A report by Georgeta Maierean, Sponsored conference attendee
The theme for this year was Diversity, Empathy and Well-Being: Libraries as places of nurture. I work in Brent Libraries as a Customer Libraries Assistant. Brent is one of the most diverse boroughs in the UK and to work in such a diverse area you need a better understanding of all communities. Attending ASCEL conference was a great opportunity to expand my knowledge, improve book selection and to have a better understanding about diversity, empathy and well-being.
The key topics discussed and explored during the conference were:
- Young People and mental health
- Issues, challenges and solution for local authorities
- Child carers and dealing with addiction
- Educating children at home
- Supporting the education of children in hospital
- Storytellers in hospitals, Readathon and the work of Read for Good
- Representation in children’s books
- Diversity role models
Highlights from the two day conference included:
First speaker was Alison David, Consumer Insight Director Egmont Publishing. She talked about Stories and Choices and she stressed during her presentation the importance of reading for pleasure. Getting the children engaged with reading will increase their confidence, encourage language development and improve their life chances. Her advice was to encourage children to read for pleasure any book they like and later on they will get into the habit of reading. Her book ‘Help Your Child Love Reading ‘is a relevant resource for parents in terms of understanding the importance of reading and empathy.
Also speaking was Pat Sowa, Managing Director of Starfish Mental Wellbeing Education. She was a keynote speaker who has dedicated herself to raising awareness, building understanding and inspiring action to improve mental health education since she lost her son, Dom, age 17. She is also an Ambassador for Papyrus, the young suicide prevention charity. The information delivered were very useful in terms of handling possible situations with young adults in the library and the importance of library staff training on this issue.
The day continued with Anna -Sophie Harling, Managing Director for Europe, NewsGuard. The platform provides credible, independent ratings of all the news and information websites that comprise 90+ percent of online engagement in each country. Libraries can use NewsGuard as a new literacy tool and research reference. It can be a useful tool to fight fake news.
The next speaker was Jane Elson Author & Piers Henriques, National Association for Children of Alcoholics (NACOA). She talked about Child carers and dealing with addiction. Her book ‘Will you catch me?’ tells Nell’s story, a child affected by her mothers drinking. The book is a good recommendation to children who feel different, excluded and vulnerable. I used it as a resource for Class visits (KS2 Year4, 5 and 6.) and its is a good recommendation for children.
The day ended with dynamic Nigerian rap artist Breis. His performance was full of energy and his lyrics were witty and full of uplifting, funny and authentic. I will use his book of rhymes Brilliant Rappers Educate Intelligent Students for class visit sessions discussing topics like ‘Identity’, ‘Inspiration’, ‘Believing in yourself ‘.
Day two started with Elizabeth Wright’s presentation, a Paralympic medallist and co-founder Resilience Wellbeing Success.
Stephen Deadman from National Association for Hospital Education had a speech for how important it is supporting the education of children in hospitals. Teaching takes place in hospitals, inpatient CAMHS units, at home and on 80- place alternative provision secondary school.
The next speaker was Justine Daniels CEO Read for Good. Read for Good encourages children to read through their sponsored Readathon in schools, which help them provide books for school libraries, and books and storytellers for children in hospital throughout the UK.
The Diversity, Empathy and Well –Being – Representation in Children’s Books PAnel discussion. Part of the panel were authors Sufiya Ahmed, (Chair), Savita Kalhan and Mel Darbon, Aimee Felone from Knights Of publishers, Jon Biddle, teacher and Empathy Lab Expert Advisor.
1. Apps for Diversity, Empathy and Well-Being
The workshop was delivered by Bev Humphrey, Literacy & Technology Consultant. She firmly believes that the world of apps and digital media can be used to enhance children’s reading experiences but will never take the place of books.
2. Reaching parents and helping them understand empathy
The workshop was delivered by Jon Biddle, Teacher and Empathy Lab Member. Empathy it is a skill we can learn. The research shows that books are a powerful tool to develop it, because in identifying with book characters, children can see things from other points of view. When the parents read with their children, they can build their empathy skills at the same time.
The Book Exhibition
During the ASCEL conference I visited The Book Exhibition – an opportunity for me to improve my stock knowledge and take more recommendations for class visits: from picture books like ‘Look Up!’ by Nathan Bryon and Dapo Adeola to Teens books like ‘The Burning’ by Laura Bates. The books presented reflected diversity and empathy and also supports inclusion.
Attending the ASCEL Conference helped me to learn more about diversity which in turn will help me improve stock selection in order to ensure better representation of CYP. It gave me also a better understanding about diversity, empathy and well -being.
As a result of my learnings I presented my knowledge from the conference to my colleagues at CYP Team Library meetings, I provided a report for staff circulation and developed a book list of recommended CYP books for diversity, inclusion and representation as resource for frontline staff. I also developed a range of learning activities that support diversity, inclusion, empathy for class visits, holiday activities and also Under 5’s.
The full report can be found on the ASCEL website for members
See past year’s conference themes.