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”

Facts & Myths

What do you think you know about the English language learners in your school? What do you know about teaching English as a second language? Sylvia Vardell, our reVIEWS+ collections editor, debunks four common myths about learning English as a new language.

Subscribers can find a new editorial by Sylvia every month as well as our archive of reviews and other content at reVIEWS+

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ESL students learning English as a second language are the fastest growing group in U.S. schools today. These learners come from a multitude of countries and backgrounds with many born right here. They speak many languages, and their reading levels range from preschool to high school. These students can experience great cognitive and emotional demands as they are asked to quickly learn both language and content in order to participate fully in the school curriculum and in classroom life.

As we as librarians and educators think about our students who are learning English as a new language, as we select appropriate books for our libraries and plan meaningful programs and instruction, it can be helpful to consider some of our questions and preconceptions about language learning. What do you know about what it’s like to learn a new language? What can you do in the library to support students learning English as a new language?

MYTH #1: Most students learning English as a new language are born outside of the United States. Continue reading “Facts & Myths”

Research Opportunities Abound at the Reinberger Children’s Library Center:
A Collection of Special Collections

pic1a_marantz-picturebook-collection_405A new year brings new opportunities. Why not consider applying for a fellowship with our friends at the Reinberger Children’s Library Center at Kent State University’s School of Library and Information Science (SLIS)? The application period begins January 30th… so start mulling!

In case you missed it, this article by Michelle Baldini from our December online bonus issue provides more detail about the fellowships and some of the amazing research work by recent fellows. (And in case you missed the entire December issue online, subscribers can find an index of all the new articles by clicking here.)

Social justice in children’s books? Homelessness, immigrants, and indigenous communities in literature for children? Picture book research?

Academic research on picture books and other forms of children’s and youth literature is exactly what takes place in the Reinberger Children’s Library Center at Kent State University’s School of Library and Information Science (SLIS). The Reinberger boasts a collection of more than 40,000 picture books, original picture book art, posters relating to picture books that date back to 1924, historical children’s books, and more. This non-circulating special collection makes the school distinctive among other accredited American Library Association schools and youth library centers. Continue reading “Research Opportunities Abound at the Reinberger Children’s Library Center:
A Collection of Special Collections”

Pop’s Finger

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The Lyda Hill Texas Collection of Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith’s America Project, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division. https://www.loc.gov/resource/highsm.26720

In his November editor’s message, Carl Harvey shares a story to remind us of the importance of primary sources. If you’re sharing Thanksgving with relatives this year, be sure to ask them about their stories, look for the primary sources that go with those stories, and be sure to ask about that jar at the back of the cupboard!

Our November issue is all about primary sources. All kinds of primary sources. Subscribers can view the issue online here. Not a subscriber yet? Click here for information on how to become one. 

When I was in high school and college, my mother and I used to work on our family genealogy. In the years that have followed, we’ve continued to do that but jobs, family, and life seem to keep us from spending as much time on it as we might like. Through all our searching, primary sources have been so powerful. We’ve been able to prove—and disprove—so many myths and legends in the family because of the information we’ve uncovered.

One of my favorite stories (and the kids at school always got a kick out of this one) was the story of Pop’s finger. Fred S. Cogdill, who we all called Pop, was my great-grandfather. He passed away at the age of 96 in 1987. Pop was a very old man by the time I was born, but I still have memories of going to visit him in the nursing home. My Mom commented once that Pop was missing a finger, and he always told his grandchildren (there were thirty-three of them) that a lump of coal had fallen on it when he worked in the coal mines in the early 1910s.

Continue reading “Pop’s Finger”

Building Literacy with Graphic Novels for Young Children

graphic-novels-rights-clearedDo you have graphic novels in your collections? Do you include them in your picture book collection or do you think graphic novels are for older readers only? Just in time for National Picture Book Month, our reVIEWS+ Collections Editor Dr. Sylvia Vardell suggests that the line between the picture book and the graphic novel is blurring and, furthermore, that in this highly visual culture in which we live, the graphic novel represents another way we can get our students to read.
Subscribers to SLC/reVIEWS+ can read more articles like this by visiting School Library Connection/reVIEWS+.


OK, it’s true confession time. I am not a big fan of graphic novels. There, I said it. Actually, I like LOOKING at graphic novels, I just don’t really enjoy READING them. My eye is not sure where to start, go, move, and follow. And I get impatient with the pictures and want more words. Ridiculous, I know. And those are some of the very reasons that students really ENJOY graphic novels:

#1 Because many adults don’t like them, so graphic novels seem a bit taboo and thus even more inviting.

#2 Because they like looking at graphic novels.

#3 Because they do know how to scan, read, and follow the story.

#4 Because they want their story from the visuals as well as from the text.

#5 Because they don’t want to wade through so many words.

And for many more reasons.

I share this because one of my biggest pet peeves is working with librarians who let their own personal tastes and individual reading preferences get in the way of connecting kids with books THEY like, but we may not like as much. People often refer to our “gatekeeper” status as the people who build library collections and choose which books to purchase and then promote our collections to students. We owe it to them to build the collection that they want and need.

How Graphic Novels Help

I also share this because I see the value in graphic novels from many different perspectives that go well beyond personal preferences. This is not just a trend in publishing, graphic novels offer a new dimension for a literary experience that draws new readers into the fold—and that is powerful. Karen Gavigan and Mindy Tomasevich share some of their basics in their article, “Connecting Comics to Curriculum: Beginning Reader Graphic Novels,” one of our Essential Readings this month. And in her article for School Library Journal, Allyson Lyga (2006) noted, “Graphic novels help all different types of learners. For children who are incapable of visualizing a story, the artwork helps them create context…. and [they] help reluctant readers understand the plot of a story…. And cross gender lines.” As children are developing as readers, the format of the graphic novel helps them use their stronger visual literacy skills in gaining story from pictures. Continue reading “Building Literacy with Graphic Novels for Young Children”

Civic Learning and Primary Sources

 

capitol-three-rights-clearElection Day is the perfect time to remember the importance of teaching students about citizenship and civic responsibility. In this article from our November issue, Noorya Hayat and Abby Kiesa with the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement discuss ways school library practitioners and K-12 educators can work together for high-quality civic learning linked to primary sources.
Subscribers to SLC can read more articles like this by visiting School Library Connection.

Engaging Students in High-Quality Civic Learning

Civic learning is an important mission of schools, and school library and media educators can and should play key roles. Not only do these educators play a role in what information and media youth are exposed to, but engagement with information, news, and other media also creates the opportunity to emphasize and develop literacy skills needed in many parts of life, including civic life and democracy. At the core of civic life is the ability to research issues and candidates to understand policies and related discussions, as well as finding and developing solutions. As such, the skills developed through interaction with and communication about information on public issues is a critical piece of civic learning.

In 2011, the Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools published the “Guardian of Democracy” report, which outlines a comprehensive view of civic learning outcomes with six proven practices as inputs and civic outcomes focused on building knowledge, skills, and dispositions. These involve in-class and out-of-class activities that can all use primary sources to provide holistic civic education. These six promising practices for civic learning are:

  • Classroom instruction for knowledge in government, history, economics, law, and democracy;
  • Discussion of current events and controversial issues in the classroom;
  • Service-learning connected to school and class curriculum;
  • Simulations of democratic processes;
  • Extracurricular activities in school and the community; and
  • Student participation in school governance.

These practices can be used simultaneously in an activity or integrated over the course of a semester to teach powerful civic lessons. Coordination between educators in different roles and subject areas deepen and connect lessons for students. These practices can ensure high-quality civic learning outcomes in K-12 students—including through the integration of digital primary resources. Continue reading “Civic Learning and Primary Sources”

What’s Important to Teach from the New MLA 8th?

new-picture-13The familiar MLA Handbook changed recently, taking a new approach to bibliographic citations. Are you prepared? In this installment of her column Adding Friction: How to Design Deliberate Thinking into the Research Process, Debbie Abilock tells you what you need to know about introducing MLA 8th to your students.

Subscribers can see more of Debbie’s columns here.

The preface to the 8th edition of the MLA Handbook (MLA) argues that accurate citation is more important than ever. Writers owe their readers precise pointers to the sources they use since “documentation is the means through which scholarly conversations are recorded (MLA Handbook x).  Yet digital sources migrate, merge, and mutate. It has become increasingly difficult to identify “the” original—or if a copy is faithful. Nor is generic credit sufficient. Only precise documentation enables “a curious reader, viewer, or other user to track down your sources” and evaluate “whose work influenced yours” (MLA Handbook 126).

Hand in hand with this new emphasis on precision, the handbook proclaims new flexibility. Rather than continue MLA 7th’s prescriptive models which itemize distinctive citations for each source type, MLA 8th proposes a series of principles in Part 1 to guide writers in identifying the common elements (author, title, etc.) among sources, a framework which can accommodate future “modes of academic writing” (MLA Handbook xiii). MLA’s new mantra: capture the information available, rather than require information that is not. The result is Lego-like assembly of core content elements grouped into nested “containers” (e.g., a website, anthology, database aggregator, digital archive) that modularly build a “reliable data trail for future researchers” (MLA Handbook ix). Continue reading “What’s Important to Teach from the New MLA 8th?”

Time for Teens, Teen Read Week, and More

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It’s teen read week and we’ve got some great ideas from our Collections Editor, Sylvia Vardell, to get your teen-aged students to put down their mobile devices, take a break from social media, and pick up a book.

For nearly twenty years now, October has been the month for celebrating Teen Read Week™ (http://teenreadweek.ning.com), a time to “encourage teens to be regular readers and library users” according to the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA). This year, Teen Read Week is October 9-15, 2016, featuring a multi-lingual “Read for the fun of it!” theme to “highlight all of the resources and services available to the 22% of the nation’s youth who speak a language other than English at home.” Since 1998, YALSA has been highlighting teens and their reading for Teen Read Week and during this time the field of YA literature has truly exploded in the numbers and variety of books being published, with an abundance of dystopian fiction, science fiction, and fantasy, in particular. YA fiction is drawing the attention of mass media and becoming popular crossover reading for adults, too. Many YA books are now adapted for feature films and television programs and e-book publication of YA fiction has skyrocketed too.

Teen Programming

We have to do our part in the library to be sure young people know about all the great new books and materials being published and help them find choices that fit their interests. Fortunately, there are many great programs and strategies to try, starting with the resources available at YALSA’s Teen Programming Ideas http://hq.yalsa.net/index.html. In addition, check the reVIEWS+ Collections page for Kay Wejrowski’s comprehensive article, “Teen Promotions: Getting High School Students Excited about the Library” which is full of creative ideas. For those working in the middle school, don’t miss “Book Tasters” by Suzanne Dix (also on the Collections page) where she writes about creating a lunch club that’s a big hit with students who write reviews to promote books they love. Continue reading “Time for Teens, Teen Read Week, and More”

Authentic Learning with a Simulated Campaign

olson-teaserLooking for ways to get students interested in how the political process works? In “A Campaign Simulation for Authentic Learning” David Olson describes a popular collaboration that helps his AP U.S. Government students practice what they’ve learned by working together on simulated U.S. Senate campaigns.

Subscribers to SLC can read more articles with great ideas like this by visiting School Library Connection.

The school library is, at its best, an incubator of democratic values and a haven for inquiry.  At James Madison Memorial High School in Madison, Wisconsin, where I teach social studies, our students utilize library resources, with the support of school librarians, in nearly all courses. Starting as first semester freshmen, our students approach the issues of immigration and migration by exploring their own families’ journeys. Through modeling, think-alouds, and mini-lessons from the librarians, students use Ancestry.com (purchased by our library) to find primary resources relating to their families, learn proper citation and database search techniques, and connect their personal stories to broader themes using the ABC-CLIO American History database and a curated collection of print materials. Eleventh grade students use Biography in Context and Gale Virtual Reference Library to create fictional universities centered on the social and political protest movements of the 1960s and 1970s. My upper-level students visit the library several times during the course of the semester to conduct research from books and databases, play iCivics games, explore webquests, and collaborate in small groups. All of these lessons are planned and instructed in collaboration with the school librarian.

A few years ago, when my department began offering AP U.S. Government and Politics, I was faced with a conundrum. In a second semester AP course in a state where school doesn’t end until June, what do I do with the last three weeks of class? I found my answer with my school librarian, Robin Amado, who helped me craft a campaign simulation using library resources. In each class, my students divided into campaign teams to run for a U.S. Senate seat. Campaigns featured a candidate, campaign manager, website team, advertising team, social media team, and policy wonks (specialists in policy details). The project allows students to simulate the election process and put into practice everything they’ve learned about the political world. Continue reading “Authentic Learning with a Simulated Campaign”

August/September Author of the Month Donna Gephart

Those tween/teen years can be so difficult and scary—we can all remember feeling lost and alone and like we didn’t fit in. Donna Gephart remembers, and through her books that amuse, touch, and inspire, she helps to make those years just a little less scary.

When the team at School Library Connection and reVIEWS+ met her latest characters, Lily and Dunkin, we knew Gephart was someone we wanted to get to know.
Subscribers can view our complete archive of reviews at reVIEWS+.

gephartLike so many bibliophiles, Gephart’s love of books began at an early age. When her mother took her to the Northeast Regional Library, she “felt like the whole world had opened up for me. Throughout my childhood,” she tells us, “that library was a mecca to me.”

At age ten, Gephart decided to become a writer and, after “only thirty years of writing practice,” she sold her first children’s book to Random House.

When asked what inspires her to write, Gephart replied, “I write for the lonely girl I was, growing up in Philadelphia with my sister and single-parent mom. We didn’t have much money, and I didn’t have many friends back then. Books provided me companionship, wit and wisdom, and roadmaps for how I might navigate a rich, fulfilling, and creative life.” This inspiration is evident in her books. Don’t be fooled by the seemingly frivolous titles, these books deal with some weighty topics—tempered with humor and compassion. Tween/teen angst, broken families and friendships, death, financial difficulties, mental health, and sexual identity are just some of the subjects encountered within the pages where you will also find geeks, factoids (most toilets flush in the key of E-flat, a person must be at least thirty-five years old to become president of the United States, Mount Everest is on the border of Tibet and Nepal), trivia buffs, and a sweepstakes junkie. And no matter the emotional ups and downs throughout her books, you will always be left with hope when you’re done reading. Continue reading “August/September Author of the Month Donna Gephart”