Tag Archives: learning

Jacqui Halpin Parmesan the Reluctant Racehorse

readilearn: Introducing Jacqui Halpin – picture book author – Readilearn

This week, it is my pleasure to introduce you to Jacqui Halpin – author, founding member of Write Links (a local group of published and unpublished authors and illustrators of children’s books), a former nurse and tuckshop convenor.

Jacqui grew up in Brisbane where she still lives with her husband, one of her three adult children, and a cat called Loki. While writing and editing, Jacqui likes to sip tea from fine china and eat copious amounts of chocolate. She says she should never be allowed in a bookshop with a credit card in her possession.

Jacqui writes picture books and short stories, some of which appear in anthologies by Stringybark Publishing and Creative Kids’ Tales. She co-wrote and independently published her elderly father’s memoir, A Long Way from Misery.

Today Jacqui is talking with us about her first picture book Parmesan The Reluctant Racehorse, humorously illustrated by John Phillips and published by Little Pink Dog Books in October 2017. Jacqui’s second picture book, Where’s Lucky?, based on an orphaned swamp wallaby joey at a wildlife shelter, will be published in mid-2019.

Parmesan is a delightful story of a thoroughbred racehorse who should be winning races and earning lots of money for his owner. However, Parmesan thinks he’s a dog. Instead of training with the other horses, he’s off with his doggy friends doing doggy things like playing fetch. His owner is not happy. If Parmesan isn’t ready to run in the Spring Carnival, he’s getting rid of him. Parmesan’s trainer is worried. He knows Parmesan won’t be ready, but as they arrive at the Spring Carnival, he thinks of a brilliant way to get Parmesan to run around the track. Parmesan’s triumph proves you can be a winner and stay true to who you are.

Welcome to readilearn, Jacqui, we are looking forward to getting to know you better.

Thanks for inviting me.

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

I always liked writing stories and poems at school, but it wasn’t until I read picture books to my own children  Continue reading: readilearn: Introducing Jacqui Halpin – picture book author – Readilearn

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…

Thank you blog post

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

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

readilearn Lessons for the interactive whiteboard – Christmas – Readilearn

I loved the addition of the interactive whiteboard to my classroom about ten years ago. I embraced the use of computer technology from when I bought my first home computer in 1985 and first used computers in my classroom in 1986. The interactive whiteboard was a way of making use of the technology inclusive. Instead of one or two children taking a turn on the computer while the rest of the class were engaged in other things, we could all be involved at the same time, if desired.

I used the interactive whiteboard with the whole class for introducing topics, brainstorming ideas and explaining concepts. It was great for modelled writing lessons and collaborative reading. I found it particularly useful for demonstrating the processes to follow in the computer lab.

I used some purchased software, but also spent a lot of time creating activities to teach or practice particular concepts or skills. Versions of many of these lessons are now available here on readilearn.

Continue reading: readilearn Lessons for the interactive whiteboard – Christmas – 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.


Introducing author Cynthia Mackey – Readilearn

This month I am pleased to welcome first time author Cynthia Mackey to the readilearn blog.

Cynthia has always loved children’s literature.  After years of teaching preschool and kindergarten, she is proud to have written her first children’s book, Katie Shaeffer Pancake Maker.  Cynthia writes in her spare time and has plans to publish more picture books for children.  She lives on the west coast of British Columbia, Canada with her family and her piano where she faithfully continues her weekend pancake tradition.

Synopsis: In Katie Shaeffer Pancake Maker, Katie is too young to use the stove so she dreams of making her very own pancakes. Join Katie and her friend Baxter in this fun story as they use a passion

for collecting and building to find a way to realize Katie’s pancake dream!  This upbeat energetic tale with great potential for reading aloud will appeal to adults and young children alike.  The book includes a predictable rhyme that will have children chiming in as the story unfolds.  Children will celebrate with Katie and Baxter as their pancake dream becomes reality!

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

Thanks for inviting me!

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

Continue reading: Introducing author Cynthia Mackey – Readilearn

Who’s watching?

This week in her fascinating post at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a watcher.


From the moment of birth children are watchers, learning from their observations of the world around them – objects, people, actions, interactions. The adage “Do what I say, not what I do” holds little significance for young children. They may do what you say, but they are more likely to mirror what you do. For this reason, it is important to model the behaviours you wish children to emulate; for example, kindness, patience, empathy, truthfulness, tolerance, understanding. You need to be the type of human being you wish them to be. Example is a powerful teacher.

Dorothy Law Nolte summed it up in her poem Children Learn What They Live.

Watching is also important to teachers, especially early childhood teachers who spend a lot of time observing children to discover more about their learning needs. Learning in this sense is not confined to the academic. It involves regard for the whole person, especially social-emotional development. So much of what we learn about getting along with others is learned in the early years. While the teachers are watching the children, the children are watching them.

Thank you to my wonderful students, and their lovely Mum who made this for me!

Thank you to my wonderful students, and their lovely Mum who made this for me!

But children’s observations are not confined to the home or classroom. They are constantly watching the behaviour of others, learning about interactions and what is, and is not, acceptable. The responsibility for developing the kind of world citizens we want lies not solely with parents and teachers. We must all be mindful of the influence our actions may have upon the expanding world knowledge of those around us. That’s not to say we should be perfect. (Thank goodness, or I’d have been shot long ago!) We just need to be aware that little eyes (and big eyes) are watching and learning.

The way new situations are approached can vary according to personality as much as to the behaviour that has been observed in similar circumstances. Sometimes the expectation seems to be that, if children are put with a whole bunch of other kids their age, they will make friends easily. But that is no more likely than if a bunch of people my age were thrown together. Some of us are outgoing and feel comfortable talking with unknown others. Some like to observe for a while to determine an approach with which we may feel more comfortable.  Some require support to venture into unknown territory.

For my response to Charli’s prompt, I have written about a little one, hurt in the past and now facing a new situation, hesitant to make the first move. When children are taught to be accepting of and friendly towards others, reluctance can turn into confidence. I hope it works.


He stood at the periphery, silently observing, calculating their disposition, weighing his chances. Were they friend or foe? Appearances could be deceiving, as could his gut reaction.

They seemed harmless enough; but his sweaty palms, throbbing temples, and churning belly turned his legs to jelly. Even breathing was a struggle.

He became aware of someone tugging his shirt. Though unsure if she was talking or mouthing, he understood, “Would you like to play?”

His head would neither nod nor shake, but she led him by the hand anyway.

“Hey, everyone! This is Amir,” she announced.

“Hi Amir!” they chorused.

Thank you

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