Young Children, New Media & Libraries Infographic

Young Children, New Media & Libraries Survey

Young Children, New Media & Libraries Survey (image courtesy of ALSC)

Between August 1 and August 18, 2014, 415 children’s librarians responded to a survey of 9 questions concerning the use of new media with young children in libraries. The survey was created as a collaborative effort between Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), LittleeLit.com, and the iSchool at the University of Washington. Preliminary finding are available through an infographic created by ALSC’s Public Awareness Committee.

You can download a copy of this infographic from the ALSC Professional Tools site.

Posted in Blogger Dan Bostrom, Children & Technology, Professional Development, Projects & Research | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Leveling and Labeling: An Interview with Pat Scales

Pat ScalesAs school districts across the country continue to adopt leveled reading programs like Accelerated Reader, school and public libraries are under increasing pressure to label library materials with leveling information. This can be a distressing proposition for many reasons, but it is particularly concerning from an intellectual freedom standpoint. What does it mean for young readers when they are limited to certain reading levels, and what might be the effect of having one’s reading ability stamped onto the cover a book for all to see?

Librarians want to support their local educators, parents, and children. So when does leveled reading begin to infringe on students’ intellectual freedom, and how can we help our communities understand these problems?

We asked Pat Scales, retired school librarian, past President of ALSC, and spokesperson for first amendment issues, to share some information on leveled reading systems, labeling, and their relationship to intellectual freedom.

Additional resources that you might find useful include Labeling and Rating Systems: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights and Questions and Answers on Labeling and Rating Systems, both from ALA.org.

School Library Journal also offered a free webinar in September 2014, School Library Journal Webinar: Let’s Talk About Banned Books, which is archived and can still be viewed. Pat addressed many of these questions in more detail during her section of the webinar.

How do book leveling systems such as Accelerated Reader, Lexile and Action 100 limit intellectual freedom for children?

There are many troubling things about these leveling systems, but the systems don’t abridge freedom to read. It’s the practice of limiting students’ access to materials based on reading levels that infringes on students’ right to read. Unfortunately this is common practice in many school libraries, and some public libraries feel pressured to implement such restrictions.   Librarians serving children should evaluate how these systems are used and develop policies that promise free and open access to students of all ages.

Some school libraries are labeling their entire collections so that children can find books on their required reading levels quickly. What issues do you see with this?

Labeling is an unacceptable practice, and violates the spirit of the Library Bill of Rights. “Organizing collections by reading management program, level, ability, grade, or age level is another form of restricted access.” (Restricted Access to Library Materials: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights) A library promotes reading, but isn’t a reading classroom. Instead it should be a place where children discover the magic of story, and the power of information. Reading levels shouldn’t be worn as a badge of honor or a badge of shame. That is what happens when libraries are reduced to reading laboratories. Additional points:

  • Students may be able to handle books that are beyond their “tested reading level” if they are interested enough in the book. Chronological age and emotional maturity play a much greater role in what children choose to read than reading level. Gifted students are often expected to read far beyond their maturity level simply because they can read a text. There are documented censorship cases where elementary schools purchased books more appropriate for young adults all because the books had a higher reading level.
  • Students who need a quick overview on a topic may find it in an “easier” text, but may then be led to more difficult books on the subject.
  • Students should expect a certain amount of privacy when making their reading selections. If books are labeled with reading level stickers, whether on the cover or on the inside of the book, there is the possibility that other students take note of the labels, thus violating a student’s privacy.
  • Librarians are trained in collection development and reader guidance. Reading leveling systems preclude them for doing their job.

How should school and public librarians work together to ensure that children get access to the books they are required to read as well as the books they want to read?

Public librarians should ask to meet with school librarians or teachers in the spring when reading lists are likely developed for the following school year. Ask that schools share these lists to assure that public libraries have the books in the collection. Exchange email addresses so that the public library and schools can stay in touch regarding services. Sponsor a back to school program for teachers and parents (advertised on the public library and school websites) and include the following:

  • Encourage the group to share their favorite children’s books – whether from their childhood or ones they share with their students.
  • Ask adults to share their library experiences as a child. Take what they say and lead a discussion about best practices. How did their experience shape their view of libraries today?
  • Make sure that parents and teachers understand that a child shouldn’t be tested on every book they read. And, the point should be made that children don’t need to comprehend every nuance in a book to enjoy the story.
  • Invite readers (from the summer reading program) to share some of their favorite books.
  • Encourage older readers to suggest titles for younger readers.

Often librarians struggle on the front lines when parents refuse to let their children check out books not in their reading system or on their reading level. Do you have any suggestions for gentle ways that librarians can advocate for the child’s intellectual freedom while respecting the parents in the middle of a readers advisory or reference transaction?

  • Ask to speak with the parent in private and explain all the reasons that children read.
  • Suggest that the parent allow the child to take several books – variety of topics and reading levels.

What are some of the limitations of book rating websites such as Common Sense Media, The Literate Mother, and Facts on Fictions?

These sites aren’t really book review sites, and some of the people writing the entries don’t really know children’s books. The focus isn’t on the entire book as a work of literature. Instead they rate the content of books using emoticons or graphs – calling out issues related to sex, profanity, violence, and drinking and drugs. Some of the sites make specific reference (by page number) to what they view as troubling content.   This is a real threat to libraries and the patrons they serve. For example, a chaste kiss may be interpreted as having a lot of sex in the book. There are documented cases where books have been removed from libraries based on Common Sense Media reviews. The most troubling thing of all is that there are librarians who rely on these sites because they think knowing about “controversial content” protects the library. These aren’t selection tools. Don’t be sucked in by such a false sense of security. Instead take the time to get to know these sites, and it will become crystal clear that these people don’t know how to evaluate books.

While we know that librarians are the best resource for connecting kids with the right books, how can librarians let their communities know they are there to help? How should we be advocating for ourselves?

Find opportunities to speak to civic groups and tell the public library story. Share a little of the history of children’s programming in the local library, and make a connection between services offered in the past and those offered today. Civic groups tend to respond to statistics, but tell human interest stories as well. Perhaps a teen parent brought her baby to the public library to find books for him, and you worked with the teen parent to help her know how to interact with her child through story.

Also, be in touch with various agencies and organizations serving children and families and suggest books and materials that may help them with their work. These may include the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, a homeless shelter, Safe Houses, detention centers, the city or town’s parks and recreation system, arts councils, etc.

Consider a library blog that showcases public library programming.   Encourage parents to ask librarians reader guidance kinds of questions. For example, “My daughter loves the Harry Potter Books. What else what else might she like?” Respond with a specific answer, or simply ask the parent to bring the child to the public library so that librarians can guide her.

BIOGRAPHY: Pat Scales is a retired middle and high school librarian whose program Communicate Through Literature was featured on the Today Show and in various professional journals. She received the ALA/Grolier Award in 1997, and was featured in Library Journal’s first issue of Movers and Shakers in Libraries: People Who Are Shaping the Future of Libraries. Ms. Scales has served as chair of the prestigious Newbery, Caldecott, and Wilder Award Committees. She is a past President of the Association of Library Service for Children, a division of the American Library Association. Scales has been actively involved with ALA’s Intellectual Freedom Committee for a number of years, is a member of the Freedom to Read Foundation, serves as on the Council of Advisers of the National Coalition Against Censorship, and acts as a spokesperson for first amendment issues as they relate to children and young adults. She is the author of Teaching Banned Books: Twelve Guides for Young Readers, Protecting Intellectual Freedom in Your School Library and Books Under Fire: A Hit List of Banned and Challenged Children’s Books. She writes a bi-monthly column, Scales on Censorship, for School Library Journal, a monthly column for the Random House website, curriculum guides on children’s and young adult books for a number of publishers, and is a regular contributor to Book Links magazine.

Posted in Blogger Intellectual Freedom Committee, Collection Development, Intellectual Freedom, Webinars | Leave a comment

Spring Break

Creative Commons Search Crystal Ball Take #3, by Isabel T

Creative Commons Search Crystal Ball Take #3, by Isabel T

While I listen to the meteorologist telling me to expect snow tomorrow, and see the pictures of my friends’ vacations on Instagram, I find myself reflecting on my library year and the changes that I want to be making.

When I first started in the school library, the culture shock was fresh and up front. I was used to working in a large public library with a population ranging from babies to teens in my section. We rarely saw parents. We rarely questioned book choices. We were always running. Finding books, readers’ advisory, RIF programs, lapsits, story-times, loads of programs and lots of desk time.

When I started at school I had a full compliment of classes, but the collection I was working with was a fraction of the size.  Parents were always in the library.  This was different.

Anyone who has worked both in school and public libraries understands that the charges of the jobs are different. As a school librarian, my main role is to support the mission of the school. I also support the classroom teaching and of course all of the readers. It is wonderful really getting to watch students grow into readers and scholars.  But there seemed to be an element of fun that was missing at school that was always present in the public library.

As I have spent time at school (13 years and counting), I find myself adding elements of my old public library life into my school library life.  Crafting and making, heart throb biographies, and DEAR are all making their way into my curriculum. Puppets may be next.

So as I look back at this year and at the soft goals that I try to have most if not all of my work with the students connect to, I have figured out one more to add.

Joy.

Posted in Blogger Stacy Dillon, Slice of Life | Leave a comment

April is Autism Awareness Month – Partner Up to Reach Families in Your Community

Why not make this April your chance to reach out to the families in your community who are affected by autism? Anything you do can make a positive impact: from offering a program like Sensory Storytime to something more passive like creating a display, booklist, or web post. The important thing is that families with children on the autism spectrum feel welcome and included in the life of the library.

One way to get families with children with all types of disabilities into your library is to offer an informational program for parents and caregivers. Did you know that in every state there is a dedicated Parent Training and Information Center (PTI) that offers information and workshops about disabilities, special education rights, and local resources for families? PTIs are funded by the US Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs.

Some states also have Community Parent Resource Centers (CPRC), which offer the same types of support as PTIs, but focus on reaching underserved populations (rural, low income, or limited English proficiency). You can use this interactive map to find the PTI or CPRC in your area.

Why reach out to a PTI? They can come to the library and do a workshop on Early Intervention, special education basic rights, the IEP process, or transition services (just to name a few). By offering a parent workshop like this, you can highlight the library as a place where families of children with all types of disabilities, including autism, can come together for learning and support. Once those parents and caregivers are inside the library, you can begin a larger conversation. “How can the library better support you? What types of materials or programs would be most useful for you and your child(ren)?”

While you’re at it, partner with your local Early Intervention office, Special Education department, Special Education Parent Advisory Council, and Arc. These established local organizations can help promote your event, and even be on hand to answer questions, hand out brochures, etc.

Have you offered parent workshops at your library? Did you work with your local PTI or another group? What topics are most useful for parents in your area? Let’s continue the conversation in the comments below.

Ashley Waring is a Children’s Librarian at the Reading Public Library in Reading, MA and a member of the Liaison with National Organizations Committee.

Posted in Partnerships, Programming Ideas, Special Needs Awareness | Tagged | 3 Comments

Stealth Programming During Spring Break

word bubbleDuring the hustle-and-bustle of Summer Reading prep lurks the mini-test of your Busy Summer Room abilities: Spring Break. The schools aren’t in session, the weather is getting better, and kids are itching for something to do.

Spring Break is a great time to try out some passive/stealth programming, which can run with minimal staff involvement. You’ll ensure the kids will be engaged no matter when they show up!

Leaving a few self-directed activities around the room during Spring Break tells kids and their families: “Welcome! We’ve been expecting you.” And since many of these kids may be new or less-than-regular visitors, this is a really strong message to send. It shows that the public library is a thriving part of the local community, in tune with what’s important to local families.

Need some last-minute ideas to be a Spring Break sensation? Here are a few sanity-saving kid-centered activities you can use right away:

  1. LEGO Check-Out Club: get out your box of LEGOs (or have a colleague bring some from home), and have each child add a LEGO (or a couple) to a structure in the room. Programs like this help the public visually understand the magnitude of library usage, and an enormous tower that your kid patrons built themselves is a pretty cool way to advocate for your library. This year, rather than bagging up the LEGO, we ended up just handing the kids some blocks. Here are two other iterations by Jenny and the Librarians in Washington, DC (find some more librarian thoughts and reblogs at http://jennyandthelibrarians.tumblr.com/) and Rebecca in Gretna, NE (check out her programming at http://hafuboti.com/).
  2. Interactive displays and writing prompts: a question or a challenge, some paper, and you’re good to go. Angie at Fat Girl Reading has used a Boggle display and a crossword display that have promoted an ongoing initiative while doubling as a passive program. Jennifer at In Short, I am Busy adds a writing prompt to an art table to highlight language and literacy (as well as decorate the room!). I also really love Rebecca at Sturdy for Common Things’s “Draw a Yeti” writing prompt. In a pinch, you can never go wrong with a question and a table covered in paper!
    3. Room Hunt: There are lots of ways to do room hunts. What I love so much about them is that 1) they are super easy to make, 2) you can print them on stock paper or laminate them and use them forever, and 3) they plug directly into kid patrons’ curiosity and autonomy. They’re up for the challenge and they want to do it themselves. Anna at Future Librarian Superhero has a fun room hunt using Diary of a Wimpy Kid characters. Brooke at Reading with Red shares a gnome room hunt that she deftly differentiated for use with preschoolers AND elementary kids. If you have more tweens hanging around, you might want to try an Adventure Time Fist-Bump room hunt!

What’s your go-to Spring Break program? Let us know in the comments!

***********************************************************************

Today’s guest blogger is Sara “Bryce” Kozla, Youth Services Librarian in Wisconsin and virtual member of the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School-Public Library Collaboration (SPLC). Bryce blogs about youth services programming and issues at http://brycedontplay.blogspot.com/. Email her at brycedontplay <at> gmail.com and follow her on Twitter at @plsanders.

Posted in Guest Blogger, Programming Ideas | Leave a comment

Program in a Post: Tape Games

With this post, a lot of tape, yarn and a few toys you can create a fun and dynamic program for kids of all ages.

Lazer Maze

Lazer Maze

Supplies:

  • Tape (painter’s tape is the best)
  • A few sheets of paper, crumpled
  • Yarn
  • 3 tennis balls
  • 2 large toy vehicles

Prep work: Print signs, gather supplies and collect books about games and rainy day activities for display. If you would like signs with activity instructions, comment here and I will send them to you.

Room setup: Set up four different activities with signs around the room.

  • Skee-Ball: Make a target with tape on the floor and assign different point values.
    Photo courtesy of the author.

    Skee Ball

    Make a line for kids to stand behind and put out tennis balls or crumpled paper balls. Kids will try to score as many points as they can with the three balls.

  • Dump Truck Race: Make two zig-zag race tracks on the floor. Put out some crumpled paper along each track. Put the dump trucks at the starting line. Kids will race the trucks along the track, picking up paper balls as they go.

    Photo courtest of the author.

    Dump Truck Races

  • Spider Web: Run tape between to chairs in a giant messy spider web. Make a tape line on the floor (for kids to stand behind) and put 7 crumpled balls of paper nearby. Kids will stand behind the line and throw the balls into the spider web, trying to get as many to stick as they can.

    Photo courtesy of the author.

    Spider Web

  • Lazer Maze: Make a line of chairs near a wall. Tape yarn from the chairs to the walls and back over and over until you have a “lazer maze”. Throw a few crumpled balls into the maze for kids to pick up. The object here is to get from one end of the maze to the other, picking up the paper balls and not getting hit by a lazer.

Format: Open house.

Tape games work for group visits, up to about 60 kids, depending on the size of your space. It is also a great family open house event. Little kids will need some grown up assistance with the games. Have a blast!

Posted in Blogger Heather Acerro, Programming Ideas | 5 Comments

Programming Over Breaks

This past week was our local schools Spring Break. We always see a spike in attendance and interest in programs during school breaks, so this year we decided to have something happening every day of the week. I focused on having things that were a balance of passive and come and go programs, regularly scheduled things as well as a couple that were more staff intensive. Our week looked like this:

Monday: Lego Movie Build-a-long (we watched The Lego Movie and built with Legos)

Tuesday-Storytimes (regularly scheduled programs), Super Smash Brothers Tournament for teens

Wednesday-Storytimes (regularly scheduled programs), Scavenger Hunt Afternoon (a come and go event that featured various scavenger hunts throughout the library)

Thursday-Crafternoon-(one for kids, one for teens, both come and go events where we put out various craft supplies and let the kids make whatever they want)

Friday-Fairy Tale Bash (a more staff intensive program with lots of stories and activities)

Saturday-Storytime (regularly scheduled program), Pi Day Party (another drop in event but it was a bit more staff intensive with prep and planning)

Throughout the week we had a steady attendance and the library itself was busy. But as the the week went out, the attendance for the programs also waned. It was a mix of people being busy, programs not happening at a time that worked for people, and competing against the first wave of warm and sunny weather.

While I think it’s important to provide programs for our patrons, I also spent the week wondering if we were doing too much. Throughout the week we received call after call about what we had going on, so I know the interest was there. But I also struggle with how much to offer. How much staff time do I spend to make sure patrons have something to do over a school break? And does it really matter?

I’ve been struggling recently with how much do we really need to provide as far as programming. We’ve started doing more passive activities in the department, we have a play and learn center in the department for the younger set, and  we’re putting out STEM related activities for the school age crowd. We have books, games, computers, magazines, and toys, yet I always seem to hear those patrons asking “but what else do you have?” How much do we really need to have? Do we need to program something every day during a school break? Do our summers need to be filled with programs happening all the time? Or can we step back, take a break, and say we have the library when they ask “but what else?”

I’d love to know-how much do you program around school breaks?

Posted in Blogger Sarah Bean Thompson, Programming Ideas | 8 Comments

The Arbuthnot Honor Lecture, Featuring Brian Selznick

Greetings, colleagues!

I want to invite you to visit Washington, D.C. this spring. Azaleas, moonlit walks to the Lincoln Memorial, and Brian Selznick—does it get any better?!

Color Photo, Jamey Mazzie

Color Photo, Jamey Mazzie

I’m sure you know that Brian is giving this year’s prestigious May Hill Arbuthnot lecture. His topic is Love Is a Dangerous Angel: Thoughts on Queerness and Family in Children’s Books. Sure to be provocative as well as entertaining, the event takes place on Friday, May 8, at 7:00 pm at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library. Doors open at 6:00 pm. The lecture is free, but tickets are required. Visit dclibrary.org/selznick for everything you need to know, from a special hotel rate to evening logistics.

Bring the family! On Saturday, DC Public Library will host “A Visit with Brian Selznick” at 2:00 pm. Children may learn about his life and work during the Q&A and will then have a rare opportunity to meet him in the signing line. Book-related activities will be part of the fun. Guests are also encouraged to explore the interactive, multi-media exhibit at the library entitled, Building Wonder, Designing Dreams: The Bookmaking of Brian Selznick. Enter 8’ pages, play with an automaton, “pilot” the route that Amelia and Eleanor flew in a Google Earth simulation, discover Smithsonian treasures in the Cabinet of Wonder. Still wondering if you should reserve your trip? Check this out: Spring in DC

We hope to see you in May!

Wendy Lukehart
Youth Collections Coordinator
DC Public Library

Posted in Guest Blogger | Tagged | 2 Comments