Welcome to what I hope will be a series of interesting insights with respect to reading from the point of view of school librarians from across the globe. Over the next few postings, and as they are received, I will be introducing you to various school librarians in order to get their perspective on the wonderful world of reading and how they view this past-time in conjunction with the educational system of the country they live in and what tips they feel are important in getting children to enjoy and develop a love for reading.
Today's posting is from a recent interview I held with my colleague and school librarian at San Anton School, Malta - Mr. Noel Tanti.
How long have you been a librarian? Why did you choose this career?
This is my seventeenth year working as a school librarian. I’ve always been passionate about reading and, funnily enough, about keeping books in order. I used to keep my childhood collection neatly stacked and in alphabetical order. I guess it just stuck.
Where you always a librarian at San Anton School?
What is your role in the educational system as a librarian?
Nowadays there is no shortage of information. The days when the family encyclopedia was the main and sole source of information are gone. One can access practically everything with just a few taps on a smartphone. However this does not mean that all the information is equally valid. This is where the librarian comes in. One of his/her roles is to nurture a critical mindset that enables library users to sift through the chaff and get to the meaningful information.
How important do you feel that a librarian and teacher work together to enhance students’ education?
A school librarian and a teacher are part of a larger institution and it is vital that the two work in tandem. Each brings a different area of expertise to the educational field which, when combined effectively, work symbiotically for the ultimate benefit the student.
How do you personally work with teachers to enhance students’ enjoyment of visiting a library?
Unfortunately, as students get older, the academic load starts eating away at their reading time. Which is why, in conjunction with teachers, I have regular sessions with students during which I speak to them about authors whom they might not be familiar with but who would offer an exciting and somewhat different read.
How important do you feel it is that students take time to visit a library?
Ideally, students wouldn’t need to visit a library at all. Ideally, all their needs would be met without having to travel back and forth, looking for ulterior information and/or material. However, as we all know, this is never the case. Therefore it is of paramount importance for a library to be accessible and welcoming to students so that their experience will be as hassle-free and enjoyable as possible.
How important do you feel it is that students take time to read?
It is essential that students (well, everyone really) are exposed to reading, especially stories. Our entire existence is based on stories, irrespective of whether they’re real or not, and the more we are exposed to different kinds of stories, different scenarios, different characters and different points of view, the richer we become. Reading is one way of experiencing extraordinary events within the safe confines of a story.
How do you encourage students or children to read and enjoy doing so?
I tell them to go for what they like. Everybody has something that he/she likes, whether it’s a hobby or an interest, and it’s natural that one reads about it. This does not mean that students don’t need guidance – but one must distinguish between structured reading and leisure reading.
What technologies do you feel are important in helping children remain enthusiastic and interested in reading?
I have one rule for this: whatever works. Tablets, smartphones, laptops, the sides of a cereal box. It doesn’t matter. Reading is reading, whatever form it takes.
Do you have any tips that students should keep in mind when they visit a library?
It is very important that students are respectful of each other in a library. Different people visit libraries for different reasons and it’s always a good idea to be extra aware of this and err on the side of caution.
Have you written or published any material for children to read? If so, could you let our readers know and where someone could obtain a copy. Please provide any links that may be relevant.
I published a picture book in Maltese called Fil-Kamra ta’ Jonas. It’s about this boy who is being rather petulant with his mum and refuses to go to bed. Things take a weird turn once he makes it to his room and finds himself re-living the same ten minutes of his life over and over again. Fil-Kamra ta’ Jonas, illustrated by Matthew Stroud, is published by Merlin Publishers and it can be found in all major bookshops and stationers. (Also online here: Fil-Kamra ta' Jonas)
Can you name some books that you would currently recommend to students to read and why?
I love Marcus Sedgwick’s The Raven Mysteries series. The stories are quirky and funny, with some of the most charmingly bonkers characters I have come across. The books are quirky and funny with some amazing illustrations to boot.
If one of our readers wished to get in touch with you, how may they do so?