Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Yes! 'Reading Counts' as learning!

Back in the day when I was first studying to be a Librarian, one of my classes was on the history of libraries. I remember learning about Assurbanipal's library in ancient Nineveh, the Alexandrian Library
and the Vatican Library, to name just a few. Civilisations have always had libraries. In ancient times, during warfare, when a city was defeated, to gain it's library was a major coup.

Few could argue that Libraries are not a precious resource. Anne Firor Scott, in her article, writes about women and American libraries, and the sad fact that historians have not paid attention to the part women have played in establishing them. She writes, One great gap in library history is created by the failure of historians, so far, to make a systematic analysis of the part played by women's associations in creating public libraries. Perhaps 75 percent of such libraries were initiated by women's groups, often originally for their own use. Close study of this phenomenon would reveal a good deal about the growth of self-education and adult education as significant aspects of American culture (Scott, 1986).

An article found in the American newspaper, Los Angeles Times, exposes that currently school Librarians in the Unified State District, are being interrogated about their qualifications. The district are seeking to cost-cut their state education, and it looks as if the school libraries are easy targets.

The article written by Hector Tobar, witnesses the Librarian's interrogation:

Sandra Lagasse, for 20 years the librarian at White Middle School in Carson, arrived at the temporary courtroom Wednesday with copies of her lesson plans in Greek word origins and mythology.

On the witness stand, she described tutoring students in geometry and history, including subjects like the Hammurabi Code. Her multi-subject teaching credential was entered into evidence as "Exhibit 515."

Lagasse also described the "Reading Counts" program she runs in the library, in which every student in the school is assessed for reading skills.

"This is not a class, correct?" a school district attorney asked her during cross-examination.

"No," she said. "It is part of a class."

"There is no class at your school called 'Reading Counts'? Correct."


Lagasse endured her time on the stand with quiet dignity and confidence. She described how groups of up to 75 students file into her library — and how she works individually with many students.

The reason why the Librarians are being questioned in this manner, is because all Middle and High school Librarians need to have state teaching credentials. The catch here, however, is that they must have taught students within the last five years.

This article poses many questions. What is learning? Let's just say that you can go into schools and mete out zones where learning can occur. This would mean that within a school, no learning could ever occur on the playground. Or in the cafeteria (tuckshop) line. Or, as in this case, the library. Learning can only take place in classrooms. Personally I have a problem with that.

The other problem I have is the shameful disrespect shown to these Librarians who are qualified. It takes many years to gain a Library qualification and teaching qualification. Most Librarians are Post-graduates, and yet, in this instance, it all stands for nothing.

The reason why I quoted Scott's article earlier, about the role women have played in the history of our libraries, is because the Librarians' whose jobs are currently at risk, are mainly women. On the witness stand, one librarian at a time is summoned to explain why she — the vast majority are women — should be allowed to keep her job.

And I'm going to put this out there. If Libraries were mainly run and staffed by men, would this be happening? Libraries and Teaching seem to be a 'soft' profession. What makes it so? I want you to take a look at this picture.
This is a woman's, mother's and wife's job on the line here.

As someone who is a Librarian, studying to be a teacher, I feel devalued reading an article like this. A culture that values its libraries and schools, and the people who make that happen, is, in my opinion, a very fortunate culture. The final point I want to make is that I am writing about this article from Australia. I became aware of it on Facebook. Social media has played a role in ousting this shameful debacle, the world really is watching.

Anne Firor Scott. The Journal of Library History (1974-1987)Vol. 21, No. 2, Libraries, Books, & Culture II (Spring, 1986), pp. 400-405

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The week ahead.

Well Richard has flown away for two weeks for work. He will be visiting The US and Europe. I'm bracing myself for a hard week, but I'm utilising the help from my eighteen year old cousin who will stay and my father-in-law. Hopefully I won't get too overwhelmed!

This week I will be visiting three primary schools to discuss my son's enrolment in 2013. As he is special needs, high functioning autism, I'm interested to see what programs or aides they will have and discussing some of the programs that we are looking at. Hopefully I can find a good school that will be enthusiastic and helpful, and that we can strike a good balance in educating my son. I'll be visiting a different primary school on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. I'm feeling a bit apprehensive but excited as well. I'm sure all parents feel this way when their child begins school. The only thing I'm a bit disappointed over is that Richard can't be there for the open days either, but since we have a bit of time up our sleeves, I told him, I'll go check it out and then we can visit again together. I'm just hoping I don't hit a brick wall regarding the services we may need for my son. Will have to wait and see....

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Reading to children

When I was working in public libraries, particularly when I was lucky enough to conduct story time, I was often asked by parents, at what age should you start reading to children? My answer is, from the beginning. I followed my own advice and read to my son on the day I brought him home from the hospital. Beforehand I thought about what I would read. I couldn't see myself reading basic board books to him that showed shapes or letters of the alphabet or colours. I ended up deciding on the Mr Men series.
This was for three reasons. Firstly, they were small enough to hold together with a baby very comfortably. Secondly, the pictures were bright and colourful, therefore eyecatching. And thirdly, there was enough text for me to find reading these books enjoyable and it allowed for my son to listen to my voice. This is what I want to stress here to any parents reading this post. Reading to babies isn't about 'reading' to them. It is allowing for your child to listen to your voice. A baby residing in your tummy can hear at the twenty week mark. This means that he or she has been listening to your voice (and others) for a long time. There's a sense of security, it allows you to bond - and this certainly happened during our reading times, and it also exposes them to the cadence of your reading voice.

Now of course reading and writing and books are my favourite things and things to do. So I have never found reading to my babies/children a chore. It's something that I personally find exciting and enjoyable to do. When I was doing story time at public libraries, I found it very noticeable that the children who came along to these sessions and were consequently read to by library staff and parents, knew their letters, numbers and colours from a very early age. Clearly there are benefits to reading to children from a young age, but I don't want to jump on the bandwagon of this competitive pushing children along just so they can have some kind of academic advantage. My reasons for reading to babies and children is what I have already stated. It allows them to listen to you.

Presently I am reading some young adult novels for an assignment, that I intend to blog about at a later date. What I wanted to share with you today, was some picture books that we have gone on to after our My men books - and also the Little Miss series. Some favourites are:
A couple of standouts that have my son in fits of laughter are:

When I started reading to my son - and later my daughter - I never imagined that he would be diagnosed with autism. Looking back, I believe that reading to him has helped him. It calms him. It is a routine done every night after baths and just before bed, one that is looked forward to. He loves to choose what books to read, and giving him choice and teaching him to express what he wants is paramount in helping him engage with people. As part of his autism is a severe language delay, I have found some of the following titles invaluable in helping his speech. As I have been reading most of these books to him from a young age, and certainly before he was talking, it is safe to say that he knows them inside out. After some time, I realised that if I paused before saying the next word, as he knew full well what was to come, he would fill in the gaps. An example of this is with We're going on a bear hunt, by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury.
Its rhythmn and repetitiveness is superb in aiding his speech. Often I would say, we're going on a.....and he would fill the gap. Eventually I was doing this for almost every line in the book. Other books that also worked well in doing this are:

I'm continually adding to our picture book library at home. I have five book boxes (they're actually the Huggies nappy boxes) that I rotate. We do one book from our collection and two books borrowed from the library. This way they're reading books and getting exposed to repetition, but they're also being exposed to new books as well. Sometimes we borrow some absolute gems from the library that I look out for to buy them as birthday gifts or christmas presents. I like to use books as rewards for good behaviour too, but as they are still so young this will probably happen more often as the years go on. The other reason why I love to read library books is that it prevents me from getting too bored as well. You see, I like to read these picture books too (just for myself) and there's nothing better than reading titles that you yourself enjoyed as a child. The very hungry caterpillar and Are you my mother are familiar favourites from my own childhood.

Great recent contemporary titles that I've found:

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Out for dinner

We had a lovely dinner last night for our anniversary at Fenix. Honestly I don't know why we don't go there more often as we don't live very far away. Oh yes. I just remembered. It's because of the rug rats!! I say that with great affection.

Upon arriving there's a large display of Mehigan's and Calombaris' new cook book.
We're greeted sincerely and warmly. In fact the food was excellent but I would say that the standout of the night was the service. The staff were very friendly but were happy to joke around with you as well, so this felt very genuine and made for a more homely dining experience.

I would describe the food as rustic. Bread and butter, of course, appeared first. For entree Richard had char grilled quail with sweet and sour cannelini beans, rosemary and thyme. The beans were beautiful with an intense smoky flavour. I didn't try the quail, but Richard said he was disappointed that it wasn't falling off the bone. My entree was salt and pepper calamari with a garlic aioli. I love aioli and the calamari was lovely and crisp, nicely salted with sliced red chilli's and coriander leaves scattered over the top. The chilli's gave a nice hint of heat to the dish.

For mains Richard had grilled swordfish with fresh borlotti beans and salsa verde. I just realised how much beans Richard consumed!!..... My main was the special of the day. Slow roasted suckling pig that came with apples and a buttery-herby sauce. We had a side dish of green beans with soft homemade ricotta. My pork was lovely but very very rich. The beans were a nice addition to it.

Dessert - yes I left room - was an apple souffle with rosemary ice cream for Richard. Richard said that the ice cream was extremely unusual. He described it as having an almost 'healthy' taste. I thought it a strange combination too, a little medicinal. Being a chocaholic I couldn't go past the bitter chocolate and olive mousse. This came as a large curl on my plate, festooned with oregano leaves and underneath was this kind of set gel that must have been the coffee and licorice part of the dish. I'm not a big fan of licorice so I didn't know what to expect. It didn't really taste very licorishy to me.

It was a good night overall. It gave Richard and I a chance to spend some time together alone, and it's been a while since we've had that opportunity Oh, and I should probably also add that we had some Neighbour's stars at the next table. We watch Neighbours so they were immediately recognisable to us - of course we didn't let on, being the sophisticated couple that we are - there were about five cast members. So, I think we shall return to Fenix. I'm fortunate enough to actually have that part of the yarra river as my dog walking thoroughfare, so I was even thinking that we should stop off for a coffee too. With the rug rats of course.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Anniversary dinner

Well we're off to Fenix tonight to celebrate our eleven year wedding anniversary.
This is the restaurant owned by Gary Mehigan from Masterchef Australia. This will be our second visit, our first was many years ago to celebrate our birthdays (they're one week apart). So, the babysitter is booked and it's been absolutely ages since we've been out to dinner, yet alone fine dining, so I'm really looking forward to it.

I have a small confession to make. Last year was our ten year anniversary (obviously) and we didn't do anything!!! I hate that that happened. We always celebrate our birthdays and anniversaries etc. It was just too hard with the kids. So this year, I've made it a point to actually go somewhere. I almost felt like being lazy and just staying at home, but if I do that I think it will be the start of setting a bad precedent. So, I promise to get all glammed up, and off we go. Aaaah a night of no cooking.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Death of a troubled soul

Last year my father died exactly the way I thought he would. We had been out all day and returned home at about nine pm that evening. There was a message on the telephone from my aunt. The police had been in contact and she messaged to ask me to give them a call. My father lived in Sydney and we're in Melbourne. I called the required number. The neighbours hadn't seen my father for some time and had called the police. Upon investigating his home they found him face down on the floor of his bedroom. Later the coroner estimated that he had been there for up to three weeks.

Yes, you did read the above correctly. A phone call from the police telling me that my father had passed away was exactly how I envisaged the death of my dad. My father was an alcoholic and after twenty years of marriage my mother had had enough, divorced him and he then went to live in Sydney. He had some family up there, but after a few months even they were estranged from him. It was only after he moved there did that side of the family fully comprehend what he was like.

Do you know how sometimes in the media or in advertisements you see images of homeless people, or the jobless; down on their luck people? Or you hear stories of people dying in their homes and not being found for days - in this case weeks. I always used to look at these and think, that is my father.

As far as I know, my father always drank. During the day my brother and I learnt not to disturb him because he'd always get very annoyed. At night he was jovial and affectionate. I now know of course why my father had two sides to his personality.

As we got older our social life ground to a halt. Later my mother told me that it was too humiliating to go out and be with friends. Having to doctor a drunk home was no fun. He also felt the macho need of drink-driving us home. Insisted upon it. This was during the seventies and early eighties, so we didn't have the cautionary TAC ad campaigns back then. I'm not sure if they would have had an effect on him anyway.

I could never bring friends home. I wouldn't know what I would be walking into. When we were teenagers it was easier for my brother and I to just hang out at our friend's houses.

When I was twenty years old my mother decided enough was enough. My father wasn't a violent man, but one afternoon things did turn bad and he hit her over the head. That was literally the end. My mother had been back and forth our whole lives. Misguided relatives always thought it was better that she stay in her marriage than walk away. I try not to make her feel bad about this now - because I know she carries immense guilt for staying. She had a great job and could easily have supported us. She just found it hard emotionally and spiritually to be on her own.

When everything ended he moved to Sydney. He had a good outcome from the divorce financially, but within a handful of years all that money was completely gone. When it comes to my father my brother and I were on opposite ends of the spectrum. I always felt sorry for him and was easily manipulated. My brother despised him and at the end refused to talk to him. Thus I was always the go between.

I felt differently after I had my first child. I was much angrier with him. Feeling very vulnerable with a newborn, and able to watch my husband in awe at how he was a father to my son, I realised all the more what my brother and I had missed out on.

Towards the end I only saw him in person three or four times. He never looked well. He visited us twice after my son was born. Later both my husband and I commented that our home felt as if the life had been sucked out of it. He never got to meet my daughter. The last time I saw him I was pregnant with her and she was eighteen months old when he passed away. When I rang to speak to him on the telephone I was lucky if he was coherent. Often he would ring back the following morning. I think somewhere in his imbibed mind, it registered that I had tried to have a conversation with him. The consequent day he would deny that he had been drinking - it was on account of some medication he had been taking. I've heard many excuses over the years.

Of course we had to go to Sydney to organise the funeral. My father always harboured resentment for my husband. I think it was more a jealousy thing than anything else. A father and daughter thing. He always handled emotion in an immature fashion and this was conveyed by him entering our home and trying to be 'cock of the walk'. I always managed to keep the lid on this simmering pot between my father and husband, but looking back I wish I could tell my father, be nice, this is the person who will be paying for your funeral.

There weren't many people there. Thankfully my brother came without argument. I was bracing myself for the 'I'm not doing this on my own' speech. It was up to me to do the eulogy. There were some friends of his that he had recently re-connected with from his teenage years. I think they were a little shocked by what I said. I had to talk honestly. I said that I was angry with him for his selfishness because he was loved.

And here is the crux of the matter. No matter what, he was still my father and he was loved. When I think of my father I think of him as a troubled soul. My main emotion regarding his death is one of pity. Sadness of a life lived worthlessly. Sadness that he could not let go of his demons in life. I only hope now that where ever he is that he has found some peace.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Best of my love

On Friday it will be our eleven year wedding anniversary. Since I've blogged before about my marriage proposal I thought I'd write about our wedding. We met during high school where he went to the boy's school across the road from my all girl's school. After much checking each other out on public transport, elbows dug into friends ribs to covertly point each other out and the inevitable flirting that followed, we were finally boyfriend and girlfriend.

We had a really long courtship. Too long really. We were sixteen when we met, engaged at twenty-five and married at twenty-seven. I will say that it gave us ample time to save! Anyway, we studied, worked, travelled, my mum kept saying we lived in each other's pockets, and then finally got around to the big day.

Our wedding took place in a bluestone church where my primary school was affiliated.

It's where I had my communion and confirmation. My husband also had ties with this church so we had a lot of history there.

Our ceremony was taking place at 1pm, and I had a gorgeous couture gown made by Angelina Baccini. We had a fairly large wedding party, four bridesmaids and groomsmen, and three flower girls. After the wedding ceremony we left for our photo's and headed to a cafe on Bridge road in Richmond. Sadly this cafe is now closed - or it's changed into a completely different one to what it was. By late afternoon we got to Werribee mansion where our reception was taking place.

Together with our wedding party we roamed around the gardens and allowed the photographers to take our 'strictly commanded' candid wedding photo's. At 6.30pm the reception started, and we lucked out with a sensational DJ that brought the house down with his music. It was literally one of the best nights of my life and unforgettable. The only thing that went wrong was that I forgot my written speech at home and had to hastily write something whilst I ate dinner.

So eleven years on from that day and night have been wonderful. I am going to add a however here. The first year of our marriage was the hardest. I honestly didn't think we were going to see our first anniversary. Anyway, we kept going. We've managed to buy some properties, excel at work and travel. We held off having children, but now we have two beautiful littlies.

So now, with our eleven year anniversary upon us I can sit and reflect blog about it all. Stop and truly see that I am blessed and appreciate what I have.
Happy anniversary babe. Even after all these years you still make my heart skip a beat and my skin hum. You once told me that I am your life, you are mine also.
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