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Checkout the latest recommended resources from the SLANSW Review Team

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  • 7 Oct 2022 8:58 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Title: How to be Prime Minister and Survive Grade 5

    Author: Carla Fitzgerald.

    Reviewer: Donna Dobson

    When I read a children’s novel, I do so with the thought ‘what would a child think of this book?’ … And that is how I approached the read of ‘How to be Prime Minister and Survive Grade 5’ by Carla Fitzgerald.

    Within the first few pages it is revealed that 11-year-old Harper intercepts her dad, the new Prime Minister of Australia, haphazardly heading off to a suspicious conference, which may be not a conference at all, and he leaves his mobile phone behind. As the phone pings with messages, Harper finds herself pretending to be her dad, as she juggles protecting his reputation and that of her family. She lets her younger sister in on the predicament, and the two girls find themselves covering for their father, and under pressure to come up with a new policy. But there are benefits- red frogs and Maccas delivered to the front door of Kirribilli House!

    This book is a humorous read, and encourages the reader to believe that we can all be strong when the going gets tough.

    It is a book that children would enjoy hearing being read aloud, and to be a successful middle school novel that is read by its targeted audience, it would probably need to be recommended by a teacher librarian, and placed in the hands of the right child.

    Teachers’ notes available for UQP titles via:

  • 7 Oct 2022 8:50 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Title: School Libraries Supporting Literacy and Wellbeing

    Author: Dr Margaret K. Merga

    Reviewer: Vicki Bennett

    The importance of school libraries and how they support student wellbeing and develop essential literacy skills is a relevant and complex topic that Margaret Merga explores comparing school libraries in the U.K., Australia, and USA. Her book also offers extensive evidence and data about how school libraries support student wellbeing and literacy skills.

    As a teacher librarian in two small Primary Schools in NSW, I found this book thought-provoking, fascinating, relevant, factual, and an essential read for all teacher librarians AND school leaders. Merga understands teacher librarians, their struggles, goals, and hopes for the future, and articulates them perfectly.

    The importance of how “Reading for Pleasure” (RfP) improves students’ educational outcomes is something all school leaders should be interested in. Student wellbeing has always been a concern in schools but has increased over the last two years of COVID. In each chapter, Merga provides evidence on how school libraries support student wellbeing and literacy development, and fuels ideas on how important it is to increase support of students and teacher librarians. There is so much room for further research and Merga provides many starting points for this.

    Chapter 1: Explores the links and evidence between school libraries and students’ performance. Comparisons between school library systems in the UK and Australia are explored and prompt the question: What is the difference between a school librarian and a teacher librarian? The UK has school librarians (generally, without teaching degrees) and Australia has teacher librarians. The name itself is the ultimate clue. This chapter also breaks down each role and discusses “job creep.”

    Chapter 2: Focuses on literacy and the ways in which school libraries can, and do, support a love of “Reading for Pleasure” (RfP) are integral to this chapter.

    Chapter 3: Discusses how school/teacher librarians and school library professionals have an integral role in supporting “Struggling Literacy Learners” (SLL) beyond the early years. Merga also discusses how the term “struggle” should not be avoided to describe students, because if we don’t call it a struggle, we are diminishing their difficulties and their need for support. Who these struggling students are and how they can be supported by school libraries is also explored in this chapter.

    Chapter 4: Reading engagement and reading for pleasure develop more than literacy; they contribute to social and emotional intelligence. Merga notes that the ability to lose oneself within a book is an escape for many, while relating to characters, reading about similar life situations, learning empathy, not feeling isolated by one’s beliefs, and finding a connection somewhere often creates a sense of belonging. Therefore, it is important to ensure the availability of diverse literature in school libraries.

    Chapter 5: The provision of appropriate and factual texts and information to support students’ health, wellbeing and information literacy is explored in this chapter. Merga’s discussion also explores the importance of resourcing for caregivers. The importance of a qualified teacher librarian to teach students how to discern and identify information is also highlighted, as is the need for future research in this area.

    Chapter 6: Explores the importance of the design, accessibility, and availability of library spaces for students’ wellbeing. As a student who used the school library as their safe haven and the space where I felt I belonged, this chapter reinforced for me the importance of school libraries and highlights how they support the wellbeing for many students with diverse needs.

    Chapter 7: Why do we need qualified teacher librarians and school libraries? While I found all the chapters important and relevant, this chapter was my favourite. Teacher librarians need to advocate for their role, work within their role, maintain their libraries, and not burn out; this is a very real and difficult struggle. Merga poses the question: Why does the teacher librarian need to advocate for a role that is undoubtably essential for students’ literacy and wellbeing? The role is misunderstood by many and there is an obvious need for more research in this area. Merga also suggests that it stems from the deprofessionalisation of the role and the lack of clarity about what the role entails. The importance of a physical library space and physical books is also explored. The discussion about how well readers comprehend when reading from a screen in comparison to a physical book is also an area that is highlighted. Merga’s discussion about these topics is valid and important. 

    In conclusion, this book is an essential read for all educators as it highlights the importance of well-designed and well-resourced school libraries lead by qualified school/teacher librarians to support wellbeing and literacy for all students. It also highlights, however, the very real struggle of qualified teacher librarians and school libraries. When the evidence indicates that it is detrimental for our students to not have access to a qualified teacher librarian and a school library, the question is, why is it such a struggle? Merga highlights all these issues and offers ideas on how we can address this for the future.

  • 7 Oct 2022 8:46 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Title: The way of Dog

    Author: Zana Fraillon

    Reviewer: Amber Sorensen

    Zana Fraillon’s The Way of Dog is such a delightful read. A verse novel that captures the essence of what it means to be Dog, full of love, a sense of adventure, and exuberance.

    Told from the perspective of Scruffity, one cannot help but feel as he feels. The author has done a superb job of weaving delightful verse into a story that tugs at the heart. My absolute favourite word from this book is the evocative ‘schnuffles’. Suitable for all ages.

    Teachers’ notes available for UQP titles via:

  • 7 Oct 2022 8:40 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Title: What Snail Knows

    Author: Kathryn Apel

    Illustrator: Mandy Foot

    Reviewer: Natalie Lincoln

    Admittedly, and perhaps ashamedly, it was new to me to read a lyric novel – but what a fabulous introduction! This gentle story unfolds through verse to express the beautiful connection between a dad and daughter (and a snail), who both must decide if it is safe to come out of their shells.

    Both simple and complicated, the tale is very human and very real. Simple, in the use of a child narrator, but complex in its interwoven themes: notions of home and family, pride, and accepting help. A sense of the father’s loss and fear is exposed to be as strong as that of the daughter. As a teacher, I super enjoyed the wisdom of the teacher, who seamlessly included Lucy and gave tasks which made her feel not so different to everyone else. I appreciated the lack of an expected “bully,” instead focusing on the kindness and acceptance of the class. The inclusion of environment and respectful treatment of animals (even pests!) was wonderful.

    While the story tells of a Year 2 student, it is a lovely read, regardless of age. Though most certainly suited to primary school, as a high school teacher, the poetic elements would work beautifully with our Year 7 poetry unit where they create an anthology of assorted poetic forms. To be fair, with its use of a variety of text types (shape and acrostic poems, tables, recipes, and procedures) I will also be using it to demonstrate experimentation of language with my Year 12 Extension English class! Artful pencil illustrations interspersed throughout correspond with the tender nature of the storytelling.

    Poignant and heart-warming, What Snail Knows left me with a sense that Lucy and her dad, while not having much, really have the most important things – love for each other, and appreciation for others. Snail would approve.

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