This week, Victoria Ryle hones in on supporting young readers in difficult times to enrich their reading and writing endeavours and exemplifies the value of creative mentors to guide the process.
The Guardian this week, that one of my early teaching mentors, Margaret Meek Spencer died in May . She was a champion of powerful texts in support of children becoming literate and the news sent me back to find my old dog-eared copy of How Texts Teach What Readers Learn. I particularly like its concluding sentence: "What we have to realise is that the young have powerful allies in a host of gifted artists and writers to help them subvert the world of their elders" (Meek, 1988, p. 40). Now more than ever do we need our young to subvert the world of their elders, given its current parlous state.
ArTELIER, a professional learning program for artists in Tasmania, were drawn to the idea of publishing a book that allowed children and young people to express some of their feelings. The first publication, by younger children, All Emotions Allowed Here is a snapshot of the thoughts and feelings of one group of children aged 5 to 12 in an extraordinary time. The book encourages families to talk about what matters at a time of change and uncertainty and builds resilience. It also provides space for other children to add their own thoughts and feelings. Visit the ArTELIER website and view Leanne McLean, the Tasmanian Commissioner for Children and Young People, read part of the book, find out more about the project and purchasing options.
Danielle Wood, graphic novelist Josh Santospirito and illustrator Liz Braid. The resulting publication All emotions allowed here: How can I find normal when I’m living in a social tragedy? is a mix of artworks and writings offering a direct glimpse into young peoples’ lives as changed by this pandemic.
Kids’ Own Publishing has recently launched Kids’ Home Publishing, a quirky series of animations, author mini-workshops, and read-alouds of books created by children and sent in for the delightful Brigid to read in the Kids’ Own Book Cubby each Friday over the next few weeks on their Youtube channel. They say they are yet to receive any Tasmanian books, so spread the word amongst the families you know…and grab this opportunity.
Margaret Meek believed children should have access to the best writing, in the hands of skilled writers and artists who knew how to engage readers in powerful ways. But she also understood that “understanding authorship, audience, illustration and iconic interpretation” (Meek, p. 10) are a vital part of developing literary competencies. Children may not always be highly skilled; however, they are frequently engaging communicators.
Meek, M. (1988). How texts teach what readers learn. Thimble Press.
PhD candidate, UTAS, Education
Find out – or contribute to – my research at https://www.publishingbookswithchildren.com/survey