then eventually went on to get a Masters degree, and was studying for a second Masters degree when he died.

Along the way I absorbed the information that comics were trashy, series books weren’t good enough and that it was shocking that we should read “Debbie Has Two Mummies” in an early childhood setting.  Growing up, people who were LGBTQIA were viewed as “other” and to be shunned.  The experience of meeting (in my situation) men who were gay, and realising that they are just normal people, did a lot to change my attitude.  I now see it as my responsibility to serve my students and library patrons by providing them with literature that represents their families, the families of people they know AND the families of people they may never encounter so they can see the breadth of diversity in human experience.  Through this subject I have come to appreciate the value of series fiction, and the skill involved in producing comics graphic novels as well as the history behind the format and the cultural significance of the comic.

In a primary school setting, I would place some censorship on books but only in the sense that we, as a society, place ratings and restrictions on movies and tv shows to protect our most vulnerable people.  I would also avoid stocking books that were racist, ableist or overtly discriminatory in any way.  Implicit discrimination is sometimes harder to see, but I would try to examine titles critically, and encourage my students to do the same.


I produced this image for my last session, to highlight books that have been banned.

Banned Books

As part of my investigation for this subject, I decided to explore the most banned books of 1990-1999, an era that encapsulates my high school years.  The thing I found most fascinating was the number of books on that list that I had studied, at my conservative Christian high school, that appeared on that list.  The Chocolate War, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Great Gilly Hopkins, Brave New World (my husband studied that), Of Mice and Men.  Then there are a tonne of books written by Judy Blume, S.E Hinton and Robert Cormier that I read of my own accord.  Obviously there is no context as to the library they were banned from. There are some I would support not being in a primary school library, but belong in a high school library (for example).  There are some I wouldn’t personally ban, but would understand why some people would struggle with, such as Fade by Robert Cormier which includes an incestuous relationship.  Looking at the top ten most challenged books of the last few years, there are some surprises and some books I would never purchase for a school library. For example, I would not purchase Fifty Shades of Grey for any school library.  To Kill A Mockingbird has the “n” word in it, but is still a valuable literary text.  Perhaps it just needs some teacher guidance?  Or even a notice inside the book that it contains this word which is no longer acceptable?  Eleanor and Park – I’ve read that (as an adult) and would have loved it as a teenager.  I’d let my high school kids read it.

Ockerbloom (2015) outlines many titles that have been banned over the years, and I’ve read about what happened to these books in the US.  They became part of the Library of Congress’ Omega Collection, accessible only inside the library and only by arrangement and contained a vast array of materials, including seditious materials, pornography and materials pertaining to homosexuality (that became demonised around the McCarthy era) (Adler, 2017).

Children’s Book Awards

The Indie Book Awards are decided by independent booksellers, and often highlight books that are missed by the bigger booksellers and bigger awards.  They have two categories relevant to schools – Children’s (up to 12yo) and Young Adult (12+).

The Speech Pathology Book of the Year Awards highlight Australian books that enhance children’s language development.  Of particular note is their Indigenous children award, and the list of award winners in this category would provide a good basis for enhancing a library’s indigenous literature collection.

Do award winners inform you own reading choices? How much weight should they have when selecting books to support a unit of work (i.e. what comes first – award or relevance/appropriatness)?

Books that win awards are more likely to come to my attention through media coverage after the award is won, and so may pique my interest as I would read about the book, in a way that I may not read about other books.  This is how I came to read The Long Road to the Deep North by Richard Flannagan (for example).

As to planning units of work, award lists have some of the work already done for you in that you don’t have to check for both quality and relevance in the same way, hopefully the quality of the book is good since it has won an award, however I wouldn’t stop supporting a unit with literature simply because there aren’t any award winning books that cover that topic.  It is just a good starting place when looking for relevant  books.

Literature Map

Literature Map was mentioned in Horn Book Magazine (Stevenson, 2006) and it was fun to play around with and possibly discover some new authors.  This one is based on my most recent favourite, Ben Aaronovitch.  I’m particularly intrigued by the proliferation of male authors in this map.

Author map for Ben Aaronovitch. His name is in the centre surrounded by a cloud of other author names, their proximity to BA relating to how frequently the authors were both read by a reader.

In contrast to this, is the Literature map for Cassandra Clare, a YA author my daughter enjoys reading. The cloud is filled with the names of female authors, James Dashner being a notable exception (although he’s some distance away from the centre).

Literature map for Cassandra Clare


Adler, M. (2017). Cruising the Library: Perversities in the Organization of Knowledge. New York: Fordham University. doi:10.2307/j.ctt1xhr79m

Ockerbloom, J.M. (2015). Banned books online. In The Online Books Page. Retrieved from

Stevenson, D. (2006). Finding literary goodness in a pluralistic world. Horn Book Magazine, 82(5), 511-517. Retrieved from

What I’ve Been Reading


Of late I’ve been reading:
I started reading The Right Girl by Ellie O’Neill. If you asked me to define it in a few words I would say dystopian romance. It is definitely “chick lit” but with a dystopian edge. A kind of modernised, chick lit version of 1984. The concept was fascinating but I found the pacing quite slow (maybe it’s just me) and I did something I’ve never done before – I read the first half a dozen chapters then skipped to the end and read the last few chapters.
How to Talk to Girls at Parties by Neil Gaiman, graphic novel edition by Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba.

Cicada by Shaun Tan. The Guardian did a great write-up about this book, including information about how the illustrations were created.


Neil Gaiman and Kazuo Ishiguro talk about the artificial boundaries created by genre. This article is a few years old now (2015) but it’s quite interesting and really relevant to our studies with regards to genres in ETL402. It particularly looks into what is considered fantasy and what is not.

For the Love of Libraries – a response to the recent Forbes article saying libraries should be replaced with Amazon stores.

Adults (aka millennials) are reading YA books, a trend that is identified as starting with the Harry Potter series. It’s an interesting read although I dispute their categorisation of Goosebumps and Babysitters Club being YA books! These are read by primary school aged children, not teens and young adults!

This is a lovely how to guide for using picture books for older readers in your classroom – this is a year seven class. It’s a really valuable read and I’m envious of her extensive classroom library.

The Most Astonishingly Unconventional Books of 2018 is an amazing list of children’s books that just don’t quite fit the normal conventions of literature. Would be great if you’re investigating postmodern children’s books.

HT to Tehani who posted this on Facebook, the Best series books for Tweens, although as always discretion should be used as to suitability. I would definitely put Rick Riordan’s series and Mortal Instruments for 12+, and Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Hunger Games older again!

Teachers take on the department as a new report comes out suggesting that phonics instruction is the best way to teach reading. They say that exclusive focus on phonics ignores reading for meaning and should be combined with a whole language approach.
NSW Government commits millions of dollars to a program to encourage teachers, boost morale and improve outcomes. The pilot program in 2014 was well received and hopes to improve retention rates as well as student performance.

A funny comic from XKCD about the peer review process. Make sure you hover your cursor over the image for the alt text which is also funny.

An article from a few years ago (2013) about some research conducted in Canada regarding why members of their community weren’t using the library. For people who advocate the library as an equitable resource for everyone, the answers might be surprising.

This post discusses the challenges when archiving born-digital objects when the file formats are no longer supported.


History Lab, by the same team that bring us GLAMCity. They’ve just finished up series one but it’s a fascinating listen if you have the time.
On Tamson’s recommendation I’ve started listening to the ABC’s new History Listen podcast. I will warn you, though, that the “Sister Kate” episode is quite distressing.
I’ve also recently finished listening to the Unravel True Crime podcast.
And, of course, Turbitt & Duck, which is now on hiatus.

Skip to toolbar