UWA Publishing has helped take Australian poetry into the world. Its closure would be catastrophic for poets



Some of the many poetry books published in recent years by UWA Publishing.
UWA/Shutterstock

John Kinsella, Curtin University

I start with a disclaimer: I am a UWA Publishing poet. I have published a book of poetry with them (as well as a novel), and have two books forthcoming with them in 2020 — The Weave, a collection of poetry co-written with Thurston Moore, and an edited and introduced volume, The Collected Poems of C.J. Brennan, the great, Sydney-dwelling, symbolist poet (1870-1932).

Now, with UWAP on the verge of being shut down, partly through what I and many others see as a misguided sense of what constitutes an interface between universities and the broader public, the fate of these books is unclear.

The University of Western Australia has proposed that “UWA Publishing operations, in their current form, come to an end” to be replaced by an open-source digital publishing model. The jobs of its employees and director Terri-ann White would likely be “surplus to requirements”. In a statement released late last week it said

Current publishing works already in train this year and next year are expected to continue, as will consultation on innovation that will assist UWA Publishing to adapt to the demands of modern publishing, with options to examine a mix of print, greater digitisation and open access publishing.

But even if contracted books are published, the closure of this publisher would be catastrophic for Australian poetry. It would be as if those books didn’t exist as something connected to a future vision of writing with purpose and community. It’s a way of killing a humanistic, inter-cultural conversation. It ignores the people who do so much to make these conversations happen.

Many voices

UWAP, especially since 2016, publishes many poetry books a year — a very unusual act of creative support and belief. Its dynamic list includes such essential voices as Ania Walwicz, Candy Royalle, Peter Rose, Quinn Eades, Kate Lilley, David McCooey, and so many other voices of the now, along with collected and selected “greats” like Francis Webb, Lesbia Harford, and Dorothy Hewett.

Yes, I speak here from the inside, as an author. Yet I also speak from the outside as a reader of poetry, and with the incredible feeling of loss I get as a reader, at this ill-thought out proposal.

UWAP publishes many “big name” writers and scholars, but also many marginalised voices and/or voices that might find it hard to publish through purely market-driven publishing houses. It is part of the country’s literary and scholarly collective conscience.

Poetry is an active ingredient of social justice not only in what it can say and talk about, but in the way that it places language under pressure, and questions how expression is used in general discourse, and why. Words of oppression are so easily accepted — poetry questions the uses and “deployment” of language.

UWAP, under Terri-ann White, is part of a clutch of poetry publishers in Australia — and there are not many — who make a commitment to poetry beyond the canonical, and with a strong sense of the need to enact this scrutiny of language. What is said in poetry is seen to matter, and I believe it does.

I will never forget speaking to the late Fay Zwicky in 2017, in her last weeks, about her forthcoming Collected Poems (UWAP, edited by Lucy Dougan and Tim Dolin) and her discussion of proofs and the book itself. A life’s work — one of the great bodies of poetry produced in Australia.

Zwicky had published volumes of poetry with other vital publishers in the Australia poetry community, University of Queensland Press and Giramondo. And then the collation of a life’s work — a big project that required so much attention and goodwill. It was clearly necessary, if not essential, to her.

One of the many titles on the UWAP list that had a remarkable effect on so many readers, and which I noted in the Australian Book Review’s 2018 Books of the Year feature, was a collation of Lisa Bellear’s poetry — Aboriginal Country. As I said then, “the emphatic, committed voice of this remarkable Goernpil woman, feminist, poet, photographer, and activist shines through.” Not to have had access to Bellear’s work is unimaginable now we have encountered it gathered in this way.

There is huge engagement in seeing such a work through to press. It was edited (by Jen Jewel Brown), supported and seen onto the shelves via UWAP. An act of belief and support, among many such acts in a given year; all necessary.

Vitally, UWAP’s poetry list effectively manages that seemingly complex interaction between local work and that from the rest of the country. It seems too often assumed that a WA publisher will necessarily only publish WA work. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am a total believer in local publishing, but there’s also a strong necessity for a publisher that brings many localities together, as Magabala Books in Broome does with Australian Aboriginal writing.

UWAP publishes poets (and writers in general) from all over the country, and brings in some overseas titles as well. Terri-ann White actively takes her lists to readers and publishers outside Australia, and is an energetic and steadfast voice in international publishing for her authors, and for Australian and world literature.

To close UWAP would be a damaging of shared difference, of making community and discussion out of diverse voices.

While I have had the good fortune over the years to publish with some of the major poetry houses around the English-speaking world, I am especially proud and excited when a book of mine is selected for the UWAP list.

Shutting down UWAP would sever many ties and disrupt many conversations just begun, or prevent other conversations, especially of conscience, ever taking place.The Conversation

John Kinsella, Professor of Literature and Environment, Curtin University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Reading is more than sounding out words and decoding. That’s why we use the whole language approach to teaching it



Words can say different things depending on their context.
Annie Spratt/Unsplash

Katina Zammit, Western Sydney University

When I was younger I decided to learn Greek. I learnt the letter-sound correspondences and could say the words – the sounds, that is. But although I could and still can decode these words, I can’t actually read Greek because I don’t know what the words mean.

Being able to make the connection between the letters, their combinations and the sounds that make up the words wasn’t all I needed to be able to read. It was an easy way to learn but it didn’t provide me with the whole picture.

As we read, and understand what we are reading, we don’t just use our knowledge of the letter-sound correspondences, which you may know as phonics or phonemic awareness, we also use other cues. These include our knowledge of the topic, the meaning of words in the context of the topic, and the flow and sequence of the words in a sentence.

Good readers use a full repertoire of skills, each dependent on the other. And a whole language approach to teaching reading is about arming new readers with this repertoire.

What is the whole language approach?

A whole language approach to teaching reading was introduced into primary schools in the late 1970s. There have been many developments in this area since, so the approach has been adapted and today looks quite different from 40 years ago.

To begin with, let’s dispel some myths about a whole language approach to teaching reading. It is not learning to read individual words by sight. Nor is it learning a list of vocabulary only.

A whole language approach to teaching reading is not opposed to teaching the correspondence of a letter or letters to sounds to help sound out unfamiliar words. Nor is it opposed to learning how to blend sounds together to decode a word by using the first letter/s of a word, the end of the word and the letter/s in the middle.




Read more:
Reading progress is falling between year 5 and 7, especially for advantaged students: 5 charts


But just knowing sounds is not the same as knowing how to read. In 2000, the US National Reading Panel’s analysis of scientific literature on teaching children to read found systematic phonics instruction (teaching sounds and blending them together) should be integrated with other reading instruction to create a balanced reading program.

The panel determined that phonics instruction should not be a total reading program, nor should it be a dominant component.

It’s all Greek to me if I don’t know what the words mean.
from shutterstock.com

In 2011, the UK introduced a mandatory phonics screening check, for year 1 students, to address the decline in literacy achievement in the middle years of school. Children were prepared for the test using a government-approved synthetic phonics program. But in 2019 around 25% of year 6 students failed to reach the minimum requirements in reading.




Read more:
The Coalition’s $10 million for Year 1 phonics checks would be wasted money


Australia’s own national inquiry into teaching literacy noted the same conclusions as the US national reading panel.

This view aligns with the whole language approach in the 21st century, which advocates a balanced way of teaching reading in the early years. This includes:

  • explicit teaching of decoding skills (how to break up a word to work out how it is pronounced)
  • connecting the decoding of word/s to their meaning
  • learning to read frequently used words that can’t be sounded out or broken up into different sounds (the, were)
  • learning the meaning of new words from the context they are in (looking at the words before and after and at what the sentence is about)
  • understanding what the text being read is about (literally and interpretively)
  • building a wide vocabulary
  • understanding how images and words work together
  • promoting a love of the English language and an interest in reading.

Let’s not put kids off reading

The whole language approach provides children learning to read with more than one way to work out unfamiliar words. They can begin with decoding – breaking the word into its parts and trying to sound them out and then blend them together. This may or may not work.

They can also look at where the word is in the sentence and consider what word most likely would come next based on what they have read so far. They can look beyond the word to see if the rest of the sentence can assist to decode the word and pronounce it.

We do not read texts one word at a time. We make best guesses as we read and learn to read. We learn from our errors. Sometimes these errors are not that significant – does it matter if I read Sydenham as “SID-EN-HAM” or “SID-N-AM”? Perhaps not.

Does it matter that I can decode the word “wind” but don’t pronounce the two differently in “the wind was too strong to wind the sail”? Yes, it probably does.

Teaching children to read or to see reading with a focus on phonics and phonemic awareness gives them the illusion “proper” reading is mere decoding and blending. In fact, it has been argued this can put children off reading when entering school. While some gain may occur in the first years, over time achievement deteriorates for children in high-performing and low-performing schools.




Read more:
Enjoyment of reading, not mechanics of reading, can improve literacy for boys


A whole language approach doesn’t argue against the importance of phonemic awareness. But it acknowledges it is not all that should be included in reading instruction.

It is important to assess children’s reading from the beginning of schooling and continually determine how they are progressing. Teachers can then select specific strategies to improve individual children’s reading competence and increase their skills to build fluent and confident readers.

A whole language approach to teaching reading advocates for teaching phonics and phonemic awareness in the context of real texts – that use the richness of the English language – not artificial, highly constructed texts. However, it also acknowledges this is not sufficient. Being able to decode the written word is essential, but it isn’t enough to set up a child to be a competent reader and to be successful during and after school.


Read the accompanying article on teaching to read using explicit phonics instruction here.The Conversation

Katina Zammit, Deputy Dean, School of Education, Western Sydney University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The open access shift at UWA Publishing is an experiment doomed to fail



Open access publishing enables free and easy dissemination of work, but this does not meant that it engages with literary culture. Titles are isolated from bookshops, reviews, and cultural conversations.
Photo by Fred Kearney on Unsplash, CC BY-SA

Emmett Stinson, Deakin University

There has been no shortage of bad news for Australia’s literary and publishing sector in the last year. Major literary journals Island and Overland have been defunded. Only 2.7% of Australia Council funding went to books and writing. The Chair in Australian Literature at University of Sydney is not being renewed.

Two major projects by literary academics were recommended for funding by the Australian Research Council’s peer-review process in 2018, but were rejected by ministerial discretion. Melbourne University Publishing’s CEO, Louise Adler, resigned after the university asked for a change in editorial direction.

And now University of Western Australia has announced dramatic changes to its highly-decorated press, University of Western Australia Publishing. These changes involve not renewing the contract of Director Terri-ann White, deemed “surplus to requirements”, and an end to current publishing activities.

It would be hard to blame writers and literary academics for feeling paranoid. Just because you’re paranoid, it doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.

A decline in literary publishing

In 2006, Mark Davis published The Decline of the Literary Paradigm in Australian Publishing.

He argued that between WWII and the 1990s, Australian publishers embraced their role in shaping national culture by subsidising unprofitable literary works with profits from more commercial titles. But by the 2000s, publishers had become neoliberal organisations that sought to maximise profits rather than support literary culture.

We are now seeing this same logic applied by universities.

Universities are increasingly focused on metrics driving enrolments, international rankings and research excellence. This, in turn, supports government funding and research grant income. Universities increasingly prioritise these metrics over cultural contributions that are harder to quantify.




Read more:
Why Australia needs a new model for universities


A statement released by UWA claims the changes will help “to guarantee modern university publishing into the future”, foreshadowing “a mix of print, greater digitisation and open access publishing.”

This statement might appear to mirror recent events at Melbourne University Press last year, but these situations are very different.

A leading literary publisher

Academics had long questioned Melbourne University Press’ publication of works with commercial and political appeal but no clear scholarly or cultural value.

Professor Ronan McDonald summed up this view earlier this year when he wrote that Melbourne University Press was “a trade press irritatingly obliged to publish a few academic titles”.

Melbourne University reaffirmed its commitment to the Press by hiring a respected scholarly publisher, founding director of Monash University Publishing Nathan Hollier, with a track record of producing scholarly titles alongside prize-winning works for a general readership.

UWA Publishing, on the other hand, is one of our leading literary publishers, cultivating authors and significant titles often overlooked by commercial publishers.

It published Josephine Wilson’s Extinctions, which won the Miles Franklin Award in 2017; is one of Australia’s foremost publishers of poetry; and has published scholarly works by leading Australian humanities academics, such as John Frow, Ross Gibson, and Ken Gelder. It has also published a series of traditional Noongar stories retold by the award-winning author Kim Scott

It has always balanced commitments to scholarly publishing with a significant literary list.

Open access university presses: a failed experiment

The notion that a respected publishing house can be replaced by open access publishing is disproved by examining other Australian university presses, such as the now-closed University of Adelaide Press, founded in 2009 with a mission to be an open access publisher.




Read more:
Grief, loss, and a glimmer of hope: Josephine Wilson wins the 2017 Miles Franklin prize for Extinctions


While the press generated many interesting titles, it failed to have a cultural impact. Open access enables free and easy dissemination of work, but this does not meant that it engages with literary culture. Scholars can access works freely, but titles are isolated from bookshops, reviews, and cultural conversations.

Sydney University Press, which was relaunched in 2003 after closing in 1987, has employed a “hybrid approach” to open access. It is now returning to a more standard university publishing model, establishing a research series with dedicated editorial boards of academics, and even publishing a novel, Joshua Lobb’s The Flight of Birds, shortlisted for the Readings New Fiction Prize in 2019.

Open access has an important role to play in academic publishing, but it is laughable to claim UWA Publishing’s cultural impact can simply be replaced through open access.

Can it be saved?

There is a campaign underway to save UWA Publishing, including a petition with over 6,000 signatures.

It is hard to know at this stage if it will have any effect. It may be the publishing house is the victim of larger financial pressures currently affecting University of Western Australia.

This, of course, is the problem for the literary sector more generally: when cuts are needed, literature is always first on the chopping block.The Conversation

Emmett Stinson, Lecturer in Writing and Literature, Deakin University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Reading progress is falling between year 5 and 7, especially for advantaged students: 5 charts



Are we failing to challenge the reading
skills in advantaged students?
from shutterstock.com

Peter Goss, Grattan Institute

There is a hidden problem with reading in Australian schools. Ten years’ worth of NAPLAN data show improvements in years 3, 5 and 9. But reading progress has slowed dramatically between years 5 and 7.

And, somewhat surprisingly, the downward trend is strongest for the most advantaged students.

Years 5-7 typically include the transition from primary to secondary school. Yet the reading slowdown can’t just be blamed on this transition, because numeracy progress between the years has improved. So, what is going wrong with reading?

Reading base camp is higher each year

Progress in reading is like climbing a mountain. The better your reading skills, the higher you are. The higher you are, the further you can see. And the further you can see, the more sense you can make of the world.

Like a real mountain, the reading mountain must be tackled in stages. NAPLAN – the National Assessment Program, Literacy and Numeracy – provides insight into those stages, by measuring reading skills at years 3, 5, 7 and 9.

The good news is that the average level of reading skills of year 3 students – reading base camp – is getting higher.

To make the results easier to interpret, I’ve converted the NAPLAN data into the equivalent year level of reading achievement. For instance, in 2010, children in year 3 were reading at equivalent year level 2.6 when they sat NAPLAN. This means they were four-and-a-half months behind a benchmark set at the long-run average for metropolitan non-Indigenous students.

By 2019, the mean reading achievement among all year 3 children was equivalent to year 3.0, meeting this benchmark.

Over ten years, the improvement has been worth about five months of extra learning.



Reading progress improved in years 7-9

There is more good news in secondary school. Recent cohorts have made better progress between years 7 and 9 than earlier cohorts. My best estimate is that learning progress has increased by almost three months of learning over this two-year stage of schooling.



Students in years 3-5 haven’t made the same gains. But (if anything) they are heading in the right direction.



But progress in years 5-7 has fallen

Something is going wrong between year 5 and 7. Students are making six months less progress than they used to. It’s not that they are getting worse at reading; they just aren’t climbing as fast as previous cohorts.



This drop in reading progress can’t simply be attributed to the transition from primary to secondary. Among other things, numeracy progress during this stage of schooling has increased by about six months since 2010.

It’s as if students have started skipping a term in each of their final two years of primary school, but only in English, not in maths. And not all groups of students are affected equally.

Advantaged students are affected the most

Reading progress has slowed the most for students from advantaged backgrounds. For instance, students whose parents are senior managers make ten months less progress from year 5 to 7 than earlier cohorts.



Interestingly, the student groups with the biggest slowdown in years 5-7 have also shown the most improvement in year 5 reading.

This pattern – big gains in year 5 that evaporate by year 7 – rules out poor early reading instruction as a cause. This reading problem isn’t about phonics, but a failure to stretch students in upper primary school.

My analysis also shows:

  • the years 5-7 reading slump is happening in every state and territory
  • Queensland and Western Australia had big drops in years 5-7 reading progress in 2015, the year those two states moved year 7 from primary to secondary
  • students from English-speaking backgrounds are affected more than those who don’t speak English at home
  • neither gender nor Indigenous status affects the strength of the slowdown.

So, what is going on?

Maybe some primary school teachers focus more on helping students reach a good minimum standard of reading, and not on how far they go. This fits with the trend in year 5; no need to push hard if students are already doing well.

But it doesn’t explain the large drop in progress in Queensland and WA the year they shifted year 7 to secondary school.

Maybe schools push hard on literacy and numeracy until students have done their last NAPLAN test in that school. This would help explain the 2015 drop in reading progress for Queensland and WA, but not the divergent picture for reading and numeracy progress, including in the Queensland/WA change-over year.

Maybe students are reading less as technology becomes ubiquitous. This could explain the difference between reading and numeracy. But why would it reduce progress between years 5 and 7 but not between years 3 and 5 or 7 and 9?

Increased use of technology also fails to explain the sudden slump in Queensland and WA in 2015.

Other potential explanations need to explain the complex pattern of outcomes, including the fact the reading slowdown is so widespread even while numeracy progress is going the other way.

My best guess is that some advantaged primary schools focus on literacy and numeracy until the year 5 NAPLAN tests are done, but then switch to project-based learning, leadership or year 6 graduation projects. These “gap year” activities don’t displace maths hour (which drives numeracy progress) but may disrupt reading hour or other activities that build reading skills.

Meanwhile, disadvantaged primary schools are very aware of the need to keep building their students’ reading levels to set them up for success in secondary school.

This story is speculative, but it fits the data.

What next?

Education system leaders need to figure out what is happening in reading between years 5 and 7, and quickly. They should look closely at upper primary years, as well as the transition to secondary school. This is much more subtle than a traditional back-to-basics narrative.

In the meantime, teachers in years 5, 6 and 7 should be aware their students are making less progress than previous cohorts, and focus on extending reading capabilities for students who are already doing well. All students deserve to climb higher on their reading mountain.The Conversation

Peter Goss, School Education Program Director, Grattan Institute

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Websites and Web Applications for Book Summaries


The link below is to an article that takes a look at websites and web applications that provide book summaries.

For more visit:
https://www.makeuseof.com/tag/7-alternatives-to-sparknotes-cliffsnotes-for-book-summaries/