Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Getting Children Ready for School: Free Preschool Resource for Parents and Carers

My colleague Anita Ayre and I have written a resource program that is available free via the Australian Literacy Educators' Association website. The resource is called 'Little People's Literacy Learning: A guide for engaging parents and carers'. It offers practical help for parents and carers of children aged 0-5. And it's FREE!

This FREE online guide for parents and carers comes with hundreds of activities that you can enjoy with your child. Some activities are incidental and some are planned. But all activities are designed with an emphasis on learning through collaborative play and shared discovery.

Anita and I are experienced teachers, and also active grandparents who love spending quality time with their grandchildren. In this resource, we offer a wealth of suggestions and hints for parents and carers who want to engage with their children in literacy learning and mathematics activities. All activities are designed with an emphasis on learning through collaborative play and shared discovery. They can all be incorporated into daily life with very little (or often no) preparation! We offer hundreds of integrated examples throughout, including how new technology and multimedia can also enrich the learning experiences of your child with the same richness as other non-technology applications. You'll also find some advice on how to monitor and control screen time.

The resource contains practical and VERY doable common sense activities. You will find it HERE.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

The Early Work of Great Writers: Insights from childhood writing

Ever wondered what the childhood writing of Dickens, Austen, the Brontës and many other great writers was like? The study of early writing (and art) has been termed Juvenilia, drawing from the Latin meaning "things from youth". I have had the privilege of spending a number of years on the Editorial Advisory Board of the Juvenilia Press at the University of New South Wales, in this post I offer a sample of the wonderful work that has been produced, that high school teachers and their students will find fascinating. As students study this largely unknown material, they will gain insights into the work of great writers and perhaps gain inspiration for their own writing.

An interest in Juvenilia

I have written already on this blog before here and here that children begin to write from a very young age. While the earliest attempts at writing of our children - even before the age of 12 months - is often seen as 'cute' and largely unimportant by some parents, many children from a young age develop a desire to do more than simply making their marks on paper; they begin to play with language and words, often in combination with their early drawings. Many great writers did, and some of this work survives.

The Juvenilia Press was founded in 1994 by Juliet McMaster at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. Its aim was to study Juvenilia and to publish some of the early work of great writers. It moved to UNSW in 2001 when Professor Christine Alexander became the General Editor. Professor Alexander is a prominent Australian researcher, editor and writer on the Brontës and other 19th Century writers, including their juvenilia. 

Every publication from this not-for-profit press combines the early writing of great authors and a postgraduate or research essay on the work. These publications represent the scholarship and research of some of the world's leading professors of literature and their research students. In doing so, they preserve and shine a light on the early writing of great authors as an inspiration to young writers today.

The works published to date

Juvenilia Press has published 66 works since 1994, some of which I reviewed in previous posts (here & here). The writers whose early work has been published include Jane Austen, Charlotte & Branwell Brontë, Louisa May Alcott, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (Lewis Carroll), George Eliot, Margaret Atwood, Greg Hollingshead, Margaret Laurence, Marjory Fleming, Rudy Wiebe, Opal Whiteley, John Ruskin, Charles Dickens and many others.

Some Selected Recent Publications

a) Marjory Fleming, 'The Journals and Poems of Marjory Fleming'

A self-confessed "little young Devil" who could throw spectacular temper tantrums, Marjory Fleming was nevertheless sanctified as "Pet" by the Victorians for her brief life and winning writings. In her engaging verse and journals she shares her wide reading, her delight in "rurel filisity" and her devotion to Mary Queen of Scots and Scottish history.

Edited by Leslie Robertson and Juliet McMaster, with others.

b) Patrick Branwell Brontë

Written at the age of fifteen, The Pirate transports us into the dramatic imaginary world of the young Brontës, tracing the early career of Branwell's favourite hero (and later alter-ego) 'Rouge' to aristocratic demagogue. The young author and his hero both played pivotal roles in the creation of the Glass Town and Angrian saga.

Edited by Christine Alexander, with Joetta Harty and Benjamin Drexler.

c) Annie and Ida Rentoul, 'Mollie's Bunyip and other Tales'

The early twentieth-century Australian teenagers, Annie and Ida Rentoul, collaborated as writer and illustrator on a series of tales. They chose to work in the fairy-tale genre at a time when there was a demand for such stories to have an Australian character. Ida’s career as writer, and particularly as illustrator, grew from these childhood publications, eventually leading to international acclaim.

Edited by Pamela Nutt, with others

Other selected publications

a) Louisa May Alcott's 'Norna, or the Witch's Curse'

Anyone who has read or seen 'Little Women' will remember the play that the sisters performed within the work. 'Norna, or the Witch's Curse' is the real play, written when Alcott was just 15yrs old. In it she provides a farcical description in 'Little Women'. It is filled with fierce posturing and melodramatic action, Norna shows young Louisa and her collaborating sister Anna stretching their creative wings in poetic drama.

Few readers of 'Little Women' would realise that the play in the book (and the film) was based on Alcott's play written, directed and acted out with her sisters when she was just 15.

b) Charles Dickens's 'The Bill of Fare', 'O'Thello' & Other Early Works

Dickens wrote of his childhood,"All these things have worked together to make me what I am". Among "these things" in his juvenilia are his genius for story telling, his creation of comic characters and his love of the theatre. Just like his later great work 'David Copperfield', they throw light on a young man in love, bursting with inventiveness and struggling to shape his ideas into the kind of public performance that would lead to fame.
Christine Alexander has edited this publication with Donna Couto and Kate Sumner. It was timed last year to coincide with the 200th anniversary of his birth. The critical essay that precedes Dickens juvenilia reminds us that Dickens's amazing talent for storytelling was evident from a very young age. He was a child who loved being centre stage to tell stories, sing and entertain others. It is clear that Dickens wrote a great deal as a child, but much of it doesn't seem to have survived. However, over time some works have emerged from his late teens, including some of his early poetry and fragments of his first comic drama that he titled 'O'Thello'. This is a fascinating look at some of the early work of this great writer.

c) Leigh Hunt's 'The Palace of Pleasure & Other Early Poems'

Young Leigh Hunt's poems, early recognized as “proofs of poetic genius”, offer landscapes populated by happy schoolboys and errant knights freed from magical enthrallment. Already vivid here is Hunt's lifelong commitment to the betterment of his fellow man through friendship and communion with nature.
The juvenilia of Hunt has been edited by Sylvia Hunt, with illustrations by Karl Denny

d) Hope Hook's 'Crossing Canada, 1907: The Diary of Hope Hook'

In her diary of 1907, young Hope Hook records an exciting journey across Canada to Vancouver Island and back, by ship, rail and boat. Born to a family of artists, she is eager to observe the new country that will soon be her home, and all its people, flora and fauna.

This work has been edited by Juliet McMaster.

e) Mary Grant Bruce, 'The Early Tales'

Pamela Nutt edited the work of Mary Grant Bruce with Year 11 students from Presbyterian Ladies' College in Sydney. This publication exemplifies the importance of pedagogy to the Juvenilia project. The illustrations are by Matilda Fay & Isabelle Ng.  Mary Grant Bruce’s nineteenth-century childhood was spent in rural Victoria and throughout her writing career this landscape provided the setting for many of her stories. These early tales, written for the newspaper 'The Leader', demonstrate an understanding of the challenges of the Australian outback and introduce many of the concerns she would later develop in her highly successful fiction for children.

How to Obtain the Books

For further information on all 66 books, as well as pricing and procedures to order single copies or class sets, contact the Juvenilia Press website for full details HERE.