Books and Resources about the Current and Past Pandemics

Image: Global NetworkOn distribution lists, blog posts, and social media, librarians and other educators in the U.S. and around the globe have been sharing free ebook and online resources that explain the coronavirus and the current and past pandemics. Nonfiction and informational books as well as fiction can reach readers’ hearts and minds and change our emotional responses and behaviors, too.

Using literature to provide information at this time is critical. Knowing the facts about the current situation and historical parallels can help reduce the fears and concerns that many young people are experiencing. Bibliotherapy originally applied in psychotherapy to treat depression or other mood disorders, may be what many children and teens need at this point in time.

In this post, I am highlighting a few of COVID-19 resources with special thanks to Patricia Sarles, Library Operations and Instructional Coordinator, Brooklyn and Staten Island, New York City Department of Education, for her LibGuide of free ebook sources and the Worlds of Worlds (WOW) Executive Board for their collection of “Resources Around Epidemics and Pandemics,” which includes both fiction and informational books.

From Patricia Sarles’ LibGuide
Patricia’s curation is illustrated with e-book jackets. This helps parents and educators get an idea of the target age level for the information in each title. The books show animal as well as human characters, and all help adults assure children that the grown-ups in their lives are doing all they can to keep people safe and healthy. A number of the ebooks ask for donations that will be used to support others in particular need during this crisis.

The House We Sheltered In” is a well-written and beautifully illustrated poem by Freeman Ng. The poem is a free download available from his website with either color and black and white illustrations. I found hearing the poem read aloud and seeing the multicultural illustrations via the YouTube video very moving.

Since COVID-19 is a pandemic affecting people around the globe, I especially appreciate the work of Christine Borst, Ph.D., who is a therapist (LMFT) and university professor living in Colorado. She wrote and illustrated her nonfiction book What Is Coronavirus? with her own two-, four-, and six-year-old children in mind. Her mother voice shines through in the text. Additionally, she provides .pdf files of her book in Farsi, French, Spanish, and Turkish as well as English. You can access a recording of her book in English and in Farsi from her website. Donations via PayPal are earmarked for families and small businesses in need.

From Worlds of Words
The annotated bibliography “Resources Around Epidemics and Pandemics” on the WOW website includes intermediate and YA historical fiction and science fiction titles as well as informational books. I have not read most of these titles, but I can highly recommend Susan Bartoletti Campbell’s book Terrible Typhoid Mary: A True Story of the Deadliest Cook in America (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2015). This informational book reads like narrative nonfiction or as the annotator notes, “a crime novel.” This book will appeal to many readers who will connect with the historical, social, and political aspects of Mary Mallon’s life and times.

From this page, WOW also linked “Catching a Bug: Reading about Pandemics, Epidemics, and Outbreaks” posted in 2013 on the WOW Currents blog by T. Gail Pritchard, PhD, College of Medicine, University of Arizona. One of the videos she offers is a TED-ed video called “How pandemics spread.” I believe these three blog posts and the resources Gail highlights could be of particular use now and in the future to those currently teaching upper grade students.

Global Perspectives: Empathy
It is logical and critical that librarians and other educators take a global view of the current COVID-19 pandemic. It is arguable that at this current time in our human history we should be aware of our global interconnectedness more than ever before. Our shared realization and understanding of the impact of this virus and the measures needed to contain its spread should be heightened and spotlighted from a global perspective in the resources we share. This is especially important in the U.S. where our information sources have historically taken a U.S.-centric perspective.

If there is a brighter spot in this crisis, it could be the opportunity to develop compassionate empathy for the way daily lives have changed for people all around the globe. Compassionate empathy is an understanding of another’s pain plus the desire to act and somehow mitigate that pain (Skills You Need). Today, we are experiencing the many ways global citizens are acknowledging and responding to the needs of others: sheltering in place, wearing masks and making masks to share, donating and delivering food to those in need, and caring for the emotional and physical needs of our families, friends, students, colleagues, and neighbors–near and far.

Stay safe and well.

Side Note (but no less important): Thank you to the Arizona Daily Star Opinion editor Sarah Garrecht Gassen for your 4/25/20 op-ed: “How we decide which COVID-19 letters to publish, and which we won’t.” As Ms. Gassen wrote: “Our obligation is to the truth, to the facts, and to our shared safety.”

The same could be said to be true for librarians and other educators, children’s and YA book authors and illustrators—at this time and always.

Work Cited

“Interpersonal Skills: Empathy Types.” SkillsYouNeed.com, https://www.skillsyouneed.com/ips/empathy-types.html

Image Credit

Altmann, Gerd. “Web Networking Earth Continents.” Pixabay.com. https://pixabay.com/illustrations/web-networking-earth-continents-3079789

Equity for All Learners

Last week, I spotlighted one of the top five critical topics from the International Literacy Association’s (ILA) “What’s Hot in Literacy” survey: access to high-quality diverse books and content. In my post “Librarians Curate During the Pandemic,” I provided some examples of how school and public librarians are selecting and annotating online resources to support student learning and teachers’ teaching during school closures.

Image: Equality or sameness compared with equity or fairnessAnother of the top five critical topics was “increasing equity and opportunity for all learners. This topic has most certainly been highlighted both in the U.S. and around the globe during the pandemic. According to U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee, nearly 12 million K-12 students nationwide lack broadband access in their homes in 2017 (cited in Common Sense Media 2019).

When librarians and classroom teachers are considering the necessity of providing online resources during this crisis, we must not forget that so many young people will lack the means to access those resources. See my March 16, 2020 post “Inequitable Access During School Closures.”

Equity in Classroom Book Collections
It is no surprise to librarians that equity is a top concern of teachers, higher education faculty, researchers, literacy consultants, and administrators. (As it was in 2018 “What’s Hot in Literacy” survey, equity is the top of five critical issues and respondents identify as deserving more attention and focus. When looking more closely at the issue of equity, the Literacy Today article quotes a respondent from Illinois: “educational inequalities are huge in all areas, such as teacher preparation, teacher opportunities for professional learning and development with their peers, adequate resources in terms of classroom libraries, and small class sizes. All of this greatly impacts literacy learning for students” (Bothum 2020, 24)

As a former school librarian and current librarian educator, I was saddened to read this particular comment. While I agree with this person’s assessment of the impact of these resources and activities on student learning, I am frustrated that school libraries and librarians are not mentioned. Classroom “libraries,” which are really “collections” not “libraries,” will never be able to achieve the robust diversity of resources afforded by a well-funded school library that serves the diverse academic and personal reading needs of readers at all instructional levels within a school.

Of course, classroom teachers must provide books and other reading materials in their classrooms. But investing in school library resources results in schoolwide equity. Classrooms will never be able to offer the range of reading resources that a school library can. A well-stocked library and library program facilitated by a state-certified school librarian also reflects a commitment by the school district and community to serving all students, educators, and families.

Access to School Libraries and Librarians
In the area of equity, forty-nine percent of the respondents say they want more support in addressing inequity in education and instruction. While all of the factors cited in the survey are important, I would humbly suggest that supporting fully-funded school library led by an effective state-certified school librarian should be a top priority in every school and district across the U.S. (and around the world). An open school library where students can check out, return, and check out more books and materials to read based on their needs and choices makes a difference in the quantity and quality of students reading.

Ninety-two percent of respondents agree that “educational equity for all students cannot be achieved without instructional equity” (Bothum 2020, 24). An effective professional school librarian who collaborates with classroom teachers to integrate vast array of library resources and coteaches the classroom curriculum can elevate literacy learning for every student in every classroom in a school.

Collaboration to Increase Equity
ILA Board of Directors member Rachael Gabriel notes that “structures aimed at collaborative problem-solving can be used as practice grounds for more equitable conversations because of their emphasis on protocol, participation, and the use of evidence.” When classroom teachers and school librarians share ideas, they further develop their understanding of how to best need the needs of all students. When they coplan, co-implement, and co-assess student learning outcomes, they gather evidence of the effectiveness of their teaching and can make modifications for improvement in their instruction.

Since sixty-one percent of ILA respondents identify collaboration as an area of concern, school administrators around the globe must step up to help provide educators with collaborative planning time with school librarians as well as with classroom teacher peers and specialists.

School Librarian Roles During the School Closures
The American Association of School Librarians (AASL) conducted a survey from Monday, March 30, 2020 to Monday, April 6, 2020. There were 843 respondents representing all fifty U.S. states. (AASL will conduct and report on similar surveys in the coming weeks.) The librarians who responded cited unequal access to technology tools suitable for online learning as a problem during school closures. Librarians reported that students:

  • have full access to technology and Internet for personal use in their home (laptop or desktop computer): 49%
  • have shared access to technology and Internet for use in their home (shared computer): 25%
  • have access through mobile device (tablet, phone): 22%
  • do not have reliable access: 12%
  • do not have any access: 10% (AASL 2020).

The survey captured the many ways school librarians are adapting to changes in instruction and are offering the same services and activities provided during regular school days, including:

  • Offering resource curation and technology tools for “classroom” instruction: 84.89%
  • Expanding online resources: 80.37%
  • Virtual assistance: 82.06%
  • Virtual meetings/collaborative events: 74.29% (AASL 2020).

Please read the entire AASL survey report.

Schools Without Librarians
What the AASL survey could not capture is the lack of equitable access to online learning in schools without state-certified school librarians. We can speculate about what is happening for students, educators, and families in schools where a state-certified school librarian is not on the faculty. To be sure, educators in some of those schools have technology coaches who are helping them transition to fully online learning, but are they collaborating with educators to provide the specific learning and teaching resources needed to student and educator success? In some districts, there may be a “library” or “technology” person at the district-level who is providing some of these services.

However, without a building-level school librarian these services will be hit and miss in terms of the actual needs of students, educators, and families at any given school site. Some of the educators in all of these schools are the very ones who, on the ILA “What’s Hot in Literacy” survey, noted they were looking for instructional equity for all K-12 students.

For example, when schools closed in Arizona, the state superintendent of instruction stated that 100,000 of the 1.1. million students in the state did not have the tools they needed to be successful in online learning. The Tucson Unified School District identified 18,000 families that lacked such tools. (There are around 40,000 students in the district; the number of families is unknown to me but there are only 13 state-certified school librarians serving 86 schools.)

The pandemic has spotlighted inequity in K-12 education. How can we achieve social justice in education if access to broadband, technology tools, library-based elearning resources, and the expertise of school librarians are not universally available to all of our students?

The short answer is we can’t – but what can we learn from this situation, and how can it motivate us to take action going forward?

Note: In this blog post when I refer to learners, they are educators and administrators as well as students. All members of a school community must be learners.

Works Cited

American Association of School Librarians. 2020. “Snapshot of School Librarian Roles during School Closures,” KnowledgeQuest.aasl.org, https://knowledgequest.aasl.org/snapshot-of-school-librarian-roles-during-school-closures/

Bothum, Kelly. 2020. “What’s Hot in 2020—And Beyond: ILA’s Biennial Report Highlights the Topics Most Critical to Shaping the Future of Literacy.” Literacy Today (January/February).

Common Sense Media. 2019. The Homework Gap: Teacher Perspectives on Closing the Digital Divide, https://www.commonsensemedia.org/sites/default/files/uploads/kids_action/homework-gap-report-2019.pdf

Image Credit:

OccupyAwareness. “equality equity2.0.” Creative Commons.org, https://ccsearch.creativecommons.org/photos/9ebc181e-48a4-42c6-ab27-c86854d1ee0a

Librarians Curate During the Pandemic

Image: Handshake word cloud - cooperate, serve, communicate, unite, and moreSince school closures began, school and public librarians have been collaborating to share online resources to support at-home teaching and learning. They have been sharing widely to help other educators, families, and librarian colleagues to help youth continue learning outside the four walls of the school or library building. Librarians are sharing their curation efforts on distribution lists, in blog posts, and on Twitter and Facebook.

The response of the library profession to the pandemic makes a strong case for how librarians can help educators around the world address one of the critical hot topics identified by 1,443 respondents from 65 countries and territories who responded to the International Literacy Association’s (ILA) “What’s Hot in Literacy” survey (formerly annual, now biennial). The goal of the survey is to rank topics in terms of what’s hot (talked about) and what (should be) important at both the community and country levels.

Respondents to the survey identified “providing access to high-quality, diverse books and content” as one of the top five critical topics (Bothum 2020, 24). You can access an online infographic summary of survey and the full report.

Librarians are consciously or not addressing global educators’ critical need for “high-quality, diverse books and content” during the pandemic. That fact contributes to the body of evidence related to the essential role(s) of librarians in education. To my knowledge all of these resources that follow are shared ethically following copyright laws or with permission of the authors, illustrators, or publishers whose work is shared.

Jennifer Brown, Youth and Family Services Manager, Suffolk Public Library, Suffolk, Virginia, has curated spreadsheets focused on author read-alouds, craft, music, and other resources for storytimes, tips for hosting online storytimes, and more.

Sabrina Carnesi, Newport News, Virginia, middle school librarian/school librarian educator, curated the links school librarians shared during the March 24, 2020 American Association of School Librarians Town Hall meeting. Close to 200 (!) resources were curated by Sabrina and shared by colleagues across the country to support virtual instruction while schools are closed:

Haley Cooper, Abbigail McWilliams, Amelia Owdom, and G Trupp, IS445: Information Books and Resources for Youth graduate students at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign iSchool curated a standards-aligned pathfinder of resources for 4th-6th grade students and educators to explore a timely topic during the pandemic: food insecurity and food culture.

Zakir Hossain, teacher-librarian at the ICS Inter-Community School Zurich, Switzerland. curated a libguide with open access ebooks, databases, copyright-free images, and sounds.

Kathy Lester, Plymouth, Michigan, middle school librarian has curated three lists, which she is using with East Middle School Library patrons and has shared these resources on several distribution lists.

eBooks

Storytimes

Other Online Resources

The National Emergency Library (NEL) has made 4M digitized books available to users without a waitlist. These resources can help educators provide students with access to books while their schools, school libraries, and public libraries are closed.

Thank you to these school and public librarians and the NEL for curating/making these resources available to us.

School librarians know that coplanning standards-aligned lessons and units of instruction with our educator colleagues is the ideal way to gather paper print or online resources for students’ learning. We can still collaborate with classroom teachers online during school closures, and we can use our librarian colleagues’ curation efforts as resources for that collaborative work.

Thank you for all you are doing to remain safe and healthy and to provide for your library users. I hope all librarians will continue to curate and share their work with others. We are stronger together, and together, we demonstrate our value to our library patrons even more so during this time of need.

P.S. And if you are looking specifically for online read-alouds for the students, families, and educators you serve, I have embedded additional resources from the 3/23/20 comment section into the blog post.

Work Cited

Bothum, Kelly. 2020. “What’s Hot in 2020—And Beyond: ILA’s Biennial Report Highlights the Topics Most Critical to Shaping the Future of Literacy.” Literacy Today (January/February).

Image credit
Johnhain. “Handshake Regard Cooperatie.” Pixabay.com. https://pixabay.com/illustrations/handshake-regard-cooperate-connect-2009183/