Archive for category Secondary school

More thoughts about teens and reading

What a very interesting discussion this is turning out to be! If you haven’t seen the earlier bits yet, you’ll need to read here and here. It’s a complex thing, this ‘getting teens to read’ business.

As I read the article on the Sapling site, there were several things that just didn’t sit quite right with me, from my experiences as a school librarian, and as a parent of two teens. Several times the voice in my head was saying “OK, but…

My words here are fuelled by a genuine desire to see more teens reading more and enjoying it more, including more NZ writing. I also love the chance to talk about this stuff with other people, and although blog posts and comments in themselves maybe aren’t that productive, it’s a place to start a conversation. Here we go 🙂

“…peer recommendation is by far the most powerful driver when teenagers are choosing their next book, so it makes sense to provide a platform for reviews by young readers, for young readers.”

OK, but is the right platform for that teen-reader-to-teen-reader review and recommendation, a website where the input from teens is mostly limited to quite formal, 500+ word reviews? Contrast that with something Insta-friendly or Snapchat compatible such as #booksnaps, as Steph points out. Or the type of YA reader hub that’s exemplified by Inside a Dog or #LoveOZYA? A huge part of what we are all trying to do is to get young people reading, sharing, and recommending books with each other. So shouldn’t we be doing more to try and meet them where they are? To respect what they want, and how they do things?

“…how is it possible that, in many secondary schools, a student can study English for five years without meeting a single New Zealand book on the curriculum?”

OK, yes, good point. And Bridget’s comment about text responses that do well in assessments is spot on. Neither teachers nor students want to risk getting fewer credits, or missing out on endorsements, by choosing something new and untested in that way. Especially when every NCEA credit in English (reading or writing) is hard-earned. I also think that there is a lack of local OER material to support teachers who might want to introduce contemporary/local texts but baulk at how much work that means for them. Especially if they’re not reading much (or any!) contemporary YA of any origin and just don’t know what’s available and awesome right now. How can we address that? Some teachers do share resources they’ve created (via the Secondary English list on TKI for instance) but I reckon there’s still a huge gap. Particularly for contemporary and local texts. Definitely something where the YA lit community – library people, publishers, and authors, and the Hooked On Books people and the Sapling etc – might be able to help. I’m talking about this sort of thing for a start.

“…there is little awareness of New Zealand children’s and Young Adult fiction by undergraduates…”

This is a “yes, and…” for me. What about pre-service teachers? How are they introduced to C&YA lit so that they begin their careers with an understanding and a love of stories and reading, and knowledge of what’s out there, and what’s local, and… and… and…? Again, how do we respond to that need? What about ongoing professional development for teachers, and for children’s and youth librarians in public libraries and schools? What about programmes for developing parents as readers — for themselves, and with their children? There are pockets of awesomeness to be found, but it needs to be a bigger movement.

“None of them had read any of Mahy’s extraordinary young adult novels.”

Yes, but surely that’s because the three books mentioned are 30+ old?! I guess they’re the right age for people who might be youngish teachers now, for example, so maybe they might have been expected to have read them as teenagers. For me though, their publication fell into the gap where I was too old to read them as a young adult myself, too young to have kids who might read them at the time, and too busy having a different career to know about it from a professional perspective. Publishers, please do reprint them with great new covers though, if they still stand on their own merits, that’d be awesome (and that is not sarcasm!)

“… teens choose their own books without an adult steering them to old favourites.”

OMG yes. Take it from someone who once tried to introduce her tween daughter to Anne of Green Gables. Big mistake. But isn’t that the way it should be, actually? We want young readers to choose books independently, right? I agree that reviews have a part to play in that. But: see everything above. Readers Advisory is so NOT about steering other people towards your old favourites. It’s about using all sorts of strategies – maybe reviews, but so much more than that too – to find the best match for each reader, right now. Today I read a blog post from YA writer Annie Barrows. Go ahead and read it here. I swear she could have been writing about my own kids. Or any number of their friends. And teenagers you no doubt know as well. What do they actually want to read? Pretty sure it (mostly) isn’t novels written 30 years ago that older people think are classics (but see above about reprints! 🙂

“Everyone staying up to read the new YA books being released a chapter each night.”

Yes! But this is already, literally, what loads of teens actually are doing, only it’s in places like Wattpad’s teen fiction or Archive of our own (AO3) where very few parents and teachers — us older folks 🙂 — venture to tread. We could celebrate it already, and support it if we wanted to. Instead, it’s banned in silent reading classes throughout the country, or blocked by school networks. But just because it goes on ‘under the radar’ as it were, that doesn’t mean it’s any less beneficial or important to kids than the reading we think they should be doing. Perhaps it’s actually a place best left to them, where they can read whatever the hell they want without having to justify or explain it to anyone.

“…special funding for New Zealand books in every classroom…”

Mmm. Well as a school library person my immediate reaction to this is, “how about more funding for NZ books in every school library, where everyone in the school can access them? How about targeted non-ops grant funding for school library staff so that schools can have a C&YA lit reader/enthusiast/specialist to help teachers, students, parents and whānau get to know and love stories from everywhere, including New Zealand stories, written here, about here, with us at the heart of them. Just for the love of it.

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Manga for the people

I’ve been doing some reflection, stocktake is always good for that I find, lots of mindless zapping, the rapid beep beep of the scanner promotes ponderous thoughts, on what has been popular in the library this year.  I’ve noticed that a lot of my collection is looking very ragged, that most of the new stuff is out, that the perennial faves need to be replaced.  Urgently in some cases – Gone series are falling to bits even though there are something like 5 copies of all of them. I’ve been thinking about what I need to work on for next year and where the budget should be spent. Manga seem to be front and centre of my thoughts as some copies that I hadn’t seen in a while were returned this morning and they are such a pain in terms of barcode placement and shelf space.

I’ve noticed a few things this year:

  • My top two year 9 borrowers are all about the Manga – both are in lower band classes but they read, then re-read every Manga we have.
  • My most avid readers (of books) aren’t much interested in Manga. They’ve dipped in, but overall are more interested in a traditional story.
  • Attack on Titan is just soooo popular that I have to have multiples of the first 5 volumes, and have replaced lots of them due to wear and tear this year and have now started purchasing of both of the sub series.
  • I need some new series suggestions that aren’t too ‘mature’ I have all the usual suspects, and the boys have been great for suggesting new ones, but there are never enough.
  • Where to keep the ever expanding collection?  We have three big bookshelves full of Manga now. Its a monster!
  • Lots of boys that many people consider to be non-readers (lower bands, reading difficulties etc.) read lots of manga.  They are regular visitors to the library and this causes a great deal of surprise for staff visiting the library and finding it full of so called ‘non-readers’.

So, apart from needing to continue to spend bundles of money on manga and replacing the lame and infirm books, I need to investigate space solutions and myriad other things Manga related.

Are your libraries Mangafied?  Are your students obsessed as mine are? Do you have new series I should buy? Let me know in the comments.

Have you caught the Manga bug?  If you haven’t here are some links to start off with.

Manga 101, School Library Journal, This very serious thing which made me a little yawny, but probably holds good stuff for those with longer attention spans than I, This is the always awesome No Flying No Tights, such goodness here. There is a LOT in here at Manga Bookshelf, Read them online yourself at Manga Panda. And Manga Town, so very much Manga in here.

We currently stock: Bleach, Fairy Tail, Naruto, Vampire Knight, One Piece, Attack on Titan, Black Butler, Vagabond, Assassination Classroom (only the first 3), Tokyo Goul (only the first 3), Death Note, Bakuman, Full Metal Alchemist, One, One Punch Man (only a few), Sword Art Online – in it’s various iterations, there are more but I’m stocktake brained at the moment and can’t think of them. I’ll add them as I remember them.

 

 

 

 

 

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On Booksellers

booksI’ve had a couple of experiences this week which I feel needed an airing.

Firstly, someone I know a little phoned me and asked to interview me around the topic of booksellers and how they relate to libraries and whether there was ground for a developing relationship, and a bunch of questions on were we able to find what we wanted in bookshops and a heap of other really interesting and good to make you ponder questions.  And so I got to thinking about this, as always after he had asked the questions and recorded my answers, so far, so why do I always get intelligent after the event rather than during the event, but anyways …..

  • Why don’t Booksellers court me and my not insignificant budget?
  • Why don’t booksellers automatically assume that if you are buying a popular series you might want all the series, not just the latest one?
  • Why is it that some big chain booksellers offer 25% and others only 20?  And why in some cases with these same big chain booksellers wouldn’t they offer it automatically when they know you are buying regularly?  Don’t make me remind you that you need to give me my discount!
  • School libraries must be one of the biggest spenders of bookdollars in the country, maybe second after public libraries – why is there no sponsorship from booksellers for our association and events?  Wouldn’t it be great to total up how much is spent across the country in bookshops by school libraries?  It would certainly make me loyal.
  • I feel like there are a bunch more bullet points here but this is where I’m at to date.

Secondly, today I have had two book reps visit and received an unsolicited book, complete with invoice.  I’m going to deal with the unsolicited book first.

Unsolicited books: If you send me an unsolicited book (even if I know you) I do not have to return it, you have the opportunity to collect it from me, but the obligation all rests with you.  Don’t send me unsolicited books.  Ever!  See this link for the actual rules.

Book Reps, ok, two visits from two completely different reps today.  Rep 1, works for a well known library book supplier, brings in boxes of books.  Lots of cream pages and books for dyslexic students – average publication date is 2010 – they cost $21.00 each.  I check the prices on both Book Depository and Wheelers.  There is a $10 difference in price, in one book and $4.20 (about 20%) difference in another one, obviously cheaper online.  I mention this to the rep who is shocked.  She phones her head office and they tell her to take 15% off the total cost of anything I buy, by that stage I am thoroughly peeved.

Offer me discount straight off – I am not so foolish that I will pay your overpriced costs for rather old books.  Particularly when I have done the rather meagre order and you had packed up and left.  You are lovely and it is maybe not your fault, but this is crap.  You should have told me that the price on the books was not the actual price, you made me feel you were trying to get away with ripping me off.

Book Reps (again)  If you phone me to arrange to come and show me books you should be nice.  I’m getting a lot of:

  • All the schools are buying these books and your students will miss out if you don’t buy them too. I don’t actually care what the others are buying. I’m working on MY collection, not the school up the road’s collection.
  • If you are pushy, I will also be pushy.  And again with the discount – see above.
  • And, it is not your business how much my budget is Mr Book Rep.  I will spend it where it does the most good for my students.  That may or may not be your product!
  • It is so not appropriate to say to me that history students all need to study British history if they are to understand any New Zealand history.  That will make me wince and show you the door.  Seriously, have a look at university papers, they are teaching NZ history, our students need to know NZ history, it’s been a while now since we needed to know about the Reformation to be able to understand how things went here – I kid you not, this is what he told me.  I reiterate my point in case you missed it, BE NICE!

And here is a plug.  I have two favourite Book Reps.  One is Austin Kyle.  He is based in Christchurch, he sells fantastic popular non-fiction that I never see anywhere else.  I look forward to his visits, he is quirky and funny and full of good humour.  And he is so nice!  The other is Bob Anderson from John Douglas Publishing also based in Christchurch.  He is interesting, his books are reasonably priced, he sends me sample copies to see if I am keen, but always asks first. He is great to have in the office and is genuinely interested in what I need and whether he can really help me.

Anyway, there you go.  A rant for the end of a busy week. If you wanted to share your gripes and whines and the names of the book reps you love I’d be keen to hear.

 

 

 

 

 

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Favourite reads of 2015 (so far!)

These are the books that have made it to my 5-star shelf on Goodreads this year.

Frances Hardinge – I am late discovering her, the first book of hers I read is the recently published “The Lie Tree“. Now I need to seek them ALL out! The two I’ve read (Lie Tree and Cuckoo Song) are a mix of historical/fantasy. Perfect for avid Year 9-10 readers who don’t mind things a bit weird. The main characters are girls deeply affected by what’s fair and right, they behave realistically (setting aside the fantasy elements of the stories!) so they’re not always 100% likeable. They are both stories that feature death and grief, so they have some dark and (slightly) scary moments. Both also have an interesting slant on matters of faith/belief and religion. Absolutely beautiful writing, in my opinion.

Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel – Winner of this year’s Arthur C Clarke award. I am recommending this to seniors particularly who are into Dystopian fiction. Nice alternative end-of-days sort of story for those (perhaps like me!?) who aren’t huge fans of The Road. It’s a short book, that weaves together the stories of several characters, after a global flu-like pandemic wipes out most of the population. Interestingly, there was an article in the NYT recently discussing how/whether the author’s gender makes a difference to elements of story/writing in this genre.

All the light we cannot see by Anthony Doerr – Pulitzer winner. I had been avoiding this for a while, thinking it might be one of those ‘worthy’ sort of titles – this is the problem with judging a book by it’s cover! Possibly my favourite read of the year. Mainly young (teen) characters, short chapters, it feels sort of compact in it’s settings and time-frame (for the most part, at least). Much more accessible text than what I was expecting. Am recommending it to everyone, will appeal to anyone who loved The Book Thief.

The Truth Commission by Susan Juby – hipster/arty/fandom types will love it. The kids in this story are all WAY cool, you sort of love and hate them at the same time for that. The family relationships in this story are so whacked out, you just want to get them all into therapy. Sad and funny sometimes too. Interesting themes about reality/perception, self image vs what other people see/think.

Vivian vs the apocalypse by Katie Coyle – another YA dystopian series, really looking forward to reading the next book in the series. Set during/after the (supposed) Rapture. It’s got betrayals, an awesome road trip, truth/religion stuff going on. Really good. Probably best suited to Y11 upwards.

The cure for dreaming by Cat Winters – published late 2014. Historical/fantasy again. Horrible father tries to hypnotize the bolshiness out of his headstrong daughter, but things go weird and instead she has visions of how things/people really are as opposed to how they purport to be. Bonus beautiful photographs from the time (pics of suffragists, ads etc).

What books have you loved this year?

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Gender specific book covers – discuss

Book collection

Book collection (Photo credit: Ian Wilson)

I work in a boy’s school.  In recent times I have really struggled to find books with covers that aren’t saying “I’m a book for girls with a kickarse female heroine who will take down anybody who challenges me’  it is doing my head in.  Books for boys are thin on the ground at the moment unless you want zombies rampaging thoughout the shelves of your library ad nauseum.  It is doing my head in (did I say that already, oh yes I did!).  My reading stats are fantastic and yes, the blokes like books like Graceling, Blood Red Rose and Necklace of Souls but could we have a bloke on the cover of the book please.  All these books are great, they all have great female characters but they also have excellent male characters.

There is a movement afoot to try and get publishers to allow a greater readership of books by using less gender specific covers.  Why can’t we have more books with covers like Legend by Marie Lu which has appeal to everyone.  Here is a link to an interview which aired on Monday on Radio New Zealand between Charlotte Graham and author Maureen Johnson

Have a look at Coverflip  It is, frankly, an awesome re imagining of a bunch of bookcovers to alter the target market.  As she says in this article in the Huffington Post

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Dystopia – old and new

Readers advisory in my school this year, and last year too, has been all about finding books which are similar in style, or substance to The Hunger Games.  I’m really feeling like I could move on from reading this type of book myself but my students are clearly not ready for that yet.  So, as I firmly believe it is my job to keep up with what they want and not foist what I think they should want onto them, I am delighted that the Lawrence Public Library  of Kansas in the USA, has done me a terrific favour.  For a moment I thought this was the Lawrence in Central Otago, where I spent many happy teenage summers, sigh!  This link will take you to a fantastic flowchart of Hunger Gamesish delight, and it helpfully includes some fabulous classic books which you may not have thought of sharing with your HG fans.  I’ve only made a screenshot of a tiny part of the flowchart.  You will have to go to their website to see the whole impressive thing.  Enjoy!

Hunger Gamesish

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Teen speak – or you know you work with teenagers when ….

Let me count the ways – with a little bit of help from a blog post over on TLT: Teen Librarians Toolbox.  Have a look at their post

English: SPOG students

English: SPOG students (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

and then if you are a secondary school librarian you might want to add a few of your own.  Here are some from me.

  1. You greet student librarians with Yo G!  Or it’s alternative What up G!  Instead of Hello there sweetie!
  2. You know major players in various bizzarre sporting codes despite having little to no interest in anything remotely related to sport.
  3. You are as obsessed with 4 Pics 1 word as your students and you are constantly being asked for help, “cos Miss you know everything right?”
  4. Given that the library is gossip central you know the details of far too many teenage relationship breakdowns/startups/on holds, and constantly surprise the students by saying “oh yes I know her Mother!”
  5. You have become incredibly sick of telling the students to “Go ask your Mum if you can borrow her copy of 50 Shades of Grey, because no, we will not be having it in here!”
  6. You have to guard your Mockingjay pin because even though other staff have no idea what it is, you know that if you take your cardigan off with the pin still on it, you may not ever see it again.  In general you are prepared to have your fashion sense critiqued every day by the fashionista crew who are always hanging in the library – at least that is how it seems at our school.
  7. You are well aware that even though the adults may have moved on from vampire romance that is isn’t dead in the hearts of some of your most loyal clients.
  8. You know exactly how cool you are if you show year 13 students a clip that they haven’t seen yet, but which is ridiculously funny.
  9. You keep having to tell the students that “versing someone is quoting them poetry, not going against them in a match!”  This is a pet bugbear at the moment.
  10. Your students stop you in the street and say “hey Miss remember that time when …..”  and you laugh and laugh.
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