The Stories of L., M., N., O., P., and the Freedom to Read

What’s a librarian to do when a patron adores certain genres, but his or her parent wants to restrict the child from reading them? There have been several such families in our community—all zealous library users and participants in our book discussion groups. As we’ve worked with them over the years, we’ve tried to maintain the trust of the parents while respecting the rights of their children. It’s often a delicate balancing act!

When L. was younger, his mom could bend him to her will fairly easily, but by the time he was ten he was more resistant to her wishes and more adamant about what he chose to read for pleasure. This was certainly appropriate to his growing maturity, but since his mother asked us to guide his selections we struggled to keep L. engaged as we kept the peace between them. Their conflict hinged on his attraction to graphic novels. L.’s mom didn’t regard graphic novels as “real” or “challenging” reading and the two were at a stalemate. I was able to change her mind by showing her Don Brown’s THE GREAT AMERICAN DUST BOWL. “I learned so much from this book, myself!” I exclaimed, turning to pages illustrating the devastating extent of a dust storm in May of 1934. The high quality of Brown’s artwork and his source notes and bibliography convinced her that this was a serious work of nonfiction. Then I introduced them to Matt Phelan’s AROUND THE WORLD, a fascinating triple-biography about people who circumnavigated the globe. Though that was a bit more whimsical than Brown’s book, it still seemed worth reading to L.’s mother (and, more importantly, to L.) and after that, he encountered much less resistance when he selected other books from our graphic novel collection.

M. loves fantasies and action-filled novels. She’s a fan of Riordan, Rowling and Paolini. Her father prefers her to read “The Classics” and “educational books”. One of our librarians has pointed out that many of the ideals M.’s dad wants espoused in his daughter’s reading are also advocated in the very books she enjoys: courage and cooperation as well as self-knowledge and directedness. He was briefly mollified by such assurances, but then the conflicts reemerged. One happy afternoon I was able to find two works of non-fiction that satisfied them both (Deborah Kops’ THE GREAT MOLASSES FLOOD and Sally Walkers’ BLIZZARD OF GLASS) by showing M. the sensational photographs of the disasters while loudly extolling the primary source material the authors had consulted so that her father, who was lurking behind a pillar, could hear.

The differences between our philosophies of book selection were readily apparent when N. registered for our 4th-6th grade book discussions. Unlike two of our other book discussions, this group is for kids only. N.’s mother had to be dissuaded from forcing her way into the room to lecture the group about their reading choices! Though that tested our diplomacy skills, we were able to keep the peace by pointing out that the choices of books for that group’s discussion is at the discretion of the librarian. Though that resulted in several further discussions between N.’s mom and the librarian, at least the rest of the kids were spared the harangue.

It’s different for the group for 5th-7th graders and their parents, who vote on the next month’s book from three titles the librarian introduces. Even before the first meeting, O.’s mother was trying to influence the process. She wrote, “We hope this…discussion group will read from the finest authors and titles carefully chosen by ALA and other trusted organizations.” Later she suggested, “For next month’s select titles, realistic fiction or non-fiction that reinforces values, particularly respect for others and self-introspection (sic) would be ideal.” The librarian who leads this group has pointed out that the democratic process at work with this group is, in itself, a valuable learning experience. She stressed that each group member’s voice and vote was equally important.

Lately, P. has been able to negotiate a compromise with her parents without our intervention. Her mother once told us that P. had “exceeded her quota of fantasy fiction titles over the past three years.” (!) She’s now allowed to take one book she chooses if she also borrows the ones her parents approve. It’s been interesting to witness P.’s increasing skill at justifying her opinions and sticking to her guns. Maybe it’s reading about spunky kids that has given her courage…

We hope that, by encouraging their participation in our book discussions, we are helping children to be able to defend their own tastes in reading. We are pleased to see them gaining confidence in expression and developing effective bargaining skills. And the end is always in sight: in a few more years, they will be grown.

Miriam Lang Budin, ALSC Intellectual Freedom Committee

Posted in Blogger Intellectual Freedom Committee, Intellectual Freedom, What I Wasn't Taught in Library School... | Leave a comment

ALSC Member of the Month — Pat Bashir

Each month, an ALSC member is profiled and we learn a little about their professional life and a bit about their not-so-serious side. Using just a few questions, we try to keep the profiles fun while highlighting the variety of members in our organization. So, without further ado, welcome to our ALSC profile, ten questions (plus one) with ALSC member, Pat Bashir.

1.  What do you do, and how long have you been doing it?

Pat Bashir

Photo courtesy of Cassandra Welch

I’m a Children’s Librarian and I have been working with libraries since 2003.  Currently I work at the Southeast Branch of the Nashville Public Library in Antioch, TN.  My official title is Librarian 2 which essentially means I’m the Children’s Services Supervisor.  I joined the Nashville Public Library two years ago as the children’s librarian for the Main Library.  I transferred to the Southeast Branch in January where I had the opportunity to help them move to a brand new building.  I’m responsible for the training and development of two Library Associates and a page.  I’m also the volunteer leader in my branch.  In this role, I communicate with the volunteer coordinator and let him know when and where we need volunteers, as well as being the point person for the volunteers. I also ensure that we offer programs for all ages, offer outreach visits and that our patrons get excellent customer service.

2.  Why did you join ALSC? Do you belong to any other ALA divisions or roundtables?

I joined ALSC because I believe it helps with my professional development and helps me stay abreast to the latest trends in the library world.  I haven’t joined any other division yet but eventually I would like to join REFORMA.

3.  Do you have any Winter Holiday traditions?

I celebrate Christmas with family and friends every year.  I’m originally from Colombia and I have tried to maintain some of the Colombian traditions in my family.  During the holiday season we do something called Novena in which we pray and sing Christmas Carols in front of the Nativity Scene.  Most Colombians make a pretty elaborate Nativity but I have a very simple one.  We do this starting On December 16th until Christmas Eve when we celebrate with a special dinner and open the presents at midnight.

4.  E-books or Print?

I love them both.  I specially enjoy reading picture books in print. I read  juvenile fiction and young Adult e-books and I also like to listen to a good book on my way to work.  I download my audiobooks from Overdrive or I borrow them from the library.

5.  How do you keep up with library news?

I subscribe to the ALA newsletter and follow different blogs though a website called Feedspot.  I get a daily update on different blogs and electronic journals through this website.  I also subscribe to Listservs such as PUBYAC and the Tennessee State Library.   I enjoy reading Library Sparks to get ideas for programs and different themes for story times.

6.  What’s the best thing about your Library?

The best thing about the Southeast branch library is the great amount of resources and new technology that we have available to our patrons.  We have a 24/7 free movie rental kiosk and a 24/7 vending machine that offers books and movies for all the audiences.  Also a laptop and iPad check out station.

7.  How much time do you spend reading each week?

I listen to a book for 3 hours a week.  I also read print or e-books for about another 2 hours per week.  Every chance I can find, I read picture books and professional journals as well.

8.  Favorite part of being a Children’s Librarian?

My favorite part of being a Children’s Librarian is doing story time and the hugs that I get from the kids after it.

9.  What is your favorite type of food?

My favorite type of food is Colombian cuisine of course.  I love to eat soups such as “Sancocho”, a very typical chicken soup we make in Colombia with plantains, potatoes, yucca and corn.

 10.  Favorite age of kids to work with?

I love to work with all ages but my favorite age is toddlers 1-3 year olds.  They are so cute and they always have a smile for me.  I totally love doing toddler story time.


Thanks, Pat! What a fun continuation to our monthly profile feature!

Do you know someone who would be a good candidate for our ALSC Monthly Profile? Are YOU brave enough to answer our ten questions? Send your name and email address to; we’ll see what we can do.


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Providing Activities During Storytime Breaks

My library has seven storytimes a week and we typically see around 30 kids at each storytime. We’re also the headquarters branch with the most traffic and additional programs, so I think it’s vital for my staff to take breaks during the year to regroup and refresh and plan for our next round of storytimes. We take off the months of May (to help us promote, prepare for, and kick off the Summer Reading Program) and the month of December (typically we have lower traffic in the branch and we noticed that between iffy weather and so much being packed into patron’s schedules, our attendance is much lower).

I’ve learned to present these storytime breaks to our storytime families by telling them that we are taking a break  to get ready for our next round of storytimes and we want to plan and prepare the best programs for them. I also let them know that while we won’t be hosting weekly activities, we still will have things happening in the library and that they are always welcome to visit the library! I found that in presenting it this way is a great approach and our patrons feel like we care about them and want to provide the best we can. I even have several patrons comment on how we work so hard that we deserve a break, which is nice!

We want to make sure we do still have various activities going on, so we use the months we’re off from storytime to focus on a lot of passive programming as well as a few special programs throughout the month. Here’s what we have going on during our storytime break this month:

-Cookie Club-We kick off our Cookie Club Winter Reader’s Club in December. I got this idea from Marge Louch-Waters from Tiny Tips for Library Fun and adapted it for my library. In our club, the kids get a card to get stamped each time they visit the library. They are also invited to decorate a cookie (a brown circle) and place it in our workroom window. If the kids get six stamps by the end of February, they get a special invite to our invite only Cookie Club party in March. At the party we read books about cookies, play cookie games, make cookie crafts and of course eat cookies! The parents and the kids get excited about this. This is our third year doing the Cookie Club and I had a family say “Oh yes! The Cookie Club is back!”

-Missouri Building Block Picture Book Award Voting-The Missouri Library Association sponsors The Missouri Building Block Picture Book Award that is voted on the kids of Missouri birth-Kindergarten. I spend all of my Fall storytimes reading the nominees and the kids can vote during the month of December. We have a voting box and a poster of all the nominees as well as ballots out on display. When the kids vote for their favorite, they get an “I voted” sticker to celebrate. Each week during December we’ve been rotating passive activities based on the nominees from mustache making for Mustache Baby to an elephant finger puppet for Little Nelly’s Big Book. The kids have loved it!

-Special Movie Marathon Days-Once the kids are out of school, our phones start ringing non-stop with the question “what does the library have going on today?” To help offer something for families that doesn’t take up a lot of staff time and planning, we host several movie marathons in our auditorium. We show double features of popular movies like Cars and Cars 2 or a princess theme with Tangled and Sofia the First. We also will occasionally set up simple crafts or trivia to go along with the movies. Our patrons love the chance to take a break and watch a favorite movie on a large screen.

-Crafterspace & Builderspace-This year we’re hosting an afternoon of crafting and an afternoon of building. These programs were also designed to be lighter in planning and staff time and are very easy to set up. For the craft afternoon, we clean out of craft supply closet and let the kids create whatever they can come up with. For the building program, we put out Legos, giant foam blocks, wooden blocks-any block we can find and let the kids build. These are programs that are easy to gather supplies for, easy to set up, and great for families to spend an afternoon together.

We found that providing a lot of passive family activities during our storytime breaks offered the perfect balance between still offering programs and giving staff a break.

Do you take storytime breaks? And if so, any tips for providing activities for your patrons while on break?

Posted in Blogger Sarah Bean Thompson | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Suggestions for the Batchelder Award?

ALSC Personal Members are invited to suggest titles for the 2015 Batchelder Award given to an American publisher for a children’s book considered to be the most outstanding of those books originally published in a foreign language in a foreign country and subsequently published in English in the United States during 2014. Please remember that only books from this publishing year are under consideration for the 2015 award. Publishers, authors and illustrators may not suggest their own books. The deadline for submission is December 31, 2014.

You may send recommendations with full bibliographic information to the Chair, Diane Janoff at

The  award will be announced at the press conference during the ALA Midwinter Meeting in February 2015.

For more information about the award, visit the ALSC website at Click on “Awards and Grants” in the left-hand navigation bar; then click on “ALSC Book & Media Awards.” Scroll down to the “Batchelder Award Page”.

Posted in Awards & Scholarships, Blogger Mary R. Voors, Books | Leave a comment

Puppet Shows at Storytime

“Where’s Rockie? Is Rockie going to be here today? He’s so funny!” Preschoolers call out their excitement as soon as they see the puppet stage set up and ready for action. Rockie is the main character for our series of puppet shows about a raccoon and how he learns about his world. Each show is an original script, written by two librarians. It is usually based around a topic that is of some concern to young children—new baby, sharing, fears, exercising, learning to read, manners, moving, etc. Although the themes are somewhat serious, the antics of the puppets are always silly and broad, causing plenty of laughter as well as discussion.

The basic format is as follows:

  • RockieDig_smallAct One brings on Rockie and his friend(s).  One librarian is working the puppets, the other is outside the stage, interacting with the puppets and encouraging the children to participate in the conversation.  The “problem” is identified, there is some conversation, and the puppets exit.
  • The librarian reads a story related to the theme, followed by a movement rhyme.
  • Act Two brings back Rockie and pals.  There’s more conversation and lots of silliness, such as a chase scene, a puppet that appears and disappears, bubbles or a water pistol, and a movement song that everyone joins in on.  Then the puppets exit.
  • The librarian reads another story related to the theme, followed by a movement rhyme.
  • Act Three always offers either a resolution to the concern, or at least a conversation with Rockie (or whoever is experiencing the issue) and a promise to find a solution, based on the possibilities identified during the puppet show. For instance, in our show about getting a pet Rockie imagines having a porcupine, a monkey and a snake, each of which causes laugh-out-loud mayhem and chaos.  He finally decides to get a book at the library to help him choose.

Each of the puppets has a distinct personality. Rockie is melodramatic, Zelda the Zebra is logical, Tembo the Elephant can be a bit grumpy. One of my favorites lately has been Dig the Squirrel, who is always digging, never paying attention, and just when he finally gets around to talking with the librarian he suddenly stops, looks out, yells, “Dog!,” and disappears. Kids think it’s hilarious, especially when a dog really does appear at the end and calls out, “Squirrel!”

SheilaRockie_smallThe best part about Rockie Tales is that whatever we’re doing, the kids really listen and take the lessons to heart, while laughing and participating with the puppets. One mother said, “I could never get my son to follow best manners at the table, but after Rockie Tales, he was telling us how to behave!” Plus we’re demonstrating to care givers that the library has book resources to help with many of life’s challenges.

One script is here for you to review, but feel free to contact me if you need more examples or information. I hope you’ll try your own version of Rockie Tales; it is guaranteed to be a great way to teach as well as have fun.

(Pictures courtesy guest blogger)


Our guest blogger today is Heather McNeil. Heather is the Youth Services Manager at Deschutes Public Library in Bend, OR.  She is the author of Read, Rhyme and Romp: Early Literacy Skills and Activities for Librarians, Teachers and Parents, as well as a professional storyteller and author of two collections of folklore.  You can contact her 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, Programming Ideas, Storytime | Leave a comment

Participate in the Newbery Selection Process

Dear ALSC Members,

ALSC personal members are invited to participate in the 2015 Newbery Award selection process by submitting titles for consideration.

The Newbery Medal is presented annually to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children published in the United States during the preceding year.  Honor books may be named.

“Distinguished” is defined as:

o    marked by eminence and distinction: noted for significant achievement

o    marked by excellence in quality

o    marked by conspicuous excellence or eminence

o    individually distinct

For more information about the award, including a full list of criteria, terms and definitions, visit the ALSC Website.

Reflect on the 2014 books that you have read which clearly meet the Newbery Award Criteria and submit for the committee’s consideration with the following information:
1) author, 2) title, 3) publisher, 4) a brief explanation as to why you think the book meets the Newbery Award Criteria, and 5) your name.

Send your suggestions to Randall Enos, Chair at

Suggestions should be submitted as soon as possible but by December 31 at the latest.
Thank you for your support and participation.

Remember: Only books from the 2014 publishing year are under consideration for the 2015 award.   Publishers, authors, illustrators, or editors may not nominate their own titles.

The award will be announced at the ALA Youth Media Awards Press Conference during the ALA Midwinter Conference to be held in Chicago, February 2, 2015.

The award will be presented at the Newbery/Caldecott/Wilder Banquet during the ALA Annual Conference to be held in San Francisco, June 28, 2015.


Our guest blogger today is Randall Enos, Chair of the 2015 Newbery Selection committee.

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

Posted in Awards & Scholarships, Books, Children's Literature (all forms), Evaluation of Media | Leave a comment

Happy Hanukkah!


Pinkwater, Daniel, and Jill Pinkwater. Beautiful Yetta’s Hanukkah Kitten. New York: Feiwel and Friends, 2014. Print.

Like many of Daniel Pinkwater’s books, his latest release features a large chicken. Yetta is a poultry farm escapee who lives in Brooklyn with a flock of runaway (flyaway?) parrots. (To learn more about Yetta’s  escape from the poultry farm, read the prequel, Yetta: The Yiddish Chicken.) One day the birds find a lost kitten. They don’t know how to take care of it, so they bring it to a human grandmother for help. The birds see that the grandmother is celebrating Hanukkah which they refer to as “the festival of lights, when the humans are in a good mood.” The grandmother is in such a good mood that she takes in the kitten and feeds latkes to the the birds.

Unlike most Hanukkah books, this story includes Spanish, as well as Yiddish and English words. The birds are bilingual–Yetta speaks Yiddish and English, and the parrots speak Spanish and English. The grandmother is also bilingual; she speaks Yiddish and English. The cat speaks only English, but with a Chicago accent. (The author confirmed this last fact via Twitter.)

This book may not teach you about the deeper meaning of Hanukkah, but it will make you smile, and it’s perfect for story time. I give it five latkes.


Our guest blogger today is Rebecca Scotka. Rebecca is the Children’s and Young Adult Librarian at the East Lyme Public Library in Niantic, Connecticut.

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

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Expand Your Collection with Bookapalooza!

Submit your Bookapalooza application by Feb. 1, 2015

Submit your Bookapalooza application by Feb. 1, 2015 (image courtesy of ALSC)

Dream of expanding your collection with a huge shipment of books, videos, and audio books and recordings? Boy, have we got an offer for you!

ALSC and the Grants Administration Committee are now accepting online applications for the 2015 Bookapalooza Program. This program offers select libraries a collection of materials to be used in a way that creatively enhances their library service to children and families. The materials are primarily for children age birth through 14 and include newly published books, videos, audio books and recordings from children’s trade publishers.

Applicants must be personal members of ALSC, as well as ALA members to apply. Deadline for submissions is Sunday, February 1, 2015. For more information about the award requirements and submitting the online application please visit the Bookapalooza Web page.

Posted in Audio books, Blogger Dan Bostrom, Collection Development, Professional Development | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment