Diversity in Your Collection: Recommended Titles

In today’s age of social media and instantaneous communication, the world seems smaller than ever before. With so many people across so many diverse countries, cultures, and backgrounds in contact with one another—and often part of our school communities—it is important to acknowledge and promote a global perspective among young learners. This is particularly relevant for libraries, where diverse characters and stories can offer readers windows into the lives of characters very different from themselves. Below is a list of titles recommended by SLC reviewers that focus on characters from various backgrounds and walks of life, all experiencing problems, joys, fantasies, and ordeals that readers from anywhere in the world can recognize and relate to.

Subscribers can always find reviews of other great titles like this at reVIEWS+

Save Me a Seat
Author: Sarah Weeks & Gita Varadarajan
Price: $16.99
Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
Grade Level (as recommended by Reviewer/SLC): Grades 4-8

When his family moves to the United States from India, fifth grader Ravi Suryanarayanan struggles to fit in at his new school. Ravi is used to being a superstar student, but he quickly learns that his American classmates think his accent, clothes, and lunches are unusual and not impressive, even giving him horrible nicknames like “curry head.” Little does Ravi know that his classmates also group him with Joe Sylvester, a struggling student who is bullied and feels like an outsider because of his family’s financial problems. When Ravi and Joe are sent to the same Special Education teacher’s classroom, an unlikely friendship slowly takes off and is solidified as they find a common enemy in Dillon Samreen. The reader sees Ravi and Joe’s unique perspectives through alternating chapters and even finds a glossary for each character in the back of the book. This heartfelt novel would be a great addition to any library collection, especially one seeking more diverse books.

Reviewer: Tracy Scaglione, Library Media Specialist, Dorsett Shoals Elementary, Douglasville, Georgia
Rating: Highly Recommended

The Head of the Saint
Author: Socorro Acioli
Price: $16.99
Publisher: Delacorte Press (Random House)
Grade Level (as recommended by Reviewer/SLC): Grade 6 & Up

Samuel, a boy of 14 who lives in rural Brazil, carries out his mother’s last wishes by journeying to sleepy Candeia to meet his grandmother and light a candle at the foot of Saint Anthony. Rejected by his grandmother, Samuel finds refuge in the large, hollow head of Saint Anthony that rests on the ground. He soon hears voices of women that come to pray to Saint Anthony for a miracle. Samuel also hears haunting songs that reverberate in the saint’s head twice a day. In an effort to expel the women so he can discover the source of the singing, Samuel tries to grant the prayers of the women. His plan backfires as the wishes are successful, bringing in many more people. Candeia becomes a hotbed of pilgrims and the locals try to profit from the sudden influx. Quirky characters, funny occurrences, forgotten family secrets, and poignant memories make this story appealing to all. This book is a standout in diverse young adult literature.

Reviewer: Lisa Castellano, Library Media Specialist, Larkspur Middle School, Virginia Beach, Virginia
Rating: Highly Recommended Continue reading “Diversity in Your Collection: Recommended Titles”

Shaping a Collection: Graphic Novels and the Needs of English Language Learners

Is your school a “melting pot” of diversity? Does your collection reflect the make-up of your student body? In this article from our April online issue,  Alicia Abdul and Kristen Majkut discuss the importance of having a diverse collection and why you should include graphic novels.

Subscribers can check out our May issue to find more articles about diversity in your library.

Librarians should focus on building collections that reflect their communities. For our school in Albany, New York, that community is a hub for incoming refugees from all over the world, chiefly because of the presence of an U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) field office. USCRI helps displaced families make the transition to the United States by providing a wide range of services, including language classes, housing assistance, employment opportunities, and immigration services. As librarians, we can support students’ English language acquisition and literacy development through purposeful collection development and library services, including, as we have found, providing and sharing graphic novels.

Needs of ENL Students

English as a New Language (ENL) students have unique circumstances physically, emotionally, and academically. Our students from warmer climates arrive wearing sandals and without winter coats, unprepared for Northeast winters. In addition to language barriers, there are cultural differences regarding eye contact, shaking hands, greetings, clothing, gestures, religion, and even food traditions. This makes it crucial for educators to provide opportunities for personal engagement.

Academically, some incoming students have not learned to read in their native languages and are now encountering a new alphabet with new letters, words, and sounds for the first time. Some students read their native language from right to left. Some are coming from areas of conflict and their education has been interrupted for several years. Some school-age children have never attended any type of formal schooling. This influx of students has required that our district consider different measures to support these students and their families as they transition to life in the United States. Continue reading “Shaping a Collection: Graphic Novels and the Needs of English Language Learners”

Thank You, Carol Simpson

We all love Carol Simpson. Below, Carl Harvey reflects on the many things she has done for the profession. Carl speaks for all of us when he says “Thank you, Carol Simpson!”

Carol Ann Simpson

I hope you will all indulge me a little bit, as I’d like to take a few moments to say thank you to Carol Simpson. I’m not really sure 600 words will be quite enough, but I’m going to do my best.

The May 2017 copyright column will be Carol’s last regular contribution to School Library Connection. For over twenty years in SLC and Library Media Connection magazines, her column has been the gold standard for copyright advice for school librarians all over this country. I know I personally have relied on her column for advice and counsel as I worked with the students and teachers in my building.

Carol has taken a very complex topic of copyright and translated it for school librarians. Her Copyright for Schools book—now in its 5th edition—and her many other copyright titles are classics that should be (if they aren’t already) on every school librarian’s professional shelf. Her work in copyright took her to the law profession where she has continued to be a voice about education and copyright.

But, beyond her copyright work, her many years working with Linworth Publishing and Library Media Connection led to many voices being published, many for the first time, sharing the successes and stories from school libraries. As editor of LMC (and its predecessors), Carol provided a forum for sharing and learning from each other. Marlene Woo-Lun, publisher of LMC said, “Throughout those critical years of change when libraries and schools were first struggling with how technology fit into education, Carol made profound contributions to the school library profession.” Continue reading “Thank You, Carol Simpson”

Lessons from My Father

When did you learn to value data?

In this editorial from our April online issue, Leslie Preddy shares her story. She blames her dad.

For more about using data, the importance of data, and what it can do for your practice, be sure to read our April online issue. Subscribers can access it hereNot yet a subscriber? Click here  for more information.

 

Ronald Carl “Pops” Burton

It’s all my father’s fault. His PhD is in analytical chemistry. He’s brilliant. I can remember when I was little and being awed when allowed to visit him at work, looking at all the scientific tools, equipment, and supplies he could use every day. I vividly recall sitting on his lap while he let me look through one of his scientific journals while he explained to me, as best he could to a small child, how important it was to keep comprehensive notes, charts, drawings, research for his projects. He showed me his bookshelf full of these journals and shared the value of retaining his old journals so he could refer to them and use past experiences to build upon when solving a new technical problem in order to improve efficiency, address environmental concerns, avoid contamination, or any problems in the factories that involved chemical analysis issues. Pops, as I affectionately call my father, was very patient with a very curious child. Who knew that would be a foundation for processing information that would serve me well as an adult? Continue reading “Lessons from My Father”

What is the most important data you collect and analyze?

The theme for our April online issue is “Your Data Toolkit: Gathering and Using Data to Improve Instruction.” To that end, Maria Cahill asked school librarians, “What is the most important data you collect and analyze?” This turned out to be a challenging question! Keep reading to see Dr. Cahill’s analysis of the results.

We hope you use these surveys to help you reflect on your own practices.  Subscribers can view our archive of past surveys here or check out the complete April issue here.


First, we apologize for putting our school librarians through such a difficult task: we asked them to choose the most important type of data they collect and analyze. As one of our respondents replied, “This question feels a little like ‘which is your favorite child?’ They are important for different reasons.” We recognize that different data are used for different purposes and all of the options we listed have value.

In truth, we fretted a little bit over how to ask the question, as well as how to collect responses. In the end, we decided it was important for librarians to “have” to choose. In case you wonder, we too ground our work in evidence-based librarianship. The option choices were guided by findings from empirical research of school librarians’ evidence-based practices (Richey and Cahill 2014). Continue reading “What is the most important data you collect and analyze?”

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”

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”

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”