You are currently browsing the archives for December 2007.
Displaying 1 - 10 of 14 entries.

Gen-Y biggest users of libraries?

  • Posted on December 31, 2007 at 9:56 AM

Did you read the latest article from Reuter’s on Gen-Y users of libraries? I love the quote by Leigh Estabrook. I get my email notifications of all PEW studies and am always surprised what the media takes from them.

Of the 53 percent of U.S. adults who said they visited a library in 2007, the biggest users were young adults aged 18 to 30 in the tech-loving group known as Generation Y, the survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project said.

"These findings turn our thinking about libraries upside down," said Leigh Estabrook, a professor emerita at the University of Illinois and co-author of a report on the survey results.

We school librarians continue in our instruction with America’s students. We teach them respect for life-long literacy and learning. We teach them that as citizens they should be using their public benefits at the local libraries – including networking and internet use. We convey a love of learning. Are we reaching them? Yes, I do believe so.

Surveys can be so misleading. Ten years ago the surveys threatened doom and gloom for libraries that usage was dropping. Now the surveys show the next age group to be avid users of libraries. There is no crystal ball for library usage or relevancy. We determine how other’s view us and need us. Keep working, school librarians, public librarians, and academic librarians. We will continue to send you our knowledge-thirsty students.

Books – Literary Works or Tools

  • Posted on December 31, 2007 at 8:14 AM

Sometimes a book is simply fun to read. Teen Chloe gave me her copy of "I’d Tell You I Love You, but Then I’d Have to Kill You" by Ally Carter last night. Great fun, light reading, and gave us a chance to discuss if Disney will make this into a movie. (We think yes and it will be fun!) A book, not a literary work. I’m not using it as a tool for anything.

Teachers ask for books as parts of their lessons– part of the background information, the cornerstone for huge lessons, or to rip out bits and pieces to make these literary works work for them. Have you ever heard a teacher kill a book before? Some books need to be read straight through and given the chance for the author and illustrator to speak before a teacher dissects the book and turns it into a nasty lesson.

I am always amazed at my colleagues. Those school librarians out there can whip out a book for any topic imaginable. Need to teach adjectives? They have 5 with beautiful passages and can actually turn to the page for the best example of well-written phrasing. Need a book on beginning CH-sounds? They can pull out the top three published since 1951. Need a book to inspire research? How about George Washington’s Teeth? or…… What was that YA title I read this summer where the boy finds small pox scabs and has to do research to see if he is infected? I know some librarian out there like the amazing Ed Sullivan can instantly pull this title from their minds.  Colleagues, you are amazing to me! I’ll keep monitoring LM_NET for specific topics.

Maybe one of the best services we offer our faculties is demonstrating how books can be both tools and literature. With so many publishers including parts of picture books in their reading text books, they promote the idea of the book as a tool with teachable parts. Only in the school library can we maintain the integrity of the work as a whole and inspire students to discover the treasures inside each title. We don’t do that with a worksheet to count the number of 4 syllable words on the page. We do that with our love of the word and the relationship between picture and story.

What I’d like to do is offer both to my faculty. I’d like a list of the top beautiful passages from children’s novels for grades 2-4 and a list of the most inspiring pages within a picture book. Then I will intersperse entire novels and books so students can begin to identify THEIR top picks as they read, not as a teacher guides them. Hmmm. I’ve got to get busy and read.

I've been bad

  • Posted on December 31, 2007 at 7:32 AM

I love controversy because it shakes things up; diversity, thinking, disagreeing, arguing, even ranting is part of the growth process as long as we focus on ideas and not the person. Educators believe they must be the experts. Where should we be growing and stretching? I’d lilke to suggest PC-ness. Take the controversies stirred by Debbie Reese on LM_NET and on her blog American Indians in Children’s Literature. There is also a SLJ interview from April.

Everyone owes themselves the chance to grow, to disagree, to argue, to ponder, and to discuss how American Indians/Native Americans are depicted in children’s literature. I am monitoring the discussion on Jan Brett’s newest title that incorporates Inuit culture clothing with the story of Goldilocks and the three Bears. I’m not going to come out here with an opinion. I want others to do some deep thinking and discussion. In fact, I’m sending Jan Brett this blog post to see if she’d like to respond.

I asked three teenagers recently what fiction titles depicting Native Americans had been shared with them during their entire K-12 life. They couldn’t name one. They couldn’t recall any discussion about the perceptions of Native Americans in literature. They all brightened up to tell me they had had one unit on Native Americans to discuss their loss of lands. They were actually surprised that I mentioned the topic because the unit was so separate from currency and history. It had no relevancy to them. ARGH!!!

The discussion last year on the Higher Power of Lucky was helpful to our profession as it forced people to think, to form an opinion, and to study their position in society and in our profession. Discussions help. We have so much room to grow. Growth may be uncomfortable but it is necessary to life.

I have been bad. I have used some of the titles that were negatively reviewed on the blog. Will this force me to change? Yes. Will I immediately stop using all of the titles or will I start teaching perspective and cultural sensitivity? Stay tuned and join the growth process.

Priceless Gifts

  • Posted on December 26, 2007 at 9:43 AM

Let us share these priceless gifts with our schools this year:

a new poem that sticks in their brain and spills from their mouths
a smile and welcome when they enter the library
as much patience with the 400th student as you gave the first 
a new book you chose just because you knew that class might like it
your time to listen
a hug to the child who suffered through the holidays in a bad situation
play-acting that the child "forgot" their coat & needed to borrow one when you know they don’t own any
a friendly note to the teacher you find most frustrating but that you yearn to work with for her students’ sake
a photo of you during the holidays relaxing & having fun so they know you are human

What would you add to this list? My students wrote letters to faculty members in December and several commented that they appreciated our decorating the library so it was always fun, colorful, and inviting. We create an atmosphere that invites others to read, to learn, to explore. Students filling our libraries the first week we are back because they missed us and they NEED new books – that is a priceless gift to me. May you receive the glow of knowing you are the greatest gift to your students this new year.

Melodramatic Book Care

  • Posted on December 26, 2007 at 12:00 AM

If you were to ask the students to describe their librarian, you might be shocked at their responses:

"My librarian is the person like an actor that takes this real stuff and uses so much drama, it’s like a story and you can’t wait to get to the ending and then you find out you’re in the story.." 

I loved that comment from a 4th grader recently. Acting ability may be the #1 criteria to look for in a candidate for our profession. If we weren’t capable of drama and melodrama, how could we make the 7th time through the same lesson as exciting as the first for our students? Take reading the book "What Happened to Marion’s Book?" by Brook Berg and Nathan Alberg and this fun image from the website which Brook gave me permission to include.

When I read the part about Marion even taking her books into the bathtub, I stagger as if I’m going to faint. I’ve had some classes jump up and promise to NEVER DO THAT to their books. One little boy patted my hand and said, "Please don’t faint, it will be okay in the end of the story." Their horror over book pages covered with peanut butter is so dramatic, I have to hide a smile. 

Then we share the Shelf Elf and I confess to them that I try SOOOO hard to take very good care of THEIR library, but sometimes I just don’t have enough eyes and arms. I confess that when they aren’t in the room and I find the books upside down and backwards (my pet peeve), I sometimes throw a temper tantrum and stomp my feet. One child always nods and whispers, "I’ve seen her." 

The first graders are the perfect class to then stand one before each column of books to help me be a good shelf elf and look for books that are out of place. I keep a handkerchief handy in case I need to be distressed. Someone carries in the towel we’ll use as a mini stretcher so we can take the books to the book hospital to get well. If I find a book that simply cannot make it through one more check out and needs to be deleted, I usually find a passionate volunteer to take it home and love it one more time – maybe even to keep it safe. 

Our students need some passion and drama in their life. In elementary school, it feels much safer to talk about book care than the big issues in some of their homes. I’ll work with the classroom teacher and guidance counselors to help with those issues, but let’s allow a little melodramatic fun in our daily life.

Don’t forget to check out the Be a Book Care Critter webquest and remember to have fun. Your students may forget that dogs are near 636 but they’ll always remember you putting up a doghouse sign warning children that the dog books like to get out to play. The experiences you create in your library and their emotional responses will stay with them. Have a great new year.

Goals? What Goals?

  • Posted on December 19, 2007 at 5:00 AM

Didn’t you set goals last July/August at the beginning of school? Time to dust them out and see what you have accomplished this year. I put my goals on a temperature gauge accidentally and decided to print it out so I could color in red progress towards my goals. For one of them, I labeled on the side 


Two of my second grade classes accomplished their goals of reading 100 books aloud together. They celebrated with Tim Hamilton coming to read and CAKE. YUMMY CAKE! While they worked on their goals, they’d excitedly beg me to read to them at every opportunity. They cared what the titles were and noticed my trend towards reading nonfiction. 

Now they have set a new goal to read 100 books by February. I know they’ll accomplish this because they skip all the dithering steps to get right to work. How about your goals?

Studying Overseas

  • Posted on December 15, 2007 at 9:16 PM

I want to go to central London this summer with FSU for 6 weeks. It’s not going to happen for me because I’m already doublebooked and have a son to monitor, but it could happen to you. If you haven’t read Dr. Nancy Everhart’s announcement below, DREAM NOW and DO IT. This is a chance in a lifetime and you won’t want to miss it.

Florida State University, College of information, is offering two graduate LIS courses at its London Centre this summer.  

An exciting opportunity to earn six graduate LIS credits while living in central London is being offered by the Florida State University College of Information.  Two multimedia production courses, taught from June 26-August 7, 2008 at the FSU London Centre, will use London and the surrounding areas as a backdrop for creating projects such as podcasts, websites, short films, and digital photography.  No prior experience with these media is required. Most 2-day per week classes 
will be field trip based.

Other pertinent information:

The two courses being offered are: LIS 5313: Design and Production of  Media Resources and LIS 5362: Design and Production of Network Multimedia. Participants must take both courses and they will be focused on application of media to libraries and teaching and learning. Students will have the opportunity to apply course material to their current work situation if desired.

The FSU London Centre is housed in a 17th century building that FSU owns in the heart of ‘literary London’ and very close to the shopping district and to the theater district.  It is less that one block from the British Museum.  Students live there or in nearby apartments.

London provides superb cultural exposure. The variety of arts, theatre, performances, and other cultural venues available in London is stunning, and almost all of them provide student rates. Often the school has inexpensive play tickets available. London, like New York, has a half price booth for play tickets on the day of performances. London has some of the best museums, historical attractions, and buildings in the world.

Cost is $7125 for both in-state and out-of-state participants.  The fee includes all registration and instructional costs for up to 6 undergraduate or graduate credit hours; program social/cultural activities; health insurance; international student ID card; T-shirt; full-time academic and administrative support.

The course is open to students from other universities who may wish to transfer the credits, or to non-students (media specialists, teachers, and librarians) who are interested in this exciting summer opportunity.  Credits earned in this program may be later transferred into the master’s degree program at FSU for students who may be accepted at a future date.  These offerings are regularly offered graduate courses.

Deadline to register is January 21, 2008.

For more information, and to apply online, visit the website & for more information about the London Study Centre visit

Contact:  Dr. Nancy Everhart, ( with any questions.

I contacted Nancy to ask more and she sent the following info:

  What I am doing is integrating London sights into the current course requirements. For example, when producing a vodcast, the content will be something about London rather than just something more general.  We will probably be "broadcasting" to a website at FSU throughout the six weeks and posting projects, etc. there.  To create the vodcast, we’ll go out and about in London as a group and that will be our class for the day.  I’m also hoping to visit some English school libraries or have school librarians come to the London Centre for tea and to interact with the students.    It should be a tremendous amount of learning and fun in a great setting.

I got so excited I started dreaming about London and viewing Big Ben (the tower) live instead of via

Ms Chen, would you tell the author…

  • Posted on December 13, 2007 at 9:01 PM

I love my students. They know it. They know that I go to elaborate lengths to get new materials for them. Yes, I’ll attend that 5 hour meeting to earn $50 in free books. Yes, I’ll work the Scholastic Warehouse sale as a volunteer to earn books for Book Bingo prizes. Yes, I’ll review this series if you’ll send me the books. 

Now, the students are insisting that I send personal letters to their favorite authors to tell them to hurry up and write more. They also are insisting that I write and ask the authors to explain points, provide background information, and share their inspiration for illustrations. My response, I’ll teach those students to write.

The students love it when I sit down with a stack of books because they never know what’s coming. Maybe I’ll read all of them. Maybe I’ll flash them just one illustration, one poem, or read one paragraph.  Maybe I’ll hijack the students to give me detailed opinions about new books (Hence the guinea pig noses signal) so I can write a review, contact the author, or tell the publisher what I think. Now the students believe every author wants to hear their personal opinion of their book.

Today the students surprised me. While I was reading Aileen Fisher’s poetry in Do Rabbits Have Christmas?, the students insisted on going back through all of the illustrations to see if there were any hidden things like kittens. They love the poem about the kitten and the Christmas tree where the kitten seems to think the tree is there just for her/him. I shared stories of my new kitten KitKat’s first day with our fake tree (see  last year’s post about the Ugliest Tree in America).

KitKat knocked over the tree three times the first day. Fortunately, I know that "Bad Kitty" and hadn’t decorated it yet. The second day I decorated the tree and made sure the tree skirt was in place. My little dog Lucy hid under the skirt for a nap. KitKat sauntered by as if there was no tree there. She checked to see if the coast was clear than reached up to bat the white snowmen styrofoam balls. Immediately Lucy raced out from under the skirt, knocked KitKat end over end, and barked. Marshall (the German Shepherd) came running and chased KitKat down the hall and into my closet. Now the dogs stand guard over the tree. I have come racing upstairs from doing laundry to find both dogs barking and pointing as KitKat curls in the lowest branches for a nap. Maybe they’ll train that cat yet.

When I shared this story, six hands went up as other students had similar stories to tell. We agreed that kittens just love Christmas trees. While I’d moved on to other poems on winter, some students hadn’t. They started pointing out cats hidden in windows and scenes in each book we read. They asked me if I thought the illustrator knew about my KitKat and her adventures since a little gray tabby was in the book. Others insisted that I’d better start writing the author and illustrator so they have more ideas for next year. 

Why do I go on about this? The students believe they, the readers, are an integral part of the story. They believe the authors and illustrators are out there waiting to hear from them. They believe they are part of the creative process. They know they are much more than just readers.

Can you ever say anything negative?

  • Posted on December 13, 2007 at 8:42 PM

What happens if you read a book and DON’T like it? If you are a reviewer for SLJ, you identify the flaws and sit back to see if the author/ illustrator/ publisher/ reader responds. If you are a reviewer for Booklist, you just don’t write about it. 

What if you are a blogger? Just because you don’t like a book, does that mean you believe everyone won’t like it? What if you say something negative about the book and other people don’t go out and read other reviewers’ opinions? They might miss something they would have loved because they trusted you too much. The pressure is on. 

We are a society that doesn’t want to offend anyone. We’d rather not discuss some topics if it might cause controversy. And yet, sometimes I read someone else’s review and wonder if they read the same title I did. 

Take tonight. I was cleaning up after my son left Tuesday for Ft. Bragg and a possible stint in Afghanistan. He had wanted to take books with him and had to settle for just 9 in the duffle bag. (I hope they last him until payday tomorrow.) One title he was specifically looking for was Steven Layne’s Mergers. We had chatted about it and he was trying to recall his predictions for the sequel which he is insisting Steven write (Do you hear us, Steven?!). I found the book tonight in the closet in a box of memories so I’ll have to ship it to him. 

Unfortunately, the book had originally received a less than stellar review from an SLJ reviewer. At the time we both disagreed with the reviewer. The following month, the author had written a letter to the editor disputing the review’s "inaccuracies." Did the review cause other people to not purchase the title? Possibly. Did anyone take a second look after the letter to the editor? Possibly. 

I don’t really know about that particular title, but it makes me think about what I write and the impact I could have. I’d rather not have to defend the fact that I feel negatively about the particular book I’m reading right at this minute. I insist upon finishing it because I am having such a reaction to it and life shouldn’t be all sunny & sweet. I won’t even tell you the name or author so don’t try to coax it out of me. 

I wonder what you do when you have had a negative reaction to a title that everyone else thinks is wonderful. Do you honestly answer students when they ask your opinion? How do you phrase it? Will you lose your credibility if you are not totally honest? 

There are titles that immediately jump to my mind because they spark entirely different reactions:
The Giving Tree
In the Night Kitchen
Love You Forever 

What would you add?

Cookie Angel

  • Posted on December 11, 2007 at 8:22 AM

Wasn’t sure if Cookie Angel (written by Bethany Roberts and illustrated by Vladimir Vagin) would be a hit so I tried it on my second graders. They love twitching their noses and being my guinea pigs for new titles. This Henry Holt book involving Christmas toys coming alive on Christmas Eve with it’s unusual approach to storytelling was voted a keeper. The students refused to allow me to read the lyrics on a page, but insisted I sing each time a song was mentioned.

The Aileen Fisher poetry book Do Rabbits Have Christmas? was popular with the group of students sitting closest to the story. They chose this as their favorite in their words "because the words make you remember seeing the snow" and "because the words were like songs without notes." 

We grouped these together with several other Christmas carol type books – Silent Night, On Christmas Day in the Morning, and Good King Wenceslas. Teaching standards for listening and information skills can be integrated so easily. Relax and sing a good tale.

Who said you only need to read one title during a lesson? I average three titles by December with first graders and they still demand more. Raise your expectations and let them know there are so many great books still out there that you haven’t found time to show them yet.