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Children’s Librarians are Experts at Teaching Each Other: Takeaways and Photos from the 2018 ALSC Institute in Cincinnati

This is the first time I have attended an ALSC Institute and I found it to be an exciting weekend filled with some of the best professional training sessions I have ever had the opportunity to take part in. I also got the chance to meet a few of the other members of the Public Awareness Committee face to face for the first time.

Skye Corey, Mary Schreiber, and Melissa Sokol breakfasting at ALSC Institute

Every program and session I attended provided some fresh perspectives and practical applications for my work as a children’s services librarian, but our committee wanted to highlight a few of the things we learned that we can put into practice immediately.

“When Leveling Helps, When it Doesn’t, and How Libraries Can Make the Most of it,” presented by Lu Benke and Jim Erekson was an enlightening presentation about the history and current uses of leveling books. For the most part levels are determined by the length of words and the length of sentences in a book or passage. This allows for no measurement of the interest of the child, their background knowledge of the subject, or the depth of the themes discussed in the books. Interest of the reader is the best indicator that a child will succeed at reading a more challenging text and there is no such thing as a too easy book, since all reading practice leads to increased fluency. With that in mind I plan to use a small room at my library to display between 100 and 150 different books for children in grades 1-5 the first few days of summer reading club. That way parents can come in with their children and make a list of books their kids want to read. Then library staff can use those lists to get kids those exact titles or books similar to them for their summer reading.

Sujie Lugo presenting with Edith Campbell and Laura Jimenez during “Review is Crictical: Developing decolonial book evaluating competencies”

Elisa Gall, a fellow member of the Public Awareness Committee, shared how Sujie Lugo’s presentation during “Review is Critical: Developing decolonial book evaluating competencies” is helping her to make decisions about purchasing, promoting, reading, and exploring books with patrons. Lugo pointed out how so many books written in or featuring the Spanish language highlight the same stereotypical words and images over and over (“tortilla,” “sombrero,” “maracas,” etc.). She also shared how visual presentations of text in books can suggest hierarchies when there are two different languages featured (such as Spanish and English).  Elisa had heard of conversations about this with respect to italicization before, but something that really clicked for her during this session was how other text elements, such as font boldness or text color, can also have the impact of “othering” languages and showing them as less than important. A book that shows two languages in balance is Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match – Marisol McDonald No Combina by Monica Brown and Sara Palacios.

If you were unable to attend ALSC Institute you can still find the handouts used during all of the presentations at


This post addresses the following ALSC Core Competencies: II. Reference and User Services, IV. Knowledge, Curation, and Management of Materials, and VII. Professionalism and Professional Development.

Melissa Sokol, a Children’s Services Librarian for Dayton Metro Libraries, is writing this post on behalf of the Public Awareness Committee. She can be reached at





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