Category Archives: Literacy education

Meet Australian picture book author Aleesah Darlinson – Readilearn

Aleesah Darlison

This month, it is my pleasure to introduce you to award-winning Australian author Aleesah Darlison. Aleesah writes picture books, chapter books and novels. Her much-loved stories promote courage, understanding, anti-bullying, self-belief, teamwork and environmental themes. In 2015, she won the Environment Award for Children’s Literature (Non-Fiction) for her picture book, Our Class Tiger. She has won numerous other awards for her writing.

Aleesah has written over thirty-five books for children and in 2016, she set up Greenleaf Press, a business designed to provide critical support services to authors and illustrators. The company also acts as a booking agency for school and preschool visits.

Today, Aleesah and I are talking about her picture book Stripes in the Forest. With National Threatened Species Day just a couple of weeks away on 7 September, it is a timely interview. Stripes in the Forest is the story of an iconic species lost.

Thylacine quote

Told from the perspective of the last wild female thylacine, it provides readers with an insight into the rare beauty and uniqueness of these amazing animals, explains their fight for survival and provides important lessons for future generations.

An emotive and moving story, children will connect with the solitary, stoic and courageous female thylacine who does all she can to protect her young – just as a human mother would do. The story takes readers to a place in the past, but also offers a twist that projects them

Contine reading: Meet Australian picture book author Aleesah Darlinson – Readilearn

Celebrating Father’s Day – Readilearn

While many around the world celebrated Father’s Day in June, here in Australia Father’s Day is celebrated on the first Sunday in September. Since that is now just a few weeks away, I thought I’d get in early with some low-cost Father’s Day gift suggestions that can be incorporated into your literacy and art programs.

A cautionary note

However, before I share them, I’ll begin with a cautionary note.

Be aware of the diversity of families in your class and the needs of individuals. Not all children have a father present in their lives, and not all fathers fit the perfect role model. While the day is not just for dads, but for grandfathers, stepfathers, and other male carers and role models too, a day to let them know how much they are appreciated; for some children, the day can be a painful reminder of someone missing. Be sure to adjust what you do to be inclusive of children’s circumstances, for example; “Celebrating a special adult in my life day”, or consider leaving any celebration to the children and their families.

Most classrooms are peopled by children from a diversity of traditions and cultures. Learning about and appreciating the similarities and differences is an important part of establishing a supportive classroom environment and encourages acceptance of and respect for each family’s composition and heritage. Suggestions to support discussions are available in readilearn History resources. Conducting Getting to know you surveys about families and who children live with can also help identify suitability of the celebration with your class.

Gifts from the heart on Father’s Day

Encouraging children to create and give a gift from the heart demonstrates that not all gifts need come from a shop. It allows children from even the poorest families to give their Dads a special Father’s Day gift. It helps develop their creativity and teaches them skills that they can apply in future gift-giving situations. It shows how thoughtfulness and imagination can combine to make a unique gift that will be treasured.

A gift of love lasts longer than any store-bought gift.

Classroom activities

  1. Read picture books featuring fathers

A few of my favourites are:

 

Continue reading: Celebrating Father’s Day – Readilearn

Sounds surround us

tinkling tree

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

While reading Charli’s post in a motel room, I listened to an amazing chorus of birds in the trees outside. They were mostly magpies, but their song was not quite the same as that of the magpies at home, and I found it entrancing. Not long after, I went for a walk down town and serendipitously came across this beautiful tree sculpture with tinkling metal leaves. Would these sound bites be useful in responding to Charli’s challenge?

I have written about sound in other posts.

In Listen to the sounds I discussed the use of onomatopoeia in children’s picture books, including sounds made by:

  • animals,
  • machinery,
  • musical instruments, and
  • actions.

I listed pictures books that make use of each, and included a flash fiction piece about storm sounds.

In Sounds like … I wrote about the natural sounds made by some of our native wildlife; the beautiful music of our song birds heralding changes in the days and seasons; and other more unusual sounds that may alarm the unfamiliar, like that of the brushtail possum.

I wrote about the unnerving sound of mutton birds in response to Charli’s challenge in that post.

In Writing poetry with children I shared the structure of a sound poem and experimented with using the structure to write poems about other senses in a 99-word flash fiction. I also wrote about these poems on the readilearn blog. Instructions for writing the poems are available in readilearn resources, including here and here.

I wasn’t sure where to go this time, and after much consideration, found myself in more of a contemplative mood, stuck between ideas. I did what I suggest to children when they say they don’t know what to write: just write what’s in your head.

Sounds surround us

The deadline looms and I wonder how to extract a 99-word story from my unwilling brain. Contemplation, false starts, abandoned ideas: the well is dry. But listen! Outside, the day fades. Birds serenade folk hurrying homewards and signal the changing shifts. Soon they’ll sleep and the night time chorus will begin. Inside, the computer hums patiently, waiting to tap out the words. In the kitchen, doors creak: pantry then fridge. Vegetables are scraped and rinsed. Water bubbles on the stove. What joy!  Yes, I get to eat tonight; but my, how the gift of hearing enriches my world. Gratitude.

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

 

Introducing illustrator Muza Ulasowski – Readilearn

This month I am delighted to introduce you to the very talented illustrator Muza Ulasowski. I’m certain you will find her illustrations to be quite remarkable.

Although Muza has illustrated many books, I first came across her work in the beautiful picture book Forest Wonder, written by Caroline Tuohey. It is Forest Wonder, a winner of international awards, that Muza and I are discussing today. Before we get started on the interview, first let me tell you a little about Muza.

 Muza Ulasowski is a graphic designer and children’s book illustrator based in the leafy western suburb of Brookfield in Brisbane, Queensland. Australia. She is inspired and surrounded by a vast array of local birds and animals who tend to make their appearances in her book illustrations. She shares her life with her wonderfully patient husband, their charismatic bulldog called Charlie and a black magic cat named Basil.

In 2010, she was invited to illustrate her first children’s picture book and enjoyed it so much, that

Continue reading: Introducing illustrator Muza Ulasowski – Readilearn

Learning about life on a farm – Readilearn

Learning about life on a farm holds great interest for children and many opportunities for integrated learning across the curriculum. Most of today’s children are town-dwellers and have little experience with rural and farm life. Many have no idea where their food comes from beyond the attractive supermarket shelves.

This week I have uploaded some new resources which support an early childhood K-2 unit of work about farms. However, they can be used as part of a literacy program, independent of a farm unit. Sight words and phonic skills can be developed through reading in a context that is both meaningful and interesting to children.

New resources include:

On the farm Who am I? This interactive digital story is great for use on the interactive whiteboard. Children are presented with a series of clues to help them identify an animal that lives on a farm. Children select the answer from those provided. The resource includes both domestic and “wild” animals.

Continue reading: Learning about life on a farm – Readilearn

Shine a light

The flash fiction prompt set by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch this week challenges writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write about a beacon. It can be from a lighthouse or other source. Use the word literally or figuratively and go where the prompt leads you.

Charli writes about our fear of change, fear of the unknown, and of the need for guides “to bring us in to a new harbor, a light to show us the rocky shoals.” She suggests that “Perhaps blogging, writing, are mediums of light that shine a path to bridge cultural differences.” but also acknowledges that, “Instead of looking for a way, some people have backed out of the water and barricaded themselves on the beach.

I see education as the way that will bring us to a “new harbour”, the light that will “shine a path to bridge cultural differences”. Sadly, as I say in my poem about education, there is far too much emphasis on schooling and not enough on education, too much desire to keep the masses down by the insistence on conformity and ignorance rather than the encouragement of creativity.

© Norah Colvin

I was well-schooled as a child, but have spent my adulthood exploring what it means to be educated and promoting the benefits of a learner-centred education as opposed to other-directed schooling. I read of a book about “teaching backward”, beginning with what the student needs to know and working backwards. (Needs as determined by others, not the student.) I’d rather teach forwards, beginning with what the student wants to know and going from there.

When my earliest teaching experiences fell short of my expectations, I searched for the beacons to guide my way out of the murkiness in which I found myself. I devoured books by John Holt, A. S. Neill, Ivan Illich, Paolo Freire, and others, with ideas about education and schooling that were as challenging as they were exciting. I read of innovative educators such as John Dewey, Maria Montessori, and Rudolf Steiner.

The ideas challenged what I’d been taught but blended comfortably what I had learned through observation of children, including my own young child, and relating it to my own experiences. The pieces began to fit.

At about the same time, I undertook further studies in literacy learning and was fortunate to work with a team of inspired educators led by Brian Cambourne, whose work and guidance placed the piece that helped the puzzle take shape, and guided my learning journey.

Beacons, or shining lights, that guide and inspire us, are as essential to our growth as sunlight is for plants. Educators such as those mentioned, and more recently, Ken Robinson, Rita Pierson, and many others, are such beacons. We are constantly told of the success of the Finnish school system and I wonder why it is that those holding the power in other school systems fail to see their light. We need at least one to rise above the fog of number crunching and data collecting to see the bright lights shining on the hill.

Is it fear, as Charli suggests, that keeps them out of the water? I watched the movie Monsters Inc on the weekend. It seems to deal with the issue of controlling the masses with falsehoods and fear quite well. It is also a great laugh – one of the most entertaining movies I’ve seen for a while. If you haven’t seen it yet, I recommend it.

I’ve attempted a similar situation with my response to Charli’s challenge. I hope it works.

Let there be light

Eyes squinted in the dim light under low ceilings. Immobilised by never-ending paperwork, the menials dared not look up. Flickering numbers on data scoreboards mesmerised supervisors. Inconsistencies meant remonstrations, even punishment, from above. Heads down, keep working, don’t ask questions. The system worked fine, until … Maxwell nodded off. His pencil fell, tapped first, then rolled away. Startled, Maxwell went after it. The room stilled. Sliding too fast, he slammed into the wall, activating a button that illuminated a set of stairs leading up. Everyone gasped. Maxwell hesitated, took one step, then another. Nothing happened. He continued. Everyone followed.

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

 

The Battle of Bug World – Interview with Karen Tyrrell – Readilearn

This week I have the pleasure of welcoming Karen Tyrrell back to the blog. I previously interviewed Karen about her book Songbird Superhero for the Author Spotlight series. Karen has now published a second book in the Song Bird Series The Battle of Bug World.

I enjoyed Songbird Superhero, so was delighted when Karen approached me to participate in her blog tour. The fact that the book is about bugs may have something to do with it. As you saw last week, I am a fan of minibeasts, including bugs.

As soon as Karen announced the release of her book, I purchased an advance copy and was able to post a pre-review on Goodreads. This is what I wrote:

I loved Song Bird Superhero and wondered if a sequel could possibly match it. But with The Battle of Bug World, Karen Tyrrell didn’t just match it, she surpassed it!
This fast-paced page-turning story is packed with disasters that even Song Bird is not sure she can fix.
What is that nasty Frank Furter up to now? And what’s with the severe thunder storm hovering above his house? What’s happened to all the bees? And why has Song Bird’s sister

Continue reading: The Battle of Bug World – Interview with Karen Tyrrell – Readilearn