westword

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

 

 

 

  ICE

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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!

PS

* 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!

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.

1 July 2008

Planning in progress

I am busy at the moment putting together some programs that I want to pilot in the second half of this year—which, of course, is already upon us! How did that happen?

There is, I was pleased to discover, a decent amount of money in my program budget, which will allow me to run some substantial pilots at no cost to the sorganisations who may be involved. I have a few program ideas I am working on, involving writers and illustrators of books for young people—graphic novels and “make a book” programs are two potential programs—and designed to run one day/session per week over a number of weeks, rather than a one-off workshop. It’s engagement over time we’re aiming for with the Western Sydney Young People’s Literature Program, for what the good folk at The Song Room call sustained outcomes.

Next step—well, one step of many to come—is to identify the schools, libraries, community groups, perhaps even TAFE courses (for a skills development component where relevant) to work with on these pilot projects. I have a few ideas about how to go about this: working with education department consultants, putting out for expressions of interest, taking enquiries through this blog…

Once we’ve worked on these pilot programs, the idea is to “package” them so that other groups across the region (and state) can take them up.

I’m also working with the curator and cultural advisor on the Penrith Regional Gallery‘s Strictly Samoan program. Depending on funding, we’re hoping to work with three schools in the Penrith area which have significant numbers of Samoan students on a storytelling and writing project. The schools for this project have already been identified, so stay tuned as to how this project will develop. (Similarly, I’m hoping to get up a writing project associated with two arts and historical exhibitions coming up in Parramatta later this year.)

So, busy days, and exciting prospects—and yet there’s lots more it’s still too early to report on!  So bookmark or subscribe to the blog, and I’ll keep you posted.

7 May 2008

Recent events

Filed under: books,children's lit,illustration,libraries,western sydney,writing — westword @ 11:47 pm

Apologies for not updating the westword blog sooner, but I was in Melbourne for the Children’s Book Council of Australia conference last week, so very busy (and tired!).

I have two events in the Western Sydney Young People’s Literature project to report, both developed in partnership with the Blacktown City Library.

First of all was a visit by the Western Australian author-illustrator (and husband and wife) team, Mark Greenwood and Frané Lessac. Mark and Frané have together created a beautiful new picture book, Simpson and His Donkey, published by Walker Books Australia, and we were lucky enough to host them on their only day in Sydney (Monday April 28).

Mark and Frané led two “Make a Picture Storybook” workshops for Year 5 and 6 students, demonstrating how they research, write and illustrate their books. We had more than 40 young people in the workshops, and they were all enthralled and inspired by Mark and Frané’s presentation—and the work they produced was stunning.

Frané demonstrates how to draw Simpson’s donkey.

Mark talks about researching and writing Simpson and His Donkey.

Some examples of the wonderful work produced by the young people at the picture book workshop.

The second event to report on was the presentation of the library’s Youth Week creative writing competition. YA author Melina Marchetta selected the competition winners, and she was guest speaker at the presentation on the evening of Monday 5 May. Melina spoke “writer to writer” to the audience, speaking about her books and her creative process—and she read a section from her forth-coming novel Finnikan of the Rock. It was a fantastic opportunity for the young writers to hear from one of our finest novelists for young people, and there were some really thoughtful and intelligent questions asked, particularly from parents interested in encouraging their children’s creativity.

Melina Marchetta speaks at the Youth Week Creative Writing competition.

It’s been wonderful to host events with such gifted creators of books for young readers so early in the western Sydney project. There’ll be more to come, so stay tuned!

27 April 2008

Meet Melina Marchetta—Free Event

Filed under: libraries,western sydney,writing,ya lit,young writers — westword @ 10:23 pm

Melina Marchetta, award-winning author of Looking for Alibrandi, Saving Francesca and On the Jellicoe Road, will be at the Blacktown City Library on the evening of Monday May 5. Download the information flyer here and the schools’ booking form here.

Melina will be in Blacktown for the presentation of the Blacktown City Library’s Youth Week Creative Competition. Melina is selecting the winners of the competition, and will be guest speaker at the presentation.

This free all-ages author event is open to everyone, not just people involved with the creative writing competition. Melina will be speaking about her books and the craft of writing. There will be time for a question and answer session and a book signing, and Melina’s books will be on sale courtesy of Readers Bookshop, Westpoint Blacktown.

A reminder: the event is free but bookings are required: call the library on 9839 6677. Schools are welcome to book in multiple students to attend: download the booking form here.

14 April 2008

zine workshop report

Filed under: illustration,western sydney,writing,young writers — westword @ 8:53 pm

The first event in the western Sydney young people’s literature project took place on Saturday—a zine workshop at The Burbs Youth Week Festival. As I’ve mentioned before, the workshop was led by the wonderful young artist Leigh Rigozzi.

The workshop was a bit of an experiment in a way—how would such a workshop work at what was primarily a music festival? Would people know what a zine was? Would anyone turn up?!

Well, they did turn up—although no-one really had heard of zines before—and those who joined in the workshop had a great time. We had probably more than 20 young people (from 7 to 19) join in over three hours or so, and they all thought Leigh was great. Leigh had brought samples of his work, and the common reaction to seeing his fantastic comic-style art was mad!

The idea was that the participants would make a page about their life in western Sydney, featuring text and illustrations. A few of them claimed they were no good at art, but Leigh encouraged and guided them. He also made some cartoons on the spot about the festival, which were brilliant in their wit and observation.

Some of the younger kids wanted to take their pages home, but we got enough to make a modest zine, which we’ll be producing in the coming weeks. (I even contributed a page, despite the fact that, as my dear dad always said (affectionately), if I were a horse, I couldn’t draw a cart…)

So thanks to Aaron and Zack and the “Maccas servers” girls from Liverpool and the Young family and everyone else who joined in. Special thanks to Leigh. We’ll be working with Leigh and other cartoonists, graphic novelists and zinesters in the western Sydney project as time goes on.

Here’s a photo of Leigh with some of Saturday’s zinesters. (Leigh is the one with the beard 😉 ) More photos at my flickr site.

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