Media Mentorship & AAP’s New Digital Media Guidelines

media mentor cover

If you haven’t heard the big news, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has just released updated findings in regards to the use of screen time by young children  which emerged from their recent Growing Up Digital: Media Research Symposium. I’m excited to report that the AAP findings fully support ALSC’s position as outlined in the Media Mentorship in Libraries Serving Youth white paper adopted by our Board of Directors back in March.

More than ever, families and children will be turning to libraries and youth services staff for help in navigating the digital landscape and in making sound, developmentally appropriate decisions on media use. Your professional association is here to help you rise to the occasion and embrace the role of media mentor with the white paper and other resources that offer helpful ways for you to respond to your families.

ALSC resources available to support you in meeting this evolving opportunity include:

  • Check out the professional tools for digital media on ALSC’s website. ALSC’s Digital Content Task Force collected a go-to list of resources and we’re always looking for more to keep the page fresh and updated, so don’t hesitate to submit your recommendations through the form.
  • The media mentorship white paper landing page has several resources including FREE webcasts such as “Best Practices for Apps/eBooks in Storytime” presented by ALSC member and founder Cen Campbell. is a crowd-sourced, collaborative think tank focused on developing best practices for infusing new media into library programs, services, and collections.
  • This very blog has regular posts related to technology programming and collections, so check it regularly and stay on top of the trends.
  • Two new task forces are sure to keep us forging ahead as media mentors:
    • The Media Mentorship Award Task Force is developing a potential award for excellence in innovative use of media with children, including a process for recognizing an exemplary media mentor program.
    • The Expansion of the Notable Children’s Video Task Force is exploring the possibility of expanding Notable Children’s Videos to include new digital media.
  • Keep your eyes open for a new how-to book authored by Cen Campbell, Claudia Haines, and ALSC, scheduled for release next June. 
  • ALSC leadership has submitted a proposal to present media mentorship to educators at SXSWedu next March and at the 2016 IBBY Congress next August.

We’re all in this together! Let’s share our thoughts, successes, and requests for help on ALSC-L.  Do you use new media regularly in your programming and services? Want to share your know-how with colleagues? ALSC is always looking for new webinar content so please feel free to share your ideas with the Education committee here

Media mentoring is vital to supporting the lives and literacies of children and families in the twenty-first century. Each of us committing to the role of media mentor is crucial to our success as a profession that serves children. I look forward to continuing this journey together!

Posted in Blogger Andrew Medlar, Children & Technology, Technology | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Storytime Magic Starts Before Birth

Picture this: a small, sunny room full of wriggling little babies, more than a dozen of them. A few are perched on laps, bouncing and babbling. Some are toddling, others are dancing, and there’s a daddy patiently rocking his wailing newborn.

And there she is at the center of it all, in one hand a colorful picture book opened to a page covered with romping animals, in the other hand a furry Brown Bear puppet.

“Brown Bear, Brown Bear, what do you see?” she asks. Her face is animated and her voice undulates excitedly as she looks around the room, making eye contact with as many big and little eyes as she can. “I seeee . . .” She turns the page with a flourish, her face filled with anticipation as parents lean forward and some kids pause perfectly still. “A Yellow Duck looking at me!”

A Yellow Duck puppet seamlessly appears, and she makes it do a funny dance while she deftly moves the book, held by Brown Bear, so that everyone in the room can see the pictures. A few parents cheer, some of the babies smile and squeal, one starts to cry because the Yellow Duck startled her, and a little guy bursts out in giggles and rolls on the floor in delight.

LibraryWhat is this joyful, whimsical, topsy-turvy place where babies and families can celebrate the enchantment of language in all its rhyming, rhythmic, and rollicking glory? It’s the local library, of course! And the magician at the center of all the fun is the magnificent, multitasking, multitalented children’s librarian.

There’s been a lot of excitement among children’s literacy enthusiasts this year since the most influential group of children’s doctors in the country, the American Academy of Pediatrics, made a public recommendation of great importance in June 2014. It’s no surprise that the pediatricians’ group gives guidance on such things as what to feed babies and how much sleep they need. The big news is that the AAP came out publicly to strongly recommend that parents read to their babies — right from the very beginning.

So reading to babies and children is right up there with feeding them fruits and veggies! This was a groundbreaking announcement for many parents and some literacy advocates, but no surprise to children’s librarians — they invented baby storytime! These experts have known for eons about the benefits of reading aloud to children, and have been working tirelessly to inspire families to begin their own literacy-centered routine right from babyhood.

Now two new studies have added even more support to this idea. The first, published in August in the AAP’s journal Pediatrics, looked closely at the brains of young children who were read to and those who were not. The children who had been exposed to regular storytime showed significantly greater brain development, which directly correlated with the amount of time each child was read to. Then, the August issue of Psychological Science reported a study showing that children who are read to regularly develop greater vocabulary and flexibility with language than those who are only spoken to. Apparently the exposure to unfamiliar words in the context of a story especially helps develops the language center in the child’s brain.

We applaud the AAP’s recommendation that families read to their babies as soon as they’re born, and we’d like to go one step further. An abundance of research over the last several years has found that babies already begin to develop the foundations of language during the last trimester of pregnancy — meaning that all the benefits of reading to a newborn can begin even before a baby is born.

Big SisStudies find that babies in the womb can hear and recognize speech patterns and rhythms, which develops the language center in the brain and begins to teach the modes and melodies of their primary language. What’s more, babies can actually remember a rhythmic poem or story they heard during the last trimester for up to four weeks after birth, and they show a clear preference for the rhythm and melody of a song or poem heard regularly from the womb.

They also show a preference for their mother’s voice over a stranger’s, and perhaps the most exciting finding for new parents is that newborns are measurably calmed by a familiar, rhythmic story read repeatedly before birth. In addition, taking time out for relaxing, reading, and snuggling with the baby before birth (just as after) produces oxytocin, the “feel-good hormone” that nature created to connect parents with their young, and this also has a positive effect on fetal growth and development.

There are so many reasons to begin bonding with and nurturing babies through reading even during pregnancy, and there’s great practical value as well: Reading aloud is a skill to be learned and practiced (just ask a librarian!).

While starting a storytime routine from birth is a lovely idea, the reality is that most parents have not actually read a book aloud in a very long time, if ever. With the best intentions they pick up that beautiful picture book given to them at the baby shower, but they might find that the unfamiliar text doesn’t roll off the tongue quite as expected, and reading aloud to their little one doesn’t come so naturally after all.

At the same time, new mothers and fathers may be overwhelmed by the responsibility of taking care of this new little being in their charge. They want to do everything right and will follow the AAP’s suggestions to the best of their ability, so now “read to baby” will probably be on many to-do lists. But as they juggle feeding times, a sleep schedule, diaper changing, and a multitude of other new jobs, “read to baby” might understandably be sacrificed.

If expectant parents begin storytime before the baby is born, it gives them lots of time to practice and get comfortable with reading aloud, and to choose books they love and are excited to share with that unseen listener. Because the research shows that babies in utero love verse that is repeated, parents can practice to their heart’s content, knowing their baby will only become more familiar with and responsive to the language of the poem or story.

BedtimeBy beginning a storytime routine before baby is born, moms and dads will grow to love this sacred time of day. Plus, experts say reading a story at bedtime helps babies both before and after birth wind down and get ready for sleep. So expectant parents can even use in utero storytime to condition their baby to get sleepy at bedtime!

Best of all, when their baby is born and hears the familiar story for the first time outside the womb, he really will listen. It might be the one thing that stops him from fussing! The parents will see for themselves that the time they spent reading before birth has borne the most magical fruit, and they’ll be all the more eager to continue that routine, for years to come.

And when it comes time to introduce baby to story hour at the local library, and that wonder-working children’s librarian realizes that these parents have already shared with their child the joy of getting lost in story, she’ll be thrilled to know she hasn’t cornered the market on read-aloud fun.

Who knows? Prenatal story hour might be a new addition to her calendar!

(Licensing for photos purchased by guest blogger from



Photo credit: Betsy Boyle

Susan Lupone Stonis and Jacqueline Boyle are the co-author/illustrators of Can’t Wait to Show You: A Celebration for Mothers-to-Be, the first book specially designed to read to babies before and after birth, and winner of the Mom’s Choice Awards Gold Award. For lots more information and tips on reading aloud to babies in utero, please visit The Reading Womb blog.

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at

Posted in Guest Blogger, Storytime | Leave a comment

Collection Wisdom

book cartOne month ago, I became the Head of Youth Services at a library in Western Pennsylvania and I’ve been thinking about budgets and physical space and the giant puzzle that is building a great youth services collection.  I tend to believe a smaller newer collection is more appealing.  Yep, fewer and newer books, even if that means we only have a few Goosebumps left on the shelf.  So I’ve been doing some weeding.  I think we all need a friendly reminder that it’s OK to cut your collection.  Go ahead!  Remove books that are in bad condition or outdated and don’t replace them. I know that Curious George and Madeline may still circulate; but I also know I have limited space (don’t we all!)

My library is fortunate to be part of a larger library consortium so our collection is technically 45 libraries-strong which means I could focus on what my community needs when they walk into my location.  Now that many (most?) of our patrons order their library books online so they can run in and pick them up quickly, what can I offer my area families when they walk through our doors to browse?  Maybe a juvenile bestsellers collection?   Maybe a toy-lending program?  Someone once said to me years ago, the library’s Achilles heel is its futile aim to be everything to everyone all the time.  I’m interested in what it would look like to get specific.  What if I tried to support a collection policy that relied on my specific community’s desires?  What would that look like?  Would that even be a good idea?

I’d love to hear your thoughts; how do you approach collection development at your library?

(Photos courtesy of guest blogger)


fall.jpgOur guest blogger today is Kelley Beeson. Kelley is the Youth Services Department Head at the Western Allegheny Community Library. She’s been working in libraries since high school and her favorite book is Marcus Zusak’s The Book Thief.

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at

Posted in Collection Development, Guest Blogger | Leave a comment

Ruminating on Leaf Rubbing

If you live in a place where you have deciduous trees, you are probably experiencing (or starting to experience) that brilliant foliage color change that happens this time of year. Which means that it is a GREAT time for making leaf rubbings with your kids at the library. (Also: even if you do not live in a place where the leaves change in the fall, as long as you have leaves you can do leaf rubbings!)

Photo by Abby Johnson

Photo by Abby Johnson

This may seem like a very basic and boring activity. I thought so, too. But our kids go crazy for it every year (even though we do it with our Afterschool outreach storytimes every single year). And it is extremely cheap and easy to do. Which makes it a perfect craft, in my opinion.

Here’s what you do:

Step 1: Gather leaves. I do not have deciduous trees in my yard, so I take a nice walk at our local park and I’m careful to only gather a few leaves from each tree so it doesn’t make a noticeable difference.

Photo by Abby Johnson

Photo by Abby Johnson

Step 1B:  I have found that if you gather leaves from the ground, it’s hard to find leaves that are not dried out and those aren’t going to last you very long. I pick leaves from the trees (preferably leaves that have already changed color since they are so beautiful), and I am always careful to knock any bugs off and to choose leaves that don’t have spiderwebs and things on them.

** Make sure that you know what you are picking are non-harmful leaves! If you’re not sure, skip that tree or bush.

Step 2: Put the leaves in a plastic ziplock bag. This will keep them fresh if you want to use them for a few days. When we take this activity to our Afterschool groups, we use the same leaves for three or four visits. They will last nicely for 4-5 days, after which we compost them and I pick fresh leaves for the next week.

Step 3: To make the leaf rubbings, put a leaf or leaves on the table with the veiny side (the “bumpy side”) facing up. Place a blank piece of paper over the leaves (thinner paper is better – regular printer paper is what we use). Then use a crayon to GENTLY color the paper over where the leaves are placed. You should see the outline of the leaf appearing on the paper.

Photo by Abby Johnson.

Photo by Abby Johnson.

Step 3B: When kids have problems with this activity, it is usually because they are coloring too hard on the paper. To make it easier, you can peel the wrapping off the crayons and have them color with the side of the crayon.

And that’s it!

Every year, I expect kids to be bored with this activity, but it hasn’t happened yet. We encourage the older kids who have done it before to help the younger kids. And kids always ask “Are these REAL leaves?!” Yes, yes they are. We’re bringing a little bit of nature to the kids. One nice thing about this activity is that kids can repeat it pretty much anywhere. If they have trees on their school grounds or in their neighborhoods, they can gather leaves and repeat this on their own very easily.

What if you DON’T have access to leaves (or have concerns about allergies – this has never been a problem for us, but I could see it happening?)? You can try this activity with anything that has a texture. Tree bark, concrete, the bottom of your shoe.

Have you done leaf rubbings with your kids?

— Abby Johnson, Youth Services Manager
New Albany-Floyd County Public Library
New Albany, IN

Posted in Blogger Abby Johnson, Programming Ideas | 1 Comment


I recently had a meeting with the Elementary Literacy Consultant at our local school board. Our library region covers the same area as the school board, so that is convenient for us (unlike some large library systems that may have more than one school district). I requested a meeting for a couple of reasons– to listen, and to find out how we can get more teachers using our collections. School libraries have small budgets (and library staff in schools is slim). Students still need access to a wide variety of quality books, and we have them! So how do I get them into the classrooms?alsc sign

After my meeting, I had a few takeaways and some work to do. I am preparing an invitation to all teachers at all schools to get a library card. I am trying to make it easy– sending them a registration form and outlining the services we have. Our library offers an “institutional” card to teachers — they can check out as many items as they need for their classroom, and keep them for 6 weeks (our normal check-out period is 3 weeks) — and they do not pay overdue fines. It is a good deal – but only if they know about it!

I also plan to create more online booklists with teachers in mind. I asked for (and received!) a curriculum outline–a simple guide to the subjects that are being studied, for each grade. As new books come in, I can now target them for lists or for adding to my blog, which I started with our own library staff in mind. The new books cross my path before they hit the shelves, and as I am addicted to picture books, I can’t help taking piles of them home and making notes. Now I have new ways to look at these books, and I’ve added a section “Of Interest to Teachers” in upcoming blog posts.

With a new focus on teaching from children’s books rather than textbooks, I see this as a win-win opportunity. I’m always looking for ways to make our collection more accessible to our community, and now I have a few ideas for reaching out to teachers. What do you do? How do you partner with schools? How do you get the books into the hands of teachers and students? Let’s hear your ideas!

Posted in Blogger Angela Reynolds, Collaboration, Outreach, Partnerships | 2 Comments

Everyday Advocacy Challenge: Week 5 Reflections

The inaugural Everyday Advocacy Challenge (EAC) began its second half on September 29 with this Take Action Tuesday prompt:

Talk up the Everyday Advocacy initiative with a colleague.

Here’s what a few of our EAC cohort members said about the Week 5 challenge in six words or less:

  • “One of the easiest so far.”
  • “Sharing the proactive thinking.”
  • “Energizing!”
  • “Perfectly timed to coincide with newsletter.”
  • “Much easier to do!”

For Lynda Salem-Poling, the Week 5 challenge was both a fun opportunity and a great reminder of what Everyday Advocacy is all about.

Lynda writes:

This week’s challenge was to talk up the Everyday Advocacy Challenge to our colleagues. I took this opportunity to poll my co-workers to find out who was interested in learning more about ALA, as well as more about the EAC specifically. I sent out a general e-mail to all the librarians in my library system, linking to all of the ALSC blog posts, and asking if anyone was interested in participating and inviting them to contact me for more information.

The resulting conversations were fabulous and enlightening. I learned a lot about how my fellow librarians saw advocacy and their roles as advocates. And, as usual, I surprised myself by having insights while we were talking that I had never thought of before.

Talking over the EAC with my fellow librarians helped me find even more importance in doing it. Specifically, I realized the added benefit of talking to librarians from different types of public libraries from across the country, and even some “library folks” who work outside of libraries all together. One colleague pointed out that even if I never spoke to anyone about libraries again, it is good to have internalized the positive messages that I was creating.

We are now past the half-way mark, when it’s possible to suffer from a bit of burn-out, even for such a short experience. This week’s challenge was an invigorating, uplifting, reminder of how important the EAC is and how much fun.

Lynda Salem-Poling, is a librarian and supervisor at El Dorado (Calif.) Neighborhood Library. Lynda is a member of the inaugural Everyday Advocacy Challenge cohort, an 18-member volunteer group convening from September 1-October 20, 2015.

Posted in Call to Action, Child Advocacy | Leave a comment

Getting to Know Your Way: Finding International School library Positions

I blame it all on movies like The King and I. It’s because of movies like this, that I want to work abroad. Watching Anna teach, the students, the scenery, (not to mention those amazing dresses of hers), and more, was enough to make me want to hop on a plane to somewhere wonderful and start teaching. The role of a Teacher Librarian abroad offers first-hand the sights, scents and sounds of a country other than your own; real-world application of a new language, a different school and different customs. It can truly be life-changing. Currently and happily on a stint in the U.S., wanderlust always calls; I keep an eye on international library job opportunities. Here are some suggestions about how to apply for positions via online recruiting services, and what to look out for.

Recruiting for the next school year often starts as early as December, for the following year. Recruiters may offer both online recruitment, and face-to-face job fairs. The process starts with creating an online profile via your recruiting company. Be prepared to fill out online information, including uploading your certifications, a CV, experience and information including confidential references, plus a video call address. Once your profile is accepted, you will gain access to information on teaching positions around the world, as well as job fairs. A small, one-time fee is charged during the initial sign-up process.

Think about where you want to go. Be open-minded, and when you open school profiles and job descriptions, read all the fine print, and know that this may change over the course of your application. This also means read the final contract before signing it. The job posting covers the contract requirements of the job posting, including the length of the contract, age limits, if any, degree specifics, curriculum information, salary (not necessarily USD), housing and flight reimbursement.

Be aware of the culture, customs and political climate of the country. Ask questions before, during and after your interview, which is generally via video call. Check U.S. government information online regarding your country of interest. Follow expat blogs, and try to get a feel for your level of tolerance; the language barriers, how to handle money and transportation, and homesickness. Search online and print resources for current information. Learn all you can about the countries you would like to teach in, because you will be happier if you do, and so will your students.

If applying online, write a cover letter, and hit “send”. If you want to go to a job fair, follow the online procedure as indicated in your profile. And remember one thing, sometimes, it doesn’t work out. Then this is what you do: channel Anna in The King and I, figure out what you need to do, and apply for another position. Your adventure awaits!


Courtesy photo from Guest Blogger

Courtesy photo from Guest Blogger

Our guest blogger today is Brenda Hahn. Brenda’s permanent home is in Florida, where she and her family live. As a Teacher/Librarian, she has worked in U.S. public schools, public libraries and in several international schools. Brenda’s vivid imagination keeps her library skills and literacy instruction both current and fun. She can be reached at

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at

Posted in Guest Blogger | Leave a comment

ALSC Around the World: Ich liebe Bibliotheken!*

ALSC Around the World

I was really struck by the 25th anniversary of German Reunification (called the Day of German Unity or Tag der Deutschen Einheit) falling during Banned Books Week last week. Growing up during part of the Cold War, I certainly remember textbooks and other nonfiction titles that gave us not-very-favorable messages about East Germany and even recall being told that kids there weren’t allowed to pick the books they wanted to read on their own. During my visits to libraries in Germany and Poland this past month I thought and talked a lot about the freedom to read and the future of library service to children with some of our international colleagues.

Bibliothek am Luisenbad

In Berlin, librarians Heidrun Huebner-Gepp and Sarah Tscholl welcomed me to their Bibliothek am Luisenbad and shared a tour of their building, which was built in 1888 and is filled with Smart Boards, engaging face-out collections, programming spaces, and a diverse clientele with whom they focus on languages and digital media literacy. This community’s emphasis on welcoming those new to Germany is particularly relevant during this time when the country is seeing a significant influx of refugees from Syria.

Bibliothek am Luisenbad

Bibliothek am Luisenbad, circa 1888

Bibliothek am Luisenbad

Bibliothek am Luisenbad, circa 2015










Welcome to Biblioteka Publiczna Miasta i Gminy Słubice

Welcome to Biblioteka Publiczna Miasta i Gminy Słubice

The library I visited in Poland, Biblioteka Publiczna Miasta i Gminy Słubice, featured a fascinating display of local and national history while also providing tons and tons of e-content. Even with my limited knowledge of Polish, I could tell when it was trzecia, or three o’clock, as in a scene familiar to many of us, kids rushed in to sign up for computer time.



I spent a delightful afternoon with Benjamin Scheffler, who is the director of the Children’s and Youth Library and Learning Center of Berlin’s Central and Regional Library, where they really see the library as a place of learning, and their melding of traditional and innovative spaces, collections, and services was inspiring, both to me and their hundreds of thousands of annual users. The importance of adults and young kids making time together to sprechen, singen, lessen, schreiben, und spielen (talk, sing, read, write, and play) is truly universal!

Home of the Children's and Youth Library of the Central and Regional Library of Berlin (ZLB)

Home of the Children’s and Youth Library of the Central and Regional Library of Berlin (ZLB)


And I can highly recommend a visit to the Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm Center at Humboldt University of Berlin where thousands of documents from the Grimms’ personal library live and breathe. It also features, as Yelp aptly describes, “a reading room for mothers with children or pregnant women [where t]oddlers can play while mothers study.”

You can check out #ALSCtour on Twitter to learn more about these and my other visits in September to the Ottendorfer Branch of New York Public Library (the 1st free public library in NYC!) and the youth department of the Arlington Heights Memorial Library in Illinois. Also take a look at #KidsBookSummit for my account of the 2015 Nielsen Children’s Book Summit. This was an important event for ALSC to be represented at as publishers and librarians can learn so much from each other as we share this landscape of media for children, and I’m happy to report that the call for diverse books was a key part of the day.

*I love libraries!

Posted in Blogger Andrew Medlar | Tagged | Leave a comment