Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Digital Literacy: Can It Replace the Traditional Kind?

Recently in the high school library I was speaking to some frequent fliers about finding print books on the shelves and pathways to discovering recreational reading materials. They admitted that they have a narrow route to find print books with a limited searching process.   Granted I don't have the best selection of titles in their eyes (average copyright date mid 1990's) since they gravitate towards popular new titles (maybe that is all they know), but I can guide them hoping that they will be open to broadening their horizons and read a book that was published before 2005.  I consider myself to be a A-one picky reader but I always find something to read on the school library shelves.  Yes I work as a teacher librarian but just ask my Mom I am a reluctant reader despite her wonderful influence and encouragement.

I believe that some aspects of digital literacy is leaving out the element of discovering books outside comfort zones which seems to be shrinking for teens these days. Can teens start the process of finding print materials without dependence on a device? I appreciate how electronic devices expand our awareness of titles but I wonder if they sometimes limit the inquiry process.

This conversation reminds me of the article Digital Literacy Will Never Replace The Traditional Kind linked here.

With digital literacy are we fully owning our interests and realizing our curiosities?

Multiple literacies teach students to embrace knowledge in various formats. I think that an Internet savvy person means using digital tools AND being able to articulate interests, curiosities, passions, and make connections between ideas and topics. And despite technology rewiring of our minds are we able to find, escape, and enjoy a good book on the shelves anymore?

Friday, November 14, 2014

Off the Level

Is your school library collection labeled/organized by reading levels from a packaged reading program? Are you being asked (told) to level the school library collection?  A recurring question among librarians is "how do I 'level' a collection", a more urgent question is "should we ever level the collection?"

 Applying physical labels reflecting a reading level and including this information in catalog records pose a real threat to the reading lives of our students.

This AASL position statement highlights the threat to the intellectual freedom and privacy of students when collections are labeled:

This statement also reminds us that as school librarians we have a role to play in setting policies that foster intellectual freedom, privacy, and the development of real readers.  The intellectual freedom of students is often not of top concern in many schools.   Implementing the Iowa Core is an urgent demand for districts.  Perhaps this is where we can make a stand against leveling collections and grow our own literacy practices.

School librarians can ask their administrators and school leaders how leveling a library will address ALL THREE FACTORS of the text complexity model in the Core.

page 4 of http://www.corestandards.org/assets/Appendix_A.pdf

The levels in most packaged reading programs only address quantitative measures and do nothing to illuminate the more important qualitative elements.  School librarians can offer professional learning for teachers to dive more deeply into analyzing the qualitative elements of texts.  We can join our colleagues in their content PLCs to better understand current reading needs and experiences in the building.

Learn how to easily and comprehensively consider these three elements of text complexity at the TeachingBooks.net Text Complexity Toolkit -- http://teachingbooks.net/TextComplexity (thanks to statewide access through the AEA).  This toolkit allows us to contribute our professional judgements about books and access the collective wisdom of other educators.  Digging into a deep analysis of texts and thoughtfully designing the learning experiences of readers with these texts will ensure that quality implementation of this model happens in our schools.   Buying a packaged solution does nothing to address the questions of educators or to grow real reading.  Crowdsourcing our professional judgements in systems like TeachingBooks is one piece of a viable home grown alternative.


Is there a way to reorganize the library to provide better intellectual access to the collection and help readers locate books they can read independently?  Yes and yes.  Organizing and labeling fiction by genre provides an easy point of entry for readers to access the fiction collection.  If I like sports fiction I can go straight to that section to begin my search for the next independent read. The first step toward book selection can now be based on interest or preference not an abstract level.   How do we provide guidance within these sections to ensure successful independent reading?

"Simply, a reading ladder is a series or set of books that are related in some way (e.g. thematically) and that demonstrate a slow, gradual development from simple to more complex."  ~  READING LADDERS by Teri Lesesne (pg 48).  This book, by Dr. Lesesne, is a handy guide to providing deeper, more meaningful access to books.

What is the first ladder to be made for the collection?  Start where the action is - it all depends on the current instructional needs of students and teachers. I'm working with literacy teachers on an upcoming unit using verse novels.  Thankfully, several of the books already have qualitative analysis in Teachingbooks.  After we do a few of our own we will have a rich custom list of information about the qualitative and quantitative elements of these books.  Based on these details each book will become a rung on the Verse Novel reading ladder.

The snapshot based on previous analysis shows us some areas we will need to scaffold to ensure students meet the relevant standards. This chart will change as we add our own analysis of all titles.

rough draft of a reading ladder using Google Drawing 

Leveling is not in the best interest of young readers; it is a system of convenience for educators and school systems.  If young readers become their level and books are discussed only in terms of
low level comprehension quizzes everyone loses. As educators we have the tools at our disposal to build a better system of real reading for children.  

~ Ernie Cox

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

ALA: International Games Day

International Games Day - Saturday, November 15, 2014: http://igd.ala.org
"This January 23, 2013 post announced that International Games Day would be moving to the third Saturday of November. ALA's National Gaming Day, first celebrated in 2008, focuses on the social and recreational side of gaming. Gaming at the library encourages patrons of all ages to interact with diverse peers, share their expertise and develop new strategies for gaming and learning. At the library, kids can socialize with their friends and play board and video games while surrounded by books, librarians and a real world of knowledge. Use the International Games Day Contact Form with any questions."-Information taken directly from site
Other Resources About Gaming
“One of the most difficult tasks men can perform, however much others may despise it, is the invention of good games.” 
― C.G. Jung

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Diversity of Books: Reflecting our Reality?

books colors.png

Keeping our collections equitable and harmonious. How can we increase the number of diverse titles to reflect our diverse realities in society? What are the barriers to increase diverse perspectives in our libraries?

Social Justice and the Role of Libraries

In the course Global Contexts and Social Justice in Youth Literature, we thought about defining multiculturalism, diversity, and social justice.  Below is the course description.

Examines books, media, and other resources for young people (ages 0-18) in a multicultural, globalized, and increasingly digital media-saturated world. Explores the history of multicultural writing for the young, and major issues and debates of youth literature concerning diversity, racism, power, ideology, etc. Guides students to better select, interpret, evaluate, and promote such literature, media, and resources according to young people’s various needs (intellectual, emotional, social and physical).
(Lucht, 2013).

Who Is on the Cover?

Nell Fleming a graduate of the University of Illinois Certificate of Advanced Studies program completed a research project Who Is on the Cover? The Demographics of Fictional Picture Books in the Twenty-First Century. Bringing Balance to Selected Topic Areas for an Anti-Racist Library. Here is a link from her blog providing more information about the project.

Resources to build collections representing our diverse society

General Information

Identifying Multicultural Literature. What does it mean to be progressive?

Stereotypes & Cultural Authenticity

Library Services for Diverse Populations/Multicultural Library Services

Youth Literature Awards
Crisp, Thomas. “It’s Not the Book, It’s Not the Author, It’s the Award: The Lambda Literary Award and the Case For Strategic Essentialism.” Children's Literature in Education 42 (2010): 91-104.

Iowa is no exception with experiencing a cultural melting pot in our global society.  Are we exercising social justice in the books we select for the Iowa Book Awards?   What about our Iowa Award selection process? Does our criteria need to expand and/or change so more titles that reflect diversity exist on our award lists?  I think that award titles should reflect diversity of appeal and different points of view.  

Friday, October 31, 2014

The State of Iowa's School Libraries - Keep it coming!

Thanks to everyone who has been contributing to the Google map of school districts in Iowa and how many Teacher Librarians each employs.  

We are about 1/3 of the way mapped - 126 out of 348 districts reporting. Although we already know it, this map makes it obvious that there are big differences around our state.

This visualized data can be very valuable for us as we continue to advocate for our students and their right to a quality school library program.  We will be able to clearly see how many schools in Iowa are meeting the "required" level of compliance with state code, which are stretching one professional beyond reasonable limits, which are making progress, and which, if any, are considered to be operating at "best practice" level according to state library program guidelines.

Please continue to add information to this map, and share the anecdotes you've shared with us with your local legislators.  

Thursday, October 30, 2014

SLJ Summit 2014

The 10th Annual School Library Journal Summit was held this past weekend at the beautiful St. Paul Hotel in downtown St. Paul, Minnesota.  Sue Inhelder, Alicia Patten, Christine Sturgeon, and Shannon Miller were four Iowa Teacher Librarians who attended the conference.  Here are some highlights:

The theme was "Fire It Up!" and what an apropos one at that.  We first got "fired up" listening to Dr. Mark Edwards, superintendent of the Mooresville (NC) Graded School District, who was named National Superintendent of the Year in 2013 by the American Association of School Administrators.  He has great respect for teacher librarians, advocating for his district TLs (many of whom were in attendance and spoke in a panel on their district's 1:1 program) and our field.
Check out this video from Capstone Publishing introduced at the SLJ Summit:

Another panel on Saturday was put on by "smart stakeholders" - the vendors who make the summit possible.  The companies represented were Follett, Baker & Taylor, Capstone, Junior Library Guild, Mackin, ABDO, LEGO Education, Rosen Publishing, Gale/Cengage Learning, Brain Hive, and Lerner Publishing.  The company representatives answered questions, including one by IASL Vice President/President-Elect Dixie Forcht, who asked about what goes into the cost of an ebook, and why prices differ so much from title to title.

Saturday ended with a panel by three nonfiction authors I have in my elementary library, Loree Griffin Burns, Joyce Sidman, and Elizabeth Rusch.
Sunday morning started earlier, so I'm glad I grabbed breakfast at my hotel in the suburbs.  I did a double-take when I saw a student from my school, also at the hotel in the suburbs!  (He was there for a wedding.)  Although I know the St. Paul Hotel was beautiful (and my god the lemon bars!), it was meant for me to be in the burbs and not downtown!

Stephen Turnipseed, President Emeritus of LEGO Education North America, was the Sunday morning keynote.  Some of the "bling" attendees received was a small bag of Legos, and we were instructed to make a duck.  After I saw others' examples on Twitter, I'm too embarrassed to put my duck here!  But check out my neighbor's (my neighbor being industry leader Christopher Harris!)

Turnipseed's message of creativity was an important one.  He stated, "Creativity will be the most important skill set of the future."
Next was a panel for those who hate panels, by Joyce Valenza, Doug Johnson, K.C. Boyd, and Michelle Colte, who each talked about who their animal represents their leadership style, and why.  There is a Padlet where attendees added their own:

There were so many words of wisdom and inspiration from this panel - more than I could keep up with on Twitter with my phone.  But here's one:
SLJ definitely saved the best for last, though.  Patricia Polacco, the prolific children's author of such classics as Pink and Say, For the Love of Autumn, and Thank You Mr. Falker, which tells the story of Polacco's own life, not learning until she was 14-years old that she had dyslexia.  The pièce de résistance of the entire weekend was when she read the book, The Keeping Quilt, and even show us her new keeping quilt (the original is on display in a museum).

That's not to mention all of the great connections that were made.  I saw old friends like Shannon, Sue, and Alicia, but made more, like husband-and-wife teacher librarians, Phil Goerner and Krista Brakhage, from Colorado.  It was great to meet strong leaders like Christopher Harris and Kristin Fonticharo and Andy Plemmons.

What a great weekend!