Thoughts on ALA’s 2017 Annual Conference

ALA’s annual conference offers an opportunity for librarians to hear about the latest initiatives, ideas, award-winning books, authors, illustrators, websites, apps, tech tools…and so much more. But perhaps most importantly of all, it presents a chance to simply meet with fellow librarians, to reminisce with old friends, meet new ones, to share ideas and concerns. And, at the end of the day — after attending panels and checking out the exhibitors including, of course, stopping by to hobnob with our own Becky Snyder  (and Keith Chasse, Sharon Coatney, Jessica Gribble, Kevin Hillstrom, Barbara Ittner, David Paige, Cleta Walker, and Blanche Woolls) — it’s your time to let your hair down, enjoy the company of your colleagues, and to eat, drink, dance, and be merry. Oh, yes, and to advocate, always with the advocating!

We’re sure you learned many things that furthered your professional development and that you can use in your own library, and had lots of experiences that will make for some warm and fuzzy memories. In that spirit of learning and sharing, we asked some of our editors to share a few of their takeaways on the conference. And please, if you’d like to share any of your thoughts, leave a comment or give us a tweet; we’d love to hear from you!


Liz Deskins, our curriculum editor for reVIEWS+, jumped in with what might be everyone’s first thought as they gather at the conference:

“There are so many librarians! All different kinds, with a variety of interests and specialties; but all are happy to talk with you. We are family!”

Liz also felt it worthwhile to point out that “AASL is a democratic microcosm; it is wonderful to watch it in action.” And let’s not forget the books: “Books, in many formats, are still exciting and worth standing in line for.”

Here’s Liz taking advantage of the chance to meet with fellow librarians Jeffrey DiScala, Deb Logan, and Susan Yutzey. And who’s that sitting beside her, can that be David Paige?

Continue reading “Thoughts on ALA’s 2017 Annual Conference”

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”

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”

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”

ICYMI: Sylvia Vardell on Lit for ELL Readers

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In case you missed it, check out Sylvia Vardell’s recent editorial from reVIEWS+ for our issue on English language learners.

Did you know?

  • It is estimated that there are 4.4 million public school students in the United States who are English language learners (ELL).
  • English language learners represent approximately 10.3 percent of the total public school student enrollment in the U.S.
  • Twenty-one percent (21%) of all urban public school students across the U.S. are English language learners.
  • The English language learning population is the fastest-growing population of public school students in the U.S.
  • An increasing number of English language learners are newcomers to U.S. schools, having just recently immigrated to the United States.
  • There are 400 languages spoken by English language learners across the U.S.

The great majority of students learning English claim Spanish as their native language (79%), followed by Vietnamese (2%), Hmong (1.6 %), Chinese, Cantonese (1%), Korean (1%), and other (15.4%).
If you work in public schools in the U.S., particularly in cities, you have certainly encountered students who are learning English as a new language. They may have recently emigrated from other countries or have grown up in families within the U.S. who don’t speak English fluently. Many years ago, that was ME! My parents were born and raised in Germany and immigrated to the U.S. shortly after I was born. Continue reading “ICYMI: Sylvia Vardell on Lit for ELL Readers”