Celebrating! The Freedom to Read

Our_Library_Hands_Raised_crop_sizedNext week from September 25 through October 1, the American Library Association (ALA) leads the annual “Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read” initiative.

Along with a coalition of other organizations that include the American Booksellers Association (ABA) and National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), ALA and the Freedom to Read Foundation (FTRF), ALA’s non-profit legal and educational organization, have added a focus on diversity for this year’s campaign.

As the FTRF slogan reads, “free people read freely,” the U.S. Constitution and the First Amendment give us the freedom to access ideas and information. For school librarians, the questions and answers surrounding challenged and banned books revolve around how this right applies to students who access resources in our libraries and online.

Since five of the top ten most frequently challenged books in 2015 were written expressly for children or teens, it is important for school librarians to have policies and procedures in place to address students’, parents’, classroom teachers’, or administrators’ concerns regarding the resources available through the library.

“Banned Books Week” gives school librarians the opportunity to discuss ALA’s Freedom to Read Statement and the First Amendment with students, colleagues, administrators, and parents. It also serves as a reminder to examine our own collection development practices.

In August, Maria Cahill published “How Do You Prepare for Challenges to Books and Other Resources” on the School Library Connection blog.  She offers the results of an anonymous survey of 200 school librarians that found 65.67% of the librarians who followed collection development policies did not experience materials challenges; 22.89% did.

Perhaps the most notable result of this survey was that 11.44% reported that they engage in self-censorship in order to avoid challenges to library materials. “Self-censorship is much more prevalent at the elementary level and in schools that have multiple grade configurations such as P-12, middle and high, etc. than at middle or high school levels” (Cahill).

One reflection question for elementary school librarians could be: Are I Am Jazz and Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan in our collection? Why, or why not? A question for secondary librarians could be: Are Looking for Alaska, Beyond Magenta, and Two Boys Kissing in our library collection? Why or why not?

What are you doing this week and next to highlight the right to read with your school library community? Please share in the comments section below.

Note: One easy way for school librarians to participate in this campaign is to display the “I Read Banned Books” Twibbon on their Twitter and Facebook profile photos.

 

Works Cited

Cahill, Maria. “How Do You Prepare for Challenges to Books and Other Resources.” School Library Connection Blog. http://goo.gl/NcrNf6. Accessed 18 Sept. 2016.

Thurston, Baratunde. “I Am a Community Organizer.” Flickr.com. 18 Sept. 2016, https://www.flickr.com/photos/baratunde/2837373493.

STEM, STEAM, and STREAM

This month, the Building a Culture of Collaboration co-bloggers will share how school librarians can be and are being essential team members in STEM, STEAM, and STREAM initiatives. These interdisciplinary efforts offer sky-is-the-limit opportunities for school library leaders.

STEM_TagxedoSTEM, STEAM, and STREAM are hot topics in education. Some would say these are THE 21st-century subjects and the key to students’ futures. With a focus on innovation to solve the world’s persistent problems, science, technology, engineering, mathematics, art, and yes! reading are particular areas of focus in the taught curriculum across the United States.

On February 2nd, I attended Terry Young’s Webinar: “STEM, STEAM, and STREAM… What Do They Have in Common? Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.” Hosted by EdWeb.TV, Terry’s presentation was sponsored by Libraries Unlimited. Here’s the link to his Webinar: https://edweb.tv/stem-steam-and-stream/

Terry framed his presentation in terms of the “learn by doing” Next Generation Science Standards. The “quick search” guide on this Web site is a useful tool for any school librarian looking to connect her/his teaching and planning and coteaching with classroom teachers. Knowing these standards are step one in order to be a STEM-ready educator.

Terry’s presentation focused on resources for school librarians to use to increase their own knowledge, build  STEM/STEAM/STREAM library collections, and use resources to reach out to classroom teachers and specialists for interdisciplinary learning and teaching. He recommended resources such as Science Books & Films to help school librarians build their collections. Terry also recommended setting up “search alerts” for magazine tables of contents and following publications by children’s science book authors.

Terry talked about science read-alouds for younger students and recommended the book: Perfect Pairs: Using Fiction and Nonfiction Science Books to Teach Science, K-2 by Melissa Stewart and Nancy Chesley. He noted that What Is Science? written by Rebecca Kai Dotlich, illustrated by SachikoYoshikawa should be included in every elementary school library collection.

He noted that STEM/STEAM/STREAM fairs, formerly “science fairs,” should take a problem-solving approach. In this vein, Terry encouraged school librarians to help students answer their “why” questions, especially if classroom teachers shy away from pursuing questions with uncertain answers or outcomes.

As an elementary school librarian, one of my favorite and oft-repeated teachable moments was when a small group of children brought in a “wonder” from the playground… an as-yet unidentified insect or other critter or plant they had “discovered” at recess. I relished my responsibility to guide students in asking questions about the “wonder” and to have ready-reference materials on hand for them to find the answers. Classroom teachers often gave students time to conduct these spontaneous learning opportunities and some picked up on these investigations and furthered them with the whole class.

There is much individual school librarians can do to shore up their own knowledge and the library’s resources in order to teach and support classroom teachers, specialists, and students in exploring interdisciplinary STEM, STEAM, and STREAM curriculum. On Thursday, I will share a K-12 district-wide initiative that seeks to support and build classroom-library instructional partnerships for these efforts.

Word cloud by Tagxedo.com

Global Picture Books that Portray or Could Inspire Social Justice Activism

wow1The mission of the Worlds of Words (WOW) is “to build bridges across global cultures through children’s and adolescent literature.” WOW hosts a physical library collection of international children’s and young adult literature on the campus of the University of Arizona in Tucson. In addition, WOW’s online presence includes book reviews (WOW Review), articles about integrating global literature into the classroom and library (WOW Stories), the WOW Currents blog, My Take/Your Take Book Dialogues, and an Author’s Corner.

This month on the My Take/Your Take Book Dialogues, Deborah Dimmett from the University of Arizona and I are sharing global children’s literature picture books that portray or could inspire social activism. Our list of books is at the end of this post.

In their book For a Better World: Reading and Writing for Social Action (Heinemann, 2001), Randy and Katherine Bomer note that the ways an educator uses literature, designs activities, and prompts questions are part of a classroom (or library) discourse. When educators share their values and read texts that continually and consistently focus on values, students can naturally and openly discuss values as well.

Our first post this month is focused on the book In A Cloud of Dust (Fullerton/Deines). I wrote the introduction to the book and responded. Deb then wrote her response to the book. It is clear to me that Deborah and I will provide examples this month that demonstrate the nature of readers’ responses.

As Louise Rosenblatt’s transactional theory (1978) attests, each reader brings her own feelings, personality, and experiences to the reading of a text. Our responses to and interpretations of these texts will be different based on our background knowledge, values, and beliefs as well as the literal content of the text and the authors’ intentions.

Engaging in these types of discussions—whether in the face-to-face or online environment—can help educators prepare to share these texts with students. These five books provide jumping off places for students and teachers to engage in critical conversations. We invite you to check on our discussions and contribute your responses, interpretations, and comments this month.

References

Bomer, Randy and Katherine Bomer. For a Better World: Reading and Writing for Social Action. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2001. Print.

Rosenblatt, Louise M. The Reader, the Text, the Poem: The Transactional Theory of the Literary Work. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University, 1978. Print.

Word Cloud created at Tagxedo.com

Books to be Discussed in December, 2015

1. In A Cloud of Dust by Alma Fullerton, Art by Brian Deines (Pajama Press, 2015)

2. The Soda Bottle School: A True Story of Recycling, Teamwork, and One Crazy Idea by Seño Laura Kutner and Suzanne Slade, illustrated by Aileen Darragh (Tilberry House 2015)

3. The Promise by Nicola Davies illustrated by Laura Carlin (Candlewick, 2013)

4. Twenty-Two Cents: Muhammed Yunus and the Village Bank by Paula Yoo, illustrated by Jamel Akib (Lee & Low, 2014)

5. My Heart Will Not Sit Down by Mara Rockliff (Knopf, 2012)

Intercultural Understanding through Global Literature

This month the BACC co-bloggers will share different aspects of diversity and inclusion as applied to and practiced in school librarianship.

WOWLongview“Culturally responsive collection development” is a term and strategy school librarians apply to indicate that we build library collections that reflect and support the cultural backgrounds of our students. To build on this strategy, we must also consider that we are living in a global society that extends beyond our students’ personal and family cultures to a wider and more diverse world.

In order to ensure that multiple voices and perspectives are represented in the resources the library provides for students, classroom teachers, and families, school librarians can develop a collection that includes global literature. Global literature includes books set in non-U.S. cultures, or is written by immigrants about living in the U.S. or in their home countries, or is written by authors who live and work in the U.S. and another country. These resources can help readers connect with others who live within and beyond our country’s borders.

Susan Corapi, Worlds of Words (WOW) board member, and Kathy G. Short WOW director, recently released a downloadable .pdf file booklet, Exploring International and Intercultural Understanding through Global Literature, to help educators understand and learn more about using global literature to explore international and intercultural understanding. In this work, Susan and Kathy provide information about a Longview Foundation for International Affairs grant-funded project called “Global Literacy Communities.” The book includes the experiences of twenty-five pre-kindergarten to high school educator study groups from nineteen U.S. states that met regularly for a period of one to three years to learn through global literature.

In their study groups, educators used global literature to further develop their international understanding and strove for something more—intercultural understanding. As Susan and Kathy note, “Intercultural understanding extends beyond nationality and politics to include informed problem solving and social action activities that necessitate an appreciation of the full range of issues, including the values and beliefs of everyone involved. Intercultural understanding creates the potential to move from curiosity about a culture to a deeper understanding of others that allows us to live and work together as global citizens” (4).

BACC readers can access an article about this publication on the EdWeek blog and can learn more about  the study groups by reading articles published in the online journal WOW Stories.

When we practice culturally responsive collection development, we have the potential to impact curriculum. But we can guarantee that impact by coplanning and coteaching to use those resources for the benefit of all students. When we take students’ heritage languages and home cultures into account and use them as background knowledge in lesson design, we are maximizing opportunities to use resources to impact student learning. In doing so, school librarians combine our skills at collection development with “connection development” (Lankes).

As collaborating school librarians, I believe we cannot overestimate our importance as literacy stewards in our buildings. With our knowledge of literature, technology resources, tools, and devices we can support teachers’ teaching and help motivate students to engage deep and meaningful learning. As the “Global Literacy Communities” study groups attest, we develop our own international and intercultural understanding as we work alongside students and classroom teachers.

How are you using global literature in your library program? Have you cotaught a collaborative lesson or unit or participated in study group to bring a global focus to your teaching?

On Thursday, I will share WOW’s My Take/Your Take Book Dialogues as a model for engaging in virtual discussions with other educators centered on global literature.

Works Cited

Corapi, Susan, and Kathy G. Short. Exploring International and Intercultural Understanding through Global Literature. Longview Foundation: Worlds of Words. 2015. Web. 30 Nov. 2015. <http://wowlit.org/Documents/InterculturalUnderstanding.pdf>.

Lankes, R. David. The Atlas of New Librarianship. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2011. Print.