(About 40 SLANZA members met on a sunny winter morning to hear about the work of SPELD and how Librarians can help aid the experience of our students. Jeremy Drummond from SPELD spoke to us about the work they are doing with specific learning difficulty.
SPELD NZ is a not-for-profit organisation that specialises in assisting people with dyslexia and other specific learning disabilities. It is hard to believe that this is yet another important organisation that receives no New Zealand Government funding, despite the tremendous work it does in providing support and advice. It has a library (for members) as well as a website, Facebook and YouTube presence.
Dyslexia was only recognised in New Zealand in 2007 and maybe this was partly to do with fighting the impression that this condition was merely “over-compensating Mums making up for under-achieving children.” Specific learning difficulty is a term preferred to Dyslexia because this includes a multitude of problems and everyone is different. Unless there is a family history of SLD in the family a firm diagnosis cannot be made until the ages of 7-8. This is because it is only at this age that all physical problems can be ironed out. Brain plasticity studies show that parts of the brain can be taught new roles or activities.
What can we do in the library to help those that suffer from some form of SLD?
Our final speaker was Jo Buchan from National Library who presented inspirational cases of finding the right book at the right time for individual students. It's all about connecting with students and developing a relationship so you can then help them.
Our second event was held at Epsom Girls Grammar (thank you Michele Coombridge and Debbie Horrocks), “An evening with Anne O’Brien”. Anne is Festival Director of the Auckland Writers Festival and she entertained us with stories about writers, and how she and her team put together the Writers Festival each year. The work and planning is enormous, and being able to negotiate with publishers, writers, patrons, sponsors and festival attendees is a huge task. Anne was an entertaining speaker and we all enjoyed hearing her speak. This year’s festival takes place from Wednesday May 16th to Sunday May 20th.
This year, the first PD session from SLANZA Auckland was Not – “Just Another Display” on 21st February. This practical, hands-on workshop was taken by the inimitable Annie White from Takapuna Grammar and kindly hosted by Joanna Baynes at King’s School in Remuera.
Annie acknowledged the work and inspiration of Rachel Van Riel and used some of her concepts and examples in the slides that accompanied her talk. The presentation was followed by demonstrations of Annie’s handcraft prowess punctuated by witty and amusing comments that kept the audience highly entertained. We were all “wowed” by the amazing large posters Annie had created using the Rasterbator site (http://rasterbator.net ) to enlarge and print a picture onto multiple A3 sheets which she had then joined with double-sided tape (see photo below). Paper sculpture also provided materials for displays – some patterns are available on the Net. Large inexpensive wooden letters available now from stockists of cheap imported items can also be effective either on an empty shelf or within a display. Lastly it was our turn to fashion rats out of plasticine (see photo below), flowers from pipe cleaners and tissue, 3D displays from cardboard etc in order to give us some confidence in trying to be more imaginative.
Other lessons/reminders to take away from the session were:
Approaching the SesterCentennial with Graeme Lay
On November 15, Slanza Auckland met in the library within the lovely grounds of St Mary’s College, Herne Bay, to celebrate a successful year and to hear editor/teacher/author Graeme Lay speak about “Fictionalising history - bringing the dead back to life”. What followed was not only a talk about an extraordinary man - James Cook - but also the story behind the writing of the James Cook Trilogy.
Graeme has written a lot of nonfiction history but noted that facts about history are only half the story. Non-fiction writers inform us but novelists move us and let us emotionally sympathise with the characters. With fiction we can attempt to get “into the soul of the characters”.
In the course of researching his book “In search of paradise” Graeme became very interested in initial European contact with the peoples of the Pacific Islands. Much had been written and published about these encounters, so moved were those who first came into contact with the island peoples. A trip to the Frankfurt Book fair to look for a publisher resulted in a request for for a book on James Cook emphasizing the contact between Cook, his men and Pacific peoples, and Graeme then wrote a sample chapter focussing on Niue, trying to show the reasons why the islanders repelled them. He wasn’t satisfied with this chapter and felt that others had done it more effectively, but the character of Cook stuck in his mind. In his research Cook appeared as a titanic figure. His image was everywhere - on stamps, banknotes, along with the famous portrait of him had been commissioned by Joseph Banks.
Graeme didn’t know much about Cook’s private life or motivations and decided that he wanted to tell his story in fiction commenting on what a big step it is to “have to walk the deck with your character”. Cook wrote many journals, as was required by the Navy but they didn’t contain personal reflections so Graeme decided to have Cook write letters and keep a journal specifically for his wife, allowing Elizabeth to be brought into the story even though she was “offstage” for much of the time. The three books in his
Graeme had already done a lot of research for his previous books on the Pacific which fed into this trilogy but, to judge by the quality of the talk he gave us, full of facts and anecdotes about Cook’s journeys, has spent years reading about and further researching Cook. As an audience we were completely spellbound.
With the 2019 celebrations of the first encounters between Cook, Tupaia, the Tahitian priest and navigator who travelled with Cook, and Maori where the Endeavour landed (Gisborne/Te Tairāwhiti, Mercury Bay, Bay of Islands and Marlborough), Graeme’s books, anecdotes and vast knowledge will be great additions to any school programme looking of this defining time in our history.