March Author of the Month Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch

It is quite likely that when a student asks you for a book about the impact of war on real people, you will recommend a title by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch. When our reviewers gave highly recommended ratings to two of her new titles, Making Bombs for Hitler and Adrift at Sea, we decided it was time to learn more about Skrypuch herself.

Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch’s books have received numerous awards and honors—and for good reason. Skrypuch can take a subject like famine (Enough, a picture book about the Ukranian famine), genocide (Armenian Genocide Trilogy), refugees (Adrift at Sea, Last Airlift, and One Step at a Time, about Vietnamese refugees), or war (World War II Trilogy and others), and turn it into something that is not just suitable for children but, perhaps more importantly, that children can relate to also. With protagonists who are children themselves, her books invite young readers to place themselves in these circumstances and think about how they might have responded to the same situation. But enough of that for now; you’ve read her books, you already know all of this. It’s time for us to get to know a little bit more about Marsha herself.

When did you know you wanted to become a children’s book author?

I wanted to write books ever since I began reading at age nine. I write the stories that burn in my heart – the stories that if I don’t write I won’t be able to sleep at night.

Writing specifically for children wasn’t a conscious decision until much later.

Why do you think it is important to write books for children that deal with such tragic events (refugees, war, genocide)?

We need to be respectful of children’s intelligence. I will never write a book that appeals to the lowest common denominator. Young people deserve nuanced, tough, and interesting stories about real life and real history. Letting kids chew on gritty stories about real history is just as important as giving them good food. Reading about what other young people had to go through in different times and places gives a child the strength and context to deal with their own challenges.

I want to give children a safe way to feel what it’s like to live in the midst of war and what it’s like to have to make impossible choices. But most importantly, when you live inside a character that you’ve grown to love, the whole concept of “us” versus “them” falls away.  Literature set during tragic times is one of the best ways to help a reader develop empathy. Continue reading “March Author of the Month Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch”

“Piecing Administrators into the
Collaboration Puzzle”
A Supplement for LIS Faculty

This month at School Library Connection, we are debuting a new feature on our blog—a set of learning experiences built around our latest issue and designed for use with school library candidates in graduate/professional programs, including pre-service school librarians and practitioners working as educators while earning their credentials. The suggested discussions, writing exercises, and other activities are written “to the graduate students,” so that faculty might borrow or adapt sections of the text directly into assignment instructions or online course modules.

Current subscribers can access the referenced articles via the hyperlinks below. (Magazine subscribers who still need to register for their login credentials at no extra cost may do so here.) As always, new subscribers are warmly welcomed into the SLC community, or we invite you to sign up for a free preview of our online platform.

Feedback on this supplement is  greatly appreciated as we develop this evolving area of School Library Connection’s professional development materials. Please tell us if you applied some of these ideas with your graduate students, and how they went! What did you try? What changes did you make, or might you incorporate next time? What other kinds of materials might be useful to you—more like this? Something different? We look forward to hearing from you!
—Dr. Rebecca J. Morris

 

Piecing Administrators into the Collaboration Puzzle
It’s not an exaggeration to suggest that the relationship between the school librarian and school administrator can make or break the library program. A myriad of practices and policies within the control or influence of the principal stand to affect the library program. Among them are student and teacher schedules, budget, staffing, collaborative opportunity, and school-wide literacy culture, not to mention support for and belief in the value of the school library for student learning. Continue reading ““Piecing Administrators into the
Collaboration Puzzle”
A Supplement for LIS Faculty”

The Power of Yes

We’re thrilled to welcome Leslie Preddy as our new Instructional Leadership Topic Center Editor. She brings with her years of experience as a librarian and active involvement in professional organizations as well as a tireless devotion to promoting reading among children everywhere. Please join us in welcoming Leslie to the fold and read on to find out what makes Leslie so successful at what she does.

Everything wonderful to happen to me professionally is because I said yes. Yes to opportunity. Yes to chance. Yes to appropriate change. Yes to developing new skills. Yes to engaging in new experiences. Yes to new additions to my professional learning network. Embracing the role of Instructional Leadership editor for School Library Connection is an exciting event in my life that has already helped to enrich my life both personally and professionally.

Situational Awareness

The U.S. Coast Guard defines situational awareness as “the ability to identify, process, and comprehend the critical elements of information about what is happening to the team with regards to the mission. More simply, it’s knowing what is going on around you.”* Professionally, our team consists of school library educators, school library staff, our building staff, and the youth we serve. The mission is to prepare our youth for a future of learning, reading, and engagement within their community and throughout their lives. To get there, we can’t continue to be who we were and do what we did. We must evolve to meet the ever-changing needs of our communities and profession. Sometimes that means change for the library. A few years ago I realized my students’ reading motivation and abilities were deteriorating. I seized this opportunity to lead some action research within my building where we found a way to successfully engage our students and increase their time spent reading, reading interest, and reading scores on standardized tests. We knew that being situationally aware meant sharing what we had learned with other educators: through articles, resources, a book, and many conference presentations with the school librarian and classroom teachers collaboratively presenting and sharing our successful program and process. When situationally aware, there is recognition for  change, need, or action, whether at the building, local, state, national, or international level, and putting together a team and action plan to do something about it. Continue reading “The Power of Yes”

Administrators Take the Mic (March 2017 Issue)

Subscribers: Browse our March 2017 issue at SLC online! In this issue, we explore how strong partnerships between librarians and school administrators drive positive changes in the school library program, student learning, and the school community as a whole.

Subscribers can click on the article titles below to read more.

Not yet a subscriber? What are you waiting for? Click here for more information and to sign up for a free trial.

Table of Contents

ADMINISTRATORS TAKE THE MIC

Building-Level Advocacy with Library Impact Research By Gary N. Hartzell

The Natural Leadership Role of the School Librarian By Kyle A. Lee

Piecing Administrators into the Collaboration Puzzle By Stony Evans and Bruce Orr

Continue reading “Administrators Take the Mic (March 2017 Issue)”

Beyond the Election: Teaching Civics in 2017

“An informed citizenry is at the heart of a dynamic democracy.” —Thomas Jefferson

Being an informed citizen involves more than just staying current on the issues. Now more than ever, it is important that students also understand how our government operates and what powers are given to specific branches and the people who constitute those offices, from the federal level down to the county level and to the voters themselves. In this article from our February issue, Carrie Ray-Hill and Emma Humphries discuss the great resources available at iCivics that make learning about our government both interesting and fun.
Subscribers can see all of the February online issue here.

For educators across the nation, a presidential election represents a teachable moment—a months-long period in which the nation’s attention is predictably focused on the lead up to one singular event. Everything we see—news coverage, spot ads, even car commercials—are themed for this time of year. It is relatively easy to create in-school connections to the interesting, relevant, and often controversial content that the election season produces. But what about when the election is over?

The political conversation does not go away; it merely evolves from a laser focus on the horserace to an under-the-microscope examination of the new president’s activities: the inauguration, the cabinet building, the first foreign visit, the first state dinner, and so on. Just like a presidential election, the president’s first six months in office, especially those critical first 100 days, also represent a nationwide teachable moment, except even better! Why? Because there are many more lessons about our government and political system to be found after the confetti settles.

The president is not the only new elected official settling into his or her new desk in January. Countless new members of Congress, governors, state legislators, and local government officials are sworn in and expected to quickly learn the job…on the job. Indeed, elections are the only type of competition in which the prize is awarded before all of the hard work is done. After the long lead up to the election and all of the media and hype surrounding it, it’s easy to think of the election as an ending; but it’s only just the beginning! Continue reading “Beyond the Election: Teaching Civics in 2017”

Beyond Heroes, Holidays, and Special Events

Digital image courtesy of the Getty‘s Open content Program

The school library calendar is filled with events that are focused on both the library and literature: Banned Books Week, Banned Websites Awareness Day, Digital Learning Day, Read Across America, and School Library Month, to name a few. National organizations set the date these initiatives are to be held and library programs provide displays or sponsor programs to support the goals of these events. These efforts clearly fit into our responsibilities as program administrators who ensure that “all members of the learning community have access to resources that meet a variety of needs and interests” (AASL 2009, 18).

Getting beyond Months and Days

What may not be quite as clear is the school librarian and library program’s role in relationship to heroes, holidays, and special events that are not specific to the library. For example, “multicultural months,” such as African-American History Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, Native American Heritage Month, and Women’s History Month, are celebrated according to the calendar in many schools and communities around the country. Spotlighting religious holidays may also cause challenges for school libraries. Some librarians may even wonder about the wisdom of the library being known for other special events such as “Poetry Month” or “National History Day.” Should these genres in our collection receive little attention except during their month or on a particular day?

The American Library Association’s “Library Bill of Rights” is clear about our charge to “provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues” (http://www.ala.org/advocacy/intfreedom/librarybill). While heroes, holidays, and special events have a place in the academic program of the school, how can we help ensure that “diversity” is not simply something our school is checking off its list? What are some alternatives to these practices and how can school librarians take a leadership role in guiding our schools toward an integrated model rather than an additive model for diversity? Continue reading “Beyond Heroes, Holidays, and Special Events”

Power of Student Voice

flipgrid peace prize celebration (31) In  this article from the archives, Andy Plemmons shares how he makes sure his students have a voice in the library and beyond.
Subscribers can find more great articles like this here.

 

What does it mean to empower the voices of members of our library community? The library program does not belong to one person, and it is up to us as school librarians to look for ways to empower each voice in our school. By offering a variety of experiences and by taking risks to try new and innovative practices, we are more likely to find opportunities for students who may not have found their voice yet.

Student Voice in the Collection

When students come into the library to search for something to read, they should be able to find themselves and their interests. I, of course, have an obligation to diversify the collection and introduce readers to different perspectives and topics, but readers should also be able to find their own interests and passions. I cannot assume that I know what interests kids. Therefore, I’ve found value in turning the process of developing the collection over to students. Each year, I reserve a portion of our library budget for students. This student book budget project is led by third through fifth graders who are selected by an application process. Basically, if you apply to be in the group and have a genuine interest, you are included.

I offer advice, but the decisions belong to them. Using Google Forms, the book budget team develops a reading interest survey that is emailed to all third through fifth graders. For our younger students, the team individually surveys students in classrooms, at lunch, and at recess. All data populates a Google spreadsheet. Continue reading “Power of Student Voice”

Thank You & Come Back Soon!
Announcing Our 2017–2018 Editorial
Calendar

Advisors
A group of SLC editors and advisors hashing out our 2017–2018 issue themes at ALA Midwinter, Atlanta. From left to right: Sabrina Carnesi, Leslie B. Preddy, Carl A. Harvey II, Dr. Maria Cahill, Terry Young, Liz Deskins, Debra Kay Logan, Dr. Peggy Milam Creighton, and Dr. Rebecca J. Morris.

Believe it or not, behind the scenes, February is the time of year where we’re wrapping up work on the current volume of School Library Connection. While our readers are still waiting for their copy of the March issue to arrive—in both their mailboxes and inboxes—we’re actually already hard at work putting the final touches on our May/June articles before they move into design. So while you may still have several months of the current volume left to enjoy, this is the time of year where we get to say THANK YOU to all the authors in our community who make School Library Connection the incredible professional publication it is.

This is also the time of year where we get to look ahead with excitement to the next volume, and we’re thrilled to share this list of themes for the issues of next year’s print magazine. We warmly welcome back our past authors and look forward to reading your ideas. Just as importantly, we welcome new and first-time authors—we consider it part of our mission to provide a platform for new voices, so don’t be shy!

Continue reading “Thank You & Come Back Soon!
Announcing Our 2017–2018 Editorial
Calendar”

February Author of the Month Elly Swartz

Let us introduce you to Elly Swartz—we guarantee you’re going to love her and her debut novel, Finding Perfect. Swartz’s warmth and charm are apparent in her answers to our questions, just as they are apparent in her portrayal of Molly, a typical tween but one whose adolescence is complicated by her obsessive-compulsive disorder. Get ready to be charmed!

Be sure to look for our review of Finding Perfect, which received a highly recommended rating in the January/February issue of School Library Connection. Subscribers can see our complete archive of reviews at reVIEWS+.

SwartzOnce we had read Finding Perfect, we knew we had to talk with the author, Elly Swartz. She kindly agreed to answer a few questions and we were rewarded with a glimpse into the creation of a story from beginning to end and also a glimpse into the heart of Swartz herself. When you’ve finished reading this, you’ll want to invite Swartz into your library and add Finding Perfect to your collection.

When did you know you wanted to become a children’s book author?

I have been creating stories since I was a little girl. Not with the idea of becoming an author, but simply for the love of the story. When I was young, I wrote short stories and a lot of terrible poetry. As a young mom, I channeled my creativity into storytelling. I would create characters and adventures with my sons and weave stories until they fell asleep, the magic passageway was discovered, the princess was found, or the world saved. Then, sixteen years ago, another creative spark was lit. I wanted to write. This time, I wanted to write a children’s book. That summer I started this journey. I wrote my first children’s book. Then I wrote another. And another. And another. And—finally—I wrote Finding Perfect.

That spark now burns even brighter. I love telling stories and writing for kids. I love the way the words weave and the characters unfold. Slowly. Gently. I consider it a true privilege. Continue reading “February Author of the Month Elly Swartz”

Connecting Students with the World

This month we asked “how do you facilitate opportunities for students to connect with those from other cultures?” In the article below, Maria Cahill discusses the  results and offers resources and ideas for you to use with your students.

We hope you use these surveys to help you reflect on your own practices. Subscribers can view our archive of past surveys here.

1QS-barchart-taketwo-616x

“Global competence is the capacity and disposition to understand and act on issues of global significance” (Mansilla & Jackson 2011, xiii). To prepare students to become globally competent, schools must meaningfully incorporate global topics within the curriculum, ideally through inquiry-based learning; integrate technology tools that enhance learning outcomes; and provide learning environments conducive to developing and sustaining creativity (P21 Global Education Task Force 2014).

We wondered what roles school librarians play in creating those learning environments conducive to global education; therefore, our One Question Survey this month asked school librarians to identify the ways they, individually or in collaboration with teachers, facilitate opportunities for students to connect with students from other cultures. Continue reading “Connecting Students with the World”