TIME-POOR teachers are preparing to digest a year's worth of books in two hours next week as the number of specialist school librarians drop.
It comes as a Bendigo author makes it onto a coveted children's literature short list with the power to drive sales to schools across the country, La Trobe University children's literature expert Sarah Mayor Cox said.
Lorraine Marwood's Leave Taking is one of 36 books to make the Children's Book Council Of Australia's book of the year shortlist for 2019.
Judges will come to Bendigo next week to give their insights into Australian books that made the cut and why they were chosen.
Time-poor teachers juggling busy curriculums increasingly look to the list for guidance, Ms Mayor Cox said.
The list has become more important in the past 15 years as highly trained teacher librarians disappear into retirement only to be replaced by cheaper but less knowledgeable library technicians, she said.
Short list judge Amanda Cooper said it was one thing to have a person capable of cataloging books, another to have a trained teacher running library sessions or immersing children in literature through class activities.
"This is just my opinion, but if you want children to be able to read and comprehend really well, they need to be immersed in a really rich environment where literature is valued," she said.
"There's lots of ways to do that but having a school librarian is one of them who has books their classroom teacher may not even know exist."
Teachers' increasingly large workloads took time away from researching the best book for the right child, Ms Mayor Cox said.
Politicians were partly to blame for the slow decline of the teacher librarian, especially those leaders who did not value children's ability to question the world around them, she said.
"If you question the status quo people might be thrown out of politics," Ms Mayor Cox said.
"But also, schools just aren't funded in the way they used to be, where you would have a teacher librarian, a sports specialist and others properly qualified for arts and music.
Schools now had to choose where funding would be used and books were not cheap to buy, Ms Mayor Cox said.
That made the two hours short list judges would spend at a workshop in Bendigo next week all the more important.
"The judges (of Lorraine Marwood's) section felt the emotional nature of that book (Leave Taking) just drew the reader in," Ms Cooper said.
The book follows Toby, his mother and father as they say goodbye to the family farm after the death of his sister, Leah, due to cancer.
Together, they sort out their belongings and decide what the throw out or keep. Toby does not want to leave.
The work of fiction was shaped by Ms Marwood's own experiences of cancer treatment and of leaving her own property and targeted children aged seven to 12.
"I don't want to give away too much of the story, but Toby finds a way to navigate his grief," she said.
"Children aren't immune from grief or tragedy. So I hope it's a great novel to read and share. There are also definite glimpses of farm life and humour, to lighten it as well."
Ms Marwood has also just become the joint winner of the NSW Premier's Literary Awards' Patricia Wrightson Prize for Children's Literature.
The 2019 Bendigo Annual CBA/ALEA Book of the Year Judge's Talk takes place on Wenesday 15 May at the La Trobe University Visual Arts Institute in View Street. For more information click here.
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