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Less Meat in the Sandwich
Less Meat in the Sandwich

Teachers and Libraries - The Meat in the School Sandwich

Why are schools finding Year 9 students struggling to read Grade 4 level books?

Because we are failing to provide the level of mediation between child and content.

Most of this content comes in edited book form. It can be a digital resource or a printed book. The question is how the child is connected to this content.

In Prep or Grade One, the teacher, parent, grandparent, and librarian provides nearly 100% of the mediation between the child and the content. Being read to, being taught how to read, and being given guidance in what to read, are all essential steps towards becoming an independent adult reader.

As the child passes through school, the percentage of mediation falls. Other students, even social media, join the mix of mediators, and the student learns the skills to find, assess, and interpret the content. The meat in the sandwich gets slimmer.

By Year 12 the student should be almost fully independent, and directly connected to the content - able to find, assess, and use the knowledge and data it holds.

The current debates about school funding, teaching methods, the place for technology, and trends in student literacy, tend to ignore the people that come between the student and the content. 

Ignoring this required mediation slows the progression to independence, meaning children leave school struggling to access the full richness of the world around them.

It also explains the poor record of digital resources, ebooks, and apps in developing the child. These materials are not currently designed for mediation. They are designed one to one ( user to content ) and assume a degree of digital literacy or competence. There is no place for the teacher, parent, or librarian to sit between the child and content. 

Teachers using digital textbooks in class struggle to monitor each students progress, and students find it hard to engage in peer to peer mediation, because each is in their own single user space.

Schools are cutting school library budgets, and librarian hours and numbers. This is failing to appreciate that the existence of the library, and the presence of the librarian, itself acts as a form of mediation, or modeling - how you can connect to the content, how content can differ, how it can be presented and discovered.

So if you are wondering why literacy rates are stagnating, and why some children are struggling, consider just how much mediation has actually been made available, and then what you might do to provide more people, and more support, at each of the grade levels.

Important News
E-books are a waste of money - Report

The research follows a 2015 OECD report which found that investing in computers and iPads in schools fails to boost numeracy and literacy skills. The OECD report went even further, saying that frequent use of computers in schools was often associated with lower  results.

It coincides with the increased take up of e-books in Australian schools, with an estimated 34 per cent of schools purchasing e-books in 2015 compared to 28 per cent in 2013, according to The Australian and New Zealand School Library Survey.

There has been a knee jerk reaction ( and heavy marketing to suggest ) that all children prefer to read on screens and that has led to school libraries removing all paper books - but research says this is not the case, and that distraction, skim reading, the lack of tactile progress through a book, and the lack of commitment to the process of reading the book, all contribute to reduction in reading, and the reduction in literacy and numeracy skills.

Victorian Premier's Reading Challenge

Adam Wallace's Jackson Payne series has joined the booklist of the Victorian Premier's Reading Challenge.

So far Accidentally Awesome9780980828276 and Blunderingly Brilliant - 9780980828290 have been listed, but I know the others  - Clumsy Christmas - 9780994469328 , Disastrously Daring - 9780994469304, and Erratically Epic - 9780994469366 will join them soon.

Invisible War

The Invisible War - 9780992587253 - has been included in the Children's Book Council of Australia 'Notables of 2017 list.  It is a graphic novel that describes life on the Front in World War 1 both from the point of view of the Australian Nursing Staff, and the microscopic battle in the human gut between our defences and the dysentry bacterium.

Ancient Australia

Ancient Australia Unearthed - 9780980594737 - is gaining accolades for the fresh images and photos, the original research into ancient sites and practices, and the clarity of the text. Ideal as a Year 7 textbook.

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