Posted in Books & Reading, literacy, Read Like a Girl, Reading, Teaching and Learning, YA Literature

Help Girls Read

Help Girls Read

Help girls succeed by igniting a love to read

The importance of reading

Educators and parents alike know that reading literature can be transformative.  Research supports this assertion and validates the importance of story reading to brain development and academic success (Haven, 2007; and Krashen, 2011).

Australian teenage girls’ reading is on the decline

Disturbingly, research conducted last year in Australia found that among Australians aged 14+, “the proportion of men and women reading books has decreased in recent years, most noticeably among women. In 2010, 64.7% of Australian women 14+ read a novel in any given three months, a figure which has since fallen to 60.9%. Similarly, fewer women are reading non-fiction books than they used to, slipping from 39.2% to 34.2% between 2010 and 2015” (Roy Morgan Research, 2016).

Let’s do something about this

As a Teacher-Librarian in a girls’ school, this research is of concern to me and I wanted to do something that would make a difference to the girls in our community. A key strategy for making this difference is to focus on reading and literature promotion.

After collaborating with other passionate colleagues in the teaching and book worlds, the Read Like a Girl movement was established.

Read Like a Girl is a community partnership for the literacy advancement of girls and is a combined endeavour led by Mt Alvernia College and St Rita’s College.  Riverbend Books is a community partner in this project.  This project encapsulates a calendar of reading events aimed at instilling a foundation and love of reading in the college communities and more broadly among girls everywhere.

What we hope to do

We hope that through our calendar of events, we will give the girls in our communities the opportunity to:

  • Attend book events
  • Meet authors
  • Purchase books
  • Participate in conversations about literature, reading, and storytelling
  • Network with other girls, women, and people who value reading and academic success
  • Develop their knowledge of the vast world of books and the opportunities literacy creates

What you can do

You can support this endeavour in practical ways by:

  • Attending our events (starting with the International Women’s Day Breakfast)
  • Spreading our vision by following us on social media (#RLaG) and sharing our advocacy with your own networks
  • Purchasing books for the girls in your life
  • Speaking positively about reading
  • Providing time and space for the girls in your life to read
  • Model reading – visit a bookstore, put your feet up and enjoy a great read

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References

Haven, K. F. (2007). We’ve reached the research results. In Story proof: The science behind the startling power of story (pp. 89-122). Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group.

Krashen, S. (2011). Free voluntary reading. Denver: Libraries Unlimited.

 

 

 

Posted in Book Review, Books & Reading, Reading, Teaching and Learning, YA Literature

Book Review: Cloudwish by Fiona Wood

CloudwishCloudwish by Fiona Wood

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Cloudwish by Fiona Wood is a novel about Vân Uoc Phan, the Australian born daughter of vietnamese refugees. Vân Uoc is the ‘scholarship/poor/smart/Asian’ at a prestigious private high school and is determined to remain inconspicuous and do well at her studies. She secretly daydreams about Billy Gardner, a ‘jock’ who is on the first team for rowing and who comes from wealth and privilege. When Billy suddenly starts to pay her a lot of attention, Vân Uoc initially thinks it is a setup and that she will soon be the butt of a practical joke.
Yet, Billy persists and a sweet teenage relationship begins.

This novel, however, is not just a romance, it raises a number of important issues such as social status in Australia, the complex plight of refugees and family relations.

Fiona Woods creates some excellent characters in this novel. The protagonist, Vân Uoc, is smart, yet unsettled about her heritage and has many unanswered questions about her parents’ past. She feels pressure to recompense their sacrifices and the trauma of their boat trip from Vietnam by being the perfect daughter and student. Another terrific character is Vân Uoc’s mother. Suffering post traumatic stress, she slides into an annual bout of depression and has much difficulty expressing her feelings or telling about her past. Vân Uoc wishes she could get her mother to talk and fears that they no longer speak the same language (literally and figuratively). Slowly, some of her mother’s stories and feelings are revealed as she begins to attend a support group, giving the reader much insight into the experiences of refugees.

Cloudwish is a cleverly written novel and I highly recommend it to YA readers.

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Posted in Book Review, Books & Reading, Library collections, Reading, YA Literature

Book Review: The River and the Book

The River And The BookThe River And The Book by Alison Croggon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This story is told by Simbala. Simbala was raised in a village that has two treasures as named in the title of the story: the river and the book. Both these treasures become threatened by the exploitation of First World developers. For Simbala’s village, livelihood and survival are dependent on the river. It provides, food, irrigation and the means of transport. As foreign corporations colonise the country by financing large scale cotton farming, water levels drop due to irrigation and the quality of the water is compromised by the poisoning effects or insecticide runoff.

The second treasure, the Book, is the oracle of the village, it predicts futures and answers the important questions of the villagers. We are told that “inside the Book was written everything that had been, everything that was and everything that was to come” (p.16). Simbala, like her mother, grandmother and the women in her family before them, is the Keeper of the Book. When a foreign woman, Jane Watson, visits the village, she is warmly welcomed and spends time living in the village learning their way of life and the pattern of their days. Jane Watson, however, violates this trust in a devastating manner when she leaves the village and takes the Book with her. This event sets Simbala on a quest down the river to retrieve the Book.

The strength of this small novel is the powerful themes that are contained within the story. The themes of colonialism and its impact on indigenous cultures, Westernisation, human rights, theft, revenge, methods of activism and effecting change and healing are all explored within the novel. Some reviewers have commented on it’s lack of subtlety but this is appropriate for Middle School readers and is more than adequately compensated by Croggon’s beautiful use of language.

Endorsed by Amnesty International, this is a beautiful book that raises many issues for discussion and is worth considering for Middle School students.

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Posted in Book Review, Books & Reading, CSU, Digital Literacy, English Literature, INF533, Reading, YA Literature

Book Review: Whitechapel Real Time by The History Press

This review was completed for INF533- Literature in Digital Environments as part of my Masters of Education (Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation) studies.

Whitechapel real time (@WChapelRealTime) is a historical retelling of the ‘Jack the Ripper’ mystery.  The story, published by The History Press, is delivered via micro-blogging in a Twitter feed and supported by additional content on the publisher’s website and Facebook page.  This project was written in 2013 between the 24th of August and the 11th of November to mark the 125 year anniversary of the first ‘Jack the Ripper’ murder.  The History Press state that all content for the story was thoroughly researched in order to accurately portray Victorian society during 1888 (2013a, para.1).  It can be identified that this story is a digitally originated literary text and due to elaborations in the form of factual information, non-fiction artefacts and links, this text can be categorised as an interactive story (Unsworth, 2006, p.3).  The success of Whitechapel real time is its ability to engage readers through literary devices, interactive opportunities and thoughtful design.

Whitechapel real time is a complex narrative that contains a number of literary elements including a fast-paced plot, character development and an evocative setting.  The content of Whitechapel real time is the result of work by historians, some calling themselves ‘Ripperologists’, who researched primary and secondary sources to produce a historically focused story (Dangerfield, 2013, para.26).  The plot follows events that unfolded over four months in 1888 and is delivered via first-person tweets.  Characters are identifiable by hashtagged names at the start of tweets.  By retelling these events from the perspectives of local people at the time, such as reporters, dock workers and policemen, the feed develops characterisation, allowing the reader to feel empathy for those touched by the crimes.  These tweets are interspersed with photographs and artefacts from Victorian London (as seen in the examples below) that create setting and build atmosphere as the plot progresses.  The use of these artefacts and visuals demonstrate synergy between the digital features and literary elements of the story (Walsh, 013, p.189), and is a strength of the publication.

WCRT

Whitechapel real time is not the first instance of The History Press experimenting with Twitter to publish a story.  They had previously received praise for the Titanic real time project that was published in 2012 and amassed over 111, 000 followers (Brown, 2013, para.14).  Kasman Valenza and Stephens state that such experimentation with new forms of reading is a trend among authors who aim to appeal to young readers that have grown up surrounded by digital media (2012, p.2).  These platforms promise to engage users by offering them opportunities for interaction and feedback.  Such interaction is evident in Whitechapel real time when the reader is offered the opportunity to follow links to further historical information about the events and people identified in the story.  There is evidence that readers of Whitechapel real time retweeted, replied to tweets and quoted tweets and as such were engaged in the interactive structures offered. Thus, the Twitter steam grants the reader of Whitechapel real time choice and control over the text and provides a space for discourse between the author and reader (Skains, 2010, p.98).

WCRT interaction

Using a micro-blogging environment to tell a story has design implications for the reader.  One such design effect of using Twitter to read a story is the impact of fragmented delivery.  On this point, opinion is divided about the ability of Twitter literature to capture the reader through a narrative that is revealed gradually.  Franklin states that tweeting a story line by line doesn’t work because “attempting to follow a live narrative on Twitter makes readers hyperaware of the down time between tweets (2014, para.10).  Yet, Fitzgerald states that reading a story live on twitter builds suspense because the reader has no control over when they can read them (2013, para.6). Furthermore, Davis argues that the compulsory short, sharp nature of micro-blogging results in works that are “oddly poetic on both a visual and conceptual level” (2008, p.14).  A good design decision of The History Press was to deliver the story of Whitechapel real time via one Twitter handle.  If the story had been delivered via multiple handles or hashtags, readers would have experienced difficulty in assembling the pieces later (Franklin, 2014, para.9).  Interestingly, because of the nature of social media, the experience of reading this book live was only possible during the ten weeks of publication.  Within this reading, the reader was reliant on waiting for new tweets to move ahead in the plot.  Subsequent readings of the story do not necessitate down time between tweets but do require the reader to scroll backwards to the beginning of the Twitter feed and work their way through the tweets. Consequently, the design of a Twitter feed narrative such as Whitechapel real time has different impacts for different readers.

Conclusively, Whitechapel real time is an example of an interactive story published on a Twitter feed.  This story combines literary elements, interactive structures and design features to engage readers in history, in particular the events of 1888 during which the ‘Jack the Ripper’ murders took place in Victorian London.

References

Brown, E. (2013, August 22). ‘Whitechapel Real Time’ Twitter project marks 125 years of multiple murders [Web log post]. Retrieved August 29, 2015, from http://www.zdnet.com/article/whitechapel-real-time-twitter-project-marks-125-years-of-multiple-murders/

Dangerfield, A. (2013, August 23). Twitter real-time explores Jack the Ripper murders. BBC News. Retrieved August 25, 2015, from http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-london-23759777

Davis, O. (2008). Twittered texts. Meanjin, 67(4), 14. Retrieved August 29, 2015, from http://search.informit.com.au.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/fullText;dn=078749604341308;res=IELAPA

Fitzgerald, A. (Director). (2013, July). Adventures in Twitter fiction [Video file]. Retrieved August 25, 2015, from http://www.ted.com/talks/andrew_fitzgerald_adventures_in_twitter_fiction?language=en

Franklin, R. (2014). Character development: It’s been touted as a revolutionary platform for expression, but does Twitter literature really have a future? Foreign Policy, November-December, 104. Retrieved August 29, 2015, from http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/ps/retrieve.do?sort=RELEVANCE&docType=Article&tabID=T002&prodId=EAIM&searchId=R1&resultListType=RESULT_LIST&searchType=AdvancedSearchForm&contentSegment=&currentPosition=1&searchResultsType=SingleTab&inPS=true&userGroupName=csu_au&docId=GALE%7CA393209634&contentSet=GALE%7CA393209634

The History Press. (2013a). White Chapel Real Time. Retrieved August 15, 2015, from http://www.thehistorypress.co.uk/jack-the-ripper-whitechapel

The History Press. (2013b). The History Press Publisher [Facebook Page]. Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/HistoryPress?fref=ts

Kasman Valenza, J., & Stephens, W. (2012). Reading Remixed. Educational Leadership, 69(6), 75-78. Retrieved August 29, 2015, from https://idp.csu.edu.au/idp/profile/SAML2/POST/SSO.

Kasman Valenza, J., & Stephens, W. (2012). Reading Remixed. Educational Leadership, 69(6), 75-78. Retrieved August 29, 2015, from https://idp.csu.edu.au/idp/profile/SAML2/POST/SSO.

Skains, R. L. (2010). The shifting author-reader dynamic. Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, 16(1), 96-111. doi:10.1177/1354856509347713

Unsworth, L. (2006). E-literature for children: Enhancing digital literacy learning. Oxford, UK: Routledge.

Walsh, M. (2013). Literature in a digital environment. In L. McDonald (Ed.), A literature companion for teachers (pp. 181-194). Primary English Teaching Association Australia (PETAA).

@WChapelRealTime. (2013, August 24 – November 11). WhiteChapelRealTime [Twitter feed]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/WChapelRealTime