Feature National Diabetes Month at your Library

 Mary Abel and 4-year-old, grandson, Robby enjoying a snack after story time

Mary Abel and 4-year-old grandson, Robby, enjoying a snack after story time (Photo courtesy of guest blogger)

There are perils to being a children’s librarian. This never occurred to me until I took grandson Robby to story time. At one session, the head came off of the turkey puppet that was helping to illustrate a story and song about Thanksgiving. While the librarian was trying to stick the head back on the turkey and sing simultaneously, the felt board fell over. The 3-and 4-year-olds seated in a circle erupted in laughter. The librarian was quick on his feet and rescued this “turkey” by playing his guitar and singing I’m a Little Turkey to the tune of I’m a Little Teapot as they all strutted around like Thanksgiving gobblers. My grandson thought it was the best thing ever.

This November when children’s librarians are strutting their stuff by cutting Thanksgiving turkeys out of construction paper, singing songs and playing with puppets, there is another important observance to headline: It’s National Diabetes Awareness Month.

Years ago, Type 1 diabetes was rare in children and Type 2 did not exist. A nationally representative study[i] now has confirmed that from 2001 to 2009 the incidence of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes drastically increased among children and adolescents across racial groups in this country. The study found that the prevalence of Type 1 diabetes increased 21 percent among children up to age 19. The prevalence of Type 2 diabetes among ages 10 to 19 rose 30 percent during the same period . Nearly 30 million children and adults in the United States have this disease.

Tear sheet from Maddy Patti and the Great Curiosity showing a main character, Gideon, astride his horse, Stony the Pony, saving Pickles from drowning.

Tear sheet from Maddy Patti and the Great Curiosity showing a main character, Gideon, astride his horse, Stony the Pony, saving Pickles from drowning.

As an author and journalist with a background in health care communications, I am passionate about writing books that empower and help children deal with medical conditions. The most recent effort is a self-help book for children with diabetes, Maddy Patti and the Great Curiosity. Dr. Stan Borg, a family physician, and I collaborated to write this story across the miles—354.8 to be exact—to help youngsters understand and manage their diabetes.

A special section in the book is for teachers and parents. Teachers especially may benefit from this information because it helps them understand why, for example, a child with diabetes may need more bathroom breaks because of high blood sugar levels, or they may need to eat periodically throughout the day.

Informational links for librarians:


Discussion Questions:

Q. What special tools will help illustrate and promote National Diabetes Month for youngsters at our libraries?
Q. How can librarians find help and support for children and parents who are dealing with a diabetes diagnosis in our community?
Q. How can we use National Diabetes Awareness Month to garner publicity for our library?

Despite the occasional perils of falling felt boards and headless puppets, I believe that children’s librarians are important and necessary advocates for youngsters not only with diabetes but all children because you are fluent at knowing and interpreting their needs to teachers, parents and the community. So amid the sing-a-longs about gobblers and the Thanksgiving tales this November, National Diabetes Awareness Month might be a good topic to feature at your library, too.

[1] ] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Institutes of Health , Search for Diabetes in Youth, 2008-2009, multicenter, continuing  study to examine diabetes (type I and type 2) among children and adolescents in the United States from 2000 to 2015.


IMG_1530Mary Abel has been a professional writer for more than 40 years and is the recipient of multiple writing awards, including the Sigma Delta Chi Mark of Excellence Award in journalism. She holds a BA in journalism from The Ohio State University. Contact her at: meabel@windstream.net.

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 alscblog@gmail.com.


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Why Take Storytime Breaks?

I’ve written before about taking storytime breaks and so have some of my fabulous ALSC colleagues. We’ve just started our winter storytime break and will be off until the week after Midwinter in January. Each day I find myself explaining to another parent or caregiver that storytime is on a break.

But why take storytime breaks?

Storytime breaks serve a lot of great purposes. I have two favorites, the first being that storytime breaks give me time to brainstorm and create new things. I’ve written grants during storytime breaks, created new programs, developed new circulating materials, and re-organized collections.

This past week I had the pleasure of seeing several large scale projects completed and now available for our patrons to use.

[1000 Books Display, photo courtesy of the author.]

[1000 Books Display, photo courtesy of the author.]

1000 Books Display
Our 1000 Books program was launched in September (during another storytime break!) and this month saw a new advancement for this passive program. We received partnership funding from the Darien Rotary Club to fund the first 300 kids to complete the passive program. Additionally, the Darien Women’s Club helped us purchase this beautiful display. Each month we’ll feature a suggested title for kids to read who are participating in the 1000 Books program. Along with the suggested book, I’ve also created a recommendation booklist. This month’s featured book is Row, Row, Row Your Boat by Jane Cabrera and the booklist is all about song books. I am in love with the picture frames that showcase our book. Also: the graphics and signs from our Marketing Department.

[Book Bundles and LeapFrog Kits, photo courtesy of the author.]

[Book Bundles and LeapFrog Kits, photo courtesy of the author.]

Book Bundles
I was finally able to put out our newest circulating kits: Book Bundles & Parenting Packs! These were funded by a Target early literacy grant. All of the work that went into these kits was done during storytime breaks, including purchasing all materials and developing the activity sheets/resource guides found inside each bundle or pack. Book Bundles are aimed at ages 2-6 and have books, puzzles, manipulatives, and more in twelve different topics like ABCs, 123s, Colors, and Shapes. I should also mention that all of the LeapFrog kits were developed during a storytime break in the summer of 2014.

[The re-organized Parent/Teacher collection, photo courtesy of the author.]

[The re-organized Parent/Teacher collection, photo courtesy of the author.]

Parent/Teacher Collection
This one, I confess, I worked on during this past storytime session. But it was finally completed and ready to roll out when our storytime break began. Our Parent/Teacher collection is now organized by subject instead of Dewey decimal/fiction. This means that all of our picture books are integrated with their subjects. This also means that hopefully families going through tough times will be able to browse for their own materials rather than ask a librarian about a sensitive subject. (Although we’re always willing to help!) I spent much of my off storytime time shifting shelves. The red totes at the bottom are the Parenting Packs I mentioned before. These are geared towards caregivers to use with children and include topics like Potty Training, Staying in the Hospital, and New Baby in the House.

So, what’s next during this storytime break? Creating a Language Learners area, purchasing new Playaway Launchpads, working on a monthly early literacy calendar for 2016, partnering with a local preschool for our first preschool fair, and of course, preparing for the next storytime session.

I leave you with this quote, one that my boss sent to me after a particularly stressful summer reading had just ended:

Think about it: Humans are the only creatures in nature that resist the pattern of ebb and flow. We want the sun to shine all night, and when it doesn’t, we create cities that never sleep. Seeking a continuous energetic and emotional high, we use everything from exciting parties to illegal chemicals. But natural ebbs — the darkness between days, the emptiness between fill-ups, the fallow time between growing seasons — are the necessary complements of upbeats. They hold a message for us. If you listen at your life’s low points, you’ll hear it, too. It’s just one simple, blessed word: Rest.
— Martha Beck

Will you join me in taking storytime breaks? What can you do for your patrons to fill the time?

– Katie Salo
Early Literacy Librarian
Indian Prairie Public Library

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Hour of Code is Approaching

HourOfCode_logo_RGB copyAs December approaches there is still time to plan for Hour of Code at your library. Computer Science Education Week is December 7 to 13, and is a global initiative to make the computer sciences available to all children. Last year President Obama even took part and became the first president to ever write a line of code using JavaScript!

There are many resources online to inspire those that might feel ill-equipped at teaching coding to kids, many which have been shared on the ALSC Blog by librarians from Fayetteville Free Library and Los Angeles Public Library.

In 2015 Coding offerings at our library gathered a lot of steam, and much to our surprise some of the classes began to have waitlists of over 50 students. Our foray into this area of the computer sciences began in 2012 when Gretchen Caserotti began Codor Dojo, a program that relies on mentors from within the community to provide free instruction to those passionate about learning a coding language. Lacking consistent mentors, we observed a group of homeschoolers who met regularly on Fridays in the library to teach themselves using websites like Code.org and Khan Academy. After the group dismantled, one of the students who had a desire to continue using the library’s tech resources, began instructing other students alongside his mother in both Scratch and JavaScript. In addition we have also recruited two local high school students to teach Python and HTML which provides them an opportunity to share their passion for coding, while also helps to develop their teaching skills.

HTML session. Photo courtesy of the author.

HTML session. Photo courtesy of the author.

Finding it difficult to recruit outside instructors? The Hour of Code tutorials are not only accessible for beginners, but also fun for a variety of ages. One of my colleagues still has her certificate hanging in the office after completing one hour of coding with Frozen’s Anna and Elsa. If that’s not your cup of tea, there are also new programs through Code.org that allow kids to code with characters from Minecraft and Star Wars. In a few weeks we are even going to be teaching young children the concepts of code without the use of a computer. Many of these classes are referred to as Unplugged Coding Lessons.

My favorite resource for introducing kids to coding is the app-based Hopscotch which uses colored blocks as commands, much like Scratch. The company is even preparing for December’s Hour of Code with in-app tutorials, guides, and lesson plans. There is a fantastic introduction to Hopscotch in video form, while a free eBook written by Wesley Fryer provides more complex challenges for ongoing sessions.

Whatever your experience, this December make a commitment to participate in Hour of Code. Whether that is by offering an introductory course for kids in your library, or earning your own certificate by taking 60 minutes out of the work week to learn a new skill. One of the moments that propelled our library into offering more of these opportunities was one parent commenting that the library was fulfilling a need in the community that was not being addressed elsewhere. Although this was one language I had not anticipated in honing as a children’s librarian, I’m thankful that this profession is opening new learning opportunities for me, the children’s staff, and the kids and teens we serve.

Claire Moore is a member of the Digital Content Task Force. She is also Head of Children and Teen Services at Darien Library in Connecticut. You can reach Claire at cmoore@darienlibrary.org.

Visit the Digital Media Resources page to find out more about navigating your way through the evolving digital landscape.

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Gimme a C (for Collaboration!): Starting Points for Success

SPLC Committee WordleAs a member of the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School-Public Library Cooperation, I’ve had the pleasure of discussing and sharing ideas with other dedicated librarians on how we can all work together to benefit the kids and teens with whom we work.

We’ve created the following list for both school and public librarians to use in sparking their own creative ideas for helping all youth become information literate.

Why not give some of these a try?

  1. Look for grant-funding opportunities specifically for school library-public library partnerships.
  2. Set aside time to visit with your public librarian to discuss your school’s curriculum and any big projects your teachers have planned.
  3. Schedule a few hours to shadow the public librarian and invite him or her to do the same. This will help you build mutual understanding about what the other’s job entails.
  4. Have a library card sign-up event at the school during Library Card Sign-Up Month (September). Make a special day of it or have an evening of gaming. Be sure to include the public librarian in the planning, promotion, and supervising the event. If an event isn’t possible, see if the public librarian can come to the school to hand out library card forms at lunchtime. This would work especially well in middle or high school.
  5. Create book lists and resource guides in cooperation with your public librarians. You might focus on materials that support reading in the content areas, science and social studies topics in particular. Include materials from both the public and school library collections.
  6. Co-host nonfiction book clubs for students and for teachers.
  7. Invite the public librarian to make a presentation to the teachers at your school during the school’s teacher in-service day about public library resources that support Common Core State Standards.
  8. Host a joint meeting with the public librarians and your fellow school district librarians to discuss Common Core, 21st Century Standards and state/local curriculum expectations and the public library’s role in student learning.
  9. Talk about early literacy programming in the public library and how it connects to the school librarian’s work with K-2 students.
  10. Use the public library as a facility for after-school tutoring for students, especially in reading. The public librarian and school librarian can collaborate to recruit volunteers.
  11. Coordinate joint activities that integrate the public library’s summer reading program with the school’s summer programming.

As you can see, there are many ways school and public librarians can work in cooperation. You may already be using some of these suggestions, but if not, what’s stopping you?

When we all work together, it’s a win-win situation for everyone!

Linda Weatherspoon serves on the AASL Board of Directors and is a member of the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School-Public Library Cooperation.

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Sensory Storytime On the Road

Over the past few months, my library has partnered with a local resource center that provides early intervention and lifelong support to individuals with a variety of developmental disabilities, including cerebral palsy and autism spectrum disorders.  The resource center originally reached out to us looking for a librarian to read a few stories to their clients. I knew a sensory storytime would be a great fit, but in their experience, visits to offsite locations were rarely successful.  Any activity we planned would have to take place at their location.  So I took my sensory storytime on the road, and got a chance to really put my skills to the test.

I’m fairly new to sensory storytimes.  Before this, I had incorporated concepts into my regular programming, and made real efforts to make those programs universally designed, but I certainly wasn’t actively promoting this. Partnering with the resource center gave me the opportunity to refine my skills and try new activities.  My first visit wasn’t without hiccups. For example, sign-up sheets and library card applications became problematic due to HIPAA and patient privacy concerns.  We also ended up with a lot more kids in attendance than we were expecting. But in the end, like Pete the Cat taught us in our story that day, “it’s all good.”

In taking these special programs out into the community, we’ve found that children and their caregivers can have a library experience in an environment that is comfortable for them, surrounded by people they trust. Plus, our partner organization has developed a better understanding of what we can offer.  It has inspired other collaborations, with new programs and training for children’s librarians in the works.

There is a lot of information on the ALSC Blog to help you prepare sensory and special needs storytimes. I found Ashley’s Waring’s Sensory Storytime Tips and Jill Hutchison’s overview of Renee Grassi’s Beyond Sensory Storytime presentation to be particularly useful posts for providing information and talking points for communicating with the center’s directors and staff.  In addition, an ALSC course I took this spring taught by Kate Todd, Children with Disabilities in the Library, was an amazing resource, and I recommend it for anyone interested in creating more inclusive library programs, or reaching out to children with disabilities in clinical settings.

Brooke Sheets is a Children’s Librarian at Los Angeles Public Library’s Children’s Literature Department and is writing this post for the Early Childhood Programs and Services Committee.

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Fight for School Libraries! #ESEA

Calling all Everyday Advocates! The fight for school libraries is real, and it needs you to make a difference.

Everyday Advocacy

Use the resources on the Everyday Advocacy site to help make your voice heard! Photo courtesy of ALSC.

Congress is poised to act definitively on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) very soon. According ALA’s Washington Office, we could know as early as next week if watershed language for school libraries, included in the Senate’s Every Child Achieves Act (S. 1177), makes it into this federal education bill.

This means there is important work for all of us to do! The last time Congress passed an education bill they left out school libraries and our kids’ futures can’t afford for that to happen again. As soon as the Washington Office learns what is in the new compromise bill language, they will be posting an alert to the Legislative Action Center with instructions for how you can help (including talking points you can use to call, email, and Tweet Congress). That will be our opportunity to make sure that every member of the House of Representatives (and after that, the Senate) hears from library experts before they vote, which could be as early as December 2. ALSC will also provide a heads-up when it’s time.

Here’s how you can make a difference:

  • Be prepared to contact your Senators and Representatives and let them know that any agreement to reauthorize ESEA must maintain the school library provisions overwhelmingly adopted by the HELP Committee and the full Senate under S. 1177, the Every Child Achieves Act.
  • Give a heads-up to coworkers, family, and friends to take action as well by contacting Congress sometime between next week and mid-December.
  • Gather together stories about the impact of school libraries in your community which you can use when you and your supporters contact Congress.

For support in these vital efforts, check out the tips from ALSC’s Everyday Advocacy initiative at http://www.ala.org/everyday-advocacy/

The more voices that speak up on behalf of school libraries, the better for all kids! Please keep your eyes peeled and your ears open for the upcoming alert.

Thank you!

Andrew Medlar
ALSC President

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Unsung Heroes

Source: Jonathan Haynes, Flickr

Source: Jonathan Haynes, Flickr

I had an encounter recently that shifted my perspective.  We are proud – justifiably – of our role as defenders of freedom to read and access to information.  And, as a colleague reported in a recent post, that role is extremely valuable.  But there are quiet defenders out there, too, who are our allies, and sometimes they are the ones we least expect.

I serve a diverse community with immigrants from Central America, Southeast Asia and Africa, along with upscale urban professionals.  Explaining the wonders of the public library system to immigrants – and it’s all free! – is the most gratifying part of my job. But sometimes a gentle explanation of access to everything, and the parent’s role as arbiter of what their children should read in print or online, is needed.

Source: HarperCollins.com

At the end of summer, a mother who brings her three children to the library regularly asked me for help in finding books for the oldest child, a boy entering 6th grade.  She wanted books to help him get ready because he was “starting middle school.”  The language barrier made it a little difficult to identify exactly what she was thinking of, so I selected several books on dealing with school issues, and also books on puberty. I showed her what I had, and we put them out for him to look over and decide what he wanted to take home.

While he was looking them over, she said to me, “Where I come from, they think you shouldn’t talk about these things.  But he needs to know!” This was certainly a teachable moment – for me!  It upended my assumptions and moved me profoundly to find that this woman is such a courageous parent, bucking her culture to do what she thinks is best for her children.

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Advocacy? Me?

At a recent state library association conference, I attended a great session on Everyday Advocacy. What’s that, you ask? I wondered the same thing myself before the presentation, and just 45 minutes later, I left feeling a little more knowledgeable, and a little more confident.

Child with books

Image from Everyday Advocacy website

Everyday Advocacy is the idea that we are all advocates for our profession, our libraries, and ourselves each and every day. It’s also an ALSC initiative working to equip us with the tools we need to be everyday advocates. As we build relationships, strengthen our communities, and connect with families, sometimes it’s hard to know how to talk about those things in ways that get attention. How can we empower ourselves, our colleagues, and our staff to feel prepared to engage in advocacy?

One of the big take-aways from the session I attended was crafting your elevator speech. We’re all probably familiar with the idea of an elevator speech:  a very quick summary of what you do and why it’s important. But here’s the key: when you talk about what you do, it’s not a list of job duties like “storytime, collection development, and the Summer Library Program.” You want to talk about how you actively impact a particular group and the larger result. So the phrase “I work with kids and families at the library” becomes “I help kids and families unpack their curiosity at the library so that the kids can go out and change our world for the better” (example from ALSC Everyday Advocacy website).

The Everyday Advocacy website provides information and tools to equip us to engage in advocating for ourselves and our communities. As you take a look, keep in mind that your behavior can have a powerful ripple effect. When we engage in advocacy, we’re modeling to our staff and colleagues, and hopefully empowering them to engage in some advocacy as well. Managers, remember that an important part of the supervisory role includes mentoring and enabling staff to become strong leaders themselves. When we say that advocacy is all about relationships, it’s not limited to relationships outside the librarian community! It’s also those we cultivate with our staff and peers. Take a look, feel empowered, and spread the word about the impact you’re having on your community every day.

Kelsey Johnson-Kaiser is a Youth Services Librarian at the La Crosse Public Library in La Crosse, WI and is a member of the Managing Children’s Services Committee.

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