Monthly Archives: January 2018

poised on the edge of the future

Poised on the edge of the future

Every morning we wake up to a new day and step into the future. The past is gone, in memories of yesterday and soon to be forgotten. How we approach each day–with excitement, fear, anticipation, dread, joy or boredom, lulled by repetitious acceptance devoid of creativity–is our choice. We can accept the mundane or jump into the unknown, feet first.

This week Charli Mills of the Carrot Ranch challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that goes to the edge. Consider what the edge might be and how it informs the story. Go where the prompt leads.

I jumped straight in and wrote my 99-word response in one go. Normally I mull it over for days, struggling to find threads of meaning to tie together post and story.

Last week in response to Charli’s “boots” prompt, I wrote about Grandma’s sparkly storytelling boots. I was pleased so many of you confirmed it was a great idea for a story. I had already decided to work on it and submit it to my critique group this week. You could say, I jumped into that abyss–boots first. Wearing grandma’s sparkly boots, I’m sure to fly.

It’s funny when you write a post that connects with people in unexpected ways. I was surprised, delighted, honoured and extremely grateful this week when three of my favourite bloggers, whose work I admire shared my post on their blogs:

Jennie Fitzkee–an inspiring early childhood teacher who, like me, expounds the benefits of respect for children, story reading and telling–blogs at A Teacher’s Reflections. If you haven’t visited her blog yet, I recommend you do. Every post delights.

Dayne Sislen–an illustrator of children’s picture books who shares information about illustrating books and also writes about the importance of reading to children–blogs at Dayne Sislen Illustration. Her love of children’s picture books and illustration is obvious. In her post last week How to extend the attention span of your children, Dayne discussed the importance of reading to children. It was a wonderful match for mine about storytelling. You can find out more about Dayne on her blog or website.

Charles French–who I came to know through Jennie reposting his series of inspiring quotes–blogs at Charles French Words Reading and Writing. How delightful to know that he also enjoyed my post enough to share with his readers. This is just one of his posts of quotations that spoke to me: Quotations on teaching. 😊 I suggest you pop over to visit Charles as well to share in his words of wisdom.

children hold hands going into the future

Those of you who write YA or adults novels, memoir or non-fiction, may wonder what we early childhood teachers and writers and illustrators of children’s picture books have that could be of interest to you. Let me tell you, we have everything. We have the key. We are the ones who create the readers of tomorrow, the future readers of your books. We turn the children onto reading as we take their hands and lead them to the edge of tomorrow when they leap into the unknown worlds of books.

In case you haven’t yet read my response to Charli’s “edge” prompt, this is it. It doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with my previous statement but starting anything new can push us to the edge and we don’t really know just what will happen until we give it a try. I wish you all many joyous flights.

The edge

She stood at the edge of the abyss and wondered what would happen should she jump – would she fly, or would she plummet to the bottom and rest, fractured and alone, forgotten and abandoned, with all the others who dared to try but failed. It was fear that held her back, chained her to the ledge. But there was nowhere else to go. She’d tried all other paths. This was all that remained. Could she stay there forever. Would there be a point? What if she fell? But what if she flew? She inhaled, closed her eyes, and jumped…

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readilearn: Meet Sofia Goodsoul author of Nian the Lunar Dragon – Readilearn

This week I am very excited to be interviewing Australian author Sofia Goodsoul about her picture book Nian the Lunar Dragon, illustrated by Marina Kite. With Multicultural Children’s Book Day coming up on 27 January (see previous post I am Australian) and Chinese New Year on 16 February, the time is just right.

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

 Sofia Goodsoul is an author, emergency kindergarten teacher and indie-publisher. Her poetry writing has grown from a hobby into a great passion. Now she can’t live a day without writing poems, riddles and stories for young children. The children give themes and inspiration for her books.

 Sofia lives in Melbourne with her family and pets. She loves going to Zumba classes and taking long walks with her husband and family dog Mack.  Sofia dedicates all her spare time to her writing and publishing career.

multicultural children's book diversity Chinese New Year

Nian the Lunar Dragon, an entertaining and beautifully illustrated rhyming narrative for young readers, is Sofia’s second picture book in collaboration with Marina Kite. The book is about the legend behind the traditions and celebrations of Chinese New Year, sometimes called Lunar New Year. According to the lunar calendar, Chinese New Year commences with the new moon at the beginning of spring.

A long time ago, the dragon named Nian lived in the deep ocean to the east of China. Nian was a strong and ferocious dragon, which no creature could defeat. Once a year, Nian climbed ashore to hunt for cattle and human prey. The people of the nearby villages and towns lived in terror, and each New Year’s Eve they had to leave their homes to save themselves. One day, a monk came to the village. He knew a well-kept secret about how to scare Nian away and free the Chinese people from the danger and their fear.

Welcome to readilearn, Sofia. We are looking forward to getting to know you a little better.

Thanks for inviting me!

Sofia, when did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I don’t remember capturing that specific moment, but my grandmother was a children’s book illustrator and I often stayed with her

Continue reading: readilearn: Meet Sofia Goodsoul author of Nian the Lunar Dragon – Readilearn

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#WATWB #ReadYourWorld Multicultural children's Book Day

#WATWB #ReadYourWorld Multicultural Children’s Book Day

On the last Friday of each month We Are the World Blogfest invites bloggers to join together in promoting positive news. With this the first for 2018, it’s a good time to think about joining in. If you would like to do so, please check out the rules and links below.

A statement of mission from the We are the World Blogfest website:

“There are many an oasis of love and light out there, stories that show compassion and the resilience of the human spirit. Sharing these stories increases our awareness of hope in our increasingly dark world.”

The co-hosts for this month are:  Shilpa Garg, Simon Falk, Lynn Hallbrooks, Eric Lahti, Damyanti Biswas and Guilie Castillo. Please pop over to their blogs to read their stories, comment and share.

This month I am sharing an inspiring story that, while it may not be “News”, was certainly news to me and maybe is news to you too. I hope it fits the criteria for sharing.

A little while ago I came across the Multicultural Children’s Book Day website. I admire the mission of the organisers to:

“not only raise awareness for the kid’s books that celebrate diversity, but to get more of these of books into classrooms and libraries.”

There is certainly a need for more understanding, acceptance, empathy and compassion in the world, and it is very pleasing to see projects such as this being promoted. I’m sure you’ll agree that education of our children is a great place to start.

Multicultural Children's Book Day

Used courtesy of Multicultural Children’s Book Day

Multicultural Children’s Book Day was initiated by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into a Book and Mia Wenjen from Pragmatic Mom, and is celebrated for the fifth time this year on 27 January with a #ReadYourWorld Twitter party!

There is much to explore on the Multicultural Children’s Book Day website; including resources such as, a list of diversity books and activities for teachers and parents, and  a free Classroom Empathy Kit that includes a book list and activities to help children develop empathy. You can even sign up to get a free diversity book for your classroom.

(Note: There is also a great way for authors and publishers to help out by donating their books with multicultural themes.)

I hope you see how both these organisations are working towards making our world a more positive place for all of us.

Here are the guidelines for #WATWB:

1. Keep your post to Below 500 words, as much as possible.

2. Link to a human news story on your blog, one that shows love, humanity, and brotherhood. Paste in an excerpt and tell us why it touched you. The Link is important, because it actually makes us look through news to find the positive ones to post.

3. No story is too big or small, as long as it Goes Beyond religion and politics, into the core of humanity.

4. Place the WE ARE THE WORLD badge or banner on your Post and your Sidebar. Some of you have already done so, this is just a gentle reminder for the others.

  1. Help us spread the word on social media. Feel free to tweet, share using the #WATWB hashtag to help us trend!

Tweets, Facebook shares, Pins, Instagram, G+ shares using the #WATWB hashtag through the month most welcome. We’ll try and follow and share all those who post on the #WATWB hashtag, and we encourage you to do the same.

Click here to join in and enter the link to your post. The bigger the #WATWB group each month, the greater the joy!

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Grandma's books - the magic of storytelling

The magic of storytelling

Guiding parents in play sessions for parents and children.

Telling stories to and with young children has many benefits. Including other things, it helps to develop:

  • relationships with the storyteller and other listeners
  • language – vocabulary, language structure, imagery
  • understanding of narrative structure as it applies to fiction and non-fiction accounts
  • curiosity about one’s family, the immediate environment, and other places
  • empathy for others
  • interest in books and reading
  • imagination

There is something very special about telling, as opposed to reading, stories. The telling can be more fluid, more interactive, and change with the mood and with input from teller and listener. The distinction between teller and listener can blur and roles can change as the story flows.

Sometimes it is the routine and the relationships that are more important and more memorable than any one story. For example, a parent telling stories as part of the bedtime ritual, stories told by a visiting grandparent, aunt or uncle, or even stories told in the classroom. Jennie Fitzkee often tells us about the magic effect of her storytelling sessions in her preschool classroom on her blog A Teacher’s Reflections.

What were the dinosaurs like?

Story telling doesn’t require any special talents, or even an especially exciting story. When my daughter was young she would often ask for a story about my childhood. (She loved hearing about the dinosaurs!) Stories such as these can occur at any time during the day, though storytelling times may need to be scheduled in a school day. A special treat for me as a young child was when, after dinner, Dad would sing us the story song asking, “Who made Little Boy Blue?”

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills has challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes boots. Whose boots are they, where do they go and what is their significance? Go where the prompt leads.

I immediately thought of a Grandmother, a storytelling expert, whose boots signified when a magical storytelling session was about to begin. I hope you like where the story leads. In fact, it can lead wherever you wish–

Grandma’s boots

Jess peered out, waiting, hoping, to glimpse Grandma arrive. Rainbow stars exploded outside her window just as the doorbell chimed–missed it again. Disappointment faded as she flung herself into Grandma’s enveloping arms. Grandma’s soft kisses promised secrets through scents of far-off places and unfamiliar things. Grandma’s boots sparkled, announcing story time. Jess and Grandma snuggled into their special chair. Clasping hands, they whispered their story-time chant. The chair shuddered and lifted off the floor. The roof opened and, quick as a wink, Jess and Grandma were whooshing across the sky to somewhere, “Once upon a time and faraway…”

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multicultural Australia

readilearn: I am Australian – Readilearn

Australia is a continent populated mostly by immigrants or their descendants. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in 2016, the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples living in Australia was less than 3 per cent of the population. This means that over 97 have ancestors who were born elsewhere, though most will feel the influence of no more than two previous generations and consider themselves firmly Australian. In fact, the number of Australians born overseas is still increasing and was over 28 per cent in 2016.

What this means for teachers in Australia, is that the composition of their classes will include children from a great diversity of cultural backgrounds. Possibly it is the same for you.

This proxy Australian anthem I Am Australian, written by Bruce Woodley and Dobe Newton, is a moving song that honours the diversity of cultures in Australia, from the First Australians to more recent immigrants. It is often sung in schools to help develop an understanding of and appreciation for the richness of the Australian peoples.

It is important to teach children acceptance of and appreciation for each other and their traditions. A supportive classroom will value each child’s contribution and heritage. Getting to know each other at the beginning of a school year provides the perfect opportunity for learning about the traditions of others. However, it can be done at any time of the year.

readilearn resources that assist you do this are: Continue reading.

Source: readilearn: I am Australian  – Readilearn

watching in dry flash fiction feature

Watching ink dry

Sometimes we think change occurs at an incredible pace. Other times it’s too slow–like watching paint dry. But what about watching ink dry?

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about wet ink. It can be artistic, writerly or something completely off-the-wall. Go where the prompt leads.

Where would I go? To school–where else?

In my first year of school we wrote on slates (no, not on stone tablets as my children may tease).

In subsequent years, we wrote in exercise books and special handwriting books with lead pencils (which contain graphite rather than lead).

As we moved up through the grades, we still used pencils for most work, but were also introduced to pens with nibs which we dipped into inkwells recessed in our desks for handwriting or “copybook” lessons. It was important to get just the right amount of ink on the nib–too little and the nib would scratch but not sufficiently to make a readable mark–too much and the ink would run, blot and smudge.

In upper primary, we graduated to fountain pens for our copybook work. It was just as difficult to get the right amount of ink, even with the cartridge variety. Should we err and make a blot on our copybook, it was treated as a most serious offence. Luckily, our trusty blotting paper was at the ready to soak up any excess. We always had to begin writing at the top and continue down the page. There was no going back and inserting or altering something at the top, unless we were absolutely certain the ink was dry, lest we smudge the writing with our hand.

Although ball point pens, commonly called biros in my circles, had been invented–as early as 1888 according to this history, would you believe–we were not allowed to use them in school for fear our handwriting skills would deteriorate. They had their own set of ink issues too–some would fail to write, other would supply too much thick ink. Others would leave ink all over hands, or leak in pockets or bags.

Over the years, ballpoint pens improved in quality and have now replaced dip nib pens except for specialist writing, and fountain pens are considered more a luxury item. Now the concern is that the use of digital devices; such as, computers, tablets and phones will have a harmful effect upon children’s handwriting skills. I wonder were there similar concerns when papyrus replaced stone tablets; and what those concerns will be in the future, should handwriting have a future.

I didn’t wish to “blot my copybook” by responding to Charli’s prompt with a story unrelated to education or children. I hope you enjoy it.

A blot on whose copybook?

Ever so carefully, she dipped the nib in and out of the inkwell. Her tongue protruded, guiding the pen as she copied the black squiggly lines dancing across the page.

“Start at the top. Go across; then down. Lift, dip…,“ the teacher droned.

“Start at the top!” The cane stung her knuckles, sending the nib skidding across the page.

“Now look what you’ve done!” The teacher grasped the book and held it aloft, sending ink in rivulets down the page. Her thumb intercepted one, smearing another opportunity for humiliation across the page.

“Girls, this is what not to do!”

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observing living thing local environment

readilearn: Observing living things in the local environment – animals – Readilearn

Observing living things in the local environment helps children develop an appreciation for all living things, not just the exotic animals that feature most commonly in picture books and wildlife shows. It also helps them appreciate the diversity of living things in their local area and may stimulate an interest to know more.

Conducted over a week, including a weekend, observations can reveal a surprising number of creatures. If the observations are repeated throughout the year; for example, during different seasons, a greater diversity may be observed.

Be part of a larger project

While observations can be conducted independently as part of the class curriculum, sometimes you can be involved in larger citizen science projects such as these two Australian projects: the Aussie Backyard Bird Count and The Atlas of Living Australia. Data on The Atlas of Living Australia enables you to find out what living things others have observed in your local (Australian) area.

For those living outside Australia, you may find resources specific to your location by searching National Geographic, Scientific American or simply by conducting an internet search.

Books and other resources

While many species observed may be identified through an internet search, particularly using the resource section of your local museums, it is also useful to source books about the wildlife of your area, or to seek out local groups and experts to assist identification and to develop understanding of local habitats and living things.

Circle picture book by Jeannie Baker

Include picture books if possible too. For example, earlier this week I had the pleasure of attending the launch of an exhibition of collages created by Australian author and illustrator Jeannie Baker to continue reading

Source: readilearn: Observing living things in the local environment – animals – Readilearn