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.

Reflection on #ALAAC19

I think it’s important to reflect on any learning or teaching experience. The American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference (AC) is one of those professional development opportunities that compels us to do so. I appreciate ALA and conference participants who post to social media #alaac19 for making that easy. ALA provides a “Looking Back” page on the conference website and will be adding session recordings in four to six weeks. Presentation handouts are available via the conference mobile app.

Of course, meetings, obligations, and choices make it difficult to take full advantage of all ALA AC has to offer. Focusing on the glass half full, I want to share my stand-out experiences.

On Friday morning, my roommate Connie Champlin and I snagged same-day tickets to the must-visit National Museum of African American History and Culture, the newest Smithsonian Museum. We spent most of our visit in the history section of the museum and only had a brief time to take in the culture section. The primary source documents, commentary, and interactive displays are moving and pull no punches. There were many African American children, teens, families, and groups touring the museum. There were numerous times when I wish I could have known how other visitors were responding to the exhibits. I wondered, especially, as I watched a young boy counting bodies in a drawing of a slave ship hold. By contrast in the culture section, Chuck Berry’s cherry red Caddy really shines! (I can’t help it; I grew up in the Motor City.)

Later that day, we met long-time friends and colleagues at the Holiday House reception. This year it was held at the National Press Club. Just being in the room was a reminder of the critical importance of the freedom of the press in sustaining our right to factual information about our government, including the activities of our representatives in Washington, our nation, and global society.

Friday night and Sunday morning, I represented the Teacher Librarian Division of the Arizona Library Association at the American Association of School Librarians’ Affiliate Assembly. These tweets sum up my understanding of the importance of the Affiliate Assembly.

Steven Yates @HeyLibraraman Jun 23
I remain in awe of @aasl’s Affiliate Assembly. A grassroots group coming together to make sure the @AASL board is informed on what’s happening at the state & local levels for school libraries & school librarians. Most of these amazing members are here on their own dime! #alaac19

And my retweet with comment: Judi Moreillon @CactusWoman Jun 24
#aasl #schoollibrarians take a step up in your #schoollibrarianleadership and become active in your state and national organizations. Learn, network, and contribute to the betterment of our profession. #is445

I have been an active member of the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) since I started my Master’s work in 1990. (Let’s not do the math…) I have served on or chaired numerous committees and task forces as well as served two tenures on the AASL Affiliate Assembly (AA). The AA shares concerns from the field, recommends other organizations for commendations, and serves as a regional networking channel for state-level school librarian associations/divisions. I also am a member of the Educators of School Librarians Section and the Supervisors Section; I attended their meetings as well.

I highly encourage librarians to get involved in ALA and your chosen ALA division (s). You will learn more than you can imagine and meet and befriend countless lifelong colleagues.

Side note: The AASL President’s Program with author/speaker Matt de la Peña was inspiring. He told a bit of his life story, the male role models who influenced him, and his “secretive poet” beginnings that led him to his career as an author. Matt said this, “Books became my place to feel.” In a world where empathy is in short supply, Matt is paying in forward; his books help readers feel…

Attending the 50th Anniversary of the Freedom to Read Foundation (FTRF) Celebration on Saturday evening was one of the highlights of the conference for me. I’m looking forward to reading my copy of Reading Dangerously: The Freedom to Read Foundation Marks 50 Years, with a powerful introduction by Neil Gaiman. Protecting First Amendment rights is the focus of the FTRF; these rights are core values of librarianship. As librarians serving in any location/position, we must stand with other organizations and lend our support for legal action that protects these rights. If you are not familiar with the FTRF, please learn more at: https://www.ftrf.org/page/About

Judi Moreillon @CactusWoman Jun 24:
Wise and timely quotes from @halseanderson. In dark times, “we are all called to bring our light to the table” “Censorship is the child of fear and the father of ignorance.” @ALALibrary Freedom to Read 50th Anniversary Event. #is445 #YAlit #alaac19

Both speakers, Laurie Halse Anderson and Colson Whitehead, were inspired and hard-hitting. I admit I was unfamiliar with Colson Whitehead’s work. I am in queue at our pubic library for the audio CD of The Underground Railroad. (His latest, The Nickel Boys, is still on order.)

On Sunday, I received the Scholastic Library Publishing Award and attended the Newbery-Caldecott-Legacy Banquet. I have a tradition of reserving a table and inviting friends to join me for an elegant evening to celebrate the award winners. Friends that they are, they made me pose with the award. In addition to being among friends and fellow/sister children’s literature lovers, this year’s program was delightfully diverse:

WeNeedDiverseBooks @diversebooks Jun 22
If you haven’t stopped by our #ALAAC19 booth yet, come visit us in Booth 813E for swag! We have signed advanced reading copies of THE HERO NEXT DOOR and more. #WeNeedDiverseBooks

Public and school librarians should be aware of the activism of @diversebooks (https://diversebooks.org/) This organization is taking a public stand for diversity in children’s and young adult publishing. The Hero Next Door is a collection of middle grade short stories edited by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich. (To learn more about the contributors to this collection, search Amazon.) Following @diversebooks and searching Twitter for #weneeddiversebooks are excellent ways to stay informed of this group’s activities.

Yes! We — children, teens, and those who care for and serve them — need diverse books. “Authors, illustrators, publishers, editors, and book review sources share in this responsibility. Working together, book publishing and book promotion stakeholders can ensure that the literature available to children and young adults is of the highest quality and worthy of all readers” (Moreillon 2019, 7).

The 2020 ALA Conference will be in Chicago. See you there?

Best,
Judi

Work Cited

Moreillon, Judi. 2019. “Does Cultural Competence Matter? Book Reviewers as Mediators of Children’s Literature.” Children and Libraries 17 (1): 3-8.

Advocacy: A Long-term, On-going Process

Chapter 8: Leadership and Advocacy Podcast: Virtual Interview with Dr. Ann Ewbank

When advocacy becomes a regular part of a school librarian’s daily practice, then the long-term, on-going nature this work becomes clear. School librarians must always serve stakeholders in such a way as to engender their support for the professional work and leadership of the school librarian and the role of the library program in student learning. The history of school librarianship is clear. School librarians can never rest on their laurels and assume that their positions, library budgets, and programs are safe from cuts when budgets get tight, district deficits loom, or national trends in education shift.

Readers of Ann Dutton Ewbank’s book Political Advocacy for School Librarians: Leveraging Your Influence (2019) can find additional support for stepping out of one’s comfort zone and developing persuasive messages. School librarians can also use the American Library Association’s Library Advocate’s Handbook (2008), which includes guidelines for telling the library story, successful speaking tips, including a speaker’s checklist, and tips for talking with the media and dealing with tough questions.

Advocating for the Program
When school librarians have formed a solid base of support for the contributions of the library program to the school community, they are able to mobilize support from stakeholders when the need arises. Keeping the library program in the spotlight through consistent services and public relations are essential. The school or library website and social media, the school or library newsletter, principals’ communications to families, and local broadcast media outlets are all venues to share the library story.

In her article “Tales of the Crypt,” elementary and middle school librarian Kelly Klober from Danville (AR) shares an exciting Living History project and event that involved students in researching the lives of people buried in the town cemetery. Adult participants in the project included classroom teachers, family members, and other volunteers from the community. Kelly included this as one of her tips for success: “Make friends with the press. We always have incredible coverage from our local newspaper, and our high school’s senior seminar class has always been kind enough to video the event” (Klober 2019, 20).

Advocating for the Position
While some argue that school librarians should not advocate for their own positions, I whole-heartedly disagree. If there were a proposal on the table in your district to eliminate all kindergarten teachers, you can bet that kinder teachers (and their first-grade colleagues, families, and more) would be frontline advocates who could clearly state the need to retain these positions. State-certified school librarian positions are no different. There is research-based evidence that supports the value of having a state-certified school librarian on every school faculty. School librarians should know this research. The following examples are from an article published in Phi Delta Kappan Online by Keith Curry Lance and Debra Kachel (2018).

Given the emphasis on literacy and reading in many schools and districts, it makes intuitive sense that students’ reading and writing scores would be better in schools with a strong library program. In a Washington state study, graduation rates and test scores in reading and math were significantly higher in schools with high-quality libraries and certified librarians, even after controlling for school size and poverty (Coker 2015). Reading and writing scores tend to be higher for all students who have a full-time certified librarian. The Pennsylvania study (2012) found that reading scores for Black students (5.5%), Latino students (5.2%), and students with disabilities (4.6%) where higher when the school had a full-time librarian. Even higher academic gains were evident among student subgroups if their schools had more library staff, larger library collections, and greater access to technology, databases, and the library itself. The 4th-grade NAEP reading data supported the Pennsylvania findings. In states that gained librarians between 2004-05 and 2008-09, average reading scores for poor students, Black students, and Latino students improved more than in states that lost librarians. In states that lost librarians, English language learners’ scores dropped by almost 3% (Lance and Schwartz 2012).

School librarians must advocate for their own positions based on research, on their own practice, and on locally collected student learning data.

Advocacy-at-Large
Inviting print and broadcast media to library program events and writing letters to the editor and op-ed pieces for local newspapers are ways to take the school library story out into the community. School librarians and their advocates can keep school libraries in the minds of the general public as preparation for advocacy appeals and initiatives that will require the support of school boards, families, and voters.

Here are two recently published op-eds that I wrote on behalf of Tucson’s school librarians, libraries, students, educators, administrators, and families.

Missing School Librarians Means Lost Literacy Learning,” Arizona Daily Star, November 3, 2017.

Literacy Matters Every Day,” Arizona Daily Star, March 6, 2019.

And as part of a School Librarian Restoration Project in Tucson Unified School District, TUSD board liaison Kristen Bury of the School Community Partnership Council and I were briefly interviewed by a local news station KGUN9.

Restoration Project Aims to Employ More Librarians for TUSD,” KGUN9 video interview and article.

This letter to the editor was published on April 18, 2019 during School Library Month. “The Library Ecosystem.”

Strategic school librarians engage and enlist others in long-term, on-going advocacy efforts to ensure that school library stakeholders will have equitable access to the resources, instructional and other services, professional expertise, and leadership school librarians and libraries provide. Keeping the public informed is essential when the time comes to seek their support for specific advocacy appeals.

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. How are you engaged in long-term, on-going advocacy?
  2. Who do you need to ask to join you in this effort?

Works Cited

American Library Association. 2008. Library Advocate’s Handbook. 3rd ed. http://www.ala.org/advocacy/advocacy-university/library-advocates-handbook

Coker, Elizabeth. 2015. The Washington State School Library Study: Certified Teacher-librarians, Library Quality and Student Achievement in Washington State Public Schools. Seattle: Washington Library Media Association.

Ewbank, Ann. 2019. Political Advocacy for School Librarians: Leveraging Your Influence. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Klober, Kelly. 2019. “Tales from the Crypt.” Knowledge Quest 47 (4): 16-20.

Lance, Keith Curry, and Bill Schwarz. 2012. How Pennsylvania School Libraries Pay Off: Investments in Student Achievement and Academic Standards. PA School Library Project. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED543418.pdf

Lance, Keith Curry, and Debra Kachel. 2018. “Why School Librarians Matter: What Years of Research Tell Us.” Phi Delta Kappan Online. http://www.kappanonline.org/lance-kachel-school-librarians-matter-years-research/

Building Connections for Learning in the Neighborhood

In my blog post last week, I recommended that people see Emilio Estevez’s film The Public when it is available in their community. This week I MUST follow up that recommendation with another. Won’t You Be My Neighbor?—a film about the life, work, and empowered positive impact of the amazing Fred Rogers—is a touching, sweet, emotional, and illuminating film about a man who made an incredible difference in the lives of countless young children and their families.

I have always remarked that one attribute that separates educators from (many) other adults is that we care about other people’s children. School librarians whose “kids” are all the young people in their schools must have expansive hearts to accommodate the personal and academic needs of all the youth we serve.

Effective and caring school librarians create a climate of welcoming acceptance in the library that extends out into the school and into the surrounding community. We achieve that through library programs that affirm diversity, insist upon equity, and strive to help all learners (students, educators, and parents) achieve their capacity to think, create, share, and grow.

This film made so many connections for me with our work in school libraries. These are just a few of them.

In the themed episodes for Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, Fred addressed children’s feelings about war, divorce, race, and other timely topics. He did not talk down to children. He did not shield them from the realities of their lives because he respected their intelligence. Fred Rogers was a courageous educator and friend to children. Today’s educators should be as courageous in helping learners express their feelings and deal with real-world problems and issues.

Our daughter watched Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood is the 1980s. I distinctly remember the pace of Mr. Rogers’ show compared with other children’s programming at the time. It was slower, in many ways more thoughtful, and allowed viewers thinking and feeling time. With today’s focus on academic, social, and emotional learning in many schools and districts (see CASEL), there is much for educators to consider in terms of a slower pace. We can carve out the necessary time students need to integrate their learning into their lives by making time for reflection and time for sharing with others.

The Guided Inquiry Design Framework (Kuhlthau, Maniotes, and Caspari 2012) that includes sufficient time for students to immerse themselves in questions of their own making acknowledges the emotional aspects of learning. As Carol Kuhlthau (2013) found in her research on the information search process, inquirers pass through various emotions as they pursue learning. If Fred Rogers had known about inquiry learning, I believe he would have agreed that such a process is respectful of learners’ emotions as well as their intellect.

One of the most powerful scenes in the film is when Fred Rogers testified at a Senate hearing regarding funding for the Public Broadcasting System. At the hearing, Senator John O. Pastore promised to read Fred’s prepared statement but asked him to talk extemporaneously in his oral testimony. Mr. Rogers began his response by telling the senator that he trusted him to keep his word and read the statement, which Fred has so carefully prepared. Then, he sang him a song about children feeling fearful and developing trust—a song sung from Fred’s heart that went straight to Senator Pastore’s heart. At the end of the song, the senator simply said, “You got the $20 million.”

This is a vivid reminder that when we are advocating for school library programs that help all learners succeed, our knowledge and data do matter. But it’s our stories that touch the heart; they are most often the aspect of our advocacy work that helps people make difficult decisions. Changing people’s minds through their hearts works.

These are some of the quotes from the film that made powerful connections for me and may serve as words of wisdom for today’s educators.

“’Won’t you be my neighbor?’ Well, I suppose it’s an invitation. It’s an invitation for somebody to be close to you” (Fred Rogers).

“Love is at the root of everything – all learning, all parenting, all relationships. Love or the lack of it. And what we see and hear on the screen is part of who we become” (Fred Rogers).

“Someone smiled you into smiling; sang you into singing; read you into reading” (Fred Rogers paraphrase from the film to the best of my memory).

I believe that educators can care students into caring about their own well-being, the health of our/their country, and the future of our planet. When we care for our “neighbors,” we model the empathy that is essential for living, working, and succeeding in a global society.

Thank you, Mr. Rogers, film director Marvin Neville, the film’s producers, and others who brought Fred Rogers’ knowledge, perspective, and heart to the screen. I also believe we become what we see and hear on the screen. I want Won’t You Be My Neighbor to be part of my becoming.

References
Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning. “CASEL: Educating Hearts. Inspiring Minds.” www.casel.org.

Kuhlthau, Carol Collier. 2013. “Inquiry Inspires Original Research.” School Library Monthly 30 (2): 5-8.

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.

Image Credit: Sign distributed by Peace Centers across the U.S.

Question to the Internet Movie Database: What does it take to earn a ten?

 

Empowered Citizenship

From my reading of the news, activism among young people is on the rise. The tragedy of school shootings has activated young people, educators, families, and citizens in powerful ways. School librarians and other educators can apply what we have learned from our own advocacy efforts and activist experiences to help youth exercise empowered citizenship.

Last fall, I read You’re More Powerful than You Think: A Citizen’s Guide to Making Change Happen by Eric Liu. The author is the founder and CEO of Citizens University, an organization based in Seattle, Washington that promotes effective citizenship. Liu says he wrote this book for underdogs and challengers. “It’s for people who want to be change agents, not defenders of the status-quo” (Liu 2017, 11).

It takes courage to act on what you believe in, especially when there are powerful institutions and traditional structures in place that your beliefs will disrupt. The ideas in this book are important for anyone—younger or older—who is working to make positive change happen in society.

These are a few of my takeaways from this book and some ways that school librarians across the country are advocating for school libraries staffed by professional librarians and effective school library programs that can serve the needs of empowered students, educators, and families.

“Movements that truly change a society will cohere only when intuitive and uncoordinated activity becomes intentional and well-coordinated” (Liu 2017, 113). The call to intentional, well-coordinated action is a foundation of any successful change process. This can be said of effective instructional planning and professional learning as well as of social movements and advocacy efforts.

In his book, Eric Liu notes three opportunities for people to demonstrate they are more powerful than they (or others) think they are. Reading more about these three strategies is well worth the time.

1. Power creates monopolies, and is winner-take-all. You must change the game.
2. Power creates a story of why it’s legitimate. You much change the story.
3. Power is assumed to be finite and zero-sum. You must change the equation (71).

One way the Lilead Fellows have been thinking about their school library services action plans and advocacy activities is by crafting 27-9-3 messages (27 words, spoken in 9 seconds, with three points – see 01/01/18 blog post). John Chrastka from EveryLibrary.org and collaboration among the Fellows have been instrumental in honing messages to make them more effective for their intended audience(s). These messages are about changing the “game” and the “story.” They are about building relationships in order to share power for the benefit of students.

“To be sure, the citizen’s view of power is not selfless. It is often quite selfish. But whereas self-help and self-advancement focus on the individual, often in isolation, citizen power is about identity and action in the collective: how we make change happen together” (Liu 2017, 11).

These are two examples of how school librarians are working to maintain and improve effective school library services.

News from Washington State – Contributed by Dr. Christie Kaaland, Core Faculty, Antioch University
In response to a teacher shortage, the state’s educational standards board made a rapid unilateral decision to eliminate all coursework requirements to becoming a teacher librarian (along with 25 other content areas) in Washington state. Teacher librarian advocates rose to the cause and aggressively contacted standards board members.  The board was flooded with emails, phone calls, and on-site testimonials resulting in an overturn of this reduced standards’ decision by the board.  This advocacy work happened swiftly, professionally, and timely and resulted in retaining the coursework requirements for all of the 26 content-area certification standards.

News from Michigan – Contributed by Kathy Lester, School Librarian/Technology Integrationist and MAME Past President
On February 8, 2018, the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) published a memo that was sent out to all school districts. In essence, it said that if the person in the school library is doing x, y, z (a list of things from the Michigan certification preparation standards based on certification laws), districts need to have a certified school librarian in place or the district may be financially penalized by losing a small portion of their per pupil funding.

MDE’s intention was to work with districts to grow staff (by earning certification) and provide temporary permits.  However, because only 8% of Michigan schools have full-time certified librarians (and 18% have part-time certified librarians), there was a huge push back from superintendents (and legislators) especially from rural districts in Michigan’s upper peninsula.

As a result, MDE re-wrote the guidance without the Michigan Association of Media Educators’ (MAME) knowledge. Unfortunately, it basically says “anything goes” in school libraries including having paraprofessionals run the library. This “clarification” went out on February 15th.

MAME feels the sting of this setback in an advocacy effort they have been working on since 2013. Still, they are not giving up. They are reorganizing their efforts and rethinking their next moves. As Kathy notes, advocates must keep the five Ps in mind: – present, polite, prepared, positive and persistent.

School librarians can be leaders in modeling effective citizenship and collective action. We can be transparent in our activities and show students, our classroom teacher colleagues, and administrators that it takes organization and persistence. We must also show that the road to change will have its ups and downs but setbacks cannot stop us if we collaborate with a cadre of committed activists and remain true to our moral compass.

Our numbers and our ideals can be sources of power as we seek to ensure empowered learning and teaching through school libraries.

Side note: We can start with being active in our national association and vote! Ballots are available and voting starts today through April 4th. Please consider #Judi4AASL

Work Cited
Liu, Eric. 2017. You’re More Powerful than You Think: A Citizen’s Guide to Making Change. New York: Public Affairs.

Image Credit: Remixed by Judi Moreillon from Thurston, Baratunde. 2008. “I Am A Community Organizer.” Flickr.com. https://www.flickr.com/photos/baratunde/2837373493