Professional Book Review: Lift Us Up, Don’t Push Us Out!

Book Jacket: Lift Up Up, Don't Push Us Out!This week, August 3rd – 7th, I’m participating in the Racial Justice Challenge. Perhaps you are participating too. Each day, for five days, I’ll receive an email with several tasks designed to learn, listen, share, and take action regarding race, racism, and antiracism. Along with other participants, I will explore how to be antiracist (versus “not racist”), move beyond a single story, examine issues of race in the media, and design a personalized racial justice plan.

I will be participating with a preK-12 educator lens and with an eye for how school librarians can be instrumental in antiracist activism. I look forward to reporting my learning in next week’s blog post.

As part of my preparation, I read essays from Lift Us Up, Don’t Push Us Out! Voices from the Front Lines of the Educational Justice Movement by Mark R. Warren (2018). I was unaware of the book when it was published and am so grateful to the contributors for sharing their experiences in striving for and achieving social justice in schools. You can also access an interview related to #LiftUsUpDontPushUsOut.

The book is divided into four sections. While all of the essays are worth reading, I’m sharing my response to four focused on race and ethnicity.

Part One: Building the Power for Change: Parent, Youth, and Community Organizers
“Speaking Up and Walking Out: Boston Students Fight for Education Justice” was written by Carlos Rojas and Glorya Wornum. Each author tells their first-person story about why and how they became involved with Youth on Board (YoB). Glorya shares how, beginning in 8th-grade, she experienced discrimination and suspensions as a Black student who asked too many questions and looked for family among angry peers. She found “positive energy among angry people” (21) through YoB. She learned how to express strong emotions in a productive way, ask questions respectfully, and lead change. Carlos shares how his life changed when he could say aloud: “I’m undocumented and unafraid.”

Both of these young people were leaders on the “Code of Conduct Advisory Committee” that help change punitive disciplinary practices to restorative justice interventions in their school, their district, and later via legislation that impacts students throughout Massachusetts. They were also involved in creating an app to help students, educators, and parents know their rights and responsibilities. They helped organize student walkouts when the Boston mayor threatened to cut school budgets that resulted in funds being restored.

Carlos and Glorya’s message: Put young people’s experiences, voices, and solutions at the center of educational social justice. While reading their essay, I made strong connections with the young activist life of Representative John Lewis. When educators make a space for student organizing, students can experience agency and advocacy that can carry them and our society forward throughout their lives.

Part Two – Broadening the Movement: Building Alliances for Systemic Change
Last month, I participated in a webinar with Diane Ravitch and Jitu Brown. (It was through that webinar that I learned of this book.) Jitu contributes an essay called “#FightforDyett: Fighting Back Against School Closings and the Journey for Justice.” He tells how school closures in Black and Brown neighborhoods increase class sizes, undermine community cohesion, and price people out of homes with the resulting gentrification. He shares how their advocacy coalition proved in court that closing schools attended by students of color is an act of racial discrimination when small schools in White neighborhoods are allowed to remain intact.

In his essay, Jitu shares how students and multiracial community organizations came together to fight the closure of Dyett High School on Chicago’s southside, a predominantly Black neighborhood. He tells how the community, led by two high school students, engaged in civil disobedience and captured the attention of the national media after the mayor announced the school would reopen as a charter school. This was unacceptable to the community; they presented their vision for a technology and arts curricular focus for their school. As the result of a hunger strike, the community succeeded in keeping the school open and are still working to see their vision come to full fruition.

Jitu’s story and work connect strongly to the challenges we face where I live in Arizona. The proliferation of charter schools has negatively impacted Tucson Unified School District (TUSD), our largest local district. Like CPS and TUSD, large urban school districts struggle to serve all students in their immediate neighborhoods when students are recruited to taxpayer-funded charters thereby reducing enrollment and funding in district public schools. Similar to the situation at Dyett, predominantly Latinx families in the Wakefield Middle School service area organized and have succeeded in reopening and revitalizing a school that was shuttered for under enrollment.

Jitu’s Message: Multiracial coalitions must be rooted in the self-determination of people of colore in order to build powerful movements that win for Black people as well as others impacted by injustice.

Part Three – Educators for Justice Movement Building in Schools, School Systems, and Universities
Sally Lee and Elana “E.M.” Eisen-Markowitz contributed the “Teachers Unite! Organizing School Communities for Transformative Justice” essay in this section. Sally is a founding organizer of New York City Public Schools’ Teachers Unite (TU), a teachers’ organization with a “mission to organize democratic school chapters under the principles of equity, voice, diversity, and action, with an eye toward changing society and building a center for radical teacher organizing” (94).

In 2008, TU co-published Teachers Talk: School Culture, Safety, and Human Rights along with the National Economic and Social Rights Initiative. TU also was involved in creating a documentary film and toolkit called Growing Fairness focused on restorative justice and resisting the racist criminalization of students, in particular.

In the essay, Sally and E.M. discuss the critical importance of a “relational approach” to organizing. This quote jumped off the page at me: “in a functioning democracy, we must slowly build consensus among diverse individuals around core values in order to transform culture” (95). This work must be done locally at each school site where all school stakeholders can lead educational justice guided by the principles of democracy and equity.

Sally and E.M.’s message: “I have seen and felt how schools can be sites of trauma and oppression as well as meaningful growth and change” (97). Let’s join them in working together to advocate and enact growth and change.

Part Four – Intersectional Organizing: Linking Social Movements to Educational Justice
In “The Same Struggle: Immigrant Rights and Educational Justice,” activist researcher and educator José Calderón begins his piece by sharing how, as a new college graduate, he joined the farmworkers movement after hearing César Chávez speak. After returning to his hometown in Colorado, José shares how he supported parents of English language learner immigrant students in marching for and succeeding in instituting bilingual education in the county. He came to understand the connection between immigrant rights and educational justice.

After earning his PhD., José joined with others in fighting English-only education as both a researcher and activist. He has also joined with various coalitions and conducted research related to voting rights, street violence, and advancing community schools. He makes a strong case for the positive outcomes of his work as an activist scholar.

José’s message: By following César Chávez’s principle of living one’s life in the service of others and forming mutually beneficial partnerships, we can look back on our lives and say that we have made meaningful contributions to improving the world.

Transforming School Culture
While I wish I had read these essays in 2018 when the book was published, I was inspired by reading them now in this time of civil unrest and conscientization with the potential of educational transformation. This reading also came to me as I work with seventeen contributors to finalize our book manuscript related to core values in school librarianship–absolutely perfect timing.

Thank you to all of the Lift Us Up, Don’t Push Us Out! contributors.

Work Cited
Warren, Mark R. 2018. Lift Us Up, Don’t Push Us Out! Voices from the Front Lines of the Educational Justice Movement. Boston: Beacon Press.

 

Professional Book Review: Disrupting Thinking

In their book, Disrupting Thinking: Why How We Read Matters (Scholastic 2017), Kylene Beers and Robert E. Probst offer educators strategies and opportunities to reassess the various ways they invite readers to approach texts. Classroom teachers, reading specialists, and school librarians will benefit from learning and reviewing research and information related to reader response, reading stances, rigor and relevance, and more.

The BHH Strategy
The Book Head Heart (BHH) strategy is at the center of Disrupting Thinking. This series of questions is designed to guide readers’ thinking from what is written in the text through feeling and thinking about the content of the text. (Note: Graduate students in IS445: Information Books and Resources for Youth will the using the BHH strategy in their interactions with texts throughout the spring semester. I look forward to learning how this strategy supports them as they select, read, and curate library resources for their reading communities.)

Book

  • What is this book about?
  • Who is telling the story?
  • What does the author want me to know?

Head

  • What surprised me?
  • What does the author think I already know?
  • What change, challenged, or confirmed my thinking?
  • What did I notice?

Heart

  • What did this text help me learn about myself?
  • What did this text help me learn about others?
  • How has this text change my thinking about the world?
  • How will my actions or feeling change as a result of reading this text?
  • Does this text offer me any of my own Aha Moments? Any Tough Questions? Perhaps my own Words of the Wise? (2017, 62-71).

Regardless of the genre or format, these questions invite readers to enter deeply into the text.

Reading Stances
Aesthetic and efferent are two stances proposed by Louis Rosenblatt’s reader-response theory (1995). When we read from an aesthetic stance, we pay attention to how the text affects our emotions. We may respond by living vicariously through the characters and their experiences. We can also approach a text from an efferent stance, in which we focus on the factual information in the text. Readers, for the most part, read along a continuum from a purely aesthetic stance to solely efferent stance depending on their purpose for reading.

One of the strengths of Disrupting Thinking is that the authors make a strong case for readers learning to enter into nonfiction and informational texts as deeply as they have been taught to live through fictional texts. “Nonfiction should not suggest nonfeeling. Nonfiction offers us the chance to learn not only about the world and the people in it, but about ourselves” (2017, 49). When the content of nonfiction texts matter to readers, these texts will elicit feelings as well as thinking. Using the BHH questions is one way to support deep comprehension with nonfiction and informational texts.

Interest and Relevance
Educators have been taught to provide hooks, or motivational invitations, in order to spark students’ interest in texts or curiosity about topics or themes. Beers and Probst note that interest will fade if educators fail to address relevance. They cite this nugget of wisdom from their book Reading Nonfiction: Notice & Note Stances, Signposts, and Strategies (2016), which I will be referencing in many posts this spring for the benefit of IS445 students.

“Getting kids’ attention is about creating interest; keeping their attention is about relevance” (2016, 45).

Beers and Probst contend that if we help develop readers who are open to the possibility that a text will change them, they will then enter a text with “compassion.” An openness to different perspectives, motivations, reasoning, and evidence, or compassion, will further develop readers’ thinking. This compassionate approach can result in readers acting with compassion in the world.

The Goal of this Book
In Disrupting Thinking, Beers and Probst set out to create a resource for educators that serves as a guidepost for how to transform reading instruction so that the texts students read are transformative to their thinking and to the actions they take in the world.

For me, Beers and Probst’s approach to guiding students’ interactions with texts relates directly to the inquiry process suggested in the Guided Inquiry Design (GID) (Kuhlthau, Maniotes, and Caspari 2012). The overarching goal of inquiry learning is to put students in the driver’s seat—to determine questions, discover answers or solutions, and the develop as thinkers and learners. Finding the sweet spot, or third space, in the GID is where students’ internal motivation to pursue answers to questions propel them through the learning process and result in them taking action in the world.

Similarly, the approach to reading fiction, nonfiction, and informational texts offered in Disrupting Thinking is intended to support students as they experience reading as a change process. This connection is why I most highly recommend Disrupting Thinking to school librarians who are guiding students through an inquiry process and who are open to considering or reconsidering how they invite students into learning and growing—and changing—as a result of their interactions with texts.

Works Cited

Beers, Kylene, and Robert E. Probst. 2016. Reading Nonfiction: Notice & Note Stances, Signposts, and Strategies. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Beers, Kylene, and Robert E. Probst. 2017. Disrupting Thinking: Why How We Read Matters. New York: Scholastic.

Kuhlthau, Carol C., Leslie K. Maniotes, and Ann K. Caspari. 2012. Guided Inquiry Design: A Framework for Inquiry in Your School. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Rosenblatt, Louise. 1995. Literature as Exploration. New York: MLA.

Professional Book Review: Collection Development for School Librarians

In her book, An Introduction to Collection Development for School Librarians (ALA 2019), Mona Kerby offers school librarians a solid text with which to guide collection development to achieve the maximum benefit for the students, educators, and families they serve.

The ways school librarians select, provide access, promote, and integrate resources is an expression of social justice, a core value of librarianship.

Twelve Tasks for the First Weeks of  School (2-4)
Every new school librarian or librarian who is new to a building or district will want to follow Kerby’s guidelines in this section. I especially appreciate her insistence that “all learners must check out books and materials the first week. Teach lessons that are simple, memorable, and positive” (3). Note: She uses the term “lessons” not “orientations.”

One of the tasks Kerby recommends is skimming the district’s school librarian handbook. She gives a list of 14 subtopics that should be found in that resource. I don’t know how many times librarians have posted to our distribution lists asking people to share their administrative handbooks or at least the topics within it. When I taught School Library Media Center at Texas Woman’s University, students in my course created a handbook as a way to learn about school library administration. So, if you are one of those librarians who does not have access to one, this section in Kerby’s book can help you create one that is useful in your practice.

Selection and Reconsideration Policies
Selection criteria are at the heart of collection development. Kerby offers a list of criteria that could and should be included in a district selection policy (24-25). She also provides the bread crumbs to access ALA’s Selection and Reconsideration Policy Toolkit and summarizes it (25-26). Endorsed by the Intellectual Freedom Committee in 2018, this is a must-read and follow guideline for that section of a library administrative handbook.

The chapter entitled “How Do I Turn a Complaint into a Positive?” is must-reading (and re-reading) for novice and seasoned librarians alike (69-72). Building relationships, active listening, and modeling respect are essential in remaining true to library values while valuing the perspectives of all members of the learning community. I especially appreciate this word of caution: “Please don’t censor your collection because you’re afraid that a complaint might happen” (italics preserved 72).

Aligning Resources with the Curriculum
In the book, Kerby provides two sample curriculum charts—one at the elementary and one at the high school level (20-23). She describes how these charts could be created in terms of grade levels, topics, and length of units of study for each. “You can make a questionnaire asking these same questions—what, how many, and when—and then tabulate the responses, but not only are you creating more work, you’re also missing any opportunity. Talking to the educators gives you the opportunity to listen, plan, and collaborate” (24). I totally agree with her recommendation to actually sit down with colleagues to create or confirm and elaborate on a curriculum map for the entire school.

Labeling Books with Reading Levels
Kerby reminds school librarians that the ALA document “Labeling Systems: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights” warns against the use of labeling systems that violate the privacy and choice of readers. “Prejudicial labels are designed to restrict access, based on a value judgment that the content, language, or themes of the resource, or the background or views of the creator(s) of the resource, render it inappropriate or offensive for all or certain groups of users” (ALA 2015). Reading-level labeling in school libraries violates the privacy and may restrict readers’ choices and should not be used. (One alternative for the elementary grades is to place reading levels inside of books where readers can privately access them as needed.)

Quotes and Examples from the Field
One of the strengths of An Introduction to Collection Development for School Librarians is that Kerby weaves quotes and examples from practicing school librarians throughout the book. District-level school librarian supervisor Jennifer Sturge, Calvert County, Maryland, encourages school librarians to develop engaging first lessons followed by book checkout from the very first day of the school year (5). Gail Dickinson, Old Dominion University, Virginia, offers an analogy between weeding the collection and curdled milk (49), Margaret Gaudino, Montgomery County Public Schools, Maryland, offers a list of the twelve databases she provides for students and educators at her elementary school (63).

The book also includes writing prompts and reflection questions with pages where readers can record their practices, thoughts, and questions within the book itself.

I highly recommend Mona Kerby’s thoughtful and practical introduction to collection development to all. .

Work Cited

Kerby, Mona. 2019. An Introduction to Collection Development for School Librarians. 2nd ed. Chicago: ALA.

Professional Book Review: Dare to Lead

In her book, Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts (2018), Brené Brown sets out to answer this question: “What would it look like to combine courage, connection and meaning with the world of work?” (2018, xvii). This question could and perhaps should be asked by all of us. Brown’s research process includes conducting and analyzing interviews. When asking senior business leaders what they would change, if anything, about the ways people are leading today, they replied, “We need brave leaders and more courageous cultures” (2018, 6).

Brown defines a leader as “anyone who takes responsibility for finding the potential in people and processes, and who has the courage to develop that potential” (2018, 4). I believe this is what school librarian leaders do as we develop our own knowledge and skills and use our toolkits to influence others to help all library stakeholders, including ourselves, to reach our potential, our capacity.

Four Skills Sets
According to Brown, there are four skill sets at the heart of daring leadership: rumbling with vulnerability, living into our values, braving trust, and learning to rise. In her book she describes each of these in detail. Here is a snapshot:

Rumbling with Vulnerability: “Courage and fear are not mutually exclusive. Most of us feel brave and afraid at the same time” (2018, 10). In a “rumble,” people show their vulnerability, risk what is important to them, in order to build, honor, and keep relationships open while solving problems (addressing the hard stuff). Learning to feel fear and refusing to let it armor or stop you helps you demonstrate courage and influence the courageous behaviors of others. Rumbling with vulnerability is taking the risk being truly “seen.”

As Brown notes, “developing a disciplined practice of rumbling with vulnerability gives leaders the strength and emotional stamina to dare greatly” (2018, 167). She shared a brief case study vignette of Dr. Sanée Bell, principal, Morton Ranch Junior High, Katy, Texas. Bell, a principal who is rumbling with vulnerability said this, “I changed the narrative of our school by growing power with people through distributive and collaborative leadership, and by empowering others to lead. Ultimately, being true to who I am as a person, respecting my journey, and owning my story have given me the opportunity to lead in a deeper, more meaningful way” (2018, 181). According to the school’s website, Ellen Barnes serves as the school librarian. I would love to talk with her about working and coleading with her principal.

Living into Our Values: I think the leading quote for this section is so very true. “Who we are is how we lead” (2018, 165). I believe that our core values in librarianship are “who we are” and are our source of strength and power. When we remain true to our values, we can respond to tough conversations and difficult situations.

As Brown writes, “living into our values means that we do more than profess our values, we practice them. We walk our talk—we are clear about what we believe and hot important and we take care that our intentions, words, thoughts, and behaviors align with those beliefs” (2018, 186). She provides three steps toward this practice. First, we must be able to clearly articulate our values. Brown defines this as integrity. “Integrity is choosing courage over comfort; it’s choosing what is right over what’s fun, fast, or easy; and it’s practicing your values not just professing them” (2018, 189). Secondly, others must see our values evidence in our behavior. And thirdly, we must develop empathy for others and cheer them on while practicing self-compassion for our own steps and missteps toward consistently practicing what we preach.

Braving Trust: Brown cites Charles Feltman who authored The Thin Book of Trust. Feltman defines trust as “choosing to risk making something you value vulnerable to another person’s actions” (quoted in Brown 2018, 222.) Trust is at the heart of relationships and must first be given to others in order for it to develop.

She provides seven categories in her “Braving Inventory,” behaviors that demonstrate trust: establishing boundaries, reliability, accountability, value (keeping confidences), integrity, nonjudgment, and generosity (225-226). Trusting requires courage and “building courage with a partner or in a team is more powerful than doing it alone” (Brown 2018, 227).

Learning to Rise
Resilience is essential for all of us today and is especially critical for decision-makers. “Grounded confidence is the messy process of learning and unlearning, practicing and failing, and surviving a few misses” (2018, 165). Leaders will inevitably make missteps. Owning and learning from mistakes is the hallmark of a true leader.

Standing Up for Our Values
For me, Brown’s work speaks to the need for all educators and school librarians, in particular, to stand up for our values. In our role as leaders, our library values will be put to the test if decisions are made that limit students’ access to the library or threaten their privacy or confidentiality; if books or other resources are challenged or banned, or students’ choices for reading materials are restricted in some other way. When we lead from the library as the center for literacy learning, our values will be tested.

Brown writes that daring leaders who live into their values are never silent about hard things. “Our values should be so crystallized in our minds, so infallible, so precise and clear, and unassailable, that they don’t feel like a choice—they are simply a definition of who we are in our lives. In those hard moments, we know that we are going to pick what’s right, right now, over what is easy. Because that is integrity—choosing courage over comfort; it’s choosing what’s right over what’s fun, fast, or easy; and it’s practicing your values not just professing them” (2018, 189).

There is abundant food for thought in Brené Brown’s work. I invite you to dive in and find the wisdom she has collected through her research and consulting practice. Read Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts or Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone (2017). Search for her TED Talks or YouTube videos. You will find inspiration for our work.

Work Cited

Brown, Brené. 2018. Dare to Lead. Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts. Vermillion: London.

Side Note: In the month of February, I will write about Brown’s Dare to Lead section focused on empathy (pp. 118 – 163). For me, this was one of the most powerful components of the book. For school librarians, her work in this area relates directly to relationships with library stakeholders as well as to collection development.

Professional Book Review: The Age of Accelerations

For the month of January, I will be reviewing professional books. In December, 2019, I had the opportunity to read from my ever-tall stack of professional books. I am reviewing them this month in hopes that you may have read them and will make a comment, or you will be inspired to seek out these titles and read them (and then make a comment).

The Inspiration
I have long been a devotee of Thomas Friedman. I “found” Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations, published in 2016, at just the right time and am so glad to have read it now when, like many of us, I need a bit of optimism. This New York Times bestseller earned additional recognition including the Wall Street Journal’s “10 Books to Read Now” (in 2016!) and one of Kirkus Reviews’ “Best Nonfiction Books of the Year.”

Friedman opens this book with the inspiration for the book’s title. While waiting for someone who was late in arriving for an appointment with him, Friedman had twenty minutes “to spare.” With nothing else on his calendar and not knowing when the person would actually arrive, he sat quietly with his thoughts. These moments of reflection were when he made connections among thoughts that had been on his mind… and the thrust of this book was born.

The Age of Accelerations
Friedman is spot on with his conclusion that in the “age of accelerations” very few, if any, of us can keep up with the rapid pace of change. In Friedman’s view, 2007, the year the iPhone was introduced, marked the beginning of this “age.” In the book, he elaborates on three accelerations that have, since then, stretched humankind beyond our limits:

  • Technology (Moore’s Law)
  • Globalization
  • Climate Change

When describing technology acceleration, Friedman makes the connection to Moore’s Law, which states that computer processing speeds double every two years. He also talks about the “Supernova,” better known to us as “the cloud.” And for better or worse, good or evil intent, Friedman notes the Supernova serves as amplifier of human behavior.

Global markets have changed the employment and economic landscape for people, businesses, and corporations around the globe. He cites many corporate thinkers in this book; this quote on the topic of globalization stood out to me: “Our institutions spend so much time working on how to optimize returns on financial capital. It is about time we started thinking more about how to optimize returns on human capital” (Auguste Copra, cited on page 238).

Mother Nature is Friedman’s personification for climate change and the loss of biodiversity. We have, very tragically, breached the 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere (See 350.org) and cannot ignore the impact of human activity on our shared home. Friedman notes that there will be over 9 billion people on the planet by 2050 (when my grandson will be just twenty-eight-years old). Of that 9 billion, a growing number will be climate refugees. “Globally, 1 in every 122 humans is now either a refugee, internally displaced, or seeking asylum. If this were the population of a country, the report said, it would be the world’s twenty-fourth biggest” (report from United Nations Refugee Agency in 2016).

K-12 Education Connections
Clearly, technology is a driving force in education today. With all of the benefits of the Supernova at their disposal, K-12 students and educators have many opportunities to positively influence their own future and the future of the plant. Friedman notes that successful youth (and adults) are those who take advantage of all the free and inexpensive tools and flows coming out of the Supernova.

As we all know, the current and future workforce will require continuous learning. “Mother Nature is the opposite of dogmatic—she is constantly agile, heterodox, hybrid, entrepreneurial, and experimental in her thinking” (303). School librarians could use this phrase to describe and self-asses our work with students, classroom teachers, specialists, and families.

I appreciate that Friedman discussed “ownership cultures” in the context of the teaching profession. In ownership cultures, people must first and foremost own their work and learning. He included this quote from Andreas Schleicher, who runs PISA exams: Successful schooling systems have a “high degree of professional autonomy for teachers… where teachers get to participate in shaping standards and curriculum, and have ample time for continuous professional development” (322). They are successful because they are engaged with the tools of their own craft, rather than serve like chefs whose only job is to reheat someone else’s cooking (322). Amen.

The Need to Pause, Build Empathy, and Re-connect
These three accelerations result in the imperative to exist (and thrive?) in a constant state of destabilization (35). This requires flexibility, adaptability, and necessitates reflection. While technology has made waiting obsolete, succeeding today requires patience—the patience to think and reflect. When you pause in the age of accelerations, you have the opportunity to reflect, rethink your assumptions, reimagine what is possible, reconnect with your most deeply held beliefs (Dov Seidman, CEO of LRN, quoted on page 4).

Friedman discusses the need for members of our global society to build empathy—to be able to see the world through another person’s experience. He quotes a Talmudic staying: “What comes from the heart enters the heart.” (13) and notes that caring ignites caring; empathy ignites empathy (152). He also notes the need for human contact that includes face-to-face interaction.

He warns that: “In the age of accelerations, if a society doesn’t build floors under people, many will reach for a wall—no matter how self-defeating that would be” (153). Cultures must address people’s anxiety about the present and the future. We must offer one another a “home.”

I have always thought of libraries as “homes” for their communities—places where they have to take you in, places that are “family.” “It is so much easier to venture far—not just in distance but also in terms of your willingness to experiment, take risks, and reach out to the other—when you know you’re still tethered to a place called home, and to a real community” (452-453).

Work Cited

Friedman, Thomas L. 2016. Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

New Edition: Jim Trelease’s Read-Aloud Handbook

It is my pleasure to review the newest edition of Jim Trelease’s Read-Aloud Handbook. When I was serving in K-12 schools and classrooms, I always had the latest edition at hand for my personal reference as well as for the classroom teachers and families whom I served. First published in 1982, this 8th edition includes updates, new chapters, and additional sub-sections in the “giant treasury of great read-aloud books,” which is the heart of this book.

Co-author and editor Dr. Cyndi Giorgis, professor of children’s and young adult literature at Arizona State University’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, has updated the statistics found in previous editions. In her introduction, Cyndi includes references to research that provides evidence for the critical importance of frequent regular reading and the benefits of reading aloud. She cites current stats for the consequences for youth, particularly those living in poverty, who lack literacy skills that can lead to them dropping out of school. She convincingly makes the case that illiteracy hurts individuals, families, and communities.

Informational Chapters
In addition to the introduction, there are ten powerful chapters that support reading aloud as a pathway to literacy as well as family, classroom, and school community building. Some of the chapter titles are familiar and some are new. Cyndi revised the chapter related to media and writes about digital books and Internet resources in “The Impact of Electronic Media on Reading.” She has added two new chapters: “Visual Literacy and Reading Aloud” and “The Significance of the Read-Aloud Experience.”

In the “Sustained Silent Reading (SSR) and Reading for Pleasure” chapter, Cyndi addresses many questions that have plagued school librarians for many years, such as the efficacy of reading incentive programs, Lexile levels, and enlisting administrators’ support for SSR. One section that especially caught my attention, “How Did Oprah So Successfully Get People Reading?” It is Cyndi includes some thoughts about how the word “club” and literature discussions were keys to Oprah’s success. If you are starting a student, educator, and/or family book discussion group, you may find some inspiration in that section. It was notable to me that Cyndi moved the chapter about dads reading to children to the fifth chapter (up from chapter nine in the previous edition). In “The Importance of Dads,” Cyndi provides strategies for getting dads involved in family reading.

The Treasury
The updated “giant treasury of great read-aloud books” includes the classic literature you will expect to find as well as books with publication dates as recent as 2019. There are two new sub-sections: “Stories with Rhyming Verse” and “Nonfiction.” These two sections are particularly important and show that the co-author/editor has aligned the treasury with the needs/preferences of young children and storytime providers as well as with those of school-age children and educators.

Throughout the treasury, Cyndi includes pull-outs with thematic, topical, and genre-specific collections such as “Cyndi’s Favorite Picture Books About Self-identity,” “Cyndi’s Favorite Sports Picture Books,” and “Cyndi’s Favorite Biographies.” These are particularly useful to address classroom needs and make it easier for parents, classroom teachers, and librarians to respond to read-aloud requests.

Professional Collection for Educators and Families
School librarians will, of course, agree that all stakeholders—children, families, students, classroom teachers, administrators, and public librarians, too—have a shared responsibility to create the conditions in which youth will be eager and effective readers who are motivated to become lifelong readers and learners.

If you are a school librarian who no longer purchases print resources for a professional collection for colleagues and families, please make an exception. Display a copy on the circulation desk. Start conversations about the importance and long-term impact of books read aloud. Invite students, classroom teachers, administrators, and families to share their favorite read-aloud books and check to see if their favorites are listed in the treasury. Take “write-ins” and add them on sticky notes.

The revised and edited 8th edition of Jim Trelease’s Read-Aloud Handbook is available now. Purchase one for your own use, one for your library collection, and if your of my generation, one for your adult children to share with your grandchildren to ensure the young people in your care are hearing the best of the best in children’s and middle-grade literature.

Work Cited

Trelease, Jim, and Cyndi Giorgis. 2019. Jim Trelease’s Read-Aloud Handbook, 8th ed. New York: Penguin.

The Stories We Share: A Guide to PreK-12 Books on the Experience of Immigrant Children and Teens in the United States

In the month of August, I am blogging on WOW Currents. You can access today’s post “Guided Inquiry Design: Explore and Identify Phases.”

The first three August School Librarian Leadership posts are focused on professional books related to the posts on WOW Currents.

I did not have a copy of Ladislava N. Khailova’s book The Stories We Share: A Guide to PreK-12 Books on the Experience of Immigrant Children and Teens in the United States as I prepared the Inquiry into Prejudice and Discrimination Explore Pathfinder of nonfiction and informational books and resources for IS445: Information Books and Resources for Youth. I requested it through interlibrary loan and it arrived near the end of the summer semester.

Since prejudice and discrimination based on culture, race, and documentation was a subsection of the pathfinder, Ladislava N. Khailova’s book would have been helpful to me. In “Chapter 1: Why Share Books on Immigrants?” she makes a strong case sharing immigrant youth-centered titles as a way to challenge intercultural misunderstandings that lead to unsubstantiated bias (4). The author cites political economic and social psychology research that describes how stereotypes and prejudice are formed and reinforced in individuals and in society, particularly as applied to the immigrant “Other.”

With references to Rudine Simms Bishops mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors metaphor for multicultural literature, Khailova emphasizes the power of story to offer immigrant youth positive reflections of their heritage cultures and communicates that they are welcome in the U.S. For dominant culture youth, multicultural literature can dispel the myth of superiority and contest ethnocentrism, particularly during times of nationalistic fervor. When young people of diverse backgrounds read and discuss pro-diversity multicultural literature in classrooms and libraries, educators and librarians (and parents) create opportunities for cross-cultural understanding that conquers prejudice.

Using award-winning book lists, Ladislava N. Khailova annotated 101 preK-12 books centered on first- and second-generation U.S. child or teen immigrants. She used two major sources to identify these titles: Lisa R. Bartle’s Database of Award-Winning Children’s Literature which is a free online database, and a subscription database: Children’s Literature Comprehensive Database.  The author has created a free online database of The Stories We Share titles included in the book. It is searchable by national/ethnic/religious affiliation; first-/second-generation; male/female protagonists; genre; reader grade-level bands; and historical period.

The annotations/chapters are organized by geographic regions: Asia (37 titles); Latin American and the Caribbean (31 titles); Europe (20 titles). Khailova combines Africa (8 titles) and the Middle East (5 titles) in the final chapter. (She notes that Oceania and non-Hispanic North America are not represented in these 101 titles.) She draws connections between the percentage of immigrants from various regions with the numbers of books published based on immigration stories from each region and the dominant cultures relative level of acceptance of immigrants from each area. In her annotations, she both summarizes and evaluates these books and offers discussion questions for readers. The author introduces each chapter with background on the U.S. immigration histories of subgroups from each geographic region. She includes extensive endnotes, a bibliography, and a comprehensive index as well.

Since the Latin American and Caribbean chapter is focused on contemporary immigrants, I focused my search for nonfiction titles in that chapter. I was specifically looking for Mexican and Central American immigration books that would further develop my pathfinder. The online database made it easy to find the few titles focused on Mexican immigrants. Unfortunately, there is a dearth of books that have earned awards that meet my criteria for nonfiction from this region.

I recommend The Stories We Share: A Guide to PreK-12 Books on the Experience of Immigrant Children and Teens in the United State for educators/librarians who are developing collections, curriculum, and programs. While the inclusion of “award-winning” titles only limits the number of titles identified and annotated, it does offer vetted books while it points to the lack of representation of immigrant experience literature in mainstream U.S. publishing for children and young adults. I would venture to say that many other worthy titles have been published that have not earned awards… but not nearly enough to approach the percentage of children and teens who are first- and second-generation immigrants to the U.S.

Going beyond multicultural literature to include international books is also challenging for educators/librarians. Even award-winning titles from non-U.S. publishers may take time (years!) before they are available for distribution in the U.S., if ever. These books are so infrequently purchased by public libraries (which are my current sources for these titles).

In that context, I recently had the opportunity to experience the international “Visual Narratives: Connecting Across Languages and Cultures” on display at the Worlds of Words International Collection of Children’s and Adolescent Literature housed at the University of Arizona. These “wordless books” tell stories from the perspectives of children/authors/illustrators from around the world. The visual narratives are rich with cultural markers and show how book creators and publishers in other countries offer worldviews different from those of mainstream U.S. creators and publishing houses. The exhibit is on loan from the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) “Silent Books” collection.

If you live in Tucson or visit our city before January, 2020, please make time to browse/read/view “The Visual Narratives:Connecting Across Languages and Cultures” exhibit. It is open during Worlds of Words open reading hours: Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Work Cited

Khailova, Ladislava N. 2018. The Stories We Share: A Guide to PreK-12 Books on the Experience of Immigrant Children and Teens in the United States. Chicago: ALA.

Childism: Confronting Prejudice Against Children

In the month of August, I am blogging on WOW Currents. You can access today’s post “Guided Inquiry Design: Open and Immerse Phases.”

Each of the four August School Librarian Leadership posts are focused on professional books related to the posts on WOW Currents.

There is at least one common value that educators share that leads us to our career choice. We care deeply about the lives, learning, and well-being of other people’s children. Unfortunately, in my opinion, that is not the case for far too many educational policymakers and adults living in the United States today.

In the first online class session for IS445: Information Books and Resources for Youth, I read aloud For Every Child: The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in Words and Pictures by Caroline Castle, illustrated by various notable children’s picture book illustrators (2000). This book beautifully and powerfully conveys the articles of the Convention. After reading, I cited information about the number of signers on the UN Convention and the fact that the United States has not signed. IS445 graduate students were surprised. I invited them to dig deeper to find out why. For me, the answer to that question is “childism.”

WOW Book Study
In our first or second meeting, a colleague in our Worlds of Words professional book study made connections to “childism.” (Our book study focused on Suzanne Choo’s book Reading the World, the Globe, and the Cosmos: Approaches to Teaching Literature for the Twenty-first Century.) “Childism” was a term with which I was previously unfamiliar. Our colleague recommended reading a book by Elisabeth Young-Bruehl: Childism: Confronting Prejudice Against Children (2012).

“Childism” can be defined as prejudice against children and teens based on their age and vulnerability. Elisabeth Young-Bruehl goes even further. She states that childism is “prejudice against children on the ground of a belief that they are property [of their parents and society] and can (or even should) be controlled, enslaved, or removed to serve adult needs” (37). Young-Bruehl describes how adults are failing our collective responsibility to young people by not to recognizing “childism” along with racism, sexism, ageism, and other prejudices.

“Childism could help identify as related issues child imprisonment, child exploitation and abuse, substandard schooling, high infant mortality rates, fetal alcohol syndrome, the reckless prescription of antipsychotic drugs to children, child pornography, and all other behaviors or policies not in the best interest of children” (7). (The author also makes a connection between childism and the fiscally irresponsible behavior of the U.S. Congress that mortgages our children’s futures with astronomical indebtedness.)

Young-Bruehl believes that when adults take time and learn to see the world from the perspective of a child, we can help make the world a safer, saner, happier place for all our children–our future. In her psychotherapy practice, Young-Bruehl listens to adults who retell their childhood experiences. From their experiences, she has heard shocking evidence to support statistics that show the U.S. has the highest rates of child abuse among first-world nations. The U.S. also incarcerates more children than any other country in the world; many of these children are themselves victims of abuse and neglect. Reading this book influenced the inquiry question that I used to model the Guided Inquiry Design Framework (Kuhlthau, Maniotes, and Caspari 2012) for our class.

Inquiry Question
Hearing authors Susan Kuklin and Andrea Warren speak at the Tucson Festival of Books (TFOB) in March, 2019, further ignited my passion for this topic. Kuklin’s book We Are Here to Stay: Voices of Undocumented Young Adults (2019) and Warren’s book Enemy Child: The Story of Norman Mineta, a Boy Imprisoned in a Japanese American Internment Camp During World War II (2019) pushed me to think even more critically about this question.

Before reading Childism or attending the TFOB, I had a compelling interest in current issues surrounding prejudice and discrimination, specifically against immigrants and refugees. I live in Tucson, Arizona, sixty miles from the U.S./Mexico border. People crossing the southern border seeking work and a better life for themselves and their families has long been an everyday, politically charged issue in our community. This issue is currently heightened by the city’s humanitarian decision to provide safe havens for asylum-seekers.

All three combined (Childism, young adult literature, and our Tucson community’s activism) resulted in this overarching (essential) question for an Explore pathfinder of nonfiction books and information resources:

Is it important that students interact with global nonfiction and informational books and resources when they investigate prejudice and discrimination as it impacts the lives of young people today?

Childism
Reading Childism convinced me this was the inquiry question I wanted us to pursue as an example for the class. As noted by author Elisabeth Young-Bruehl, a “prejudice” is a “belief system” rather than a “knowledge system.” It is based on stereotypes that are applied generally to all members of a population. Many adults (some education policymakers included) use a child’s natural dependency as a reason to deny them rights, to undermine their agency and capacity for choice and voice as well as critical thinking.

Young-Bruehl refers to prejudices as “fantasies” that can operate at a conscious or unconscious level that lead to actions that harm others. This means to me that adults as well as children can and should be educated to recognize childism as a prejudice to be uncovered and addressed. Since our IS445 course focused on books and resources for youth, I set out to help graduate students see the world of ideas and information from a young person’s perspective—to see youth as agents in their own learning who should have the authority to make choices, express their voices, and apply critical thinking to issues that affect their lives and the lives of their global peers.

In Childism, the author shares information from The Irreducible Needs of Children: What Every Child Must Have in Order to Grow, Learn, and Flourish (2000), a book written by T. Berry Brazelton and Stanley I. Greenspan, physicians who are staunch advocates for children. Young-Bruehl shares the seven needs and notes that the seventh puts the other six in context: “Throughout the world future generations of children and families will be much more interrelated. In order to protect the future of one child, we must protect it for all” (cited in Young-Bruehl 2012, 279).

If you read only the introduction, first chapter “Anatomy of a Prejudice,” and the last “Education and the End of Childism,” you may, like me, begin to notice the consequences of childism in many aspects of education policy and other areas of U.S. society. This book made an enormous impact on my thinking and on my planning for IS445: Information Books and Resources for Youth.

Like Young-Bruehl, I believe that all children have the right to a healthy childhood and the right to be educated responsible world citizens. Do you?

Side note: If you are interested in reading about why the U.S. is the only country that has not ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, please read information published on the ACLU website on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Convention.

Work Cited
Young-Bruehl, Elisabeth. 2012. Childism: Confronting Prejudice Against Children. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Reading the World, the Globe, and the Cosmos

In the month of August, I am blogging on WOW Currents. You can access today’s post “Inquiry into Nonfiction and Informational Global Literature Focused on Prejudice and Discrimination against Children and Teens.”

Each of the four August School Librarian Leadership blog posts are focused on professional books related to the WOW Currents posts

Along with members of the Worlds of Words (WOW) Board of Advisors, I have been engaged in a monthly professional book study of Suzanne Choo’s Reading the World, the Globe, and the Cosmos: Approaches to Teaching Literature for the Twenty-first Century. The other members of the study group regularly teach children’s and young adult literature in universities across the U.S. and in Mexico. As a library science professor who mostly teaches courses related to school librarian leadership and instructional partnerships, I have rarely had the opportunity to focus on literature per se in my teaching.

This summer, I taught “IS445: Information Books and Resources for Youth” for graduate students pursuing degrees and certifications as school librarians and children’s and teen public librarians. I joined the WOW professional book study group in order to consider ways to privilege global literature in IS445. In our course, we defined global literature as a comprehensive term that encompasses both international and multicultural literature that “honors and celebrates diversity, both within and outside the United States, in terms of culture, race, ethnicity, language, religion, social and economic status, sexual orientation, and physical and intellectual ability” (Hadaway and McKenna, 4-5).

In Reading the World, the Globe, and the Cosmos: Approaches to Teaching Literature for the Twenty-first Century, Suzanne Choo critiques pedagogical approaches to teaching literature in English: nationalistic, world, global, and cosmopolitan. My interpretation of Choo’s framework for pedagogical criticism is that it centers on approaches informed by conceptual values that are shaped by global and nation-state forces that create “global waves” that extend beyond the classroom, geographic region, world, and globe (see Figure 1.2 on page 23).

Nationalistic Approaches
Choo makes a strong case for the historical impermanence of the borders of nation-states. She notes that, in the past, we have misguidedly examined literacy texts as representative of nations of the world when national boundaries and the movement of people across them has always been dynamic. With that understanding, there have always been “interpretive communities” that have assigned meaning and value to texts, privileging some over others. Choo offers publishers, reviewers, and award committees as examples of entities/people who mediate between texts and readers. What is “beautiful” art or “good” literature has always been judged based on changing mores and values bounded by cultural considerations. In that light, readers can and must take a critical stance regarding what has previously and is currently considered the “best” texts.

Literacy educators (including librarians) also serve as mediators who select, promote, employ, and privilege certain texts for student engagement. They also intervene in readers’ motivation or deeper understanding of texts through various instructional strategies. School- or institution-level decisions also come into play in terms of what texts are sanctioned or “acceptable.” Although the number of traditionally published books that meet the needs of readers in our increasingly multicultural U.S. society are growing, they are insufficient. Today’s preK-12 students must be invited to explore the cultures and experiences of ever more diverse classmates and U.S. peers… and in the opinions of our book study members, they must also explore beyond our country’s borders.

The World
Where is the “world” view in literature? Choo argues that “a world paradigm subscribes to a belief about the good of teaching literature that is tied to the goal of world citizenship as articulated via concepts of collective taste and universal humanity” (83).

Choo offers many examples including the concept of the “ideal citizen” as penned by the late 18th-century, early 19th-center German writer and statesman Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. She summarizes Goethe’s world citizen as one who privileges the world over the provincial, universal over the particular, and common humanity over one’s own countrymen (73). Choo goes on to write about how this universal concept of humanity “takes over the religious function of the Absolute or God” yet is based in Christianity. In this context, there will be texts that win (are included) and texts that lose (are excluded).

She suggests (and critiques) four approaches to teaching world literature. The first approach: Teach students to read across historical time and geographical space; this was the way early world literature courses (1900–1930s) were organized. The second approach: Teach English, U.S., and global literature in English with a focus on readers reflecting on the global, political, and philosophical ideas of the time in which they were created. The third approach: Use literature to make history (facts) come alive! (I just witnessed how contemporary nonfiction and informational books can make historical/contemporary events and issues vivid.). The fourth approach: Integrate literature with other subjects through thematic units; her critique of this approach suggests a fear that literature will be marginalized by disciplinary content.

Globe
What is the difference between a “world” and a “global” literature pedagogy? Suzanne Choo captured my goal for IS445 in this quote: “The teaching of global literature is used to describe approaches aimed at promoting a global mindset in students so that they will perceive themselves and others as members of an interconnected global village” (91). Considering the current political climate in the U.S. and various European countries, in particular, the focus on human rights over citizenship rights seems timely to me.

Choo mentions the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989), When it was written, the Convention on the Rights of the Child was the most widely and rapidly ratified human rights treaty in history. While the United States signed this Convention in 1995, no U.S. president has sent it to the Senate for ratification. (If you agree this is unconscionable, see next week’s post about “childism.”)

I appreciated Choo’s perspective on the differences between the flat map view of the world and the spherical reality of the Earth. She suggests that a “world” depiction of the planet suggests that parts make up the whole; while a spherical “global” view suggests the whole is made up of parts. (This resonated with me in light of the 50th anniversary of the moon walk. I was eighteen at the time and clearly remember the awe-inspiring view of the spherical Earth from space.) “Education that emphasizes spherical seeing of the human prioritizes students’ consciousness of themselves as citizens of the human race first followed by citizens of their nation or community” (96).

The Cosmos
To be honest, Choo lost me in the “cosmos” section of the book. While I found support for a shared urgency for privileging global perspectives, I did not as clearly see the cosmopolitan frame. “This idea of shared community and shared responsibility for each other and the fate of the human species is the starting point for a new kind of cosmopolitanism that might help us better transact the devaluing of our intellectual labor in the present age of neoliberal globalization” (xi). For me, the global view does result in a shared community and shared responsibility for the fate of humanity and for our planet.

In my quest to increase graduate students’ ability to build empathy through exploring diverse worldviews and experiences through nonfiction and information books and resources, I didn’t understand the need to go further than the globe. For educators and librarians who have been “schooled” in multicultural literature and education, globalizing curricula seems to me to be the next frontier. Leaping to the cosmos would be, I believe, too giant of a leap. That said, I hope to learn another perspective from my colleagues as they implement cosmopolitanism in their courses.

Works Cited

Choo, Suzanne S. 2013. Reading the World, the Globe, and the Cosmos: Approaches to Teaching Literature for the Twenty-first Century. New York: Peter Lang.

Hadaway, Nancy L., and Marian J. McKenna. 2007. Breaking Boundaries with Global Literature: Celebrating Diversity in K-12 Classrooms. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

Image Credit

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

Reading Dangerously

At the June, 2019 American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference in Washington, D.C., I attended the Freedom to Read Foundation’s (FTRF) 50th Anniversary Celebration. I wrote about the celebration on my blog on July 1, 2019. The FTRF is a non-profit legal and educational organization affiliated with ALA. Supporters helped crowdfund the event by purchasing tickets and the FTRF’s book. Reading Dangerously: The Freedom to Read Foundation Marks 50 Years (2019) in advance of the event. I jumped at the chance and am so happy I did.  This post is about the book and the work of the FTRF.

I can still remember my excitement during my very first class in my first course as a library science graduate student. The course was “Foundations” and the First Amendment and the Library Bill of Rights were the topics for the opening class session. I remember the satisfaction I felt knowing that activism would be part of my everyday work as a librarian. I also remember telling my husband and daughter that night at the dinner table how deeply pleased I was to learn that librarianship was political.

Reading Dangerously opens with an introduction by Neil Gaiman. As Gaiman writes, the First Amendment means that we will be called upon to “defend the indefensible. That means you are going to be defending the right of people to read, or to write, or to say, what you don’t say or like or want said” (v). But as he also notes that willingness to defend free speech means that your own speech commands defending, too. The next section of the book is a powerful statement by the FTRF’s founder Judith Krug: “We were trying to develop a total program in defense and support of the First Amendment, and that’s basically what we’ve done… The Freedom to Read Foundation is the last step…. When all else fails, then we can go to court.”

The Foundation has three primary activities:

  • The allocation and disbursement of grants to individuals and groups for the purpose of aiding them in litigation or otherwise furthering FTRF’s goals;
  • Direct participation in litigation dealing with freedom of speech and of the press.
  • Education about the importance of libraries and the First Amendment to our democratic institutions (https://www.ftrf.org/page/About).

And go to court they have… In collaboration with the American Civil Liberties Union and other organizations, the FTRF has supported plaintiffs and defendants across the U.S. as they seek legal remedies for upholding the First Amendment. The book includes a timeline and brief summaries of selected cases held over the past fifty years. With my lens as a librarian focused on young people’s rights, these are some of the highlights from that timeline. (Note: There are several interpretations of the Library Bill of Rights that relate to the rights of youth.)

Board of Education, Island Trees Union Free School District V. Pico (1978): In this case, a student challenged the school board for removing nine books from school libraries, including Soul on Ice and Black Boy. This case went all the way to the Supreme Court where the student prevailed. (*This one was on the test in the Foundations course!)

Selected other challenges to children’s and young adult literature included Sund V. City of Wichita Falls, Texas (2000) resulted in returning Heather Has Two Mommies and Daddy’s Roommate to library shelves. Counts V. Cedarville (2003) required the school board to return the Harry Potter books to school library shelves. The FTRF has provided many grants to librarians who are fighting censorship; fortunately, in most instances, books are returned to library shelves and cases do not end up in court.

Other cases that jumped off the page for me involved a grant to fund the legal defense “Pentagon Papers” authors Daniel Ellsberg and Anthony J. Russo, Jr. (1973). U.S. Department of Justice V. American Library Association (1997): ALA prevailed in a case that struck down the Communications Decency Act of 1996 that sought to limit First Amendment rights on the internet. The U.S. government and ALA went to court again (2001) regarding the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) that required public libraries to employ blocking software that both over-blocked and under-blocked websites deemed harmful to children. The ruling gave libraries leeway in finding less restrictive ways to protect children’s online safety.

But the cases closest to home made me especially proud to be part of this profession and a supporter of the FTRF. After a five-year battle, the FTRF and the Tucson Unified School District Mexican American Studies program prevailed (2018) over the Arizona Superintendent of Instruction and other state officials. This case successfully challenged an Arizona statute that “prohibited the use of class materials or books that encourage the overthrow of the government,” or “promote resentment toward a race, or class of people,” and are “designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group,” and “advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of people as individuals” (53-54). This academically focused program had successfully motivated at-risk students and kept them in school. Although the legal battle took its toll, the district’s (renamed) Ethnic Studies Program was able put the contested materials back on the shelves in classrooms and school libraries.

The FTRF supports Banned Books Week through grants to libraries and others who sponsor public events and discussions centered on intellectual freedom. The book includes excerpts from nine of the most frequently challenged books between 2013 and 2017; seven of which were written for children and young adults.

The final section of Reading Dangerously was contributed by James LaRue, Director of ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom. His chapter should be required reading for every librarian and library science student in the U.S. Many of the intellectual freedom challenges that have faced our patrons, our librarian colleagues, our communities, and our country in the last fifty years continue today. It is imperative that the FTRF and librarians across the country remain vigilant and true to our core values. As LaRue writes: “FTRF is now, and should continue to be, a principled and focused voice for the rights of all to explore the ideas within and around us” (179)—emphasis added.

Thank you, Freedom to Read Foundation. When we go about our daily practice of librarianship, we are true to our values and supported by the FTRF when we keep First Amendment rights and intellectual freedom foremost in our minds as we:

  • Competently select materials for libraries that offer multiple perspectives and worldviews;
  • Design displays and programs that meet the needs of all library stakeholders;
  • And educate our patrons through resources, programs, teaching, and the example we model as engaged global citizens who uphold democratic rights and responsibilities as we serve our communities.

Considering joining the FTRF today! https://www.ftrf.org/page/Membership

 

Work Cited

The Freedom to Read Foundation. 2019. Reading Dangerously, The Freedom to Read Foundation Marks 50 Years. Chicago: ALA.