Observe and document a program delivered for children or young adults at a local library, reflect on the experience

Diversity

The public library where I am employed services a culturally diverse range of patrons. Backgrounds include speakers of Arabic, Chinese, Farsi, Persian, Tamil, Turkish and Vietnamese. As a result, children who attend the library and the various programs come from a vast array of backgrounds, and often speak more than one language. Even so, Preschool Storytimes are only given in English, to accommodate the large number of backgrounds. I was fortunate enough to sit in on a Preschool Storytime and observe how it was conducted and what takes place.

Before the session began, I witnessed the interactions between parents and their children, parents and other parents, as well as interactions between children. When I considered this afterwards, I realised just how important this was – the important role of culture and being respectful of differences. I soon discovered that Preschool Storytime was not just an event for small children, but also for whole families. It was all about being included and about appreciating other people even though they are different. Storytime instilled tolerance and understanding not just in the children who will be the core of our society in the future but it is making an immediate and practical difference in the adults who make up our current society. I also felt a little warm and fuzzy too – here were about 20 small children, with backgrounds from all over the world enjoying the same thing! This was an important moment of realisation for me. It emphasied the commonality of human beings at this stage of development and opened up opportunities for building activities that centre on children’s enjoyment of the same things that we all grew up with.

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After the session I spoke to the Children’s Services Librarian about the kinds of materials used in Preschool Storytime. I asked about the types of stories, activities and props that were used, and if any related to the area’s multicultural languages, beliefs or customs. She explained that this was unquestionably included into the Preschool Storytime’s program. She showed me books and other material which related to celebrations such as Chinese New Year, Eid, Diwali and so on. She also said that the associated craft at the conclusion of Preschool Storytime corresponded to the story.

The gap that existed in my learning was the close interactions with small children, whom I seldom deal with in the library. This was a bit of an eye-opener for me as I only really deal with elderly or housebound patrons. I learned some important things about the diverse range of patrons and how the use of a wide range of books, props and crafts in Storytimes teaches and promotes tolerance and pro-social development.

Because of its hands-on approach, Preschool Storytime encourages the Library to introduce children to a wide variety of cultures and experiences so that they become an everyday occurrence through ideas, activities, craft and songs. In a similar way to Bi-lingual Storytime at other locations, the library I work at allows children to learn about their culture, and those of others in a fun and friendly environment (Alakus, 2009).

 

References:

Alakus, R. (2009). A fun way to connect with the community. Incite, 30(4), 27-28.

Eisenberg, J. (n.d.). 6 Myths about diversity in early childhood storytimes (and how we can read diverse books in our library’s storytime now). Retrieved from        http://ideas.demco.com/blog/6-myths-diversity-early-childhood-storytimes/

Metusela, L. (2014). Ethnic diversity in picture books through the eyes of librarians and   parents. Retrieved from http://ro.uow.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1101&context=thsci

Public Libraries Online. (2015). “We need diverse books”campaign gaining momentum. Retrieved from http://publiclibrariesonline.org/2015/06/we-need-diverse-books-campaign-gaining-momentum/

 

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Observe and document a program delivered for children or young adults at a local library, reflect on the experience

Analyse and evaluate a website for children or young adults

Young People’s Book Awards

I have chosen to review the website “Inside a Dog”, a website developed by the State Library of Victoria. While there are other websites which are dedicated to young people’s book awards, or even book awards that are chosen by young people (such as Children’s Book Council), I chose this website because its target audience was youths and young people. The website is all about books and encourages reading as an enjoyable activity for young people. It is essentially a place where teenagers and young adults can write and share book reviews, news, fanart, join virtual books clubs, and find new books to read. Interestingly, there are “You’re the Voice” posts which allow users to comment for which they are paid to do so. The site helps to promote young adult literature and has a sense of community as it inspires discussion amongst young people. The website is bright and eye-catching and contains enough information to make the site worth going to.insideadog-small

Of particular interest are the annual Inky Awards for new youth literature and were founded by the State Library’s Centre for Youth Literature in 2007. These awards are shortlisted by young adults and are voted online by teens. They are “Australia’s first national teen choice awards for young adult literature” (insideadog.com, 2012). Teenagers from around the nation can vote for their favourite Inky Awards book online, and for the first time in 2012 by voting slips at schools, libraries and bookstores (narstrong, 2012). There are two kinds of Inky Awards – the Gold Inky – which is for an Australian book, and the Silver Inky – which is for an international book (insideadog.com, 2016). The Inky Awards are particularly important because they tell writers and publishers what is considered the best according to young people, and therefore what they must endeavour to attain. I feel that the Inky Awards encourage youths to read good quality contemporary books and to honour the winning authors of these books annually.

Inky Awards winners header

Although Inside a Dog is primarily a website targeted towards young people, it also contains resources for teachers too. These include notes which are designed to help integrate the website with the classroom. I found Inside a Dog and the associated Inky Awards relevant because it helps both information professionals, librarians and teachers gain a better understanding of the types of books that young people are reading, and the types of things they can do to encourage them to read further. This is helpful information for librarians because these titles can be used as a guide when considering what books to recommend to children and teens as well as being a helpful list of what to keep on the shelves. Extensive examination of the website helped me learn more about the types of things young people like, the various ways they communicate with one another as well as teachers, parents and librarians. I think that this will help me to be better equipped for helping young people with their reader’s advisory questions. It also helped me understand a new forum of communication with and between young people.

There were definitely gaps in my knowledge with regard to children’s and/or teen book awards. In fact, in my current role I deal with housebound patrons – the absolute other end of the spectrum! Prior to researching Inside a Dog and other children’s book award websites, I really had no idea of the various awards, award processes, and the significance of these awards. I plan to further my knowledge in the area on the subject by reading further and discussing with key children’s staff where I work.

 

References:

narmstrong. (2012). The Inky Awards 2012 Winners Announced. Retrieved from http://readalert.blogs.slv.vic.gov.au/2012/10/24/the-inky-awards-2012-winners-  announced/#.VqLy3rf76Uk

Shuttleworth, M. (2006). Inside a Dog. Schools Catalogue Information Service. Retrieved from http://www2.curriculum.edu.au/scis/connections/issue_60/inside_a_dog.html

State Library of Victoria. (2016). Inside a Dog. Retrieved from https://insideadog.com.au/

State Library of Victoria. (2016) Inky Awards winner announced. Retrieved from http://www.slv.vic.gov.au/interact-with-us/media-centre/inky-awards-winner-announced

Analyse and evaluate a website for children or young adults

Learn how to use a new tool, software or game, and write your experience

Digital Materials/Resources and Emerging Technologies

I originally purchased the popular game Minecraft over a year ago, after observing it being played by children I know. Not long after, I began observing children in the library I work watching instructional Minecraft videos on YouTube. In effect, I wanted to see what the big deal was, and why this game seemed so popular amongst preteens and young teenagers. Until now I had not actually had a chance to play my copy of the game (due to other commitments – life!), and maybe this was because it seemed slightly out of my comfort zone and quite unlike the games I usually do play.

Minecraft is a called a sandbox game – where the player creates the game themselves by manipulating the world within it. Each player therefore has a different experience because there are no specific steps or goals, or a stated objective (Cooney, n.d.), which forces you to explore. The game has basic 16-bit graphics and is basically a virtual landscape where people dig holes to collect blocks. What you do with your blocks however, is what counts. This is where your imagination comes in. There is also variable game play as well, with four modes: survival mode, creative mode, hardcore mode and spectator mode (Raven, 2014).

minecraft

Players begin on any number of randomly generated terrains – blocks that make up mountains, deserts, prairie, or even clouds. Survival depends on creating buildings and items from raw materials in the world around you. These items might include a pickaxe or shovel or even a stove to cook on. Perhaps without being consciously aware of it, children are developing skills in creative thinking, math and geometry and maybe even a bit of geology. However, probably the most obvious are visuospatial reasoning skills—“learning how to manipulate objects in space in a way that helps them create dynamic structures” (The Atlantic, 2014). Children and youth are also learning how to collaborate and problem solve while improving critical thinking skills which support motivation for learning.

After completing this task I learned of the importance of using games to connect, engage and collaborate with young people. By using games such as Minecraft, libraries can facilitate community building activities, engage with young people, and extend the traditional role of libraries. This enables youths to do their gaming in a social environment. The socialisation that takes place around gaming is something often overlooked when assessing the value of video games in the sphere of learning. This is an area that hasn’t received enough attention within libraries. An appropriate investigation should be undertaken that includes hands-on use of video games replicating the experience of the child. Only through such a practical assessment can a decision be made on whether to include video games as a resource within libraries.

Finally, Minecraft helped me to gain an insight into how children think, and consequently how they learn. For me, the game is unusual in that it did not follow my expectations and the thinking patterns that exist in most other video games. Perhaps the difference in playing this game as an adult is that children (and youth) approach Minecraft without fear or hesitation, without second guessing, and all while being creative. The different approach used in Minecraft deserves more analysis that could reveal some new ideas and approaches for instructing children.

 

References:

Cooney, M. (n.d.). What is Minecraft? Retrieved from http://parentinfo.org/article/what-is- minecraft

Microsoft. (2014). Minecraft: Xbox One edition. Retrieved from https://store.xbox.com/en-US/Xbox-One/Games/Minecraft-Xbox-One-Edition/582e7bcc-11bc-4702-ab1b-b31566f8e327

Raven, D. (2014). What is Minecraft and why are millions of children addicted to it? Retrieved   from http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/technology-science/technology/what-minecraft-   millions-children-addicted-3970439

TheAtlantic.com (2014). Beyond ‘screen time’: what Minecraft teaches kids. Retrieved from http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2014/04/beyond-screen-time-what-       a-good-game-like-minecraft-teaches-kids/361261/

Learn how to use a new tool, software or game, and write your experience

Find, read and analyse a peer-reviewed journal article

Censorship

The article that I read was:

Hunt, L. & Wachsmann, M. (2012). Does labelling children’s books constitute censorship? Reference & User Services Quarterly, Winter 2012, Vol. 52(2), pp. 90-92.

This article was useful and thought provoking. It not only addresses the usefulness of labelling library resources to assist younger readers but also opens up questions of about what censorship is and what it isn’t.

It’s worth starting with definitions. To effectively consider whether labelling children’s books constitutes censorship we have to ask, ‘what is censorship?’ Censorship typically refers to the elimination of all or part of a book, film etc. so that it becomes unavailable to anyone who may want to access it. Censorship is loaded with value judgments and conjures up images of restrictive governments who want to control what people learn. The Oxford dictionary online is very specific, censorship is “The suppression or prohibition of any parts of books, films, news, etc. that are considered obscene, politically unacceptable, or a threat to security”. On the other hand the definition of ‘labeling’ refers to attaching information about an item or classifying it in some way (“Censorship,” 2016) be argued that labeling is an extension of a key function of librarianship, that is, cataloguing of resources. It does not restrict access to information but rather seeks to assist patrons in the use of library resources by appending information about the item. This information takes on an even greater significance when the patron is a child or student.

Using a loaded word like censorship in a discussion about labeling could be construed as leading the reader to a decision about labeling that is completely unwarranted but rather reflective of the writer’s personal opinion of labeling.

It becomes clear from the article that the concerns made by those against labeling do not proceed logically from labeling itself but rather from how labeling is used by those directing children’s learning in libraries.

The article describes a number of labeling uses that could result in labeling being seen as the problem to learning. These include:

  1. Instructing students to only borrow books ‘that are on their level’ or ‘on the prescribed reading list’. Such a restriction is not inherent in labeling itself but the result of those directing the use of library resources. An alternative positive use would be to direct students to read from several or all reading lists, or to extend students by asking them to include a ‘next level up’ book.
  2. Shelving books according to their labels. This is noted as preventing children from understanding how libraries are organised. Again, there is no expectation that books should be organized in any way other than the library’s cataloguing system. Labeling adds information to the specific resource wherever the library has catalogued it. Grouping resources according to label categories is a misuse of labels.

In the article, a strong case is made by both writers on the benefits of labeling in promoting library use, fostering an interest and desire to read, and guiding the selection of books.

Labeling can be an effective way of fostering a broad acquisition of knowledge or understanding. An example is the objective of ‘diversity’. Labeling can help promote diversity by requiring students to read (for example) one book from every label category established by the library. These categories could be based on culture, philosophy, climate, gender etc.

In conclusion it can be said that, if labeling results in unwarranted or misdirected behavior in library patrons then the fault most probably lies in the system of labeling adopted (labels are not useful / appropriate), or in how the library users understand or perceive the labeling (ineffective education about what the label represents). There is nothing to suggest that an objective system of labeling restricts patron usage of resources and there is no basis for claiming that labeling is censorship in any way.

As someone who works in the industry, I learned that labelling can be used as an effective tool for guiding learning for students so that it’s both balanced, increases knowledge and addresses learning goals. Censorship by its nature restricts knowledge by limiting access to information.

 

References:

Censorship. (2016) In Oxford Dictionaries. Retrieved from             http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/censorship

Find, read and analyse a peer-reviewed journal article