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The impact of book awards: A journal article review

The impact of book awards: A journal article review

Hateley’s 2012 journal article And the winner is…?: Thinking about Australian book awards in the library is a thought provoking exploration into the impact award winning books have on libraries, the communities they serve and the culture of society. While Hateley discusses book awards for both adults and children, at least a third of the article focuses upon the Children’s Book Council of Australia awards. One key idea presented by Hateley (2012) is that children’s literature is a ‘socialising genre’ where children are socialised into the beliefs and values of society, and thus judges of children’s awards are not just choosing books but the national ideologies of future generations. To better clarify this idea, Hateley uses the concept as libraries as mirrors to explain that while book collections are formed by a community and thus reflect that community, the book collection can transform a community as people re-evaluate the image of society that is reflected back at them.

Book awards are intended to showcase the best of the best of any particular genre and many libraries use book awards as a way to introduce quality literature into their collections during a time period when both library space and budgets are limited and the amount of books to choose from is overwhelming. Many Australian libraries, including the State Library of Queensland (2005) note in their collection development policies that when adding to their collection that there will be “particular emphasis on award-winning books and classics of the genre” (p.79).  While this may seem a way to ensure a fair representation of Australian literature is added to the collection, Hateley raises concerns that the criteria and selection process of Australian awards is creating bias within collections which can then offer a distorted reflection of society’s values.

Hateley (2012) reports in here article, that of the three prestigious Australian book awards of 2011 that she examines, the Children’s Book Council of Australia – Book of the Year award, the Miles Franklin Literary Award and the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards, a total of 26 judges reduced 1055 books to 11 of Australia’s ‘best’. This potential for biased selection in book awards is perhaps best exemplified in the 2011 shortlist of the Miles Franklin Literary Award (2014) where, in an award intending to showcase Australian life, all three shortlisted books were about white male main characters, in a historical time, in a rural setting and all written by men. It should be noted however that Hateley is not saying book awards are wrong, indeed they can bring very good books into the spotlight, instead she suggests that the debates and discussions which lead to particular books receiving an award somehow be preserved so that future generations may understand the cultural and social environment in which those selections were made.

This journal article made me aware of the careful selection that should be used when adding books to a children’s collection. For as much as the judges may be choosing a nation’s ideologies, by selecting one book over another to add to the collection, I too am choosing the values and beliefs that young readers will gain from those books. By becoming aware of the reliance on book awards that many libraries have, I can work to provide children and young adults within a with a diverse collection, with the intention of expanding their education and experiences to help them grow into positive members of the community.

Markers, please be aware that this blog post has been edited to clarify the relevance of the journal article to children’s book awards. The comments below this article were made before these edits were made. Thank you for your understanding.

References

Hateley, E. (2012). And the winner is…?: Thinking about Australian book awards in the library. The Australian Library Journal, 62(3), 189-199.

Miles Franklin Literary Award. (2014). The 2011 shortlist. Retrieved December 29, 2013, from http://www.milesfranklin.com.au/shortlist

State Library of Queensland. (2005). Collection development policy. Retrieved December 29, 2013, from http://www.slq.qld.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0014/37121/Collection_Development_Policy_Final_rev.pdf

Diversity in children’s books: A blog comment discussion

Elizabeth Blair’s (2013, June 25) blog post As demographics shift, kid’s books stay stubbornly white about the lack of racial diversity in children’s books, sparked a blog comment debate 325 comments long. Children’s books, particularly picture books, are dominated by Caucasian characters and authors to the point where approximately only 10% of children’s books published in America are about, or are written by non- Caucasians (Lee & Low Books, n.d.). Considering that in the American population of children aged under five years old is, as of 2012, 49.9% non- Caucasian (United States Census Bureau, 2013, June 13), and it is predicted that one third of the American population will be Hispanic, with a total non- Caucasian population percentage of 57% by 2060 (United States Census Bureau, 2012, December 12) the growing disparity between representation and reality in children’s literature is causing concern.

Similar statistics for Australia are much more difficult to locate as the Australian Bureau of Statistics (2012) prefers to study migration and ancestry patterns rather than placing people in the broad ethnic categories that would make international comparisons easier. However the effects of the lack of diversity in children’s literature are comparable between countries. Hughes-Hassell (2013), in her article on counter-storytelling, notes that ‘culturally relevant literature’ allows the reader to ‘personally connect’ with characters, encourages children to read, reduces feelings of isolation, and boosts self esteem in ‘children of colour’ whilst allowing children from ‘the majority culture’ to experience other perspectives.

Throughout the long and fascinating blog comment debate nearly all agreed that the under-representation of non- Caucasian characters in, and authors of, children’s books was a serious issue which needed to be addressed. Many contributors provided detailed and high quality arguments and anecdotes about the importance of racial diversity in children’s literature, as well as discussing the self-fulfilling prophecy many publishers have that books about non-Caucasians won’t sell, meaning the publishers provide little marketing support and the books don’t sell. The publisher’s belief that readers won’t buy books about ‘people of colour’ has resulted in not only the under-representation of non-Caucasian authors and characters, but has led publishers to ‘white wash’ book covers of books with black characters (Larbalestier, 2009, July 23). Many contributors commented that only by making a conscious effort to buy racially diverse children’s literature would publishers respond to rising demand by printing more of the same material.

Following this blog debate has made me grow as a person by making me think about a situation that I took for granted. As a Caucasian I have never had difficulties relating to characters in a book because they were ‘like me.’ Becoming aware of the lack of racial diversity in children’s books will allow me to identify areas where a library collection needs expansion to support the cultural needs, and therefore the mental and emotional needs, of the children I serve.

This activity has taught me many things about myself and the people around me, of ignorance causing racism and the effects on the human psyche when differences are not embraced and accepted.

It has also taught me not to feed the trolls.

References

Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2012). Cultural diversity in Australia: Reflecting a nation: Stories from the 2011 census. Retrieved Decemeber 14, 2013, from http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Latestproducts/2071.0Main%20Features902012–2013?opendocument&tabname=Summary&prodno=2071.0&issue=2012–2013&num=&view=

Blair, E. (2013, June 25). As demographics shift, kid’s books stay stubbornly white. Retrieved December 12, 2013, from http://www.npr.org/blogs/codeswitch/2013/06/25/193174358/as-demographics-shift-kids-books-stay-stubbornly-white

Hughes-Hassell, S. (2013). Multicultural young adult literarure as a form of counter-storytelling. The Library Quarterly, 83 (3), 212-228.

Larbalestier, J. (2009, July 23). Ain’t that a shame (updated). Retrieved December 13, 2013, from http://justinelarbalestier.com/blog/2009/07/23/aint-that-a-shame/

Lee & Low Books. (n.d.). Why hasn’t the number of multicultural books increased in eighteen years? Retrieved December 12, 2013, from http://blog.leeandlow.com/2013/06/17/why-hasnt-the-number-of-multicultural-books-increased-in-eighteen-years/

United States Census Bureau. (2012, December 12). U.S. Census Bureau projections show a slower growing, older, more diverse nation a half century from now. Retrieved December 13, 2013, from http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/population/cb12-243.html

United States Census Bureau. (2013, June 13). Asians fastest-growing race or ethnic group in 2012, Census Bureau reports. Retrieved December 13, 2013, from http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/population/cb13-112.html

ABC Reading Eggs: An electronic resource teaching children to read

Studies have shown that delays in early literacy become magnified the further a child’s education continues, with children rarely catching up to expected learning levels not just in reading but also in most other subjects where children read to learn (Irwin, Moore, Tornatore & Fowler, 2012). However resources are available which can not only teach early literacy skills, but which can also be used as remedial tools to address difficulties a child may have in learning to read and write.

One of those tools is the ABC Reading Eggs online reading program which is targeted at children aged between 3 and 7 years old. The program, developed by a team of ‘educational teachers, writers and developers’ and focuses upon phonics and sight words to build a child’s vocabulary, reading comprehension and reading fluency (Blake eLearning, 2014). Considering that the six foundational skills of reading and writing are ‘print awareness, print motivation, vocabulary, narrative skills, letter awareness and phonological awareness’ (Yarra Plenty Regional Council, 2011), targeting three of the six skills he electronic resource is likely to increase a child’s literacy levels.

ABC Reading Eggs offers 120 lessons full of animation, sound and repetitive actions with children being rewarded for completing lessons with mini games and collectable characters which they can interact with. Before a child begins the program they complete a skills assessment to ensure they enter the program at the correct level. Children also complete regular quizzes to access learning achievements and parents have easy access to reports on the child’s progress and areas where the child needs further lessons. ABC Reading Eggs has complementary materials available in paper and CD-ROM formats to reinforce lessons learned online. Access to this learning tool is subscription based although free trials are offered for private use.

The ABC Reading Eggs program has received rave reviews not only from parents (How To Be A Domestic Disgrace, 2012, October 24) and parenting groups (SingleMum.com.au, 2014), but also from professionals in education. Daball (2014) notes that the program is highly educational and its entertaining and colourful activities make the program a great supplemental education tool, he also notes the program was successfully used with students learning to speak English. Bowen (2014), who used the ABC  Reading Eggs program in a class room setting with special educational needs children, found that the children viewed the program more as a game than a learning tool and as such were motivated to continue to use the program and subsequently improved their reading skills.

Reviewing and researching this electronic resource has highlighted for me gaps in my knowledge that occurred because I never experienced the situation or thought about it. As someone who loves to read and who has never struggled to read, it never occurred to me to link difficulty reading with a reluctance to read. It was a definite ‘Duh!’ moment for me. Similarly the notion that signalling out children as ‘special needs’ and providing them with extra teaching can lower a child’s self esteem was one I was oblivious to. By becoming aware of the emotional responses children may have to assistance with or challenges to their education, as a children’s librarian I can better tailor library resources and programs to meet the educational, cultural and emotional needs of the children I serve.

References

Blake eLearning. (2014). ABC reading eggs: About. Retrieved January 22, 2014, from http://readingeggs.com.au/about/

Bowen, M. (2014). Reading eggs. Retrieved January 22, 2014, from http://teemeducation.org.uk/teem-evaluations/primary-reviews-and-evaluations/reading-eggs-literacy

Daball, J. (2014). Reading eggs. Teach Primary, Retrieved January 22, 2014, from http://www.teachprimary.com/tried_and_tested/view/reading-eggs

How To Be A Domestic Disgrace. (2012, October 24). Reading eggs review. Retrieved January 22, 2014, from  http://howtobeadomesticdisgrace.blogspot.com.au/2012/10/reading-eggs-review.html

Irwin, J., Moore, D., Tornatore, L. & Fowler, A. (2012). Expanding on early literacy: Promoting emerging language and literacy during storytime. Children & Libraries, Summer/Fall, 20-28.

SingleMum.com.au. (2014). ABC reading eggs product review. Retrieved January 22, 2014, from http://singlemum.com.au/product-reviews/product-review-abc-reading-eggs.html

Yarra Plenty Regional Library. (2011) Children’s Services Strategic Framework 2007 – 2012, Retrieved December 9, 2013 from http://filestore.yprl.vic.gov.au/StrategicFrameworks/Childrens%20Service%20Strategy%20final.pdf

Censorship in young adult literature: A YouTube Panel Discussion

Attending a conference, workshops or presentation relevant to a children’s librarian is difficult to achieve in Townsville, North Queensland. However, as a means of exploring censorship issues in young adult novels I watched an enlightening 1 hour long discussion panel on YouTube hosted by the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE) that took place on the 25th of February, 2013 in Kansas City, Missouri.

The YouTube video can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gqHYO6dmsBk

The discussion panel consisted of Laurie Halsie Anderson and Sherman Alexie, both writers of challenged books, Mitchell Kaplan,  bookstore owner, and Chris Finan, President of ABFFE. The panel discussed a variety of issues through anecdotes and frank talk which included what type of person makes book challenges and why, as well as strategies for meeting book challenges. Throughout the discussion the value of young adult novels as a means of introducing young adults to complex and potentially dangerous situations in a safe manner was constantly reinforced.

For those unsure about definitions, a challenge is a formal complaint about a book or other material, and a banning is when the material is removed or restricted (American Library Association, 2014). Historically Australia has had the strictest censorship policies of any democratic nation, with censorship decisions often being made secretly and even today Australia has no definitive list of banned books (The University of Melbourne, 2010). There is also no definitive list of challenged books available either in Australia or America, with the American Library Association (n.d.) reporting survey estimates that up to 85 percent of book challenges remain unreported. According to the Illinois Library Association (2014) most book challenges occur in schools and school libraries, with most complaints falling into the categories of racism, sex or profanity.

While I have always had a vague knowledge of the censorship debate, the discussion panel made me recognise several gaps in my knowledge about why people want censorship and what value uncensored material may provide to the community. While I understand that “minors should be protected from material likely to harm or disturb them” (Commonwealth of Australia, 2005), young adult books can provide a way to discuss a dangerous situation in a safe environment. As Ms. Halsie Anderson comments during the discussion panel “You cannot discuss the consequences of a behaviour without first discussing the behaviour.”  Unfortunately the discussion of the behaviour is usually why books are challenged. Another knowledge gap was revealed by a focus group study by Isajlovic-Terry & McKechnie (2012); children’s view on censorship. According to the study children think that violence and scary content can be offensive to some readers. However, the adult concerns over content with “homosexuality, sex, the paranormal, witchcraft and wizardry” were not shared by the focus group. The children understood these controversial concepts, they just didn’t understand why adults were so concerned about them.

The discussion panel has aided in my professional development by strengthening my understanding of one of the foremost issues that I will need to contend with in my future career as a librarian. Forewarned is forearmed.

References

American Bookseller’s Foundation for Free Expression. (2013, April 2). Banned books, censorship and YA literature [Video file]. Video posted to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gqHYO6dmsBk

American Library Association. (2014). About banned and challenged books. Retrieved January 21, 2014, from http://www.ala.org/bbooks/about

American Library Association. (n.d.). Books banned or challenged – 2012-2013. Retrieved January 22, 2014, from http://www.ila.org/BannedBooks/BBW_2012-2013_Shortlist.pdf

Commonwealth of Australia. (2005). Guidelines for the classification of publications 2005. Retrieved from http://www.comlaw.gov.au/Details/F2005L01285  

Illinois Library Association. (2014). Banned books week 2013. Retrieved January 22, 2014, from http://www.ila.org/advocacy/banned-books

Isajlovic-Terry, N. & McKechnie, L. (2012). An exploratory study of children’s views of censorship. Children and Libraries: The Journal of the Association for Library Service to Children, 10(1), 38-43.

The University of Melbourne.  (2010). Banned books in Australia: Introduction. Retrieved January 21, 2014, from http://www.lib.unimelb.edu.au/collections/special/exhibitions/bannedbooks/exhibition/

Biting the Bullet: Learning Facebook to offer relevant library services to children and young adults

Facebook is social networking service launched onto the internet in 2004 (Koplowitz, 2012, May 18) and has been growing in popularity ever since to the point of having over 1.19 billion monthly active users as of September 30, 2013 (Facebook, 2014b). Of these monthly active users over 12 million are Australian, making it Australia’s most popular social media site (Cowling, 2013, December 1) with approximately 9 million Australians logging into their Facebook pages daily, which at the time of reporting was roughly 39% of the Australian population (Cowling, 2013, August 19). Whilst the Facebook requires members to have a minimum age limit of 13 (Facebook, 2014a) global internet security company McAfee (2013) found in a survey of 1000 Australian youth aged between 8 and 17, that 26% of the children aged between 8 and 12 had Facebook accounts despite the minimum age limit. As for teenagers, Sensis (2013) conducted a social media survey of Australians aged 14 to over 65, and found that those in the age group of 14 to 19 years old of those who had internet access 92% of those surveyed used social media, and of those using social media 94% used Facebook.

Whilst Facebook as internet software may not necessarily be considered an ‘emerging technology,’ with the increasing integration of Facebook into everyday life, the emerging uses of the technology can be found in almost every aspect of our lives. Not only does Facebook serve its original function of facilitating social interactions, it can also be used for political activism (Marichal, 2013), education (TeachThought, 2012), recreation and entertainment (Vogelstein, 2012, February 4) and a range of other activities. With librarians now looking into ways to incorporate Facebook into the library experience (Phillips, 2011) such as posting information about new books and advertising library services (Agosto & Abbas, (2011) learning how to use Facebook has become one of the essential 101 things a librarian should know (Porter & King, n.d.). With the enormous popularity of Facebook within the Australian population, along with the infiltration of Facebook into everyday activities, it only makes sense that a children’s librarian wishing to have a relevant professional relationship with children must be able to use the same technology as the children.

To be honest I’m not ‘on’ Facebook and I’ve never understood the appeal of social media sites, an opinion my family and friends deem to be weird. However, in order to be able to offer more relevant library services to children and young adults, I bit the bullet and signed up for Facebook. After significant trial and error learning, and severe abuse of the ‘help’ feature, I have reached the point where I can confidently explain most Facebook features to others and keep an account updated with relevant data. I still have much to learn about some of the finer points of Facebook and as Facebook updates ongoing education will  be required, but continued use of my Facebook account will ensure that my skills and knowledge of this software continue to grow.

References

Agosto, D., & Abbas, J. (2011). Introduction: Teens, libraries and online social networks: A new era for library services to young adults. In D. Agosto & J. Abbas (Eds.), Teens, Libraries, and Social Networking : What Librarians Need to Know. (pp. XV-XXIII). Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Cowling, D. (2013, August 19). 9 million Australians use Facebook every day. SocialMediaNews.com.au. Retrieved from http://www.socialmedianews.com.au/9-million-australians-use-facebook-every-day/

Cowling, D. (2013, December 1). Social media statistics Australia – November 2013. SocialMediaNews.com.au. Retrieved from http://www.socialmedianews.com.au/social-media-statistics-australia-november-2013/

Facebook. (2014a). How old do you have to be to sign up for Facebook?. Retrieved January 12, 2014, from  https://www.facebook.com/help/210644045634222

Facebook. (2014b). Key Facts. Retrieved January 12, 2014, from  http://newsroom.fb.com/Key-Facts

Koplowitz, H. (2012, May 18). A timeline of Facebook history: From fledgling startup to $114 billion giant. International Business Times. Retrieved from http://www.ibtimes.com/timeline-facebook-history-fledgling-startup-114-billion-giant-699093

McAfee. (2013). Tweens, teens and technology research report 2013. Retrieved January 13, 2014, from http://mcafeecybered.com/cybered/files/Tweens%20Research%20Fact%20SheetFINAL.pdf

Marichal, J. (2013). Political Facebook groups: Micro-activism and the digital front stage. First Monday, 18(12). Retrieved from http://journals.uic.edu/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/4653/3800

Phillips, N. (2011). Academic library use of Facebook: Building relationships with students. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 37(60), 512-522.

Porter, M. & King, D. (n.d). Library 101: 101 resources and things to know. Retrieved January 14, 2014, from http://www.libraryman.com/blog/101rtk/

Sensis. (2013). Yellow Social Media Report. Retrieved from http://about.sensis.com.au/IgnitionSuite/uploads/docs/Yellow%20Pages%20Social%20Media%20Report_F.PDF

TeachThought. (2012). 100 ways to use Facebook in education by category. Retrieved January 14, 2014, from http://www.teachthought.com/technology/100-ways-to-use-facebook-in-education-by-category/

Vogelstein, F. (2012, February 4). How Facebook could remake the entertainment industry. The Washington Post. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/how-facebook-could-remake-the-entertainment-industry/2012/02/02/gIQA2z7YnQ_story.html