Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Freedom to Read Canada!

©2011 David Wyman (design)

Just a little reminder that this week (in Canada) is Freedom to Read Week, a chance to celebrate information rights and creative freedoms, as well as raise awareness about the book bannings and challenges that continue to occur in libraries, schools and communities every year. As this week is also "reading week" at my university, I'll repeat an earlier comment I made during Banned Books Week last fall: what better time to pick up an issue of Sarah Ocker's Twenty Boy Summer , Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, or Jeff Smith's Bone.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Arkki - School of Architecture for Children and Youth

When I was a little kid I was certain I wanted to be an architect when I grew up. I was a Lego maniac and spent summers building forts, dams and lean-to's. My favourite book was House By Mouse, and my sketchbooks were filled with rudimentary floor plans (seriously). My parents thought that all this was very cute and precocious. But had I grown up in contemporary Finland, I apparently would have been surrounded by like-minded tikes. Perhaps I would have even been lucky enough to enroll at this amazing place:

Arkkitoiminta from Misty Friday Films on Vimeo.

Thank you to Ian Chia for sharing the link & info about this fascinating, almost magical initiative. I love how seriously it takes what is clearly a shared interest/practice (leisure? aspirational? pre-profesionnal?) among kids and youth. I'm extremely impressed.

These days, I've actually been spending a lot more time thinking about "buildings" (in kids' crafting, art, model building, make believe, play) and built environments, and how these do (or may) function as conduits for kids' creativity and play. I'm working on a paper/collaborative project with a colleague that centers on construction kits and play, with lingering questions about structure/agency, tactics/strategies, learning outcomes versus (or perhaps and) situated playfulness. I'm hoping this project will help in my own thinking about UGC games, affordances, creativity and constraints, and how and where play fits into the mix. Seeing what Arkki is up to just drives home how much other people have already thought about these things...just not necessarily in the same contexts or to the same ends (or conclusions, for that matter).

The video (above) description puts a lot of emphasis on play and discovery - I'm interested in seeing how this interacts with the carefully guided projects Arkki has the kids complete. Words like play and exploration are used a lot in the education literature I've come across, but I'm not always convinced that they mean what they say they mean. I can't seem to get over the possibility that there's oftentimes some lost nuance in these discussions, a lack of distinction (or at least thinking through the differences) between "play" and playfulness, wherein playfulness would describe a reflexive engagement with the rules/structure of the game or system (or pedagogy?). Anyway - now the task becomes to hunt down more literature, either on Arkki itself or figure out what theories/research their approach is based on.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Kids Love Reading and Libraries

[Note: I'm running 3 blogs right now including this one, and as a result have been spreading myself - and my posts - a bit thin. I've therefore decided to repost the following, which I originally wrote for one of my course blogs (which you can access directly here). Since my analytics tell me very few of my readers are actually reading both blogs, I'm hoping that this will be useful, rather than redundant!]

A new study just came out on kids' reading habits (in the context of total media use/consumption) that will likely be of interest...keeping in mind that the research was commissioned by the Association of Booksellers for Children (#Considerthesource). First piece of interesting data is the first table of the article, which lists books as the most important media for children under 6 years. Though I should note that I think it's especially important to consider how the research design might be affecting the results here - the respondents for this survey were limited to adults who purchase media for children, with the one exception being the questions/answers asked about teens (for which actual teens responded). So, we might reword this as: according to parents, books are the most important media for preschool kids:
©2011 Bowker/PubTrack

Another gem is in the findings on where children get their books. You'll see that libraries figure prominently, both school and public. Interestingly, the data analysis doesn't pay much attention to the influence of librarians on children's book decisions. On the other hand, they report that "Librarians affected 24% of YA reading decisions, bookstores not so much."

©2011 Bowker/PubTrack

And in terms of series books - the source of much controversy among librarians/teachers/parents over the past several years - it may come as no surprise that when it comes to what influences teens most when it comes to selecting or buying a new book to read, the fact that the book was a sequel or the next book in a series was the primary motivation in about 61% of cases:

©2011 Bowker/PubTrack

You'll notice that "Award sticker" - though near the bottom, still figures in about 14% of the time. Lots of other useful stats in the survey - such as "women buy nearly 70% of kids' books and most purchasers fit solidly in the middle class both in terms of income and education." 

For more info, be sure to check out the original article in Publisher's Weekly.