Welcome to the blog of the Tasmanian branch of the Children's Book Council of Australia!

Monday 30 April 2012

The Reading Brain

Remember the stillness and quiet at the end of a stirring piece of music? For a moment everyone is caught – absorbing the music, the meaning, the associations or memories that the music evoked. Then comes the thunderous applause, the curtain calls and reality.

Reading is like that. Sometimes I find I have to wait a day before starting the next book. My mind wanders back and the current book (no matter how good it is) just has to wait.

It seems I’m not alone. Brain scans are revealing what happens in our heads when we read a detailed description, an evocative metaphor or an emotional exchange between characters. Stories, this research is showing, stimulate the brain and even change how we act in life. Furthermore that those who frequently read fiction seem to be better able to understand other people, empathize with them and see the world from their perspective.

The brain, it seems, does not make much of a distinction between reading about an experience and encountering it in real life.

Books that have stimulated my brain this year include:
David Miller reading aloud his book Big and Me
Annabel Pitcher My Sister Lives on the Mantlepiece
S D Crockett After the Snow
Daniel Handler & Moira Kalman’s Why We Broke Up

Wednesday 25 April 2012

Um, so what exactly IS a "Mechanics Institute"? - by Maureen Mann

I’m going to talk this week on a similar theme to Patsy’s blog last week: how different interests fit together. I am a committee member of the Launceston branch of the Australian Decorative and Fine Arts Society and have taken on compiling information about the Launceston Mechanics Institute to be included in an ADFAS publication. There’s plenty of information so it will be a matter of condensing it to a manageable size.

 Did you know that the libraries of the Mechanics Institutes in Tasmania became the original core collection for our State Library? The natural history collection of our wonderful Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery here in Launceston had its beginnings in the Launceston Mechanics Institute acquisitions. What was the role of the Mechanics Institutes?

 According to Wikipedia, they “were educational establishments formed to provide adult education, particularly in technical subjects, to working men.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mechanics%27_Institutes). They held lectures and classes, especially in technical subjects, for working people. The first one, established in 1827, in Australia was in Hobart, established only six years after the movement was founded in Scotland and less than 25 years after Hobart’s European settlement. In Launceston, the Institute was established in 1842 and under the auspices of John West, £8000 was raised for a new building. http://www.utas.edu.au/library/companion_to_tasmanian_history/M/Mechanics%20Institutes.htm

Major cities in the English-speaking world developed their own Mechanics Institutes organisations. There are many still in existence: including as libraries, parts of universities and higher education colleges, theatres, and museums. Smaller versions sprang up in many towns, not all with the same name but all with the aim of helping the working classes. Some of the buildings have been absorbed into the public structure. Others, like Launceston have disappeared or been converted to very different uses.

The original plans for the purpose-built Launceston building included a reading room, museum, laboratory, class room and a lecture hall capable of seating 700 people. Sadly this building was demolished in 1971 to make way for the ‘new’ State Library building and what is now Civic Square. But other less grand buildings remain throughout the state reflecting the benevolent aims. We have a lot to be thankful to these far-sighted men (and women) who encouraged this movement. Our museums and libraries are still venues for learning and teaching.

Tuesday 17 April 2012

The School That John Built - Patsy Jones

I wonder how many readers of CBCA (Tasmanian Branch) Inc. are aware that John Marsden (Tomorrow, when the war began, etc.) started a school in the Macedon Ranges in Victoria in 2006? If you want to check this out, Google ‘John Marsden Candlebark school’ and you can find out about the school, its wonderful site, its staff (John is the Principal), and its history.

Why am I writing about the school? Because it’s an example of how one’s varied interests coincide! I’m a retired librarian, the president of the Tasmanian branch of CBCA (Inc.), and a volunteer in a small library (Sustainable Living Tasmania) - you can Google too if you wish.

Today I was adding the most recent issue of the journal ReNew to our catalogue and John Marsden’s name jumped out at me from one of the pages. So of course I looked at it more closely! It was in an article about the new library at Candlebark School.

The library was funded, as were so many of our schools’ new libraries, with federal money, but what made it noteworthy for that particular journal was that the library is an underground, earth-covered building, and a ‘striking example of environmentally sustainable design’ which doubles as a ‘well-designed bushfire shelter’.

I expect it will be a while before any new school libraries are being planned, given that there have been so many built in the last few years, but in case you’re interested, see ReNew : technology for a sustainable future, Issue 119, pp. 26-28.

Monday 2 April 2012

The National Year of Reading - Penny Garnsworthy

The National Year of Reading 2012 was launched in Canberra on 14 February and in an effort to turn Australia into a nation of readers its three goals are:

1. For all Australians to understand the benefits of reading as a life skill and a catalyst for wellbeing.

2. To promote a reading culture in every home.

3. To aim for families, parents and caregivers to share books with their children every day.

Reading is something most of us began when we were young and which for many of us has become a lifelong habit; one we relish. We read for education, for vocation, for enlightenment and just plain enjoyment. I love nothing more than losing myself in a good book, and losing time along with it.

But there are those, who for whatever reasons, haven’t grown up with books or learned to love them. Maybe their parents didn’t read or have books in the house when they were young and school text books are all they remember; or they spent so much time on the playing field they rarely ventured indoors; or their interest lies more in technology or electronic gadgets.

At a recent BBQ the subject of e-books came up, not that we had been discussing books at all, it just came up. One of the diners said they owned an e-reader and that they found it so convenient to carry it in their bag and bring it out when they were in a waiting room, on a bus or at the hairdresser. Personally, I would have done this with a paperback (I also own a Kindle). A friend who has never been a ‘reader’ now has a Kindle and not only does he constantly use it while travelling but he also finds himself reading more traditional books as well. So the point is, if reading electronically encourages people to take up, or even expand, their reading, that’s fantastic and we should encourage it, especially in The National Year of Reading.

So, get into your library, your bookstore, your bookcase or on-line and let’s try to reach those three goals in 2012. And if you need any encouragement just go to the website: http://www.love2read.org.au/