Inquiry into Global Information Books and Resources: Reflection

In the month of August, I have been blogging on WOW Currents. You can access today’s post “Inquiry into Global Nonfiction and Informational Literature: Student Learning Outcomes and Reflections.” This is the final WOW Currents post for this 4-part series.

Today, library science students and I will launch the second course I will be teaching for the iSchool at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. This course “School Library Media Center,” which focuses on the instructional partner and information/technology specialist roles of school librarians is in my teaching “sweet spot.” I wrote the course textbook and have been teaching similar courses since 1995…

The course I’ve been writing about and reflecting on this month, “Information Books and Resources for Youth,” was a leap out of my past experience and comfort zone. I was excited to prepare and teach it and it stretched me in “good” ways. These are my takeaways from this teaching/learning experience.

Explore Pathfinder
It is my habit to complete every assignment I assign to students. For me, that is the only way to ensure that the assignment directions are clear, the assessment is aligned with the assignment objectives, and to ensure that there is plenty of room for students to engage creatively with the project. For this course, I created an annotated pathfinder to help learners access global information books and resources to explore the question of prejudice and discrimination against children and teens.

I organized the annotated bibliography/pathfinder by genre (in order to reinforce key course vocabulary) and format of nonfiction and information books and resources as well as subtopics within each genre. Curating these resources was and will continue to be a “passion project” for me. I have since read a memoir that I will add to this resource, How Dare the Sun Rise: Memoirs of a War Child by Sandra Ywiringiimana. It is my hope that IS445 graduate students and any educator or student who curates resources that are personally meaningful will make a commitment to continually add to their work and share it for the benefit of others.

Student Learning Products and Feedback
It was encouraging to me that fourteen out of twenty students developed final projects for the course that included global nonfiction and informational books. Please see today’s WOW Currents blog post. Although all students in the course did not embrace the value I hold for global nonfiction and informational books and resources as pathways to understanding, empathy, and compassion, most students found a new or renewed commitment to identifying compelling resources to support student learning. In addition, many embraced inquiry learning as an effective practice for student engagement, meeting curricular demands, providing student choice, and amplifying student voice.

My Reflection
When I analyzed the results of the pre- and post-course surveys, I wondered why I had asked the question about ranking genres. I gave the students a list of eleven genres and asked them to rank them from most powerful to least powerful in terms of offering readers opportunities to develop empathy, compassion, and their understanding of human diversity. Although all IS445 students reported in the post-course survey that they had moved nonfiction and informational books up in their rankings, I fully believe the impact of a text “depends.” It depends on their purpose for reading. It depends on the timing in the reader’s life—their prior experiences and their current questions. It depends on the reader’s background knowledge and connections to the topic and themes raised in the text. It depends on the reader’s familiarity with or preferences for a genre or format, or “need” for visuals, or… It just depends.

That said, similar to the students who moved their rankings up for narrative nonfiction and memoir, I also discovered/rediscovered my enjoyment and value for these genres. In particular, I have not been drawn to memoirs and will now seek out more to read and pay more attention to those that cross my path and screen. These were some students’ final reflections, used with permission.

IS445 student Sara DeGraff, 8th-grade math teacher and future school librarian, wrote this in her final course reflection: “Exposing people to stories about others in similar situations or hazardous situations could create that empathetic feeling. When you have empathy, you can have a want to take action. Reading autobiographies, memoirs, and biographies can help create that empathy. … If we continue sharing people’s stories, we can create global citizens.”

IS445 student Becky Oberhauser wrote this in response to a classmate’s reflection: “I think what we’ve learned in this class will help all of us try to take on a global perspective when building collections for kids or when doing reader’s advisory. I liked that you said that informational text is the key to help students see their common humanity… Fictional texts may prompt emotions, but students may not develop the same passions to help others from them because the stories aren’t real.”

IS445 student and middle school teacher M. Albrecht wrote this: “It was very eye-opening to even consider that non-fiction books could be used for promoting a sense of empathy within students… In the future, I will try and make nonfiction resources just as enticing to the youth in my charge as I do fiction resources, whether it be in the form of guided inquiry design, creative displays, or hooks… If we, as educators and librarians, help cultivate that empathy by providing them with resources to expand their horizons and fostering their sense of inquiry, they will be able to figure out how they as individuals can help any being anywhere in the world.”

Student Choice and Voice
This course involved students in inquiry projects in which they determined the topics for study and in small groups or individually pursued curating nonfiction and informational books and resources to share with youth. I hope students understood that my trust in their ability to chart their own learning (with support) and exercise agency (within the stated course description and objectives) was a model for how they can create guided inquiry opportunities for youth in their care.

“In the context of the age of communication, mass media, and the information revolution, criticism’s ties to discrimination is grounded on a belief that students would be empowered as they develop the capacity to discriminate and critically evaluate all kinds of texts in multiple modalities within the global flow of information” (Choo 2013, 101).

It is my sincere hope that IS445 student felt empowered in our course; I trust they will pass it on.

Work 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.

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

 

Explore Phase: Annotated Bibliography Pathfinder

The Explore Pathfinder is an essential feature of the Guided Inquiry Design (GID). This can be in the form of a hands-on text set or annotated bibliography. A text set is “a set of materials that is provided by educators or created by students that helps learners investigate a topic, theme, problem, or dilemma. A text set is usually comprised of hard-copy printed materials and can be effectively combined with a web-based pathfinder of electronic resources” (Moreillon 2018, 178). These resources are selected by educators to invite learners to “dip in” and explore a sampling of resources that support the overarching inquiry question.

The goal of these resources is to prepare and support students before they develop their own inquiry questions. Their questions will be based on the overarching essential (inquiry) question for the learning experience. Learners skim and scan these resources for ideas that connect with their interests or information that sparks their desire to know more. Purposeful skimming and scanning are essential reading strategies, particularly online. In an information-rich environment, the ability to weed out the extraneous and identify promising resources is essential.

Annotated Bibliography
The annotated bibliography was a staple of librarians’ work long before the dawn of the Web. (Way back in the Dark Ages) I can remember my high school librarian providing students with printed bibliographies comprised of print-only resources and reminders to access the printed Readers’ Guide to Periodical Literature. (If you are too young to remember it, Google it. Of course, now there is an online database version.) I believe my approach to using those bibliographies was that they were the “final” word on the topic and I need not look any further.

By contrast, the Explore pathfinder/annotated bibliography is intended to be a jumping off place for students. As they “dip in,” they will uncover other resources mentioned in the text or in the books’ bibliographies or source notes. They will discover names, places, events, and subtopics that may not be included in the pathfinder resources that they will want to pursue. They may also realize there are human resources that can support their inquiry and take their learning far beyond the starting place of the pathfinder.

Types of Informational Books
The image above shows four types of nonfiction/informational books we are exploring in IS445: Information Books and Resources for Youth. We Are Here to Stay: Voices of Undocumented Youth by Susan Kuklin (Candlewick 2019) is shelved in the 300s social science section of a Dewey library. Andrea Warren’s book Enemy Child: The Story of Norman Mineta, a Boy Imprisoned in a Japanese American Internment Camp During World War II (Holiday House 2019) is a biography found in the 92s. Racism and Intolerance from the Children in Our World Series (Barron’s 2017) and written by Louise Spilsbury and Hanane Kai is an expository informational book, also shelved in the social sciences. And Don Brown’s The Unwanted: Stories of the Syrian Refugees (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2018) is an informational book presented in a graphic novel format, which is shelved in the 900s history section of the library.

Each of these types of informational resources may be more or less accessible to individual skimming and scanning inquirers. Some readers may gravitate toward narrative nonfiction titles that pay attention to literary elements, such as characters, settings, plot, themes, and the like. Others may appreciate the primary source documents in a well-written, well-researched biography. While others may be more inclined to reach for expository books with tables of contents, glossaries, indexes, bolded keywords, and more. Still others may gravitate toward non-traditional formats—graphic novels, ebooks, audiobooks, and more. Others will go straight to the computer and out on the free Web. Providing a wide array of types of books and other resources organized around subtopics of the overarching inquiry (essential) question may help students avoid frustration and can support them in achieving success.

Coteaching the Explore Pathfinder
Learners’ hands-on, minds-on interaction with an Explore pathfinder/annotated bibliography gives educators opportunities to monitor students’ comprehension strategies. Educators can also probe students for connections to the inquiry topic and push their thinking deeper. They can help individual students use resources effectively and efficiently. When classroom teachers and school librarians collaboratively facilitate the inquiry process, students will receive more individualized attention than one educator working alone could provide. “Guiding students through the Explore phase leads them to form a meaningful inquiry question (of their own making)” (Kuhlthau, Maniotes, and Caspari 2012, 3).

Works Cited

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.

Moreillon, Judi. 2018. Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy. Chicago: ALA.

Election 2018 Resources

“Productive civic engagement requires knowledge of the history, principles, and foundations of our American democracy, and the ability to participate in civic and democratic processes. People demonstrate civic engagement when they address public problems individually and collaboratively and when they maintain, strengthen, and improve communities and societies. Thus, civics is, in part, the study of how people participate in governing society” (NCSS 2013, 31).

The Center for Civics Education (@CivicEducation) was one of fifteen organizations that collaborated on the College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards (NCSS 2013). According to their website, “The Center is dedicated to promoting an enlightened and responsible citizenry committed to democratic principles and actively engaged in the practice of democracy in the United States and other countries” (http://www.civiced.org/about/37).

The Center started in 1965 at the University of Southern California. Researchers have conducted studies related to all five of the projects hosted on this website. The Center’s “Promoting the Principles and Practice of Democracy” video is a worthwhile introduction to their work. Educators who are preparing to connect curriculum with #Election2018 will want to explore the resources available on their site.

The site offers five programs. I have reviewed “We the People” and “Project Citizen” below. The “School Violence Prevention Demonstration Program” provides professional development support for educators who are teaching the “We the People” and “Project Citizen” programs in their classrooms. The James Madison Legacy Project is focused on educator professional development, and Civitas International involves learners in countries around the world.

We the People
This program offers textbooks that include six units of study at three instructional levels: upper elementary, middle, and high school. You can download a two-page summary of the program. If your school or district has adopted these texts or is considering a new social studies/civics adoption, these resources may be important to your classroom-library collaboration. “We the People” videos offer an overview of the program and its impact on student learning.

These are the units in the textbooks:
Unit One: What Are the Philosophical and Historical Foundations of the American Political System?
Unit Two: How Did the Framers Create the Constitution?
Unit Three: How Has the Constitution Been Changed to Further the Ideals Contained in the Declaration of Independence?
Unit Four: How Have the Values and Principles Embodied in the Constitution Shaped American   Institutions and Practices?
Unit Five: What Rights Does the Bill of Rights Protect?
Unit Six: What Challenges Might Face American Constitutional Democracy in the Twenty-first Century?

Project Citizen
This civic education program, geared to middle, secondary, and post-secondary students and youth or adult groups, offers open education resources. The goal of Project Citizen is to promote “competent and responsible participation in state, local, and federal government.” The site offers lessons/units of instruction. The Level 1 lessons are for students in grades 5-8. Level 2 lessons are for secondary and post-secondary students. Lessons are aligned with the Common Core Standards in History/Social Studies.

For example, the four lessons in the “9/11 and the Constitution” unit involve students in reflecting on U.S. ideals and answering the question: “What does it mean to be an American?” The subsequent lessons involve students in learning from various founding documents and completing a questionnaire about how well our country is actualizing these ideals. Students also administer the questionnaire to adults in their homes and communities. The unit concludes with students comparing and discussing the similarities and differences in people’s responses. Finally, students compose an individual or small group statement and cite evidence on how well the American government is fulfilling its purposes as set forth in the Preamble.

As with all published lesson plans and units of study, educators will want to adapt instruction for their students and the context in which the lessons are presented. For #Election2018, students could make connections by examining local, state, and national candidates’ statements to analyze them for “U.S. ideals” as expressed in the Preamble of the Constitution or other governmental documents. They could also examine the prior voting records and statements made by incumbent candidates and determine whether or not the candidates’ statements and actions are consistent. Students could then debate the merits of various candidates using the evidence they found in the candidates’ campaign materials and/or voting records.

Another component of the site involves learners in working together as a class or extracurricular group to identify and study a particular public policy issue. The final product of this project-based learning opportunity is a portfolio that may be presented to other students, civic groups or community organizations, or policymakers.

Both the Center for Civics Education and the Stanford History Education Group (reviewed last week) have resources to offer educators who are building students’ background knowledge, information-seeking and critical thinking skills in order to connect school-based curriculum with #Election2018.

Works Cited

Center for Civics Education. 2018. http://www.civiced.org

National Council for the Social Studies. 2013. College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards. https://www.socialstudies.org/sites/default/files/c3/C3-Framework-for-Social-Studies.pdf

Image Credit:
amberzen. “Vote Button.” Creative Commons CC0. https://pixabay.com/en/vote-button-election-elect-1319435/

Advocating for Authenticity and Diversity in Children’s Picturebooks

If I were in charge of this holiday, all U.S. students be would studying the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy of social justice. They would be reading, discussing, marching, or otherwise working in their communities to bring about positive change.

Students and classroom teachers would also have access to diverse library collections – and most especially school library collections – that provide students with books and resources that represent the diversity of human experience. Since most librarians do not have the opportunity to actually read the print resources they select before they purchase them, they must rely on published book reviews. This means that children’s and young adult book reviewers are mediators between readers and their literature.

During the month of December, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mary Margaret Mercado, Pima County Public Library children’s librarian who reviews children’s and young adult literature for two well-known review sources. Mary Margaret and I are advocates for diversity and live in a community where Latinx students and families are the majority in the largest school district. We walk and talk most weekend mornings and have often shared our concerns and frustrations with the content, quality, and quantity of books that reflect Latinx culture.

To formalize our blog interview conversation, we created a framework for evaluating the cultural components during our discussions. We adapted our framework from Critical Multicultural Analysis of Children’s Literature: Mirrors, Windows, and Doors by Maria José Botelho and Masha Kabakow Rudman and WOWLit’s “Evaluating Literature for Authenticity.”

Publication Practices
1. Who are the author, illustrator, and/or translator?
2. What are their backgrounds?
3. Who was the original publisher?

Authenticity in the Story
1. From whose perspective is the text written?
2. Are characters, plot, and setting authentic, or are stereotypes presented?
3. What do the review sources say, and how have cultural “insiders” responded to this text?

Authenticity in Visual Elements
1. How does the illustrator’s background or research influence the visual elements in this book?
2. What meanings are communicated through the images?
3. Do the visual elements authentically and accurately portray cultural information?

Authenticity in Sociopolitical and Historical Context
1. What kind of first-hand experience or research informs the text?
2. What current or historical factors shape the story or information in the text?
3. How are current or historical power relations reflected in the text?

We posted once each week in December on the WOW Currents blog. The links below lead to each week’s post. With each link, I have shared a comment and my biggest takeaway(s) or remaining question(s) from that week’s post.

Part 1: Goals and Process for Children’s Book Reviews
In the introductory post on December 4, 2017, Mary Margaret shared her background, how she got started as a children’s literature book reviewer, and her reviewing process. In reading this post, you will note that it was from giving a book review editor critical feedback on a particular review that resulted in Mary Margaret being invited to review for that source. She answered a call for reviewers for the other source for which she reviews.

For the most part, Mary Margaret reviews children’s picturebooks and Spanish language or Spanish/English bilingual books. She constructs book reviews in three parts: 1. the story or information, 2. illustrations for visual incongruities or strengths, and 3. cultural components of the book with her recommendation. She believes it’s her job to “to find any negative, inauthentic or inaccurate elements and point them out in (her) review.” Mary Margaret’s cultural insider knowledge for Mexican themed books gives her  a distinct advantage when reviewing Latinx themed books.

Part 1: Further Questions
1. When librarians read book reviews, do we notice whether or not cultural information is included in the review?

2. Do we consider or question the reviewer’s knowledge in terms of assessing cultural authenticity in the work?

Part 2: Publication Practices
In this post, Mary Margaret provides one very clear example of a book in which the author’s and illustrator’s cultural knowledge (or research) was lacking. In her review, she justified her “not recommended” rating with specifics from the story and the illustrations. She also shared information about the importance of language and translation in relationship to authenticity.

Part 2: Takeaway
This was my takeaway from her responses in this post: “Even though I am culturally competent in both Mexican culture and Spanish language as spoken in (parts of) Mexico and the U.S., I would not be a competent translator for a story situated in Cuban or Puerto Rican culture. It is not appropriate to assume that anyone who is fluent in both English and Spanish can effectively translate any story into the other language.”

Part 3: Authentic Picturebook Stories
Mary Margaret offers three recommendations for determining cultural authenticity. These are her suggestions for librarians/reviewers who are cultural outsiders:
1.     If there is humor in the story. Mary Margaret asks herself: “Am I laughing at or laughing with the character?”
2.     In addition to characterization and language use, she examines the plot. She asks: “Who has agency and power in this story? Does succeeding or failing, winning or losing, have any connection to a stereotype about which I am aware?”
3.     Is the story setting authentic?

Part 3: Takeaway
Mary Margaret’s question about publishing Mexican themed picturebooks is this: “’While a rural setting with a poor family may be ‘appropriate’ for historical fiction, I often wonder, ‘Where are the books with middle class Mexican children and families playing video games, using cell phones and flying to the U.S. to visit Disneyland?’”

Part 4: Authentic Picturebook Illustrations
Since Mary Margaret’s responses to authenticity in story were comprehensive, we decided to carry over the conversation about picturebook illustrations to week four (and did not have the opportunity to explore sociopolitical and historical authenticity on the WOW Currents blog). This post about authenticity in illustration is packed with information that cultural outsiders may find especially illuminating.

Since many errors in illustration are not caught by art editors, it seems that librarians will want to consult cultural insiders about authenticity in picturebook visuals. For many that may be after the fact of purchase. Still, books published with errors can be used in classroom-library lessons as examples for what not to do.

Part 4: Takeaways
Mary Margaret identified several author-illustrators whose work is culturally authentic and shows congruity between story and illustration.

Adriana M. Garcia, illustrator of Xelena González’s book All Around Us (Cinco Puntos, 2017). The story honors traditions while steeped in a contemporary setting.

Yuyi Morales’s magical realism illustrations are perfectly aligned with Laura Lacámara’s story Floating on Mama’s Song (Katherine Tegen Books, 2010).

Duncan Tonatiuh’s Mixtex illustration style provides the perfect blend of contemporary and historical elements in Salsa: Un poema para docinar/Salsa: A Cooking Poem by Jorge Argueta (Groundwood, 2015).

Continuing the Conversation

The information in this interview will be part of an article for publication that includes responses to a survey I conducted in which twenty-six children’s and young adult book reviewers participated. I will also share both the survey and this interview at the Texas Library Association Conference on April 4th in my session titled “Intercultural Understanding through Global Literature.”

And please mark your calendars. On Tuesday, January 23rd at 1:00 p.m. Central, AASL and Scholastic Books are offering a free, one-hour webinar titled: Mirror, Mirror, Who Do You See in Your Books? Reaching Diverse Readers. Read about it and consider arranging your schedule so you can participate.

References

Botelho, Maria José, and Masha Kabakow Rudman. 2009. Critical Multicultural Analysis of Children’s Literature: Mirrors, Windows, and Doors. New York: Routledge.

WOWLit.org. “Evaluating Literature for Authenticity.” http://wowlit.org/links/evaluating-global-literature/evaluating-literature-for-authenticity

Image Credits:
Collage created at Befunky.com
Word Cloud created at Wordle.net

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.

Summer Reading…for Fostering Connections

The school librarian who is looking for professional development reading titles to add to his or her summer list has a plethora of books to choose from: titles written by other educators, fellow school librarians and leaders in the field. We may not always consider memoirs or even fiction as reading for professional development. However, titles in this genre can serve as amazing professional development resources. Let me give you a few examples.

1. This summer, my husband and his brother – both of whom are teaching in rural areas in South Georgia – decided to form a mini book club. They are reading The Ecology of a Cracker Childhood by Janisse Ray. If you are interested in this title, the New York Times wrote a detailed review. The reason both Green boys decided to read this title is because it is a memoir written by an author that grew up in the same area (and under similar circumstances) as many of their students. By reading titles such as these, they hope to develop a deeper understanding and knowledge of their students’ background, cultural history, and experiences. Hopefully, this understanding will lead to deeper connections between themselves and their students, and will aid them in teaching their respective subjects in ways that relate better to their kids.

2. When I was 12 years old, my family immigrated to the United States. As many first generation immigrants will tell you, it was a challenging and difficult experience. Sadly, I made the mistake of assuming that my own immigration experience equipped me to understand and relate to the immigration experience of my students in West Texas. It was a mistake that cost me several student and teacher connections. Eventually, I read Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan and When Zachary Beaver Came to Town by Kimberly Willis Holt. Reading these two different stories really helped me to see how immigrating from Mexico to work as a migrant worker in West Texas was a unique experience for my students. It helped me to learn to listen to them more openly, without attempting to layer my own preconceived ideas on top of their stories. It was a beneficial and humbling lesson that helped me become a better school librarian.

Most of us do not teach and serve in the schools we attended as children. We have very different backgrounds and different life stories than those of our students. Reading memoirs and tales written by local authors is a great way to begin exploring the context of where we teach – an insider’s perspective into the communities we serve and the students who live there. This summer, add diverse fiction and local authors to your reading list. Look for stories that will help you develop an empathy and understanding for your school. Here are great places to begin your search:

1. On Twitter: #WeNeedDiverseBooks

2. Curated Lists on WeNeedDiverseBooks.org

3. Local and Independent Book Stores (if you are lucky to have one near you, these often maintain close relationships with local authors and can give you great recommendations).

Happy reading!

Differentiating Instruction as the School Librarian

I’m not sure about you, but it has been *cough, cough* several years since I completed a degree in education and obtained teacher certification. Most of us in the education profession realize that to remain effective and relevant, we must constantly update our skills and keep up with the movements and trends affecting our practice. But sometimes, these trends are cyclical. We see an educational approach or method repackaged or rebranded for a new generation of students. My father is fond of exclaiming “There is nothing new under the sun!” and many times I am inclined to believe he is right. When I first heard the terms: “differentiated instruction,” these brought to mind some of the ideas we have discussed in the field of instructional design for quite some time. Ideas like learner analysis (who are my learners? what do they know? what are their learning struggles? where do they need support?) and content analysis (what am I teaching? What are the key ideas, concepts? What is the best order to introduce these concepts?) were some of the most obvious and immediate connections.

Even so, recognizing “differentiated instruction” as containing approaches we find familiar, and actually enacting and supporting this practice as school librarians are vastly different situations. If we are to collaborate with teachers and support learning for all, then we need to be able to verbalize differentiated instruction, recognize what it looks like, plan for it, and support its implementation. Differentiated instruction is “a way of thinking, an approach to teaching and learning that advocates beginning where students are and designing experiences that will better help them achieve” (Koechlin & Zwaan, 2008, p. 2).

There are four design elements that can be conduits for differentiation:

1. Content (the subject for student mastery, curriculum materials that introduce the subject)

2. Process (student learning activities)

3. Product (student artifacts of learning)

4. Learning Environment (classroom set up and conditions)

When you read through those four conduits, did your eyes light up with recognition? Did you think to yourself: “I do design these four elements differently depending on student needs! I differentiate!” If so, then congratulations! However, if you are struggling a bit to envision how you might have a role impacting these four elements when you are not the classroom teacher, then I encourage you to set aside fifteen minutes this week and read Everyone Wins: Differentiation in the School Library by Carol Koechlin and Sandi Zwaan. In this article, Carol and Sandi list concrete examples of ways you can implement, as well as support differentiated instruction in your school. As the authors state: “connecting kids and content in meaningful ways is the work of all educators, and helping every child achieve is our mutual goal” (p. 2).

 

Resources to Support All Learners

sign_tagxedoThis month the BACC co-bloggers will share thoughts and examples of the school librarian’s role in differentiating instruction so that all learners have opportunities to succeed.

This word cloud image encapsulates many keywords associated with learning through the school library program. The work that school librarians do in their schools is always interdisciplinary and supports students in making connections to crystallize their learning.

English language arts learning objectives related to reading, writing, listening, and/or speaking are part of every lesson we coteach. We collaborate with educators teaching various grade levels and all content areas. The learners we work with have a wide range of background knowledge and are at various measures of proficiency for any skill or strategy we set out to coteach.

How does the library environment support the differentiation that students need to succeed?

Due to ubiquitous access to the library’s electronic resources and the Internet, some classroom teachers and students may think that involvement with the library’s print collection is unnecessary. For those who take that view, I highly recommend reading “Why digital natives prefer reading in print: yes, you read that right,” an article that appeared in the Washington Post on February 22, 2015. The article notes: “Readers tend to skim on screens, distraction is inevitable and comprehension suffers.”

I have had this experience more times than I can count. After introducing an online pathfinder of electronic resources, high school students quietly call me over to whisper in my ear, “Isn’t there a book about this?” Classroom teachers are often surprised by such student requests; I am not.

With the print and electronic resources of the library and the Internet, school librarians develop expertise at integrating resources in multiple genres and formats into students’ learning opportunities. Of course, classroom book collections offer some range of resources, but the library collection’s range is far wider. School librarians develop print collections at the widest possible range of reading proficiencies on topics that cover all areas of the curriculum.

School librarians’ ability to connect the “just right” resources to meet each learner’s needs is one of the strengths, in terms of differentiation, that we bring to the classroom-library instructional partnerships.

Works Cited

Rosenwald, Michael S. “Why digital natives prefer reading in print: yes, you read that right.” Washington Post.com. 22 Feb. 2015. Web. 02 Mar. 2015 >http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/why-digital-natives-prefer-reading-in-print-yes-you-read-that-right/2015/02/22/8596ca86-b871-11e4-9423-f3d0a1ec335c_story.html>.

Word cloud created at Tagxedo.com

The “L” Team

super-hero-red-cape-hi 

Are you a member?  Do you have your flashing cape and shiny literacy toolbox ready to come to the aid of your local classroom teachers and learners? What’s in your toolbox to help teachers personalize literacy for all their learners?

Resources for literacy should not be an either/or choice for investing in schoolwide literacy programs. In some schools, classroom collections are funded at the expense of school library collections. In some schools there is zero, or limited budget for both, so classroom teachers and teacher librarians are scrambling to find donations or write grants to provide needed materials for students. Some school rely on textbook programs.  Some schools have robust resources for classrooms and libraries. What’s it like at your school? In order to address the individual challenges of each school, literacy leadership teams should represent a cross section of educators in a school. The teacher librarian needs to be at the table and on the team.

Classroom collections are an important resource for literacy instruction. School library collections provide a breadth of materials in multiple formats that extend and support reader choice for information and enjoyment in and beyond  the classroom.  A selection of current and relevant resources chosen by a knowledgeable teacher librarian, benefits all the members of the school community, and provides a great return on investment.  Both of these resource collections are important components of a dynamic and nimble literacy program.  Teachers and teacher librarians are natural partners for the literacy team.

Working with classroom teachers in the classroom as co-teachers, or in the library space, teacher librarians have opportunities to guide emerging, developing, or passionate readers and writers to discover literacy as a joy, not a chore in life. What do you bring to the literacy table?

Here a few ideas for the “L” team toolbox-either for face to face collaboration or on your virtual website or blog:

  • A chart that compares reading-grade level systems: Lexile Levels, DRA, Fountas & Pinnell, Ready Recovery, etc. (Talk the talk, walk the walk)

  • In person or with a screencast, demonstrate the power of the digital library catalog. Reveal the hidden secrets to searching for and discovering reviews, awards, formats, or reading levels in the display record. (Train the trainer)

  • Updates for new books, materials, or author websites on your blog/website. Tweet it out to teachers at your local school #. (Be social)

  • Book talks, book trailers, book discussions with teachers. Set up a Goodreads share site. Select a new outstanding book for a small group or whole school discussion.  Feature a CH/YA author, or a title to inspire discussion, such as The Book Whisperer (Miller, 2009), or Reading in the Wild (Miller and Kelley, 2013.)

  • Book clubs for students, and invite teachers, parents, or community members to take part. Choose themes or genres to begin, and then let others do the choosing and leading.

  • Extend literacy lessons for the classroom into the library. For those on a fixed schedule, coordinate with the classroom teacher around themes, genres, or skills.  Or flip it-introduce them in the library classroom and send selections back to the classroom.

  • Help teachers set up routines to supplement their classroom collections with library resources. Let students take responsibility to curate materials that they think the class would enjoy.  (Small book trucks with wheels work well for rotating physical collections.)

  • Skype/Hangout with authors or other experts in literacy.  (Share ideas, and generate new ones.)

  • Listen to the concerns and challenges of classroom teachers, and be ready to problem solve solutions to help them transform literacy learning in the classroom and the whole school.

 

These are just a few of the ideas that I have tried with success, and I’m sure you have many more.  So grab your cape and toolbox and join the team!


References:

Miller, Donalyn. The Book Whisperer.  San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2009. print.

Miller, Donalyn and Susan Kelley.  Reading in the Wild. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2013.

Image:

http://www.clker.com/cliparts/k/2/V/1/s/j/super-hero-red-cape-hi.png