Friday, May 31, 2013

Hot YA Titles for 2013-2014

Here is my prediction for hot YA titles for the next school year (based on books both I and my students enjoy, as well as books I have seen on other lists).  Feel free to add more in the comments!

Divergent series, Veronica Roth
Cinder, Marissa Meyer
Code Name Verity, Elizabeth Wein
Wonder, R.J. Palacio
Raven Boys, Maggie Stiefvater
The Fault in Our Stars, John Green
The Moon & More, Sarah Dessen (released June 4)

New books in a series:
Fall of Five (#4), Pittacus Lore, Aug. 27
House of Hades (#4), Rick Riordan, Oct. 8
Allegiant (#3), Veronica Roth, Oct. 22

Upcoming movies based on books:
Sea of Monsters, Rick Riordan, Aug. 16
City of Bones, Cassandra Clare, Aug. 23
Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card, Nov. 1
Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins, Nov. 22

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Book Review: Sisterhood Everlasting

Have you ever wondered what happened to your favorite characters, Carmen, Tibby, Lena, and Bridget, from the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series?  Sisterhood Everlasting picks up with the girls ten years after the last book left off.  After living together for a short while and being closer than ever, the girls are now scattered and try to stay close, but with difficulties.  Carmen is living with her fiance in New York and acting in a television series.  Lena is living alone and teaching art at a university in Rhode Island, casually dating “the sandwich shop guy.”  Bridget is living with Eric in California, working temp jobs and generally avoiding long-term commitments.  And Tibby is the most estranged.  She has moved to Australia with Brian, and the girls are having problems receiving any sort of regular communication from her.  Until one day, when Tibby sends a mysterious package to the girls, asking them to meet her in Greece, where she will explain all.  But what happens there merely extends the mystery...and might just tear the girls apart.

If you enjoyed the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, by Ann Brashares, you will love Sisterhood Everlasting!  However, you should be aware that this book is written for adults, and has more adult language and themes than anything else in the series.  Although mature young adults would not have a problem handling the older content, younger readers might be uncomfortable.  Although I loved the book (and stayed up way too late reading it), I will say the ending was a little lacking--although that is often the case with the final book in a much-loved series.  If you are looking for a great book to read this summer, with a bit of nostalgia, give Sisterhood Everlasting a try.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Book Review: The Girl of Fire and Thorns, by Rae Carson

Elisa is a princess. She is fat and pampered and feeds her feelings of inadequacy, comparing herself to her beautiful older sister, with delicious pastries.  But she is also recognized as one of the chosen, blessed by the Godstone inside her.  Elisa has no idea what this means for her life, until she is given in marriage to the king of a neighboring country.  Will her simple, pampered life continue in this desert country?  Will she find her place beside the king, who seems to only want her friendship?  Will she ever find her true destiny?

The Girl of Fire and Thorns, by first-time author Rae Carson, is a thoroughly enjoyable medieval fantasy, along the lines of Tamora Pierce or Kristin Cashore (although perhaps not as riveting as these authors).  The characters are likable and grow throughout the book, and the plot is at times slow-moving, but overall full of adventure as well as thought-provoking moments.  If you enjoy reading fantasy with a strong female character, try this book.  

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Iowa Vision for School Libraries - Call for Submissions

Vision for Iowa’s School Libraries
Iowa’s best schools have library programs that engage the entire school community to elevate the learning experience for all.  Teacher librarians are uniquely trained and strategically positioned to
  • teach students to think critically and  independently to construct new understanding and insights from varied information sources;
  • lead and embrace the integration of technology to enhance learning
  • connect communities of learners in virtual and physical spaces
  • collaborate with the school community to design and enact rigorous learning experiences and participate as positive digital citizens
  • maximize access to quality print and digital resources
  • champion and support the reading life of students
  • nurture curiosity to develop in students a passion for learning for life

A department of education task force has been working hard to craft this concise and modern vision for Iowa School Libraries.  But a plain old vision statement just won't do, no matter how great the verbs - so to make the statement more effective and more interactive, the task force is collecting submissions for videos to represent the reality of each of these points.
Before school is over, produce a short video that illustrates one or two of the above statements.  
Guidelines for submissions:
  • Videos should be one minute in length or shorter
  • Videos should directly connect to a specific role described in the vision document (teach, lead, connect, collaborate, maximize, champion, or nurture)
  • Videos should begin with a five second graphic designed for the specific bulleted item they illustrate (provided by the Task Force and available for download at links below this post).
  • Videos should  have a second five-second graphic that serves as credit for the video, including: Producer, School District, and date of production.  Blank video will be provided for editing.
  • When speakers are featured in the clips, they should be identified in a text box at the bottom of the screen.
  • Voice-over narration is encouraged when footage of environment is silent
  • “Talking heads” (a person speaking directly into the camera) should be used carefully and only when that is the best way to demonstrate the library’s value.
  • Videos featuring children should have accompanying permissions from parents or guardians.

Submissions are Due June 15th.  Click here for full details on creation and submission.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Common Core: College and Career Readiness and School Libraries in the 21st century

Common Core: College and Career Readiness and School Libraries in the 21st century

By Amy Power

The Common Core is coming to an Iowa school near you.  How can teacher librarians maximize their effectiveness during the implementation process? These standards support our belief system of nudging students to become independent learners and investigators of the world.  Essentially we are working with students preparing them for jobs that may have not been invented yet. It is our responsibility to train them so they participate utilizing innovative practices in the 21st century.  This is a challenging undertaking and I have heard back from former students reporting that they were not prepared for college.  

A student who is college and career ready is able to critically read, decide what resources are relevant, and select appropriate information. School library programs are proponents of critical-thinking and problem-solving skills that are vital for college and career readiness. With technology changing rapidly, are students passive users of technology or embracing technology to create their own makerspaces? 

There are multiple statements aimed at preparing students for the real world.

  • The purpose of 21st Century College Readiness Center is “to strengthen and improve student educational motivation and academic achievement through the alignment of in-school and out-of-school initiatives.”
  • Position Statement on the Common Core College- and Career-Readiness Standards, “...students have the opportunity to be well-prepared as life-long learners facing the challenges of college and careers.” 
  • American Association of School Libraries had a Congressional Briefing, “the Strengthening Kids’ Interest in Learning and Libraries (SKILLS) Act  (S.1328) will help to improve student achievement by ensuring more students have access to effective school library programs that will allow them to compete in today’s information age.” 
  • Up to the Challenge: The Role of Career and Technical Education and 21st Century Skills in College and Career Readiness is a “report that highlights the demand for skills in the global economy and the ways in which educators can meet this demand.” 
  • ACT National Curriculum Survey: Every three to five years ACT collects student data through surveys entering college and to measure if they are ready for college courses. The results are used to update the Common Core State Standards.  
  • Career and College Readiness: Oracle Education Foundation: “School libraries are essential learning resources and librarians are the essential ‘guides inside’ our schools, leading everyday teaching and learning toward methods and outcomes that best prepare our students for the challenges of the 21st century.”

As we move forward I encourage you to keep this concept in mind. 

College and career readiness=technology + inquiry

The Common Core Standards align with the goal of graduating “college and career” ready students to meet the needs of 21st century employers. However if youth are left to their own devices does this automatically mean that they are savvy digital citizens? Will their contributions represent thinking deeply and concluding?  

Teacher librarians are team players in a culture of learning. School libraries that focus on content and people create environments where technology and learning is fun as well as educational.  While implementing the Common Core standards we can lead by bringing clarity to issues that arise during the transitional period.  We can provide language and ideas that assist staff with translating the big ideas into educational settings.  For example shifting our ways of helping with research so that students embrace inquiry-based learning and higher level thinking or modeling expected behaviors teaching students not to be afraid of failure.  Overall the intention is to inspire students to have the attitude that they will and can learn.  Motivate them to be comfortable and confident within themselves to find solutions in everyday situations. 

Drawing up a game plan to make the Common Core work raises questions for the entire educational community in terms of equipping students for 21st century life and work.

Are learning activities facilitated with library resources that are rigorous, thought-provoking, and inquiry based? Do learning activities create self-directed, independent learners capable of working in groups and seeking solutions to the problems and demands of a global economy and a 21st century workplace?  Are students participating as responsible digital citizens?  Are students prepared with communication and presentation skills that allow them to adapt to changes in technology? Are technology and digital media being incorporated into the curriculum? 

I sense that we are on the path to form two distinct types of schools libraries.  One that produces factory/service workers and the other that creates 21st century skilled workers. We have a responsibility to create the best physical and virtual library spaces possible.  Teacher librarians are more than ready to meet expectations associated with the Common Core. Collaboration is key, we need teachers and administrators as much as they need us. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

SLJ Job Satisfaction Survey as Advocacy

Make sure you check out the newest SLJ survey of librarians (school and public) about what they perceive as the pros and cons of their jobs.  There is also some interesting data about how many TLs work in more than one building, how many hours they work, and what their salaries are.

This article could be used as an advocacy piece - by collecting what Teacher Librarians across the country are feeling about our jobs past, current, and future, we can talk up the things we want to continue to do and the things we hope to be working on the future. Having a view of of our programs like this can help us create and communicate a clearer vision of the library for our stakeholders.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Iowa Legislation & the State Survey

If you have not heard, HF 472 passed the legislature and was signed by our governor this week.  This legislation adds several school positions to the list of staff members that can be shared with another school district and the school districts involved will be given extra weighting per student.  School Librarian was one of the positions added to this list.  Although this may enable some small school districts to increase their teacher librarian time in district, I think that this legislation will cause a lot of school districts to cut their teacher librarian time, share with another district and get extra money from the state.  

State survey-

The Iowa state survey has been revamped and is going out from your AEA to be completed by June 15. They have tried to make it easier to fill out.  For example the page asking us how much time we spend on each library duty has been changed to Yes/No answers.  Keep your eyes out for news from your AEA.

As we work toward the end of the school year, doing inventories, filling out purchase orders, writing grants, and making plans for next year, please keep in mind ways you can advocate for your program.  An end of the year report to the principal is a great way to remind him or her why you are an important asset to the school. Include some data that you can make available to them digitally.  Most principals do an end of the year report to the superintendent.  Wouldn't it be great if graphs or data from the library was included in that report?

Susan Feuerbach

IASL President