Literacy Partners Become Advocates

Judi Moreillon Author Visit 2019 Louisville, KentuckyFor as long as I’ve been in the profession (30+ years), advocacy has been a hot topic in school librarianship. Unfortunately, far too often we start our advocacy efforts when school librarian positions are threatened, library budgets are slashed, or scheduling changes inhibit students’ access to the resources of the school library or the expertise of the school librarian.

To ward off these threats to a complete and equitable education for our students, school librarians must be in a continuous cycle of marketing, public relations, and advocacy.

Data Sources
Marketing involves listening to and learning from our library stakeholders. We must understand their needs as well as their perceptions of how the librarian and the library program can help them meet their needs. School librarians often engage stakeholders in surveys to collect these data. Once collected, we analyze the results and make the appropriate changes to our programs.

There are, however, other sources of data that can also guide our school library program decisions. The International Reading Association (ILA) conducts a biennial “What’s Hot in Literacy Survey.” Comparing this larger data set and national trends and initiatives in education to our own local data collection can further guide our program decisions.

The 2019 ILA survey results appeared in a 2020 report that points to three actions school librarians can take to demonstrate how their work helps elevate the literacy learning of students and positions them as literacy partners with classroom teacher colleagues, administrators, and families.

I wrote about these school librarian contributions in my hot-off-the-presses Literacy Today article “School Librarians as Literacy Partners: Taking Action on the What’s Hot in Literacy Report” (2021).

Early Literacy Skills Instruction
Elementary school librarians are in a position to influence outcomes for preschool children in their learning community. In many cities across the country, various governmental and non-governmental bodies are taking up the charge for high-quality early childhood education. Research has shown that children’s positive preschool learning experience put them on a path for academic and life success (U.S. Department of Education).

Here are three examples of supporting preschool children from my own practice as an elementary school librarian (two schools) and literacy coach (one school).

  • At Corbett Elementary (1994-1997), I offered preschool storytimes for the Head Start program that met on our campus. We also earned a grant to create literacy backpacks. Each backpack included at least one book, a journal, a toy or other prop, and literacy learning information for Head Start families.
  • At Gale Elementary (1997-2001), I was a half-time librarian with a full-time assistant. At first, she and I collaborated to plan a weekly storytime and book checkout for the developmental preschool program held on our campus. In a short time, our assistant offered this service on a day when I was not on campus.
  • At Van Buskirk Elementary (2001-2002), I served as the literacy coach. The Spanish-speaking community liaison and I offered a before-school family literacy program for parents. After they escorted their school-age children to their classrooms, we held a storytime and book-making, or other literacy learning experience for parents and preschool-age children.

Equity and Opportunity for All Learners
Equity continues to be a top five critical issue in the ILA survey, and it is a core value of school librarianship. Erika Long and Suzanne Sherman frame the equity chapter in Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage: “Equitable access is a matter of social justice” (Long and Sherman 2021, 3).

Making a commitment and taking courageous action to serve as equity partners to ensure equitable access to rich and relevant literacy learning experiences in our schools is a leadership role for school librarians. While school librarians have been keenly aware of the opportunity gaps that were exposed during school closures, all educators and education decision- and policy-makers have now gotten a wake-up call.

“School closures during the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the critical need to address equity in terms of access to digital resources and technology devices, which may or may not have been available in classrooms” and students’ homes (Moreillon 2021, 11). These learning tools should have been available through school library programs.

Providing Access to High-quality Diverse Books and Content
School librarians are charged with making access to high-quality diverse books and content universally accessible throughout the school. Librarians must curate a collection of resources that reflect the diversity of the students, educators, and families we serve. We must also expand the collection to include broader national and global perspectives on the human experience.

In our role as instructional partners, we can go the next and critical steps. “We then take our knowledge and commitment—our purpose—and use it to transform the collections throughout the school, including classroom collections and the books chosen as classroom texts. For our students, seeing themselves in the library is not enough—they need to see their rich and whole selves in the curriculum and school community, too” (Stivers, Powell, and Lambert 2021, 34).

Literacy Partners Become Advocates
When school librarians take action to meet the needs of our library stakeholders, we engender advocates for the library program and our role as literacy learning leaders. The relationships we build with our literacy partners combined with the evidence of impact we collect create the foundation for continuous advocacy efforts. Then, when and if there is a threat to educational equity that affects the school library program, our advocates and the data to support our cause will be at the ready.

Works Cited

Long, Erika, and Suzanne Sherman. 2021. “Equity: Equitable Access Is a Matter of Social Justice.” In Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage, ed. Judi Moreillon, 3-18. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Moreillon, Judi. 2021. “School Librarians as Literacy Partners: Take Action on the What’s Hot in Literacy Report.” Literacy Today (March/April): 10-11. Available at http://viewer.zmags.com/publication/b46eaa78#/b46eaa78/12

Stivers, Julie, Stephanie Powell, and Nancy Jo Lambert. 2021. “Diversity: Diversity in Resources and Programming Is Not Optional.” In Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage, ed. Judi Moreillon, 19-35. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

U.S. Department of Education. “Key Research Studies on Early Learning Effectiveness.” https://www.ed.gov/early-learning/research

Black History and Women’s History All Year Long

Core Values in School Librarianship Book Cover and Quote#AASLchat organizers and I are on the same wave length when it comes to celebrating Black History, Women’s History, and all of the “months.” Diversity in resources, teaching, and programming are most effective when diversity is essential to the classroom/library curriculum all year long.

The AASL February chat will be held tonight, 2/22/21, beginning at 7:30 EST. You can read about it in an article by Chelsea Brantley and the AASL School Library Event Promotion Committee on the KQ Blog.

For me, “providing students with equitable access to relevant, engaging, and culturally responsive curriculum, resources, and programming must be essential to our mission” (Moreillon 2021, 150). Coplanning instruction with classroom teachers gives school librarians the opportunity to privilege diverse voices, cultures, and contributions throughout the curriculum.

These are the #AASLchat questions followed by my tweets and comments.

Q1 Black History Month is in February, but why not celebrate all year? What are some practical ways librarians can differentiate instruction to support learners’ understanding of cultural relevancy and placement within the global learning community? #AASLchat

Book CoversA1 Conducting #diversity audits, not only for the library collection but also for lessons and unit plans and programming, is essential. These sample resources span the content areas and grade levels. #AASLchat #Kidlit #MGlit #YAlit

Math and Science: Hidden Women: The African-American Mathematicians of NASA Who Helped America Win the Space Race (Encounter: Narrative Nonfiction Stories) by Rebecca Rissman (Capstone 2018).

History and Civic Education: Kamala Harris: Rooted in Justice by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by Laura Freeman (Atheneum 2020)

Music and Culture: R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul by Carole Boston Weatherford (Atheneum 2020) with stunning illustrations by Frank Morrison

Q2 Libraries share stories of people from all walks of life. What books do you share with students to celebrate diversity? #AASLchat

Book CoversA2 American Indians’ experiences/contributions often left out of curriculum. Connect current events w/ #diverse resources. Ex: NM U.S. Rep. Debra Haaland, Pueblo woman & candidate 4 Secretary of Interior. What cultural values will she bring to this position? #AASLchat

Ancestor Approved: Intertribal Stories for Kids by Cynthia Leitch Smith (Heartdrum 2021)

Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom, illustrated by Michaela Goade (Roaring Brook 2020)

Nibi Emosaawdang / The Water Walker (Ojibwa / English Edition) (Ojibwa) by Joanne Robertson, translators Shirley Williams and Isadore Toulouse (Second Story Press 2018)

Q3 Thinking ahead to March and Women’s History Month, let’s curate some resources to share with our students in the coming weeks. Identify a resource or two and how you might integrate it in your library program. #AASLchat

Book CoversA3 Feature #OwnVoices of Black (& other) women during Women’s History Month. Ex: Make these connections w/social studies curriculum or biography/autobiography unit. Compare first-hand accounts w/textbook/informational book content. #AASLchat

Child of the Dream (Memoir of 1963) by Sharon Robinson (Scholastic 2020)

My Life with Rosie: A Bond Between Cousins by Angela Sadler Williamson and Chloe Helms (Kate Butler Books 2020)

Ruby Bridges: This Is Your Time by Ruby Bridges (Delacourt Press 2020)

An additional word or two about Ruby Bridges: This Is Your Time: This small book is a love and grace letter from Ruby Bridges to young children, in particular. On left-hand pages, Ms. Bridges begins the book with a paragraph or two about her six-year-old experience of integrating a White school in New Orleans (1960) and continues with how the commitment to civil rights has impacted her/our lives. Primary source black and white photographs on the right-hand pages illustrate her text. All are cited. I can imagine an elementary educator using each double page in this book as a discussion/writing prompt in and of itself. Powerful.

Thank you to Chelsea and the School Library Event Promotion Committee for organizing the 2/22/21 chat around questions that focus on how to expand our spotlights on Black History and Women’s History, not solely during the months of February and March respectively, but all year long. We appreciate you for publicizing and publishing the questions in advance so that participants can think about our responses and organize the resources we want to share.

Then we can truly listen and learn from one another during the chat!

See you there!

Work Cited

Moreillon, Judi. 2021. Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Teaching and Re-Teaching Black History

Book Cover: A Black Men's History of the United StatesAlthough I think spotlighting the people, literature, culture, and life experiences of specific groups has a place in our academic programs, I always hope that the “months” do not prevent us from addressing the diversity of human experience at every grade level in every content area throughout the school year.

For example, we know our history textbooks lack the perspectives and first-hand experiences of diverse voices–even when studying a historical event such as post-Civil War Reconstruction that should be centered on the lives of freed slaves. In these cases whenever they occur, it is up to librarians and other educators to engage students with primary sources and literature that share Black experiences and perspectives that are all too often missing in the textbook.

That said, and since I am no longer teaching, I have made Black History Month a time to deepen my own knowledge and understanding of Black history and culture. Last Friday on the PBS NewsHour, historian Dr. Daina Ramey Berry, who chairs the history department at the University of Texas at Austin, offered her “Brief but Spectacular Take on Understanding the Past to Live a Better Future.”

Dr. Berry is dedicated to rethinking the way we teach American history to all students. Her latest book, which she co-authored with Dr. Kali Gross. is titled A Black Women’s History of the United States (Beacon Press 2020). (I have requested the book from our public library; the following information is based on reviews.) The book includes diverse and complex voices from the first African women who arrived on the land that became the United States through to today’s Black women. The authors showcase enslaved women, freedwomen, religious leaders, artists, queer women, activists, and women who lived outside the law. Reviews indicate A Black Women’s History of the United States would be useful for high school as well as for adult readers.

Using Primary Source Documents to Teach and ReTeach History
Not only did I learn about their book in Dr. Berry’s Brief but Spectacular, I also learned about the Teaching Texas Slavery project. Dr. Berry serves as an advisor on the project. From the website: “The Teaching Texas Slavery Project seeks to help teachers rethink the teaching of slavery and race within the context of the K-12 Texas history curriculum… This project involves a two-part process for disseminating content and instruction on how to teach race and slavery. The first part offers an open-access website for using primary source documents on this topic. The second provides workshops on how to use the materials housed on the website. The overall goal is to transform the teaching of slavery and race across the K-12 social studies curriculum.”

The site includes:

  1. Background information, maps from contact (1528) through Texas statehood (1865);
  2. Concepts related to race and racism;
  3. A pedagogical framework for studying race and racism; and
  4. primary source records and documents (for students to study).

While the site is particularly valuable for educators teaching in Texas, the framework and documents could be used by educators in other parts of the country as well.

This work made a connection for me to a Guided Inquiry Design® inquiry unit I developed for middle school students designed to be cotaught by school librarians and classroom teachers in Denton, Texas. Denton County Before, During, and After the Civil War (2014) focused on using primary source documents to interrogate history prompted by the Confederate monument that stood on the Denton town square until June, 2020).

Literature Connection
Book Cover: The UndefeatedI would definitely invite students, educators, or anyone to begin any inquiry into Black history with Kwame Alexander and Kadir Nelson’s powerful, award-winning picturebook The Undefeated (Houghton Mifflin 2019). Framing teaching and re-teaching Black history in the United States in terms of the strength, perseverance, and resilience of Black people can help all students begin to understand the past and start to appreciate how far our country has come and how far we have yet to go in actualizing “liberty and justice for all.”

Reference

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.

Racial Literacy, Civil Rights, and Civic Education

Photograph of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and word art: courage, justice, nonviolence, transformation and moreWe honor the lasting legacy of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the third Monday in January. This national holiday is particularly timely in 2021 when recent civil unrest has ripped the political and social fabric of our nation. We are now at a decision point for re-weaving the tear and moving forward together toward a more just future for all Americans.

Were he alive today, I believe Dr. King would demand that we take this opportunity to affect positive and enduring political and societal change. To that end, I join with many of our fellow citizens who call for a time of awakening and reckoning with a history of injustice in order to co-create a space for healing, envisioning, and taking action for justice.

“A democracy must be reborn anew every generation, and education is its midwife.” – John Dewey

And as John Dewey noted, education is necessary to ensure the future of a democracy. If I were in charge of the world, which I am clearly not, students would be in school today and adults would be gathered in library and community spaces to engage in civic and civil dialogue around issues of democracy and justice.

Last week, I spotlighted the upcoming Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action, February 1-5. This week, I want to share a few more resources that have awakened me in the past week.

Racial Literacy
The Ancona School is a progressive private school in New York City. Last week, the school hosted a conversation titled “Doing the Hard Work: Racial Literacy and Education, with Dr. Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz.” Dr. Sealey-Ruiz is a professor at Teachers College, Columbia University. She founded the Racial Literacy Project in 2016.

In the conversation, Dr. Sealey-Ruiz made a strong case for why racial literacy must be taught in schools. Educators can guide students in constructive conversations around race and racism and how it impacts people’s lives. Race is a social construction that can and must be understood before it can be addressed. Together, we can probe systems to dismantle systems of oppression, develop our understandings as active allies, and co-create decolonizing spaces in our schools. This seems to me to be an action Dr. King would wholeheartedly support.

Civil Rights Movement: Primary Sources and Graphic Novels
The January/February 2021 issue of Knowledge Quest includes an article by Dr. Karen Gavigan: “Journey for Justice: Helping Teens Visualize the Civil Rights Movement through Primary Sources and Graphic Novels.” In the article, Dr. Gavigan makes connections between the primary sources offered by the Library of Congress and three graphic novels: The Life of Frederick Douglass: A Graphic Narrative of a Slave’s Journey from Bondage to Freedom by David F. Walker, Damon Smyth, and Marissa Louise (Ten Speed 2018), March: Book One by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin (Top Shelf Productions 2013), and Showtime at the Apollo by Ted Fox and James Otis Smith (Abrams ComicArts 2019).

Social studies and history curricula charge students with seeking information from primary source documents. These documents engage students in accessing historically situated perspectives on past (and current) events. When school librarians and classroom teachers curate resources for students to explore, they can help young people increase their comprehension of primary sources by inviting students to read graphic novels on the topics and themes related to their study. These student-friendly texts can help deepen students’ discussions, interpretations, and meaning-making regarding historical as well as current events.

The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks
Author Jeanne Theoharis is a political science professor at Brooklyn College of City University of New York. This past week, I read selections from her full-length adult edition of The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks (Beacon Press 2013). While reading, I was once again struck by the discrepancies between the way history happens and how events are shaped and retold, particularly in resources created for youth.

Similar to every school child in the U.S., I met Rosa Parks as the quiet seamstress with aching feet who in 1955 refused to give up her seat in the “colored section” so a White person could sit down. I remember my surprise as an adult learning that Mrs. Parks had a lifelong history of civil rights activism and had, in fact, dedicated sixty years to seeking freedom and justice for herself and others. That fact was never part of the narrative I learned in school.

When reading Dr. Theoharis’ book, I finally (!) made a connection to my own K-12 education. Mrs. Parks had moved from Montgomery to Detroit in 1961 and learned that Blacks experienced segregation and discrimination as virulent in the North as she had known in the South. In 1964, Mrs. Parks joined Detroit-area Congressional candidate John Conyer’s “Jobs, Justice, Peace” campaign. Mrs. Parks convinced Dr. King to come to Detroit to speak and endorse Conyer’s campaign. Conyer’s was elected and served in Congress from 1965 – 2017. (He was the longest serving Black representative and also one of thirteen co-founders of the Congressional Black Caucus.)

My family moved to the Detroit-area in 1964. I attended high school in a Detroit suburb at the same time Mrs. Parks was an activist working for freedom in the city. What struck me while reading about Rosa Parks’ work in Detroit is that I cannot remember a single high school history teacher (1965-1968) ever suggesting that my all-White classmates and I make the connection between the Rosa Parks we learned about in elementary school with the courageous woman who was dedicating her life, at that very time, to social justice work in our own city.

I look forward to reading the middle grade version of The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks co-authored by Brandy Colbert and Dr. Theoharis that is now available from Beacon Press (2021). The book is part of a ReVisioning History for Young People series.

Yes! to “ReVisioning” history!

Civic Education
In the past year, many educators across the U.S. have been considering and reconsidering how we teach civic education in our K-12 schools, colleges, and universities. It is clear that youth (and adults) need:

  • to hear an unambiguous message about the critical importance of voting in a participatory democracy and a clear understanding of the electoral process;
  • to know the provisions of the First Amendment and be able to make a distinction between free speech and hate speech;
  • to know how to engage in civil dialogue and learn to have respectful conversations about controversial topics;
  • to know and yes, experience peaceful protest and learn multiple ways to positively and nonviolently enact change in our classrooms, schools, and communities.

For the sake of our students and our nation and to honor of Dr. King, educators, let’s be the midwives who attend the birth – rebirth – of democracy in this generation and the next.

Image Credit
Hain, John. “Non-violence, peace, transformation.” Pixabay.com, https://pixabay.com/illustrations/non-violence-peace-transformation-1160132/

Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action February 1–5, 2021

Wage justice. Wage Peace. Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action: February 1-5, 2021Dear Colleagues,
Considering historical as well as events of the past year and most shockingly this past week, I believe it behooves all school librarians to collaborate with classroom educators to confront racial injustice. The Black Lives Matter at School Week is being held the first week of Black History Month, February 1-5, 2021. This is an opportune time to co-design curriculum for the unique students in your school.

Black Lives Matter at School
#BLMatSchool is a national coalition of “educators, students, parents, families, community members fighting for racial justice in school!” You can follow them on Twitter or access their website. You can contribute to the network by posting what you’re doing in your school/community to achieve racial justice.

Founded in 2016, #BLMatSchool has designated the first week of February as their week of action. On their website, educators, students, and supporters will find a “starter kit,” 13 principles, “The Demands,” and curriculum resources.

The 13 guiding principles are described on the site. “The Demands” are intended to ensure safety and equity in schools:

  1. End “zero tolerance” discipline, and implement restorative justice
  2. Hire more Black teachers
  3. Mandate Black history and ethnic studies in K-12 curriculum
  4. Fund counselors not cops

Allyship
Since our education and library professions are predominately White, Black educators, students, families, and administrators need White allies who will work alongside them to achieve these demands. As allies, we must have a mindset that doing this work is not for our Black colleagues and students but is an essential part of our own liberation from White privilege and racial injustice.

To learn more about allyship, please read the “How to Be an Ally” article on the Teaching Tolerance.org website.

The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development has published another helpful set of resources for educators leading discussions with students about politics, civic engagement, and uncertainty.

These articles may be a place to begin your curriculum conversation with your instructional partners, grade-level or disciplinary teams, or at the whole-school level.

Curriculum Resources for Your Consideration from #BLMatSchool
Freedom Reads is a video series designed to help parents and teachers select children’s books through a multicultural, social justice lens at SocialJusticeBooks.org.

They have published lessons for online use from their Second Annual Teach Central America Week and the Civil Rights Teaching website.

The Zinn Education Project (with Rethinking Schools)  hosted an online teaching series on Teaching the Black Freedom Struggle.

Additional Resources
As librarians and educators, we know that responding to children’s and young adult literature can create a context for exploring deeply personal as well as universal themes. Skilled educators, who listen, ask thought-provoking questions, and display empathy can create the necessary open and safe spaces for these conversations. Combined with the participation of trustworthy peers, students can explore essential truths about our nation’s history and current culture and express their hopes and willingness to work for a just and peaceful future.

On my wiki, I have organized resources to support your curriculum development: https://tinyurl.com/jmBLMatSchool

  1. Virtual Book Discussions and Programming

2. Downloadable Book Head Heart Literature Circle Discussion Guide (adapted from Beers and Probst, 2017).

3. Links to Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Books and Resources

In addition, the American Library Association offers Black History Month Graphics, including bookmarks and posters with messages and quotes to frame your curriculum.

Hard Conversations
School librarians can be leaders when we create spaces for students and educators to engage in difficult conversations. I hope you and one or more of your colleagues will make time to design a thoughtful, respectful, and unifying curriculum to involve students in taking action during Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action. I also hope you will share your work on their website.

Wage justice. Wage peace.

Latinx Kidlit Book Festival, Part 2

Image: Latinx Kidlit Book Festival - book with flowersThe 2020 Latinx Kidlit Book Festival was officially held last Friday, December 4th and Saturday, December 5th. I took advantage of the fact that all of the #LKBF2020 video sessions are available on YouTube and will continue to be available indefinitely.

This past week, I viewed three more sessions: Picture Books in the Age of Activism, Elizabeth Acevedo in Conversation with NCTE President Alfredo Celedón Luján, and Frontera Lands: Immigrant Stories About the US-Mexico Border.

Below are my thoughts and connections to the panelists who spoke during these three sessions.

Picture Books in the Age of Activism
Image: Headshots of Moderator and PanelistsAs a picturebook author, reader, and social justice activist, the title of this session jumped off the screen. Although I no longer collect books for a school library, I have a home collection that is now geared more and more toward the early childhood and future young child reading of my grandchildren.

This panel included authors Diana López (Lucky Luna), who also moderated the session, Jackie Azúa Kramer (The Boy and the Gorilla), Eric Velasquez (Octopus Stew), Silvia López (Queen of Tejano Music: Selena), and Magdalena Mora (Equality’s Call). In their session, these authors shared connections between their picture books and supporting young people as they build empathy and strive for social justice as change agents of change in kids.

By way of introduction, moderator Diana López mentioned student activists who protested in Tucson against the ban on Mexican-American Ethnic Studies, including the resources that were used in the program (see the PBS documentary Precious Knowledge).

During the session, each panelist shared how social justice inspires or frames their books (paraphrases). Jackie Azúa Kramer noted that activism starts with a question and invites us to respond with empathy and compassion. Jackie held up an article published last fall in the Washington Post that testifies to the fact that young people activists “12 Kids Who Are Changing Their Communities and Our World.”

Eric Velasquez talked about is Afro-Latino heritage and how his first book Grandma’s Records (2004) was a breakthrough picturebook of validation for children who had not previously seen themselves in print. Eric’s goal is to “subversively” bring social justice messages to readers of his books.

Silvia López, a former librarian, talked about librarians are agents of change who serve as change agents through promoting diverse tools, A refugee from Cuba, Silvia wants her books to increase readers’ consciousness of injustice and to illustrate how injustice shapes lives.

Illustrator Magdalena Mora noted her book Equity’s Call, written by Deborah Diesen, spotlights who voting rights leaders spread enfranchisement to non-White male voters and includes the fact that more work is still to be done to eliminate voter suppression.

Elizabeth Acevedo in Conversation with NCTE President Alfredo Celedón Luján
Image: Headshot of Moderator and PanelistModerator Alfredo Celedón Luján, President of The National Council of Teachers of English. Luján, and dean of students and teacher of English and study skills at Monte del Sol Charter School in Santa Fe, New Mexico, introduced Elizabeth Acevedo and her award-winning books: The Poet X, With the Fire on High, and Clap When You Land. Then Elizabeth launched the session by performing one of her poems.

For the remainder of the session, Elizabeth responded to kids’ questions. In the process, she shared bits of her growing up in Morningside Heights, a section of New York City, and how she recognized herself as a poet at the age of ten. She entered her first poetry slam contest at fourteen and experienced how other kids’ poems affected her. “A poem can be carried in the body even when it wasn’t your own (poem).”

Her comments about craft were inspiring for all writers—young and more seasoned. She noted that poems seem to arise organically; poetry is personal. Prose, on the other hand, requires authors to show up for the characters so the characters can tell their story. When asked about writer’s block, Elizabeth shared that she doesn’t believe in it. Rather she has given herself permission to jump ahead in the story or pick up another project for a while… but to never stop writing. (Great advice!)

The showed a video at the end of the session that took viewers backstage to see Elizabeth’s home and family and community connections to her books. If you only have a short time, enjoy her poem at the beginning and the video at the end of this session.

Frontera Lands: Immigrant Stories About the US-Mexico Border
Image: Headshots of Moderator and PanelistsThe US-Mexico Border is sixty miles from our home. Immigrant and southern U.S. border stories are essential reading for the youth in Arizona, their families and communities. The panel members for this session were Yuyi Morales (Dreamers), Francisco Stork (Illegal), Alexandra Diaz (Santiago’s Road Home), and Reyna Grande (The Distance Between Us). Author Aida Salazar (Land of Cranes and The Moon Within) founding member of Las Musas Books moderated this conversation about experiences and issues related to the borderland regions of the U.S. and Mexico.

The following comments by the panelists were the most noteworthy to me.

Yuyi Morales said immigration is an “act of love.” In her books, she wants readers to see people and animals as beautiful beings who can us learn and grow. Readers should come away from her books encouraged to care for others.

Francisco Stork, who suffered feelings of inferiority as a nine-year-old immigrant, wants his readers to find heroism in the acts of characters who overcome all obstacles when confronted with evil.

In her work, Alexandra Diaz hopes readers will increase their understanding of the immigrant experience—an experience that is a valued and valuable part of who she is. She hopes that understanding will extend to immigrants all across the globe.

Reyna Grande noted that we, as a country, haven’t yet learned to celebrate immigrants and the immigrant experience. She wants to educate readers about that experience while authoring human stories with universal themes of pursing dreams with hope.

For me, Yuyi’s comment sums up my take-away from this session. “Books can be an invitation to every child to tell their own story.” Immigrant/immigration stories celebrate voices “that have not yet been heard.”

Promoting Latinx Authors and Illustrators
I think this bears repeating from last week’s post.

For the thirty-plus years I have been involved in the library and larger education worlds, we have been asking publishers for more diverse books for the children, teens, and families we serve. The underrepresentation of Latinx authors and illustrators has been alarming as the Latinx student population in our schools and country continue to grow at a faster rate than some other demographic groups.

This festival demonstrates that Latinx book creators come from a wide range of cultures and countries. They remind us that there is no monolithic “Latinx” or “Hispanic” experience and that all voices are needed and welcome in order to represent and best serve readers.

Note: As I was listening, I looked up all of the authors and illustrators most recent books in our public library catalogue, requested the ones I could find, and suggested purchases of the others.

Thank you to the #LKBF2020 sponsors for supporting these authors and illustrators. Let’s do our best as librarians to get these books into the hands of all young people and particularly those whose life experiences appear less often in children’s and young adult literature.

It’s a matter of equity and social justice.

Image Credit
Latinx Kidlit Book Festival Logo

Latinx Kidlit Book Festival Recap

Latinx Kidlit Book Festival Logo: Book with FlowersThe 2020 Latinx Kidlit Book Festival was officially held last Friday, December 4th and Saturday, December 5th. However, all of the #LKBF2020 video sessions are available on YouTube and will continue to be available indefinitely. Thank you to the festival organizers and sponsors!

The videos are organized by topics that will appeal to youth, educators, librarians, and readers of all ages. These are the sessions I have viewed so far: Español, Spanglish or Bilingual: The Use of Spanish in Latinx Kidlit; No Words: Storytelling Through Pictures; Magical Realism and Beyond; and Stronger Together: Social Justice in Young Adult Literature.

All of the sessions I’ve viewed have ended with questions submitted from young people. I appreciate this reader-centered addition to a virtual literature conference.

Español, Spanglish or Bilingual: The Use of Spanish in Latinx Kidlit

Photos and Names of Authors: Español, Spanglish or BilingualThis is an important session for all librarians in terms of cultural insider perspectives on bilingual and single-language books for children and teens. These were the guiding questions for the session: Is there a “universal” Spanish? Is there an audience in the USA for Spanish-only books published in America? When does blending Spanish and English work? Is it ever hindering or confusing? What about italics for Spanish in an English text? Is there a time that is best to do dual versions, rather than having a bilingual book?

Author and educator Monica Brown (Lola Levine Is Not Mean) moderated the panel and contributed many insights from her professional and personal experience. Monica, whose mother was born in Peru, shared her connections to Peruvian culture, history, and language. She talked about working collaboratively with translators because her own Spanish is not quite proficient enough to support her writing in both languages. (The country/culture of origin of Spanish language translators is an important conversation for the future.)

Lulu Delacre (Luci Soars) is originally from Puerto Rico and has been writing in both English and Spanish for many years; she is also an illustrator. Lulu noted that when both languages are included side by side in a picturebook, it equalizes Spanish language and creates opportunities for speakers/readers of both languages to share the text.

René Colato Laínez (Telegramas) who came to the U.S. from El Salvador in 1985 talked about his experience as an immigrant without papers and how crossing borders influences his writing. He is also an educator of young children and considers their social-emotional needs in his books.

Mariana Llanos (Eunice and Kate) who was born in Peru shared the critical importance of bilingualism in her work and life. She noted that some adults who don’t speak a second language shy away from purchasing bilingual books because they can only read one of the languages in the book.

Natalia Sylvester (Running) who was also born in Peru associates Spanish language with “home” because her mother only allowed Spanish to be spoken in their U.S. home. Natalia talked about how there are commonalities among Spanish speakers and also how the language is different for each country or cultural group. She uses Spanglish in her young adult book because code switching captures the feelings of the characters and accurately represents the way people living in dual cultures talk. She wants to make readers feel “at home” in her books and in the beauty of language.

I learned from their discussion that there is no one opinion about whether or not to italicize non-English words and phrases in their books.

No Words: Storytelling Through Pictures
Photos and Names of Illustrators: No WordsI was able to attend this session live. Wow! This group of illustrators had such fun sharing their work, their favorite art-making tools, and their illustration processes: Juana Medina (Juana & Lucas), Raúl the Third (Lowriders), Axur Eneas (Student Ambassador: The Missing Dragon), Carlos Aponte (Across the Bay) and Adriana Hernandez Bergstrom (Abuelita and I Make Flan).

Readers are lucky to have their creativity and expertise in making visual media to tell stories.

I especially loved the portion of this session where the moderator Adriana Hernandez Bergstrom read thoughtful questions kids submitted for these illustrators. Thank you to the children for their questions and the illustrators for their personal and often humorous responses!

Magical Realism and Beyond
Photos and Names of Authors: Magical Realism and BeyondIn my reading of adult books, I have connected to magical realism, particularly in the works of Isabel Allende, Gabriel García Márquez, and Toni Morrison. This session attracted me because I am not as familiar with this literary style in books for children and young adults. Michelle Ruiz Keil (All of Us with Wings) moderated this session with Samantha Mabry (Tigers, Not Daughters), Guadalupe Garcia McCall (Shame the Stars), Daniel José Older (Shadowshaper Legacy), and Julio Anta (Frontera).

One thing I appreciated in this conversation was the distinction the authors made between magical realism and the supernatural. Their connections to family experiences of magical realism are not supernatural but rather the magic of “what is” (real). I resonate with that feeling and belief and look forward to reading the works of these authors.

Stronger Together: Social Justice in Young Adult Literature
Photos and Names of the Stronger Together AuthorsSocial justice and societal change in YA lit is a timely topic. This session was moderated by author and educator Jennifer De Leon (Don’t Ask Me When I’m From). The panel included Yamile Saied Méndez (Furia), Lilliam Rivera (Never Look Back), Lucas Rocha (Where We Go From Here), and Jenny Torres Sanchez (We Are Not From Here). Each author shared their inspirations for writing their most recent book.

One commonality among the intentions of these authors is to show the humanity of individuals and their struggles and to provide readers hope. As moderator-author Jenn De Leon noted, these authors dive deep into broad societal issues. They create stories that bring the power of being inside individual characters’ experiences to consider and wrestle with universal themes, feelings, hopes, and dreams – and to take action.

Promoting Latinx Authors and Illustrators
For the thirty-plus years I have been involved in the library and larger education worlds, we have been asking publishers for more diverse books for the children, teens, and families we serve. The underrepresentation of Latinx authors and illustrators has been alarming as the Latinx student population in our schools and country continue to grow at a faster rate than some other demographic groups.

The participants in the festival give those of us who share Latinx literature with young people hope that the future of publishing is bright for them–our readers and these authors and illustrators.

This festival demonstrates that Latinx book creators come from a wide range of cultures and countries. They remind us that there is no monolithic “Latinx” or “Hispanic” experience and that all voices are needed and welcome in order to represent and best serve readers.

Note: As I was listening, I looked up all of the authors’ and illustrators’ most recent books in our public library catalogue, requested the ones I could find, and suggested purchases of the others.

Thank you to the #LKBF2020 sponsors for supporting and promoting the work of these authors and illustrators. Let’s do our best as librarians to get their books into the hands of all young people and particularly to our youth whose life experiences appear less often in children’s and young adult literature.

It’s a matter of equity and social justice.

Image Credit
Latinx KidLit Book Festival Logo

Indigenous History, Land, and Climate Justice

Photograph of Multi-colored Indian CornNovember is American Indigenous Peoples Month/Native American Heritage Month. It is also when many U.S. families celebrate Thanksgiving, a harvest festival, the origin of which as we learned in elementary school, was a feast that included Wampanoag people and Pilgrims at Plymouth Colony, Massachusetts in 1621.

In American Indian cultures across this land, there are perspectives on Thanksgiving that reflect the broader historical and devastating consequences that resulted from this shared feast and subsequent deadly conflicts between colonizers and Indigenous peoples. (See the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian “Thanksgiving” resources  and “Transforming Teaching and Learning about Native Americans” resources, part of the Native Knowledge 360° Education Initiative.)

Land Statement Acknowledgments
In 2020, a growing number of non-Indians are recognizing the fact that the land on which we live belongs to the Indigenous people who lived on this soil long before White arrival.

As an acknowledgment of that fact, many individuals and organizations are developing land statements. There are websites that help land statement writers examine their motives, their minds, and their hearts as they compose an acknowledgment that honors and shows respect for the Indigenous history of the land on which they live and work.

When I crafted a land statement for this blog and when I collaborated with members of the Arizona Library Association (AzLA) to create one for the organization, we used the guidance found on the Native Governance Center’s “A Guide to Indigenous Land Acknowledgement” website and in the case of AzLA feedback from the tribal members of our association.

I live in Tucson sixty miles from the Mexican border. Today, the Tohono O’odham American Indians live on approximately 3 million acres to the west and south of Tucson. Their reservation extends into northern Sonora, Mexico and is larger than the state of Delaware. O’odham also live off reservation throughout Arizona and in communities across the country.

This is the land acknowledgement you will find on the About page of this blog:

Land Statement Acknowledgement: I post to this blog and share information from my home in Tucson, Arizona, which is built upon the traditional homelands of the Tohono O’odham and their ancestors the Hohokam. Their care and keeping of this land allow me to live here today.

The Tohono O’odham
Our Tucson community is diverse in terms of race, ethnicity, and culture. Ten percent of the students at Elvira Elementary School, where long ago I served my first year as a school librarian, were Tohono O’odham children who were bussed into Tucson from the nearby San Xavier District of their reservation. This was a first-time experience for me teaching and learning with and from American Indian students and families. That year at Elvira made a lasting impact on my teaching, writing, and my life. (See 12/18/29 “Gifts of Windows and Mirrors” blog post.)

The Tohono O’odham are not well known outside of the Southwest. Some years ago when the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) in Washington, DC first opened, I had the opportunity to visit and was pleased to see O’odham culture and art included in an exhibit.

I have since followed other NMAI events that have included O’odham culture and knowledge like this lecture by Terrol Dew Johnson, founder of Tohono O’odham Community Action (TOCA), “Living Earth 2019.” In his talk, he shares native food ways and how TOCA guides O’odham people in reconnecting with traditional farming, harvesting, processing, and preparing local food.

Indigenous Peoples and Climate Justice
Last September 12, 2020 on Indigenous Peoples’ Day, the Smithsonian hosted a Virtual Indigenous People’s Teach-In: Food and Water Justice. Teaching for Change offers a webpage devoted to a recap of the keynote, workshops, and teaching resources that grew out of this professional development opportunity.

In collaboration, the Zinn Education Project offers a lesson plan for middle and high school students: “Stories from the Climate Crisis: A Mixer.”  The Zinn Project also has a book of resources and activities titled A People’s Curriculum for the Earth: Teaching Climate Change and the Environmental Crisis.

The NMAI also offers “American Indian Resources to Environmental Challenges” resources to share projects today’s Indigenous peoples are leading to continue their stewardship of the land.

Gratitude
As you consider your blessings at this time in our shared history, I hope you will pause to acknowledge and give thanks for the land on which you live and work. As school librarians, I hope you will also recommit to teaching and coteaching with classroom teacher colleagues for social and climate justice and enlist young people in learning about and caring deeply for our Earth and its peoples.

Image Credit

Ulleo. “Corn.” Pixabay.com, https://pixabay.com/photos/corn-harvest-food-ornamental-corn-3663086/

World Kindness Day, Love, and Justice

Image of two hands surrounding a heart with the scales of justice in the centerThis coming Friday, November 13, 2020 is World Kindness Day. The mission of Inspire Kindness.com is to “inspire the world’s greatest kindness movement.” World Kindness Day “has the purpose is to help everyone understand that compassion for others is what binds us all together. This understanding has the power to bridge the gap between nations.” The Inspire Kindness website offers posters and other printables, a video, and ideas for celebrating World Kindness Day at school.

Quote to Teach and Live By
During the presidential campaign, I was introduced to this quote from author, scholar, and activist Dr. Cornel West:

“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.”

World Kindness Day seems to me to be an appropriate time to consider the connection between love and justice. I believe a wise thought such as this one can be our guide as we, school librarians and other educators, negotiate our place in today’s and tomorrow’s civic and education conversations.

During this season of misinformation, disinformation, propaganda, and bold-face lies, we have renewed our commitment to teaching students to be critical thinkers who learn and practice news/media literacy. This is essential work.

See Lia Fisher-Janosz’ 11/03/20 Knowledge Quest post: “We Hold These Truths to Be Self Evident: Learning and Discerning in 2020 and Beyond” and my own 11/02/20 post “News Literacy and Democracy.”

Public Education and Justice
Last week, Arizona voters passed Prop. 208! For students who attend K-12 district public schools, serve in and advocate for public education in Arizona, this hard-won outcome is cause for great celebration. Working toward providing every young person with a high-quality education guided by better-paid educators is both an expression of love and an act of social justice.

This measure includes funding for hiring and retaining state-certified school librarian positions in Arizona district public schools. I was just one among the many who dedicated time and energy to promoting this initiative. My personal thanks go out to all who worked on this effort, including members of the Arizona Library Association and EveryLibrary executive director John Chrastka.

When we resume the Tucson Unified School District School Librarian Restoration Project, we will be meeting with newly elected TUSD board members: Natalie Luna Rose, Sadie Shaw, and Ravi Grivois-Shah. Having the Prop. 208 funds in the bank will definitely make those conversations “sweeter.” (This win is important because it reflects Arizonans’ frustration with the inability of our governor and state legislature to restore public school funding to pre-2008 recession levels.)

Developing Hearts
As we serve young people, school librarians have the opportunity and the charge to guide students in developing their hearts as well as their minds. We have the dual charge to both teach and coteach our school’s curriculum with a focus on information literacy and critical thinking AND to develop students as lifelong readers who develop understanding, compassion, and empathy through reading and interacting with literature.

In order to serve our learning communities in both of these ways, we must practice our core values of equity, diversity, inclusion, and intellectual freedom. As Metro Nashville school librarian Erika Long states: “Librarians must commit to being radical change and equity warriors to ensure no one is omitted” (2020, 13).

The reading materials and learning opportunities we provide through our libraries must reflect our values, reach and speak to all students, and support all educators in guiding students to success. We must collaborate with other educators to engage students with literature, to invite them to discuss diverse literature with their peers and guides—to use literature as a springboard for personal growth and societial change.

SEL = Human(e)
I appreciate this “formula” that Steve Tetreault proposed in his 11/6/20 Knowledge Quest blog post “Finding Moments of Joy.” Whether or not we consider this an “academic” formula, it is true that social-emotional learning helps us develop as whole human beings—as humane humans.

Diverse, inclusive literature can be a large part of a “heart” curriculum because it helps us connect with others people’s experiences. Readers can develop our compassion and empathy, and can grow our human-ness through story.

Living with uncertainty, as we are today, is difficult for many of us, including our students, colleagues, and families. Let’s be sure to practice kindness every day and make a commitment to connect, to educate hearts as well as minds as we move forward into a more just future—together.

Works Cited

Inspire Kindness. 2020. “World Kindness Day.” https://inspirekindness.com

Long, Erika. 2020. “Radical Change Agents and Equity Warriors.” School Library Connection, October, 12-14.

Tetreault, Steve, 2020. “Finding Moments of Joy.” Knowledge Quest (blog), November 6, https://knowledgequest.aasl.org/finding-joyful-moments/

Image Credit:

GJD. “Heart Love Passion Peace Sign.” Pixabay.com, https://pixabay.com/vectors/heart-love-passion-peace-sign-2028061

Support Arizona Students and Educators: Save School Librarians

Image: Arizona Ballot Proposition 208Arizona’s district public schools have an equity problem. Many students and educators are learning and teaching without the support of a state-certified school librarian in their school. This lack of access to the knowledge and skills of library literacy leaders is an equity issue. As a matter of social justice, all students and educators deserve the support of a highly qualified school librarian.

Proposition 208: The Invest in Education Act
This fall Arizona voters have an opportunity to help transform K-12 public schools. Proposition 208, the Invest in Education Act, will be on the ballot. The proposition levies a 3.5% state income surtax on individuals earning over $250,000/year and couples earning over $500,000 a year.

When the proposition passes, 50% of the funds collected will be earmarked for increasing salaries, hiring, and retaining educators, school librarians included. (To learn more about #INVESTInEd view the Yes on Prop. 208 video).

The fact that school districts can use these funds to hire and retain state-certified school librarians means the Arizona library community is “all-in” for this proposition. The Arizona Library Association (AzLA) and the Teacher Librarian Division (TLD) of AzLA are partnering with EveryLibrary, Investined, and the Arizona Education Association to promote voting and passage of this voter initiative.

The Problem in Context
Arizona is one of six states that has not yet recovered education funding since the last recession. In fact, according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, between 2008 and 2015 Arizona’s funding for education adjusted for inflation declined 36.6%.

Even with the #20×2020 teacher salary increase passed by the Arizona Legislature in 2018 as the result of the #RedForEd movement, Arizona teachers rank 46th in the nation for average teacher pay. California is second highest and New Mexico ranks 36th. Arizona cannot retain teachers if they can earn so much more in neighboring states.

According to an Education Law Center study cited by U.S. News and World Report in January of this year, Arizona’s school funding in 2016-2017 amounted to $5,477 per pupil, falling far short of the national average, $14,046.

Clearly, K-12 education funding in Arizona is in dire straits. Underfunded schools and priorities that have not included school librarian literacy leaders have resulted with very few state-certified school librarians remaining in positions in districts throughout the state.

It will take a coalition of like-minded people and organizations and a long-term commitment to fix what is broken.

Successful Advocacy Campaigns
Successful advocacy campaigns require building partnerships with other people and organizations that share our values. AzLA and TLD members promote and provide library services to Arizona’s youth and families. Literacy and voter education are central to our mission. We care deeply about the present and future of young people’s access to high-quality education and to the health of our democracy.

Partnering with EveryLibrary is giving us the opportunity to bring something to the table when we meet with the Invest in Education Act leadership. Together, EveryLibrary, AzLA, and TLD have launched a “Take the Pledge to Vote YES! on Prop. 208” campaign.

When we work together to build support for voting and for this proposition, we will assure education stakeholders that the library community is committed to improving education funding in our state. We are committed to passing this initiative and to working together to provide literacy learning opportunities for Arizona’s youth.

If you are an Arizona voter, we invite you to Take the Pledge to Vote YES! on Prop. 208. If you live in another state and have friends or relatives in Arizona, please share the Pledge with them.

Note: In November, 2020, Prop. #208 passed with 51.7% of the vote. Since that time, it has survived lawsuits filed by the Goldwater Institute and the business community. As of this writing (2/18/21), it has so far prevailed against attempts by the Arizona Legislature to undermine this critical increase in funding to meet the needs of K-12 district public schools.

Thank you.

Image courtesy of the Arizona Library Association. Used with permission.