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Archive for the ‘Books & Reading’ Category

Almost single-handedly, Amazon, the online giant store, has redefined how we shop.

Amazon’s dominance in the book industry has been profound.  Large retail bookstore chains and small independent bookstores have been impacted greatly by the seemingly unstoppable growth of this online monolith forcing the closure of bookstores and changing the way we search for and purchase books.

And ….. it seems ….. there’s no end insight.  Amazon Books has launched into retail sales.  And, as they have in the past, Amazon have once again set out to redefine how we shop by using data driven stats to create book displays that tempt and guide the purchaser.

A not too happy account of how Amazon is reshaping bookstores appeared recently on the KOTTKE.ORG blog: Amazon’s data driven bookstores.  For the most part, this post laments the fact that online sales data rather than informed bookstore staff recommendations are being used to promote good reads to the public.

But, as in the past, little will stop the growth of this incredible market driven company.   As I blog, 7 Amazon Bookstores are already open in the US, with 6 more slated to be opening soon.  Without a doubt the current list will be updated regularly as the rollout across the US continues.

A recent post on Recode (a fabulous website I’ve just discovered!) gives an up close look inside the recently opened New York Amazon Bookstore.  In between the telling photos are some interesting observations by Dan Frommer – so take a few minutes and have a read of the post: Photos: Inside Amazon’s first New York City bookstore.

My day to day life is immersed in books.  Not only do I love reading, but my day time job revolves around igniting the magical spark of a ‘love of reading’ in young adults.  To nurture this love of reading, I  constantly make recommendations and, like the staff in book shops, I talk to my library patrons about the kinds of books they enjoy and ask what they have read previously to inform me about their tastes and interests.  The kind of philosophy that has dominated libraries and book shops for millennia – putting the right book into the right hands – cannot be achieved by relying solely on circulation or sales stats, the approach reportedly being adopted by Amazon Books.

Anything that encourages reading though is undoubtedly good!

So instead of looking at the flaws and mistakes of Amazon Bookstores, perhaps those of us encouraging and promoting books in schools can look at some of the great ideas being introduced by Amazon Bookstores and adopt them:

  • lots and lots of face out books for starters certainly makes for an appealing look
  • increased displays of ‘if you like this, how about this’ would also be welcome
  • and how about if we start using circulation stats in a big way to drive the creation of displays

Hmmmmm ….. it seems like I’ve just hit a new spark of inspiration!

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I came across a fabulous link the other day from Education Technology and Mobile Learning which is perfect for use with students by either English teachers or any of us working in school libraries.

The Digital Storytelling Wheel for Teachers post looks like one of those posts that will keep any teacher and their students busy for a very long time as they work their way through exploration of a huge range of iPad and Android Apps together with a host of Web tools.

I just love the graphic too!

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Stephen King’s writing is legendary.

His books, of which there are more than 50, have sold more than 350 million copies worldwide.  Many of them have been adapted into movies, TV shows and comic books.  In addition to his novels, he has written more than 200 short stories.

While reading the genre of horror, supernatural fiction, suspense, science fiction and fantasy may rule him out as being your favourite kind of author, it is not many writers who have had such an impact on the world of literature or written as prolifically.

So having the opportunity to listen to Stephen King’s thoughts in a short radio interview late last year, I was surprised to find that his words resonated strongly with me.  Most particularly when he said

We forget what it is to be a child.”

my ears pricked up.  Why is it, King questions, that adults forget how to look at the world through the eyes of a child.

His thoughts remind me of the words of that well known educator, Sir Ken Robinson, who in videos such as Do schools kill creativity? also laments the fact that children lose their creativity as they work their way from pre-school through to the end of high school.

Have a listen to this short interview and in the process be spellbound by the incredible drawings that accompany the interview.

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I’m a convert.

I know that reading is a most powerful tool and is the cornerstone of all education.

So, it comes as no surprise to me when I read that Elon Musk, one of the most innovative and visionary minds of our time, credits his success to just eight books he has read.

8-books

A most inspirational characteristic of Elon Musk is the fact that he is a ‘risk taker’.

Not once, but many times, throughout his life, Musk has taken incredible  gambles, many of which saw him lose position, status and wealth.

Determined to follow through on his ideas, Elon Musk is having an incredible, positive impact on our world and is, without doubt, a most powerful role model for students in our schools.

Infographic Source: fundersandfounders.com

Infographic Source: fundersandfounders.com

 

 

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Coming across an article by Will Schwalbe “The need to read” published in The Wall Street Journal late last year (November 25, 2016) I knew I’d hit a powerful article.

The start of his article tells the simple story of a grandmother desperately trying to connect with her grandson who lives far away from her home in Florida.  When she asked the usual kinds of questions about school and his day during their phone conversations, his auto reply of ‘fine’ or ‘nothing’ led the conversation nowhere.  So when she asked an alternate question: ‘What are you reading?’ and he replied “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins, the grandmother decided to get hold of a copy and read it in the hope of using this as a springboard for conversation during their next phone conversation.

To her delight, it worked!

The book helped this grandmother cut through the superficialities of phone chat and engage her grandson on the most important questions that humans face about survival and destruction and loyalty and betrayal and good and evil, and about politics as well. Now her grandson couldn’t wait to talk to her when she called—to tell her where he was, to find out where she was and to speculate about what would happen next.

While flagging the danger to our well being and our lives by the constant connectivity enabled today by the Internet, Schwalbe discusses the power of reading.  In short he notes that books are able to

  • create connections between people
  • create connections between people and events
  • enable the reader to hear the expression of an individual/group of individuals

While recognizing that reading is a solitary activity, Schwalbe emphasizes that books creates connections with others in a most powerful way.

Books ….. speak to us, thoughtfully, one at a time. They demand our attention. And they demand that we briefly put aside our own beliefs and prejudices and listen to someone else’s. You can rant against a book, scribble in the margin or even chuck it out the window. Still, you won’t change the words on the page.

The technology of a book is genius: The order of the words is fixed, whether on the page or on the screen, but the speed at which you read them is entirely up to you. Sure, this allows you to skip ahead and jump around. But it also allows you to slow down, savor and ponder.

If you have the chance to read Schwalbe’s full article in The Wall Street Journal, do.  It is a powerful treatise for the power of reading.

Working with young adults in school libraries over many years, I repeatedly tell my students how much they will gain from reading.  Apart from the impact reading will have on their own ability to express themselves verbally and in writing, they will get to experience so much that they may never otherwise be able to explore: history, culture, social issues, love, horror, fantasy, art, passion ….. indeed all that life has to offer.

Read a book ….. learn about the world”

I tell them.  This has forever been the mantra I’ve shared with all the kids I’ve worked with in both the classroom and in the world of school libraries.

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Being one of those people who likes to make a noise – constantly – about the value of reading and being one who just doesn’t understand why it is that the entire education sector doesn’t get the message about the value and importance of reading in the overall school curriculum, I couldn’t resist posting a tweet together with this infographic a couple of weeks ago:

Take note school admins! Haven’t TLs been saying this for years?

Reading-habits-that-lead-to-success-full-infographic-840x7634

One thing’s for sure though – I intend sharing it with my students at school!  It’s too much of a gem to not share!!

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So can there be a link between reading achievement scores as measured by NAPLAN testing and the presence or absence of Teacher Librarians in schools?

Sue McKerracher, Chief Executive Officer of ALIA (Australian Library and Information Association) seems to think there most definitely is an impact to be had, particularly when she states the obvious in a recent release on the ALIA website:

‘School libraries and teacher librarians are well placed to contribute to improving student skills in reading, digital literacy, critical thinking and research skills. However we see only a small number of teacher librarians on staff compared to other specialist teachers in schools.’

McKerracher goes on to quote research completed by Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) to back up her claim:

….. in 2013 only 4-5% of primary teachers and 2-3% of secondary teachers were working in a library role. This compared with 5% of secondary teachers involved in Languages Other Than English, 5% in computing and 6% in special needs.”

While this report suggests that fewer graduates are entering Library & Information Science programs, perhaps a simpler explanation is that fewer teacher librarians are being appointed to roles within our libraries. Sadly, the kind of thoughts I expressed in a recently published article: It’s time: let’s improve schools’ perceptions of teacher librarians suggests that the collective lack of promotion by teacher librarians of their role within schools is surreptitiously adding to the demise of the role we are able to play in schools and the impact we are having on literacy achievement or more specifically, the NAPLAN scores achieved by the students in our schools.

It is no secret to those of us working in school libraries that the myriad of tasks facing us on a day-to-day basis are often totally overwhelming.  Finding the time to create the spin needed to ensure the profile of the library and its staff is recognized, appreciated and valued can be totally daunting.

Be in no doubt though – publicizing what we do, how we do it and why we do it – is an essential part of our role.  The effort put into this important aspect of school libraries can, in the end, be a make it or break it decision that may have far reaching ramifications, particularly at this end of the year in Australian schools, where number crunching hits the top of the list by school administrators.

A recent post by Megan Daley: NAPLAN Results and the Role of the School Library and Teacher Librarian says it strongly and very clearly!

To me at least, part of the issue seems to be that people don’t really know what teacher librarians actually do. Everyone seems to understand the role of the French teacher, the Maths teacher, the primary classroom teacher, the school groundsman, and the school receptionist (AKA the jack of all trades in a school). But few people seem to know what a teacher librarian does and how crucial the role is ensuring the success of our schools and our students.”

Daley doesn’t mince words when she implores those who don’t have the passion to get out of the profession and for those who do have the passion to shout from the rafters so that school communities sit up and take notice.

Take the time to read her post.  It’s excellent!

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