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Internet column

Occasionally, Storylines publishes an Internet Column as part of the newsletter. These are thematic, and submitted by Storylines members.


February 2009: Literacy projects around the world

It’s timely to visit some literacy programmes that are running successfully around the world as we are currently halfway through the United Nation’s Literacy Decade (2003-2012). Literacy as Freedom is the theme. Presently, around the world there are 774 million illiterate adults (64% women) and 75 million children who have no access to school. Literacy is a human right. Basic education, within which literacy is the key learning tool, was recognised as a human right over 50 years ago, in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Last year Yohannes Gebregeorgis of EthiopiaReads was nominated as a CNN Hero of the Year for his work in bringing free public libraries and literacy programmes to thousands of Ethiopian children. His story is inspiring, fleeing Ethiopia to the US as a political refugee, he trained as a children’s librarian and on realising there were no children’s books in Amharic, the primary language of Ethiopia, he wrote the first bilingual book for Ethiopian children. In 1988 he established Ethiopia Reads and moved back to Ethiopia in 2002.  

Room to Read was founded by overworked Microsoft executive, John Wood, who on a 1998 trip to Nepal was inspired to help bring books to rural schools. Now Room to Read supports local language publishing and establishes reading rooms in schools throughout Cambodia, India, Laos, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, South Africa and Zambia – all countries lacking in resources for children’s education. 

Every two years IBBY’s Asahi Reading Programme Award is given to institutions or organisations for outstanding activities that promote reading to children or young people. In 2008 Bakame Editions from Rwanda shared the award with Action with Lao Children. As the culture of reading is not part of Rwandan tradition, Bakame has introduced activities to help children acquire a love of reading such as Bibliothèque en route (project rucksack library) which gives pupils access to books and practice in reading where there are no libraries.

In 1982 Ms Chanthasone Inthavong, from Laos, but then living in Japan, established the Association for Sending Picture Books to Lao Children which grew into Action with Lao Children, a reading promotion that distributes books to Lao children in remote areas, increasing the number of library rooms called ‘Love to read’ (Hak Arn) in schools and preschools in Laos and gives support to nurturing their own writers, teachers and publishers.

One of the 2006 Asahi Award winners was a national reading promotion – All of Poland Reads to Kids. Inspired by an article about Jim Trelease of The Read Aloud Handbook, the program’s motto is '20 minutes a day’. The concept was brought to Poland seven years ago from the United States by Irena Koý|minska, the wife of Poland’s former ambassador in Washington. 

Other projects include: Pakistan’s Alif Laila Book Bus Society and the Lubuto Library Project of Zambia.

World Literacy Day is on 8 September each year.

- Kerry Aluf.

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 November 2007: Pop Up Books

I noticed an increasing number of popup books both for classic children’s books and non-fiction titles on a recent bookshop visit. Some of the books, such as Maurice Sendak’s Mommy?, are works of art with intricate paper engineering. I decided to explore the web to see what is happening in the world of moveable and popup books and here are some amazing sites, which showcase the history and construction of the moveable book, as well as teach you how to make your own popup creation.

  • Award winning paper engineer Robert Sabuda’s site is extensive, with links to the work of contemporary popup artists, a video demonstration of one of his megabeast books, make your own simple popup pages and lots lots more. 
  • The POP-UP World of Ann Montanaro - an exhibition of books from her collection by Rutgers University.
  • Mark Hiner is a UK paper engineer who has published several popup books and on his site you’ll see the development of a book through its various drafts.
  • The University of Texas has online exhibitons on the history of the popup and moveable books and some of the artists from the past and their books are showcased. 
  • Travel with the popup lady to Ibarra, Ecuador which is the home of the intricate popup book production. Her diverse site features the world’s largest popup book as well as links to articles on the history of the moveable book.
  • Finally, an interview on the making of Maurice Sendak’s Mommy? can be viewed on youtube

- Crissi Blair.

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May 2007: Publisher's Online

If you want to find out about children’s books in New Zealand a great place to get information is from the publishers’ websites. Most of the main publishers, and many smaller ones, have well organised sites with information about the books and the authors and illustrators who create them.

  • Longacre Press have divided their children’s books into junior and young adult fiction, and junior non-fiction and these are augmented by teacher resource kits with useful information, comprehension, research and essay questions. Another excellent feature is their Guidelines for New Writers.
  • Scholastic New Zealand also has a long list of author profiles and teaching notes in their Schools section.
  • Huia Publishers specialise in Mâori and Pacifica books and have an educational arm.
  • Steele Roberts are a smallish publisher with a select list of children’s books and their superb literary poster series featuring New Zealand authors.
  • The star of the Mallinson Rendel site is Hairy Maclary - and friends - at the top of the home page, click on them to make them bark. Go to his page and play the game at the top with his friends. Apart from the fun, the site is excellent with information about the authors and their books, plus author guidelines.
  • HarperCollins supplements the usual book and author information with an excellent selection of reading notes for the teachers out there and long interesting interviews with many of their authors. Random House also features teacher resource kits, and submission guidelines.

A couple of relatively new publishers to check out are:

  • Gecko Press who have begun by publishing some top European children’s books in English for the first time and encourage children to send in reviews of their books.
  • Not to be missed is the Trapeze Publishing website with information about the books, activities for children and the Room 7 bookclub for reviews that will inspire children to expand their reading horizons.

- Crissi Blair.


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 November 2006: Podcasts

Usually the domain of the young, podcasts, mp3s and online video have also become more mainstream and it is possible to access some interesting interviews with popular authors. These audio files are also portable and if you own an ipod or mp3 player you can download and listen away from your computer. Wikipedia is helpful for finding out more about podcasts and mp3s.

If you want to subscribe to some of the online radio chat shows about books such as on Guardian online,  you will need to have suitable software such as itunes. The chance to hear a favourite author talk about their latest book is irresistible. Even when an international author visits New Zealand, usually fleetingly, chances to see them are often remote especially if you live away from the main centres. 

A quick search of the internet turned up some great listening links:

  • The Tattered Cover Bookstore in Denver, USA, hosts many visiting authors, and their website has over 40 author talks, including Neil Gaiman and Lemony Snicket. 
  • Lemony Snicket was also interviewed earlier this month by the San Francisco Chronicle.
  • National Public Radio (NPR) has an interview with Maurice Sendak.
  • Jonathan Stroud on his visit to Australia earlier this year discussed fantasy and his books with Michael Pryor. 
  • Marcus Zusak, was interviewed by School Library Journal in the US. View the video where he discusses the personal story within the YA novel The Book Thief.  
  • You can listen to Michael Rosen talking about poetry and poets.
  • Snippets of Eoin Colfer's West End show can be seen on youtube or listened to at feedburner.
  • Listen to Lynley Dodd reading Hairy Maclary's Bone.
  • Finally Radio New Zealand offers a listen again feature so if you miss John McIntyre's children's book reviews on Fridays or Kate De Goldi's fortnightly Saturday talk about books, you can listen online.

- Crissi Blair.

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