Challenge or opportunity?

“I have found that children are the most open-minded of all my audiences. They are not set in their ways. They are open to ideas.” – Ziggy Marley

And so begins my challenge because I realize, as I start sketching out my blog, headings, and content, that my audience will be predominantly my colleagues, some of whom, I know, are set in their ways and opinions when it comes to graphic novels.  Can I change their opinions?  Maybe not but, I am hoping that I can educate them towards mine.  For those educators who are on the fence where the efficacy of graphic novels as a teaching tool is concerned, perhaps they are the ones that my blog will be able to sway.

In considering this audience, and thinking about “learner considerations”, I had to think about how I am persuaded to change my thinking on something and, quite simply, I came up with the word “PROOF”.  Yes, I want proof and actual on-paper evidence to change my mind like, for example, a case study, or testing scores or a myriad of other ways to convince me to change my pedagogy.  So, that’s what I need to give my colleagues along with viable ways to teach using graphic novels.

This week I started researching papers, case studies, educational talks and seminars that I can quote or embed in my blog to “convince” my colleagues of the value of graphic novels as a method of teaching literacy in a multimodal format.  I am considering that one of my blog tabs should be “research” so I am able to prove to my colleagues that they are valuable tools.  I also started researching lesson plans and developing some of my own, to include in my blog.  Giving teachers a place to start and lessons that break down instruction and educational curricular goals, will only strengthen the validity of the blog and its concept.


I also started thinking about how I could connect to my fellow teachers on a more personal level and, having been to Iron Man, Batman and other movies with many of my teacher colleagues, I thought it would be valuable to show them how many popular movies have been developed from graphic novels.  I know what you’re thinking, “these are comic book movies” but, there are many more that perhaps you have not considered: 300 (Frank Miller masterpiece); V for Vendetta (amazing in a bizarre dystopian way); The Crow (now I’m going old school); Blue is the Warmest Colour (winner of the 2010 Palm d’Or at Cannes); RED (Helen Mirren and Morgan Freeman..enough said); A History of Violence (excellent although Cronenberg deviated from the graphic novel); and, one of my all-time favourites Hell Boy.

Image result for v for vendetta

There is still so much more to consider but I am on my way and I am starting to have a clearer vision.  Well, got to run and finish Amulet 8.  My students haven’t been allowed to talk about it until I’m finished!  No spoilers allowed in my class:)


What needs to be in a 21st Century classroom – In my opinion, anyway!


As I am taking these courses with the hopes of being a teacher-librarian, and since I am not yet working in the learning commons but instead work as a grade 4/5 French Immersion teacher, I am focusing my final vision project ideas on what could be of need in a 21st Century classroom.  That being said, when I look at the two ideas I am considering, I believe that they could also be beneficial for a SLLC and TL respectively:

My first consideration for a project idea was to look at flexible space…not just furniture (that too) but movement within the classroom and being flexible in one’s approach to how learning is presented and how children will respond to that learning.  From what I have seen over the last 20 years as a teacher, is a huge shift in how children want/need to learn, their methods of representing their learning and physically, how they need to “feel” in order to get to that representation.  I see that today’s children need to move and be comfortable to work and learn at school but, sadly, I know many teachers who still use the “sit at the desk and work” approach.  Therefore, my first vision project ideas was to look at the latest research of why this latter approach is no longer beneficial for all learners and how flexibility in space promotes learning.  For example, if you came into my classroom you would see children sitting at desks, lying on the floor, standing and writing, sitting on the poof-ottomans, some using Chromebooks, some prefer the desktop computers and more.  The key aspect being that they are all working, applying knowledge, researching and collaborating in sometimes, a not-so-quiet space.


My second consideration for a final vision project falls very close to my heart, having been a child who owned over 500 Archie comic books and was told, by her parents, that if I didn’t read anything else I would never amount to anything (old-school tough Scottish parents).  Well, 4 Bachelors and 2 Masters Degrees later, I am pretty sure that all Archie comics did for me was feed my need to visual learning and stimulate a love of reading.  I would like to all teachers to start to recognize the benefits, value and importance of allowing graphic novels in the classroom.  I think that teachers undervalue how graphic novels can truly teach children and support learning.  They see them as “lower-level” reading when, in fact, they are multimodal, using images and text to convey meaning.  The stories can be very complex and colour choices can affect how children represent emotion in the text.  I think the 21st century classroom should have a library of them and we should teach children how to read them as multimodal literature.

In writing about these ideas to our beloved leader, Aaron, he wisely pointed out that the challenge for this latter idea is in creating a useable, shareable digital artifact that can be useful for not just me, but also my colleagues.  I’m still racking my brain about the best way to present the information but, I do know that I want teachers to have easy access to grade appropriate graphic novels (GNs) and not have to spend hours hunting down the best ones (like I did…FYI, Hamlet graphic novel is NOT appropriate from grade 4/5, but I loved it); hence, some kind of list with links is in order.  I also want to provide information about GNs that come in a series.  There are MANY amazing ones out there and my students are always asking me to check up release dates in expectation of the next GN in the series.  Furthermore, it’s important to help FI teachers, like me, to find French graphic novels that have language that it not too complex for the age and level of the students.  My brain is leaning towards a blog where I could provide lesson plans for teachers taking their first foray into teaching using GNs.

A little knowledge goes a long way

Over the past 4 Inquiry Blogs the most important key learning that I took away from the many hours of research, the learnings from my colleague’s blogs, and the discussions with my school’s teacher-librarians is that I have still a lot more to learn!

There were so many wonderful ideas about how to foster reading in school, some of which I have already shared with our present school TLs.  I also found that many of them could be applied to the classroom, where I presently reside at a grade 4/5 level, and that children are willing and ready to dive into reading when appropriately encouraged.  Just recently, I began an at-home reading program with incentives for meeting reading targets.  I know we all want children to be intrinsically motivated to read but this reading is in French for our FI program and, honestly, it’s difficult reach an appreciation for reading in another language if they don’t make the effort; therefore, for now, a few extrinsic motivators are helping us along the way.  The kids also really loved that our reading path is based on our digestive systems (something we’re learning in science) and they are pieces of food making their way down the oesophagus, into the stomach, onto the small intestine, then the colon and out the rectum!  When we’ve all pooped out at 100 reads, we’re going to have a party!  It may be gross but they will never forget the digestive system!

reading programme

One of my biggest learnings from our inquiries is how many ways there are to stay connected and learn from each other.  I, personally, am still not great at tweeting out but, I am on several teacher-librarian twitter feeds now and they have wonderful ideas to share.  I also did not realize how great Pinterest could be for accessing curriculum ideas…I guess I have just previously used it to find craft ideas for class whereas now I am exploring pedagogy through images.  LM_Net is also an amazing resource but I do not find it user friendly and sometimes have struggles navigating the posts.  There is also so much information on it that it is often difficult to weed out the posts that are not relevant to my keyword search.

Digital libraries was a huge ah-ha moment for me.  The more I researched about them in the course of learning about world libraries, the more I thought that this is the way libraries are heading.  They are so accessible, easily organized and managed, able to store myriad documents/text/journals/books etc. and, they can be replenished with the most up-to-date information all at the tip of our fingers.  I like books and still check them out at the library even though I have an iPad and Kindle reader so, for me, the idea of a digital library is a little sad; however, I can see the practicality of one especially for libraries that have lost collections due to war or accidental fires or countries that are trying to build their collections and are able to use digital resources and platforms from other countries.

If I could pick just one topic from our Phase 2 inquiries that resonated with me it would be the many ways I learnt, from research, experiences and my course colleague’s blogs, how to support my school colleagues if/when I become a teacher-librarian.  As I have mentioned, I am lucky to have excellent TL role models in my school and I see how they support our staff and keep them consistently informed about new technologies, new books, new inquiry practices and more; nonetheless, I realize that many teachers still do not take advantage of what TLs can offer in so many different aspects of the curriculum.  I can see our newer, younger staff approaching our TLs more often and this makes me happy yet, I admit, that it was difficult for me as well to undo the stereotype of the role of an old-school librarian.


I believe that if it weren’t for my personal relationship with our TL, that I many not have been as eager to work with him because of these old preconceptions.  That being said, they are changing and I look forward to supporting this change and, in turn, supporting my colleagues as their “future” TL.

Rebuilding libraries in a war-torn country

Firstly, I apologize to my “Wolf pack” for the lateness of this assignment…I struggled and ended up going down the rabbit hole which took me all over the world!  I started first by looking at libraries in Botswana, for no other reason than I love Alexander McCall Smith’s book called The #1 Ladies Detective Agency.  I then thought about my time in Saudi Arabia and wondered why I had never been to a library when there but, the research was too biased, hence inaccurate.  My brain next switched to researching rural libraries in India because of a documentary I watched with David Letterman called “Years of Living Dangerously” where Letterman explored the development of solar energy to reduce fossil fuel emissions but, I chose to move on since they do actually have a fairly solid infrastructure of libraries.  Finally, I settled on looking at how Iraq is rebuilding their library collections. Did I mention it was a deep rabbit hole?

Here is a very brief synopsis of conflict in Iraq to offer some historical context:

Since Iraq’s independence in 1932, it has been a country fraught with political and religious unrest which truly only had an impact on the Western World beginning in the 90’s when Hussein decided to invade Kuwait.  Around the time of Saddam Hussein’s capture in 2003, Shia and Kurdish populations began to rebel causing more political unrest and religious turmoil.  The US continued to bomb Iraq and political civil fighting continued to devastate any infrastructures left in the main cities.  To jump forward, past years of bombing, new governments, presidents, Al-Qaeda, more sectarian violence and the 2011 withdrawal of American troops, we land in 2013 where a new group, called the Islamic State of Iraq, has been formed.  In June 2014, Islamic State militants took occupation of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, and then set about systematically destroying buildings, infrastructure and, history.  As reported by Saad Eskander, the director of the Iraq National Library, in attacking Mosul University, IS militants destroyed 25% of all book collections, 60% of the archival collection, containing, maps, documents and photographs, 95% of the rare books collection (Mehegan, 2007) and, it is reported, over 100,000 precious manuscripts (Youssef, 2017).

library Iraq


Between 2013 and November, 2017 when Islamic State was forced out of Iraq, many more libraries and schools were destroyed and, in an effort to rid society of everything that didn’t conform to Islamic State’s violent interpretation of Islam, books were collected into piles and, with complete disregard of the written word, used to create bonfires.

After years and years of tragic sectarian violence, how is a country able to rebuild its school, university and city libraries?  In this digital age, is it worth rebuilding book resources when information texts are so quickly out of date?

burnt books

The answer to these questions are easily answered by one man, who at the start of 2014 called himself the “Mosul Eye” and kept his blogger-identity anonymous for safety reasons.  He made an impassioned plea ( to the world to donate books, all types in all languages, to Iraq in an effort to rebuild lost collections.  Today, we know this man as Omar Mohammed, a professor of history at the University of Mosul.  Mohammed continues to speak around the world about his secret life as the Mosul Eye blogger and in the first six months after his plea for book donations, he had already received over 60,000 books (Farand, 2017).

His goal of 200,000 is being achieved with the help of a small NGO called Entraide et Coopération en Méditerranée (

Mohammed is not the only hope for Iraq’s future libraries.  Located at the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto, just recently, an Iraqi-American artist Wafaa Bilal, developed an installation that is designed to help rebuild the University of Baghdad’s lost library collections.  Bilal created a white bookshelf display filled with 1,000 blank books and visitors of the installation are being encouraged to replenish the shelves with titles from a wish list.  To date, approximate 1,700 books have been shipped to Baghdad (Katz, 2018).



Other larger agencies, like Unicef, are also making efforts, with international aid, to restock schools with books and supplies.  This does not, however, include any technology or digital equipment.  To this day, many people in areas of worn-torn Iraq, like Fallujah, struggle to stay warm in damaged houses that have no water, heat or electricity (Unicef, 2017).

Libraries Without Borders is another larger agency who has been involved in supporting literacy in Iraq since 2016.  LWB began working in the Bardarash refugee camp in Iraqi Kurdistan which, at that time, hosted nearly 10,000 people who were displaced by Islamic State militants.  LWB set up two IDEAS BOX stations: one was driven by the need for psychological/emotional aid and managed by Première Urgence Internationale (PUE); the second was set up to meet an educational need and managed by the Goethe Institute, in partnership with Terre des Hommes,

What is an Ideas Box?  It is essentially a pop-up multi-media educational centre.  It’s definition is best taken from the website ( :

The Ideas Box is highly-durable, easy to set-up and energy-independent. Within twenty minutes of unloading the box, users will have access to a satellite internet connection, digital server, a power generator, 25 tablets and laptops, 6 HD cameras, 1 large HD screen, board games, arts and crafts materials, hardcover and paperback books, and a stage for music and theatre. Our expert team also ensures that each Ideas Box is customized to meet local needs by collaborating with organizations, leaders and members within the community.


In response to the Iraqi Government’s proposal implement digital libraries to widen accessibility, both Abdulbari Fezaa (2013) and Benoit and Rashid (2009) presented papers that recognize the value and challenges of this proposal for Iraq and its peoples.  Poor infrastructure, lack of computers in the general population, shortage of internet access and constant interruptions to electricity were but some of the challenges noted by Abdulbari Fezaa (2013).  Meanwhile Benoit and Rashid (2009) noted that high costs of proprietary computer programs, lack of properly trained staff in libraries and capital cost of the digital equipment were also huge challenges for Iraq in developing digital libraries.  That being said, in 2006, AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellows managed to complete, with the aid of information from US-based agencies, and design a digital library for the sciences called The Iraqi Virtual Science Library.  This library offers free access to approximately 4000 journals and other publications in the science disciplines of chemistry, engineering, mathematics, and physics (McElroy, 2010).

I truly believe that the desire to hold and access information digitally will be what the government and country will strive for going forward.  Perhaps, as the country continues to rebuild its infrastructure and people begin to rebuild their lives Iraq can begin to rebuild its written history, whether in written text or digital form.



Abdulbari Fezaa, B. (2013). An Exploratory Study of the Benefits and Inhibitorsof Digital Libraries in Iraq. Masters thesis. Edith Cowan University Perth, Western Australia.  Retrieved from

BBC World News. Retrieved from

Benoit, G. & Rashid, F. (2009).  Iraq’ s Digital Library Dilemma: OpenSource Digital Objects Repository architecture, tools, and interface project. American Society for Information Science and Technology.  Retrieved from

Entraide et Coopération en Méditerranée.  Retrieved from

Farand, C. (March 20, 2017). How Mosul’s last librarian is preparing for when his city is free from Isis. The Independent.  Retrieved from

Katz, B. (August 15, 2018). How an Artist Is Rebuilding a Baghdad Library Destroyed During the Iraq War. Smithsonian. com. Retrieved from

McElroy, M. (June 10, 2010). Five Years Later, an Ambitious Virtual Library is Turned Over to Iraqi Researchers and Scholars. American Association for the Advavncement of Science.  Retrieved from

Mehegan, D. (November 8, 2007). In Baghdad, building order out of chaos.  Retrieved from

Libraries without Borders.  Retrieved from

Mohammed, O.

National Post. (January 31, 2015). ISIS burning books at Iraq libraries and loading artifacts onto refrigerated trucks at night, residents say. The Associated Press.  Retrieved from

Nogueira, S. B. (November 28, 2017). After years of conflict, schools reopen and hope returns to Fallujah.  Unicef.  Retrieved from

Youssef, N. (April 12, 2017). Rebuilding Mosul’s libraries book by book. BBC World News.  Retrieved from

Supporting Teachers’ ICT Curriculum and Pedagogy: On-going Professional Development

Being a classroom teacher and not (yet) a Teacher-Librarian, the responses below are based on my experiences as a teacher working with our school TLs and from research:

How can we, as educators and Teacher-Librarians share what we’ve learned with our wider communities of practices?

In our school, we are fortunate to have our TLs “share-out” at our monthly staff meetings.  They share new literature they have purchased for the library (which is also sent out by email with cover pictures), new technologies they have purchased (Spheros for one) and new learnings from recent Pro-D they have attended.  I also appreciated, on Kristi’s blog (2018), the idea of ensuring that the community is aware of what is going on in the library through various methods, such as, newsletters or media posts (I can see twitter working here as a way of posting pictures of learning going on in the library in collaboration with classroom teachers or even pictures of teachers and TLs working together).

How can we best respond to the needs of our staff, in their wide spectrum of abilities and experiences, with the most appropriate and useful professional development?

We are lucky in our school that our English TL is also our Pro-D rep. so, she (along with a committee, in which I participate) will often connect the two and ensure that the Pro-D is not just useful but is supported by the TLs through in-class assistance and professional literacy.  With the TL being strong in understandings of the curriculum, I like the idea that Kristi (2018) presented in her blog of teachers and TLs connecting to build cross-disciplinary projects or inquiry.  The TL would also be aware of what resources would be available in the library to support the inquiry.  Gregory (2018) brings to light the myriad of publications available in the library that, perhaps, teachers had not considered, such as online publications, audiobooks, journals and magazines.  However, when all is said and done, the key to providing the most useful and appropriate pro-d is in speaking with the teachers and determining their present needs or areas of concern; from there, a TL can build pro-d to support this learning.

What tools and strategies are best implemented to meet the pro-d of staff?

Again, from a teacher’s perspective, the tools and strategies that were best implemented by my TLs to support our Pro-D were ones borne through collaboration between the teachers and TLs.  In terms of tools, it is wonderful that our TLs offer instructional support with our latest technology (we don’t have a lot but recently lost our computer lab to make a classroom and instead we have 24 chromebooks on a cart and 8 ipads).  A few teachers were reticent when approaching chromebook use and have gladly accepted help from the TLs to have introductory chromebook use in the classroom.  One tool/aide that I had not considered, but was brought to my attention by Dring (2014), was the Pro-D librarians can offer, not just to staff, but students as well, around how to assess and evaluate their research findings.  Teaching skills of note-taking and paraphrasing to avoid plagiarism (which often happens with the younger students) is one of many strategies with which a TL could assist.


Typically, most school libraries had a “Professional Collection” of resources, journals, articles, publications and even technology that could be signed out by staff members at the school. How can we evolve and adapt this practice to be more responsive to the personalized needs of the educators, staff, admin, parents, and other members of our educational community?

Yes, like most schools, we have a collection of professional literature from which we can pull when, frankly, we remember!  These resources were formally stored in the same location as our photocopier which, I think was very smart on the part of our TLs as, while I was waiting, I would peruse this collection and often swallow nuggets of teacher practice while my 30 copies were taking their time.  Now, sadly, our collection is tucked away in the teachers’ Union building we are “borrowing” while our new library is being constructed, and the hours are not conducive for many of us since the building has to be locked by 4pm (before, I would wander around the library and professional collection at 8or 9pm, when all was quiet).  What to do?  I have to admit to wanting to steal an idea I read from a colleague’s recent blog post; Hannah (2018) presents the idea of having an online resource portfolio which would, especially now with the lack of access to our resources, allow teachers the opportunity to peruse these resources in advance of going down to our makeshift area.  This is definitely an idea that I will be sharing with our TLs as I believe that our resources are underused.  Other methods of making teachers and the community at large aware of what learning/professional development resources are available are: twitter; email; open houses; and, staff meetings.  I would love to have some sessions at lunch hours or after school but, I recognize how busy we all so, the staff meeting “share-outs” do whet our appetites enough to seek out more should we be interested.

What can you do differently, or new, this year that better support their in-service?

Our TLs are good at supporting in-service initiative but, if I were a TL and had the opportunity to provide an in-service, I would see if I could arrange a “Teacher Pro-D Fair” of services that can support learning within our community.  For example, I would have representatives from the local libraries (GVPL and VIRL), the museums (BC Museum, Emily Carr Museum), and nature reserves (Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary).  Knowing curricular needs, I would try to have present representatives from Wild Arc, Science in Schools and Polar Bears International to name but a few organizations from where teachers could access information for free.  I would also reach out to the community to see what parents, grandparents or other community members have skills they would share in supporting the children’s curricular needs which assisting the teacher in new learning.  For example, I will be having the Stelley’s biology teacher come with his grade 12 students to show my 4/5 class how to do dissect pig organs from a pig pluck, since we are studying the systems in the human body.  I also had a marine biologist in last year who taught us how seals communicate using different barks and calls then, to further that learning, I asked a parent of a former student, who is an environmental marine biologist, to extrapolate on how the environment humans are creating in our oceans is impacting marine animal communications.  Through the support of my TL, I was able to get Earl Claxton Jr, an elder with our local Tsawout First Nations, to come in an discuss the importance of oral story telling in First Nations culture and why this tradition exists.

I could go on and on about the available resources in our community but, if our teachers are not aware or feel too overwhelmed to take time from their already busy days to research the opportunities, it would truly benefit the teachers if TLs were able to provide ways of accessing professional development.  It could be a little fair, or just an email, or a database to which many people can add.


Dring, S. (September 18, 2014). Don’t overlook your school librarian, they’re the unsung heroes of literacy. The Guardian Teacher’s Blog, Teacher’s Network. Retrieved from

Gregory, J. (July 30, 2018). Collaborating With Your School Librarian: Ten ways to work with your highly trained colleagues in the library to enhance literacy instruction. Edutopia. Retrieved from

Hannah. (October 19, 2018). Start Spreading the News…Hannah’s Learning Library Blog Post. Retrieved from

Kristi. (July 4, 2018). 12 ways a school librarian can help teachers. 2 Peas & a Dog Blog.  Retrieved from

Pihl, J., Skinstad van der Kooij, K. & Cecilie Carlsten, T. C. (2017). Teacher and Librarian Partnerships in Literacy Education in the 21st Century. Sense Publishers. Retrieved from

Sacks, A. (May 29, 2018). Why School Librarians Are the Literacy Leaders We Need. Education Week – Teacher. Retrieved from

Feature image retrieved from
Wordle image retrieved from





Developing Information, Communication, Technology Skills and Pedagogy

I love learning.  In fact, I think most teachers are teachers because they love learning and enjoyed school; however, now that we have answers to almost any question at our fingertips learning has a different face and we, as teachers, have had to learn a new approach to teaching.

When I saw this Lego Education video I thought of my father.  He was convinced I was going to be an architect or engineer as my Lego designs were nothing short of spectacular (his words, not mine) but, what it also made me realize was that I still could.  Okay, so I’m past middle age…I guess… but, age will not define my learning.  This is already my 3rd career and I am working on a 4th: 1) commercial fisherman; 2) advertising executive; 3) teacher; and, 4) jewellery designer.  Why not be an architect, engineer or marine biologist?  As long as I’m willing to do the work and learn, I think anything is possible.  This is how I want my students to feel as well.


What strategies, tools, resources and networks can you implement to maintain your explorations and development?

There are so many opportunities to explore and develop learning – the struggle is that there are only 24 hours in the day.  As a school community, we recently explored the resources we can offer as a staff.  We made a google doc which allowed us to see whom we could go to if, for example, we needed help with science inquiry, or had a computer/technology-related question, or needed someone to create a dance unit or who could read music, or even filet a fish in under 2 minutes (that was me!).  If we take the time to look close to home, we can often be pleasantly surprised at the resources that are steps away.  Personally, I have been working closely with our school TL who has been an incredible support in guiding my teaching practice to include more inquiry-based learning.

What are some of the ways that educators and professionals are connecting and sharing their learning?

Recently I subscribed to LM_NET, touted as the world’s largest listserv for school libraries, and I have discovered it is a wealth of information.  You can research answers on technology, budgeting and advocacy, to name a few, or ask your own questions to which librarians around the world are happy to answer or, at least, help.  Although not yet a TL myself, I was pleased that I could offer advice to a librarian seeking read-alouds for grades 4 & 5.  FYI, Gordon Korman’s trilogy Masterminds is a sure fire winner.

I also recently created my own twitter account and have begun following educators who inspire me to take risks, especially in the area of independent inquiry.  With so many media platforms out there it is a challenge to determine which ones are the most effective.  After “surfing” on twitter for a while, I can see many future possibilities for classroom teachers, administrators and teacher-librarians.

What can you do during this class and after it is over to maintain your connections and networks, to further develop your knowledge, experience and skills?

As mentioned above, twitter would be a great way to stay connected with peers from my course but, I am also on facebook and pinterest as many people remain comfortable with their platforms.  I am also lucky to have a strong collegial relationship and friendship with my school librarian which has enabled me to work closely with him on inquiry collaborations, while also attending Pro-D sessions together that connect our areas of interest.

In researching external communities that can support, I discovered the BC Teacher-Librarians’ Association ( where one can tap into a myriad of resources that are relevant to BC schools.  It is also a great place to go to find local Pro-D opportunities.

Additionally, I found the BC Open Education Librarians group, hosted by BC Campus, (, where librarians meet virtually to share and collaborate.  The site also offers resources and provides information on upcoming Pro-D.




Lego Education. 2017, May, 19. A Passion for Lifelong Learning.  Retrieved from





Fostering Reading Cultures in Schools

Until children figure out what incredible knowledge, adventure, excitement and new worlds reading can share with them, it seems like a never-ending struggle for teachers to get kids to read.  And, I have double the challenge as I am trying to get my students to read in French, as well as English.  For my more advanced grade 4 and 5 readers they just simply don’t want to read in French anymore.  They have discovered the joy they can get from reading (in English) and find it onerous to have to read a less interesting book to accommodate their French reading abilities. So, the challenge for me is to continuously find ways to incite my students to want to read in both languages.

At our school, the culture of reading, as an avenue for researching and for enjoyment, is promoted by our school librarians and our teachers as a whole and, quite regularly.  Just this past Friday, we had one of our “family read-in” mornings where parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters and various other relatives are all invited to read at the school for 30 minutes first thing in the morning. Mats are laid out in the hallways and the gym, and classrooms are open for children, and adults alike, to lie on the carpets and read.   It’s wonderful to see my students lying on the floor with their younger siblings, reading to them.

Our librarians also ensure that the staff is aware of all new publications to the library which, I feel, is a crucial component to school literacy.  After all, if the staff has no idea what’s new then how can we promote it with our students.  Our librarians place the new publications around the tables during our staff meetings and they follow it up by sending an email with pictures of the books, magazines etc.  They also send emails to inform us of themed-books that are available.  For example, most recently, we were sent pictures of books that connect with Orange Shirt Day and residential schools.

I also appreciate that when we, students and teachers, enter the library there are many books on display.  Some are grouped into themes and others by genre.  Since I observed that many children will pick up the books on display, even just to flip through, I recently rearranged my classroom books by genre with placing books on display.

As mentioned in my first blog, I have discovered that graphic novels and comic books are my “gateway” books to better things… hopefully even chapter books! Recently, the excitement my students had over the new Amulet 8, Supernova graphic novel was a sight to be seen.  I actually had to go buy another one!  The most exciting part for me was watching the “Amulet fans” spur on the other children to read the series…even the French versions.  Which brings me to a strategy that seems to work well in getting my students to read more in French: I provide them with the French versions of many of their favourite English graphic novels, such as, The Babysitter’s Club (Le Club des Baby-sitters), Amulet, and DogMan (Super Chien).

Another strategy that I use to encourage reading with my students is to read the first book in a series, whether in English or in French.  I like to find books with cliffhangers at the end of each chapter and book, like Masterminds by Gordon Korman.  My students couldn’t wait for each chapter and were even more excited to find out it was a trilogy.  The other day I read The Magic Finger by Roald Dahl and, as of Friday, every Roald Dahl book in our classroom library is being read!

For my students still struggling with French reading, I encourage them to use Tumblebooks, (available through the Greater Victoria Public Library free of charge), and read along with the narrator.  In class, partner reading and levelled books on similar topics allow students of all French reading levels to take part which selecting literature appropriate for their reading abilities.


What I loved about this YouTube clip is how it demonstrates that teachers can make a difference in a student’s reading career by making simple gestures:

  • Offer choice of literature: books, magazines, comics, graphic novels, poetry etc.
  • Make suggestions to your students about book choice
  • Show that you are interested in them and what they are reading
  • Make reading relevant to your students
  • Have students share what they’re reading
  • Ensure they have time to read and practice reading
  • Show students what they are learning from reading

Finally, the strategy I use most with my students is MODELLING.  Yes, I have marking and other such teacher-things I could be doing during silent reading time but, my students appreciate seeing me read with them.  Many will ask me what I am reading and if it’s something the class would enjoy.  Modelling reading is one of the most valuable lessons my students can learn: that I love reading as much as they do.



Cushman, Kathleen. 2010, May, 24. Building a School Culture of Reading.  Retrieved from