Saturday, 27 September 2014

Fiction, It's A Pleasure.

Did you know that fiction can be used to enhance and support the learning experiences of students?

I did know, but hadn't really investigated it any further.  There is some literature out there about how reading fiction has many benefits to children and adults alike.  The most written about benefit is that of empathy and how empathy is developed through the shared experience of a story, a fiction one at that.  Fiction provides a true to life experience for the reader to become involved in, to make their own knowledge from and to form their own opinion about.  In fact, some literature and research states that the more widely you have read, the more general knowledge you can have and a greater understanding of human nature.  The National Literacy Trust has researched the benefits of reading for pleasure and has found that through reading, children can acquire skills that would take considerably longer to develop were they taught independently.  Improved reading, greater vocabulary, improved writing style and spelling and importantly, greater comprehension skills are all developed through reading for pleasure.  There is also evidence that these skills are developed in adults too. It would seem that reading for pleasure is largely underrated, and quite often overlooked when it comes to the curriculum.  For greater understanding of concepts within context, a fiction story can provide a learning experience as close to the truth as the writer and the reader allows it to be.  Quality literature shares with the reader important information about people and life that we might not otherwise learn or experience in our lifetime.  It's the role of the teacher librarian to highlight the availability of fiction resources and share the libraries fiction resources with classroom teachers.  It is highly valuable for the teacher librarian to support classes with quality literary learning in the library.  Resources need to be made available for students and teachers and embedded into classroom learning.  

  • National Literacy Trust (2006) Reading For Pleasure. Retrieved 28 September, 2014.
  • Patton, J.M. (2014) The Whole Truth: The Importance of Fiction. Retrieved 21 September, 2014

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Contemporary Realistic Fiction

It seems that Contemporary Realistic Fiction (CRF) has always been around, providing readers with opportunities to find out how other people think and live.  Middle School students are interested in the lives of others and how they deal with day-to-day situations in their lives, ordinary or extraordinary.  Good CRF has believable characters, in-depth storylines, emotional highs and lows and above all a feeling of hope that keeps the reader turning the page.  Teacher librarians respect the position CRF holds with Middle School readers and, resources the school library to keep them coming back for more.

I love reading contemporary realistic fiction, and always have.  I grew up in a country town and I loved reading about other people, in other places, doing things that were far more exciting than I was.
My first "real" contemporary realistic fiction book was Homecoming by Cynthia Voight.  I loved reading about Dicey and her siblings who were deserted by their mum in a carpark.  The story wasn't about the mum, but about how courageous Dicey was to look after her siblings, to keep them safe and to get them somewhere where they would be looked after.  At times, Dicey's situation was quite desperate, but they made it.  I was glued to this book, reading and re-reading more than once.

I think contemporary realistic fiction is valuable to the library collection because it allows readers to become someone else for the duration of the book, it allows readers to live experiences, all be it vicariously, from the safety of their own lounge room and it provides opportunities for readers to develop their own identity.  Above all, most are really enjoyable stories that kids will enjoy reading.  

If I am ever asked which genre of books is my favourite, I always say that I love a good story.  Could be fiction, could be non-fiction.

There is a lot of good contemporary realistic fiction available for readers today.  It is the role of the teacher librarian to get those books into their collection and advocate, advocate, advocate and advertise that they are available for borrowing, give students a taste of what the story is about and encourage them to start reading.  Reading for leisure is just as valuable as reading for skill development.  

As I complete ETL402, I have developed a slight attraction to contemporary realistic fiction for students, often called Young Adult Fiction.  May be more than a slight attraction.  I am hooked, having read about 10 current titles in the last 6 weeks.  I will tell you more in my next post.

Looking back....

What a busy few weeks!!
Practical placement, 2 subjects, extra work hours, the death of a friend, a travelling husband and busy teenagers have all made the days and the weeks fly by and sometimes come to a complete stand still.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Library Placement.  I loved everything about it; covering books, labelling spines, shelving books, searching for information resources, scanning bar codes and talking to the students.  Being a teacher librarian is the most unique position to have in the whole school.  You have the opportunity to be in touch with absolutely everybody at some stage.  I think that you need to take those opportunities and run with it. After completing ETL401 I became a firm believer in the teacher librarian being an advocate for the library.  Not just for the books, but for the services as well.  The teacher librarian really needs to put themselves out there....wave their flag!!
During the first couple of days of the placement, I had what some would call an epiphany.  I went home and slept on it before I spoke to my supervising TL - (A lovely lady and CSU graduate!).
The school has an impressive number of databases covering all the subjects available in a P-12 school, they also have a federated search system that draws information from all the databases when you are searching for resources.  But, the teachers don't seem to know that it exists and therefore the students are mostly unaware of their availability.  The library staff have also noticed a downfall in the number of books being borrowed too.  After  thinking on it overnight, I spoke to the TL the next day, asking "How do you let the students know about the resources available in the library?".  I wasn't sure how my question would be received, but the TL responded with "I have tried.  I am not sure what I am going to do next."
Wow!  I was so glad that I had been on the Study Visits to other schools in our area.  I was brimming with ideas of how to get the students into the library and how to show them how to access and use the databases.  Hopefully I will get the chance later in the year to implement some of my ideas.

While I was on my placement, I learned a lot about the use of SCIS, cataloguing and the importance of recording information correctly.  It helped that I am studying ETL505 at the same time, but also that I have completed the subjects on resourcing and use of the library space.  Cataloguing has come along way since the days of handwritten catalogue cards.  The majority of resource information comes from the SCIS database and if it isn't found there, WorldCat is another source.  This semester I am learning about subject headings and describing resources accurately for effective retrieval.
These are things that teacher librarians don't really talk about as a part of their day to day conversation.  They are time consuming jobs, but, at the end of the day, jobs that come with a certain sense of fulfilment.