The New Zealand Book Council is our country’s national organisation dedicated to reading and readers. It was founded in 1972.
The Book Council has four key priorities which they are focusing on over the next three years; ONE of which is Promoting New Zealand Stories and Writers with a special focus on championing the next generation of New Zealand writers and their stories.
On 16th May 2018 author Karen Trebilcock introduced me to the Programmes Manager for NZ Book Council, Kathryn Carmody, (via email). This began a conversation between us about how the NZ Book Council could support #NZreadaloud.
Since the inaugural #NZreadaloud back in 2015, the team have set out to read and find the most suitable NZ books for all year levels involved. As much as this sounds like an easy task, it actually is anything but. Over the years we have learnt that there is a certain type of book which suits the purpose of #NZreadaloud but will also capture the interest of our tamariki; both to motivate them to read more and write more but also to get curious about stuff and use topics which come up for learner-led inquiry.
I know I speak on behalf of the team when I say we have read a heap of books in our search each Term (12 terms in total at this time) – novels, picture books and non-fiction – written by our wonderful NZ writers. Along the way each of us who lead a Year group have built up an impressive personal library for our classrooms; of books we have paid for ourselves.
When the offer arose as to how the NZ Book Council could help us at #NZreadaloud it was a no-brainer for us. Please assist us with the purchase of books! So then this happened:
The Book Council is offering financial support to #NZreadaloud to help with the purchase of new NZ books as part of the process around assessing which books to include in the programme each year.
The memorandum of understanding between the NZ Book Council and #NZreadaloud is a collaborative agreement which sees us working together to promote NZ authors and the building of a reading & writing culture. #NZreadaloud acknowledges the NZ Book Council as a partner and we will promote the organisation in all future presentations, conferences, or other media. In collaboration with the NZ Book Council classes participating in #NZreadaloud have opportunities to connect in authentic ways with our wonderful NZ authors through the Writers in Schools programme. From feedback we have received this is always a highlight for the students.
This is an incredibly exciting time for #NZreadaloud.
As a team of teachers we are committed to changing the way we deliver literacy to our tamariki. Of more importance though, is our dedication to changing the way our tamariki experience literacy. #NZreadaloud is a connected experience which has constructivist theory behind its purpose; providing reading experiences which differ from the way it has always been. Reading doesn’t have to be a solo activity, it doesn’t have to be a quiet activity, and it doesn’t have to be an ability based experience. Whole class Read Alouds sees us building understanding together, where discussion and analysis takes place with each other as we read thus the experience becoming a more inclusive and culturally sustaining one.
The Power and Promise of Read Alouds and Independent Reading, a recent publication released from the ILA (International Literacy Association), quotes this:
“Effective read-alouds increase children’s vocabulary, listening comprehension, story schema, background knowledge, word recognition skills, and cognitive development. In
addition to these important academic benefits, read-alouds promote a love of literature, foster social interactions, and ignite a passion for lifelong reading habits.”
More specifically, “read-alouds help emergent and beginning readers
gain understanding of book handling, print conventions, story
structure, literacy syntax, expressive language, and text organizational
This quote from the same publication confirms the reason behind Karen Wilson’s stoic commitment to promote #NZreadaloud to the Secondary sector as well as why Reading Aloud continues to be a valuable instructional practice for us at Intermediate level:
“Secondary literacy teachers must embrace the read-aloud as nonnegotiable instructional practice. Upper elementary and secondary students reap multiple benefits from teacher-led read-alouds, including building background knowledge and vocabulary and modelling of effective comprehension strategies. As teens embrace the social nature of literacy activities, effective teachers provide opportunities for students to personally connect literature to their lives. When we relegate read-alouds to the purview of elementary teachers, we overlook the power and joy of read-alouds across grade levels.”
Since its inception in 2015 the other aspect which we continually see develop during Reading Aloud is a student’s curiosity. By actively encouraging students to ask questions rather than answer them, we have seen our learners inquire into their own wonderings which arise from the book and build on their own knowledge through engaging in meaningful discussion with others and further research into areas of interest.
This quote from the same publication sums up exactly what we are trying to promote through #NZreadaloud, this is the difference:
“What matters more than merely reading aloud is the quality of the teacher–student book interaction. Read-alouds must be interactive, during which teachers briefly stop, model their thinking, ask and answer questions, and invite participation from students. In reading aloud, an effective teacher serves as an orchestra conductor, coordinating conversation among students, fostering aesthetic and efferent text responses, pushing students’ text reaction past surface-level responses, and weaving an intricate network of meaning.”
WOW … I have been trying to articulate EXACTLY this over the last 4 years!
It is also affirming to see this publication also mention this:
“Another key ingredient of effective read-alouds is purposeful selection of text.”
The selected books need to serve as “mirrors, windows, and doors so that students not
only see themselves reflected in stories, but also are able to consider perspectives of those who are different from themselves.”
This is the reason why book selection takes longer than we always want it to. We look for books with a suitable length for reading aloud (try to fit this into a 6 week time frame), with characters who our kids will relate to but who also offer a look into another’s world, books with familiar Kiwi settings, and books which have opportunities for students to inquire into particular topics of interest which arise in the story.
The team would like to thank the NZ Book Council for their support and the hunt for books has already started!
as much as we try to get #NZreadaloud out to other teachers through conferences (we presented at ULearn2017), local #educamps as well as school-based staff meetings, we were disappointed when our abstract for the inaugural New Zealand Primary Teachers Conference in Wellington was not accepted. Knowing the success we have seen and been told about, we were looking forward to getting #NZreadaloud out to a wider audience and gaining more traction. Unfortunately not to be … not this year anyway!
This response from Belinda (Year 1 / 2) shows the grit we need to continue to promote #NZreadaloud.
And this response shows the support we have from our amazing authors:
Despite set-backs, we will persevere in getting #NZreadaloud out to teachers in Aotearoa.
We look forward to what #NZreadaloud and NZ Book Council can do together in the future to continue promoting NZ writers and the culture of reading and writing.
Nga mihi mahana