Category Archives: Picture books

celebrating diversity in a multi-cultural classroom: a parade of nations

A parade of nations in a multicultural classroom

A parade of nations flash fiction prompt by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills has challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a parade of nations. It can be literal, or it can be a phrase that you use to describe a situation. Explore what it could be. Go where the prompt leads.

One need look no further than a classroom of children to find a parade of nations. Below is my response to Charli’s prompt, but please read on for information about Multicultural Children’s Book Day, International Day of Peace, and suggestions of books to read.

A parade of nations

The children listened intently, eager to learn. Each family’s wish was for a better life. The group was a parade of nations; with Dragos from Serbia, Duy from Vietnam, Melino from Tonga, Ervine from Scotland, Rongo from New Zealand, Jung from Korea, Sanhitha from Sri Lanka, and Jawara from Senegal; and these were only the new arrivals. Others were first and second generation with but a few who could count back further than three, except for Kinta whose ancestors were the first to arrive. The wall map, dotted with pins to show each one’s heritage, was their proudest display.

While I have taught classes with children from each of these countries, and many more, for the purpose of my story I used the Baby Name Finder at Mom Junction to locate names with friendly, peaceful meanings. It is a very helpful resource.

family traditions and celebrations a unit of work for the first three years of school

It was my experience in such multi-cultural classrooms that prompted me to make a resource to facilitate learning about our own and each other’s cultural traditions and celebrations. The resource is now available on readilearn.

Multicultural Children's Book Day

Used courtesy of Multicultural Children’s Book Day

Thinking about the diversity that exists in our classrooms, our cities, our countries and our world is a perfect time to bring to your awareness Multicultural Children’s Book Day, the focus of which is on “bringing attention to all of the amazing children’s books available that celebrate diversity.”

The co-creators of the event Valarie Budayr and Mia Wenjen define multicultural books as those that

  • include characters of colour or that represent a minority point of view
  • share ideas, stories, and information about cultures, race, religion, language, and traditions
  • embrace our world and offer children new ways to connect to a diverse and richer world.

On the Multicultural Children’s Book Day website, teachers can find a collection of helpful resources; including a classroom kindness kit and a classroom empathy kit. Authors and publishers of multicultural books are also invited to sponsor Multicultural Children’s Book Day through a range of sponsorship options already open for 2019. Interest in the day has increased in the six years since its inception and that growth can only continue. While it is wonderful to see the greater number of books with multicultural and diverse themes now available, more are still needed.

Whoever You Are Mem Fox

One of my long-time favourites is Whoever You Are written by Mem Fox and illustrated by Leslie Staub. I have read it to many groups of children, every one of whom has loved its powerful message: that underneath it all, we are just the same.

You can read about, listen to Mem read, or purchase the book here.

I'm Australian Too a picture book by Mem Fox

A newer favourite is another by Mem FoxI’m Australian Too. This one is illustrated by Ronojoy Ghosh.

This book is a celebration of all cultures and heritages that are represented in the Australian population and together make our country what it is.

You can read about, listen to Mem read, or purchase the book here.

All are Welcome, a picture book by Alexandra Penfold and Suzanne Kaufman

An even newer favourite is All are Welcome written by Alexandra Penfold and illustrated by Suzanne Kaufman.

I first heard about this book from the wonderful Patricia Tilton who blogs at Children’s Books Heal. Patricia’s aim with her blog is to “share books on a wide range of topics that have a healing impact on children who are facing challenges in their lives.” I have purchased many lovely books recommended by Patricia and never been disappointed.

Just as I was completing a draft of this post, I received notification of a new post by Patricia. You won’t believe it, but Patricia wrote about the book again for the International Day of Peace on 21 September. How perfect. Please pop over to Patricia’s post for more details about this beautiful book.

Once, long ago, there used to be a recording of Bill Martin Jr. singing I am Freedom’s Child on his website. I loved singing along to it with my class. The words were especially meaningful in our multicultural classes. We sang, “As I learn to like the differences in me, I learn to like the differences in you.” What a wonderful thought that, with acceptance of ourselves, comes acceptance of others. If we could just do that, we would indeed, all be freedom’s children.

Thank you blog post

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

introducing-robbie-cheadle-author-and-illustrator-of-the-sir-chocolate-book-series

readilearn: Introducing Robbie Cheadle author and illustrator of the Sir Chocolate Book series

This week I have great pleasure in introducing you to Robbie Cheadle author and illustrator of the Sir Chocolate Book series.

What most appeals to me about the Sir Chocolate Books is Robbie’s amazing fondant illustrations. I am also impressed that her twelve-year-old son Michael co-authors the books with her, and has been since he was ten. Perhaps your children will also find this aspect interesting.

About the books

Sir Chocolate and Lady Sweet live in Chocolate Land where everything can be eaten. In each story, told in rhyme, Sir Chocolate and Lady Sweet have a new adventure or problem to solve. Robbie also includes recipes from the story in each book.

To date, there are five books in the Sir Chocolate Book series.

About Robbie

Robbie Cheadle was born in London. Her father died when she was three months old, and she and her mother emigrated to South Africa where they lived in Johannesburg, George and Cape Town. While growing up, Robbie attended fourteen different schools. This gave her many opportunities to develop social skills and meet new people as she was often “the new girl”.

Robbie is a qualified Chartered Accountant and writes in that field about equities and investments in South Africa.

While Michael co-authors the books with her, Robbie’s other son Gregory (aged 14) assists Robbie and Michael with filming and editing their YouTube videos and editing their books. The books are very much a family affair.

For other books written by Robbie, see the end of the blog post.

The interview

Welcome to readilearn, Robbie.

Thank you for inviting me.

 Robbie, the number of books in the Sir Chocolate book series is continually growing with five books now available. What gave you the idea for this series?

Continue reading: readilearn: Introducing Robbie Cheadle author and illustrator of the Sir Chocolate Book series

Interview with Sonia Bestulic author of Reece Give Me Some Peace

readilearn: Introducing Sonia Bestulic author of Reece Give Me Some Peace

This week I have great pleasure in introducing you to Sonia Bestulic author of Reece, Give Me Some Peace. While interviews with authors and illustrators have featured regularly on the readilearn blog, this interview marks a new collaboration with Romi Sharp and the team from Books on Tour. This post is but one of several celebrating the launch of Sonia’s beautiful picture book. Please read to the end of the post for details of other posts celebrating Sonia’s work.

About Sonia Bestulic

Sonia grew up in Sydney Australia enjoying a childhood filled with wonderful books, a passion for writing and music entwined. She played the violin until her late teens, including performances at the Sydney Opera House. Sonia is Founder of Talking Heads Speech Pathology established in Sydney in 2006. A long-term advocate for children’s learning and literacy, Sonia continues to write and speak about all things children.

About Reece Give Me Some Peace

Reece Give Me Some Peace is a fun-loving book about the wonderful world of music and noisy play. Reece is a very cheeky and curious boy who loves making noise. His mother’s requests for him to be quieter only seem to make him louder. As his exuberance grows, so does his mother’s exasperation. Will she ever get any peace?

The simple rhythmic text combined with delightful illustrations by Nancy Bevington reminds us of the power of learning through play and exploration. Children will love to join in making the sounds and adults will identify with the challenge of being able to enjoy some quiet.

Now, let’s meet Sonia.

The interview

Hello, Sonia. Welcome to readilearn.

Thank you for inviting me.

Sonia, today we will discuss your beautiful new picture book Reece, Give Me Some Peace, but first, can you tell us what inspired you to be a writer?

Continue reading: readilearn: Introducing Sonia Bestulic author of Reece Give Me Some Peace

Interview with Katrin Dreiling illustrator of The World's Worst Pirate by Michelle Worthington

readilearn: Introducing Katrin Dreiling illustrator of The World’s Worst Pirate

This week I have enormous pleasure in introducing you to Katrin Dreiling illustrator of The World’s Worst Pirate, written by Michelle Worthington.

The World’s Worst Pirate is a captivating book about being true to yourself and unleashing your inner strengths.

Story Synopsis

One might wonder why Will, the world’s worst pirate, would want to be a pirate anyway. The truth is, he didn’t. There wasn’t much at all he liked about being at sea. He was happiest in the galley cooking cupcakes. The ship’s captain, his mother, on the other hand, couldn’t understand why he didn’t love being a pirate as much as she did. When the ship is attacked by a terrifying sea monster, no one could have predicted the outcome. Katrin Dreiling’s illustrations are a perfect fit or Michelle Worthington’s story. They add humour, delight, and a sub-plot of their own.

The Illustrator

The World’s Worst Pirate, published by Little Pink Dog Books in 2017, is Katrin’s first picture book. In 2018 the book received the CBCA Notable Book award, a wonderful achievement, especially for a first book. Prior to becoming an illustrator in Australia, Katrin studied languages in Germany to become a teacher. She loves to come up with quirky creations that inspire children to get creative themselves. Katrin’s second book, also written by Michelle and published by Little Pink Dog Books, will launch in September this year.  Katrin also enjoys writing for children and regularly teaches art classes in Newfarm, Brisbane.

The Interview

Welcome to readilearn, Katrin.

Thank you for inviting me.

Katrin, The World’s Worst Pirate was listed as a Notable Picture Book in the CBCA 2018 Book of the Year awards. Congratulations. Since it is your very first published picture book, that must have been very special. How did it make you feel?

Continue reading: readilearn: Introducing Katrin Dreiling illustrator of The World’s Worst Pirate

flash fiction story about peering from the bushes

Peering from the bushes

Hattie and the Fox by Mem Fox

One of the multitude of my favourite picture books is Hattie and the Fox, written by Mem Fox and illustrated by Patricia Mullins.

I am allowed a multitude of favourites, aren’t I?

Like children, it’s too hard to choose just one. I don’t mean just biological children, I mean the children I teach. They all become ‘my’ children the moment they enter my classroom and remain that way forevermore. How could I choose a favourite?

Hattie and the Fox is a fun story for reading aloud. The children love to join in, especially with the dialogue, and even enjoy acting it out. The cumulative and repetitive features of the story, along with the rhythmic text, support beginning readers who beg to read the story again and again.

While my daughter never liked it when I ‘put on voices’ to read, the children in my class did. Somehow they didn’t think it was me putting on voices. They became involved in the story and thought it was the characters speaking. I used to smile to myself when they’d say things like, “That cow, she’s so funny.” And mimic my reading. Although I am no Mem Fox (you can listen to her read the story here), they enjoyed it anyway.

In the story, Hattie the hen announces that she can see a nose in the bushes. The other animals show little interest. Even when Hattie announces that she can see two eyes, two legs, a body, four legs and a tail, they are not concerned. Only when she realises and announces that it’s a fox peering from the bushes, do the others respond.

Peering from the woods, Charli Mills flash fiction Carrot Ranch

I couldn’t help but think of Hattie and the eyes peering at her from the bushes when Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes  an act of “peering from the woods.” Go where the prompt leads.

We don’t have “the woods” in Australia. We have “the bush”. There could be any number of things peering at us from the bushes such as possums, koalas, kangaroos, drop bears, bunyips, or a great variety of birds. Most are fairly harmless. It was deer peering from the woods in Charli’s story.

While deer are not native to Australia, some were imported for hunting and farming purposes. Many of those escaped to freedom. Some roam the suburbs destroying vegetation and creating hazards for unsuspecting motorists. We’ve occasionally come across a group of them in the middle of the road when we come home late at night. At Christmas time the road signs warning of deer are decorated with tinsel and red pompom noses to add to the festive mood.

two flash fiction pieces about yellow tents

Last week, in response to Charli’s ‘yellow tent’ prompt, I attempted a romantic story which was rather well received. I decided to continue the story. You may remember that a reluctant camper, unable to find any further excuses, finally agreed to join her boyfriend. When she arrived, the campsite was deserted except for one yellow tent lit by solar fairy lights spelling the words, “Marry me,” and her fears melted. But should she have dropped her guard?

Surprise!

She parked her car beside his and grabbed her bag. As she locked the car, she looked around. Where was he? He said he’d be watching for her. Cicadas buzzed louder than her footsteps crunched the gravel. A bird startled as it squawked and flapped overhead. Where was he? He must know she’d arrived. Even with the fairy lights, it was darker than she liked.  Peering from the bushes, he willed her to be brave, to open the tent, to find what he’d made for her. Finally, tentatively, she pushed aside the flap. Her screams silenced the night chorus.

Is that what he expected? What do you think was in the tent? Why was he peering from the bushes? What happens now?

Thank you blog post

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

Interview with prolific author Jennifer Poulter about her pictrue book Hip Hop Hurrah Zoo Dance

readilearn: Introducing Jennifer Poulter, author of Hip Hop HURRAH! Zoo Dance

Meet Australian author J.R. Poulter as she discusses her beautiful picture book Hip Hop Hurrah Zoo Dance which is great for reading and getting kids moving.

This week I am delighted to introduce you to prolific Australian author Jennifer Poulter. Jennifer writes fiction and poetry for children, education and the literary market. She has had over 50 traditional books and thirteen digital picture books published. She writes under the names J.R. Poulter and J.R. McRae and has received numerous awards for both fiction and poetry writing.

Throughout her career, Jennifer has been employed in numerous roles including Senior Education Officer with the Queensland Studies Authority and Senior Librarian with the State Library of Queensland. She even once worked in a circus. In addition to writing, Jennifer is also an editor and artist. Now, under the banner of Word Wings, Jennifer collaborates with other creatives from over 20 countries.

Today I am talking with Jennifer about her picture book Hip Hop HURRAH! Zoo Dance.

What initially attracted me to this book is its ability to get children moving. What a great way to incorporate fun with movement and reading into any day.

The book also fits perfectly with a dance curriculum that encourages children to become aware of their bodies and how they move in space, to explore and improvise dance movements. Children can be encouraged to move like the zoo animals in the book or improvise movements for other animals and objects that move.

But Hip Hop HURRAH! Zoo Dance can also find its place in the literacy curriculum. Written in rhythmic verse, it encourages children to join in with the reading. It has a treasure of words to delight and extend vocabularies and add sparkle to writing; words like ‘limber, fandangle, prance and shimmies’. Children will laugh at the hippos with the backside wobbles and be intrigued by the combination of illustrations by Jade Potts and the variety of media used by designer Takara Beech in creating the double page spreads.

If you throw in some counting of animals and legs, needs and features of living things, and places they live, you can cover almost the entire curriculum with this one little book. But enough from me, let’s find out what Jennifer has to say.

Continue reading: Introducing Jennifer Poulter, author of Hip Hop HURRAH! Zoo Dance – Readilearn

readilearn: NAIDOC Week Celebrations 2018—Because of Her, We Can

In Australia, NAIDOC Week is celebrated around the country each July. The acronym NAIDOC stands for National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee. The theme of this year’s celebration, which runs from 8 to 15 July, is Because of Her, We Can!

The purpose of the week is to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Islander Peoples and acknowledge their contributions to our country. This year’s theme recognises that “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women have played – and continue to play – active and significant roles at the community, local, state and national levels”, roles that have often gone unrecognised.

The 2018 poster, a painting by Bigambul woman, Cheryl Moggs, from Goondiwindi, portrays the courage and resilience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women. You can read, in Cheryl’s own words, the inspiration behind her artwork here.

While most Australian school children are enjoying their mid-year break during NAIDOC Week, many teachers will be looking for ways to share the celebrations with their students when school resumes.

Any time is a good time to incorporate learning about Indigenous cultures and histories. In fact, embedding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures is one of the cross-curriculum priorities in the Australian Curriculum.  Although I provide links to resources and suggestions that Australian teachers can use with their classes when celebrating NAIDOC Week, I’m certain many of the resources will be of interest to others around the world when teaching about diverse cultures and histories.

The NAIDOC website has suggestions to get you started, and you can download a free copy of the 2018 NAIDOC Week poster from the website too. You can also check out their calendar for events near you. Refer to News for stories of women to celebrate.

In the following video, Uncle Barry Watson, the Elder in Residence with Communities for Children in Logan City in south-east Queensland, explains the

Continue reading: readilearn: NAIDOC Week Celebrations 2018—Because of Her, We Can – Readilearn