Leanne Heanly is the Teaching and Learning Librarian at Trinity Grammar School. In early 2018 she organised a school-based campaign inspired by the Copyright Agency’s This Book Changed My Life campaign.
1. Why did you want to get your students involved in the This Book Changed My Life campaign?
We wanted to start the conversation around reading and how books can be a powerful influence in our lives. Sometimes we don’t realise it at the time, but on reflection we can see how we can be influenced or learn something new. Above all we wanted to model how the Trinity community loves reading and encourage a love of literature among the students.
2. How can libraries support the campaign across the whole school?
We have taken on the initiative as a whole school project that included both students and staff being interviewed and filmed across the three campuses. Each of the libraries have promoted the initiative by using their ‘Think, Play, Discuss’ boards to provoke thought and conversation, and by writing ‘This Book Changed My Life’ and encouraging students and staff to write up their answers.
We also had class groups fill out a postcard for the display board which identified which book changed their life and why in six words or less. We have scaled this down for the junior and prep schools by providing them with more scaffolded questions as a class activity such as ‘which book has taught you a life lesson?’
3. What has the feedback been to the campaign from students and staff?
The feedback from staff and students has been overwhelmingly positive. We had staff come up to the display and borrow the books nominated.
The initiative reached beyond just students and staff with parents also attending the launch and commenting on what a fantastic initiative it was in encouraging their sons to read, but also modelling a love of books which will have a compounding effect on their reading behaviour.
There have also been messages of congratulations and comments over social media about the success of the campaign. I even had a parent message me to say she was ‘inspired’ and went shopping with her family the day after the website launch, where we showed a short film showcasing a collection of some of the stories, and spent $150 on books from the list of books mentioned in the film.
4. What is your school’s attitude to academic honesty and copyright?
Our school is committed to the principles of academic honesty and specifically to promoting personal integrity and excellence in teaching, learning and assessment. Students, staff and parents are aware of the expectations for academic honesty and there are clear procedures in the case of academic malpractice. In the library we run various research-based lessons which include the importance of a range of information literacy skills, correctly acknowledging sources and the consistent use of referencing styles.
5. Could this campaign idea be applied to other schools?
Any school could adopt this initiative. The stories collated are human stories about everyday people from all walks of life, with different roles, varying ages, and different backgrounds, but something that unifies them in an unassuming but profound way are the experiences found in reading books. These are conversations that can be encouraged in any school environment. It could be in the form of discussion groups or book clubs, or a similar format where students and staff are interviewed. It could also be student-led, with the filming done with an iPad or iPhone.
What I found so amazing is that everyone who we interviewed had something quite profound to say about the way they had been influenced by their chosen book. Whether it was Kobe talking about how the book Wonder taught him not to ‘take in the bad stuff’ when people bully him, or Noah who was inspired by Captain Underpants and the Attack of the Talking Toilets to write his own comic books with a friend, or our Director of Library Services who was captivated by C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and fell in love with reading, enough to influence her career path. These stories, personal and often heartfelt, can have a powerful influence on others and start the conversation around the power of literature.
6. Now that the videos and website have been set up – what further activities will take place to extend the campaign?
As the launch has only recently taken place we are just beginning with the follow-up activities. We will continue with the activities listed above which includes the postcard activity and scaffold for the junior students. We may also show the feature film during lunch in the library and invite senior students to complete the postcard and view the full stories.
We are continuing to release clips of staff and student videos over social media as well as written contributions by other members of staff which will appear on our blog over the next few weeks. Later in the year we also intend to do some more filming of students and staff and continue adding to the website.
We are currently working with English teachers to expand the wide-reading program and we are thinking of using the This Book Changed My Life list of books as a reading challenge activity for a Year 8 and 9 honours class. This may take the form of a ‘Library Bingo’ activity, where students have a list of books on a bingo card and each time they read one of the ‘Life-Changing’ books they get to stamp their card. We will give prizes for the most books read in the term.
There may be the possibility of bringing awareness to the issue of copyright to middle and senior school students by showing the feature film (shown at the launch) and also some of the clips from the Copyright Agency website, to link the two initiatives together. This could possibly be done during middle or senior school assembly with a possibility of involving a guest speaker. This may also tie in with the preparation for the All My Own Work program completed by our Year 10 students in preparation for senior school later in the year.
These are just a few ideas, but as the year unfolds I am sure there will be many more.
7. Any funny stories?
It was very amusing watching some of the very young students talking about the books that changed their lives and it reminded me never to underestimate the cognitive capacity and knowledge of the world that children possess.
John Blois (who was filming) and I shared some funny times debriefing on the different participants, but mostly we were amazed at the jaw-dropping and profound messages that were expressed, from how Marcus’ life had been changed by Timetables because of his realisation of ‘how much he didn’t know’, to Amy’s joy in reading Anne of Green Gables which gives her hope that kindness is still possible in our world. We were so privileged to be able to share in the very personal stories of This Book Changed My Life at Trinity.