Art Exhibition: Get the Picture! Contemporary Children’s Book Illustration

Over this Labor Day weekend, my family and I ventured out to the Brandywine River Museum of Art to see the exhibit Get the Picture! Contemporary Children’s Book Illustration. This exhibit featured the illustrative work of eight notable picture book illustrators: Sophie Blackall, Bryan Collier, Raúl Colón, Marla Frazee, Jon Klassen, Melissa Sweet, David Wiesner and Mo Willems. Seeing artwork from books I remember reading to my daughters and those I currently share with my students in an exhibit space, enabled me to appreciate the illustrations more fully. The collection of work curated by H. Nichols B. Clark, former director and chief curator of the Eric Carle Museum of the Picture Book Art in Amherst, Massachusetts, was a phenomenal representation of the high caliber artwork made accessible through so many of the picture books in our school library collections.

The exhibit materials were grouped by artist, which provided the perfect platform for drawing comparisons. The museum also utilized iPads for an interactive exploration of David Weisner’s illustrations. This dynamic use of technology created a hot spot for the youngest museum goers. Films made with each of the artists discussing an aspect of the creative process were streaming in the gallery, and are available through the Brandywine’s site about the exhibit. I would highly recommend using any one of these videos in conjunction with a read aloud of one of the illustrator’s books to show students how they choose various media and how artists accomplish research for specific illustrations. Check out Jon Klassen’s video which captures his process of using atypical materials to draw a dog!

Get the Picture! Exhibit

Exhibit attendees reading books by the authors featured in Get the Picture!

The lasting lesson for me from this exhibit is to keep looking critically at the books we select. There are so many new styles and techniques emerging in the books we read to students, as well as a limitless crop of new talented artists rethinking the art of stories. Barbara Elleman provides a framework for picture book art evaluation where she stresses that we actually look at picture books with a multifaceted perspective: “with the lens of an artist, the needs of a librarian, and the appetite of a child.” After viewing the exhibit and reflecting on this helpful summary of how we engage with illustration, I plan to reinvigorate our class discussions about the illustrations in books we read together. My aim will be to have my students critically think about illustrations and how they add to a story, especially through recognition and analysis of artistic techniques utilized in picture books. I know that these questions will stimulate our discussions and provide students with an opportunity to showcase their visual observations and understanding.

This is a page from the exhibit guest book which reads, "I love knuffle bunny and pigeon books."

This is a page from the exhibit guest book which reads, “I love knuffle bunny and pigeon books.”

An Answer to David Wee’s “I Have No Idea What I Am Doing…”

By CD McLean (Berkeley Preparatory School)

Background:

This post is my first in a couple of years.  They don’t have a login for me yet, so the top bit says Christina, but don’t blame her if you disagree with anything in the post! Blame me (CD McLean).  I was in a bit of a quandary about what to write in my first back to blogging post. What would be the most interesting subject? What would capture AISL librarians’ attention? I thought about doing one on collaboration as I have a big collaboration project coming up with our new personal librarian program kicking off in the upper school this school year.  Then I thought, why not go topical?  Perhaps an entry on plagiarism might be thing since we had the speech kerfuffle at the Republican National Convention; we could look at the ins and outs of plagiarism and how to examine it in the classroom.  In the end though, I fell back on the tried and true for intriguing: David Wee. As most of you are whenever he posts, I was enthralled by David Wee’s post on “I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I AM DOING…”.  And I heard his call for comments and thought, “I will answer the call.”  Also, I frequently stand in the middle of the library staring out at the students and think “I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I AM DOING…” 😎

What does it mean to be “information literate?”

 A good question, but I think perhaps the question needs to be “what does it mean to be information literate to librarians and to administrators and to department chairs? (And perhaps should we check those people to see if THEY are information literate?) Wesleyan University defines information literacy as “ a crucial skill in the pursuit of knowledge. It involves recognizing when information is needed and being able to efficiently locate, accurately evaluate, effectively use, and clearly communicate information in various formats.” However, the American Library Association (ALA) defines it as “… a set of abilities requiring individuals to “recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information.””

Student Looking for Book on Library Shelves (photo from wikimedia).

The difference between the two: the university librarians added the clear communication. What do you think of these two definitions? Are they enough? Is the added clear communication enough for your students? Or do you need something more?

A third definition comes from the Association of American School Librarians (AASL) and AASL has taken a more skills-based approach at the definition. Consequently, it is a bit more detailed. Their definition comes from their Standards for the 21st-Century Learner. While AASL does say that the definition of information literacy has become more complex as resources and technologies have changed” (meaning: Hey everybody, this is tough!”), I think that the closest they come to a definition that we can use is on the right hand side of their pamphlet where they define the skills for the 21st-century learner. 

Cover of the front page of AASL’s 21st-Century Learner Pamphlet (via AASL website).

Learners use skills, resources and tools to: 

  1. Inquire, think critically, and gain knowledge. 
  2. Draw conclusions, make informed decisions, apply knowledge to new situations, and create new knowledge. 
  3. Share knowledge and participate ethically and productively as members of our democratic society. 
  4. Pursue personal and aesthetic growth.

So, out of the three definitions, which one do you prefer? All in all, I like the AASL definition best.  IMO, it is more comprehensive. It allows for us to teach ethics (plagiarism, copyright), that the other two definitions leave out. And I really like number 4: Pursue personal and aesthetic growth.  Every year I wrack my brain for how I can help students achieve this.  This year it is my goal is to create research projects that help students pursue personal and aesthetic growth.  I’ll keep you posted.  What are your goals for the new school year related to information literacy?

What does it mean to be “college ready?”

Short bad answer: a diploma.  Real librarian answer: Well, that’s the rub, isn’t it? At several of our conferences, we have had panels of lovely college librarians tell us what they are looking for in their  college freshmen.  I think the part of the problem lies with us.  Are we passing on the information we receive?  By passing on, I mean, adding this info to our scope and sequence?  Do we go back and talk with department chairs and then redesign projects?  We are certainly not the only people responsible for making our graduates college ready, but I think we do bear responsibility for making them information literate and able to research at the college level. We are part of the team.  We need to help our team be the best it can be and part of that responsibility is passing on information about how we can redesign or look at projects differently so that our students can be better able to succeed in college. 

One group activity that we all might do is a quick survey of our own graduates and then share that information with the list (or, share it with me and I will compile it for my next post mcleacd@berkeleyprep.org put in the subject heading graduate survey).  The end goal of the task would be to take the results and then publish them in an NAIS, AASL or another publication so that we are disseminating the information discovered.  This survey is something I did with my former students. It was quick and dirty, essentially, I asked them to send me research assignments that they had been given.  I also asked them to tell me whether they felt that they had been adequately prepared by the library department.  I also asked about how they conducted their own research in college and what resources they used, if they felt there was something we should have taught them, but didn’t, if there was something that we did teach them that they were thankful for.  On the whole, they said, we did a great job on the humanities side, but we needed more upper level science writing/research assignments because that was what they were encountering in school and they didn’t know how to do it.  In particular, one graduate spoke of a free science database (the PDB) that they were using for a science research project. Because of this info, I was able to go to the Upper Division Director and ask about the state of research in the Upper Division.  The library had been off the curriculum committee for two years.  I think it is because of this that we have been reinstated for this coming school year.  If any of you remember my talk from the Tampa conference, energetic persistence is my first game plan. If that doesn’t work, then having an elephant’s memory does.  I never forget what I have asked for and I ask for it year after year until I get it.

Are colleges truly doing a good job of preparing young adults to be thoughtful and productive citizens?  

IDK.  I think it depends on the college and the student.  If that is the mission of the school, then yes, but for the majority, no.  

If no, do we continue to build PK-12 curriculum around helping students be “college ready” or do we bravely go where other schools have not?

I think this all comes back to your school’s mission statement.  Ours is that we put students into the world who make a positive difference.  So from a Berkeley Prep perspective, we are invested in making sure that our graduates have a solid character and service learning foundation.  My school has added a director of community service and she has done amazing things with our students.  Or rather, I should say, she has been able to spotlight the amazing things our students have been doing.  Our Global Scholars Program is doing more community service oriented items.  Even in the library, where we did fundraising in the past, we have kicked it up a notch and have embarked on a major community service learning project with middle division that we hope will connect with upper division in time.  Our student library proctors are leading the charge on this effort and will be mentors to the 8th graders. 

How much of my collection should be eBooks vs. print vs. databases vs. audiobooks?

OMGosh.  I have nightmares about this question.  I also have tours that come through the library with tour guides who say, “One day print…” you know how that sentence ends!  We will be renovating our library in the Spring and it will be all packed up and we will be completely electronic for at least five months, perhaps more.  So, we are facing this question of purchasing more databases for this year to use. The question being, what if we like them?  Do we keep them?  What does that do to my budget?  

A very tiny survey of Battle of the Books students from several Bay area schools showed that the majority of them preferred print books to electronic or audio, but we are still putting our money on Overdrive and audiobooks. I think this is a “If you have them, they will use them” situation. Our entire collection isn’t electronic, but it’s a slow slide.

What platforms should I use to host my eBooks and audiobooks? 

IMO whatever works for your situation. Currently, we use Overdrive for fiction and audiobooks because they have a consortium price that is amazing; they have collections for both lower and middle and upper; and when we did the original research, we liked them best.  So, most of our kids are trained on this device.  Our public libraries use this platform as well.  

How many eBook and audiobook platforms is too many?

I was going to say not more than one.  But then I realized that we have Overdrive for fiction and for reference eBooks, we have Gale, Ebsco, and so on and so on.  We also have ACLS Humanities Ebooks, which is a completely separate platform and we have onesies out in the Destiny collection from other sources.  So, in an effort not to be a hypocrite, you should have lots!

Should I have my own “library research process” like Big6 or ISP or should we be aiming to contextualize library skills/concepts/tasks into a broader framework like Design Thinking?  

Please let me know on this one.  We don’t have my own library research process.  But we are working with history to come up with one that is similar to Guided Inquiry for this year so that we can have a process that follows our scope and sequence. Lower Division has committed to Guided Inquiry.  I feel like Guided Inquiry is the closest one that will allow me to design projects that achieve that #4 skill AASL talks about (see above definition).

Is it okay to rip the DVD of our legal copy of Supersize Me so students can view it within Vialogues on our Moodle site? Guidelines don’t count. I want someone to tell me yes or no and if they’re wrong, they get fired or sued instead of me.

Look.  If people can’t even tell if there is one monkey making three faces or three monkeys making one face, then how can we really know the answer to anything? 42.  Either way, I’m not going to answer that question or David’s.

Is the return on investment for EBSCO Discovery worth it by measurably getting many more student eyeballs on my expensive database content or is it still a not-quite-ready-for-prime-time thing that everybody is excited about and signing on for until two years from now when we’ll all want to move on to something else that is still not-quite-ready-for-prime-time?

We aren’t going there…bleeding edge and all that…

I know library research skills are necessary and important for students’ future success, but how do I get teachers to believe what I believe?

Energetic persistence and an elephant’s memory (“Why, Martha, are you still doing that luau project in March?  I have just the thing for you!  If you come by tomorrow, when I have your favorite snack in my office, we can chat about it.”)

Why do we have to change libraries into “Learning Commons” rather just calling them libraries and adding/evolving the functionality and work that happens within a “library?” (Modern hospitals seem to still be called “hospitals” without the messy historical baggage associated with the fact that physicians used to use leeches to suck blood from sick people. Things change, people, move on!).  

I’m a librarian and I work in a library. End of story.

Is coffee bad for me or is it good? What about salt? Butter? I’m a librarian. If I can’t figure out what to eat or not eat, how am I supposed to teach students in a health class what sources of information are to be believed?  

Coffee good. Coffee with chicory, better! I’ll stop there. And I want coffee in the LIBRARY…;-)

MLA 8 has landed. Should I stay with MLA 7 for this year or make the jump in August?

Now you might look at my comment on bleeding edge and have bet that I would arguing sticking with MLA 7 for this year.  You would be wrong.  MLA 8 is out.  The books are out.  Whether the English department likes it or not, MLA 8 is here to stay.  One way that you can make yourself indispensable to your English department is to point out that you and your library staff has MLA 8 books and are all trained on MLA 8.  Additionally, you would be OVERJOYED  to give them all a brief primer on how to teach the new MLA 8 style to their students.  MLA 8 is not bleeding edge, it is concrete, here to stay, in your face, deal with it, change.  Be the happy, helpful librarian that those overwhelmed teachers need to help them deal with that one more thing they didn’t want to learn! 

Easybib Schools got murdered. Easybib Scholar didn’t look worth the cost difference for my school needs so we planned to migrate to NoodleTools, but now Easybibwhatever it is called now is, supposedly, free. Go or stay?

I am biased.  We have been a Noodletools house for 14 years.  In those 14 years we have had exceptional service and service that has grown from not just a works cited generator, but a research platform for students. I have gone from one or two history teachers, to a committed history department.  It connects with Google docs, allows for notecards, outlines and also allows for all of those to be printed as well.  Everything is electronic, paperless and allows for teachers to grade online, at the bank while waiting in line for a teller (which my US History teacher tells me he does). Photos can be saved, colors can be used, everything can be moved around and shifted according to the neatness or messiness of your process.  We happen to love it.  We have complaints at the beginning of the process from those complainer kids, but when it comes to the end and they put their notecards together and they see what they have and realize that their paper is all there, they are converts. Amazing converts. My answer is go.  We love it.  And it will be updated to MLA 8. 

What am I not doing that I should be doing? I don’t know what I don’t know…

You are way ahead of the game, Mr. Wee.  Because you are a seeker of knowledge, you may be in the  13.5% of people who are early adopters or you may be in the early majority, two key early adopter groups from the bell curve for the adoption of technology chart that explains the innovation adoption lifecycle.  Or we could look at the more humorous and more likely scenario of the Pencil Metaphor put out by Australian teachers.  

The Pencil Metaphor: I believe Mr. Wee is one of the Sharp Ones.

A Professional Reading List

In the board survey this spring, there was a request for more book recommendations on the blog. While it’s always fun to think about reading by the beach over the summer, it’s also when we might have more time to delve into professional books. Each year, my school requires a professional read for faculty, and while these have been fine, none have been overtly influential. I thought carefully, and mined my Goodreads shelf, and here are the five books library management/education/productivity books that have made the biggest difference in how I teach and organize the library on a day-to-day basis. They’re not new or flashy, but they have for me been “the right books in the right hands at the right time.” Perhaps they’ll do the same for you, or I’d love to hear your selections below!AISL-UCUnderstanding Comics: the Invisible Art by Scott McCloud (1993)

We do a lesson on visual analysis with the AP Lang students and show selections from McCloud’s Ted talk (https://www.ted.com/talks/scott_mccloud_on_comics?language=en). They are teens, so they immediately notice that he’s a lot older now than when he wrote this book. But then they settle down to listening to his message. I think the first graphic novel I read was Lynda Barry’s What it Is when I was in library school, and I honestly didn’t know how to parse the visuals and text. McCloud demystifies the genre, sharing its history and common conventions in graphic novel format. I’ve realized that my facility and speed with print does not translate to the visual realm, and some of my students are more adept at picking up the nuances than I am. It’s been helpful in understanding how comics work and for convincing teachers to take them seriously. As culture today becomes more and more visual, this book shares insights that translate to human psychology and marketing.AISL-TSISThey Say/I Say: The Moves that Matter in Academic Writing by Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein (2006)

I may have bought a copy of this book and read it before cataloging, at which point I may have handed it to the English department chair who immediately made it his own and included it in the AP writing curriculum. Though written by teachers at community college, there is tremendous applicability for high school writing assignments. It’s also a teeny-tiny book, full of writing templates. The writers’ premise is that students are often entering a conversation when they begin writing, and they need to recognize their position in respect to what has already been said. The structure of a template isn’t confining but instead encourages students to be more creative and original as they are learning writing skills. This book probably isn’t groundbreaking, but it is accessible for both teachers and students as they work to improve their writing.AISL-GoTThe Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently…and Why by Richard Nisbett (2003)

This is a book written by a psychologist, and it isn’t specifically focused on education, but it approached an idea that was new to me: that the way we physically view the world is not universal but is strongly culturally dependent. The way that this is presented is not obvious as it might seem from that summary and begins with Ancient Greek and Confucian philosophies and carries through to present-day child rearing and business transactions.  The author is an academic who draws heavily on his own research: http://www.pnas.org/content/100/19/11163.full to deeply explore notions of attention, independence and cognition. The idea of Western independence compared to Eastern interdependence recurs throughout the book, starting from Western children learning nouns first while Eastern children learn verbs first, emphasizing the interconnectedness of items that they are taught from birth. I work in a multicultural school, and reading the ways that some of my students may see what I present in different ways was helpful to me.AISL-SaWThe Students are Watching: Schools and the Moral Contract by Nancy and Ted Sizer (2000)

This was the first book I read from the Sizer family, and the main idea is timeless. It’s about the growth that we want to see in our students, not in knowledge, which is covered in many other books, but in morality, ie. character. Unlike They Say/I Say, there are no templates here, just a thoughtful contemplation about the ways that schools are set up and the structure of the school day. This book looks at informal teaching and the ways teachers model the behaviors they expect (or don’t) throughout all their interactions with students. Students look up to us as examples, and they don’t stop paying attention the second the bell rings. The authors believe that relationships are important in schools, and that getting to know students makes a huge difference in what we are able to teach. As independent school librarians, I think we’ll all agree. One of the main reasons that I work in a school is my ability to get to know the students personally and having the chance to help them navigate the confusion of teenagerness to end up as confident and caring adults. This book gave me specific strategies for doing that. AISL-GTDGetting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen (2001)

I read this book at the recommendation of a friend in grad school, and it’s a sneaky bugger. I didn’t know until a Wired article this year that there’s a whole GTD community on the web. Frankly, at the time I thought the book was similar to many self-help/organizational books, repetitive and self-evident. But Allen tugged at my mind with his accurate diagnosis of the items keeping me from being as productive as I had hoped. Allen has a process for everything, outsourcing the nagging section of your brain. Wikipedia, at this writing, has a good overview, and I’ll try to trim it down even further. I don’t follow everything and my inbox is never at zero, but these are the direct changes that have definitely amped my productivity.

-Break your “to do” list into next steps. If you are hung up on a specific step, write that step down exactly as it’s hanging you up. Inventory is not an actionable item. For me, the tasks went something along the lines of:
        1. Find inventory netbook and get it updated.
                       2. Start inventory in Follett.
                       3. Create circulation type .rtf files.
                       4. Scan fiction, Scan 900s, etc and front the shelves as I scan…
If you take nothing from this book except this, this advice can be targeted specifically to help struggling students. Too often, they think the next step is “write research paper.” It never is.
-If a task is not complete but you are waiting for a step from another person, put the action you are “waiting for” on a separate list. You won’t forget it, and you know the status of item in question.
-Don’t put something on your calendar unless it needs to be done that day. All else is added to the “to do” list where it best fits.
-Ideas and big picture items go into the “someday/maybe” file. This is my personal Pinterest for ideas I want to keep for the indefinite future. Set a reminder to review these items if you’re worried you’ll forget about them.

Like many librarians, I love to talk about books. Rather than standing up on a podium and talking about books that have influenced me, I want to follow Katie’s lead. Do any readers have thoughts on the books I’ve mentioned or suggestions of their own? It’s tough not to ramble while summarizing several thousand pages of texts into five paragraphs, so let’s continue the conversation below.

 

Books about books…

Our recent AISL survey asked independent school librarians what they liked to read on this blog. A number of respondents replied that they liked to read about BOOKS! And, well, I love to talk about books – especially books ABOUT books, so I thought I’d share some of my favourite library / book-related reads of the past few months…

9780805095852_LitUp_JK.indd

Lit Up by David Denby

New Yorker writer David Denby has written a quite remarkable book on reading, how English is taught in high schools, and how teenagers in the 21st century interact with literature and poetry. Set over the course of a school year, the book investigates teenagers and their relationships with screens, how teachers engage and inspire youth, and what teens are reading versus what they should be reading. The book also inspired an article in the New Yorker – even if you don’t have time to read the full book, take five minutes to read this interesting article.

You Could Look it Up

You Could Look it Up by Jack Lynch

Although we no longer have a reference section in my library (reference works are simply interfiled with other non-fiction materials), I frequently consult the reference works we do have both in print and online, because, well, ‘that’s what librarians do’. This fascinating book by Jack Lynch takes a look at key reference works from the Doomsday Book to Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary, as well as some of the more unusual reference works that librarians refer to again and again.

world between two covers

The World Between Two Covers: Reading the Globe by Ann Morgan

This interesting memoir was inspired by Morgan’s blog: A Year of Reading the World. She decided to read one book from each country around the globe during 2012, setting out to discover new and interesting authors and poets. Her book is a great record of her reading life, but be warned – it will seriously add to your (probably already towering) To-Be-Read pile.

Running the books

Running the Books by Avi Steinberg

It takes a special kind of librarian to run programs for those who are incarcerated. In this fascinating memoir, Steinberg shares his story of being the librarian in a Boston prison. From the inmates he helps complete their high school and college diplomas, to the men who are trying to write their memoirs, to the inmate who wants to pitch a cooking show to a TV network, this book is in-depth look at life in a very different type of library.

Bibliotech

Bibliotech by John Palfrey

Author John Palfrey makes the point that libraries are more important than ever, and that they must step up to bring equality, intellectual freedom and democracy to ordinary people. Referring particularly to the digitization of materials, Palfrey discusses why libraries must be cutting edge in meeting the information needs of the population, especially when “the library is the last free space for the gathering and sharing of knowledge”. None of this is new to librarians, but this slim volume is written in an engaging and passionate style that calls librarians across the world to action.

This is a great book

This is a Great Book by Larry Swartz &  Shelley Stagg Peterson

This book is an excellent collection of classroom and library-ready ideas for librarians and teachers who are looking to help their students enjoy, reflect on, and get as much out of reading as possible. With lesson ideas, journal prompts and ideas for how to make the most of leisure reading and ideas for finding the right novel for the right reader, this book is full of inspiring ideas and activities, even for those of us who have been around for a while and have our own proven methods for getting the right book to the right student, and for raising excitement amongst our readers.

So, if you’re inspired to pick up some professional reading, why not join a group of fellow librarians online to do so?

Change by Design

AISL librarian Dave Wee is running an online book club to discuss Change by Design by Tim Brown,  a book about Design Thinking which is the AISL Summer Institute’s recommended pre-reading selection. Head on over to his website if you’re interested in reading along!

And if you weren’t at the Board Books event at #AISL16LA, consider reading one or both of the following. Each generated lots of discussion!

This book is overdue

This Book is Overdue by Marilyn Johnson

Personal Librarian

The Personal Librarian by Richard J. Moniz & Jean Moats (ed.)

Do you have any similar titles to recommend? Please share in the comments below!

Spicing Up Book Promotion

There is a certain magic that happens when you find just the right book for a patron, isn’t there? For me, it’s that look in their eyes when they pass by in the hall, stopping in their tracks and greeting me with an enthusiastic, “Oh my goodness, I’m at the part where _____!” or “I read until 2 a.m. and I am so tired but oh wow, it was so worth it.” It’s one of those pinch me, I’m getting paid to do this, moments for me.

This year, I hope to spice up my matchmaking attempts. I’m going to share a few ideas here and I hope that you will add to the list using the comments below!

  • Promote Peer Readers’ Advisory.
    In my last library, I started a blog dedicated to book reviews. To generate student reviews, I created a competition between English classes–the class with the largest percentage of participation, creating well-written, *usable*, original reviews (added after a student copied/pasted one from Goodreads–a teachable moment ;-))–with the winning class getting a donut party from a local shop. Dunkin’ might have done the trick, but supporting local business is awesome and those donuts were a-maz-ing. I got approximately 80 good reviews a year employing the donut bribe…ahem, I mean competition.This activity allows you to teach the elements of a good review, to boost student confidence when you email them to say “your review has been selected to feature on the blog this week!”, and  really is effective in inspiring your community to talk about books. I also encouraged all adults in the community to write reviews to share their love of reading with our students. So easy. You can post as often as you like, write a few reviews yourself, your communications department can share the site with alums, prospective families, etc. You could easily do this with book trailers, podcasts or other promotional materials.
  • Student Volunteers
    If you are short on tasks and long on your list of student volunteers, why not give them the autonomy of creating and maintaining a reading campaign? READ posters, book displays with index card reviews (a la independent book stores), Flickr Photo Streams of friends “caught reading” around campus, creative assembly announcements maybe?
  • Pop Up Library
    Where will the pop up library appear next? A lunch table? In a dorm alcove? In an unused classroom? Outside the college counseling office? You could promote new books, particular genres, beach reads before breaks, Overdrive titles and downloading instruction. Use social media to share where you’re set up, sort of like the floating food truck phenomenon that happens in bigger cities. Bring an iPad with the Destiny app and check out to students on the spot!
  • Speed Dating
    I was so inspired by the brilliant Sarah Kresberg of the Allen Stevenson School, who used this speed dating program to promote reading in her community, I hope to replicate some version of this in my school this year. I asked Sarah to share her program details here, so that we might all benefit from it. Thanks Sarah!
    The goal: to introduce teachers to some of the best and most appealing books published over the past three years and encourage them to read some of them
    Age groups: we offered three simultaneous sessions – Teachers of K-3, 4-6, 7-9. Everyone from those divisions came, no matter their subject area.
    Team:We have three librarians (Liz Storch- Upper School, Bonnie Tucker – Lower School and me in the Middle School) so each one ran a session with our library associate (Pilar Okeson who has now left) taking care of a lot of the set up.
    Timing: a faculty meeting during Allen-Stevenson Book Week in November.
    Promotion: since attendance was compulsory we didn’t have to do much but we did make large posters to place at the entrance of each session. We also made book marks on our theme to give at the end (hopefully inside a book that they were checking out!)
    The hook: since it is speed dating we adopted a valentine theme. When teachers entered they were offered Prosecco and sparkling water in plastic champagne glasses. We baked shortbread hearts, made chocolate dipped strawberries and scattered hershey’s kisses and rose petals. We also played music. We stood around eating, drinking and chatting for about twenty minutes before beginning which put everyone in a great mood!
    The activity: We put together large tables and placed a clipboard, worksheet and pencil (red, naturally) at each table. The worksheet listed all the titles that were included in the speed dating, with three columns next to the titles. The columns were headed ‘Love at First Sight’, ‘Worth a Second Look’, ‘Not My Type’. I went over ways you can evaluate a book quickly (examine cover, read blurb, read Library of Congress summary, start reading the first page etc.)
    We handed each teacher a book. The teacher had 90 seconds to examine the book and put a check mark in the column to indicate their interest in the reading the book. At the end of the 90 seconds I directed them to pass the book to their left.
    The outcome: (This is the what happened in the Middle School session I was running)
    Everyone loved it. So much so that they suggested that I run one for parents (I ended up doing one for middle school parents in February). After a while the teachers wanted to take a break to talk about ideas they had had while doing the activity. After talking we decided that we would have each faculty member sponsor a  different summer reading book, offering book discussion groups on the first day back to school this September. We didn’t get many check outs that day although a few teachers did come back to check out books another day. I would have liked to have seen more books circulate. However what we mainly achieved was an increased awareness of newer children’s literature. Also, those teachers who are really into children’s books were able to share their enthusiasm with other teachers. It was great hearing teachers of music, science etc. talk about the books so that it doesn’t seem like solely the domain of the librarian. I was trying to get across that there is so much great children’s literature out there, and our boys would love to see their teachers reading some of them. If they see kid lit on a teacher’s desk they are going to start a conversation about it.

Note, the one piece that she omits is her donning of a rock-star-sassy-leather-pant-clad-librarian outfit for the program–not all of us could pull this off, but hey, wouldn’t it be fun trying? 🙂

These are but a few ideas for going beyond the traditional book display to promote books and reading. What do you plan to do to spice up book promotion in your library this year?

Books: Still A Love of Mine (And Many of Yours!)

In reading the origin stories over the summer, I notice how many of us entered the profession through a love of reading. For Allison Peters Jensen it was Ramona Quimby. Claire Hazzard was a vociferous series reader. For Rivka Genesen, a family history of library visits. Barbara Share was at the library as a child. Kate Hammond had a “right place, right time” experience. Katherine Smith Patin rounds out the group, proving that there are many avenues to librarianship.

Making Reading a Priority

For me, reading feels as vital as eating. I try to keep my reading diet varied —a little junk food now and then, and hearty, mind-feeding fare. Like everyone, my job with middle school and high school students has become more enmeshed in technology. I look at database usage and consider what to switch up. Teach search strategies, ethical use and information skills. Review DVDs and check out new apps. Experiment with ways to communicate with colleagues and how to make library interactions flow more smoothly. Continue to think about how ebooks fit into our library and curriculum. I read about the user experience, design thinking and collaboration. And yet, as the Trinity Valley School mission contains phrases like “wide, constructive interests,”  “fulfillment at college” and “intelligent citizenship” I feel reading is a key, and modeling a love of reading is an important part of my job

Four Books Currently On My Mind

I start many more books that I finish. Time is short, and many times I am reading to get a flavor of the book, looking for titles to suggest to other readers. These four are currently in my mind.

Go_Set_a_WatchmanGo Set A Watchman by Harper Lee. It will have a place in our library, if for no other reason than it is by Harper Lee. If you wonder about the true story (if there is a single “truth”) behind its publication, her publisher says they will “speak candidly” about the subject at a webinar on August 19.

 

newt's emeraldNewt’s Emerald by Garth Nix. Spunky heroine, ye olden days, bits of magic. Nix started this book about 25 years ago, but it is just now coming out in hardcover via HarperCollins’ Katherine Tegen imprint. Easy to recommend to those who enjoyed Etiquitte and Espionage and Y.S. Lee’s The Agency series. Due out in October.

TBlackthorn Keyhe Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands. This debut author hits the nail on the head with this tale of an apothecary’s apprentice and his adventures in London. Suggest to those who liked The Accidental Highwayman, The Hunchback Assignments and Jackaby. Due out in September.

 

Boys Who Challenged HitlerThe Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club by Phillip Hoose. World War II continues to fascinate students and adults . This story focuses on Danish high school students who stood up in resistance to the Germans. Hoose makes the story accessible to ‘tween readers, with enough meat for older teens as well.

What are some of the books that have stuck with you this summer?

Celebrating Mother’s Day with Picture Books

As a mother and a Librarian, I used Mother’s Day as a focal point for my classes this week. Rather than read books explicitly about mothers for my youngest students, I chose to focus on books that portray moms in much the same way my students observe them. From my own experience as a mother, I adore the portrayal of Olivia’s mom in the series by Ian Falconer. Olivia’s mother can be seen sitting building a sand castle with her daughter or reading to Olivia before bed. She is busy attending to her children throughout the narrative and that is something very appealing for the children that read these books. Another book where I love the way the mother is drawn is in Jack Ezra Keat’s The Snowy Day. Peter spends the day alone exploring the snowy world outside his apartment but at the end the day when he comes home, his mother is there to peel off his wet clothing and hear all about his adventures!  Finally, I really appreciate the Mama llama in Llama Llama, Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney. In this witty book written in rhyme, Llama Llama starts to fret about being alone in the dark after Mama has tucked him in! I love the opportunity this narrative provides for me to explain what a phone looked like when it was attached to the wall with a spiral cord attached to the receiver!

Llama red pajama

 

princess and the peas

Another theme that I explored in the picture books I selected this week were narratives in books without a mother figure in them. The Princess Knight by Cornelia Funke and The Princess and the Peas by Caryl Hart were enjoyed by all. Both stories portray very spunky protagonists and craft a storyline where there is a breakdown in understanding between father and daughter. In the end everything is rectified, but the books serve as a good reminder that not every child has both a mother and father.

treelady

Using the theme of “mother earth,” I also sought to include depictions of women in picture books who cared for our earth. The titles I selected were Mama Miti by Donna Jo Napoli, Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney, and The Tree Lady by H. Joseph Hopkins. In each of these books the central figure is a woman that does something to make a lasting and significant difference on the environment. My students made connections about the way their own mothers care for them and how these women cared for the earth in much the same way through their nurturing, dedication, and patience.

Mother's House

 

In Our Mothers House by Patricia Polacco is a wonderful book to engage the class in a discussion about what is the essential component of a family. How does our own family compare to that of the one portrayed in this book where two mothers have adopted three children?  Students are able to articulate the characteristics essential to be able to raise a family of strong, independent children. And the students never fail to comment to how much love is expressed in the images of this family!

the-Giving-Tree

Whenever possible, I seek to work poetry into any lesson that I can with students. Reading poetry aloud provides a platform to discuss the author’s economy of language and symbolism used when dissecting the text. How could mother’s day pass without a look at The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein? For my students in third and fourth grade they are typically surprised by this book. It is such a sharp departure from the humorous poetry he made his signature, but it never fails to inspire the students to talk.  And the conversation from our discussion is rich – does “the tree” symbolize a parent? How do we treat the people who love us unconditionally? What do we really need to be happy?

Finally, as the day came to a close in my own home, I had my daughters listen to The Lanyard by Billy Collins. If you have a poem or picture book that you love reading for Mother’s Day, please share it so we can all add it to our list or resources on this topic!

ALA Media Awards – Books I love!

In February, I eagerly watched the announcements for the 2015 ALA Youth Media Awards. These awards are a professional highlight and the final selections never cease to surprise me! Though there will always be debate over what makes the final cut, at root I see these awards as a way to highlight great books for my students and discuss collection development.

For the past several years I have presented an overview of the award winning books and authors during our lower school morning meeting. The girls and the faculty look forward to seeing familiar titles and surprises as much as I do. The presentation is also a vehicle for informing students about the numerous awards for which the American Library Association recognizes books and authors with distinction.  The following books are selections that I was so pleased to see earn recognition!

El Deafo by Cece Bell

2015 Newbery Honor Book: El Deafo by Cece Bell – It was such a pleasure to see this book gain recognition at the national level! Written as an autobiographical account of her own deafness brought on by childhood illness, this book was a title I had pre-ordered through Amazon months in advance and I was not disappointed after I spent an afternoon reading it straight through. Ms. Bell does a masterful job capturing her own isolating experience of deafness in all its complexity.  The author’s struggle to make friends, survive school, and find a place within her family, are all so expertly captured and illustrated that I cannot wait to reread it.

Frida by Yuyi Morales

2015 Caldecott Honor Book and 2015 Pura Belpré Illustrator Award: Viva Frida by Yuyi Morales – I have long been an ardent admirer of Frida Kahlo and although there are several biographies for children about her, this is the most authentic one I have read. Frida Kahlo was such an incredibly unique artist that encapsulating her dynamic force in modern art is a challenge for an author that writes biography for children.  In this exploration of the imagery of artist Frida Kahlo, the ethereal narration in both English and Spanish, guides the reader through the heart and soul of Frida! The art for the book was created using stop-motion puppets made from steel, polymer clay, and wool. The artist illustrator Yuyi Morales also employed painting and digital manipulation of the photographs to create a warm, accessible view of her career. Viva Frida uses technology in a way that makes the pictures truly captivating for the reader. Through Yuyi Morales’ work we get a chance to follow the life of Frida and discover her own world of fantasy that is full of animals, love, and creativity. I am going to use this book to compliment Frida: Viva La Vida! Long Live Life! by Carmen Bernier-Grand to promote National Poetry month in April.

Roget and his Thesaurus

2015 Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal: The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus by Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet – Established in 2001, this medal is awarded annually to the author and illustrator of the most distinguished informational book published in the United States in English during the preceding year. I love Melissa Sweet’s illustrations and she has carved a niche creating visually accessible non-fiction for some of our youngest students. This book details the life of the Peter Mark Roget who created the original thesaurus first published in 1852 under the full title: Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases, Classified and Arranged so as to facilitate the Expression of Ideas and Assist in Literary Composition.  The list of principal events provide context to Roget’s accomplishment and give the audience a lot to explore beyond his own contribution to writing. My favorite passage from the book was one that I will invariably use in time to come!

“Peter’s family moved often, so making friends was difficult.

But books, Peter discovered, were also good friends. There were always plenty of them around, and he never had to leave them behind.”

What were your favorite 2015 ALA award winners?

Oh yes, the books!

Do you ever feel so busy juggling your <insert a thousand library related duties here> along with ‘big projects’, faculty meetings, team meetings, committee meetings, collaborative meetings, research lessons, EMAIL, Libguide design, and oh yes, working with students, teaching classes, and other various non-library related school responsibilities that sometimes you look longingly at the cart of new books that you’ve  purchased, knowing you won’t get to many of them until summertime?

This comes to mind:

I drew a line in the sand for myself a month ago. It might have been around the time that reeeeeaaallly cold temperatures arrived and I went into hibernation, I’m not sure, but I basically said “no more putting the kids to bed and escaping into mindless Netflix, no more half-hearted attempts at professional journals when I’ve been neck deep in the issues all day long. Nope, I’m escaping into the books.”

I’ve read three books in three weeks, people. I’m in heaven. I thought I would share them with you here and then maybe you’ll reciprocate with some good reads of your own?

I started with two National Book Award finalists:Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. The most beautifully written dystopian book I believe I’ve ever read. The premise is this: set in the present day United States, an absolutely deadly, fast moving flu has wiped out over 99% of the world population. The entire infrastructure has collapsed: there is no gasoline, no electricity, no medicine, no security. A troop of traveling Shakespearean actors and musicians makes a loop through a region, risking much, honoring the Star Trek quote that dons the side of their makeshift caravan, Because Survival is Insufficient. This is a survival story and so would be most appropriate for mature middle schoolers or high schoolers, but it’s a good one that I highly recommend.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. If you or your students are fans of historic fiction, this is your book! Written in alternating perspectives, it’s the story of Marie-Laure, the French daughter of the locksmith of the Museum of Natural History, who has gone blind at a young age and whose natural curiosity is in itself a thing of wonder. You then get to know a German orphan named Werner whose gift at assembling radios and deciphering radio frequencies gains the attention of German officials as Hitler begins his quest for world domination. The story weaves together like a beautiful, albeit tragic wartime tapestry.

It’s quite clear why both of these books were nominated for the NBA. They are excellent. Now onto my third book, which I’m honestly still reeling from. It’s not for the faint of heart, so consider yourself warned.

It’s An Untamed State by Roxane Gay. Ms. Gay is coming to visit our school this spring so I purchased both of her highly acclaimed books (Bad Feminist, a collection of witty, culturally and politically charged essays is her other).  Our faculty book club selected the novel as our February read so I went ahead and read it over the weekend. I knew from the blurb that it would be tough: an affluent woman of Haitian descent, living in Miami, living a pretty idyllic life with her loving husband and adorable baby boy, goes to visit her parents back in Haiti. As they leave the family compound to go spend a day on the beach, three SUVs pull up with masked armed men, the wife is kidnapped, and a mighty ransom is demanded. Her father refuses to pay and the ultimate stand-off begins, one in which some pretty graphic torture scenes take place and Mireille does her best to survive with her sanity intact.

If you have a strong fortitude, I say read it. It’s brilliantly written, the character development is superb, there are some really interesting relationships, and the tension is palpable when you experience the desperation that abject poverty brings. My blinders were removed regarding how routine kidnapping is in other parts of the world and this story, the good and the bad, is going to stick with me for a very long time, I can already tell. All marks of a good book in my opinion.

So now I ask you, what books have you read lately that you would suggest? Ready, set, comment below!

Sharing is Caring – Technology, Privacy, and The Circle

It’s summer….

and so I’m inundated with books! Each year, I make the attempt to read all the books on the summer reading lists and all new books being taught in English courses over the next year. I also get distracted with my own reading and recommendations from friends. So while it’s an admirable goal, it’s one I’m as happy to have “in progress” as complete. Each school does summer reading a little bit differently. In our school, there’s one community book that everyone reads (1), 14 sponsored books, of which students choose one (15), and four professional books of which faculty choose one (20). One of the reasons that I enjoy doing this is that it leads to authentic (ie. not “small talky”) conversations with all students and teachers in August. It’s a shared experience, and you can always glean something from a book, even when it isn’t a book you’d choose yourself. Which leads to the other reason that I enjoy this. I am exposed to a variety of books I might not otherwise read, and there is a deadline that motivates me to read them.

One of the sponsored books this summer was The Circle, Dave Eggers’ most recent book, which was published last fall. While it could be described as a near-future technology dystopia, I’m partial to Margaret Atwood’s term “satirical utopia.” Imagine Google, Facebok, Twitter, YouTube, and Apple as one company, a happy company that just happens to wield a lot of power. When one of my English teachers requested this book as his sponsored summer reading, I thought back to Atwood’s favorable review in the New York Review of Books, where she writes statements like,

“The outpouring of ideas is central to The Circle, as it is in part a novel of ideas. What sort of ideas? Ideas about the social construction and deconstruction of privacy, and about the increasing corporate ownership of privacy, and about the effects such ownership may have on the nature of Western democracy. Dissemination of information is power, as the old yellow-journalism newspaper proprietors knew so well. What is withheld can be as potent as what is disclosed, and who can lie publicly and get away with it is determined by gatekeepers: thus, in the Internet age, code-owners have the keys to the kingdom.

This, then, is the “real” world to which Eggers holds up the mirror of art in order to show us ourselves and the perils that surround us. But The Circle is neither a tract nor an analysis but a novel, and novels always tell the stories of individuals. …It also incorporates passages of symposium-like Socratic dialogue by which the central character is manipulated, through rational-sounding questions and answers, into performing the increasingly outrageous acts that logic demands of her.” (http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2013/nov/21/eggers-circle-when-privacy-is-theft/)

Turns out, the teacher in question was not familiar with Atwood’s critique but had read one by Ellen Ullman three weeks prior in the New York Times Book Review. Ullman’s conclusion about the book’s literary merit is radically different from Atwood’s.

“This potential dystopia should sound familiar. Books and tweets and blogs are already debating the issues Eggers raises: the tyranny of transparency, personhood defined as perpetual presence in social networks, our strange drive to display ourselves… “The Circle” adds little of substance to the debate. Eggers reframes the discussion as a fable, a tale meant to be instructive. His instructors include a Gang of 40, a Transparent Man, a shadowy figure who may be a hero or a villain, a Wise Man with a secret chamber and a smiling legion of true-believing company employees. The novel has the flavor of a comic book: light, entertaining, undemanding.” (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/03/books/review/the-circle-by-dave-eggers.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0)

After reading the book, I began to question further these competing claims. Consider these excerpts.

LA Times: Even as satire, The Circle is disappointing as a novel: the plot is too easy, the prose simple, the characters flat and undistinguishable. Due to these same qualities, however, The Circle succeeds as commentary on the era of big data and transparency. The scary part is that the Silicon Valley of The Circle barely seems like a caricature. (https://lareviewofbooks.org/review/dave-eggerss-the-circle)

Booklist Starred: Eggers brilliantly depicts the Internet binges, torrents of information, and endless loops of feedback that increasingly characterize modern life. But perhaps most chilling of all is his notion that our ultimate undoing could be something so petty as our desperate desire for affirmation.

Kirkus Reviews: Eggers thoughtfully captured the alienation new technologies create in his previous novel, A Hologram for the King, but this lecture in novel form is flat-footed and simplistic. Though Eggers strives for a portentous, Orwellian tone, this book mostly feels scolding, a Kurt Vonnegut novel rewritten by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The Guardian: There are a few weaknesses. Eggers struggles here and there to balance psychological plausibility with the outlandishness of his satirical flourishes; he sometimes needs his characters to behave in ways that seem – certainly when you put the book down – to be wholly implausible. …But this is a prescient, important and enjoyable book, and what I love most about The Circle is that it is telling us so much about the impact of the computer age on human beings in the only form that can do so with the requisite wit, interiority and profundity: the novel. (http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/oct/09/circle-dave-eggers-review)

This reminds me that book reviews aren’t perfect, and they certainly aren’t impartial. A plot that makes us examine what we intentionally and unintentionally share online is bound to have readers’ personal beliefs on the subject mixed in. Because I’ve appreciated Eggers’ other works, I’m inclined to believe that some of the bits that I found clunkier were in fact purposeful. There is humor through word play and situational humor. There is no doubt that we are voluntarily giving away some of our privacy. Our phones track our location street by street for GPS or restaurant apps but always know where we are. When we take photos, the technology knows the location, and social networking sites can automatically recognize faces and tag them. Cool but also a bit scary in the wrong hands. Real-life face tracking software was in the news yesterday. The Circle made me stop and think about the ways that technology is using me as a product for companies just as I use technology to make my own life easier. Too often, a book retreats to the back of my mind after reading it. “Good” or “bad,” this is one that returns to my mind as I’m watching the ad with the surfer looking at current wave conditions from his home computer. How can I disagree with The Circle’s motto that “Sharing is Caring?” And yet I have reservations…

If you can’t tell, I’m partially writing this post because I can’t wait until August and so desperately want to discuss the book with someone. If you’re read it or have thoughts on the subject of technology and privacy, I’d love to hear it in the comments below!