Monday, 30 January 2017

International Book Giving Day Coming Soon!

It’s almost here!
International Book Giving Day is the same day as Valentines Day, Feb 14! 
What does this mean?
Spreading the love of books to children everywhere!
It’s such a wonderful idea I decided to jump onboard and join in the giveaways this year.
I’m trying a lot of new things this year. I started my email list, (finally), now have to start writing my first newsletter. So exciting. 🙂
I even joined the scary world of the twittersphere. (Wish me luck on that one, I’m a bit nervous about that).
One thing I am really excited about though is joining my author friends from all over the world to bring to you the chance to win free copies of all our gorgeous children’s books. This is your chance to get books into the hands of children you love and read aloud with them some fabulous new stories. Sharing the love of books and reading on Valentines Day, has to be a great idea, don’t you agree?
International Book Giving Day is a day devoted to instilling a lifelong love of reading in children and providing access to books for children in need. It falls each year on Valentines Day and what better way to say I love you than by giving your loved ones something they can enjoy reading over and over again. What better way to tell our children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews we love them than with the gift of a book!
Books are a small gift that can last a lifetime and make a huge impact! You could inspire a future author, a journalist, a scientist, the possibilities are endless. Never underestimate the power of giving a book, you never know where the imagination and creativity may lead.
So, now you know what Book Giving Day is all about and you love the idea too! What do you do next?
  • You can take a loved one to the library and share a book with them.
  • Read aloud at home with a special someone, maybe even a neighbour’s child
  • Donate a much loved old children’s book to a family, charity or hospital in need.
  • Visit a bookstore and buy a book for someone you love.
  • or you can join our giveaway.
I am so pleased and excited to be sharing in my first giveaway with some of my special author friends in this Book Giveaway Extravaganza! In total there will be 14 signed copies of our books as well as ebooks all ready to giveaway with love especially to you. The Giveaway starts Wednesday 1st February and runs through to 15th February 2017.
Marianne Dubuc – creator of the 2017’s official poster – has also created these beautiful bookmarks. Print one out and add to your book when you give it to someone you love. Don’t forget to write a few special words of love in the inside front cover. The receiver will love and treasure it.
Join the Giveaway – entries open 1st Feb 17
For more information on how to enter for your chance to win see the details below.

Terms and conditions: There is NO purchase necessary to enter or win. Winners will be randomly drawn through the Rafflecopter widget within 48 hours and notified by email once the giveaway ends. The winners will then have 72 hours to respond. If the winner(s) do not respond within 72 hours, a new winner(s) will be chosen. This giveaway is open to all who live in and outside of the US. However, as there are several sponsors of this giveaway who live both domestic and international. Print books are available only for domestic country of author origin; ebooks offered outside author’s country of origin at their discretion.
Now you know how I plan to spread the love on Valentines Day, how about you?
Let me know in the comments below.

Friday, 27 January 2017

How to Make a Magical Fairy House for Your Garden

Do you have fairies at the bottom of your garden?
Do the fairies help clean your house? Pick up after the kids?  Or perhaps hide the odd sock or two? 
Have you ever thought about building a house for the fairies in your garden?
A few weeks back I began to embark on a new project for our garden. Little did I know at the time that it would become a joint project between my husband and myself. He became so excited about my little project that he almost took over and before I knew it, my little magical fairy house was an enormous family project bigger than “Ben Her!”
My advice before you start, plan your strategy wisely. If you want to build something as grand as ours then be my guest and follow my instructions. You can always choose to simplify it and build a fairy house with not quite as much decoration. Whatever you decide, it will still be magical and delight all who set eyes on it. That is, friends, neighbours, and family with imagination. But be warned- be prepared to put in quite a lot of time! It is worth it in the end and we did have a lot of fun and laughs along the way. So worth every minute. It is a great way to spend quality time together and after all, shouldn’t everyone have a little magic at the bottom of their garden?
Note: Most of the materials we used were gathered from around our house. So the fairy house was made at very minimal cost.
Step One: Select a suitable plastic container of a size you would like the basic structure to be. We chose an old bucket that had a split in the bottom, useless for water now, but ideal for a fairy house. Use a felt tip pen to draw a plan on the bucket then cut out the windows and door.
Step Two: Cover the bucket with a collection of flat stones. River stones work well, we collected ours from the beach. (It was a great excuse for a day out at the beach by the way.) They are in a variety of sizes, shapes and colours. You can use craft glue to stick them on however this takes awhile to dry and they tend to slide if you don’t hold them long enough. I found the best tool was a hot glue gun, just be careful not to burn your fingers while manipulating the smaller stones. I admit I had a few blisters!
Step Three: We added an entryway. This is an additional feature of our choice. You can choose to leave off and keep things simple. My husband screwed timber walls to the bucket before adding the roof.
Step Four: Add a roof to your fairy house. Again we used left over timber from the construction of our house. We are lucky to be owner builders so have plenty of material available. We then added packing timber to the roof and spray painted it dark grey to look like shingles.
Step Five: The walls of the entryway are made from paddle pop sticks to resemble timber. I painted them brown.
Step Six: We added a door with a miniature hinge to be able to open and close it.
Step Seven: Cover the windows to help make the inside weather and spider proof with plastic. The plastic is glued on from the inside.
Step Eight: Add any desired additional ornaments. In our case we added a weather vein, spray painted gold. A crooked pipe chimney and a silver satellite dish. To complete the look I added tiny flowers under some of the windows to give the illusion that the fairies had planted their own garden and sprinkled gold fairy dust across the roof. We also found some tiny items from a model ship we had never found the time to construct, so added the lantern, windows and shields. It is amazing what you can find around the house to use to decorate if you have a bit of a rummage. 
Step Nine:  Make sure it is sealed from the weather by spraying completely with a varnish.
Step Ten: Add a couple of fairies, select a position in your garden and enjoy the delight on visitors faces.
Here is the finished magical fairy house in our selected spot under our Chinese Elm near my bird house and emu statues. One day I will have the rest of the garden completed around it and hopefully it will be filled with lots of fairies including some of the blue fairy wrens that currently nest in the garden near my kitchen. Perhaps when there are enough small shrubs in this garden they will feel safe to move across.
Do you have a spot to put a fairy house in your garden?
If you build one, send me a photo and I’ll add it below. Maybe we could start a collection.
I’m thinking about writing a story about an Aussie fairy family. If you would like to hear more or have any ideas, join me in my awesome readers newsletter group. I’d love to discuss any idea you might suggest.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

How to Bring Diversity to the Classroom.

As we approach Australia Day, a day where we celebrate all things fabulous about being Australian. It is also a time to reflect on our beginnings. Where have we all come from? Over the years we have grown into a melting pot of so many wonderful cultures from across the globe that we truly are a multicultural society.
I remember back in my university days some 30 odd years ago how the importance of multiculturalism in the classroom was emphasised. Since that time, we have only grown more diverse than ever, making it even more important to celebrate our differences and our similarities.
Over my years as a teacher, I was fortunate to be able to teach in several schools with great diversity. My first being an International school in Thailand, the second, a Primary school here in Canberra. As an ESL/LOTE teacher I have been fortunate to work with some absolutely fantastic kids from all corners of the world and been involved in the planning and preparation of several Multicultural or Harmony Days at school.
When the classroom is filled with a diverse range of students it is exciting to bring in their backgrounds as part of their education. One of the things you can do to begin a classroom discussion is to start with a take-home survey.
For example: As we live in Canberra I titled this – My Canberra Survey.
1. Name
2. Age group (circle) 18-25 26-40 41-55 56+ (Note: This survey is for an adult to complete, you can alter to include the kids in the class)
3. Where were you born? Country
4. What year did you move to Canberra?
5. Why did you and your family move to Canberra?
6. What do you like about living in Canberra?
7. What do you think makes Canberra unique and why?
8. What do you think is special about living in Canberra?
Once the class has collected the information you can –
1. Set up a class graph to see where in the world they have all come from.
2. Graph how long each family has lived here?
3. List all the reasons people like living here.
4. Compare/contrast similarities and differences.
This leads into organising a Multicultural Day.
1. Invite parents into the classroom to read stories from their country of origin.
2. Talk about their favourite places and memories of their birth country.
3. Share information on bulletin boards/project sheets about each country. Maps, climate, population, national dress, customs etc
4. Dress up in National costume.
5. Have a Multicultural Feast!
6. If you would rather spread the classroom diversity throughout the year rather than one special day, I suggest cooking a dish from each country once a week. If this is too difficult, ask a parent to supply a traditional dish to share with the class once a week instead.

I remember my first Multicultural Day Feast in Thailand. It was a magnificent day full of so many special experiences, laughs and wonder. I did learn one important thing about living in Thailand though. I tried to make lamingtons for the Australian tables food selection. They were not so successful. I discovered it was almost impossible to buy desiccated coconut in Pattaya and bought shredded coconut instead. My lamingtons tasted great, but did not look quite as good as I had hoped. Turns out shredded coconut soakes up chocolate. Who would have thought?
A few years later I had the chance to redeem myself while teaching back home in Canberra. As the ESL/LOTE teacher I was teaching Indonesian at the time so wore my Indonesian traditional dress and cooked a wok full of Nasi Goreng, much more successful. Lesson learnt, stick to savoury dishes!
Copyright Sandra Bennett and Dianna Budd
Now if I were still teaching I have the perfect Australian picture book to bring to the table. Emma the Eager Emu is a different kind of bird to all the other birds at flying school. At first she doesn’t like the fact that she is different, but with the help of her friends, Emma learns to embrace those special qualities that make her stand out from the rest. It is a wonderful book to help teach children the importance of their similarities and the uniqueness of their differences. A classroom discussion can follow the reading including the diversity in birds as well as humans and ways in which we can celebrate those special different qualities in us all. Children can then make their own books titled “I am different, I am the same.”

How are you planning on celebrating your cultural diversity in your classroom? Leave a comment below. I’d love to know.