Lydean Herman is a school librarian at Taita College in Lower Hutt. She has used the HELL reading challenge for the past few years to motivate her students to get books out of the school library, with great success. She tells us about her library and why she thinks her job is the best in this month’s School Librarian of Aotearoa.
The best job in the entire universe
Taita College is nestled between the picturesque hillside and the flowing river of Te Awakairangi in Lower Hutt. A beautiful spot where students, whanau and school are connected in a wonderful learning community. In the centre of our learning community is the Taita College Knowledge Hub. As the Knowledge Hub Facilitator, I have the best job in the whole entire universe! My passion for learning and literacy at the forefront, I bring to our hub a culture of reading for fun and information gathering, but also a multitude of experiences and activities to explore to enhance the learning of our school community.
I bring to our hub a culture of reading for fun and information gathering, but also a multitude of experiences and activities to explore to enhance the learning of our school community.
My background is in education in ESL, Oral Language, Arts, Learning Support and Business management and facilitation,and reading and the promotion of reading is my passion, so librarianship was a natural next step for me. I have been fortunate enough to have been in my role here at Taita College for just over two years.
Literacy links our learning together
I believe that Literacy is a major key to success for our students. To understand maths, you first need to comprehend the language used in maths;to understand art, you need to be able to interpret the meaning in the works. And to speak well, you need to be able to draw on a vast vocabulary. Literacy is the skill that links all of our learning together and gives us the capability to respond, question and reflect on what we have learnt, which leads to further investigation and a quest for lifelong learning.
Research shows that reading and success in literacy go hand in hand. Children who are exposed to books and stories from a young age generally have higher levels of comprehension and stronger vocabulary than those who are less exposed. It is incredibly important that children’s literature be available in abundance to all our tamariki and their whanau, and for it to be engaging enough to encourage and sustain a love of reading.
That is where our libraries come to the fore, by being able to provide a wide and ever-changing range of quality, fascinating and interesting literature to encourage and strengthen a natural love of books, stories and investigation via research. Stories that provoke questioning, that our children feel connected to and can identify with make the biggest impact on readers young and old. This is why it is hugely important for us to encourage and support our local authors, who have a connection to our land and our people, who write about the lives, events and environments, fantasy and fiction that our readers relate to.
Stories that provoke questioning, that our children feel connected to and can identify with make the biggest impact on readers young and old.
A buzzing Knowledge Hub
Our Knowledge Hub contains our Library. It is a buzzing hive where fun and learning go hand in hand. From the moment the doors are opened to the queues of students (mostly year 9 boys) who are waiting to come in to find their fix in the series they are reading, to the end of the day when students and teachers come together in an informal homework club, the Hub is a constant hum of discussion, connection and belonging. I refer to it as ‘a bit like Te Papa, Our Place.’ It belongs to our community.
A typical day starts with talking to our students, asking what their plans for the day are, what they hope to achieve for the day, asking what they are reading right now and sharing recommendations. I showing off new purchases and super amazing reads.
My biggest challenge is keeping up with what’s hot right now! Our suggestion box is a huge help students and staff are able to tell me what their wants and needs are for our hub and these are actioned as soon as humanly possible. I support the many classes who book the hub for their learning time, and teach our students the art of information and digital literacy.
A major part of my day is advertising our hub and the wealth of knowledge it contains, promoting books and events at assemblies, giving book talks to classes and spending time in break times with our students, sometimes just chilling and hanging out, building relationships and sometimes by running events and maker space activities that provide experiences for learning. There is never a dull moment and always less time in the day than I actually need, but it is the absolute best place to be and I wouldn’t change it for the world!
Using the HELL Reading Challenge
The HELL Reading Challenge has certainly been a great incentive for our readers, particularly as food is such a big motivator for many of our hungry teenagers. When I first started here in the Knowledge Hub there was not a great connection between our students and reading for engagement. I was looking for an incentive that would ignite the reading spark in our students, particularly in the junior school as my plan was to create a habit of reading with our younger students in the hope that it would carry on to be a lifelong obsession. After some investigation, I found the HELL Reading Challenge, who happily agreed to have us become part of their family! Yay for HELL Reading Challenge!
We have been part of the initiative for over 2 years now and we’re still going strong. Students come to me on a daily basis telling me about the books and articles they have read and ask me to sign off their Pizza card!. It really has inspired our students to become readers. Over the past two years, with the help of HELL Reading Challenge, our issuing data has grown by 76%. Our literacy levels and student achievement has also risen!
Over the past two years, with the help of HELL Reading Challenge, our issuing data has grown by 76%. Our literacy levels and student achievement has also risen!
More Sāmoan and Pasifika books please!
A large portion of our learning here at Taita College is based around Māori and Pasifika topics. Around 75% of our students identify as Māori or Pasifika. My biggest challenge has been finding age appropriate texts, particularly in Sāmoan and other Pasifika languages. There are some amazing books and resources available already, but the gap in the market seems to be fictional novels aimed at young adults written in te reo Māori, Sāmoan and other Pasifika languages. It would be marvelous if there was more literature available at an engaging and appropriate level in the indigenous languages of our students. I have been tempted to encourage students to publish the works they have written in their own languages, but that is a task for another day in the near future…
…but the gap in the market seems to be fictional novels aimed at young adults written in te reo Māori, Sāmoan and other Pasifika languages.
I am a huge fan of picture books, I think that there are so many levels that picture books can be used to enhance learning, empathy and experiences. So many of our readers tend to shy away from picture books as they hit college because they tend to think they have outgrown them. But even stories like The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle for example, have a place in college, with a message of transformation and a style of artwork that is not easy to replicate, it covers food and nutrition, the arts, social sciences, science, wellbeing, self-management and many other areas of the curriculum. We just need to encourage our students to look deeper into the profound meaning in text and illustration.They are an incredible learning tool for teachers with limited time and create great discussion around topics and inquiry.
An awesome little locally produced picture book with a message of sustainability is Snowbright and the Frozen Waste, by Geraldine Brophy, written and illustrated with the help of our local Pomare Primary School..Many of our students connect with this book as they know someone who was involved in the process of making the book come to life, which in turn piques their interest and engages them in learning more about sustainability in our own local environment.
Reading makes us smarter: when we read for pleasure, we gain knowledge that we retain, as opposed to simply information gathering. I love my job and am grateful that I have been given the opportunity to work with our community, putting books in hands and homes, with the support of a great big family of literacy supporters and collaborators to support me on our journey.
Super Mum, Super Granny and trying really hard to be a Super Librarian. I live and learn in the beautiful Hutt Valley. I have worked in education for the past 10 years, running ESL and Oral Language Academies and working in Social Services supporting youth exposed to domestic violence. Loving life long Learning and Librarianship!