You are currently browsing the archives for October 2012.
Displaying 1 - 4 of 4 entries.

Talk up Nonfiction Monday

  • Posted on October 29, 2012 at 12:01 AM

Nonfiction Monday is here in PracticallyParadise and I hope it’s something everyone will be talking about today and tomorrow. Please submit your links using the Google form here, by emailing me, or by leaving a comment. I’ll check in throughout the day and we’ll build an excellent post together. For now, let me share two of the titles I had to “talk about” during our presentation on Sprouting Readers Through STEM. Both focus on birds and how they communicate, but there are differences

Alex the Parrot: No Ordinary Bird by Stephanie Spinner. Illustrated by Meilo So. Alfred A. Knopf, 2012. ISBN 978-0-375-86846-7 A Junior Library Guild selection and excellent true story of Irene Pepperberg’s work with an African grey parrot named Alex – short for Avian Learning Experiment.

Author Stephanie Spinner (who I have enjoyed since her fiction series with Jonathan Etra Aliens for Breakfast) creates this narrative nonfiction tribute to researcher Irene Pepperberg and her parrot Alex. She includes a note thanking the brilliant work of people like Roger Fouts; Francine Patterson; and Irene Pepperberg, Cynthia Moss, Temple Grandin, and countless others. Scientists, researchers, and those amazing people who can communicate better with animals help all of us open our eyes to the possibilities of closer relationships with our pets and animals in the wild.

Meilo So’s illustrations dazzle through the use of color ink, watercolor, gouache and colored pencils. Alex and Griffin, African grey parrots, are drawn so expressively that each illustration speaks to us. Still, the text is what sold me on this true story. I could not resist reading this completely through every time I opened the cover. Do I show my age when I think about Irene Pepperberg going into a pet store to purchase Alex in 1977 when I was still in elementary school? To think of the knowledge we have gained about animal communication during my life-time is amazing! Through the combined efforts of Stephanie Spinner and Meilo So, Alex speaks to the reader. His personality, his quirks, his larger-than-life story are all conveyes through a symbiotic relationship of text and picture.

I will be sharing Alex the Parrot with my third and fourth grade students to give them a glimpse of the life of scientists and researchers who devote years to their studies. Often the experiments we perform with students provide nearly instant results. Television shows like CSI and NCIS solve their scientific puzzles within an hour. Yet, the reality is science takes time to develop theories and test for results. Alex the Parrot is one of my favorite titles this year and goes very well with the next title I share.

Bird Talk: What Birds Are Saying and Why by Lita Judge. Roaring Brook Press, 2012. ISBN 978-1-59643-646-6.  The author’s note at the back of this book starts:

I’ve always been fascinated by bird talk. Even as a little girl, I liked to walk in the woods and hoot until an owl hooted back. As I watched birds, I asked myself, What do their calls and songs mean? When scientists watch birds, they ask the same question. They observe bird behavior to find the meaning to their calls, songs, and other forms of interaction. 

Author Lita Jude’s grandparents were ornithologists or scientists who studied birds. Lita’s love of birds and lifetime of observing them shows in her choice of birds and simple, lyrical descriptions. Bird Talk is an example of well-researched  and beautifully illustrated nonfiction. There is a beauty in the balance of white space, multicolored text, and soft joyfully inspiring illustrations of birds. Each bird is grouped according to purpose of communication and then identified in the back with 2-3 sentence descriptions, habitat and range. I was pleased to see Alex the parrot included and Irene Pepperberg’s book listed as one of the references.

One aspect of Bird Talk that appeals to me the most is how the double-page spreads alternate between an illustration of one type of bird and a simple statement or question with pages listing three examples and a paragraph each of explanation. This enables me to share Bird Talk with a wider range of students. Will this help inspire future bird-watchers and ornithologists? Absolutely.

Check out these excellent nonfiction blog posts. They are definitely worth talking about.

* The Nonfiction Detectives share Seymour Simon’s Extreme Earth Records on the Nonfiction Detectives blog. I can think of wonderful STEM and Common Core State Standards connections already. 

 * Abby Johnson shares Zombie Makers on the blog Abby the Librarian Just in time for Halloween, Abby has a review of a super nonfiction title! I can’t wait to get my hands on this title after reading her review. 

*  Tara at A Teaching Life shares a wonderful new book about the history of Tuberculosis in Invincible Microbe: Tuberculosis and the never-ending search for a cure.   Jim Murphy’s nonfiction is a sure winner. 

 * Alicia at The LibrariYAn blog shares Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World, a great biography of a woman who has overcome many challenges to become a highly successful entrepreneur and advocate for individuals on the autism spectrum. Temple Grandin was recognized in the books I reviewed today, too! She is amazing. 

* Shirley at SimplyScience shares Busy as a Bee by Thea Feldman. This early reader describes bees and their activities in a fun nonfiction book. We need more early readers as engaging as Busy as a Bee. I appreciate Shirley’s making the connections to the National Science Standards and Common Core.

*  Roberta at Wrapped In Foil shares Infinity and Me. Infinity and Me by Kate Hosford is an exciting and lovely new picture book that makes the difficult abstract concept of infinity accessible to children.  ∞ is an amazing symbol and concept. This title impressed me with the mathematical explanation and the illustrations. Are we thinking Caldecott possibility?

* Lynn Rutan at the Bookends: Booklist Online Youth Blog. Cindy and Lynn are reviewing the National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry. What a great combination of poetry and the highest quality animal photographs we’ve come to expect from National Geographic. I can understand Lynn’s inability to give up this review title. I have several review copies from National Geographic that I just cannot resist keeping. It’s only when I attend conferences like TASL and get mobbed by desperately-seeking-nonfiction-librarians that they are able to pry them from my hands. 

* Jeanne Walker Harvey features on True tales &  A Cherry On Top Vivaldi’s Four Seasons — a fascinating picture book biography of Antonio Vivaldi. I’m adding this title to my list of musical narrative nonfiction to purchase. Glad to hear there is a CD in the book. Every time students pick up a book with a CD in it, they ask me if it’s “Sposed to be there” and are thrilled when they get to take them home to listen with family. This will be a pleaser. 

A Is For Autumn by Robert Maass is Janet Squire’s contribution with her blog All About the Books with Janet Squire.  Beautiful photographs of fall themed activities in one alphabet book are perfect for this week. Thanks for sharing this. 

* Jennifer at Jean Little Library blog has a series of folktales today from Child’s World and I encourage you to read her reviews. My favorite line from her blog post is “the…moral of the tale? “The Frog King teaches us to speak in a soft voice when playing in a space shared with other people.” Um…ok…that’s right kids, use your library voice or THE CROCODILE WILL EAT YOU.”  I’m still rolling on the floor laughing.

* Amy @ Hope Is the Word reviewed the two newest books by Steve Jenkins:  Just a Second:  A Different Way to Look at Time  and The Beetle Book.  Amy states “The information in both of these books is presented in a kid-friendly way, with lots of details presented visually beside the appropriate illustrations so there are not huge blocks of text to overwhelm the reader.  These are the sorts of books to pore over again and again.”  I have loved every Steve Jenkins’ title I’ve read. I loved The Beetle Book, but I will confess that I wasn’t tempted by Just a Second until I read Amy’s review. Thanks for sharing. 

I would like to encourage all of the participants of Nonfiction Monday to TAKE TIME on TUESDAY to TALK. Leave a comment or message on the blogs mentioned here – even if it’s a simple one-liner. 

Unusual contributions to our profession

  • Posted on October 28, 2012 at 10:34 PM

I am writing to you on behalf of the ALA Scholastic Library Publishing Award Jury.  Our jury is seeking applicants for this award.   The deadline for nominations is December 1, 2012.

Scholastic Library Publishing Award honors a librarian whose “unusual contribution” to the stimulation and guidance of children’s and young adult reading exemplifies outstanding achievement in the profession.  The award includes $1,000 and a 24k gold-framed citation, donated by Scholastic Library Publishing.  Additional information is available at

Application/Nomination form:

 Please consider nominating deserving librarians ASAP! I’d love to have many applications to consider as part of this jury.

Sprouting Readers Through STEM

  • Posted on October 26, 2012 at 12:31 AM

After taking some time off, I’m ready to hit the keys again and update readers on excellent titles. Today I’m listing some of the tools I’ll be mentioning during the Tennessee Association of School Librarians conference during the presentation “Sprouting Readers Through STEM”. Dr. Regina Etter and Lakisha Brinson, STEM designers at Hattie Cotton STEM Magnet Elementary School, and I will be presenting together Friday, October 26, 2012. We’ll be posting our powerpoint, but you know you are missing the true dynamics and excitement of our “presentation” if you aren’t there with us.

Here are some of the  library tools I use in the school library to support the growth of the STEM initiative at our school.

Netbooks and Desktops (25 in the library)

Pebble Go Databases

Britannica Imagequest

Britannica Online

World Book through TEL

Super 3

PowerKnowledge Life Science

FollettShelf with ebooks

Capstone Interactive Books

Worksheets Don’t Grow Dendrites: 20 Instructional Strategies That Engage The Brain by Marcia L. Tate. Corwin, 2010. ISBN 978-1-4129-7850-7

PBL in the Elementary Grades: Step-by-Step Guidance, Tools and Tips for Standards-Focused K-5 Projects. Buck Institute for Education, 2011. ISBN 978-0-9740343-1-7

The Super3: Information Skills for Young Learners by Michael B. Eisenberg and Laura Eisenberg Robinson. Linworth Books, 2007. ISBN 158683286-7

Teaching Information & Technology Skills: The Big 6 in Elementary Schools by Michael B. Eisenberg and Robert E. Berkowitz. Linworth Books, 1999. ISBN 0-938865-81-1

Common Core Curriculum Maps: English Language Arts. Grades K-5. Common Core. Jossey-Bass, 2012. (p67)

Narrative Nonfiction, Biographies and more:

Alex the Parrot: No Ordinary Bird by Stephanie Spinner. Alfred A. Knopf, 2012. ISBN 978-0-375-86846-7 A Junior Library Guild selection and excellent true story of Irene Pepperberg’s work with an African grey parrot named Alex – short for Avian Learning EXperiment.

Bird Talk: What Birds Are Saying and Why by Lita Judge. Roaring Brook Press, 2012. ISBN 978-1-59643-646-6

Life in the Ocean: The Story of Oceanographer Sylvia Earle by Claire A. Nivola (also author of Planting the Trees of Kenya) Farrar Straus Giroux, 2012. ISBN 978-0-374-38068-7

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer. Dial Books for Young Readers, 2012. ISBN 978-0-8037-3511-8. True story of 14 year old William Kamkwamba’s perserverance in building a wind mill in his African village.

Leopard & Silkie: One Boy’s Quest to Save the Seal Pups by Brenda Peterson. Henry Holt Books, 2012. ISBN 978-0-8050-9167-0. Seal Sitters in the Pacific Northwest.

Building on Nature: The Life of Antoni Gaudi by Rachel Rodriguez. Henry Holt, 2009. ISBN 978-0-8050-8745-1 Architecture in a unique style.

Just as Good: How Larry Doby Changed America’s Game by Chris Crowe. Candlewick Press, 2012. ISBN 978-0-7636-5026-1. The first black player in the American League, Larry Doby’s second season playing for the Cleveland Indians helped pave the way for other African Americans in the major leagues.

Annie and Helen by Deborah Hopkinson & Raul Colon. Schwartz & Wade Books,  2012. ISBN 978037585706-5

Paiute Princess: The Story of Sarah Winnemucca by Deborah Kogan Ray. Farrar Straus Giroux, 2012. ISBN 978-0-374-39897-2

Green by Laura Vaccaro Seeger. Roaring Brook Press, 2012. ISBN 978-1-59643-397-7

What If You Get Lost? by Anara Guard. Picture Window Books, 2012. ISBN 978-1-4048-6684-3

Haunted Histories: Creepy Castles, Dark Dungeons, and Powerful Palaces by J. H. Everett. Henry Holt, 2012. ISBN 978-0-8050-8971-4

Write Horror Fiction in 5 Simple Steps by Laura  Baskes Litwin. Enslow, 2013. ISBN 978-0-7660-3836-3

Picture Yourself Writing Nonfiction: Using Photos to Inspire Writing by Jennifer Fandel. Capstone Press, 2012. ISBN 978-1-4296-6125-6

Nature’s Cycles: Food Chains / Los ciclos de la naturaleza Las cadenas alimentarias by Dana Meachen Rau. Marshall Cavendish Benchmark, 2010. ISBN 978-0-7614-4789-4


Plants (Investigating Earth) by Kate Walker. Marshall Cavendish Benchmark, 2012. ISBN 978-1-60870-559-7

New Plants: Seeds in the Soil Patch by Emily Sohn and Erin Ash Sullivan. Norwood House, 2011. ISBN 978-1-59953-408-4

How Seeds Travel: Popguns and Parachutes by Jane Belk Moncure. The Child’s World, 1990. (Who will publish a modern update to this title?)

Disgusting Plants by Connie Colwell Miller. Capstone, 2007.

The Plant Hunters: True Stories of Their Daring Adventures to the Far Corners of the Earth. Farrar Straus Giroux, 2012. ISBN 978-0-374-30908-4

Grow Your Own Cat Toy (Grow It Yourself!) by John Malam. Heinemann Library, 2012. ISBN 978-1-4329-5110-8

Grow Your Own Sandwich (Grow It Yourself!) by John Malam. Heinemann Library, 2012. ISBN 978-1-4329-5108-5

Freaky Plant Facts: Extreme Greens (Plant-ology) by Ellen Lawrence. Bearport Publishing, 2012. ISBN 978-1-61772-591-3

Amazing Plant Bodies: Tiny to Gigantic (Plant-ology) by Ellen Lawrence. Bearport Publishing, 2012. ISBN 978-1-61772-592-0

Cooking with Sunshine: How Plants Make Food (Plant-ology) by Ellen Lawrence. Bearport Publishing, 2012. ISBN 978-1-61772-586-9

Meat-Eating Plants: Toothless Wonders (Plant-ology) by Ellen Lawrence. Bearport Publishing, 2012. ISBN 978-1-61772-589-0

Environments: Beetles in the Garden (iScience Readers)  by Emily Sohn and Barbara M. Linde.  Norwood House, 2011. ISBN 978-1-59953-423-7

Living Systems: Life’s Inside Story (iScience Readers)  by Emily Sohn and Patricia Ohlenroth.  Norwood House, 2011. ISBN 978-1-59953-423-7

People Need Plants! (I Like Plants!) by Mary Dodson Wade. Enslow, 2009. ISBN 97807660-3153-1

Plants Live Everywhere!  (I Like Plants!) by Mary Dodson Wade. Enslow, 2009. ISBN 97807660-3155-5

Seeds Sprout!  (I Like Plants!) by Mary Dodson Wade. Enslow, 2009. ISBN 97807660-3154-8

Plants Grow!  (I Like Plants!) by Mary Dodson Wade. Enslow, 2009. ISBN 97807660-3152-4

Little Seeds (my little planet) by Charles Ghigna. Picture Window Books, 2012. ISBN 978-1-4048-6790-1

The Secret Lives of Plants! (Graphic Library) by Janet Slingerland. Capstone Press, 2012. ISBN 978-1-4296-7686-1

Food Chains and Webs: Freestyle Express edition (The Web of Life) Raintree, 2012. 978-1-4109-4424-5

Life on Earth (Energy in Action) by Pennie Stoyles and Peter Pentland. Marshall Cavendish Benchmark, 2012.

Articles to be sure to read:

The National Science Digital Library: STEM Resources for the 21st-Century Learner by Daniel Toomey. School Library Monthly. Volume XXVII, Number 2/November 2010.

Collaboration–Programs-Role Models-&-Empowering Girls for Librarians. NorCol STEM Girls.

IMLS-Funded Research Explores How School Librarians Use Digital Content for STEM Learning by Marcia Mardis The Web2MARC Tool.

Please volunteer to serve on ALA (& AASL) committees

  • Posted on October 21, 2012 at 1:34 PM

Paying for attending Midwinter and Annual can be daunting, but it is very worthwhile both personally and professionally. I often model how to attend conference with only $10-20 pocket money to spend because I am never well-off financially. Usually I find ways to connect with others and save money. I always have at least 1 roommate. 4 in a room saves even more. The people I have roomed with may have been strangers initially but we became friends.
Taking time off work is difficult. I have faced all the same struggles everyone else has with getting principals to approve my leave. I have even asked leaders in ALA and AASL to write a letter on my behalf to my administration. It is worth the struggle.
I have served on the Committee on Organization (COO) which looks at all committees, and am currently on the Awards committee (which I suggest to everyone). When I was on the ALA Executive Board, I had the opportunity to liaison with and get to understand many other committees and divisions like

*Freedom to Read
*Committee on the Status of Women in Libraries
*Intellectual Freedom
*Legislative Assembly
*Public Awareness
*Chinese Americal Library Association
*Federal & Armed Forces Library Association

Each of those opportunities helped me better understand how ALA works and how to help school libraries. Serving meant they were better able to understand school libraries and our input was always welcomed. We are needed on these committees.
Every year leaders in ALA and AASL ask members to volunteer to serve. I not only encourage you, but if I can help you to do this by answering questions about the realities of committees, help you find a match, and help you to attend by pooling resources and reducing expenses — let me know. So many of us like Rocco, Sara Kelly Johns, Gail, (the list extends to hundreds of names), are here to support you. We need strong leadership throughout ALA, not only where we feel comfortable in AASL.
Sometimes service demands sacrifice, but serving on an ALA committee brings tremendous benefits that are not obvious in the beginning. Not only are you helping the organization, but you are helping your own professional growth and knowledge. You have access to a greater number of people, develop contacts within the vendor industry, and learn more to help your specific job. My students and faculty are better served since I volunteered to serve.
Please, everyone, just take a breath and go fill out the form. This is a simple step to a wonderful opportunity.

Why did I write that post above? It was in response to Gail Dickinson and Rocco Staino’s pleas for school librarians to volunteer.

As President-Elect of AASL, I am automatically placed on the ALA Appointments Committee for the purpose of assisting in suggesting members for ALA Committees.  I am impressed by the structure and organization of this process.  There is a database in which the names and preferences of all ALA members who have indicated they wish to serve.  These preferences are listed under the committee, so for instance, under Awards Committee, the names of everyone who said that they wanted to serve on the Awards Committee is listed. 

And….therein lies the problem.
In looking over the current roster, I see that many of the school librarians currently serving on these committees are due to rotate off, and I also see that some committees have no school library input.  I see that as a problem.   In rummaging through the database, I thought of the number of people I know who would be great on committees, and was astonished to not find many if any of their names.  You know who you are.   I was also hoping to find many school librarians and AASL members I did not know who had placed their names in contention.  I don’t think I saw those either.
As I understand the process, I can’t put names in the database.   I also, in good conscience, can’t ethically contact people I know and suggest they put their names in for a certain committee.  But you can.   Please, lend a hand.  Put your name in the hat.  Although that is no guarantee that you will be placed on the committee, you have a better chance than if you don’t.  As Michael Jordan is supposed to have said “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”, or, as one state lottery advertised “you can’t win if you don’t play”.  Please also pass this message along to those you know and suggest strongly that they do the same.   
There are so many important issues on the table, and AASL needs many seats.  I can’t stand to see empty chairs.   Please help.
Here is the link to volunteer:
Do it now…while you are still thinking about it.
The Database will close on Nov 2nd.   Will I see enough names to suggest school library people for every committee?   It’s up to you.  
Nagging for a Cause!
Gail Dickinson, Associate Professor
AASL President-Elect
249-6 Education Building
Old Dominion University
Norfolk, VA 23529
See below list of committees…..nicely organized by Cindi Trainor, LITA President-elect, from the messages that she sent out to her division.  
 Committee on Accreditation
To be responsible for the execution of the accreditation program of ALA, and to develop and formulate standards of education for library and information studies for the approval of council.”
American Libraries Advisory Committee
To review and recommend editorial policies for American Libraries and to provide oversight for the implementation of those policies. To communicate with, and operate within, the frameworks established by the ALA Publishing Committee. To serve as a channel for member communication regarding the scope and coverage of American Libraries.”
Awards Committee
(a very long charge, including administering the “ALA General Awards”)  .  Recognize the hard work of your fellow librarians!
Chapter Relations
To develop and recognize chapters as integral components of ALA. To encourage discussion, activities and programs that support the mutual interests of ALA and the chapters.”  (and more!)
The charge involves policy work regarding conferences, but perhaps more interestingly: “To review recommendations of specific sites and dates prior to their presentation by conference services to the ALA executive board; and To recommend to council and to ALA staff a means for communications with the membership to hear their concerns about conference and meeting procedures and policies.”
Constitution and Bylaws
To consider amendments to the constitution and bylaws; to review and draft rules for the conduct of council and membership meetings; to review and draft rules for the preparation of resolutions, memorials, and tributes; and to make recommendations to the association in accordance with the provisions of articles xi and xii of the constitution.”
To monitor ALA elections for association officers, councilors, and constitution and bylaws.” Importantly: “To consist of six ALA members who agree to travel to ALA headquarters at no cost to the association.”
Human Resource Development and Recruitment Advisory Committee
“To advise the Office for Human Resource Development and Recruitment (formerly Office for Library Personnel Resources, OLPR) on activities, problems, and procedures related to library concerns in such areas as recruitment, utilization, education and training, and staff welfare….”
Information Technology Policy Advisory Committee
To advise the Office for Information Technology Policy on priorities, policies and strategies for the Association that promote the development and utilization of electronic access to information.  To provide an ongoing channel for member communication, working closely with other units, committees and officers of the Association in matters touching information technology.”
Committee on Literacy
“To develop and recommend the association’s policies related to the promotion of literacy…”
Literacy and Outreach Services Advisory Committee
“To offer policy guidance to the Office for Literacy and Outreach Services; to advise and assist the Office in establishing programs and priorities; to examine and assist in coordinating the various relevant programs and activities with ALA; to recommend new programs; to provide a channel through which membership may make recommendations; to issue reports; and to promote any other activities that will improve the quality of library services to the rural and urban poor and to ethnic minority groups.”
Membership Committee
To establish general policies, programs, and procedures to secure new members; to be responsible for the implementation of these programs; to coordinate membership promotion activities of all units and chapters of the association; to coordinate the ALA committee internship program; to make recommendations concerning membership dues; and to serve the association as a sounding board on membership”
Membership Meetings Committee
To plan the agenda for the membership meetings specified in ALA policy 7.4.10; to identify potential discussion topics for the membership meetings; to educate the membership about the purposes of the membership meeting and the opportunities it offers members; to identify and recommend incentives for attendance; to advise staff on logistics for membership meetings; to oversee publicity plans for membership meetings; to assess the effectiveness of the membership meetings in addressing the ALA membership’s needs; and to recommend changes in light of that assessment.
Public and Cultural Programs Advisory
To serve as an advisory committee to the ALA Public Programs Office. To promote excellence in cultural programming; to assist library staff to become more effective providers of cultural programming; to identify and disseminate resources for cultural programming; and to promote the cultural communities fund.”
Research and Statistics
“To facilitate research and related activities in all units of the association, especially activities related to library statistics; to advise the ALA council and executive board on programs, policy, and priorities regarding research and related activities;” and much more!
Rural, Native and Tribal Libraries of All Kinds Committee
To review issues and challenges facing rural, native and tribal libraries of all kinds; to collaborate with other ALA units addressing the needs of rural communities; and to serve as an advocate for and partner with libraries serving rural, tribal and native populations.”
Scholarships and Study Grants Committee
To make recommendations to the executive board and the ALA council on all policies relating to ALA scholarships, study grants, conference sponsorships or research grants to be made or sponsored by ALA and its units. It shall administer the general scholarships, study grants, conference sponsorships, and research grants presented in the name of the American Library Association, known as ‘ALA general scholarships and study grants.’ all ALA general scholarships and study grants shall exist to advance study or knowledge in library science.” …and much more!
Training, Orientation, and Leadership Development Committee
To plan and coordinate training, orientation, and leadership development for member leaders at all levels across the association. To inventory training and orientation modules in divisions, round tables, and other association groups. To  coordinate the ALA committee internship training program.”
Website Advisory Committee
To develop, review and recommend to council association policies for the ALA website. To recommend editorial or structural guidelines for the ALA website,” and much more!