Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Thinking aloud

Over the past six months, instead of getting down to do proper work I have had to write up a "First Year Report", which is really not a report at all, but a "Literature Review", which I find really frustrating. I am a doer more than a thinker although I do think about what I do! The position in which I now find myself is that because of the reading, writing process, having to justify the reason for investigating children's mobile libraries, of fitting the research into government policies, of finding out one thing and suggesting another, I have been thinking around in circles and not really progressed.

I have done a deal with my supervisors, who wanted me and my "hippy, touchy-feely" methodology to produce a "Literature Review". There is nothing, by the way, about the way reading is promoted on a children's mobile library. I have compromised to do a set of headings outlining what the literature review will be when I do one at the end of the data gathering and analysis. In fact, I will do an annotated set of headings, saying what would be, or is likely to be, in that literature review. As I look at what I have done so far so much seems irrelevant , so much seems to have been imposed by suggestions form the supervisors, who have their pet ideas. I am sure that they are only trying to help, but I think I would have liked more input on the how to do it, rather than the what to do.

So, what happens on a children's mobile library, and why does it matter? It matters because they are a service to communities, they introduce children to literature, some who would not otherwise go into a library. They offer a service to nurseries and early years settings to increase the number of books available to children and staff. They offer a library service, free of charge, to schools where individual children can find books or other information about things that they like. They are a free source of reading material to children who read avidly. They offer fun and interest and freedom of choice. Library services that have children's mobile libraries claim all these things, but is that what happens? Could they be better? Can they do a better job?

Most of all the service matters to the children that use it. I have also thought of the research as producing a sort of handbook of "Best Practice". Will this be good enough justification for my supervisors?

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Stuff about reading

Having the first year viva over and done with, I am now concentrating on books about reading, so that I can analyse the actions of people in Children's mobile libraries to work out if they are promoting reading. I have also discovered that I need to use page numbers in the citation, so that is why there will be odd numbers appearing in the text.

The first book is "Measuring reading abilities: concepts, sources and applications" by Peter D Pumfrey, Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1977.

On page 2 he talks about the statistical measurement of reading ability. "Figures can be used as a smoke screen to obscure our lack of understanding and control of the reading process...... unless we are aware of the limitations both of mental measurement and of our conceptualisation of the reading process". I think this means that it is difficult to measure reading because it is conceptualised. It is such a complex act that it is like measuring an abstract notion. figures don't work, because it is the wrong scale. He also believes that reading is an activity through which the child's cognitive development can be furthered. A tool for increasing thinking. He also believes that it is a "common fallacy" that all children will have acquired the necessary basic competence in reading by the end of infant school. P7 A reading test is a sample of one aspect of a child's behaviour related to language and thinking.

p11 "Often, those children falling at the lower ends of the hypothesised normal distribution are catagorised as children with reading difficulties. To some extent, the difficulties in reading that a child experiences are generated by a social desire for a conformity that is possible at varience with the nature of human beings". In other words, some children take longer to learn to read, and will not necessarily do it as well as others. It is not expected that everyone will excel at sport, we do not measure each child's sprinting times, or how far they can kick a ball.

p162 Children can decode print correctly whether they know it or not, whether it is or is not a real word. This demonstrates that understanding is not necessary to decode. This is not reading.
However, p163, a childs experiential background contributes to the ability to decode a word becasue they will have the ability to guess the word from the context of the text, using cues.

OK so most of this is about reading and not about the passing of of reading knowledge. I think that these idea's show that there will be some children left behind by the education system and provide evidence for the argument of mopping up those children with the use of mobile libraries. that or teaching them to read at secondary school, but then they feel a failure, like me and running!
I have just found this in the latest DCMS report about libraries (Empower, Inform, Enrich) and I like it so much that I have to share it!

By Chris Meade
Director, if: Book

Once upon a time books were made of parchment and carried around in buckets. Then came the codex, designed by early Christians as a means to fix the canon and make sure no one glued extra bits onto the end of scrolls.The first books,hand written by teams of monks, cost a fortune. Gutenberg invented the printing press but went bankrupt when his invention failed to catch on. It took the Reformation to make publishing commercially viable, when every faction going was producing new tracts and pamphlets.The paperback provided cheap portable fiction for the troops and the workers.
The e-reader briefly bridged the gap between page and screen, but soon every laptop and mobile was a platform for prose. Far from killing literature, new devices led to a renaissance of artworks mixing text and images, sounds and conversations.The book was no longer defined as an object but as an experience, a unit of meaning, some of which were produced in beautiful, customised printed form, others in lavish online editions. But perhaps surprisingly the term remained—thanks to Macbooks and Facebook,Audiobooks, Digibooks, Skybooks, ifbooks etc, but the term was used to include events, performances, recordings, websites which demanded a certain level of attention. And all books were also communities, though mostly quiet ones, like library users silently sharing the same virtual space.
Libraries used to contain copies of works that were otherwise inaccessible to people without parting with their cash. Books were chained to desks, then loaned out for short periods, then after culture went up to the cloud, their role became really important, providing a safe local space in which to meet real people with the expertise and ideas to help us each explore our particular interest.
Where once people had been intimidated but uplifted in places of culture such as theatres and libraries, now all content emanated from the same devices. There was no longer any need to differentiate much between movies, books, ifbooks, pop music and opera. Whereas once these commodities were sold and performed in completely different places for different prices, now all was stuff, funded from the licence.
So we needed to create new means to uplift the spirit and encourage deeper attention and focus. Unlibraries flourished—designed to inspire and intrigue through displays, events and atmospheres which helped minds to expand; they sold and loaned out souvenirs of intellectual journeys undertaken there, were havens for debate and the simple, basic pleasures of social networking.
The modernisation review of public libraries