Sunday, October 16, 2016

Setting up a village school library in Myanmar

If you were asked to help set up a new school library in a new primary school building in a farming village outside Mandalay, and you wouldn't be able to visit the site until the day before the new school's grand opening, how would you tackle it?  That was the challenge proposed to me last June by a parent service/charity group at our school.

PACE, which stands for Parents' Action for Community and Service, has built several schools in Cambodia together with the Tabitha Foundation over the past decade.  This year they teamed up with John Stevens and the 100Schools organization in Myanmar to build their first school there, in Shar Pin village.  And it is the first school built by 100Schools to have a library included.


After (the library is the far-most left room):

Luckily here at the East campus there is a Burmese parent, with whom I've done a couple of middle-school service trips to Myanmar.  Thet is not only bilingual, but highly organized, efficient, and creative.  She liaised with the Myanmar Library Association (MLA) to get us lists of recommended books to buy as well as book donations for the school.  She also got in touch with the Third Story Children's Books project, which publishes stories in ethnic languages for children in Myanmar.

Thanks to Thet's language and organization skills, over 400 children's books in Burmese were purchased or donated -- which we picked up once we arrived in Myanmar.  Thet and Thida, another Burmese speaker in our group, were able to sort the various books into 11 basic categories -- and the rest of us labeled them.

Previously in Singapore, Thet and I had brainstormed what orientation the students and teachers would need, in order to ensure proper use and maintenance of the library.  We came up with a series of posters, illustrated by my talented library staff, that would serve to both decorate the library and establish the library culture for students and teachers.

We also created about 80 laminated shelf-markers -- using simple animal logos and different colored paper.  The children were told that when they came to the library each time, they should pick an animal and a color to keep track of where they found books.  To help them remember where in the "village of books" (i.e., the library) each book "lived" -- so they could help it get back to its right place.

With Thet's help, I also did a talk about book care on opening day where I asked the children to consider how books are like people.  (They can be old or young, tall or small, speak different languages, have a front, a back, a spine, etc.  And they need to be treated with care and respect, especially when it comes to turning pages.)

Through Thet's connections, we also met up with a wonderful young Burmese teacher and storyteller, Tess (aka Tin Ma Ma Htet), who works as a professional development coordinator for the Phaung Daw Oo School and the Monastic Education Development Group in Mandalay --and with the Third Story Children's Books Project.

Small world connection:  Tess has also been involved with the teacher training project our Dover colleagues have done in Burma.  (See a video interview with her in 2015 here.)

Tess entertained the Shar Pin students with storytelling on Sunday, while the rest of us were setting up the library, and we trust that she will continue to visit Shar Pin to see that the books in the library are being fully utilized.

The school's official opening was Monday, October 3 -- and here are some basic shots of what the library finally looked like. 

The PACE team was amazing -- and it was such an honor to work with them.  The cost of the whole 5-classroom school?  US$72k.  The library room itself?  US$7k.  US$3k went to the library design and materials.  I can't wait to do another.

Extra:  Thet took me a local civic library in Mandalay -- the Brahmaso Library.  It's a lending library with a reading room attached.  Closed stacks.  Card catalog.  But also with a digital terminal to content provided by UK universities and the British Council.  See photos here.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Visit to Book Reach in Nepal

Siobhan Roulston recently left the Garden International School in Kuala Lumpur. She is taking a gap year to do some travelling. For the last two weeks she has been in Nepal with Doreen Johnstone assisting to set up school libraries. ISLN members would remember that Doreen spoke to us at a meeting last year and that Book Reach has been the beneficiary of ISLN funds allocated by the Charity Committee. Siobhan wrote this entry for the blog.

For eight weeks during August, September and October, Doreen Johnstone, the dynamic founder of the charity, Book Reach, has been working tirelessly to place books into the hands of Nepali school children. Doreen identifies schools in Hetauda, Nepal, which do not have libraries and uses pre-loved books to create libraries in them. Some schools are within the city of Hetauda, whilst others are up to two hours away by foot, motorbike and bus (yes, Doreen at the ripe old age of 75 makes the effort to reach these schools - she even sleeps on the floor of teachers' homes in these regional villages).

By being able to help Doreen here in Nepal, I have experienced first-hand the children’s excitement as they have helped to unpack, label and organise books for their new libraries. Doreen arranges shelving, tables and carpets for the libraries if necessary. Students are involved in categorising the books into levels and then arranging them on the shelves. The smiles on their faces when they see their finished libraries is really touching.

For the past few years, schools in Malaysia and Singapore have donated thousands of books to Book Reach. It's important for the donating schools to know that these books have really made a difference in the lives of these needy children. Before Book Reach began bringing books to Nepal, many schools here had no English books for their students to read. As children in Nepal learn English in their schools, it was difficult for them to improve their reading skills. These libraries have enabled thousands of children to develop their English skills and a love for reading.

Please encourage your schools to continue supporting Book Reach, either by donating books or by contributing funds to pay for freight costs, furniture, carpets, labels, shelves, etc. Every dollar donated will find its way straight into a Nepalese school library.

A room that is about to become a library

Delivering the books

The end result

ADDED Oct 6 by Katie Day:

In the photo above, you can just see the bottom of two posters on the wall of this library.  The posters were created by one of our library assistants, Kavikumar S/O Sugumaran, on the instruction of Doreen. 

Have a look:

And if you have any connection to any school libraries in Nepal, please feel free to re-use any of these posters!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Children's Literature Talk -- by Dr. Myra Garces-Bacsal et al - Nov 3 - Tanglin Trust School

A reminder that we're all invited to a talk on multicultural picturebooks by a team of researchers, lead by Myra Garces-Bascal from NIE (National Institute of Education), on November 3, 2016, at 4:30pm in the Senior Library at Tanglin Trust School.

You may be familiar with Myra through her children's literature blog -- Gathering Books.  

Wine and nibbles will follow the talk.  RSVP by October 1st via this link:

Creating Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Bridges through Multicultural Picturebooks

Asst/Prof Rhoda Myra Garces-Bacsal
Asst/Prof Ruanni Tupas
Mdm Sarinajit Kaur

Children’s books keep alive a sense of nationality; but they also keep alive a sense of humanity. They describe their native land lovingly, but they also describe faraway lands where unknown brothers live. They understand the essential quality of their own race; but each of them is a messenger that goes beyond mountains and rivers, beyond the seas, to the very ends of the world in search of new friendships. Every country gives and every country receives, - innumerable are the exchanges, - and so it comes about that in our first impressionable years the universal republic of childhood is born. – Paul Hazard

The power of children’s books to foster identity (Botelho and Rudman, 2009) and self-awareness (Lysaker and Tonge, 2013), to build empathy (Nikolajeva, 2012) and resilience (Lukens, Smith, & Coffel, 2013) have been well documented in research studies. Multicultural picturebooks, are especially powerful, as they serve as mirrors allowing young people to see themselves reflected in books that they read; and they also serve as windows to worlds that young readers may be unfamiliar with, allowing them to “participate emotionally in ways that may ultimately change the way we see ourselves and the society in which we live” (Gates & Mark, 2006, p. 2). This kind of affective participation through literature is what makes multicultural picturebooks the perfect vehicle to scaffold the teaching of social and emotional learning competencies that are essential to becoming more reflective and sensitive human beings. This presentation is a celebration of titles from around the world that may serve as bridges to humanity, kindness, and compassion – books that allow young readers to view the world a bit differently, and empower them to be more involved in the community and the larger world that they are a part of.

This talk is a result of a 2015-2017 project at NIE that Myra is leading -- "Reading Lives and Practices of Singapore Teachers and the Use of Multicultural Children's Literature to promote Socio-emotional Learning."  

Contact Ben Farr at Tanglin for more information:

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Library Association of Singapore regularly offers interesting PD. Our member, Foo Soo Chin - School of the Arts, has generously shared this account of a recent professional development visit organised by LAS.

This article was originally published at the Singapore Libraries Bulletin.

LAS Visit to Raffles Institution’s Raffles Archives & Museum, Hullett Memorial Library and Shaw Foundation Library

The old and the new – this was the theme of our visit on 22 June 2016 to Raffles Archives & Museum (RAM), Hullett Memorial Library (HML) and Shaw Foundation Library (SFL) at Raffles Institution (RI).

It was a rainy afternoon – but it certainly did not dampen spirits of the 30 participants and the visit proceeded with gusto. We started at the RAM, with a presentation by its head, Mrs Cheryl Yap. She shared about the place, purpose, patronage and other interesting points about the rich RI history that dated all the way back to 1823. She also shared on the Memory and Artefact Donation Drive, as well as RAM’s commitment to preserve RI tradition and culture. RAM also hosts exhibitions and gatherings for the Rafflesian alumni.

There were many questions from the participants who were keen to learn more about how the artefacts are curated.

Mrs Cheryl Yap (4th from left)
sharing the milestones of the RI
history curated at RAM.

How a typical RI classroom was like 
many years ago, as shown by a student leader 
(1st from right).

Look out for the Rafflesian treasures from
the 1960s. 
Spot the army cadet badges
donated by Dr N Varaprasad, 
NLB CE 2004-2010 and Principal of
Temasek Polytechnic 1990-2001.

One of the many interesting points was the Raffles Time Capsule – its sealing by Professor Tommy Koh on 25 July 2015 to mark the relocation of RAM to its current location, SG50 and the school’s 192 Founder’s Day. The well-known local filmmaker Ms Tan Pin Pin also filmed the time capsule earthing ceremony on 31 July 2015.

The group was then divided into smaller groups for guided tours conducted by student leaders. It was interesting to learn about the contributions of former principals throughout RI history, evolution of the student publication Rafflesian Times which was formerly known as the R.I. Times, small exhibitions of artefacts that belonged to distinguished Rafflesians, such as the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew and so on.

The displays have QR codes that contain more information about the artefacts to which it is attached. Throughout the guided tours, the student leaders also shared many interesting anecdotes about the provenance of various artefacts.

After a brief tea break, the group made our way to HML. HML is also known as the RI’s secondary school library and used mainly by Year 1 to 4 students.  RI’s Chief Librarian, Ms Joanna Yu shared on the range of library services and facilities available to support the learning needs of its users.

As we were brought on a guided tour, we learnt that the library was founded since 1923 to mark the centenary of RI’s establishment. Even the National Library of Singapore has its origin at the HML, which was previously known as the Singapore Institution Library – so that makes HML the oldest library in Singapore!

We learnt that it was named in honour of the longest serving school principal, Mr R W Hullett. We were impressed with the beautiful regency-styled wooden furniture, which provided a pleasant contrast to the contemporary sofas. We also learnt that the wooden chairs were known as the Raffles chairs - their design of the curved, extended back and swept-back legs was characteristic of chairs in the times of Sir Stamford Raffles.

Step into HML, the oldest library in Singapore.
The wooden chairs that we sat on were surprisingly
comfortable, as we listened to Ms Joanna Yu
(in white facing camera) sharing about the unique features
of HML’s collection and services.

Next, we moved on to the SFL, which is also known as RI’s junior college library and used mainly by Year 5 and 6 students. As we went on the guided tour, we learnt more about its contemporary architectural design, collection layout, range of resources and facilities such as discussion rooms.

The participants admired the late Brother Joseph McNally’s
“Perennial Wisdom”, which was moved from RI’s
former Mount Sinai campus
to its current Bishan campus. 
The humanoid form gazes towards 
the sky in its quest for
excellence as it ascends from the earth
, symbolizing
the Rafflesian spirit of endeavor. 

 The visit ended with a group photograph with the “Perennial Wisdom” as a backdrop, as we gratefully thank our RI hosts and LAS for making this enriching learning experience possible. 

Group photograph at the end of the visit.