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

School Library Connection is pleased to collaborate with ALA President Julie Todaro and her school library group Task Force to provide access to a selection of key professional development articles aligned with essential professional competencies for school librarians. We’ll be posting at least one article every work day between now and April 15. These articles were hand selected from our archives by an expert panel of librarians chaired by Susan Ballard, Dorcas Hand, and Sara Kelly Johns.

Competency 5: Community of Care and Support for Students

“Power of Student Voice” by Andy Plemmons. School Library Connection, August 2016.

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.

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“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”

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”

Simple Advocacy: Maintaining Perspective

NYC Book Campaign
Library of Congress. https://www.loc.gov/item/2016646295/

It’s always a good time to advocate for your school library program. In that spirit, we’re sharing this gem from our archives by Allison Burrell.

Subscribers can find advocacy video workshops by Dorcas Hand and Susan Ballard, as well as many more articles on advocacy at School Library Connection.

As I write this, I am marking the one-year anniversary of when I moved from being a high school librarian to being the only librarian for my entire school district. I write this column not as an expert in advocacy, but as a librarian who realizes that being an advocate is a necessary part of my job. I also realize that being an advocate can be easily overlooked or forgotten in the chaos of everyday life.

Advocacy is a work in progress; it is also something that involves a wide scope, because every one of us should participate in some form or another. The ideas I am sharing here are ones that I want to improve as I implement them both now and in the future. I am hoping that by the time this article is published, I will have established an even stronger practice in these ideals. Continue reading “Simple Advocacy: Maintaining Perspective”

Professional “Pick-Up Lines”

Those of  you who know Paige Jaeger (and really, who doesn’t?) know she’s big on inquiry and collaboration. In her latest webinar for SLC @ The Forefront, Paige offered solid advice on repackaging those social studies research projects so inquiry is front and center. For attendees looking for Paige’s pick-up lines  for approaching teachers so you can get started collaborating, we present this article from February 2016.

When I firsJaegert started as a librarian, I had to fish for collaborative teacher friends. I didn’t wait in line for them to swim up to me, but I floated around the building with a baited hook. My pick-up lines included, “How can I help you?” “How can I connect to your curriculum?” “How can we work together to increase achievement?” I’d leave little weekly notes in teacher’s mailboxes to see who would befriend me.

Initially, teachers may have collaborated out of pity, but they returned for the fun. They were hooked. I remember modifying an insect unit with a first grade teacher so that kids would not only have to “report” on their insect but also speak in the first person voice. I remember reforming a biographical presidential biography report to a first person campaign speech, and I remember teaching perspective because a fifth grade teacher said he didn’t have time. It was a slow walk down a long road, but we eventually reached that collaborative plateau.

When we successfully collaborate, it weaves us into the fabric of instruction and it enlarges our students’ world. It allows students to travel on our Internet Superhighway to destinations unknown. There are a few levels of collaboration, and dare I say we have experienced them all? We have covert collaboration, low-level collaboration, and full-collaborative planning. Continue reading “Professional “Pick-Up Lines””

Where Do You Find Great Tech Tools?

We all know how important it is to stay abreast of technology trends, but how do you do that? In this article from our Jan.-Feb. issue, Dr. Maria Cahill discusses our latest survey question:

Which Is Your Favorite Source for Learning about New Technology Tools?

Survey results two

To fulfill the role of information specialist, it’s imperative that a school librarian stay abreast of the latest trends in education and technology. Doing so enables the school librarian to integrate emerging technologies and tools into learning and teaching scenarios across the school environment and curriculum (AASL, 2009) which, in turn, facilitates the development of digital literacies of students and teachers and positions the school librarian as an instructional leader. Recognizing the power of technology expertise, we wondered where school librarians learn about the latest and greatest technology tools. Continue reading “Where Do You Find Great Tech Tools?”

January Author of the Month Joel ben Izzy

Photography by Ahri Golden
Photography by Ahri Golden

Joel ben Izzy, one of our favorite award-winning travelling storytellers, has put aside his recordings for the moment and taken up the pen. With his usual warmth and engaging humor, ben Izzy shares his semi-autobiographical story of 12-year-old Joel, master magician and nerd incarnate, who is looking for a Hanukkah miracle.

Be sure to look for our review of his new book, Dreidels on the Brain, 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+.

If you’re not acquainted with Joel ben Izzy, you—and your students—have been missing out on some of the best storytelling to be found.

In Stories from Far Away, a recipient of the ALA Notable Recording Award, ben Izzy takes you with him as he goes from Turkey to Tel Aviv, China to Tokyo and places in-between, presenting us with folktales embellished with his own personal touches as we travel through these foreign lands. And it’s quite obvious why How I Learned to Love Liver: And other Tales too Tall to Tell received the Parents’ Choice Honors award; the stories are full of that type of gross humor that makes kids squeal “ewwww!!!” as they giggle and quiver with delight, and those same kids can be found quivering with horror and suspense as they listen to the stories in The Green Hand: And other Ghostly Tales from around the World, recipient of the Film Advisory Board Award of Excellence. Continue reading “January Author of the Month Joel ben Izzy”