by Lawrey Goodrick
When my debut book Cans for Change, an illustrated middle grade fiction adventure about a father-son duo travelling the streets of Brisbane collecting cans for change at any cost, was released, I was tasked with promotion. My first stop was to reach out to local schools.
From the get-go I was gervous (good but nervous).
You never really know how hard it is to market a book until you must throw years of story and character development into one simple saleable sentence.
Cans for Change is an exciting read for reluctant readers offering outrageous antics of fathers, sons, bullies, police, and zombies! It is an interactive reading experience with a flip-book margin, Spot the Crazy Differences page, Fun Facts about Recycling section, entertaining illustrations, and complementary Teacher’s Notes.
Phew! Not quite one sentence, though, Lawrey.
Wivenhoe Dam it!
And I forgot to mention that it’s written from my perspective of autism and involves multiple themes on children’s mental health.
Despite my enthusiasm for what was on offer with Cans for Change, the response from schools was shattering.
‘Sorry, we don’t have a librarian on staff.’
‘We have fill-in staff, but if you send through the details, we’ll pass them on.’
It became evident a problem was occurring in the school education system.
‘Sorry, teachers and staff fill in the librarian position.’
‘Forward through your details and we’ll pass it on to relief staff.’
The pattern was obvious… school librarians weren’t available, weren’t active staff, were disappearing.
How could society rid the world of one of the most stable sources of storytelling and transcription that, if we store them safely, will exist beyond humanity’s reign on earth, that exist in multiple cultures already, from scrolls and parchment, stone tablets, hieroglyphics to ancestral cave decorating?
Surely, I was wrong. Surely school librarians weren’t disappearing.
I reached out to the Queensland School Library Association (QSLA) and yowza.
There is in fact a growing shortage of Teacher Librarians.
Is it to do with education cuts? Perhaps it’s just public schools suffering this loss or private schools too? Is Artificial Intelligence soon to become self-aware just like in the movie Terminator?
Here are some strategies to not only be proactive in saving children’s literature education, but also help reconnect with school libraries and support the resurgence of the Teacher Librarian role.
1. Connect with your school and teachers:
A relationship with teachers and schools doesn’t come simply from your child’s attendance at school, or from sitting down for 15 minutes at the end of Term to discuss your child’s educational progress. Engaging with your school and teachers develops connectivity that prospers in your child’s education
2. Read for the kids:
It might be a scary suggestion for a parent to take over a class at school for an hour to read to kids, but it is a mutually beneficial act for you, children and schools. An hour of your time each week offered for reading to children whether in an activity session or one-on-one reading support is extremely beneficial to children, helping build and reinforce positive connections with children and books. More so for those children who are not offered the experience of reading at hom
3. Read to your own children:
In the demanding world we are currently exposed to, it can be hard to find the time to do the simple things. Taking 20 minutes to read a small book or parts-of will not only help a parent and child connect with storytelling, but it’s also beneficial for children and parent confidence in reading. There’s nothing better than reading a picture book that reboots imagination in an adult’s mind, allowing the serious side of adulthood to drop its guard for a moment and be a child again.
4. School libraries are wellbeing spaces:
There is a plethora of empirical scientific literature that proves that reading contributes to improvement in child confidence and self-esteem. And you don’t necessarily need to be a keen reader to enjoy the library environment. There are multiple activities and resources that are on offer in school libraries, or libraries in general, each tailoring their own initiatives, all welcoming to inquisitive minds. Just pop into your local library to see what’s on offer.
5. Start early:
Just like baby milestones, books are written for different age brackets suited for age and learning level. Staying on track with your child’s development will help a successful progression of these stages and help your child maintain a level of confidence in reading material and English comprehension throughout schooling.
This is something I worry about with the influence of technology and phone apps, some not necessarily going through the right educational vetting channels, some better at visual stimulation and addiction behaviour than contributing to constructive societal inclusion practices.
6. Be proactive in reading:
If you are not an active reader, your behaviour could dictate your child’s behaviour towards book and reading appreciation. I always appreciate a new book trend in children’s and YA content, for it generates interest for children to actively engage in reading and propel reluctant readers to enjoy new story adventures.
Perhaps you are a keen reader but have a child who is reluctant, they may not have been introduced to material in the correct way and may not understand the magic well within their grasp. If your child is a reluctant reader, don’t wait years to engage and ask them why, as treatment is a harder route to take. If you’re struggling to identify issues, talking to a Teacher Librarian could save an education
7. Read for yourself:
Despite illiteracy’s presence in society, it doesn’t mean strategies can’t be adopted to build reading confidence that will be mutually beneficial for the parent as well as child.
From my own experience, reading to my kids helped strengthen my own lacking reading abilities and it was not just pleasant reading new stories and enjoying the adventures, it was that I was in sync and mindful of my own children’s progression through the reading development stages and how vitally important reading is for independent thinking, problem solving, confidence and self-esteem.
The QSLA Committee 2022 offers this advice to parents when approaching prospective schools for their child, “does this school have a qualified Teacher Librarian working in the library to support my child as a reader and a learner?” Having a TL in the school library helps ensure the best life outcomes for children and this is supported by research.
Why children’s books matter
Although picture books, middle grade and YA books appear simple to us adults, they are world building for children, something that we adults really do take for granted, something that more Teacher Librarian roles in schools would help to keep us mindful of and prevent our children and education system entering a state of literature learning entropy.
Hopefully one day I’ll meet you and your children in a school library, and we can work together towards the resurgence of Teacher Librarians, something our schools and our children dearly need.