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    The Effects of Negative News on Young People: Harnessing Literacy for Healing

    By Summer Edward
     | Sep 27, 2017

    Mother daughter readingSomeone recently told me—quite flippantly, I might add—that they view U.S. politics as a source of entertainment and escapism. While I did not agree, I understood their position. In the wake of the contentious 2016 presidential election, U.S. political news coverage has taken on a particularly charged and riveting quality—an almost surreal, movie-like dimension. Many people, both within the U.S. and beyond its borders, are engrossed by the nonstop reel of political news. But is this healthy for us? What about young people?

    It may appear that we have become desensitized to the onslaught, but studies show that watching the news raises cortisol (the stress hormone) levels in the brain, and that parents pass stress onto children through a trickle-down effect. Children are especially vulnerable to the effects of direct media exposure; in a recent Common Sense Media survey, 63% of children said the news has a negative impact on their mood.

    By modeling purposeful news consumption, adults can help children practice active citizenship and become critical consumers of today’s increasingly complex technology. In the age of “fake news,” young people need tools and guidance to help them think critically about information.

    Engage in family reading time

    Family reading time builds emotional bonds and is mentally restorative. Set aside quiet, distraction-free time to allow children to immerse themselves in books. Create rituals around story time, listen to what they have to say, and prompt them to make connections between the stories in books, news stories, and the things that are happening in their own lives. Use the think-aloud strategy to model text-to-world connections (i.e., “What I just read makes me think about X event in our community/country/world.”) and help children to think about “What if this happened to us?” For an at-home reading activity, children can create a news timeline of top news stories related to books they have read. Emphasize that news reports aren’t always true, then use picturebook biographies to discuss the parts of stories that are factual and the parts that are made-up.

    Choose diverse books

    As xenophobic, sexist, racist, and homophobic rhetoric becomes increasingly commonplace, young readers need empowering, accessible books that celebrate diversity, tolerance, and social justice. The right books and stories can open doors for meaningful conversations and propel young people toward civic engagement. Teaching for Change, Horn Book Magazine, the American Library Association, and the International Literacy Association's Children's Literature and Reading Special Interest Group (CL/R SIG) all provide applicable book lists.

    Embrace community-based learning

    Reinforce book learning by providing real-life opportunities for children to act as socially engaged citizens. Activities that allow children to disconnect from their devices and connect with reality bolster their well-being and social awareness. Participating in multicultural events in the community, visiting a polling station or local community health center, or volunteering at a park clean-up project are just a few ways children can practice the civic values and cement the lessons gleaned from books.

    Young people may not understand everything that’s being discussed on the news, but they know and feel enough to be concerned. The simple act of reading, and reading regularly, can guard children against stress and support social-emotional development. Even more, books exercise the imagination, and one of the best things we can do for children, perhaps now more than ever, is help them imagine a better world, and empower them to act on that vision. 

    Summer EdwardSummer Edward is the foundress and editor-in-chief of Anansesem, a Caribbean children’s literature e-zine, a Highlights Foundation alumna, and a former judge of Africa’s Golden Baobab Prizes for children’s literature. As a teaching artist, writing tutor, mentor, workshop leader, editor, and kamishibai storyteller, she helps children understand the power of words and stories. She teaches at the University of the West Indies and lives in Trinidad and Philadelphia.

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    Closing the Gaps: School Librarians and the What’s Hot Report

    by Judi Moreillon
     | Feb 08, 2017
    shutterstock_212746342_x300

    School librarians should not be surprised by two of the largest gaps identified by ILA’s 2017 What’s Hot in Literacy Report. These gaps present an opportunity for educators to work together to address both students’ access to books and content and literacy in resource-limited settings.

    The 2017 What’s Hot survey responses were gathered from 1,600 respondents from 89 countries and territories. Using a Likert scale ranging from not at all hot/important to extremely hot/important, respondents identified gaps between what educators recognize as hot (or trendy) and what they believe should be hot (or more important). Two of the largest gaps in this year’s survey should be of particular interest to administrators, school librarians, and their classroom teacher and specialist instructional partners.

    Second largest gap: access to books and content

    In the report summary, access to books and content was an area respondents thought should be more important. One way ILA literacy educators and leaders can think about addressing this gap is to better understand the role school librarians and school librarians play in providing access. Research shows that in schools with state-certified school librarians facilitating library services students’ access to materials and their reading proficiency increases. In addition to classroom libraries, readers need well-stocked school libraries that provide students, educators, and families with the widest possible array of reading materials across content areas at all reading levels and in multiple formats.

    Third largest gap: literacy in resource-limited settings

    Equitable access for readers from all socioeconomic backgrounds is another area where school librarians and libraries can help close the gap. When schools and school districts make a commitment to hiring full-time state-certified school librarians and providing funding for school library collections, all students, including those in high-poverty and rural locations, can access resources and technology tools. In these schools, librarians partner with classroom teachers to provide equitable access to reading materials and coteach resource-rich literacy learning experiences.

    Equity of opportunity

    Literacy leaders have a shared responsibility and commitment to an equitable education for all students. We know access to resources increases learners’ opportunities for choice, voice, and empowerment through literacy. In the United States, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) contains specific language related to how school librarians and libraries ensure equitable access to resources for all students (ESSA, 2015, “Title IV, Part A”).

    If you are a U.S. classroom teacher, specialist, school administrator, or educational decision maker concerned about the quality of students’ access to reading materials, please find out how you can ensure that school librarians’ work is specified in your state- or district-level ESSA Plan. By incorporating language related to school librarians and libraries in ESSA, we can collaborate to close the gaps identified by the ILA survey and support all students and educators in having access to the print and electronic resources and the instructional support they need to succeed.

    moreillon headshotJudi Moreillon, MLS, PhD, is a literacies and libraries consultant, former school librarian, and retired school librarian educator. She tweets at CactusWoman and blogs at Building a Culture of Collaboration. She is the chair of the American Association of School Librarians Innovative Approaches to Literacy Task Force.

     

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    Taking Stories to the ‘Tube

    By Rachee Fagg
     | Nov 29, 2016

    storytubesAt Lansdowne Public Library, we have the traditional, on-site story time hours—one for infants, one for toddlers, and one for preschoolers. To accommodate families who cannot attend, we have learned to embrace technology to make the joy of read-alouds accessible.

    The result is “Storytubes,” a collaboration between our former Public Services librarian, Abbe Klebanoff, and me, which showcases videos on the library’s YouTube channel of picture books being read and performed by me or by special guest readers.

    But why take the time for these Storytubes? There are many benefits of reading aloud such as fostering growth of attention span and exposing children to a more complicated vocabulary and sophisticated text. Reading aloud models fluency and expression and builds skills in speaking, writing, reading, and comprehension. Reading aloud also motivates children to read for a lifetime rather than just for school and, most important, it engenders a love for reading and books: a foundation for pleasure and lifelong education. But how does one read aloud? It seems as if it would be as simple as picking a book. To ensure success when reading aloud, follow these steps:

    Plan ahead

    Get to know the book: Always read it to yourself before reading to your reader. This may seem like a nonissue, but I will admit that there have been times when, in a rush, I have pulled a book I have used before and did a quick skim to try and refresh my memory only to find the book was not quite what I remembered. There can be complicated language that does not allow for reading upside down or aloud without much practice! There could be a page missing—library books are very well loved! Save yourself from surprise and prepare!

    Be dramatic!

    Be mindful of pace and expression. Match your tone, expression, and pace to what is happening in the story and how the characters are feeling. Use your body and face to convey expression and use your voice for intonation, pauses, and changes in volume. My favorite memory of being read to as a child is of my mother dramatically reading and acting out Richard Scarry's Nursery Rhymes. She would assign parts to my sister and me, and we would act out each story. I have carried on this practice, pretending each book is a script and I am on stage.

    Involve your audience

    At certain points during a story, there are natural parts when it’s possible to pause and ask the child or children to make a prediction about what will happen next or to share a connection to the text. It's not always feasible and sometimes not necessary, but it's a wonderful way to gauge how much the child comprehends. Having children respond a few times during a story to predict, visualize, or make a connection will help them learn to use those strategies as they read to themselves, strengthening comprehension.

    Take time to share the illustrations

    Practice reading the book with the illustrations facing toward your audience as you read. Upside down reading does become easier the more you practice! However, if reading while facing the book to the audience is difficult, that’s OK—it would be better to read smoothly and then turn the book toward your audience. Before turning the page each time, pause to make sure all students have seen the illustrations—with picture books, the illustrations help readers fully visualize and comprehend the story.

    Most of all, have fun!

    My rule of thumb is that if it's not fun for everyone, including you as the reader, your audience will know. It's OK to come back to a book or—gasp!—not finish reading it at all!

    Parents say Storytubes help prepare their children for a visit to the library, provide an alternative to commercial videos, and offer opportunities for new ways to share favorite books. Children also visit the library to search for books featured in the videos to mirror their own readings. Fellow librarians say Storytubes offer new ideas to refresh their story time programs. One loyal library visitor who is a reading specialist says the video gave him an opportunity to present picture books in ways he had not considered. Our Storytubes are also encouraging caretakers and children to listen and learn that storytelling is a dramatic art form as well as a tradition. Recording storytelling helps carry the tradition through generations.

    rachee fagg headshotRachee Fagg is head of children’s services at the Lansdowne Public Library in Lansdowne, PA.


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    Farewell Elephant and Piggie, Hello Read-Alikes

    By Angie Manfredi
     | Oct 20, 2016

    Elephant-and-Piggie-GalleyCatWhen Mo Willems announced that his Elephant and Piggie series, first published in 2007, would be coming to an end this year with the publication of the 25th book, The Thank You Book, a universal cry of despair came from the fans. And, really, who isn’t a fan of Elephant and Piggie? Teachers, librarians, parents, and especially kids love the adventures of best friends Elephant Gerald and Piggie.

    These award-winning bestsellers, told almost entirely through conversation, empower kids to read on their own with their simple text (made up of many sight words and printed in large, easy to read font) and encourage understanding of dialogue and engagement with text. They are also funny and a delight to read. It’s not uncommon for every single copy to be checked out of my library, and we have three or four copies of each title. Elephant and Piggie is the rare series where 25 titles just doesn’t feel like enough.

    So what now? Disney and Mo Willems have created the Elephant and Piggie Like Reading! series, which launched with The Cookie Fiasco by Dan Santat and We Are Growing! by Laurie Keller. These are both delightful books have Gerald and Piggie not only introducing the texts but also talking about them afterwards—sure to make fans happy.

    But my readers always want more, so I had to create a list of other series for fans of Elephant and Piggie. I chose these because the books feature best friends who sometimes clash, lots of dialogue, and a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor that encourages kids to interact with the text even if it’s through giggling.

    Ballet Cat and the Totally Secret Secret. Bob Shea. 2015. Disney-Hyperion Books.

    Ballet Cat only wants to talk about and play ballet. It’s her favorite. But her best friend Sparkles the Unicorn isn’t so sure. These best friends, one just a little more enthusiastic than the other, will remind readers of the loving interplay between Gerald and Piggie. (Followed by Ballet Cat: Dance! Dance! Underpants!)

    Clara and Clem Take A Ride. Ethan Long. 2012. Penguin.

    Clara and Clem use their imaginations to have a fanciful adventure with a car built out of blocks. Who knows where they’ll end up? Clara is like Piggie, determined to pull her more staid friend Clem into her imaginative world. (Followed by Clara and Clem in Outer Space and Clara and Clem Under the Sea.)

    Okay, Andy! Maxwell Eaton. 2014. Blue Apple Books.

    Preston, a coyote pup, is determined to be best friends with Andy, an alligator—even when Preston gets in Andy’s way. But it’s OK, sometimes Andy doesn’t mind—that much. (Followed by Andy, Also.)

    Rabbit and Robot: The Sleepover. CeCe Bell. 2014. Candlewick Books.

    Rabbit has planned everything for the perfect sleepover, but Robot keeps adding complications to the plan. Rabbit and Robot are just like Elephant and Piggie—opposites whose differences make them perfectly suited to sharing a friendship full of discovery and laugher. (Followed by Rabbit and Robot and Ribbit.)

    Scribbles and Ink. Ethan Long. 2012. Blue Apple Books.

    Scribbles and Ink are artists who don’t get along. Scribbles the Cat likes things messy, and Ink the Mouse likes things clean. Can their art styles come together to make something beautiful? These two enemies who become “best buddies” will have readers following their dialogue (and friendship) with delight. (Followed by Scribbles and Ink: The Contest and Scribbles and Ink: Out of the Box.)

    Angie Manfredi is the head of Youth Services for the Los Alamos County Library System in Los Alamos, NM. She loves stories about wacky best friends and feels deeply connected with Piggie. She is dedicated to literacy, education, and every kid’s right to read what they want. You can read more of her writing at Fat Girl Reading.

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    Letting Off Some STEAM at the Library

    By Rachee Fagg
     | Jun 08, 2016

    ThinkstockPhotos-85449112_x300Early childhood STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) programming is a priority in Pennsylvania libraries, with a huge push to add science, math, or both to library storytimes. The idea can be daunting; science has been a subject that simultaneously fascinates and confounds me, and the idea gave me pause. But the children's section is broken down into manageable chunks and reading times are already full of STEAM! Animals (science), counting (math), and constructing crafts (engineering and art) are just a few ideas we explore each week.

    This winter, Lansdowne Library, just outside of Philadelphia, PA, explored sound during our preschool storytime. Here are some ideas from the program.

    Books we used

    Shh! We Have a Plan by Chris Haughton. The characters in this book are on the hunt for birds, and their stealthy hunting is thwarted by an excited member of their hunting party. This book is a great way to explore quiet and loud and discuss volume.

    Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb by Al Perkins. With this book, we explored different sounds created when using different body parts. Themes from this book were used to make rhythm patterns using instruments.

    Little Beaver and the Echo by Amy McDonald. Echoes and vibrations were discussed as we used this book.

    Further exploration

    Shaker Eggs: Children made their own shaker eggs as a souvenir. To create these eggs, children were given empty plastic eggs and offered beads in a variety of sizes to create a shaker egg with a unique sound. Children and their parents had to use trial and error to figure the amount of filler needed to create a unique sound.

    Guess the Sound: Objects that made different sounds were placed in a large, brown paper bag, and children had to guess what the sounds in the bag were. Children would also take guesses about what they thought was in the bag. Objects included shakers eggs, bells, marbles, popsicle sticks, plastic toys, and feathers.

    Create a Whisper Tube: Using paper towel rolls and paper cups, we created a series of tubes to demonstrate how sound travels.

    The Echo Game: Children had to mimic sounds and were then given the opportunity to create their own for the other attendees to mimic.

    Making Music: Children created original pieces using musical instruments.

    Things to remember

    This program will be LOUD. Prepare your young readers and families ahead of time so that children who may have aversion to loud noises know what to expect and can take a break if needed.

    Not knowing everything is OK. In fact, I like to let the children lead investigations to discover the answer to some questions that allude us.

    The program should be fun!  Science and math themes can be applied to everyday life and should be shared in a way to promote curiosity and not stress. Families and children were excited to try something different, presenting familiar books with a fresh theme was fun.

    rachee fagg headshotRachee Fagg is head of children’s services at the Lansdowne Public Library in Lansdowne, PA.

     
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