mrs c in the library

Reflections of a Teacher Librarian



Black voices in Library Collections – Some recommendations

In Allen and Unwin’s 2009 interview with Indigenous author, poet and social commentator Anita Heiss, she tells us that the main difference between Aboriginal writers and non-Aboriginal writers telling ‘Aboriginal’ stories is that Aboriginal writers aren’t just telling a story: they “use writing as a form of catharsis. They use it as a means to make sure that their voice has a place in Australian literature. They use their writing as a means of having a political voice in a country where we still remain voice-less in a political system…”

Our local public library has a large and varied collection of Indigenous Literature, albeit in the adult collection. This seems to be a reflection of the lower publication rates for Indigenous literature targeting the children audience.

Ensuring Aboriginal voices are heard in our schools, from a very young age is vital. As a K-6 Librarian it can be difficult at times to access Indigenous texts that are not tokenistic representations. Our school is committed to developing a Library Collection that reflects the diversity of our student population and this includes Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families.

Thankfully, more and more picture books and primary novels are being written by Indigenous people, telling authentic stories of their family, community and spirituality.

The Cross-curriculum priority area of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Culture from the Australian Curriculum calls specifically for “all learners to deepen their knowledge of Australia by engaging with the world’s oldest continuous living cultures.” [so that] “This knowledge and understanding will enrich their ability to participate positively in the ongoing development of Australia.” (Education Services Australia, n.d. Par 3).

This priority interconnects aspects of Country/Place, People and Culture. Texts that I recommend for investigating these aspects with K-6 children include:

stolengirl_Trina SStolen Girl, by Trina Saffioti & Illustrated by Norma MacDonald (Middle/Upper Primary). This is a fictional story about the stolen generation.

collecting-colourCollecting Colour, by Kylie Dunstan (All ages). This gorgeous fiction picture book is based on the author’s experiences in Arnhem Land of collecting vines and reeds for the Aboriginal women to use for weaving.

memory shed_sally morganThe Memory Shed, by Sally Morgan & Ezekiel Kwaymullina, Illustrated by Craig Smith (All ages). This is the story of a young girl helping her Grandmother clean out the shed for a garage sale. Each item has a story. It references the Depression and bush tucker.


Stradbroke Dreamtime, by  Oodgeroo Nunukul & B Bancroft (All ages) contains 27 short stories. It is a particular favourite as a read aloud, providing insight into Old and New Dreaming stories with beautiful illustrations. It can be applied to a variety of student investigations in English, Mathematics, Science and Technology.


Literature Cited

  • Dunstan, K. (2009). Collecting Colour. Sydney : Lothian Children’s Books
  • Morgan, S., Kwaymullina, E. & Smith, C. (Illustrator). (2015). The Memory Shed. Parkside, SA : Omnibus Books
  • Saffioti, T. & MacDonald (Illustrator). (2011). Stolen Girl. Sydney : Lothian Children’s Books
  • Oodgeroo Nunukul & Bancroft, B. (1999). Stradbroke Dreamtime. Pymble, N.S.W. : Angus&Robertson

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

Wrangling worms

As a Teacher Librarian who is also a mother of three, working four days a week and studying a Master of Teacher Librarianship (M TL) by distance education, there is not much time left for reading for pleasure.

How then, do I stay abreast of Children’s Literature so that I can provide the best School Library Service to my colleagues and our students?

‘Business, career, depressed, employee’ by Pixabay. Creative Commons CC0. Retrieved from

I get it when my students, friends and colleagues say, “I just don’t have time to read anymore”. BUT… I yearn to read everything that I process (and sometimes do!), I can’t pass a bookstore without popping in to see the new releases and flick through to see if I should give them a second look and take a snap of the cover so I don’t forget. Gosh, I even buy books when I’m supposed to be grocery shopping!

Besides the invaluable articles, journals and advice gained through the M TL I have a few strategies in place to help me stay on top of things:

Curation tools

Pinterest is my go-to curation tool (check out my Boards) . I like it’s visual layout because I can quickly find what I want (I am obviously a visual learner). I use Pinterest to curate websites to later insert in my weebly and our school library blog. I follow the boards of other Teacher Librarians and have developed a trusted network of like-minded teachers who share the content around.

Diigo is also great for finding new research, new approaches in Children’s Literature and learning about studies from around the world.

Social Media

My school Library has a Twitter account (@BexleyPSLibrary). Whilst it targets parent usage in the school (students are too young to have a Twitter account), it provides an opportunity to retweet from a wide variety of Publishing houses and authors that I follow. At the moment it is somewhat dormant, but I have high hopes for it once I graduate!

My school does not have a public Facebook page, but I do use my private Facebook page to connect to authors,

Publishers, Bookstores, Libraries, Museums, Galleries and professional associations who provide ongoing sources of information and inspiration for children’s literature recommendations and ideas.

Professional Networks

I am a member of the Teacher Librarian Network List Service which is a great source of knowledge about old and new children’s literature issues, research and resources. This group is interactive and provides a wealth of historical information as well as hints and tips about new and upcoming authors, events, talks and materials.

With the support of an inspiring Principal who clearly values the contribution of a professionally-run Library, I also attend Teacher Librarian Network meetings once each Term. These meetings are an invaluable source of information for our professional development on Library administration, organisation and development. Children’s bookstores or suppliers often attend these events with a wide range of new titles to peruse and discuss.


Blogs such as ‘Hey Jude‘ and ‘Children’s Books Daily‘ are just a couple of the blogs that I subscribe to for information about the profession of Teacher Librarianship as well as reviews and news on new and old authors and their offerings.


Regular visits to sites such as ‘Goodreads‘ and ‘Inside a dog‘, along with many more provide opportunities to explore children’s literature before spending that tight budget. These sites are also helpful when trying to find ‘the right book’ for those students that come into the Library but can’t find what they’re looking for (a little like me when I’m looking for a handbag – I don’t know exactly what I want but I know I don’t want the one on the shelf). By reading reviews from other librarians and readers I can get a feel for books that might be a good fit for that student. Sometimes I’ll find it on Amazon and download a Sample for them to read off my iPad before I commit to the purchase. It’s little things like this that can make a big difference with the reluctant readers or those boys who say they can’t find anything they like.

Resource Reviews

The New South Wales Department of Education and Communities’ School Libraries and Information Literacy website has a resource review tool which can search for general and/or online resources using keywords. The search can be undertaken for specific grades which I find useful when making recommendations to support classroom teaching and learning programs.

Education Professionals

Having a good rapport with other education professionals and developing those through professional networks and associations ensures current and up to date research and resources can be drawn on for my school library. Attending professional development at professional association events such as the Primary English Teachers Association Australia (PETAA) strengthens these links and takes advantage of their wealth of knowledge on children’s literature.

Local Public Librarians

Local public librarians are a great source of information on trends and popular series. They also support us with Book Week visits and competitions to generate excitement about children’s literature both in and out of the school environment.

My Kids

Discussing the books that my children are reading in class and for pleasure is always a great source of interest for me. I have found many little gems that they have been reading that I have then found hiding in my own school library to recommend to teachers for specific units. My own children also enjoy a wide variety of fiction but my youngest (Age 8) is really into information texts, particularly, as the research suggests, animal texts. In trying to meet her voracious appetite for all things cute and cuddly I have come to find some amazing texts, magazines and multi-media sites that are on my wishlist for my own school library.

Other strategies for the future

What else is on my list of ‘to do’s’ when it comes to continued professional learning about Children’s Literature? Here’s just a few:

  • MOOCs: I have had my eye on a few Massive Open Online Courses in this area that I would love to sink my teeth into;
  • Sister Library Program: Setting up a Sister Library program with my school’s local Public Library to leverage database access is one of my targets for the next three years, and finally
  • Formats: Further exploring ebooks, audiobooks and interactive children’s literature following the implementation of our new Library system in late August this year.

Hopefully, all of these activities will help me to wrangle the right book for the right time for each of my little book worms.

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.


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