23 March 2009

Opportunities: Media project for refugee youth in Western Sydney

Filed under: community,education,western sydney,young writers — westword @ 3:55 pm

ICE (Information and Cultural Exchange) has announced a new project for young people in Western Sydney from a refugee background. The project—Create Media!—aims to train and mentor the young participants in developing their creative new media ideas and turning them into business ventures. It’s for young people from a refugee background aged 16-30 years, who have lived in Australia for less than 10 years, who currently reside or study in Western Sydney and have a demonstrated interest in digital media.

The official press release follows:



MEDIA RELEASE | 11 March 2009


A foot in the digital door for Western Sydney’s young refugees


Young refugees from Western Sydney will enhance their digital media skills to run their own arts enterprises through an impressive new project, titled Create Media! to be managed by Information and Cultural Exchange (ICE).


Supported by the Westpac Foundation, Create Media! aims to train and mentor a group of young participants to develop their own creative ideas, and turn them into business ventures. Ultimately, the project will select a group of participants to develop one new-media enterprise to be hosted and developed at ICE.


‘The Westpac foundation believes in enabling life long learning and education leading to employment, as well as encouraging youth leadership and empowerment, through Create Media!, young people of refugee background will use the latest technology to tell their own stories, collaborate with other artists and find long term financial sustainability’ said Dr. Gianni Zappala, Executive Officer of the Westpac Foundation.


Create Media will deliver targeted training and mentorship to participants as they develop creative ideas, digital media skills and become business savvy. The training will be supported by a work-experience and mentorship program, components of the training will be accredited, giving participants a heads-up for further study.


The key aim of the project is to support the emergence of a new media enterprise, led and managed by young refugees.


‘We want to give people the skills and ambition to turn their interest into income,’ says project coordinator Gary Paramanathan. ‘Participants need to learn how to actualise their creative ideas, and also how to present and sell them. At the end of the project, participants will have the chance to pitch to a selection panel, and the successful project will be hosted and funded at ICE through a long-term mentorship.’


ICE is at the forefront of presenting Western Sydney culture to the world. For over 20 years it has trained and assisted artists from Western Sydney, especially those from linguistically and culturally diverse backgrounds.


ICE is currently recruiting young people from a refugee background who have lived in Australia for less than 10 years, currently reside and/or study in Western Sydney, aged between 16-30, and have a demonstrated interest or experience in digital media.


For further information on the project please contact Gary Paramanathan on, ph: (02) 9897 5744 or email createmedia@ice.org.au

Applications close 5pm 6th of April, and can be downloaded at www.ice.org.au






5 March 2009

World Mathematics Day

Filed under: books,children's lit,western sydney — westword @ 10:23 am

Well, I missed it—no suprises there, maths being my least favourite subject, but the reoudtable Trevor Cairney, literacy expert, did not. He has a great blog post up at his “Literacy, Families and Learning” blog (which if you’re not subscribed to, you should be) linking great children’s books to World Mathematics Day. Read it here, and if you have any favourite maths-related children’s books, for any age, please send a comment with the details.

Me, I loved Jenny Pausacker‘s YA novel Getting Somewhere*, which features a female teenage protagonist who is a maths maven: not something we see a lot of in YA books. Maybe because like me, most writers weren’t so strong in the maths department (I understand Jenny enlisted the help of a maths whizz friend for the relevant passages in the book).

* Shortlisted in the 1996 CBCA Awards.

12 February 2009

Bush fires—resources and how to help

Filed under: authors,books,children's lit,community,western sydney — westword @ 6:47 pm

Like everyone, I’ve been equally transfixed and distressed by the news from Victoria. Today’s Sydney Morning Herald front page story about the teachers who lost students in the fires had me weeping before breakfast. I imagine there has been lots of discussions in classrooms and families across the country about what happened and what we can do to help.

It was actually a colleague in the United States who alerted me, via the child_lit listserve, about this page on the Victorian School Library Association’s blog, about how schools can help contribute to the bushfire appeal. There are links to the major fundraising sites, plus a number of posts in the comments section about the creative things schools around the country are doing to raise funds.

I think it’s really important that young people feel as if they can do something concrete to help, and these ideas for mufti days and so on are a great idea. If your school or library or community is doing something like this, do leave a comment and share your ideas.

Similarly, I guess people might be looking for resources to help young people understand what’s happened. I’m not a great fan of bibliotherapy—I suspect the last thing a kid suffering a trauma wants to do is read a book about a kid suffering a trauma—but I was interested to note the children’s book editors from Allen and Unwin blog about a book that helped one of them as a child when she had experienced the Ash Wednesday fires. So if you have found any books that you’ve used successfully to help young people explore the emotions that this week’s events have brought up, please use the comment section to tell us about it and how and why it worked.

Children’s/YA writer Penni Russon lives in one of the fire affected towns. She and her young family weren’t at home when the fires hit, and fortunately their home was not lost. Penni has been writing about the aftermath of the fires on her Eglantine’s Cake blog. Today’s post about her young daughter’s questions is very moving indeed. I recommend Penni’s blog to you in any case, but especially at this time.

Another wonderful blog post about the fires I came across is this one at the Barista blog. The author of this blog is a scriptwriter who worked on a documentary project about the 1939 Victorian bushfires. His post “We lived again but life was different” is not only a fantastic piece of writing, it’s a wonderful resource for older students. Highly recommended.

If you’ve come across any excellent writing about the fires or other useful resources, please share them here.

Updated to include: Perry Middlemiss at the wonderful Australian Literature blog Matilda posts an extract from Charles Darwin‘s The Voyage of the Beagle. It’s a description of the Australian countryside and you won’t want to miss it. It’s so timely, because of the fires, as we all think about our landscape, but also because it’s Darwin’s 200th birthday.

The joys of reading as a child

Filed under: western sydney — westword @ 6:00 pm

I came across a couple of articles that are lovely tributes to the experience and value of childhood reading.

This one is by the US children’s author Mitali Perkins. Mitali contends that Stories are powerful allies as we seek to raise a generation of compassionate children. I’d agree with that—although thankfully, compassion isn’t in short supply in Australia in this most dreadful and challenging of times. (I’ll be adding a post about the fires in Victoria in a moment.)

The second article is titled When books could change your life: Why what we soak up at 12 may be the most important reading we ever do.*  Here’s a quote I like:

Let me put it another way: When was the last time a book changed your life? I don’t mean offered you new insights or ideas or moved you — I mean profoundly changed the way you see the world or shaped the kind of person you are?

It’s really important that we, as the adults who have the power of bringing books into the lives of kids (or keep them out), remember the sheer joy of losing yourself in a book, and more than that, the incredibly powerful things we learnt about the world and about ourselves and others like us and not like us through books. I don’t mean by that I think that books for children are primarily for teaching moral lessons—just that the really good ones pass on those qualities we value, and, as the author of this piece puts it, “ideas that are still bigger than our heads“.

Does your school encourage reading for pleasure? Are the old days of DEAR (Drop Everything and Read) dead and gone? Maybe you’ve found a better way of incorporating reading—just reading, not testing or preparing for tests—into your school community. Love to hear about it—share your successes in the comments section!


* Must be something in the air lately about returning to the pleasures of reading like a kid: this article was in the Fashion & Style section, of all things, of the New York Times a few weeks ago.

10 February 2009

New year, new resolution!

Welcome back to westword and the second year of the Western Sydney Young People’s Literature project.

I was a bad blogger last year, and I am determined to update westword far more regularly in 2009. I will be adding posts soon about some of the highlights of 2008, and will also start listing forthcoming events and plans for the project.

I also plan to use this blog as a bit of a resource hub. In the past few months I have finally got myself organised with google reader, and have now added more than one hundred blogs, most of which deal with children’s and youth literature, literacy, publishing and related topics. (Also I am also now on Twitter, using my personal blog name (misrule_au) and am using it to post links to articles I have read of interest (as well as other bits and pieces of sense and nonsense). But I will also be putting those links here, starting with this post.

First of all is this interesting article  from new Zealand about a new approach to literacy that is having enormous success, especially with Maori students:

In the first South Auckland study, involving seven schools, each child’s reading leapt ahead by an entire year. The technique also pushed far more children into the average or above categories – 40% made these top slots before the study started, and in three years that jumped to 70%. Maori children again did particularly well. The second group of seven different schools showed similar results.

The article doesn’t go into enormous detail about the program, but it’s been written up in Reading Research Quarterly, which I was able to access through ProQuest via Blacktown Library’s database.

Over in England, the battle is on to save the school library. Spearheaded by authors Philip Pullman, Alan Gibbons and the wonderful Michael Rosen, the campaign is against closures of school libraries as well as changing their name (and focus away from books) to “learning resource centre”. Frank Cottrell Boyce, author of the brilliant Millions, has also had his say on the matter:

Mr Cottrell Boyce said: “When I visit many schools, I see a big, fat, glaring, expensive anti-reading for pleasure signal.

“It stands where the library used to stand and it’s called the learning resource centre. To turn your library into a learning resource centre, you generally have to chuck out a bunch of valuable, durable assets – books – and replace them with sub-prime computers which will quickly date.”

From time to time I hear people say similar things are happening in Australian school libraries: can anyone comment? Are our school libraries in danger of refocusing away from books? Are we losing teacher-librarians from our schools? Please add your thoughts to the comment section. (Ditto public libraries, by the way—are we losing specialist children’s and youth services staff from our public libraries? We need to be really vigilant that we protect our libraries and the specialist support they offer young readers.)

Speaking of supporting young readers, and of the delightful Mr Rosen, read this article about Michael Rosen working in a school in Wales to encourage a love of reading. The BBC has made a TV show out of it (here’s the link, but we can’t watch the video outside of the UK), a la Jamie’s School Dinners. What do you reckon the chances are the ABC will screen it here? Should we start a campaign?

(And before I forget, I found this when I was looking for links to Frank Cottrell Boyce. Liverpool, where he lives, did one of those whole city reads the same book things with Millions. Isn’t this fantastic? If we did a Sydney Reads (or even a Western Sydney Reads), what book would you choose? And if you’re looking for resources to accompany Millions, don’t forget this official site from the publisher, which also happens to be very entertaining.)

Also from the UK is this rather scathing assessment of the way secondary school crush creativity, especially in boys. This is author Joe Craig speaking:


I’ve visited over 200 schools in the last couple of years, which means I must have run workshops for over 40,000 boys and girls between the ages of 8 and 13. By the time the students reach Year 8, I can predict almost word for word what their story ideas will be, from any given starting point. Even if they think they’re being subversive, in fact especially when they think that, the older the student is, the more predictable the ideas.

The biggest change comes in Year 7, which statistically is also when there’s the biggest drop off in reading – especially in boys. Now, it perhaps seems obvious that the withering of originality is greatly caused by reading less. But I think it’s also the other way round: they read less because their creative spark is consistently doused. Their connection with stories, with ideas and imagination, is stifled by the school environment. If the fun has gone from stories, why read?

I imagine if I were still in the English classroom that I’d be a bit affronted by this article, but I actually suspect there be more than a grain of truth to it. We hear stories from time to time of boy students getting into trouble for things they have written—I think it’s partly teachers’ reasonable concerns about their legal responsibilities to report potential threats or child endangerment, but I do think that Craig is spot on when he suggests that boys’ “wacky ideas” need to be celebrated. Girls’ too, for that matter. (The stuff this article raises about gender as it pertains to reading, writing and classroom practice are, I think, fascinating.)

This is a very UK-centric post, for which I don’t apologise—I think it’s important we keep track of what’s happening with our colleagues, and with education and books and authors and so on around the world. Having said that, I popped over to the Sydney Morning Herald to see if there were any articles of interest in their Education section, and I got a “page not found” message. Humph.

More soon!

20 October 2008

(Light) Operatunity

Filed under: books,children's lit,community — westword @ 5:30 pm

I know, I pinched that name from the ABC. Nevertheless, I wanted to let people know about an opportunity that brings together children’s literature and theatre. The Kookaburra musical theatre company has set up an education program, along the lines of Bell Shakespeare‘s successful schools’ program, I guess you could say. Kookaburra were touring around the state with a couple of shows last termone for primary, one for secondary students—and by all accounts it was very successful.

The next thing they have on offer is an “enrichment experience” (clunky name, but we’ll forgive them that) with their forth-coming production of the musical version of Louisa May Alcott‘s classic novel Little Women. The event, to be held on Saturday 15 November, offers young audience members a backshow “sneak and peek” before a matinee performance, and then a Q&A session after the show. And they get to see the show, of course! Sounds like fun, and an excellent opportunity for young people interested in theatre, and for fans of the book.

Follow the link above on “enrichment experience” and it should take you to a pdf with all the details.


Filed under: books,community,libraries,schools — westword @ 4:59 pm

That’s what the Western Sydney Young People’s Literature Project is all about: opportunities for young readers and writers, but also for their teachers and librarians. Opportunities to participate in events, to meet and work with authors and illustrators, but also opportunities to help others out, which brings me to today’s post:

A young man named Morgan (he’s 16, but I am not sure where in Australia he lives) is building a library in Fiji, where he has worked as a volunteer during his last two winter school holidays. I’ll let Morgan speak for himself (which he is clearly more than capable of doing!):

My name is Morgan Hayton. I am 16 years old.

I have spent my winter school holidays for two years in Fiji volunteering at a local school as part of my schools mission team. We visit a very remote school that is struggling and has only handful books in the whole school, the teachers there can only dream of starting a library.

Have you ever wanted to change the world? But think it is impossible because we are just one person? Me too. But then I came up with this idea.

We are going to build a library together.

One person, one book at a time.

One person can’t build a library but if everyone that reads this gets a book from their bookshelf (they don’t have to be new) and posts it to the school in Fiji, we can build a library together.

Step 1
A small book no more 2cm thick up to 250g ( that’s like a Dr Seuss soft cover) in an A4 envelope costs $4.20 to post.

There is no sea mail to Fiji so this is the best way to get books there. Mark the package either used book, ift or printed matter only.

Namara Village District School
Namara Village

Step 2
Please write your a small bit about yourself or family inside the cover the kids would love to know who you are and where to book came from.

Step 3 Tell a friend

Checkout my photos go to my facebook page “Books for Fiji” or email my at
and I will keep in touch and next June when I visit I will take some more photos and show you what some great people can do.

Thank you

I know you can’t access Facebook from school, but nevertheless you can join Morgan’s Facebook group here.

I always love it when young people take an initiative like this, so if you have a spare children’s book and a spare few dollars lying around, why not send that book off to Fiji.

And while you’re at it, don’t forget to support our own Indigenous Literacy Project.

More soon: opportunities galore!

25 September 2008

Upcoming event and apologies!

Filed under: books,children's lit,libraries,western sydney — westword @ 3:42 pm

Gosh, I hope people added an RSS feed for westword, becuase I have been shockingly neglectful in keeping this blog up, and imagine you’ve all given up checking it!

Still, please do hang around because I’ve got some updating to do, beginning with notification of a fun school holiday event at Max Webber Library in Blacktown. It’s called Lunch in the Library and will feature two writers, Claire Craig (Harriet Bright in as Pickle) and Joss Hedley (The Wish Kin). The event is free, but the library needs to take bookings for catering purposes, so give them a call on 9838 6613. Suitable for all ages: the littlies(seven and up) will love Harriet Bright, while kids in upper primary will be thrilled by The Wish Kin.

Date & Time: Thursday 9 October @ 1pm

And here’s a poster you can download: 2authorevent

OK, I’ll be back shortly with an update of what I’ve been up to. It’s been a busy few months–some frustrations, some projects I haven’t been able to follow up on as I’d have liked, but some other fantastic things are in the works. Plus I have just today completed my Australia Council grant application for four exciting projects for next year–and it’s a week early! Yeeha! Fingers crossed they support the projects.

7 July 2008

Youth writing group—Blacktown

Filed under: libraries,writing,young writers — westword @ 8:51 pm

Young writers in Years 8-10 are invited to join a new creative writing group, to be held over six weeks in Term 3 at Max Webber Library in Blacktown.

The workshops, to be led by local writer Glenda Guest, are free, but we do ask that the young people dedicate themselves to attending every week. The group is limited in size, and bookings will be taken on a first come basis.

Details on the information flyer, which you can download here: youth-writing-group


Filed under: books,children's lit,libraries,schools — westword @ 2:46 pm

Two competitions have been brought to my attention.

Free books!

Schools can win a complete library of Tashi books. To win, you need to write in 50 words or less why you like to recommend the Tashi books to your students. Easy! For entry information go here—but be quick, entries close July 15.

The hugely successful and popular Tashi books are written by Anna and Barbara Fienberg and illustrated by Kim Gamble.

Writing competition

The “Queen of Crime” competition is open to young women under the age of 18 as of 1 January 2008. The competition is for a 2000 word story with a crime or mystery as its theme. First prize  $200, 2nd  $75, 3rd  $25.

Post competition entries to PO Box 819, Avalon, NSW 2107.Entry fee: $7. Entries close 15 September.

Email questions to: meg@steggall.com.au

The competition is sponsored by Del Mutton along with Partners in Crime Sydney and Abbey’s Bookshops.

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