mrs c in the library

Reflections of a Teacher Librarian



The difficult task of defining “Multicultural Literature”

There are three dominant views of the term and use of “multicultural literature”. The first view, multiple + cultures = multicultural, suggests that no one culture should dominate literature for fear of reverse racism. The second view clearly objects to the use of racial and ethnic issues in literature as representative of multiculturalism. The final view asserts that all humans are multicultural, therefore all literature is multicultural (Cai, 2002).

In his introduction to Multicultural literature for children and young adults: Reflections on critical issues, Cai (2002) describes the difficulties in defining multicultural literature. To be honest, I am no closer to understanding what “multicultural literature” means but there are certainly many ways to incorporate different perspectives in the school library.

Elizabeth Bluemle’s (2010) blog post, “The elephant in the room” calls for the publishing community to “stop the white-wash” of literature published throughout the world. So the question becomes: Is the over-representation of white, middle-classed, Christian families due to the volume of these types of works being published or is it due to the selection of the Librarians calling for these items?

There is no doubt that there is a large volume of ‘dominant’ culture works in our Libraries. However, there is a growing number of literature that support the third view of multicultural literacy – the stories within them are simply about humans, who are naturally multicultural.

Personally, I prefer the term, “diverse”. I believe that we are seeing more diverse charactCircle of handsers in Australian literature and it is our role as Librarians to ensure that students have access to these different stories. We must treat each story on its merits, assessing the quality of the story, its usefulness in engaging students, its ability to be developed further for pedagogical purposes and teaching and learning experiences.

We must also remember that some literature considered high quality years ago, can contain prejudices and blatant racism, excluding many of our students. Rather than weeding these, they can serve as examples for critical literacy, or sociopolitical discussion, as Cai (2002) alluded to when discussing the difficult of defining the “multi” part of multicultural. Using these texts to compare and contrast historical perspectives engages our students in discussions about ethics and politics – about what is right, fair and just. Facilitating these discussions, providing the tools for students to form their own opinions, as well as opportunities for them to articulate them with evidence – surely one of the main aims of 21st Century education.



  • Cai, M. (2002). Defining multicultural literature. In Multicultural literature for children and young adults: Reflections on critical issues. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press.
  • Bluemle, E. (2010). The Elephant in the room. In Publishers Weekly: Shelftalker [Blog]. Retrieved from

Is reading for meaning dead?

(Critics) are not recognising or do not want to recognise that the former traditional approaches to alphabetic literacy through reading print are not meeting the needs of young people who read texts much differently than the generations of teachers and educators who are teaching them.(p. 42)

Zipes, J (2009)

Zipes 2009 Relentless progress: The reconfiguration of children’s literature, fairy tales, and storytelling is rightly confounded by the consumeristic nature of the publishing industry and the denigration of children’s reading to elements of decoding information alone. Essentially, he laments the lack of critical literacy infused in reading programs in schools in America.

I am unable to comment on the state of the education system in America as I have only taught in New South Wales, Australia, however, in the 6 years since Zipes wrote this text, much has changed here. The Australian Curriculum was introduced in all Australian States and Territories in the last few years, with new English and Mathematics curricular now implemented and Science, History and Geography in various stages of implementation throughout the States and Territories.

One of the most significant changes in the Curriculum that poses the most challenges for implementation by teachers, aims to address Zipes concerns about the continuing focus on alphabetic literacy through reading print. In fact, I would argue that here, in Australia, teacher training and professional development has consistently aimed to embed new technologies and literacies, at least for the past five years. This is further strengthened by the Australian Curriculum’s incorporation of information and communication technologies as one of the seven general capabilities that are applied across subject-based content (Toner, 2011).

Teacher Librarians have a significant role to play in addressing multimodal and multiliteracy teaching and learning practices. We are well-placed to lead teachers in technology enhancements for their current teaching. We can improve access to a wide range of print, screen and manipulative resources and promote these for integration into teaching and learning experiences. We can locate and source multimodal resources and provide LibGuides for teachers to integrate with their own units.

However, one of the most significant areas that Teacher Librarians can impact on children’s critical literacy skills is in the general capabilities which run through all content areas. Capability ‘Critical and Creative Thinking’ is really our bread and butter. The essential skills for critical and creative thinking closely match information literacy skills. As Toner (2011) suggests, these skills include:

  • “posing insightful and purposeful questions
  • suspending judgement about a situation to consider the big picture and alternative pathways
  • generating and developing ideas and possibilities
  • analysing information logically and making reasoned judgements
  • evaluating ideas, creating solutions and drawing conclusions
  • assessing the feasibility, possible risks and benefits in the implementation of their ideas
  • reflecting on thinking, actions and processes
  • transferring their knowledge to new situations.” (Page 2).
Wild Things by geraldbrazell
Wild Things, by geraldbrazell. Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0). Retrieved from

In Kindergarten through to Grade Two there is a strong focus on high quality stories from a wide range of cultural perspectives, using complex characters and motivations. This is the beginning of explicit inferential comprehension of characters, language features, story structure and ethics. It is the teacher Librarians’ role here to ensure that the school library is well-stocked and the catalogue has easy access to a wide variety of print, screen and multimedia resources to meet these aims. Similarly, as the concepts become more challenging and complex so too must the resources.

Will this refocus on ‘meaning’ and the purpose of the writer mean that the reduction in reading for pleasure as adults will be stemmed? It is too early to say. But one thing is clear. Far from Zipes suggestion that we are neglecting reading without meaning, teaching and learning practices in Australia are very focused on engaging students through their preferred modes of instruction and explicitly teach critical literacy skills.


The future of children’s literature

Reflecting on the historical developments of children’s literature, I am still at odds with myself as to whether I should be lamenting the solidity of printed literature or excited by the prospect of the digital age of children’s literature.  In pondering this, I am reminded of the concern of society when oral storytelling made way for print. With every change there comes some uncertainty, some level of wistfulness for the familiar and fear of the unknown. However, the developments that we are now seeing in multimedia offerings in children’s literature are probably not easily understood by non-digital natives. As an early adopter of most technology, it is difficult for me to not be excited by the prospect of the ever increasing digitisation of children’s literature. As a Teacher Librarian with limited capacity in a small school library and the ever increasing need to make budgets stretch further, there is even more impetus to want to drive some of the change towards this type of content. So then, what is my vision for the future of children’s literature? I have a few concerns about the five trends raised by McLean (2013): 1) The rise of the empowered author; 2) The rise of the empowered consumer; 3) The rise of the empowered child; 4) New patterns of content emergence; and 5) Drivers of choice are stable but delivery is not), but I am also excited by some of these. Most of my concern relates to the quality of the literature being produced as a result of these five suggested trends. Empowered authors allows direct engagement with the children reading their stories. This is a very positive aspect of social media and its benefits. Children no longer have to wait for teachers/Teacher Librarians or parents to choose the authors that they engage with through author visits, signing or Writer’s Workshops. Children can follow their favourite author’s blogs, learn about the writing process, watch illustrators and learn how to create stories and images and become involved at the level that they wish. This truly is a worthy future development to facilitate and one that is consistent with my vision for the future. The rising empowerment of consumers and children and new patterns of content emergence is where most of my concerns lie. As the mother of a teen, I have seen first hand how the developing fan-fiction genre, easily accessible to children with an internet connection or using apps such as WattPad can affect the quality of children’s writing. This new pattern of content emergence is largely pushed to children through peers and social media, including YouTube personalities. Although I am not one for encouraging restrictions on literature, caution must be taken that students’ reading breadth is wide and varied to include Eragon, The Perks of Being a Wallflower and anything by Roald Dahl, along with the many and varied other reputable children and young adult authors. This is not a new dilemma however, and can be easily tempered by being aware of popular versus quality literature, as a parent and teacher, and balancing the two with nudges in the right direction. Which of course brings us to the question of the drivers of change. We are now seeing consumer demand (and publisher support?) leading to the development of ‘like’ minded stories, particularly when they translate well onto the big screen. Did ‘SickLit’ as a genre even exist before “The Fault in our Stars”? There is now a plethora of SickLit in every book shop and Library. I believe that this will continue to be the major drive for change. The same is true with children’s reading habits. Their familiarity with devices and ability to navigate what seems to older generations, quite complex actions to access the apps they want, will continue to drive change towards e-books. Their ease of accessibility, usually lower price point, portability, the list goes on… makes e-books the choice of the future for a generation of children that have grown up with a smart phone in their hand as babes in strollers. This is where teachers need to wedge themselves in both sides of the story camp and use their influence to guide students to good quality stories and texts in the format that is best for that story or text. User preference for format will always be varied. For me there is nothing like opening a box of new books, smelling their fresh pages, feeling the texture of the words on the page and exploring the images and how they interact with the words. On the other hand, the convenience of being able to carry around a whole library of text books for study, novels for pleasure, and fiction and information texts for my children’s education and entertainment, all in one device, is immeasurable. For the time being though, e-book versions of picture books are still very sub-standard and cannot compare to print. In preparation for an upcoming author visit, one recent purchase of an e-book that I made really highlighted how poorly picture books can transfer into e-versions. Although the print version of the picture book “Marlo can fly” by Robert Vescio is a heartfelt read and beautifully illustrated, the electronic version of the same book is clunky, limited to single page spreads and requires going back and forth between each page. Although this hasn’t put me off purchasing e-books for personal use, it is definitely a consideration when purchasing for classroom use and teaching. Where this format is beginning to excel is in the more unique, interactive elements that this format supsherlock_screen1plies. For example, “Sherlock: Interactive Adventure” (HAAB, 2015) is the next level of the choose your own adventure genre, requiring not only reading and comprehension of text but also decision-making and problem solving with a strong narrative throughout. Interestingly enough though, one of the latest developments in e-books is the ‘Bridging Book’BridgingBook (“Bridging Books”, 2014) which combines both a printed book and a device to display the full content of the story along with additional story features. Will they co-exist happily like the Bridging Book gimmick? Johnathon Gunston’s (2014) article ‘Will printed books disappear? Stephen King on the future of the traditional paperback’ highlights the depth of this debate. Tim Waterstone, Founder of UK bookstore chain ‘Waterstone’, claims that print will never be dead and e-books are a passing fad, but author Stephen King argues that print fiction is dead, mainly because of the lower price point for the same story delivered electronically. What is clear is that there is a place in the world for both formats. They stand alone according to personal preferences and situations but they can equally weave and intertwine to enhance the magic of stories in ways that we have only ever dreamed of before. As Krystina Madej (2003) points out, “Each medium – oral tradition, print, radio, the movies, television, video – has added its own sound to the orchestra of storytelling as it has evolved. Each is important in its own right. Each influences, is used by, and depends on, the others.” (pg. 2).


Teachers' Hub - HarperCollins Australia

The Fat and Juicy Place

Please join HarperCollins Publishers in congratulating renowned artist Bronwyn Bancroft who has been nominated for the 2016 Hans Christian Andersen award.

Bronwyn is an acclaimed Aboriginal artist and designer and a descendant of the Djanbun clan of the Bundjalung nation. Bronwyn’s artistic career has been expansive and diverse and ranges from fashion design to children’s book illustration.

Bronwyn has illustrated a number of children’s book for HarperCollins, including the award-winning The Fat and Juicy Place by Diana Kidd, Stradbroke Dreamtime by Oodgeroo Noonuccal and The Whalers, Minah and Dirrangan.

Bronwyn also illustrated Sun Mother Wakes the World: An Australian Creation Story by Diana Wolkstein, which was published by HarperCollins US in 2004 and named in the New York Public Library’s annual list for Children’s Book – 100 titles for Reading and Sharing.

In 1994 Bronwyn was the Australian candidate for the UNICEF Ezra Jack Keats International Award for Excellence…

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Is NAPLAN killing creativity? (ETL504)

Sir Ken Robinson is a renowned expert on creativity. He believes that creativity is a vital element of 21st Century learning. In his Teaching for the 21st Century journal interview, also at ASCD’s Educational Leadership blog, he discusses the vital connection between creativity and critical thinking, two essential 21st century skills.

The linkages between the two are quite apparent when we consider that critical thinking is an integral part of the inquiry learning process and that creativity is required to transform the elements achieved through critical thought and new knowledge gain and application into new information, new media or new technology. Of course the two are linked!

Given that creativity and critical thinking go hand in hand, why, in Australia, do we still use standardised tests and League Table websites to measure student performance and teacher effectiveness? I found myself yelling at the television last Sunday night as Ray Martin, from 60 Minutes, traipsed over to New York to discuss Australia’s standardised testing of all students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9, with the ‘founder’ of this approach, previous New York education chief, Joel Klein. Still committed to his system, Klein clearly asserted that poor student performance in literacy and numeracy are the direct result of poor teachers. During his time he closed the lowest ranking schools and sacked many teachers but, when asked about his proudest achievement through this program, he cited an increase in high school graduation rates! I would suggest that most students in developed countries throughout the world are staying in school longer (therefore ‘graduating’) naturally, as part of cultural norms and global economic conditions.

As a profession, teaching is not an easy job. Sure, outsiders look at the holidays (What! Am I on holidays? I’m still undertaking professional development, planning next Term’s Programs, completing my performance review documents for meeting with my Supervisor, developing a presentation on “Engaging with Texts” as part of the new Australian Curriculum and exploring a variety of new technology tools to assess these for inclusion in my program and provide practical examples for other teachers to use in theirs. Oh, yeah, planning my 6 year old’s birthday party is my down time!). All jokes aside, I can say from experience working in a number of corporations as a Manager prior to retraining as a teacher and now, as a Teacher Librarian, nothing is as difficult as teaching. Nothing that I’ve done has been more rewarding, either.

So why the bad wrap? I don’t doubt that there are some teachers who probably shouldn’t be teachers anymore. They’ve lost the passion or the motivation and, from my experience, many of these teachers have been worn down by NAPLAN. So where does the actual problem lie? Should we be helping these teachers be the best they can be, recover their passion and enjoy teaching once more, through better teacher training, like in Korea, Finland and Singapore, or should we continue to flog the dead horse that is NAPLAN?

Anna Patty’s 2011 article in The Sydney Morning Herald made just this point. She said, “The big question is why Australia would want to emulate a country like the US where academic performance standards are, on average, much lower.” As part of this article, Patty interviewed Professor Linda Darling-Hammond of Stanford University, who advised that Klein’s model has failed America, resulting in a narrowing of the school curriculum and teaching to the test. Again, why are we flogging this dead horse?

I remember my school days fondly. I had mostly great teachers, who were inspiring and funny and, we didn’t always follow the ‘plan’ (that was obvious to even us back then!). I performed well academically and I thank those teachers who were organised and structured (despite the turmoil of the educational system in the 70’s) but I also thank those teachers who were creative and funny and flexible and a bit disorganised, because they also taught me to be flexible, help others, be responsible for my own learning and live life to the fullest (21st Century skills?).

I think that the new Australian Curriculum attempts to embed creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, deep knowledge and understanding but with the shadow of NAPLAN ever-looming it’s efforts are limited. I commend those teachers who are able balance the two effectively and welcome them to share their wisdom with all. Teacher Librarians can take a significant leadership role in fostering creativity. We already do so as part of our inquiry learning processes and we need to share these with our classroom colleagues to gain transfer across the curriculum.

Getting others to join the adventure (ETL504)

As I start to get my head around planning my Programs for Term 4, and how I can lead my colleagues in embedding information literacy throughout the curriculum, I’ve been reflecting on what I’ve learnt so far in “Teacher Librarian as Leader”. Particularly Bill Ferriter’s article, “What does leadership on a professional learning team look like?” (Center for Teaching equality).  I believe that being a leader doesn’t mean that you have to hold a particular position in an organisation or school, but you have to have the skills to be able to identify the problem and harness the talents of those around you, those who you can influence and guide, to create significant change. In his blog post, Ferriter discusses the three essential elements of “moving teams forward”. He says that they are: 1) strong relationships, 2) clear vision and 3) translating vision into action.

From my own perspective I have developed strong relationships with some key teachers across the stages but I have more work to do here. Borrowing from Matt Church (“Sell the Problem not the Solution” at Library Lost and Found“), unless I can help my colleagues see that there is a problem with viewing information literacy as the exclusive realm of the Library Program, then I am going to have an uphill battle in my attempts to push information literacy into their classrooms. No one wants to be forced to change. We all like things to go on the way they are. It’s comfortable and easy and change is confronting and difficult, but, as Church argues, unless people can see the problem, they will be very unlikely to want to listen to a solution. They need to take ownership, they need to recognise that something isn’t right and they need to be able to entertain the idea that things could be done differently and it would make life easier.

Given the imperative of implementing the new Australian Curriculum, I can see an opportunity to bundle information literacy into some of the new elements and focus of the English curriculum (and further down the track, the Mathematics, History and Geography Curricular).  I am well-placed, as a member of the English Committee, to be able to influence the development of new practices in English Curriculum development so that information literacy can be embedded in our Quality Teaching and Learning Framework.

But relationship building/collaboration is only part of the planning for my new, great adventure. Elements 2 and 3, suggested by Ferriter, are significant elements. The Vision and it’s associated Strategic Plan for action are vital. If I can’t clearly articulate where I want the Library to go and how to do it, then I cannot expect my colleagues to pack their backpacks and come with me.

So off to develop that clearly articulated Vision and Strategic Plan to inspire my colleagues and provide a pathway for us to follow on our adventure further into the ever-changing digital environment.

ETL401 – Exploring Information Process Models

After reviewing the plethora of information process models I am finding myself going through the same process as our students! The uncertainty that Kuhlthau asserts is necessary for the construction of personal knowledge is being evidenced first hand. Unfortunately I do not have a kindly teacher to be my soundboard, to make things clearer and guide my approach as I refine my practice.

Nevertheless, I have found that all of these models have merit and some make more sense than others in particular contexts. The Research Cycle, Focus on Reading, Guided Inquiry, Big6 and all the other variations have many similarities. The old cliche is true – the devil is in the detail. I think that there is great merit in the emphasis of metacognition in the information seeking process. This reflects the new Australian Curriculum’s focus on thinking about thinking and thinking about learning. It also marries well with my current Primary School’s Focus on Reading strategies; Comprehension, Reading and Vocabulary Enrichment (CRAVE) strategies and Mathematical Problem Solving Strategies.

For me, in my current context as a Teacher Librarian, attempting to implement collaborative programming where possible, where teachers are willing to collaborate on shared programs, the simplicity of the Big6 and the revised, Super3 appeals. Like most models, it has a sound metacognitive development framework and can easily incorporate more affective dimensions, similar to Guided Inquiry. Big6 and Super3 require the TL to explicitly instruct students at their zone of proximal development. It is also non-linear which means that specific steps in the process can become a focus if there is an identified need. This approach is also consistent with the New South Wales Department of Education and Training’s, Information Process Model.

The simplicity of Big6 and Super3 means that I may be able to extend collaborative programming beyond those few teachers who are willing to collaborate on research-based projects. I think that the principles are easy to promote to the Principal and other teachers and tracking transference of skills can be achieved. By showing teachers (through action research), the contributions that Big6 and Super3 can make in student writing, planning and organising throughout school learning, enough evidence should be gained to implement it inside AND outside of the library.

ETL401 Blog Task 1: The TL’s role in implementing a Guided Inquiry approach

The Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) and Australian School Library Association’s  (ASLA) Statement on Teacher Librarian (TL) Qualifications (2009) highlights the dual role of the TL as an educator and an information manager. This dual purpose can be clearly demonstrated when examining the TL’s role in implementing a Guided Inquiry approach.

Kuhlthau, Maniotes & Caspari (2007) define Guided Inquiry (GI) as, ‘an integrated unit of inquiry planned and guided by an instructional team of a school librarian and teachers, together allowing students to gain deeper understandings of subject area curriculum content and information literacy concepts….”  Quite clearly, GI requires school community support and close collaboration with teachers.

From my experience, this close collaboration between teacher and TL can be quite superficial. As a Relief from face to face TL I am certainly left with the impression that some teachers are disengaged from the ‘Library Program’ for whatever reason. This is not to say that they do not want to see student outcomes achieved but more that they do not understand, or cannot see the contribution that digital and information literacy skills can make for student achievement. This perception means that TL’s need to be cognisant of Principle 3 , ‘Professional Commitment’ and specifically,  ‘Leadership’ Standard, 3.3 of the Australian School Library and Information Association’s  ‘Standards of professional excellence for teacher librarians’ (ASLA, 2004).

For GI to be successful, the TL must raise the profile of the Library, research, provide evidence and create a whole school approach to information literacy. They must establish and nurture collaboration with all key stakeholders, especially the Principal and teachers.

Recognising that these steps must be taken, how does the TL become the champion of information literacy? The answer to this question is intrinsic to the GI approach itself – provide the stakeholders with evidence of the improvements in student achievement, firstly in Library projects, then transferred to the classroom. For example, Kuhlthau et. al, (2007) reported that a follow-up survey of teachers and librarians who had implemented Guide Inquiry projects found that the resultant student learning was ‘richer and deeper and more personalised over time’ (p133).

The GI process clearly achieves the dual purpose of the TL’s role as both educator and information manager. The TL as educator role, or, “every subject expert” (Michigan School Library Initiative Group, 2009)  is evidenced in their curricular knowledge and is reflected by their collaboration with other teachers in the focus of the Guided Inquiry, whether students are investigating the immune system or the history of jazz. The TL as information manager reflects the TL’s capacity to integrate information literacy throughout the school, mentor teachers to ‘push’ technology into the classroom and ensure that traditional and digital resources meet the changing needs of the curriculum to best prepare students for high school and eventually employment. As Herring (2007) suggests, TL’s need to mentally and strategically move away from the notion of the library as just supporting the school, towards the vision of the library as a vital part of the school. As TL’s, we need to embrace our leadership role and be prepared with evidence of the improved student achievement to effectively implement Guided Inquiry in our schools.

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