Introducing Illustrator – Helene Magisson – Readilearn

This week I am very excited to be interviewing the wonderful illustrator Helene Magisson, my first guest for the Illustrator Spotlight series.

Before we begin the interview, let me provide you with a little information about Helene.

Helene began her artistic career as a painting restorer in Paris, where she also trained in the art of medieval illumination*.

Helene has lived in countries all over the world, including Africa, France, and India. Her travels both inspire and enrich her work. She now calls Australia home, and it was when she settled in Australia, that Helene began a new career illustrating children’s books.

Helene has illustrated four books for New Frontier Publishing including The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams Bianco, and The Night before Christmas by Clement C. Moore. She is now working on her seventh book for Wombat Books.

In this interview, Helene and I are discussing her work illustrating Magic Fish Dreaming, a beautiful book of magical poems by June Perkins who featured in the Author Spotlight in November 2016.

Continue reading at: Introducing Illustrator – Helene Magisson – Readilearn

Who gives a crap?

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills asks “Who gives a crap?” and about what. She declares some things that are important to her, things she gives a crap about, including, but not limited to:

  • the environment
  • nature
  • truth
  • principles
  • equality
  • diversity
  • jobs for all
  • literature and it’s role in society, and
  • conflict resolution.

She says that

“Conflict resolution is finding a peaceful solution to a disagreement. It’s drawing back my hand from the urge to smack. It’s letting go of a need to punish. It’s hearing both sides of the concerns and working toward a way to save our environment and jobs. It means acknowledging the rights or privileges of all. It means agreeing to disagree with compassion for the other. It means uplifting the lowest in our midst instead of only seeking to better our own. It also means checking our words and behavior.”

I give a crap about education. I care about the education of our children. It is through education that we can make a difference in the world; but we can only do that if we educate our children to be thinking, caring, responsible, contributing participants in society and inhabitants of the planet.

We need to teach children about their relationship with the environment, and the impact of their individual, and our collective, actions.

We need to give children time to experience nature and the outdoors; to marvel at its beauty, to appreciate its diversity, and to wonder …

We need to model for children a principled life, in which truth, equality, and diversity are valued, and in which the collective good is more important than an individual’s need for fame or fortune.

We acknowledge that making mistakes is integral to an individual’s learning and tell children it is okay to make, and learn from, mistakes. We encourage them to think for themselves and to be innovative, to see alternative solutions to problems.

If we were to teach them to just accept things as they are because that’s the way they’ve always been (and I query that statement!) how can we expect them to come up with solutions to issues that confront us?

Some of the conflicts mentioned by Charli; for example, providing jobs and preserving the environment, have resulted from our learning, our development, our education.

Maybe we should consider that making mistakes is also integral to our collective learning and development; and be prepared to accept them as such, learn from them, and devise alternative solutions.

For example: We learned about fossil fuels. We saw how they would enhance our lifestyle, and we implemented that learning, creating many new jobs as a consequence.

Now we see that some of those advancements are not as beneficial overall as was initially thought. We made a mistake. It is time for reassessment, for learning, and for thinking of new strategies. We need to leave behind what does not work, and embrace the next step in our development.

Charli asks, “When did we start thinking that only our crap matters and stop giving a crap about others?”

For a while the focus moved away from the importance of community to the importance of the individual and individual rights. Maybe now it’s time to put the focus on community and the role of the individual in it. Let’s not ask what the community/humanity/the world can do for me, but what I can do for the community/humanity/the world.

This brings me back to Charli’s flash fiction prompt to: “In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that expresses a strong concern, something to give a crap about. Something that brings out the feeling to stand up. How can you use it to show tension or reveal attitudes?”

This is my response. I hope you enjoy it.

Pulling together

“It’s mine!” they spat at each other. With faces red and contorted, they pulled in opposite directions.

The object finally stretched to its limit and ripped apart, catapulting the opponents backwards to land on their derrieres.

“Now look what you’ve done!” they accused each other, and scrambled to retrieve what was salvageable.

They contemplated the useless fragments. There were no winners, only losers. Their eyes, previously filled with hate, now brimmed with sorrow.

“What have we done?”

Moving together, each comforted the other, feeling as much for the other’s loss as for their own.

“Let’s start anew,” they said.

I’d love to know what situation you think my story might be about. I’d also love to know what it is that you give a crap about.

Oh, and thanks to Bec’s reminder, I will mention the Who gives a crap toilet paper (that is far from crappy and great for the environment) that Charli mentioned in her post, and I previously mentioned in Around the Campfire.

Thank you

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Counting one hundred days of school – Readilearn

With the commencement of the Australian school year still two weeks away, it might seem a bit early to be thinking about the 100th day. Let me assure you it’s not. It’s great to be ready to start counting from day one. However, if you miss the start, you can always go back and count the days on a calendar. For those of you in the US and UK, the one hundredth day will be coming up soon in February.

In Australia there are 200 school days in a year. So, once you have counted up to 100 days, you are half way through and can then count down the number of days remaining. The US and UK have fewer school days: 180 in the US and 190 in the UK; so they are more than half-way through by the time they reach their 100th days.

Whatever their year level, children are always excited to count the days to this milestone, and it provides wonderful opportunities for learning about number.

Several readilearn resources support you and your students as you count up to and celebrate one hundred days, including:

The interactive digital resource Busy Bees 100 chart is great for all your usual number board activities, and can be used to keep a count of how many days you’ve been at school. Simply display the resource at the beginning of each day and move the bee to the next number.

Just this week, I have uploaded a short video explaining how to use the resource. I am also including it here. I’d love to know what you think.

Click to continue reading: Counting one hundred days of school – Readilearn

Can I keep the change?

This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills has challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a rattling sound.

Charli mentioned a variety of rattling sounds:

  • Hail – “Balls of ice the size of frozen peas” rattling on her RV

(Here’s a video of some pea-sized hail dancing in my garden recently.)

  • Political divisions and discussions, with each side clamouring to be heard but only sounding “like discordant hail on a fiberglass roof”

(Remember that saying about “Empty vessels make the most noise?”)

plato-empty-vessels

  • The saber-rattling incident in Chilean history “when a group of young military officers protested against the political class and the postponement of social measures by rattling their sabers within their scabbards.”

In her prompt, Charli suggests that the rattling sound could be “an intimidating sound of protest, a disorienting loud sound, a musical expression or a gentle baby’s toy.”

I thought of the rattle of coins – reasonably familiar in my childhood, less so now.

australian-imperial-coins

When I was a child, most transactions involved the use of cash – notes and coins. Back then, before the introduction of decimal currency just over fifty years ago, we had pounds, shillings and pence.

Decimal currency certainly made calculations easier but, though I remember my mother occasionally writing a cheque, transactions were still made mainly with cash.

I am from a large family and the finances didn’t stretch to pocket money. However, I do remember the occasional threepence to spend at the shop beside the school. I think they may have been gifts from the “tooth fairy”. How we agonised over which sweets to buy – maybe a rosy apple, four aniseed balls and some musk sticks.

Occasionally we might find a coin in the sand at the playground or beach, or be gifted one or two from an aunt, uncle or grandparent. Sometimes, when sent to the shop for bread or milk, we’d ask if we could keep the change. Sometimes the answer was “Yes”!

Although the anticipation of a purchase was heightened by the sound of a couple of coins jingling in a pocket or purse, we were also keen on saving them toward future desires.

The money box most of us had back then was a tin replica of the Commonwealth Bank’s head office in Sydney.  The clink of coins being added to the box was music to our ears, as was their rattle as we shook it to determine how full it might be and how much we may have saved.

The trouble with these money boxes was twofold:

  1. It was impossible to do anything with them quietly, and
  2. It was practically impossible to extricate any coins once they were in. The tins could only be opened with a tin opener! Sometimes, with the right tool, the opening could be widened and one or two coins could be removed, but the shaking and rattling required was a real give-away.

How different it is for children today. Not only are many transactions made using credit or debit cards, many purchases are made online. No cash, no “money” is seen to exchange hands.

Nonetheless, it is still important for children to understand monetary values and to be able to calculate the cost of items. I think it is good for children to have pocket money for which they can make decisions regarding spending or saving. The ability to save up for something, to delay gratification, is an important part of maturation. I wonder how many of today’s children are sent to the store on their own and, if so, whether they can keep the change.

The use of technology means that even cashiers (is that term also becoming outdated, like hanging up the phone?) are no longer required to calculate. The register does that for them. Yes, they do have to count out the change, but that involves little calculation.

With the changing values, too, Australia no longer has one or two cent coins. Five cents is the lowest denomination, and I doubt that a child could buy anything with just one, not even an aniseed ball or a musk stick. I wonder how long before it too disappears.

While online shopping, and paying with cards and phones is becoming commonplace, it is still important for children to handle, recognise, and become familiar with money. They need to be able to compare the value of coins and notes, and perform calculations with them. It is important for children to realise that a greater number of coins doesn’t necessarily mean more money.

australian-coins

The images on the coins and notes also provide an opportunity for learning about our Australian animals and significant people and events in our history. Perhaps in the lifetimes of today’s children, coins and notes will go the way of our Imperial currency and become simply items in a museum and history lessons.

For my response to Charli’s prompt, I have gone back to the days of coins rattling in pockets and money boxes, when thinking of the wonderful things that a few coins could buy was pure delight.

Can I keep the change?

With the string bag slung over his shoulder and the purse clutched tight, he was on his first big boy errand. And, he could keep the change. He rattled the purse. What possibilities awaited. Should he hurry to get the money, or dawdle and contemplate? Regardless, he got there soon enough.

He handed the purse to Mrs Kramer, who extracted the list and gathered the items. As she counted the coins into the till, he announced, “I can keep the change.” She peered over her glasses, then held out one large brown coin. He trembled: what could he choose?

australian-imperial-penny

A penny for your thoughts!

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

Getting to know you – Readilearn

getting-to-know-you-2

The beginning of the year is a great time for getting to know each other. Children will feel comfortable and friendly towards each other in a welcoming classroom environment that values and respects individuals; and in which appreciation for our diversity, as well as our commonality, is nurtured.

When children feel safe to be who they are, they are more accepting of others.

While it is important to establish a welcoming environment at the beginning of the school year, it is equally important to maintain the supportive environment throughout the year. It is not something we do to pretty the room and then forget about it. It is a part of who we are, and comes from a firm belief in the value of each individual, of community, of humanity, and of our world.

Source: Getting to know you – Readilearn

Happy as a possum in a pouch

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills is talking about getting cozy. While we swelter in the heat of our Australian summer, getting cosy is the last thing we are thinking of. Keeping cool is our current priority. (Note: cozy in North America, is cosy in Australia!)

When I think of cosy, I think of huddling in front of a fireplace, shawl over my knees, cat at my feet, and a glass of wine, perhaps Prosecco, in my hand. This is not something I have ever experienced. It is an image portrayed on Christmas cards, book covers, and in movies.

It’s a bit of a stretch for me to contemplate cosy at the moment, and I wondered how young Australians with little experience of “cosy” might respond to the word.

I asked 7-year-old grandson what he thought of when he heard the word “cosy”. He said,

“Nice and warm in bed.”

His Dad thought there could be no better definition. In fact this is the definition provided by Google:

cosy

I asked grandson if he thought we would want to be cosy in summer and he said, “Well maybe not warm, but snuggly.” I think he did pretty well in defining the word.

Snuggly makes me think of the children in bed as shown in Helen Magisson’s version of The Night Before Christmas. (Look for the interview with Helene on the readilearn blog later this month.)

No doubt you have heard the expression, “snug as a bug in a rug”. Like cosy, the expression refers to being in a pretty comfortable position. I figured that being in a pouch would be about as cosy as a creature could get and, since Australia is home to many marsupials, it seemed a perfect fit for the post.

Marsupials are mammals that give birth to live young before they are fully developed. The young, usually referred to as joeys, continue to develop in the mother’s pouch for a number of months, suckling on their mother’s milk.

feeling-prickly-marsupials

As explained in Feeling a little prickly, Australia is home to almost 70% of the world’s marsupials. Other marsupials are found in the Americas, mostly South America. Kangaroos, wallabies, koalas, possums, wombats, Tasmanian devils, numbats, bilbies, and quolls are among the species of marsupials found in Australia.

Brushtail possums are common in Australia and frequently share our homes as well as our neighbourhoods.

At the moment, a mother and baby have taken up residence in Hub’s carport/workshop. We’re not particularly happy when they share our homes, but I love to hear and see them in the garden. Although I must admit that hearing a male brushtail possum for the first time can be a disturbing experience. I wrote about this in Sounds like …

While possums are not popular in New Zealand and efforts are being made to eradicate them, and other introduced pests, from the island nation; I think they are rather cute. When I was young I climbed everywhere and got into everything and, as a result, was nicknamed “Possum”. (What happened to that inquisitive child?)

I have previously written about some of my favourite picture books about possums, including  Possum in the House and Possum Goes to School in Listen to the sounds, and Possum Magic by Mem Fox in A celebration of Australian picture books #2 – Mem Fox

Possum goes to school2015-09-19-10-55-23

When Charli Mills of the Carrot Ranch challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a cozy story, how could I not write about a cute little possum joey getting cosy in the mother’s pouch. I hope you like it.

Happy as a possum in a pouch

Warm and cosy in mother’s pouch, for months he did no more than suckle and sleep. Lulled by her gentle heartbeat and rhythmic breathing, he barely noticed as she scurried about at night; foraging for food, leaping from branch to branch, avoiding neighbourhood cats, sometimes scouring dogs’ bowls for leftovers, or accepting humans’ sweet titbits. For him, nothing else existed.  Until … one night, a strange feeling stirred inside. He poked his whiskery nose outside. Sniff, sniff. The most delicious scent beckoned him out. Mother offered him something red. Zing! His senses ignited. Milk was forgotten, nightly foraging began.

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

Happy New Year! – Readilearn

Wishing all my readers a very happy New Year with best wishes for peace and joy in 2017.

Thank you for your ongoing support. I’m looking forward to further conversations in 2017.

Click to read the original: Happy New Year! – Readilearn and view the video of inspirational teacher Chen Miller. Once a special needs student herself, Chen is now making a difference to the lives of children she teaches.