This has not been an especially kind winter when it comes to snowfall. Today is the 3rd day in January that school has been closed due to tremendous amounts of snowfall. That doesn’t include the 2 days we had early dismissals for the same reason. I dislike the white stuff, and today is no exception.
I’ll use the time to continue making a dent in reading some of the 250 ARC’s (Advanced Reading Copies) that I shipped home to myself from the recent American Library Association (ALA) Midwinter Conference in San Diego. I also need to make a dent in the 48 hardcover books I received from various publishers to read and review. There is never enough time in the day…
So, I’m off to shovel myself out, clear the cars, shovel the driveways, etc. so I can make it to school tomorrow. Then I’ll settle down with a cup of hot chocolate and a good read.
See you tomorrow…
I have met more authors in the past 4 days than I’ve met in quite awhile. It all began with the recent YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association) Diversity Symposium I attended this past weekend in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I presented a talk during the daily poster sessions on the topic “Understanding Spanish Speaking Countries Through YA Books.” The premise of the talk was to remind teen librarians that Latino teens come from different Spanish speaking countries and have many difference cultures. Just because they all speak Spanish doesn’t mean they should be all labeled with that category. Thus, teen YA books, generically labeled as “Spanish,” should be labeled by the country/culture of origin so Latino teens would understand the variety in Hispanic cultures. Books should be labeled as “Cuban, Cuban-American, Chilean, Puerto Rican, etc.” instead of just “Spanish.”
As I attended wonderful sessions on Diversity issues in Librarianship, I also had many opportunities to meet authors, get free books for the library, and take author photos for display in the library. I met authors like Nikki Grimes, Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, and Margarita Engle, as well as Ann E. Burg, Jennifer Cervantes, and many others.
Today, author James S. Hirsch came to Mr. Lundberg’s 7-2 ELA classes to talk about his latest book “Willie Mays: The Life, the Legend” and the writing process. Mr. Hirsch is also a Pollard parent of a student in Mr. Lundberg’s classes.
Mr. Hirsch noted he was a newspaper reporter before he became an author. He suggested students write about what they find interesting. He wrote about Willie Mays because he loves baseball and is interested in race relations in America. A piece of advice offered to students by Mr. Hirsch was that the most important thing to becoming a good author is to read. He also compared writing to music, saying it should flow and one should be able to hear its rhythm and sound. Following his talk, students had an opportunity for questions and answers.
Q: How long does it take to write a book?
A: One and a half – 2 yrs.
Q: Why did you start writing?
A: He loved sports and reading the sports page, so wanted to be a sportswriter in order to go to the games for free. By college he became interested in the world around him and writes to explain the world to himself.
Q: Favorite author?
Q: What does it mean that Willie Mays authorized the book?
A: Willie collaborated with him, gave him access to personal information and interviews and shared in the monetary gain, but didn’t have editorial control.
Q: How much money can you make on a single book?
A: It depends. Publishers give advances based on advance sales, but that money is used to do research and pay bills. Some authors have 2 jobs; while others make a lot of money.
There were many more questions, and Mr. Hirsch ended by offering advice suggesting that students go to an event and write a word picture of what they see. This is an exercise in observation. They need to watch carefully and write the details of what they see.
Finally, I ended the day at the Wellesley Free Library where author, Mike Lupica, was giving a free talk. I was very excited to meet Mr. Lupica because I have been reading his books along with the boys. He is a big hit with them, and I like to keep up on what keeps them reading, and his sports books fly off the shelves.
Mr. Lupica talked about how much he loved sports when he was in middle school, and how he wanted to be a sports writer. He began writing because he was inspired by a basketball team of 7th graders. His son had been cut from the team for being too short, and was devastated. A few days later, Mike formed a team made up of kids who had been cut from the main team. They started out terribly, but wound up with a winning 2nd half – winning the last game by 1 point with 3 seconds left on the clock over a team who had pounded them earlier in the season. The resulting chaos of excitement was his most memorable sports moment.
With this inspiration, he approached his editor who told him to write a few chapters about it. He did, but then dragged his feet until he noticed that during summer break his sons kept wanting to read what he’d written and bugged him about when would he finish the next chapter. These 3 sons, who would have no problem claiming they were taken over by aliens so they wouldn’t have to do their summer reading, were actually WANTING to read, and that struck a chord. Thus, 6 yrs. ago, his first book “Travel Team” was born, and launched his YA sports writing career.
His new book is a complete change from his sports books, because Mr. Lupica always liked comic books and their heroes. If one had to choose between Flying or being Invisible, he’d choose Flying (unlike 3/4 of the audience when he asked for a vote.) “Hero,” released last week, follows a 14 year old boy who suddenly discovers he has super powers and can fly. Most of the action takes place in Central Park, not some far off world, which makes the book more believable. Mr. Lupica ended by telling his audience of over 200 (with 3/4 of them being boys) that he would keep writing books as long as they keep reading them. Following a question and answer period, Mr. Lupica signed books and posed for photographs.
Q: How long does it take to write a book?
A: About 4-5 months.
Q: What was your favorite book?
A: “Travel Team” because it was his first one. However, he really likes “Hero,” and has already begun writing a sequel to it.
Q: Do you plan to write any books about girls?
A: Three of his books have girls as strong characters. With an 11 year old daughter, he tries to make sure there are really cool girls in his books.
Q: What is it like being on ESPN’s Sports Reporters?
A: I love it. I love talking sports with my friends, and am amazed we just finished 23 years on the air.
Q: What was the inspiration for “Heat?”
A: In 1994, right before the baseball strike, he went to Yankee Stadium. While there, he saw about 30 kids playing soccer on a field that is now covered by the new Stadium. He asked if they’d like to attend the game and was able to get them tickets. When all entered, he did a survey and found only 3 of the 30 had ever been in the Stadium – despite living so close they could hear the cheers. He began thinking what would it be like to live so close to the most famous stadium in the world and not be able to go inside it. He also thought of the 14 year old pitcher who was in the news at the time. He had said he was 12 when playing Little League, even though he wasn’t, so Mike put it all together in a story.
I don’t usually write on a Saturday, but am making an exception. I spent all day today at the Boston Book Festival, on Copley Square in Boston. I attended a session titled “Border Crossing: Understanding Social Justice Through Fiction.” In attendance were several well-known authors who spoke about their books and how they can be used to teach about challenges faced by children in different countries.
Katie Smith Milway (author of the new picture book book “The good garden: How one family went from hunger to having enough” and the 2009 Massachusetts Book Award winner for “One Hen: How one small loan made a big difference”) was the MC. She spoke about “The Good Garden’s” Honduran main characters and the issue of sustainable farming practices raised in it.
Next to speak was Richard Michelson, a fellow Brooklynite, who spoke about his new picture book “Busing Brewster.” This book tells the story of school desegregation through forced busing from the point of view of the children who were part of this historic Supreme Court decision. He deliberately did not choose a specific city for his story because he wanted it to be read in all the states that had gone through this issue back in the 1970′s.
The next speaker was Christina Gonzalez, author of “The Red Umbrella.” This book recounts the 1961-1962 airlifting of 14,000 children in Operation Pedro Pan. This Operation allowed Cuban children to be sent to the U.S. by their parents. Parents made this difficult decision to send their unaccompanied children to a foreign country under great duress because they saw it as the only way to protect their children from Castro’s regime and forced indoctrination into Communism. Christina was inspired by the story of her mother-in-law, whose parents chose this route of safety for her to escape Cuba.
Afterwards, I had a chance to speak more with Christina about her book and tell her how much I had enjoyed it. We also spoke about the Poster Session I’ll be presenting at the upcoming YALSA Diversity Symposium I’ll be attending in New Mexico. She had briefly mentioned the topic in her speech I’ll be discussing; namely, the fact that books about Latinos are “lumped” together under a generic “Hispanic” heading instead of the country of origin’s heading. Our similarity across cultures is that we all speak Spanish, but we have different foods, political beliefs, music, etc. As a result of our conversation, we made plans to meet in New Mexico and continue our talk.
The next presenter was Mitali Perkins, who spoke about her new book “Bamboo People,” about children who are forced to become soldiers in the Burmese War. She noted Burma has the highest number of child soldiers in the world. Two characters tell their story – a Burmese child forced to become a soldier, and a Karenni child soldier – mortal enemies of the Burmese. Afterwards, I had a chance to speak with Mitali, and she mentioned she has visited all the elementary schools in Needham, but has not visited Pollard. I will see what I can do to rectify that.
The last to speak was Lionel Vitale, a recent immigrant from Haiti, who is working his way through school and is in his senior year with a double major at the University of Massachusetts. He was a featured character in Youme Landowne’s book “Selavi, That is Life: A Haitian story of hope” which tells the story of a group of homeless children who worked together to speak about their needs and were, eventually, able to start a radio station which was used to reach other young children.
My next session was a Kids’ Keynote speech by Jeff Kinney, author of the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series. Jeff entertained us with photos of his art and funny stories that led to the creation of his wildly popular books. The series was made into a movie, with a new book in the series “The Ugly Truth” slated to be released in November.
My last session was titled “It Books: Four YA writers discuss what’s hot and what’s not.” Featured authors included new author and Harvard student Noni Carter who spoke about her book “Good Fortune.” Written about slavery, it was inspired by a family story of what happened to her great-great-great-great Grandmother. Afterwards, we spent some time talking and, when she told me she visits schools, we talked about arranging a possible visit to Pollard in the near future.
Kristin Cashore, author of the “Graceling” and “Fire” wrapped up the panel discussion. She talked about the difficulty of writing, and the many revisions that have to happen in order to get a good book out in print. She mentioned that sometimes she feels her work isn’t the best it could be.
During the question and answer period, I was able to tell Kristin her books are great because of the effect they had on a reluctant female reader who only read manga in 7th grade. I was able to convince her to read a non-manga book “Manga Touch,” because the character loved Japan and manga – just like she did. Over the summer, the student started reading “Graceling” and wasn’t able to finish it. In Sept., she asked if I had it in the library and was thrilled I did. The next day, I saw her in the 8th grade hallway and told her the book had a sequel and we also had it in the library. She squealed and jumped a foot in the air with joy. Such is the power of a good book.
The Boston Book Festival was a very inspiring time. If you get a chance, come and see it next year. It’s free, and is a great opportunity to mix and mingle with some of the best writers in the field.
Right before the long Columbus Day weekend, I attended an evening benefit program for “Needham Steps Up.” The “Needham High School Steps to Success” is a mentoring program for low-income students who attend Needham High School. From sophomore through senior years, students recommended to the program are matched up with a teacher mentor. The teacher mentor takes them on weekly outings, is a support system for them, and helps them through the college application process.
The program is expensive, costing about $1200 per student, and the fundraiser was a way to not only raise money for 15 students each year, but to educate others on what the program has accomplished in its few years of existence. The audience heard from Superintendent Gutekanst, as well as the woman who helped found the program and Ron Walker, Executive Director of The Coalition of Schools Educating Boys of Color, the keynote speaker. All had great things to say about the program. On each table were testimonials from former students who wrote about what they learned through the mentoring program and how it helped them make it through high school. In addition to ticket sales, monies were raised through a silent auction and the sale of the flowers on each table. Thank you to Ms. Matlaw, Ms. Peterson and Ms. Sargent for chipping in and purchasing the lovely centerpiece for the Library.
Pollard had about 13 in attendance, and we filled up a table and a half. Our very own Technology Integration Specialist, Mr. Cournoyer, was honored for being a mentor for 3 of the years he taught at Needham High. We were very proud of the work he’s done, and were left in awe at the great work being done by everyone involved in the “Needham Steps Up” program. For more information, please contact Needham High School’s Guidance Office.
(click on photo for larger view)
I posted the following on the Pollard list serve, in honor of today being Cinco de Mayo:
Feliz Cinco de Mayo! Cinco de Mayo marks the anniversary of a Mexican military victory over the French on May 5, 1862 in the Battle of Puebla, near Mexico City. Despite the small Mexican army facing opposition from the overwhelmingly larger French army, the Mexicans prevailed in that battle. It is not Mexico’s Independence Day (that was Sept. 16, 1821).
Resources for Cinco de Mayo:
- The History of Cinco de Mayo
- History and Photos
- Activities & Crafts
- Songs, Games & Language Activities
While listening to recent conversations with candidates for a Library Media & Technology Director position, it became increasingly obvious to me that Librarians and Librarianship are taking HUGE, undeserved backseats. We are being seriously undervalued by those in monetary and leadership positions in school districts, as it became very clear that a person could easily become a Director of school librarians without any Library Media credentials, without ever having worked with, for, or as a Librarian, without any educational background, without any teaching credentials, and without having any knowledge of what Librarians do in schools – just so long as they knew something about the Technology portion of the job and all the “new gadgets” that went with it.
How could that be? Why is this happening? Why this big push to “throw away libraries and librarianship” and bring in so-called “technology experts” to tell us that they’re the future and it’s not us? Why the belief that we are “extensions of the computer lab?” Why the thoughts that a technology teacher is the same as a librarian? Why the thoughts that print materials are “outdated” and everyone should convert to “e” everything? Why the belief that librarians must not know anything about new technology? Does no one know what librarians do? Does anyone care?
It is so frustrating to read almost every day of cities, towns and entire states laying off School Librarians due to “budget cuts” as school districts cut the one thing that can actually help their students get the Information, Media & Technology 21st century skills they need to succeed. How many times do we have to say that everything is NOT online? How many times do we have to ask who’s going to help our students learn how to navigate the wealth of confusing information that’s “out there?”
Does no one notice our students becoming more and more Information Illiterate because of the lack of School Librarians in their schools? As a result, colleges are now having to offer Information Literacy classes to try to make up for these deficits, but it may be too little, too late for students who have to cram to catch up to students from elite or “well heeled” schools who, wisely, knew the value of their School Librarians. Does no one see the need for what school librarians offer to their students in this new century? Does no one notice the importance of training up true 21st century learners? Someone once said school library cuts make our schools nicely prepared for the 19th instead of the 21st century, and I can see why that’s a problem. Can you?
Many students will learn all about how to use these new “gadgets” with or without their technology teachers, but what about the “nitty gritty” of learning what’s really out there in their online worlds? What about print materials? There is a place for them in this world, just as there’s a place for “e-books.” Not every child learns in the same way at the same time (contrary to what state mandated tests would have us believe.) There is not a “cookie cutter” way to teach, just as there’s not a “cookie cutter” way to read and learn. We librarians look for ways to reach our students, and having print resources along with online resources is just one of the many ways we reach out to our students.
I read a recent Forbes article titled “Young Learners need Librarians, not just Google,” which gives me some hope during these dark days that someone out there finally “got it” and understands what we school librarians have been shouting to the world all of these years. Another recent article from the Transforming Education through Technology online journal shows they also “get it.” School Librarians are the future of this new technologically based world. You aim for your future. You do everything you can to achieve it. You take small steps everyday towards reaching it. You don’t throw away your future.
Ask yourself “what does a teacher librarian do?” First, go ask a Teacher Librarian. That would be me. Ask me. I will be more than happy to tell you. Take a few minutes to look at this video. Then, ask me.
After I talk to you please call, write or e-mail your state officials and your local school boards. Ask them to talk to a Teacher Librarian to REALLY listen and learn about what we do. We are here for our students. They need a well rounded 21st century education. Let’s work together to give it to them.
Go ahead. Ask me.
After the “Save the Pacific Tree Octopus” lesson with some of the 8th graders last week, in which many of them failed to realize how internet sites are not always true and reliable, it is easy to see how today’s students are still in need of Information Literacy skills, which are taught by school librarians. Sadly, many states and school districts are using budget deficits to let go of their school librarians, because they don’t really understand what school librarians actually do in their building and in their district
Doing so will cause their own students a great disservice, as students will not learn how to be information literate on their own, just by surfing the web, guessing at whether or not the information they find is good enough to use in their reports and then going on to plagiarize it because they haven’t been taught how to correctly use information by a school librarian. All students need access to certified school librarians who, among many other skills, show them how to find the best information on the web, how to evaluate and use what they find, and how to best organize the information they will wind up using.
Digital Literacy is more than just randomly seeking answers on Google, which is what is happening in more and more schools across the country as trained and certified school librarians are being let go in favor of parent volunteers or school aides, who have no idea how to teach these types of 21st century skills, which has been adopted by the state of Massachusetts as being important and necessary for students to master. A library is not just a collection of books. Today’s Librarian is not yesterday’s librarian. Today’s Librarian is technologically literate, understanding the importance and the need for training up a generation of learners who are able to handle what the 21st century has to offer them.
Today’s Librarian trains up a generation of students to become life-long learners. Today’s Librarian collaborates with teachers to teach information and communication skills through a wide range of print and electronic sources. Today’s Librarian works to help students become independent readers and helps to reduce the achievement gap. Today’s Librarian knows that studies across the United States have shown that student achievement increases 10-20% when a certified school librarian is active and working hard in their school.
Joyce Valenza, a great example of Today’s Librarian and one of the top school librarians in the nation, recently created and released a 5 minute video which shows the important benefits of having a school librarian. Besides helping students to develop an enjoyment of reading, school librarians work to teach the 21st century skills previously mentioned.
Across the state of Massachusetts, as well as the rest of the United States, there is an inequity in education with many districts not funding school librarians. As a result, thousands of students are not learning the skills needed to become independent 21st century learners. This means thousands of students go on to high school without the information literacy base taught by school librarians in elementary and middle school. As a result, they are woefully unprepared for the immense research work required in high school and college. Realizing this deficit, colleges have begun teaching information literacy to incoming freshmen. However, this may be too late for many students.
Today, Needham is one of the few districts in Massachusetts which is on its way to training up a generation of 21st century learners. With the skills being taught by Needham’s school librarians in elementary, middle and high school, the students of Needham will be able to not only succeed in today’s world, but will learn what they need to succeed in tomorrow’s world.
With a vision for the future which includes school librarians and all they do to help students succeed, and realizing their importance every day and in the time of budget cuts, Needham can raise up a generation of students who will be true 21st century learners, and who will go on to make an impact in the world.
I am proud to be one of Today’s Librarians, and will continue to work hard to help Needham’s students achieve all they can in the fields of information and digital literacy.
I attended my first Needham School Committee Meeting tonight. The room was filled with teachers, parents, staff and support personnel because it was a time for Public Comment on the Superintendent’s Budget Proposal. Because of the loss of state and local finances, the proposed budget would cut teachers, staff and programs in the high school and elementary schools, including several teacher and staff positions at Pollard. Tonight was an opportunity for the public to discuss how these cuts would affect them.
Teachers from the high school discussed how the proposed English Dept. cut would adversely affect them, followed by similar pleas from high school Student Council members and parents. An English teacher spoke about the importance of continuing the Elective Program at Pollard, which has an emphasis on educating the whole student, and noted how the proposed models at Pollard would decimate that program. As I listened, I debated whether or not to speak, and felt like I had to say something about the importance of the Media and Technology Program at Pollard. As the “newbie” on the block, I let others speak beforehand, and wound up being the final speaker.
I spoke about the difference in the educational opportunities offered to students through the Needham Public Schools versus what was offered to students in the inner city where I worked for 21 years. I noted how the teachers at Pollard work hard with their students, and how the proposed cuts would change the educational climate in Needham and steer the district towards the lower end of the educational spectrum.
I also spoke about the importance of the work that I do, and how I teach hand in hand with the Technology Integration Specialist and teachers, talking about how these two departments work hand in hand with teachers across all subject areas to educate students to become 21st century learners. This partnership between myself, the Technology Integration Specialist and the classroom teacher works because of my Support Staff. Her help enables me to teach in classrooms knowing that the library is covered in her apt hands. I ended by thanking them for what they were striving to do, and asked that they take all of this into consideration when deciding what to do with this budget.
Despite being very nervous I was able to get across what I wanted to say, and sat down feeling that I did what I had to do to maintain the integrity of my Department. It also made me feel like I’d like to attend future School Committee Meetings so I could better understand the inner workings of the Needham School District.