Saturday, August 28, 2010

Understanding and Developing Creativity

1. What is creativity?

I have written before about the way we define and develop creativity (here), and pointed out that can be defined in different ways. One commonly accepted definition is "...the capacity to use ideas and tools in unusual ways; and originality, the capacity to think of novel ideas and products" (Britannica).

Creativity can be assessed in many ways, which in turn is affected by how we define creativity. Since the 1950s when the work of E. Paul Torrance (here) emerged, there have been two main arenas for assessment - personality and cognitive abilities.

a) Personality

Brolin (1992 in Brolin & Rhyamar (1999) summarizes the personality characteristics of the creative person, and suggests they:
  • Have a strong sense of self and a desire for self-realisation
  • Show self-confidence
  • Are strongly motivated
  • Demonstrate endurance
  • Are intellectually curious
  • Are deeply committed to learning
  • Tend to be independent in thought and action
  • Show openness to impressions (internal and external)
  • Are attracted to complexity and obscurity
  • Are highly sensitive
  • Have a capacity for deep emotional involvement in their learning
b) Cognitive abilities

In terms of cognitive characteristics the creative person:
  • Is highly intuitive
  • Thinks in opposites and use analogies and metaphors
  • Shows originality with ideas
  • Demonstrates varied ways to mentally represent ideas
  • Has acute perception
  • Can solve problems in novel ways
  • Shows high levels of fluency (lots of ideas are generated)
  • Has the ability to elaborate on ideas
  • Is resistant to closing off possibilities for problem solving or finding solutions
The most widely used assessment tools over the last 50 years have been the Torrance Tasks that can be used from age 5 years to adulthood. They have both verbal and figural forms (where learners respond to abstract visual images).  In both verbal and visual tasks the scorer looks for the generation of more ideas, original ideas, and the ability to elaborate on ideas. Images also attract better scores if they tell a story, convey emotions, or see things from a different angle. The images below are an example of the stimulus images on the figural test. Points are lost for common responses to the image on the top left like 'a shark', 'a hat' and so on. But if the child shows a higher level of detail, relates to image to an object viewed from a different perspective, responds with humour and so on, they receive higher scores.

Above: Sample images from Torrance test

2. Is there a creativity crisis?

There have been some recent suggestions that there is a creativity crisis (see here) in some countries. Many of these claims blame educational curricula that focus too narrowly on skills, families that are too achievement focused, reductions in play in childhood and a related increase in 'screen time', and a lifestyle that is too time poor for adults and children.

Dr Kyung Hee Kim at the College of William & Mary has suggested that scores that relate to creativity on the Torrance Test have been steadily declining in the USA since 1990. The Torrance Tasks have been used widely across the world for over 50 years as a key indicator of creativity. Dr Kim examined almost 300,000 results for children and adults over the years and found that the scores had been increasing (as IQ scores have) for many years, but there was a plateau in the USA in 1990.  Since then, the scores have been in steady decline.

It's not certain that there is a 'creativity crisis' (I also discuss post here) but I am concerned that the many changes that we have seen in lifestyle in the last 20 years in developed countries, and the narrowing of curriculum might, well have an adverse effect on creativity. The latter is something that we should beware of in Australia as we head down the path of a National Curriculum (see previous post here).

Above: Making a boat on the beach for creative play

3. How do I know a child is creative?

While you can have your child tested to see if they demonstrate high levels of creativity, most teachers can tell quickly if a child seems more creative than other children. Parents sometimes find it hard to be objective, as they view constant progress in learning from birth to age 5. This normal (and quite remarkable development) can easily give all parents a sense that their child is highly intelligent and creative. Here are some questions that you might ask to determine if your child shows extra creativity:
Do they tend to come up with lots of ideas in response to verbal or visual cues?
Are their ideas different, quirky, 'outside the square'?
Do they look at things from different perspectives (e.g. draw an object from above rather than giving a side elevation)?
Do they suggest solutions to problems that surprise you because they are different or unusual?
Do they express themselves metaphorically or abstractly in play situations or in use of language and storytelling?
Do they find it easy to elaborate on the ideas of others (e.g. can progress shared oral storytelling in unusual directions)? 
Do they show an attention to fine detail in drawing and language?

Above: Jacob's drawing of a Blue Tongue lizard is drawn from the unusual perspective of "a predator flying above it"

4. What can you do to stimulate creativity?

a) General guidance

At a very general level there are some basic things that parents and teachers can do that will create a context conducive to creativity:
  • Allow ample time for structured and (particularly) unstructured play (see my previous post on 'Simple Play' here).
  • Limit the amount of 'screen' time for children whether TV, computers, gaming (previous post on TV here).
  • Provide rich firsthand experiences that encourage children to observe and respond (see previous post here).
  • Read to your children and fill their world with rich language (previous post here).
  • Play with language and story (previous posts here and here).
  • Encourage experimentation and discovery. 
  • Open up possibilities to your children through the use of open and varied questions (see previous post on questioning here).
  • Provide activities that can stimulate creative responses - dance, drama, music and art.
b) Specific approaches

There are four broad categories of approach employed by schools and other institutions:

'Creative Cycle' approaches (e.g. Guildford 1973 & Kessler 2000) - these offer an integrated approach to curriculum where teachers structure their programs and activities in such a way that they offer time for data gathering, stimulus and engagement; an opportunity for ideas to incubate; genuine inspiration. Under this heading come varied structured approaches to play, exploration and expression.

Strategy or technique approaches (e.g. De Bono's 'six hats', Craft's 'possibility thinking') - Such approaches offer frameworks to be applied to varied ideas and topics. They typically encourage learners to consider 'what if?' or the viewing of problems and situations from varied perspectives.

System or structural approaches (e.g. Reggio Emilia approach, 'open classrooms', Montessori) - such approaches require a more holistic planning of the curriculum and learning environment to privilege creative activities, integrated approaches, open plan classrooms, learning centres and so on.

Pedagogic approaches (e.g. 'Whole Language' approach) - there is some overlap with the above but the focus is much more on the individual child and the relevance of the curriculum for them. Such approaches stress the child's control and ownership of learning, relevance of learning to life experience, novelty, integration and innovations.  

5. Final advice for parents

The above is a simply a brief introduction to creativity. I haven't attempted to buy into the many academic arguments about the merits of the various approaches. In some cases, where the child is in childcare regularly, you might use the following to assess the childcare fort your child. I would offer the following suggestions:
Provide children time in the day to explore things motivated by their interests.
Give them a rich language environment where you read to them, and you provide lots of opportunities for writing and drawing (see my previous post on early writing).
Create a rich language environment where you talk with your child about their experiences (even passive activities like television).
Offer lots of creative activities that encourage personal expression and response.
Ask good and varied questions (why? what if? how about? could it? etc).
Offer as many rich experiences as possible including involving them in the everyday activities of life.
Other resources and posts

Ideas for assessment and instruction (here)
Newsweek article on 'crisis' in creativity (here)
An Analysis of Research and Literature on Creativity in Education, Anna Craft (here)
My previous post on 'Nurturing Creativity' (here)

Friday, August 20, 2010

2010 Australian Children's Book Council Awards Announced

The Children's Book Council Australia today announced the winners of its 2010 book of the year awards. This coincides with the start of Children's Book Week in Australia. 

The major awards have gone to:

Book of the Year for Older Readers - 'Jarvis 24' by David Metzenthen

Book of the Year for Younger Readers - 'Darius Bell And The Glitter Pool' by Odo Hirsch

Picture Book of the Year - 'The Hero Of Little Street' by Gregory Rogers

Early Childhood Book of the Year - 'Bear And Chook By The Sea' by Lisa Shanahan and Emma Quay

Eve Pownall award for Best Information Book - Australian Backyard Explorer by Peter Macinnis

The full list of all the winning and honoured books and some short reviews follows.

1. Older Readers (Mature readers, aged 12 plus)

a) Winner 

'Jarvis 24' by David Metzenthen (Penguin Group Australia)

Marc E. Jarvis lives a comfortable life in suburban Camberwell (Victoria). But suddenly life becomes complicated. Life is being crowded in by work experience at a used car yard, football training, and then a girl comes into his life. Electra, is gorgeous, as well as a brilliant runner. Probably out of his league, but why not give it a try. She arrives in Melbourne on a sports scholarship and sends Marc's life into a spin. Metzenthen has written a story rich in the strength of its characters. Urban teenagers will recognise the urban places, the life and the people that go with it. The story has a good balance of humour and emotional depth. It should be enjoyed by many teenagers.

b) Honour Books 
'The Winds of Heaven', by Judith Clarke

"An unforgettable and deeply moving story of two young women, and how their childhood experiences and the choices they make as teenagers determine their fates - told exquisitely by the acclaimed writer, Judith Clarke."

'A Small Free Kiss in the Dark', by Glenda Millard

"Two young boys, an old tramp, a beautiful lost dancer and her baby - rag-tag survivors of a sudden war - form a fragile family holding together in the remnants of a fun fair. This is a vivid, poetic story about life in the margins and the power of empathy and imagination to triumph over adversity."

2. Younger Readers (Independent readers, 7-11 years)

a) Winner

'Darius Bell And The Glitter Pool' by Odo Hirsch (Allen & Unwin)

The Bell family is in danger of losing their honourable name. Can Darius step up to the challenge and uphold it? 

"The Bell family's ancestors were showered with honours, gifts and grants of land. In exchange, they have bestowed a Gift, once every 25 years, on the town. The Gifts have ranged from a statue to a bell tower with stained-glass windows, but now it's Darius's father's turn - and there is no money for an impressive gift. It looks as though a wheelbarrow full of vegetables is the best they can do. Darius is determined to preserve the family honour, and when an earthquake reveals a glorious cave, with the most beautiful minerals lining the walls, he thinks he's found the answer..."

b) Honour Books

'Pearl Verses the World' by Sally Murphy (Walker Books)

Pearl is a girl of (perhaps) 6-8 years who is alone and left out of the many groups that she observes around her and which don't seem to see her. She laments, "wherever I am no one sees me".

A bright and creative child she struggles to write the verse that her teacher requests; verse that must rhyme. Why does a poem have to rhyme she muses? She lives at home with her mother and Granny. That's been her household for as long as she can remember. But Granny who has always been there for her is aging. As she reaches her last days Pearl finally finds inspiration to write a special poem, from the heart, 'taught' to her by her Granny that defies her teacher's ideas on poetry and opens her eyes to see Pearl at last. This is a beautiful story for young readers aged 6-8. Essentially a short novel it also has Heather Potter's delightful illustrations 'sprinkled' throughout. I love this book!

'Running with the Horses', by Alison Lester (Viking, Penguin Group Australia)

Young readers will love this beautifully illustrated classic story of adventure and friendship from one of our best author/illustrators.

"Ten-year-old Nina lives with her father above the palace stables at the Royal Academy of Dancing Horses.  She loves watching the famous white stallions as they parade for the crowds, but her favourite horse is an ordinary mare called Zelda - an old cab horse Nina often pats on her way home from school.

When Nina's world changes dramatically, she and her father have to flee from the city.  Their journey over the mountains with Zelda and the stallions seems impossible, with danger at every turn . . ."

3. Early Childhood (Pre-reading to early reading stage)

'Bear And Chook By The Sea' by Lisa Shanahan and Emma Quay (Lothian Children’s Books, Hachette)

"In a follow-up to the delightful Bear and Chook, the two lovable characters continue their adventures. Bear and Chook are unexpected friends. Bear still likes adventure and Chook would still much rather have the quiet life! One day they decide to go and visit the sea. Chook is worried that they don't know the way and will get lost, but Bear is confident they will find it just around the pond, under the bridge, through the forest and over the mountain! A wonderfully warm read-aloud story about the dreamers in life and those who wish they'd sometimes keep their feet more firmly on the ground."

b) Honour Book 

'Kip' (Windy Hollow Books) was written and illustrated by Christina Booth. Right from the time he emerged from the egg, Kip was going to be a special chick. When he grew to be a rooster, with a crow that could wake the dead, there was bound to be trouble. First Mr James was disturbed from his sleep - "Keep him quiet Mrs Bea"! Then Kip disturbs little Lucy Cooper's cup of tea in the garden. One by one the neighbours complain until Mrs Bea has to do it; she heads for the farm. You'll need to read the book to find out what happens to the neighbourhood in its life after Kip.  A wonderfully simple predictable text that is delightfully illustrated in a bright cartoon style. It will delight readers from preschool to 6 years of age. 

'Clancy & Millie and the Very Fine House' (Little Hare Books) is written by Libby Gleeson and illustrated by Freya Blackwood.  Clancy has just moved and is missing his old cosy and familiar home. He finds his new house much too big, different and lonely. It seems like he will never be able to feel like it is his home? And then one day Clancy hears a small voice from over the fence and soon, with the help of his new friend Millie, they are building box towers to the sky. Together Clancy and Millie build a friendship and a new 'home' that Clancy thought he had lost forever. Libby Gleeson is better known for her novels, but this is a an excellent story illustrated by a brilliant artist who looks set to be awarded one way or another in 2010.

4. Picture Book of the Year (Birth to 18 years)

a) Winner

'The Hero of Little Street' (Allen & Unwin) by Gregory Rogers is book three in the 'Boy Bear' series and follows the two previously highly acclaimed wordless picture books 'The Boy, the Bear, the Baron, the Bard' and 'Midsummer Knight'. The Boy escapes a gang of bullies by running into the perfect hiding place - a gallery filled with mystery and treasures. The Boy befriends a mischievous dog and is enchanted by the magic of painting. He finds himself venturing into the world of a Vermeer painting and is transported to Delft in seventeenth century. But there are many dangers on these old streets and he needs to use his wits to rescue his new friend from the butcher's chopping block. All three 'Boy' books are brilliant wordless tales in the same league as Raymond Brigg's 'When the Wind Blows'.  Readers of the first two Boy books will enjoy looking for the characters from the previous books as they follow this new time slip adventure.

b) Honour Books 

'Fox and Fine Feathers', by Narelle Oliver (Omnibus Books, Scholastic Australia)

"Lyrebird, Coucal, Pitta and Nightjar are ground birds of the Australian forest floor. Although as different from each other as it is possible to be, they always watch out for danger and warn each other to hide. One day, Lyrebird, Coucal and Pitta are preening and performing and forget to look out for wily Fox. Only Nightjar, with his patchy, dull feathers, is on watch for danger. Can he warn the others in time?" 

'Isabella's Garden', written by Glenda Millard and illustrated Rebecca Cool (Walker Books) 

"A lyrical picture book which explores the growth and continual change that goes on in Isabella's garden - the flourishing of plants; the coming and going of the animals, insects and seasons - beginning and ending with the seeds that 'slept in the soil all dark and deep'."

5. Eve Pownall Award for Information Book of the Year 2009 (Birth to 18 years)

a) Winner

'Australian Backyard Explorer' by Peter Macinnis (National Library of Australia)

"Australian Backyard Explorer tells the stories of many intrepid individuals who explored the Australian continent in the first 120 years of European settlement. It includes little-known explorers as well as the old favourites, such as James Cook, Edward John Eyre, Robert O'Hara Burke and William John Wills. There are tales not only of tragedy, conflict and death, but also of loyalty, amazing perseverance and wonder over the new animals and landscapes they encountered."

b) Honour Books 

'Maralinga', by the Yalata & Oak communities with Christobel Mattingley. In the words of the Indigenous people who are the traditional owners of Maralinga (a region used for atomic testing in the 1950s?),  "The Anangu Story is our story. We have told it for our children, our grandchildren and their children. We have told it for you."  In words and pictures Yalata and Oak Valley community members, with author Christobel Mattingley, describe what happened in the Maralinga Tjarutja lands of South Australia before the bombs and after. This is an important and tragic account of human folly and its consequence for a people who were there first, but whose needs counted for little.

'Polar Eyes: A Journey to Antarctica', written by Tanya Patrick and illustrated by Nicholas Hutcheson (CSIRO)

"Where do penguins go to dance? What is it like to sleep in an igloo? And have you ever wondered how ancient ice can be used as a time machine? Discover the answers and more in Polar Eyes, a new interactive children’s book about Antarctica from CSIRO. Polar Eyes illustrates author Tanya Patrick’s journey through the scenes and science of one of the most fascinating parts of the planet."

Related Posts

You can read my review of the complete Shortlist and Notable Books lists HERE

All previous posts on awards (HERE)

Friday, August 13, 2010

250 Great Children's Books

A couple of months ago I wrote a post on the 'Top 100 Children's Books' in which I offered to produce a list of over 200 of my favourite children's books. I asked readers of this blog to contribute. I want to thank Marita, Sandy, Prue and Robyn for offering some of their favourites.

Coming up with a list of books for children is always risky. How do you judge it? Your personal preference as an adult reader? The popularity of the books with children? Longevity? How have I chosen these books:

  • They have been loved by children and adults – sometimes more by one group than the other. But each of the books on the list has been popular with children.
  • They have quality of language, story, illustrations (in the case of picture books).
  • They make you want to turn the page.
  • They say something significant (literature should have worthwhile content – it teaches – see my earlier post on this)
The next difficulty is allocating an age level. Some of the books in one age category can be read by children of different ages depending on their ability and maturity. A book like ‘Charlotte’s Web’ can be read to or by children of any age and enjoyed.

The list is not meant to be comprehensive. In fact, the list slanted to the 0-12 years age group so I have less adolescent literature. Rather than to try to list every great book, I’ve tried to give a flavour of the varied authors, styles and topics that great books cover. You should use the list to find other books by the same authors. For example, I could have listed all of Bill Peet’s books. The same could be said for many other authors on this list. Search out other titles by tried and tested authors who are represented on this list.

1. Books for Preschoolers (to be read to and with children aged 0-4 years)

'All the World' illustrated by Marla Frazee, written by Liz Garton
'Battles in the Bath' by Peter Pavey
'Bears in the Night' by Stan and Jan Berenstein
'Belinda' by Pamela Allen
'Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see?' by Bill Martin, Jr.
'Corduroy' by Don Freeman
'Do You Know What Grandad Did?' By Brian Smith
'Dog In, Cat Out' by Gillian Rubenstein
'Don’t Forget the Bacon' by Pat Hutchins
'Duckat' by Gaelyn Gordon
'Each Peach Pear Plum' by Janet and Allen Ahlberg
'Edward the Emu' by Sheena Knowles
'Edwina the Emu' by Sheena Knowles
'Goodnight Moon' by Margaret Wise Brown
'Grandpa and Thomas' by Pamela Allen
'Grandpa and Thomas' by Pamela Allen
'Guess How Much I Love You' by Sam McBratney
'Hattie and the Fox' by Mem Fox
'Looking for Crabs' by Bruce Whately
'Mister Magnolia' by Quentin Blake
'Mother, Mother, I Want Another' by Maria Polushkin Robbins
'My Dad' by Anthony Browne
'One Hungry Spider' by Jeannie Baker
'One Dragon’s Dream' by Peter Pavey
'Peepo' by Janet and Allen Ahlberg
'The Green Umbrella' by Pamella Allen
'The Lion & Mouse' by Jerry Pinkey
'The Mitten' by Alvin Tresselt
'The Rainbow Fish' by Marcus Pfister
'The Runaway Bunny' by Margaret Wise
'The Singing Hat' by Tohby Riddle
'The Snowy Day' by Ezra Jack Keats
'The Story of Chicken Licken' by Jan Ormerod
'The Trouble with Dad' by Babette Cole
'The Trouble with Mum' by Babette Cole
'The Waterhole' by Graeme Base
'The Very Hungry Caterpillar' by Eric Carle
'Time for Bed' by Mem Fox
‘When I'm Feeling' range of books by Trace Moroney

2. Books for Children Ages 4-7 (suitable to be read to younger readers or read by beginning readers)

‘A.B. Paterson’s Mulga Bill’s Bicycle’ by Kilmeny & Deborah Niland
'Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day' by Judith Viorst
'Amazing Grace' by Mary Hoffman
'Amelia Bedelia' by Peggy Parish
'Animalia' by Graeme Base
'Aranea: A Story About a Spider' by Jenny Wagner
'Are You My Mother?' by Philip D. Eastman
‘Arthur’ series by Marc Tolon Brown
'Basil of Baker Street' by Eve Titus
'Caps for Sale' by Esphyr Slobodkina
'Chicka Chicka Boom Boom' by John Archambault
'Clifford, the Big Red Dog' by Norman Bridwell
'Complete Adventures of Blinky Bill' by Dorothy Wall
'Counting on Frank' by Rod Clement
'Cowardly Clyde' by Bill Peet
'Curious George' by Hans Augusto Rey
'Fancy Nancy' by Jane O'Conner
'Fantastic Mr Fox' by Roald Dahl
'Fox in Socks' by Dr Seuss
'Granpa' by John Burningham
'Green Eggs and Ham' by Dr. Seuss
'Horton Hatches the Egg' by Dr. Seuss
'How the Grinch Stole Christmas' by Dr Seuss
'Hubert’s Hair-raising Adventure' by Bill Peet
'If You Give a Mouse a Cookie' by Laura Joffe Numeroff
'In My Back Yard' by Nette Hilton & Anne Spudvilas
'Irving the Magician' by Tohby
'John Brown, Rose and the Midnight Cat' by Jenny Wagner
'Jumanji' by Chris Van Allsburg
'Lester and Clyde' by James Reece
'Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse' by Kevin Henkes
'Love You Forever' by Robert N. Munsch
'Make Way for Ducklings' by Robert McCloskey
'My Hiroshima' by Junko Morimoto
'No Kiss for Mother' by Tomi Ungerer
‘Oh, The Places You'll Go’ by Dr. Seuss
'Petunia' by Roger Duvoisin
'Red Sings from Treetops: A Year of Colors' by Joyce Sidman
'Snugglepot and Cuddlepie' by May Gibbs
'Stellaluna' by Janell Cannon
'Strega Nona' by Tomie De Paola
'Sunshine' by Jan Ormerod
'Sylvester and the Magic Pebble' by William Steig
'Tale of Despereaux' by Kate DiCamillo                 
'The Art Lesson' by Tomie De Paola
'The Banana Bird and the Snake Men' by Percy Trezise and Dick Roughsey
'The Bears’ ABC Book' by Robin & Jocelyn Wild
'The Cat in the Hat' by Dr. Seuss
'The Complete Adventures of Peter Rabbit' by Beatrix Potter
‘The Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh’ by A. A. Milne
'The Digging-est Dog' by Al Perkins
'The Eleventh Hour' by Graeme Base
'The Enchanted Wood' by Enid Blyton
'The Fisherman and the Theefyspray' by Jane Tanner
'The Giving Tree' by Shel Silverstein
'The Jolly Postman or Other People’s Letters' by Janet & Allen Ahlberg
'The Lighthouse Keeper’s Lunch' by Ronda & David Armitage
'The Little Engine That Could' by Watty Piper
'The Little House' by Virginia Lee Burton
'The Lorax' by Dr. Seuss
'The Magic Pudding' by Norman Lindsay
'The Napping House' by Audrey Wood
'The Paper Bag Princess' by Robert N. Munsch
'The Polar Express' by Chris Van Allsburg
'The Rainbow Serpent' by Dick Roughsey
'The Story of Ferdinand' by Munro Leaf
'The Tale of Peter Rabbit' by Beatrix Potter
‘The True Story of the Three Little Pigs’ by Jon Scieszka
‘The Story of Shy the Platypus’ by Leslie Rees
'The Velveteen Rabbit' by Margery Williams
'Tough Boris' by Mem Fox
'What Made Tiddalik Laugh' by Joanna Troughton
'Wheel on the Chimney' by Margaret Wise Brown
'Where’s Julius' by John Burningham

'Where the Forest Meets the Sea' by Jeannie Baker
‘Where the Sidewalk Ends: the Poems and Drawing of Shel Silverstein’ by Shel Silverstein
'Where the Wild Things Are' by Maurice Sendak
'Whistle Up the Chimney' by Nan Hunt
'Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge' by Mem Fox

3. Books for Children Ages 8-10 (many of these books can be read to children aged 6-8 or can be read by most children aged 9-10 years)

'A Dream of Stars' by Brian Caswell
'A Light in the Attic' by Shel Silverstein
'A Little Fear' by Patricia Wrightson
'Anne of Green Gables 'by Lucy Maud Montgomery
'A Wrinkle in Time' by Madeleine L'Engle
'Callie’s Castle' by Ruth Park
'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' by Roald Dahl
'Charlotte's Web' by E. B. White
'Chronicles of Ancient Darkness' by Michelle Paver
'Dirty Beasts' by Roald Dahl
'Grandma Cadbury’s Trucking Tales' by Dianne Bates
'Harriet the Spy' by Louise Fitzhugh
'Harry Potter' series by J.K Rowling
'Hatchet' by Gary Paulsen
'Island of the Blue Dolphins' by Scott O'Dell
'James and the Giant Peach' by Roald Dahl
'Jodie’s Journey' by Colin Thiele
'Little House in the Big Woods' by Laura Ingalls Wilder
'Little House on the Prairie' by Laura Ingalls Wilder
'Little Women' by Louisa May Alcott
'Maniac Magee' by Jerry Spinelli
'Matilda' by Roald Dahl
'Mike' by Brian Caswell
'Mr. Popper's Penguins' by Richard Atwater

'Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh' by Robert C. O'Brien
'My Father's Dragon' by Ruth Stiles Gannett
'Paw Thing' by Paul Jennings
'Pippi Longstocking' by Astrid Lindgren
'Rabbit Hill' by Robert Lawson
'Ramona Quimby, Age 8' by Beverly Cleary
'Revolting Rhymes' by Roald Dahl
‘Rowan of Rin' series by Emily Rodda
'Sarah, Plain and Tall' by Patricia MacLachlan
'Shiloh' by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
'Sideways Stories from Wayside School' by Louis Sachar
'Stone Fox' by John Reynolds Gardiner
'Stuart Little' by E. B. White
'Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing' by Judy Blume
'The 27th Annual African Hippopotamus Race' by Morris Lurie
'The Arrival' by Shaun Tan
'The Best Christmas Pageant Ever' by Barbara Robinson
'The BFG' by Roald Dahl
'The Borrowers' by Mary Norton
'The Boxcar Children' by Gertrude Chandler Warner
'The Chronicles of Narnia' by C. S. Lewis
'The Eighteenth Emergency' by Betsy Byars
'The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate' by Jacqueline Kelly
'The Giver' by Lois Lowry
'The Giving Tree' by Shel Silverstein
'The Great Gilly Hopkins' by Katherine Paterson
'The Indian in the Cupboard' by Lynne Reid Banks
'The Iron Man' by Ted Hughes
'The Jungle Books' by Rudyard Kipling
'The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe' by C. S. Lewis
'The Phantom Tollbooth' by Norton Juster
'The Pinballs' by Betsy Byars
'The Secret Garden' by Frances Hodgson Burnett
'The Shrinking of Treehorn' by Florence Parry Heide
'The Super-Roo of Mungalongaloo' by Osmar White
'The Trumpet of the Swan' by E. B. White
'The Village Dinosaur' by Phyllis Arkle
'Tuck Everlasting' by Natalie Babbitt
'The Watsons Go to Birmingham-1963' by Christopher Paul Curtis
'The Wind in the Willows' by Kenneth Grahame
'The Witch of Blackbird Pond' by Elizabeth George Speare
'Walk Two Moons' by Sharon Creech
'Where the Mountain Meets the Moon' written by Grace Lin
'Where the Sidewalk Ends: the Poems and Drawing of Shel Silverstein' by Shel Silverstein

4. Books for children aged 10-13+

'Boy' by Roald Dahl
'Bridge to Terabithia' by Katherine Paterson
'Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night' by Mark Haddon
'Deltora Quest' series by Emily Rodda
'Dragonkeeper' trilogy by Carole Wilkinson
'Goodnight Mister Tom' by Michelle Magorian
'Lord of the Rings' by JR Tolkien
'Merryll of the Stones' by Brian Caswell
'Nargun and the Stars' by Patricia Wrightson
'Number the Stars' by Lois Lowry
'Old Kingdom' series by Garth Nix
'Playing Beattie Bow' by Ruth Park
'Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry' by Mildred D. Taylor
'Slave Girl: The Diary of Clotee, Virginia, USA 1859' by Patricia McKissack
‘Strange Objects’ by Gary Crew
'Summer of My German Soldier' by Bette Greene
'The Hobbit' by JR Tolkein
'The Fire in the Stone' by Colin Thiele
'The Ice is Coming' by Patricia Wrightson
'The Graveyard Book' by Neil Gaiman
'The Machine Gunners' by Robert Westall
'The Princess Bride' by William Goldman
'The Stone Quartet' by Alan Garner
'The Wheel on the Schoo'l by Meindert DeJong
'Thunderwith' by Libby Hathorn
'When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit' by Judith Kerr
'When You Reach Me' by Rebecca Stead
'Wizard of Earthsea' trilogy by Ursula Le Guin

Other resources

You can find many other lists on this blog that are gouped in various ways. For example:

My 'Author Focus' series allows you to consider the books of well-known authors HERE
My 'Key Themes' in children's literature can help you to find books on 'death', the 'environment', 'conquering fears' and so on. The link is HERE
You can look at Children's Literature award list HERE
You can look at books for Boys (HERE) and Girls (HERE)

Friday, August 6, 2010

Digital Storytelling

What is Digital Storytelling?

Digital Storytelling is a relatively new term that has varied meanings. It began as a way for people to tell their personal stories and family histories. They combine relatively simple texts with images and sometimes videos that the author has often created along with the texts. Their purpose was initially to inform, as therapy, as creative expression, as part of local histories, and so on.

They are usually short, taking just 2-5 minutes to view, read and listen to. They are real stories told in your words and usually using your own voice.

But as the idea has been embraced it has been adapted to suits varied purposes and creators. In spite of this, the common elements are:
  • It is a form of storytelling
  • They are authentic creations
  • They use images in association with print and sound
  • They are published digitally
Just like the illustrations in a good picture book or graphic novel, the digital resources used in association with words are very important in a digital story and include:
  • Still photos
  • Scanned images and documents
  • Short videos
  • Music
  • Sound effects
How are they made?

Essentially, digital stories are short movies produced on inexpensive and readily available equipment:
  • Home computer
  • Computer video programs like iMovie (Macintosh) or MovieMaker (Windows)
  • Digital recorder
  • Hand held video camera or phone with built-in video
  • Digital camera
  • Digital scanner

Of course, you don't need all of the above, you could get started with a digital camera or video and a computer.

Once completed the digital stories can be uploaded to websites, blogs, burned onto DVDs and shared with others, projected onto a television screen, or viewed on your computer, viewed in a school hall by large audiences, or given to parents and other interested audiences.

What are the advantages of Digital Storytelling?

There are many good things about digital storytelling that relate to the creators and the community of interest in which they are shared. Creators are able to:
Use word, image and sound to communicate powerful and effective stories.
Publish their digital stories to wider audiences that can have access anywhere around the world.
Extend their network of relationships as they share their work with others and cooperate with others on joint projects.
Learn to comprehend and use images as well as words to communicate.
Learns new things whether the creators, collaborators or the audiences for the digital stories.
Ideas for Digital Storytelling

You might try one of the following ideas for digital storytelling:

Have students choose a person and simply tell their story in 10 pictures and with 10 associate text segments. This can be a famous person, or someone known to them.

Interview someone about something and take photos to support the story.

Have the students choose three people to talk about the same incident or experience, for example, a recent climatic event like a storm or fire, a sporting event, or the childhood memories of play for a sibling or fellow student, their mother or father and a grandparent.

Create a series of drawings, pictures or collages and use these as the visuals for a story that they tell in spoken and/or written word.

Do a web search and capture images that relate to a significant event (e.g. an environmental disaster or an historical event) then retell the event in words and images.

Have children collect a sample of photographs that sample their life span and tell their own story.

Retell a well-known picture book with a twist in the plot, a change in characters, a shift in time or setting and their own illustrations to support their text. 

Use modelling clay, play dough or even Lego or other construction toys to create a series of characters to support a story - use and manipulate the 3D models and photograph them or video them to help tell the story.

Above: These storyboards were created by individual students then put together by the teacher into a digital story

Create a group or class digital story that is based on a common narrative storyline that is then told using story boards that different children make and are then photographed or used with video technology to present the story in image, word and sound.

As well the above story-based ideas some teachers have been using the same concept of the storyboard for science, social science, history, in fact any school subject, as a tool for learning and communication. 

Examples of Digital Storytelling

Because Digital Storytelling is a relatively new activity, there are few good examples available with younger children because the earliest work in this genre has been with adults and high school children.  However, the following examples should give some sense of the possibilities.

Above: The story of 'Intelligence and Luck' is an excellent example of how well written text supported by the most simple of sketches can be very meaningful

Above: 'Mongolia for Mongolians' is an excellent example from senior High School students of an account of their experience of Mongolia

Above: This is an excellent video that tells how one 3rd Grade teacher taught her children to make digital stories

Hopefully, some of these examples will get you started if you haven't already attempted digital storytelling. Have a look at the resources below. There are a couple of good kids examples on the site promoting Lisa Miller's new book (link below).

Useful Resources

The 'Center for Digital Storytelling' has been a key resource for ideas on digital storytelling (HERE)
Lisa Miller has written a very practical book that has just been released 'Make Me a Story' (HERE)
Edutopia has a helpful online piece- 'How to use Digital Storytelling in the Classroom' (HERE)
The 'Digitales' site offers a lot of good technical advice (HERE)