AATE National Conference 2016

The National AATE Conference is over for another year, and of course it was amazing! It began with a flash mob, wine, and poetry readers from Amelia Walker and concluded with blue wine, cheese, and these inspiring words from plenary speaker Misty Adoniou, “Don’t forget the teacher you wanted to be.” One of my favourite moments was the contrast between a snippet of John Green and the focus of Phil Cummings’ workshop. In response to the eternal student question, ‘Did the author really mean that?’ Green was of the opinion no, but it’s there anwyay, while Cummings focused in illustrating how deliberately he chooses every word, every symbol, and every image in his texts to create meaning. For example in Ride, Ricardo Ride! he uses, “In a once warm kitchen” instead of in a cold kitchen to indicate what has been lost, give an indictment on the situation, and emphasise the coldness and harshness of war.

Some of the common themes that emerged in the conference were:

  • The need for for a whole school literacy approach.
  • The political, ideological, historical, and cultural nature of literacy and literacy education.
  • The need for the work that students engage in to be authentic (getting students to engage with ‘stuff’ that matters, working collaboratively, and presenting work/findings to an authentic audience).
  • The word dialogic. Over and over again!
  • Multi literacies (there was a fantastic workshop about printed t-shirts that addressed this well).
  • The reductive nature of the current focus on ‘box ticking’ and using technology for surveillance.
  • Project based learning.

There was also a workshop that complemented the diversity in literature evening I went to. The focus was on the value of Border Crossing pedagogy for challenging ‘norms’, encouraging a willingness to learn, and for learning to live in difference. It included the screening of a great video, High School Girl, that helps students question what they think they know.

I left with a lot to consider, a lot to implement, and a few books to read of course. : )


Diversity In Literature


Thursday June 9th I attended the School Library Association of South Australia’s Diversity in Literature event. The event was designed to assist librarians select and share resources that promote diversity. It was wonderful to share a room with school librarians passionate about diversity in their library’s resources for staff and students.

The first guest speaker was Fran Knight, a regular at SAETA conferences, who did her usual spin through an amazing list of books for young readers, this time with a focus on gender diverse and multiculturally diverse books. When listening to Fran I always feel the weight of all the wonderful books yet to be read!

Next was Emma Phillips, librarian at Wilderness School. She provided a genre guide for, and suggestions for sourcing, LGBTQ young adult fiction. There was certainly a wealth of resources, links, ideas, text suggestions etc. All incredibly thorough because they were her university assignments.

The final speaker was Samuel Williams, who will soon be coming to Cambridge to study sexual and gender diversity in YA literature at Queens’ College. He spoke about the history of YA fiction novels that covered gender diversity, and about why DSG (Diverse Sexuality and Gender) is a more appropriate term than LGBTQ and all of its forms. He also spoke about what librarians should look for in DSG inclusive YA novels:

  • do not end in tragedy or pathologise sexual/gender diversity.
  • have a gay or trans main character.
  • are not (only) about coming out, being accepted and negotiating homophobia/transphobia.
  • do not perpetuate myths about homosexuality and gender diversity.
  • do not prescribe or generalise about the gay/trans experience.
  • do not condescend to young readers.
  • are well-written, original and a pleasure to read.

My favourite part of the night was this impassioned quote from David Levithan on the importance of students seeing themselves positively represented in the literature they read:

I have met so many amazing librarians in the past few years, staunch and strong defenders of expression and representation. I can say without a single doubt that many young readers’ lives have been helped and saved by their librarians’ open-mindedness and courage. (I have the e-mails to prove it.) (2004, p. 45).

Levithan, D. (2004). Supporting gay teen literature. School Library Journal, 50(10), 44-45. Retrieved from http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com