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

Sunday 29 September 2013

Ebook promotion

We’re moving into a world where ebooks are a common (and for some, preferred) format for reading. They’re convenient, portable, useful for those with vision problems, and often cheaper than their paper counterparts. I’m not going to go near the arguments over paper versus ebooks – there are positives and negatives for both, and personally I am happy to read either, although I do prefer one over the other in various contexts (ie: I prefer paper for children’s books and anthologies, happy to read novels on my reader or phone, etc). But whether we love them or loathe them, as a format ebooks are becoming a major force for readers. Libraries are grappling with how to deal with ebooks on a technical level, but we also need to think about not just how we get the into the “hands” of readers, but also how we even bring them to our patrons’ attention in the first place!

In a traditional library, staff showcase books, rotate them through face-out sections of shelves, create themed displays and use a myriad of other techniques to draw attention to books. We don’t have all of the same options with ebooks. There is no physical product to display, to thrust at patrons and gush over. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t give ebooks the same push we do print.

So what are some ways we can promote our ebook collections? To start with, we can use some of the old methods, with just a little tweaking. Print off ebook cover art and blurbs in good-sized font and mix them into print book displays, with a logo that indicates the book can be borrowed from the ebook collection. Or showcase ebooks in a display of their own, to draw attention to the collection as a whole.

Moving on from the physical, use the library’s webpage, Facebook page or Twitter account to let followers know as new ebooks are added to the collection. Link to Goodreads reviews or have staff and patrons review them, on the digital library interfaces or in newsletters and other library publications. Make sure you select ebooks as well as print for your book clubs and reading groups. It could be worth creating genre-folders with covers and blurbs of ebooks, to raise interest and awareness in new ebook users – this will give you something to thrust at the eager readers and talk about with them.

Those are just a few ideas – would love to hear how others are promoting ebooks in their libraries!

Tehani Wessely 

Monday 23 September 2013

A look at Icelandic sagas

It’s obviously the time for overseas travels. Penny’s blog last week told of her learning French and her use of children’s books to improve her fluency. I am focussing on Iceland.

I am in Canada, on our annual visit to our daughter and grandson, Gabriel, and it’s great to be sharing books in person with him, rather than doing it via Skype. Sharing via Skype is OK but there’s nothing like the close contact brought by snuggling together on the couch with a book.  He loves books and being read to. So much so, that now he’s started kindergarten (Canada’s equivalent to Prep) he says he doesn’t want to learn to read because that will mean people stop reading to him. Nothing we say is yet making him change his mind; we will continue to read aloud with him. It’s just the stories will become more complex and won’t be finished in a sitting. That is a hard concept for a five year old to grasp. Gabriel’s current obsession is with dinosaurs so those are the books, both fiction and non-fiction, we have to read and reread. Harry and the Dinosaurs at the Museum by Ian Whybrow is the one which he wants from all three of his adult readers – 8 to 10 times a day!

Most of my comments this time are about literature for adults which can be read by younger readers too. We travelled to Canada via Iceland and I spent some time re-reading English versions of the Icelandic sagas before we left home. However, they had far more meaning for me once I had an understanding of the landscape they were set in.  I am not a proponent of all young people having to reading myths and legends because I believe it’s only a certain kind of reader who will enjoy them. By and large I don’t enjoy them.  They are complex and fanciful, often with hard-to-remember names, though full of positive outcomes for the thoughtful reader.  But I would encourage people to have a go at the Icelandic sagas because they are such great family stories.

It’s thought that Iceland was settled by Vikings somewhere around the middle of the 9th century AD. The new settlers came to a really harsh land with even shorter summers and longer winters than their original homeland, volcanoes and lava flows and geothermal activity. The sagas are family histories in prose format, describing events from the 10th and 11th centuries but written about two centuries later. They are wonderfully evocative and well-written stories, still very readable and relevant to our modern eyes.  One can imagine that most of the events happened as families struggled and fought to establish their new lives, with death and vengeance prominent themes. Unlike the Greek and Roman myths which can rarely be read literally, the Icelandic sagas show elements of truth and hardship. And most surprisingly many of the Middle Age manuscripts are still in existence.

There are many English language versions of the sagas. There’s a great website (which I used for my reading) devoted to the digital publication of the sagas: http://sagadb.org . This contains all the major extant sagas, many of which are translated into more than one language.  The Saganet website -- http://handrit.is  -- includes images of the original manuscripts.  Fascinating!

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/s/sagas/icelandic/index.html  has several of the more famous sagas available for free download.  If you would prefer to read the sagas in book form, there are many choices, translated over the past several hundreds of years. One of them, which I saw in Icelandic bookshops, was The Sagas of Icelanders. There are also smaller versions containing just one of the sagas, such as the one about Eric the Red or about Grettir the Strong.

Iceland has a very successful publishing industry. Have a look at these two articles if you want to know more about it. Baldur Bjarnason’s (an Icelandic expatriate blogger who lives in UK) opinion in 2011 can be found at www.thebookseller.com/feature/depth-icelands-book-market.html  and a 2013 interview with Alda Sigmundsdottir ( a writer and translator) at http://www.worldliteraturetoday.org/investigating-icelandic-book-flood-qa-alda-sigmundsdottir#

Let me know what you think of the sagas.

Maureen Mann

Sunday 15 September 2013

Preparing for a holiday in France.....

We are about to embark upon the holiday of a lifetime which includes four weeks travelling around France. To this end, I have attended French classes for the past couple of years and although my French is still, at best, basic I am confident I can at least find my way around a menu or even a map.

My tutor uses a high school text in class but her advice was to find some French reading material; novels, newspapers, magazines, etc. which she said would help us with our translation and promote our knowledge of nouns. So, I acquired several books that I have gradually worked through over the months - but they're probably not quite what she had in mind...

I began with several beautifully illustrated children's picture books including the classic Blanche-Neige (Snow White). I then picked up a number of French fairytales including roule galette, a fabulous story about a rolling pie! Fortuitously and for me well-timed, our own Anne Morgan produced a French language version of her book The Sky Dreamer. The French title is Le bateau de reves, or The Boat of Dreams, and I have enjoyed reading Anne's wonderful picture book all over again, this time in a different language. And then finally I graduated to a novel - one we are all familiar with: Le magicien d'Oz (The Wizard of Oz).

I don't know why I thought it would be easier to read children's books, because it isn't. And I'm still struggling through the novel. But, I am learning so many new words and also discovering bits and pieces of the story I had long forgotten. Perhaps one day I'll graduate to adult novels in French, but for now, I'm just thrilled I have the excuse to read beloved children's stories once again.

Penny Garnsworthy

P.S.There are a couple of bookshops in Australia that sell French children's books (as well as adult books).

Also, www.amazon.fr has a good collection of French children's books, particularly picture books

Sunday 8 September 2013

What’s in it (CBCA) for you? : why every parent, teacher, librarian and library aide should be a member of CBCA

Have you ever noticed how patchy our familiarity with trends becomes as we grow older?  Of course we are sentimentally attached to our own era of music, books and film; that is our own generational culture.  We remember that era in detail,  probably claiming that the current trends are rubbish and nowhere near as good as ‘when we were kids’!

If we have offspring we become quite well versed in that particular generation’s culture too, at least until the children become independent readers, thinkers and socialisers, then our knowledge goes into a black hole again.  This appalling sense of being out of touch is very apparent when you attend the Trivia evenings which seem so popular with fund raisers now and the vital question is to identify a song or a book you have never even heard of.

If you eventually become a grandparent the cycle begins again with a different set of trendy stories, songs, films and TV programs.  I was well versed in Noddy and Big Ears, Enid Blyton and ‘Bill and Ben the Flowerpot Men’ from my own childhood. I learned to appreciate the Brambly Hedge series, Hairy MacClary, Bananas in Pyjamas and Narnia with my daughter and now have become an authority on Fireman Sam, all the Nick Bland books and the characters in Lightning McQueen and Despicable Me.

The point is, we all have these huge black holes in our cultural retinues because for most of us, unless we are full time students of youth culture, our busy lives don’t allow for more in depth or continuous knowledge.

As I repeatedly tried to emphasise to the trainee teachers in my lecture groups; one has to know and understand the ‘culture’ of the group of students with whom you are working if you truly want to relate to, bond with and therefore teach and inspire them. Now we all know that teachers are asked to do more and more within the curriculum every year, not to mention all the time taken up with testing and reporting against a million new criteria.  So unless a teacher is super human or can exist on very few hours sleep a day, when does the dedicated teacher keep up with what quality reading material is available for her/his pupils? Once upon a time, and I use the fairy tale cliché deliberately, a classroom teacher could rely on the good old school librarian whose job it was to survey, sample and stock the school library shelves with the best and most appropriate current literature.  The reality is that very few schools have the services of a full time school librarian now.  Library aides are doing a fantastic job of filling that huge gap in professional knowledge and expertise but very often those stalwarts are only employed part time so once again time to keep up with the trends is difficult.

Even more so if you are a parent and want to share and guide your child’s development. Parents need to keep up with the latest and best quality trends in their child’s world. However, the reality is that probably very few modern parents have the luxury of time to browse the library or bookshop shelves researching the latest and best literature.  How many of us abdicate the responsibility of guiding what our children read to their teachers, we hope, and as for viewing.... let’s hope the TV police keep things appropriate during peak kid’s viewing times!!
Well what does this have to do with being a member of CBCA?

If you are a teacher struggling to fit everything in and still have a personal life, or a school librarian/aide or a responsible parent wanting to give your children the best possible guidance and opportunity to develop, then this is where CBCA can assist.

It is CBCA’s objective to review, evaluate, advise and publicise information about quality children’s literature.  CBCA doesn’t just organise the annual Book of the Year Awards which showcase the very best of Australian children’s literature.

In Tasmania CBCA publishes a newsletter full of current information on publications, literary events, authors and illustrators and associated literary topics.

 For example if you live in Hobart:-
What are you doing for dinner on the Thursday 19th of September  Would you or your  children like to dine with Michael Gerard Bauer, author of Don’t call me Ishmael, The Running Man, Dinosaur Knights and many other books for young people, and hear him speak about his work? CBCA Tas is hosting a dinner for Michael Gerard Bauer at Rydges Hotel (Corner Lewis and Argyle Street in North Hobart) with room for 25. The dinner will be 6.30 for 7 PM. 

 RSVP to Jessie Mahjouri jessiemahjouri@gmail.com asap.

Besides publishing the free ‘Books to Keep Kids Reading’ booklet, CBCA Tas. has recently published a series of new pamphlets giving parents invaluable advice about the what and how of using books with children from babies to teenagers with IT and e books included.
CBCA National publishes ‘Reading Time’ which is full of reviews of current publications for children and young adults.  If you don’t have the time to read and evaluate the books, let CBCA do it for you. CBCA is neither a publishing house nor a book-seller therefore parents, librarians and teachers can rely on the integrity of the information being given. 

Through membership of CBCA, teachers and librarians have access to special publications of classroom materials, posters and promotional materials associated with the very best of the Book of the Year winners and notables.  CBCA not only reads, reviews and recommends quality literature but also constructs lesson materials, saving educators valuable time and effort.
Need I say more about how valuable CBCA membership can be to parents, teachers, librarians and library aides.  For more information go to the website www.cbcatas.org.au  and see that for a very small annual subscription you can fill in some of those black holes in your familiarity with youth culture, at least the literary part.

Carol Fuller

PS.  Teachers, encourage your Principal to sign up your school as an institutional member. 

Sunday 1 September 2013

Developing my learn-to-read eBooks

I was recently invited to write a blog about the creative process of making my ereaders for children learning to read. It all started when my now-adult daughter was four years old and learning to read. We found it really hard to find entry level learn-to-read books that had exciting stories. Some of the books had difficult words like ‘refrigerator’ (a word that might be remembered in the context of a particular book but not in another context). What also bothered me about this was that it conveyed the idea that reading was going to get harder and harder. I also understood that even though some people learn phonetically, many children learn visually, and learning words phonetically is not only hard for Visual Spatial Learners but it can be confusing too.  

At first I wrote a collection of fairy tales that were very easy to read. I soon realised that every time a child wanted to read a new story they had to learn a new set of words - not easy or fun!

Then I had the idea of making ‘picture words’ as words are complex, abstract looking things. I made a set of picture words and sent them off to one or two education publishers but I didn’t receive a reply. So they sat on my shelf for a few years.

Next I tried making books which used the same set of words to tell very different stories. I sent a couple of these books off to an education publisher but when I didn’t receive a reply I realised they were only going to publish books that fitted in with their existing reading systems - my books certainly didn’t fit in. The trouble with trying to be innovative is that every innovation is different and it hasn’t been tested in the market before. 

I kept thinking about how to make books that would convince children that the learning process was going to feel safe and easy. I wanted them to comprehend the story from the very first book as well as trust that learning to read wasn’t suddenly going to get hard. I spent many, many hours figuring out which were the best words to create the ‘stage one’ books. I eventually chose 10 words which I could tell at least 5 stories with. I also had my list of words for the other stages and I adapted these as I was writing and illustrating the stories. 

One interesting and surprising thing I noticed was that even though I have made these books for visual spatial learners, almost every word I have used can be sounded out phonetically!

A couple of years ago I came to the conclusion that best option was to self-publish these books as ebooks because I wanted children to be able to buy them with their pocket money. After realising this, I spent hundreds if not thousands of hours searching for the best method. I wanted to use an accessible file type that could be viewed on most computers and most reading devices. Epubs are the most accessible (across a range of reading devices) but unfortunately they are currently picture book unfriendly and they can’t easily be viewed on computers. 

I discovered that PDF ebooks are great, as with one click one of these can be viewed in ‘full screen’ mode which is a much nicer look than the normal PDF view. So PDF became a good option but anybody can copy a PDF document and consequently book distributors don’t sell PDFs. The other problem was distribution. The fine print of many of the distributors’ contracts was worrying, so I decided I was going to have to find a way to sell them from my website - but how? Then something wonderful happened. I discovered the website provider I had been using for six months already had the facility for this to work and I already knew they give amazing phone support and their systems are trustworthy.

I decided that even though people can copy PDF ebooks, this was still the best option, as my priority was helping as many children as possible to learn to read and PDF files are the most accessible for people on low incomes. I decided to trust people to pay for the books. 

Now, many years after beginning my quest to make a good reading system that suits visual spatial learners, I am very excited to say that I have now made lots of learn to read ebooks and the picture words too. I also have about 20 more learn-to-read books in the process of development. 

I think the hardest part of this whole process was to keep working on the project for years while not knowing if I was ever going to have these books published. I had to keep having faith and even though ‘Faith’ is my middle name, it was still very hard to do. 

A few weeks ago the most magical thing happened. I was working with a boy who couldn’t read and within half an hour he had read all the books in stage one. He was so excited and proud of himself. We both knew he could read because he was reading the 3rd and 4th books which he had never read before. What I loved about this experience was how he now saw himself as somebody that could read and how he was keen to read more stories. Then, the other prep children saw us and wanted to join in. We had a lovely time with them reading the books to me. This was a wonderful reward for all the many, many hours of work and I very much hope that the books I have created can help more children learn to read.

 Andrea Faith Potter

Artist, Illustrator and Author