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The Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) is a network of more than 4,200 children’s and youth librarians, children’s literature experts, publishers, education and library school faculty members, and other adults committed to improving and ensuring the future of the nation through exemplary library service to children, their families, and others who work with children.
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26. Tween Tabs Take Two

In many ways, it is difficult to believe that my library has been circulating iPads in the children’s library for almost three years. Despite the continued discourse on the role of tablet technology among pre-readers, there is no question that children and families have continued to integrate such devices into their lives. In our community parents look to the librarians to guide their app selections, or at least point them towards the resources that can assist in discerning which purchases to make.

Kids grasping a new Tween Tab from the library.  Photo courtesy of Jacquie Miller.

Kids grasping a new Tween Tab from the library.
Photo courtesy of Jacquie Miller.

It first began with the preschool set, as our library made the decision to circulate Early Literacy Kits. The idea was to infuse tech into what we as children’s librarians were already expounding to parents and caregivers about the practices they can master in order to cultivate a reader. Now after so many parents have expressed that their child has already “Spot the Red Dot,” so to speak, what’s next?

After the debut of our nonfiction reorganization we began thinking of ways to market the collection glades and showcase other resources that reflected these areas. Time and time again we kept hearing requests to circulate tablets for school-age children. Some of our initial concerns stemmed from the prevalence in the community of iPads in the home. Was there even really a need with most families already owning at least one device? We realized that this wasn’t the case for all families, and if anything a lot of the feedback has been that patrons look to our curated list of apps as the main draw. With this encouragement, why not mirror some of the same subjects we wanted to point kids to in redefining how we navigate nonfiction? Our focus would be to highlight apps that inform, engage, and are used to create. Looking to a previous attempt at providing tweens with circulating devices that dissolved, we knew that we could give our Tween Tabs new life.

The method of circulating, updating, and restricting the devices would match the process of the early literacy tablets. Due to other initiatives we wouldn’t be able to roll out six iPads at once, but decided to test-drive the service with two tablets. Instead of the 5 Early Literacy Practices, we would be dividing our apps into the new nonfiction glades: Facts, Traditions, Create, Sports, Self, Fun, Animals, STEM, Then & Now, adding Bio and Languages to round it out. Compiling some of our favorites from the past few years, which we have demoed in programs and sometimes spontaneously in the stacks, the total list included over 70 apps.

From homework help apps like Stack the States, Prezi, and the American Presidents for iPad, to brainteasers like Rube Works and American Girl Doll Trivia, the reception has been quite astounding. There are currently over 20 holds on the kits, while pitching the new offering has purely been accomplished through word of mouth. Families are eager to use language resources like Gus on the Go: Mandarin and Rosetta Stone Kids Lingo Letter Sounds, and STEM picks Motion Math: Match, Hopscotch, and Oh No! Fractions. Personally, my heart tends to gravitate towards apps that give kids the ability to produce art digitally, like Easy Studio, Photogene, Bloom HD, and Auryn Ink.

Whatever new technologies are making waves, let’s continue to make sure we are providing these services for a variety of age groups in the community.

Claire Moore is a member of the Digital Content Task Force. She is also Head of Children’s Services at Darien Library in Connecticut. You can reach Claire at cmoore@darienlibrary.org.

Visit the Digital Media Resources page to find out more about navigating your way through the evolving digital landscape.

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27. What GREAT children’s recordings have you listened to this year?

ALSC members are cordially invited to participate in the 2015 Notable Children’s Recordings list by submitting titles for consideration.  The Notable Children’s Recordings Committee’s charge is to select, annotate, and present for publication an annual list of notable audio recordings (music, audiobooks, and read-along kits) of interest to young people from birth through age 14.  The recordings must have been released between November 1, 2013, and October 31, 2014, and be available through a US distributor.  Please follow this link to find out more details about the list and criteria for inclusion:

http://www.ala.org/alsc/awardsgrants/notalists/ncr

The column on the left of that page includes links for information about NCR, including Committee Members, Submission Process, and Past NCR lists.

Please send suggestions with full bibliographic information to chairperson Jennifer Duffy at jenniferaudio@gmail.com. The deadline to submit title suggestions is October 31st.

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28. Camps: The New Trend in Summer Reading

geek girl logo

This summer at the Fayetteville Free Library in Fayetteville, NY we piloted our first ever week long summer camp during Summer Reading. The Fayetteville Free Library Geek Girl Camp is a camp for girls in grades 3 through 5 introducing them to hands on STEM skills and to female role models. Months of work went into planning this camp fulfilling a need in our greater community.  According to the Girl Scout Research Institute,  “Research shows that girls start losing interest in math and science during middle school. Girls are typically more interested in careers where they can help others (e.g., teaching, child care, working with animals) and make the world a better place. Recent surveys have shown that girls and young women are much less interested than boys and young men in math and science.”[1]

We had 44 girls attend the FFL Geek Girl Camp from all over the greater Syracuse, NY area. We had over 10 girls on the waiting list and charged $25.00 for the camp to supplement the cost of food, t-shirts and supplies. We also offered four scholarship opportunities for those who might not be able to afford the cost of the camp. In addition to the 44 girls who came to the camp we had 9 speakers from across the country join us in person or via Skype. Speakers included students from Virginia Commonwealth University, Cornell University, Syracuse University and SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. Other speakers included women who worked for Facebook, the Air Force, a pharmaceutical research facility, and from national organizations, Girls in Tech and Girl Develop IT. Each day we heard from one or more speakers who talked about what they do at their jobs or in school and how important it is to have women working in these fields! They all made sure to relate to the girls in attendance and campers had great questions afterwards.

14779007462_7419253f00_k

Throughout the week we had a great array of activities. We rented a cement mixer and made an oobleck pool for kids to run across after learning about density and viscosity, shot off model rockets, chucked books, apples and water balloons with a trebuchet after learning about projectiles, force, gravity and more.  Girls learned about fractals, made mini catapults, 3D printed, used littlebits kits, Snap Circuits and computer programmed with Scratch and much more.

The camp was a huge success that the parents of those who attended were above and beyond appreciative and wanted to already sign up for next year. We learned from this particular camp that we created something valuable for our community and that we need to transition into this camp model for future Summer Reading programs. We were asked, “When are you having a camp for boys”? We will not only have camp for boys and girls but of different ages as well. Planning FFL Geek Girl Camp did take a lot of time; however the outcome of the camp was far beyond what we expected and worth the time spent planning for the impact it had on our community. Camps offer children an opportunity to learn more and make stronger relationships over a short period of time.  Like camp as a kid it was a place to learn new things and meet new friends and create memories that last a lifetime.

CaptureThe first day of FFL Geek Girl, the campers were a little shy but after just the second day the girls couldn’t stop talking and working together. We run bimonthly programs where kids come in every other week to work on projects but having children in the library everyday for a week gives you an opportunity to teach kids a skill and not have to worry about rushing or not being able to complete the task, plus you have an opportunity to do projects or lessons that take longer and are more complex. Camps also give us a great opportunity to get to know our patrons. Girls come in and out of the library now looking for their camp counselors to say hi! Cost is also a huge factor in running a camp at a library versus a different venue. We had materials donated to the camp and used many of the resources we already owned including our own staff to run and plan the program. Most science camps can range in price anywhere from $75-$600. We decided that $25 was not only affordable but fit into our budget for the camp as well to make it run successfully.

CaptureWe think that camps are the future of Summer Reading. It gives us and the community an opportunity to focus on important topics like STEAM and produce content that is beneficial and influential. At the end of the week our campers said they wanted to be inventors, work at Google, become web developers and physicists. If it wasn’t for the atmosphere we created at the library and the week long camp we would have never saw these results and impact on our community.

Please check out our website for more information about the FFL Geek Girl Camp, our Flickr page and hashtag #geekgirl14 on Twitter and Instagram.

[1]Modi, K. (2012). “Generation STEM: What girls Say about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math” Girl Scout Research Institute. http://www.girlscouts.org/research/pdf/generation_stem_full_report.pdf

Capture

Meredith Levine is the Director of Family Engagement at the Fayetteville Free Library. Meredith is a member of the ALSC School Age Programs and Services Committee. Find out more at www.fflib.org or email Meredith at mlevine@fflib.org

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29. Not-So-Cozy Bedtime Stories

Some of my favorite story time themes involve contrasting themes: Big and Little, Noisy and Quiet, and Awake and Asleep.  While I have several favorite titles perfect for snuggling just before bedtime, they’re not stories that I want to include for a 10:30 story time full of wide-awake toddlers. Luckily, there are any number of rollicking stories that are bedtime-oriented, but won’t invoke drowsiness:

beebeebird

(image from HarperCollins site)

Although “beebee bobbi bobbi” runs through my head all day long after using this in story time, I can’t resist using The Baby Beebee Bird in story times about baby animals or my awake/asleep story time.  This energetic story about a baby bird who prefers to (initially) sleep through the day and sing all night long (and making a very restless night for the other zoo animals, until they hatch a plan to teach the bird a lesson) will require creative and loud animal noises from the reader.

bedtime_jungle

 

(image taken from John Butler site)

Although this take on “Over in the Meadow” certainly qualifies as a “cozy” bedtime story, the variety of animals and audience participation possibilities (counting, etc) make Bedtime in the Jungle  a fun read for story times at any time of the day. It’s also great for story times involving baby animals, jungle animals, or counting.

bunnies_bed

(image taken from Random House site)

The Bunnies Are Not in Their Beds inevitably checks out with a story time patron after I include it in a story time; hopefully, the clever bits in the illustrations that go unnoticed in a large group setting (the headline in the newspaper, for instance) will be observed in an one-on-one setting.  The increasingly racuous bunnies, who are clearly not ready for bedtime, are hilarious.

 

piggies_pj

(image taken from Simon & Schuster site)

Stories in rhyme can be troublesome to read aloud; uneven rhyme schemes can make reading aloud awkward. You won’t have that problem with Piggies in Pajamas; this is a funny and bouncy tale of pajama-clad piggies who always manage to appear to be resting quietly each time Mama Pig checks out the commotion upstairs.

 

Do you have any favorite bedtime stories? Share in the comments!

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30. Happy Banned Books Week!

Captain Underpants BBW PosterHere we are in the middle of Banned Books Week again! This is one of my favorite celebrations of the year because I love to read and I love to defend everyone’s freedom to read. I appreciate the conversations that I get to have with customers around banned books and I have a lot of fun working with creative staff to plan our celebrations.

This year at Rochester Public Library (MN) we created posters of staff holding the top ten challenged books of 2013. We also created a banned/challenged books reading area which we put right inside the front entrance. The area includes piles of banned books, comfortable seating, signage explaining book challenges and bans and small cards with the staff photos on one side and the list of the top 10 challenged books of 2013 on the reverse.

BBW Reading areaThere are many creative ideas for celebrating banned books out there. Have you seen the wonderful things that the Judith F. Krug Fund grant recipients are doing?

What are you doing to celebrate the freedom to read?

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31. Strange shelf-fellows

Love him or hate him, Melvil Dewey was the architect of modern library cataloging.  His classification system added order to the world of books like the classification system of Kingdom, Phylum, Species, etc., made sense of the biological world.

In most instances, Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) makes for easy non-fiction browsing.  Once in a while, however, it makes for some strange “shelf-fellows.”  Here are two  that you might enjoy:

Browsing the DDC 610s: Nothing goes together quite like Chiggers and My First Trip to the Dentist

Browsing the DDC 610s: Nothing goes together quite like Chiggers and My First Trip to the Dentist
© L Taylor

Browsing the DDC 640s: My Christmas Cookie Book and Flush: The Scoop on Poop Throughout the Ages - strange shelf-fellows indeed! (c) L Taylor

The Christmas Cookie Book and Flush: The Scoop on Poop – strange shelf-fellows indeed!
© L Taylor

What strange shelf-fellows are nesting on your shelves?  If you’ve got a great photo, I’ll be happy to add it to the post.

(Be sure to tell me whom to credit for the photo.)

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32. The Science of Slimy Things

A few months ago, one of my frequent program-goers made a request: Would I please be able to offer a program that includes slugs, one of his favorite animals? I was inclined to agree to the challenge, even before said child had his mother email me a photo of him with his three pet slugs. How’s a librarian to say “no” to that?

I gave some thought to how I could meet the “slug” challenge while also closing out a season of many science-themed programs. I decided to return to a favorite concept with school-agers—slime—and explore it from two different perspectives: animal biology and physics. Thus “The Science of Slimy Things” was born.

A Slug Science information slide, slide and photo by Amy Koester

A Slug Science information slide, slide and photo by Amy Koester

The program was divided roughly into two parts, the first considerably less messy than the second. We opened with an exploration of slugs—pictures, how they move, their scientific names, how they differ from snails, and the purpose of their slime. Happily, the non-fiction stacks had plenty of resources to support this exploration.

Then we got hands-on with slug slime. No, not real slug slime, as I don’t have regular access to the potionmaster’s storecupboard. Instead, I had prepared some gelatinous, fibrous slime (recipe below) the morning of the program and brought it with me to the library. It sat in the staff fridge with a note saying “NOT Jello—Do NOT eat!” until program time. Once we had talked about slugs, I doled out scoops of the orange goo on paper plates for each of the attendees. I provided them with popsicle sticks and index cards to use to explore and manipulate the slime, but many of them opted just to use their hands. I’m sure none of us are surprised.

Slug slime, photo by Amy Koester

Slug slime, photo by Amy Koester

When everyone felt that, having tested its viscous properties, they had had a good play with the slug slime, we scooped it all back up into the plastic container. After a brief stop in the restroom to wash hands, we all trooped outside to the library’s patio for the really messy activity of the program.

Our second exploration of slime was oobleck, that substance owing its name to Dr. Seuss. I had some sample oobleck to accompany the intro to this type of slime. We discussed how oobleck is a non-Newtonian fluid—that is, it has properties of both a solid and a liquid depending upon the force being exerted upon it. To demonstrate, I set a toy farm animal on top of a pool of water (it sank) and then on top of the pool of oobleck (it sank, albeit more slowly). With a minimal amount of pressure acting against the oobleck, it acts like a liquid. To demonstrate how it acts like a solid, I used a mallet as my tool. First, I slammed the mallet into the pool of water; it splashed magnificently. When I raised the mallet to slam it onto the pool of oobleck, many of the kids leaned backward in expectation of a colossal oobleck splatter. Instead, there was none; the sudden strong force of mallet against oobleck caused the oobleck to act like a solid. Cue the pronouncements of “How cool!”

After making sure the kids had retained the term “non-Newtonian fluid,” I split everyone into groups to make their own oobleck. It was a messy, experimental process, as kids had to fiddle with the balance of ingredients in their slime (recipe below). Once they all had slime, the patio was a mess of kids scooping up oobleck, rolling it into a ball in their hands, and then letting it drip through their fingers. (I am happy to report that it rained a LOT the day after the oobleck project, which had left the outdoor patio quite covered in dried slime.)

When kids had had enough of the messy oobleck, I handed out empty prescription containers so that kids could take a bit of slime home with them. Kids bottled it up, then went their merry way to wash hands.

My program-goer who requested the slug aspect of the program said he was very happy with how the program had turned out—he liked getting to play with slug slime, and the oobleck was a great surprise as well. Talk about enjoying the finer things in life.

The Recipe for Slug Slime:

  • 7 cups water
  • 10 tsp Metamucil powder

Pour the water into a stovetop-safe saucepan, then stir in the Metamucil until dissolved. When the mixture is dissolved, turn on the burner to medium-high heat. Heat the mixture for 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently, until it reaches your desired consistency. The mixture will be gelatinous and gloopy. Let cool before handling.

The Recipe for Oobleck:

  • 1 to 2 cups cornstarch
  • 1 cup water

Pour 1 cup of the cornstarch into a mixing bowl. Slowly add in the water, gently stirring with a spoon or with hands. Keep adding water until the oobleck starts to thicken; you’ll know it’s ready when you tap on it and it hardens. If the oobleck is too runny, add more cornstarch; if too thick, add more water.

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33. Light the Way for the Underserved

Do you have an innovative new program or service that requires funding? Are you looking to serve an underserved part of your community more fully?  The ALSC/Candlewick Press “Light the Way: Outreach to the Underserved” Grant is a great opportunity for your library!

The Light the Way Grant was formed in honor of Newbery Medalist and Geisel Honoree author Kate DiCamillo. The spirit of the award honors the themes represented in her books.  The award itself consists of a $3,000 grant to assist a library in conducting exemplary outreach to underserved populations through a new program or an expansion of work already being done. So, whether yours is a new idea or one that has already been put into place, your library would be eligible.

The  ALSC Library Service to Special Population Children and Their Caregivers Committee has the honor of selecting the winner. Special population children may include those who have learning or physical differences, those who speak English as a second language, those who are in a non-traditional school environment, those who live in foster care settings, those who are in the juvenile justice system, those who live in gay and lesbian families, those who have teen parents, and those who need accommodation service to meet their needs.

Be inspired by the impact and the work of the 2014 ALSC/Candlewick Press “Light the Way” current grant winner. Don’t forget to check back on the ALSC website for the most current grant application to be available soon!

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34. Creating Life-Long Library Advocates

I was on Facebook the other day and many of my library friends were posting an article from the Atlantic Monthly called, “Millennials Are Out-Reading Older Generations.” Interested, I read the article and was excited to see that the millennial generation loves reading. The article shares the results of a Pew research report that studied the role of the influence of libraries on young readers, ages 16-29. “Eighty-eight percent of Americans under age 30, read a book in the past year, compared with 79% of those age 30 and older” and they also used the library slightly more than older adults. For a split second, I was ecstatic. I now, finally had proof that all my hard work as well as the hard work and tireless efforts of all my friends and fellow librarians who put in long days planning programs, recommending books, and advocating to parents and politicians, actually worked.

Then I read the following sentence: “At the same time, American readers’ relationship with public libraries is changing – with younger readers less likely to see public libraries as essential in their communities.” Only 19% of Millennials say that their local library’s closing would impact them, even though they are using the library as much as older patrons.

Before we throw our hands in the air and call in sick tomorrow, let’s take another look at the facts. We have created a generation of readers who use the library and are reading and utilizing the library more than the generation before them. Unfortunately, they just don’t understand the importance of the library to themselves and to their community.

As everyday advocates, we can fix that. Children do not have political power. They have limited say in decisions affecting their lives, but as we can see with this study, they are the future politicians, community partners, and parents with whom we will be advocating to justify our budget and staff. Instead of trying to convince adults to become library advocates, let’s focus on the youth to create life-long library advocates! As Children’s librarians, we have the unique ability to advocate from birth. The next time you are talking to caregivers about the importance of storytime, be certain to include the children in the discussion. When you find that perfect book for a child, remind them how the library is important to them. Sometimes, we focus so much on the political parts of advocacy, that we forget that it as simple as talking to a child. Who is with me?

**************************************

Gloria Repolesk is a Children’s Librarian at the Emmet O’Neal Public Library. She is writing this blog post on behalf of the Advocacy and Legislation Committee.

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35. Setting Program Attendance Limits?: She Said/ She Said

Does your library limit attendance to children’s programs, requiring some sort of advance registration? Or are all programs planned with an eye toward accommodating any size group?

In a nod to Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, children’s librarians Lori Faust and Kendra Jones debate the pros and cons:

LF: Well, Kendra, I will begin with a very obvious “pro” in favor of pre-registration to a set limit: if staff knows how many people to expect at a program, it is much easier to plan, prepare and purchase supplies without over-buying and wasting those limited budgets.

KJ: True, but limiting attendance can create more work for staff as they will have to take registration, follow up, pass out tickets, etc., plus there is the unpleasant task of informing interested patrons that a program is full.

If we allow walk-ins, we are more apt to have kids attend whose parents do not want to/cannot commit ahead of time and those who do not know the great things the library has to offer until they drop in one day. To then be unable to attend a program is not great customer service.

LF: That’s a good point, Kendra, and we always want to make sure we have some programs that are open to all. I’ve worked at libraries that run things both ways. One did not like us to limit attendance; we had fabulous turn-outs, but because we always had to expect 100+ kids (on a very small budget), we could only offer inexpensive programs that accommodated huge groups. And I found that kind of limiting creatively.

In response to your point that turning people away isn’t good customer service, I’d argue that for some libraries, with limited space perhaps, keeping the crowd to a manageable size can make the experience better for those in attendance. I’ve had complaints from patrons when programs have been very crowded, too!

KJ: I understand how that can be challenging, however, there are other options for programming for large crowds of people. Identical programs can be held back to back, for example. Only one program has to be planned and is then repeated. Not only does this offer patrons more choice in time but allows more patrons to partake in a library program.

LF: That would be a great option, IF…Well, there are several “ifs” depending on an individual library’s situation – can the youth services staff book the space for double the time? Is there enough staff to cover the department and run multiple programs? Is there enough money to cover twice the program? I want to mention, too, that requiring registration for programs doesn’t necessarily mean that patrons get turned away. Often, a program doesn’t “fill up,” but having a good idea of how many kids will attend helps the staff prepare for (and sometimes tweak) the program.

KJ: So true, Lori, that some libraries do not have the resources to do a double header. However, if a program is not getting filled up, perhaps registration is acting as a barrier to one of our most prized resources.

When I worked in a system where registration was required, even with reminder phone calls, patrons did not come for the program. And since they were under the impression that registration was required, there were no drop-in patrons to attend the program, meaning supplies went unused and the program was smaller than intended. Which may not bode well with statistics loving stakeholders who often provide funding for youth programs.

Now we have had our say, but we know there is so much more to this issue! It is your turn to make some arguments for, or against, program attendance limits. Add your thoughts in the comments.

*****************************************

Our guest bloggers today are Lori Faust and Kendra Jones, who wrote this piece as members of the Managing Children’s Services Committee

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at alscblog@gmail.com.

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36. Science Literacy Moments #alsc14

“Pretend the window is a screen,” said poet Susan Blackaby at this morning’s #alsc14 session “The Poetry of Science.” People spend so much time with their eyes glued to their electronic devices that they’re liable to miss what’s going on in their environment. Imagine if people gave as much concentration to nature as they give to their computer screens. How many hawks would they see? What other wonders would they encounter?

Author Margarita Engle joined today’s panel, discussing how she uses both poetry and her science background to advocate for animal and environment conservation. As a child, Engle said, “No curiosity was too small for concentration.” She made the point that the phrase “the spirit of wonder” is applicable to both science and poetry. Because of this commonality, it’s possible to interest poetry loving kids in science phenomena and give science fans the chance to experiment with language.

Poet Janet Wong said that it’s easy–and vital–to create science literacy moments in the classroom and at the library. The key is to be bold. “Science and technology are accessible to people if they’re not afraid.” As gatekeepers of information, teachers and librarians should embrace the responsibility to expose kids to all subjects. Linking language and science may be a key way to make science more approachable. It doesn’t even have to be an elaborate lesson: just a few science literacy moments a week will have a lasting impact on children’s lives.

Check out these great resources:

Jill’s post about Thursday’s edition of “The Science of Poetry”

Presenter Sylvia Vardell’s Poetry for Children blog

Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong’s blog and book, The Poetry Friday Anthology.

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37. Every Day You Do It! #alsc14

Andrea Davis Pinkney’s closing session talk was a great end to the ALSC Institute experience.  In addition to giving us a wonderful peek into her creative process, she clearly identified herself as a lover of libraries and librarians.  She called us “Fairy god-librarians!”  (Time to make new business cards?)

And, you know what?  We are.  That’s one thing that I will take home from the ALSC Institute: the pleasure of meeting colleagues from around the nation who are incredibly generous, dedicated and brilliant.  I hope this is something that you already know and that you hear on a regular basis, but regardless, please take a moment to recognize how amazing you are.  You work so hard and your work has a huge impact on the children and families in your community.  As Pickney said “Every day you do it!”

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38. Beyond Sensory Storytime at #ALSC14

Renee Grassi led this informative session on serving children (and adults) with special needs. She started off by sharing the rationale behind expanding services to this population: To provide a supportive and inclusive environment for a traditionally underserved group in your community.
She also shared some startling statistics:
Nearly 20% of the US population lives with a disability- about 13% with a severe disability. Only 56% of students w/ autism finish high school, even though there are more than 1 million people w/ autism in the USA.

For those wondering where to begin w/ developing services for people w/ special needs, Renee suggests starting with conversations- get to know people and talk to them about what they need and want. One way to do this is by offering family tour services at the library. This can be available for any family- special-needs or just new to the community or library. They simply make an appointment and have a customized personal library tour with a librarian, just for that family, adapted to their needs and interests. Other ways to find out about community needs include surveys and focus groups.

Renee talked about where to find partners to help your library reach and serve families with special needs: parks, museums, disability organizations, therapists, health centers & hospitals, support groups, special educators & schools, and other librarians who are already working in this area.

Renee described her major partnership w/ her area special-education district- the spedial-ed teachers & specialists provided training and expertise to the library staff, and used their connections to get a community needs survey distributed to the families they serve.

Top 3 library materials requested in that community needs survey were:

  • high interest/low reading level books & booklists
  • chapter books paired w/ audio books
  • more parenting books on special-needs topics

Top 4 services requested:

  • storytime designed for children w/ special needs
  • book discussion for teens & adults w/ special needs
  • eReader & downloading demos
  • social stories about the library- these are first-person stories used to introduce a person with special needs (especially autism) to a new concept or experience.

Next Renee discussed the concept of person-first language: Say “The child with autism” vs. “The autistic child” – or better yet, learn and use their name! It’s important to watch your language even when talking to fellow staff- you never know who hears you, and how disability has affected them.

We talked about ways to adapt existing programs to include children with special needs, and specially-designed programs just for this population. Libraries can offer integrated programs that are open to a mix of ‘”typically-developing” children and those with special needs, or programs that are just for those with special needs- there are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches, and what’s best to do depends on the needs and priorities of the families being served.
One great idea that Renee shared, that I hope to try at my own library, is for when you have a great big noisy program for a large crowd, like a magician or puppet show: ask the performer if they can offer a second, much smaller session that’s adapted to be sensory-friendly. This would mean keeping the lights on, turning the volume on the sound system down, reducing sudden loud noises, and allowing the audience to move around, talk, and fidget with toys. Publicise this extra session as “autism and sensory-friendly” and require registration or tickets to keep the crowd small.

There are many ways to make sure that your library services are accessible and welcoming to everyone, and Renee’s great ideas make an excellent starting point for doing just that.

Handouts from this program:

PowerPoint Slides (available online only)
Presentation Resources
Handout: People First Chart
Handout: Universal Design Checklist

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39. Using Volunteers to Expand the Walls of the Library

Laurie Willhalm started off this session by telling the history of Books for Wider Horizons, an outreach program of the Oakland Public Library that sends well-trained storytime readers into childcare centers and preschools in the city’s poorest neighborhoods. They started with about 3 volunteers and have grown over the past 20 years into a corps to 60 volunteers making 71 weekly storytime visits to 1300 kids at 31sites!

Celia Jackson explained the logistics of how the program works:
They are continually recruiting, in order to replace volunteers who drop out or retire. The m ajority of their volunteers are reached by word of mouth, and they also list themselves on a website called Volunteer Match. Careful screening is key to ensuring that the volunteers area good match for this program and understand the training and time commitments. There is a wirten application with references (which they carefully check), and a phone interview with 4 key questions:
-how did you hear about our program?
-what interests you about this opportunity?
-do you understand the training requirements and volunteer commitments?
-Do your have any questions?
Once recruited, volunteers recieve a binder stuffed with all the info, resources, and paperwork they’ll need, and go through an intensive training institute of 7 session over 3 weeks. All the sessions are required; not only is every element of the training important, but this also weeds out those who may want to vounteer but can’t really committ- if they can’t make all the training sessions, they probably can’t make all of their weekly storytime visits over the long term.

Gay Ducey described the training program- it indeed sounds excellent and intensive! She starts every training session by saying: “Thank your for conisidering your time and your energy spent in the service of the children of Oakland, who deserve the very best that we have.” They teach that the role of a story reader is not to teach- there are plenty of adults in their lives to do that. Their role is to bring joy in reading- to create a special, protected, magical time with books and stories that will make the children associate reading with joy and fun, so that they never stop reading.
Training sessions consist of a brief lesson, a demonstration by a librarian or active story reader, then the volunteers practice what they’ve seen in triads. They get homework to go home and practice. They progress from familiar concepts like reaading alout & singing to more unfamiliar skills like fingerplays. and feltboards. There is a survey of classic and contemporary children’s literature, and lessons on child development. The hardest thing to learn is how to hold the book- the volunteers need lots of practice! Gay says: “Our training is long, and it’s hard sometimes, but it’s fun and entertaining and it moves along at a good clip. Otherwise we might all come down a case of terminal earnestness.”

Randi Voorhies is a longtime Books for Wider Horizons volunteer, who shared her experience in the program. She echoed what Gay had already said: if any of us decide to start a similar program, don’t water down the training! Its length and depth are essential in the volunteers’ success and long-term commitment. talked about her experience.

Laurie Willhalm, in her conclusion, responded to a comment from an earlier session from a librarian who despaired of being able to build a materials collection and volunteer corps on the scale of BWH- “You are sufficient as you are.” Start with what you have and build from there as you’re able.

Laurie Willhalm’s contact info for more information: lwillhalm@oaklandlibrary.org, 510-238-2848

http://www.ala.org/alsc/sites/ala.org.alsc/files/content/NI14Handouts/Building%20Walls.pdf

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40. Aiming for Inclusion Breakout Session at #alsc14

At tonight’s Breakout Sessions I participated in Aiming for Inclusion in Public Library Early Literacy Programs.  Tess Prendergast and Kelly Clark, of Vancouver Public Library, discussed strategies that they initially used in special programs for children with disabilities, but then found to be very useful and appealing to a group of children with a wide range of abilities.  For example, children with special needs often benefit from getting to re-tell a story in several different ways.   Guess what? So do typically developing children!  They brought up some barriers that families with children who have disabilities may encounter with library programs, such as group size and program pacing, and discussed ways they’d tried to minimize these issues.

We got to meet Moe the Mouse and to sing the Pete the Cat song together.  It was really nice to be in a smaller group where everyone was able to participate in the conversation and the lovely Fairyland back-drop didn’t hurt either.  If you want to delve deeper into how to make your early literacy programs more inclusive take a look at Tess’s blog.

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41. Friday Highlights @ #alsc14

Friday was a whirlwind of excitement, from start to finish–how can you top a day that begins with Breakfast for Bill and ends at Fairyland? It exceeded all expectations!

Highlights included:

-Gene Luen Yang’s revelation that as a pre-teen, he smuggled home comics in oversized Egyptology library books. He also had an amazing, hilarious–and pretty convincing–theory about how Superman is really Asian.

-Rita Williams-Garcia read aloud parts of her childhood diary, which included a prophetic letter to William Morrow (which later became her publisher).

-Tim Federle’s astute observation that kids don’t classify books and authors as “GLBT” or “Asian.” To them, “books are books.”

-Pam Munoz Ryan said that she personally didn’t become an avid reader until she was in 5th grade. She pointed out that sometimes it just takes some kids a little longer than others and that books enter a person’s life at the right time.

-Author Ginger Wadsworth (First Girl Scout: The Life of Juliette Gordon Low) sat with my group at breakfast; she was lovely to meet. Each table at Breakfast for Bill featured a special guest local author.

-Saroj Ghoting and Pamela Martin-Diaz’s program about integrating math and science into our existing preschool storytime repertoire was inspiring. They made it sound extremely easy, as Erin discussed in her blog post “STEM and Nursery Rhymes.” It’s something I’ll definitely try when I get back to the library.

-Oakland, Oakland, Oakland! The amazing Friday Farmer’s Market, steps from the conference center; markets and restaurants in Chinatown; the sunset over sparkling Lake Merritt; and the wonder that is Fairyland!

-Mingling with #alsc14 attendees, who are so energetic, smart, and fascinating. There was even a group of librarians dressed up like pirates, in observation of “Talk Like a Pirate Day.”

-Fairyland guests Mac Barnett, Daniel Handler, and Jenni Holm, who pulled questions out of a bag and provided spot-on, hilarious answers that kept the audience thoroughly entertained. There were even hot tub jokes. This definitely wasn’t the type of Q&A you’d get during a school visit!

What a delightful day. This is my first time attending an ALSC Institute, and I am having the best time ever!

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42. Taking a moment to rest at #alsc14

llama

My new friend taking a moment to rest.

I have already learned so much at the ALSC Institute and my brain is buzzing with new ideas to take back to my library system.  Thanks to our fabulous presenters I’m thinking about ways to advocate for the importance of the work we do, ways to collaborate with community partners, ways we could better welcome children with special needs into our branches….and so much more!  I know this afternoon will bring even more great new ideas, but sometimes it’s important to take a step back and collect yourself for a moment.  How do you keep yourself feeling energized at conferences?  (Or during your work week?!)  Whether it’s catching up with a colleague over lunch, taking a little walk to explore your surroundings or taking a nap with the stuffed llama in your ALSC gift-bag, I would recommend fitting a little self-care into your conference experience.   It will help prepare your brain for all the new ideas coming at you!

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43. Beyond Sensory Storytime #alsc14

In Beyond Sensory Storytime: Expanding Library Services to Children with Special Needs, Renee Grassi shared some great inclusive customer service strategies. These strategies include:

– Person First Language

Person First Language is words or phrases that that puts the person before the disability. For examples of First Person Language, visit www.disabilityisnatural.com.

– Adjust Your Mindset

Programs for people with disabilities will not look exactly like your usual program, and that’s okay.

– Be Patient and Allow Processing Time

Children with disabilities may have a hard time expressing what they need. By being patient and allowing processing time, we are giving them time to find a way to express themselves.

– Simple Questions and Offer Choices

Offer a choice board that features both text and pictures at the service desk so that nonverbal children (and adults!) can communicate.

– Make Accommodations

Is the program room too cluttered or too bright? Make accommodations to the best of your ability so that everyone can feel welcome.

– Offer Visual Supports

Use both text and picture supports for your program. Have the program plan written down with pictures. Remove the pictures as you complete the task. For example, for a storytime, have a picture of a book, then remove it when you finish the book.

– Assistive Technology

There’s a lot of great assistive technology that can be used in programs. For example, a Big Mac Button is a large, easy to press button that can be preloaded with a certain phrase. So if you’re reading Bark, George in storytime, you can preload the button with the phrase, “Bark, George” so that non-verbal children can participate.

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44. #alsc14 Inspired by Early Childhood Partnerships

Talk about inspiration! I attended a fabulous program, which highlighted a panel of early literacy librarian experts. They talked about their wide variety of experiences developing collaborative partnerships in their community. Here are 3 of my quick takeaways:

  • If you can train other community partners to extend your reach and support the goals of promoting literacy and school literacy, your impact multiplies.
  • Our role as early literacy advocates should be to partner with local social service agencies to work together to break the cycle of illiteracy. Seek out homeless shelters, food banks, and other childhood agencies and connect with their professionals.
  • Start up a conversation with parents and caregivers! Sometimes a quick 5-10 minute convo that includes a few early literacy tips is more meaningful and accessible to at-risk families, rather than offering librarian-led lecture style presentations about early literacy. Make it personal and get to know their children individually.

What tips do you have for maintaining successful and meaningful early literacy partnerships in your community?

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45. STEM and Nursery Rhymes #alsc14

The Sing, Talk, Read, Write and Play with Math and Science session focused on including STEM concepts in storytime. One of the biggest take aways is the fact that science and math concepts are not separate from early literacy, but a part of early literacy. Highlighting STEM in storytimes provides children with background knowledge. The more background knowledge a child has, the more likely he or she will recognize and understand concepts when reading.

The best part of this is that STEM is already present in many storytime classics, including nursery rhymes. Take, for example, the rhyme, Jack and Jill. This rhyme provides opportunities to discuss cause and effect, force and motion, the term crown, using a pail as a tool, and measuring volume with water.

Examine some of your favorite nursery rhymes. What STEM concepts can you find?

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46. Happy to be connecting in Oakland #alsc14

Happy Hour at Institute

Enjoying happy hour on the patio at the Oakland Marriott (photo courtesy of ALSC)

Hello Institute goers! Thanks to everyone who joined us last night at the happy hour. We had great weather and even a chance to spend time outside on the patio.

If you weren’t at the happy hour, don’t worry. There are still plenty of opportunities to interact with your colleagues including the upcoming ALSC Connection events. At 12:15, we’ll be hosting a condensed, but exciting version of ALSC 101.

It sounds cliche, but getting to know people from across the country is a big part of the Institute. You never know who you’re going to meet! Personally, I’m really looking forward to the ALSC Connection and getting to know more about the people and representative of ALSC!

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47. The Science of Poetry @ #ALSC14

I love science, and I love poetry, so attending this session was a slam-dunk decision for me! This program was hosted by Sylvia Vardell and featured the poets Alma Flor Ada, Susan Blackaby, F. Isabel Campoy, & Janet Wong

Sylvia Vardell started us off by reading a poem call ed “Recycling” by Susan Blackaby, then walked us through the steps of “Take 5 with Poetry & Science:”
1. Read the poem aloud
2. Read again, inviting kids to participate in the reading
3. Discuss and research the poem and its topic
4. Connect the poem to a specific science topic with a demonstration or hands-on activity
5. Share more, related poems & other readings

Susan Blackaby shared some of her lovely poems and discussed the connections and similarities between poetry and science. Both science and poetry require precision, careful use of language, trying and trying again, and making revisions. Both use observation and description. Both are beautiful.
She also told us how, when her book Nest, Nook, & Cranny was reviewed by a biologist to make sure she had all the science right in her animal poems, there were no problems with the simple poems… but she had a wrong fact about beavers that forced her to make a change to her villanelle, a poetry form so complicated that “it can just reduce a poet to tears.”

Alma Flor Ada talked about the importance of children seeing “people like them” reflected in the people and subjects they read and study about. She said, “I think every child needs to know the richness and diversity of everyone who contributes to culture and science.” Ms. Ada read us a lovely essay from her and Isabel Campoy’s book Yes! We Are Latinos. Isabel Campoy followed with another moving essay from the book.

Janet Wong shared her insight on the value of reading poetry aloud with children, not just studying poems on the page. Reading aloud together, discussing poems, joining in and making connections with the poetry are much more engaging then dissecting them as a written assignment. She also talked about something that disturbs Janet Wong: at teacher conferences, her general poetry anthology sells out quickly, & some teachers say “Oh, you only have the science book left? I don’t do science.” That’s not responsible, Janet says, because teachers model their attitudes towards science to their students.

All of the poets talked about the ways that science poetry can be both a way into science for kids who think science isn’t for them… and a way into poetry for kids who think they aren’t poets.

The excellent handout from this session lists the books these poets have written, lots more books of science poetry, and a long list of websites to suppor science learning (and link to science poetry):

http://www.ala.org/alsc/sites/ala.org.alsc/files/content/NI14Handouts/ALSCHandoutScienceofPoetry.pdf

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48. Making Advocacy Awesome @ #ALSC14

Making Advocacy Awesome @ #ALSC14

My first program of the conference was led by the awesome triple-threat team of Jenna Nemec-Loise, Helen Bloch, and Katie O’Dell. They jam-packed their session with information and inspiration to turn us all into powerful advocates for libraries and children’s services.

Jenna Nemec-Loise started us off with a tour of the excellent & comprehensive resources on the ALSC Everyday Advocacy Website: www.ala.org/everyday-advocacy, and described the elements of advocacy:
Be Informed
Engage w/ Community
Speak Out
Get Inspired
Share Your Advocacy Story

Helen Bloch talked about “building the foundation,” or having the groundwork already done, the relationships already established, etc. so that you are ready to advocate for your library at any time- to respond to crisis or to seize an opportunity.
Think about advocacy in terms of Who, What, Where, When, Why, & How.
Who- budget deciders, possible allies, local media
What- Demonstrate the value of the library and of children’s services
Where- Advocacy takes place both inside & outside the library
When- All the time
Why- the work we do is important!

Katie O’Dell explored the roles of advocacy- for administrators, frontline children’s staff, as a partner of other organizations, & more.

After the panelists’ presentations, we formed breakout groups:

Jenna Nemec-Loise led a group in developing example elevator speeches, using a 3-step process:
Identify a group you serve, list one service or program you provide to them, & describe it in terms of why that’s important. This was mine:
“I help childcare providers find & use resources to transform their centers into rich learning environments.”

Katie O’Dell walked the group through her excellent planning form for developing an advocacy campaign (posted online here: http://www.ala.org/alsc/sites/ala.org.alsc/files/content/NI14Handouts/MakingAdvocacyAwesomeProjectManagertemplate%20%281%29.pdf)

Helen Bloch led a brainstorm to identify actual and potential allies to help spread and support the library’s advocacy message.

We finished by banging the drum loudly as we cheered for advocacy and went forth to change minds and save the world!

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49. Trivia Night at #alsc14

Trivia Night at NI14

Dewey Lewis and the News at Trivia Night (image courtesy ALSC)

Last night was the Trivia Night at the 2014 ALSC National Institute. A big thank you to our hosts, the Pacific Coast Brewing Company. Nearly 100 librarians packed the place to battle for bragging rights (and some swag).

The questions were tough, but everyone had a great time. Perhaps the best part of the night were the team names. I’m going to share a few of them for you here (the ones I remember anyway):

  • The Original Pickle (you had to be there)
  • Dewey Lewis and the News
  • The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Trivia Team
  • Win!
  • Undercover Geniuses

Congratulations to the winners and everyone who participated. It was a blast!

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50. Gene Luen Yang at Breakfast for Bill #alsc14

This morning’s Breakfast for Bill program was such a treat. I absolutely love hearing authors speak about their work, personal writing journeys and library experiences. The wonderful panel today consisted of four special authors, but I was most excited to hear Gene Luen Yang speak. I loved American Born Chinese and was equally impressed with his recent Boxers & Saints titles.

Yang shared his difficulty finding reading at the local library once he reached 5th grade which led him to discover the local comic book store. He hilariously told how his friend would join him in sneaking comic books home in large library books out of his parents sight. As an elementary school student I also snuck my Spider-Man comics home in library books and was pleased to hear that other kids used this tactic!

It was an overall great panel full of funny stories and touching recollections. What a great way to start day two of the institute!

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