Advocating for State-certified School Librarian Positions

Dear School Librarianship Readers,
Below is an op-ed I submitted to the Arizona Daily Star on June 3, 2021. It was not published.

Between that time and this, the Arizona Legislature and Governor Doug Ducey passed a 2.5% flat rate for all Arizona state tax payers. Before this legislation, those in the top tax bracket in Arizona had a 4.5% cap so according to Capitol Media Services and as reported in the Daily Star on 7/3/21, 53% of the “savings” for the new tax structure will go to those making more than $1million a year.

In addition, the new tax structure will cap anyone’s taxes at 4.5% including the 3.5% surcharge for Proposition 208, and creates a new category for small-business owners to allow them to sidestep the surcharge for public education.

These changes from our progressive (and fairer) state tax rates were a direct result of Arizona voters passing Prop. 208 in the fall of 2020. This initiative added a 3.5% surcharge to individuals making more than $250,000 and couples filling jointly making more than $500,000 a year; the surcharge is to be collected ONLY on the amount of income OVER these two thresholds.

Before the flat tax passed on a party-line vote, Prop. 208 would have collected $800million for Arizona’s public schools, including funding for school librarians, social workers, and counselors. That amount will be reduced by at least $300million unless…

Arizona voters, especially those of us who supported and voted for Prop. 208, can stop the cuts. We are determined to put an initiative on the fall 2021 ballot to rescind these tax cuts. Polls showed that the majority of Arizona voters did not approve of the cuts so it is likely we can prevail. The work to collect 150,000 signatures begins as soon as the initiative petitions can be crafted and printed.

Today, I’m sharing the unpublished op-ed below in hopes that some piece of this information will support you in your advocacy work for district public school education and hiring and retaining state-certified school librarians.

In addition to the initiative effort, it is clear that Arizona voters must elect different legislators who will follow rather than thwart the will of the voters.

Sincerely,
Judi

3 June 2021

A Note to Governor Ducey and Republican Arizona Legislators Regarding Arizona Public Education:

While you’re at recess, I hope you will rethink Arizona’s budget proposals.

The $1.5B tax cuts you are considering that will disproportionately benefit Arizona’s top earners are ill-timed and reckless. The fact is our state economy is in good shape. Governor Ducey’s own State of Arizona Executive Budget Summary, Fiscal Year 2022, forecasts a structural surplus of $141million, resulting in an ending cash balance of $855million. This revenue, which belongs to all Arizonans, plus our current tax structure could be used to put our state on the path toward a positive and sound education future for our children.

Arizona voters who passed Proposition 208, the Invest in Education Act, know the facts. In 2019, Arizona ranked 48th among the 50 states for K-12 per student spending and 46th in average teacher salaries. Arizona schools have lower per-pupil administration spending than any other state in the nation.

District public schools are severely economically challenged to provide equitable educational opportunities.

It shouldn’t have taken a pandemic for the public to realize the underfunding crisis in our K-12 schools. In 2020, no students, families, or districts should have been scrambling to provide the learning tools of this century in order for students to fully participate in remote learning. Internet access, laptops and other devices, and technology troubleshooting support should have been as common as pencils and pencil sharpeners in every school. Schools should have had the necessary technology infrastructure to give all students, educators, and families success during remote learning, and yet, a year and a half since the first school closures, opportunity gaps still exist.

This year, standardized test scores will likely show a decrease in students’ literacy proficiency due to a number of factors including the transition to remote learning, stress in home environments, and reduced participation in learning opportunities that educators worked tirelessly to provide.

Research shows that school librarians are key educators who make a difference in student learning outcomes. With their knowledge of print and digital resources, including technology tools, school librarians helped students, classroom teachers, and families navigate remote and hybrid learning. Arizona ranks 46th in the nation for the number of state-certified school librarians so many school communities did not have librarian support during school closures.

In addition, studies are showing that students’ social and emotional health has been negatively impacted by the pandemic. According to the American School Counselor Association, Arizona ranks dead last among the states with an average of one counselor for every 905 K-12 students.

These statistics do not describe a K-12 district public school system that is preparing students for success.

Last November, Arizonans voted to reverse a three decades in the making crisis in underfunding schools. We voted to address the teacher shortage, increase educator pay, and train future educators. We voted to increase the number of school librarians and counselors in order to shore up the academic and social-emotional health of our students. We voted to invest in education to improve the prospects for our students in a competitive global economy.

When schools lack key faculty members who are trained literacy learning, technology integration, and health experts, students and educators do not have the support they need and deserve.

It’s time to remember that you represent the people of Arizona. We are the “special” interest group who elected you to meet the challenges and solve the problems that individual citizens, groups of advocates, towns, cities, and counties cannot meet and solve on our own. Our district public schools are our collective responsibility.

The current budget surplus and tax structure plus Proposition 208 provisions that provide a permanent funding stream can support school districts in equitably meeting the high-level of literacy and technology opportunities our children must have to succeed.

Don’t shortchange our students! Wealthy Arizonans do not need tax breaks at the expense of our children.

End of Op-ed

Addendum: In a July 7, 2021 article “In a Drive to Cut Taxes, States Blow an Opportunity to Invest in Underfunded Services” by the non-partisan Institute of Taxation and Economic Policy, Arizona is not alone. Ohio, New Hampshire, North Carolina among others are mentioned alongside the Grand Canyon State. “After a year in which the gross disparities in our economy became even more apparent, tax cuts for thriving high-income households should not register as a priority.”

But here in Arizona, the rich got the tax cuts and the K-12 schools got shortchanged – again! So, now it’s time to once again start circulating those petitions to undo the harm.

References (Required by the AZ Daily Star that accompanied my op-ed submission)

American Association of School Librarians During Remote and Hybrid Learning. 2021. Knowledge Quest (blog). https://knowledgequest.aasl.org/final-school-library-snapshot-survey-results

Arizona Governor. 2021. State of Arizona Executive Budget. https://azgovernor.gov/sites/default/files/summary_book_with_addendum_2-1-21_0.pdf

Arizona PBS. 2019. Arizona School Counselor to Student Ratio Worse in the Nation. https://azpbs.org/horizon/2019/05/arizona-school-counselor-to-student-ratio-worst-in-nation/

Hough, Heather J. 2021. Learning Loss and Test Scores. Brookings. https://www.brookings.edu/blog/brown-center-chalkboard/2021/04/29/covid-19-the-educational-equity-crisis-and-the-opportunity-ahead/

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

National Education Association. 2021. Research and Publications: Arizona Education Rankings. https://www.nea.org/research-publications

https://www.nea.org/resource-library/teacher-pay-and-student-spending-how-does-your-state-rank

SLIDE.org. 2021. School Librarian Numbers. https://libslide.org/

Woolf, Nick. 2020. Social-emotional Toll on Students. InsideSEL. https://insidesel.com/2020/11/19/the-impact-of-the-covid-19-pandemic-on-student-learning-and-social-emotional-development/

Core Values in School Librarianship: Collaborating for Social Justice

“When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just,
you have to speak up. You have to say something;
you have to do something.”
Representative John Lewis
(Cited in Moreillon 2021, 168).

Are you registered for the upcoming ABC-CLIO-sponsored webinar “Core Values in School Librarianship: Collaborating for Social Justice”?

If so, we look forward to having a conversation with you. If not, well… it’s not too late – and it’s free!

Registration – 7/2/21- Find the recording and the handout at:
Core Values in School Librarianship: Collaborating for Social Justice

(The recording is available for two weeks courtesy of ABC-CLIO/School Library Connection. Better yet, why not join the SLC Community?)

Promotion for Webinar with photographs of the presenters

Let’s explore how school librarians’ core values of equity, diversity, inclusion, and intellectual freedom are foundations for our work toward enacting social justice in our libraries and throughout our school communities. Let’s think together and discuss why collaborating with library stakeholders and advocacy are essential if our efforts to spread social justice are to succeed.

Please join Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage (Libraries Unlimited 2021) contributors Peter Langella, Suzanne Sannwald, and Kristin Fraga Sierra as they share how they have integrated social justice practices through applying their school librarian core values. Moderated by yours truly, this will be a lively and thought-provoking conversation!

Peter Patrick Langella – @PeterLangella
Suzanne Sannwald – @suzannesannwald
Kristin Fraga Sierra – @lincolnabesread

About the Program
What value statements guide school librarians as we meet challenges such as equitable access and opportunity gaps?

Although school librarians and classroom educators share values such as collaboration, innovation, and literacy as a path to school success and lifelong learning, we have a unique set of values that positively impact the entire learning community: equity, diversity, inclusion, and intellectual freedom. It takes commitment and leadership to enact school librarian core values. It also takes courage to stand up for social justice in our school communities.

Target Attendees
This roundtable is intended as a sharing and discussion with Q&A. Who should attend?

  • Of interest to practicing school librarians and library students
  • Discuss how leadership and collaboration go hand in hand
  • Get and share ideas for leading in a values-centered learning community

Possible Questions
These are some of the questions we may have the opportunity to explore during our 40-minute webinar:

  • What are some of the actions school librarians have taken to ensure access and to close gaps for all students, classroom educators, and families?
  • What are some potential barriers to working in accordance with core values and how might you navigate them?
  • How do you sustain this work? How do you balance “doing enough” with also caring for your own mental and emotional well-being?
  • What strategies have you used to turn your library into a hub for courageous conversations?
  • In what ways do our school libraries reinforce inequities and injustices by choosing what we remain silent about?
  • How have our students shown their investment and advocacy for the work of their school library and literacy in their communities?
  • Why is collaboration with administrators, colleagues, and others essential to our success?

Listen in and use the chat during the 40-minute discussion by the presenters followed by a ten-minute Q&A. We want to hear about your work, respond to your questions, and elevate the conversation about the impact of school librarians’ core values on learning and teaching in schools as we reach for social justice.

Registration
Core Values in School Librarianship: Collaborating for Social Justice

Work Cited

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

Core Values in School Librarianship at #alaac21

“All school librarians need a firm foundation to provide strength and direction during these rapidly changing and challenging times”
(Moreillon 2021, ix).

Are you registered for the American Library Association Virtual Annual Conference?

If so, may we recommend our On-Demand Video Program, Q&A, and Slow Chat at ALA Virtual Annual Conference from June 23 – 29?

Program Title: “Taking Action for Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Intellectual Freedom in School Libraries.”

The presenters are contributors to our hot-off-the-presses book Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage (Libraries Unlimited 2021). We are enthusiastic about sharing our work.

Beginning this week during ALA Virtual we will provide opportunities for you to engage in conversation with us around these core values and their implication for practice:

Equity: Erika Long – @erikaslong

Diversity: Stephanie Powell and Julie Stivers – @spowel15 and @BespokeLib

Inclusion: Meg Boisseau Allison and Peter Patrick Langella – @meg_allison and @PeterLangella

Intellectual Freedom: Suzanne Sannwald – @suzannesannwald

About the Program
In this program, the co-authors and presenters share their values and practices related to the first four chapters of the book. Enacting these core values in school libraries requires a deep understanding of what each value means and how it can be applied for continuous improvement in the K-12 learning environment.

The program is divided into five segments, a brief introduction and one for each of the core values. After the moderator’s introduction, each presenter will organize their portion of the program in this way:

  1. Give a brief introduction and personal connection and commitment to the core value.
  2. Define the core value in terms of school librarian practice.
  3. Give an example of courageous application of the value that demonstrates reaching for social justice.

The presenters invite video viewer participants to reflect with other attendees and us regarding their individual next steps to take action to apply equity, diversity, inclusion, and intellectual freedom practices in their teaching and leading in their library spaces. Program participants can ask questions or make comments via the ALA virtual system and via the slow chat on Twitter. Presenters will respond.

Learning Objectives:
Upon completion, participants will be able to:

  • Describe how school library/public library youth/family users will “see” evidence of equity, diversity, inclusion, and intellectual freedom (EDII) in library spaces.
  • Identify and share action steps to achieving EDII in their library and school learning environments.

Invitation to #alaac21 Slow Chat
Please join us throughout ALA 2021 – from June 23 through June 29 – for a slow chat to extend our conversation focused on “Taking Action for Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Intellectual Freedom in School Libraries.”

We will post questions from our presentation each day. We invite you to engage in the conversation by responding to the questions, asking questions, and sharing your thoughts!

We look forward to the discussion! Be sure to use the hashtags #alaac21 and #SLCoreValues when contributing.

Registration : Taking Action for Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Intellectual Freedom in School Libraries

Handout

We look forward to learning with you online this week!

Work Cited

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

Pride From the Beginning and All Year Long

A Hand Print with Rainbow ColorsI believe that children’s sense of pride is instilled in their families right from the start. It is up to parents, caregivers, and educators to work together to help all children bring their self-esteem to their interactions with others and to feel a sense of belonging, safety, and security in our communities.

Librarians who share literature with children and youth may be guided at times by the concept of “bibliotherapy.” We often read and discuss books with children and young adults that touch on issues of social and emotional health. We are not trained therapists and most of us are not trained in responding in a clinical way to mental health issues; we do not “treat” book listeners/readers as patients. Still, we often recognize when a particular book will speak to an individual student or group of students in our care.

Self-Esteem Titles
A focus on positive self-esteem messages is a place to begin for young children. Books that celebrate the self and difference create in children a feeling that they are worthy and an expectation that people are different and all are worthy of our friendship.

To build self-esteem and caring for others, we read books like Karen Beaumont and David Catrow’s book I Like Myself (Harcourt 2004), Giraffes Can’t Dance written by Giles Andreae and illustrated by Guy Parker-Rees (Cartwheel 2012), Red: A Crayon’s Story written and illustrated by Michael Hall (HarperCollins/Greenwillow 2015), I’m New Here by author/illustrator Anne Sibley O’Brien (Charlesbridge 2015), and I Like Being Me: Poems About Kindness, Friendship, and Making Good Choices by Judy Lalli (Free Spirit 2016).

LGBTQIA+ Books from the Beginning
For me, there are two types of Pride books that set children’s expectations for diversity and inclusion. Diverse books with LGBTQIA+ and gender fluid protagonists such as Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Love (Candlewick 2018), When Aidan Became a Brother by Kyle Lukoff and illustrated by Kaylani Juanita (Candlewick 2019), and My Rainbow by DeShanna and Trinity Neal, illustrated by Art Twink (Kokila 2020).

Inclusion titles communicate a matter-of-fact stance with regard to diversity that can influence children’s expectations for differences in gender identity and family structure. My favorite books for young children in this category are The Great Big Book of Families by Mary Hoffman, illustrated by Ros Asquith (Dial/Penguin 2010), Introducing Teddy: A Gentle Story about Gender and Friendship written by Jessica Walton, illustrated by Dougal MacPherson (Bloomsbury 2016), and Sam Is My Sister by Ashley Rhodes-Courter, illustrated by MacKenzie Haley (Whitman 2021).

Resources for Library Collection Development
As you conduct an audit and select new titles, please consider the critical importance of #ownvoices titles as you build your Pride collection and look for opportunities to integrate these books into the classroom curriculum as well as in book club and independent reading selections.

American Library Association: Rainbow Book List

School Library Journal offers several lists and recent articles for your review.

26 LGBTQIA Titles for Teens

LGBTQIA Graphic Novels for Young Readers

People of Pride

Pride for Tweens

I also appreciate this list from Chicago Parent: 29 LGBTQ Children’s Books for Families to Read.

Check your local public library to compare the books they are promoting during Pride Month with the titles in your own library collection. Pima County Public Library, where I live in Tucson, has an excellent list for preK through grades 8 and up list titled “Hope Will Never Be Silent” (in homage to Harvey Milk) and another list for teens and adults (with an unfortunate title) called “Gay Best Friends.”

Pride Month All Year Long
Here in Arizona the regular school year ended in May. If students are still in school in June in other schools across the country, the opportunity to spotlight Pride Month may be compromised by the end-of-the-year rush.

School librarians and classroom teachers absolutely MUST celebrate the literature that shines a spotlight on LGBTQIA+ perspectives and experiences. Just as Black Lives Matter is a social justice issue so are the rights and lives of our LGBTQIA+ students, colleagues, and neighbors.

Perhaps this presents the opportunity for a new “month” at your school.

Social Justice Month is an idea whose time has come.

Image Credit
Mjimages. “Pride LGBTQ.” Pixabay.com, https://pixabay.com/vectors/pride-lgbtq-symbol-sign-action-6056043/

 

Bibliotherapy Note: Anita Cellucci, school librarian, librarian educator, and contributor to Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage (Libraries Unlimited 2021), writes about and offers resources for bibliotherapy on her website.

Point of Privilege about Eric Carle’s Passing: I attended my first Arizona Library Association conference when I was a newly minted school librarian, circa 1991. Eric Carle was a guest author at the conference. When I arrived dressed in my everyday school clothing (a simple dress and VERY sensible shoes), I noticed that every other person around me was wearing a suit and all the women were sporting heels! (It was a different time.) Who knew?

I went up to the table to ask Mr. Carle to sign The Very Quiet Cricket (1990). He recognized that I was shy and noticed I was feeling uncomfortable. A twinkle in his eyes, he said, “I really like your dress.” We shared a conspiratorial smile and exchanged further kindnesses. I still have my cricket book (that no longer chirps) with his distinctive signature.

In 2016 after the Midwinter Meeting in Boston, I visited the Eric Carle Museum in Amherst, Massachusetts, with long-time ALA/AASL friend Connie Champlin. You can read a lovely tribute to Mr. Carle on the museum site.

If you ever have the opportunity to visit the museum, do so to experience the profound impact Eric Carle has had on the world of children’s literature—both in writing and illustration. (Another children’s literature great David Wiesner gave a presentation focused on his book Mr. Wuffles the day Connie and I visited the museum.)

Advocacy NOW: Save School Librarians

“School librarians need an advocacy network, especially when challenges or possible solutions undermine the potential of the school librarian and library program to serve the literacy learning and resource needs of students, classroom teachers, and families” (Moreillon 2018, 133.)

Advocacy for full-time, state-certified school librarians in every school is one of my passions and a motivating purpose in my life’s work. When I taught preservice school librarians, I stressed the non-negotiable responsibility to take up school librarian and library program advocacy as a way to take action for a high-quality education for K-12 students and teaching experience classroom educators.

Advocacy and Public Relations Word Cloud

I believe that equitable access to the skill set of professional school librarians and the rich resources of school libraries give students and educators opportunities to reach their capacity to learn and teach how to read effectively and to efficiently locate, evaluate, and apply relevant information in order to create new knowledge.

The inequitable distribution of professional school librarians in K-12 schools across the U.S. is a matter of social justice.

Washington, DC Public Schools Librarians
Our colleagues in Washington, DC are being threatened with a decision to allow principals to deem school librarians as “excess” educators and eliminate their positions. You can read about this poor decision on EveryLibrary’s SaveSchoolLibrarians website and on Nancy Bailey’s Education Website.

This is the personalized introduction I added to the EveryLibrary letter and sent off last week:

Dear Mayor Bowser, Dr. Ferebee and Paul Kihn,

I am an advocate for equity in education. Equity includes access to print and digital resources via school library programs led by state-certified school librarians who teach students reading comprehension and critical thinking skills that help them navigate today’s information.

PreK-12 students, especially those who have not had literacy learning opportunities in their homes and neighborhoods and lack access to a wide-variety of reading materials, need the support of literacy leaders. Likewise, classroom teachers benefit from the resources and instructional knowledge school librarians bring to the collaboration table.

EveryLibrary’s piece:

Losing school librarians is a crisis for any school. Ward-by-ward across D.C. it is an educational tragedy. When the American Rescue Plan includes over $368 million in direct aid for DCPS, this isn’t the right way to balance the budget. We need to focus on building-up our students and families up after COVID disruptions.

There is never a right time to “excess” school librarians. I am concerned that allowing principals to cut their school librarians will create a bigger achievement gap. We should be investing in more certified school librarians and improving collection development budgets. We can support Title I programs and fight learning losses by investing in our school libraries. #DCPSNEEDSLIBRARIANS

I encourage you to make time to speak up for our DC school librarian colleagues and their library patrons. Please add your voice to this advocacy effort.

Follow #DCPSNeedsLibrarians and @Boss_Librarian

Michigan School Librarians
AASL president-elect and librarian at East Middle School in the Plymouth-Canton Community Schools, Kathy Lester penned a May 3, 2021 op-ed titled “To boost literacy, Michigan must invest in school librarians.”

“From the December 2019 (Michigan) staffing numbers, only 8 percent of our schools employ a full-time certified school librarian, 25 percent employ at least a part-time certified school librarian, and approximately 52 percent of our schools do not employ any library staff.” As Kathy firmly proclaims, “Without staff, you cannot have a school library.”

Kathy is asking legislators, educators, and community members to support House Bill 4663, introduced by Representatives Daniel Camilleri, D-Trenton, Matt Koleszar, D-Plymouth, and Amos O’Neal, D-Saginaw, which would require a school board to employ at least one certified media specialist for each school library operated by its district.

Follow Michigan Association for Media in Education and @LibraryL

Pennsylvania School Librarians
On May 17, 2021, SLIDE: School Librarian Investigation: Decline or Evolution? researcher and school librarian advocate Deb Kachel published an op-ed titled “Students need equity in school library programs.”

According to a survey conducted by the Pennsylvania Association of School Librarians, the gap between “have” and “have not” schools is widening in their state. Forty-eight districts report having no school librarians in any of their school buildings, impacting almost 90,000 K-12 public school students. The high-poverty districts seem to be the most affected.

Deb notes, “Only a state requirement for certified school librarians, like HB 1168 (which has been referred to the Education Committee) and an enacted fair school funding formula will provide the equity that all Pennsylvania’s students need and deserve.”

Follow @PSLA_News and @lib_SLIDE.

New Jersey School Librarians
The state Board of Education proclaimed April “School Library Month.” Then in an April 7, 2021 article posted by Politico, “‘Vital’ school librarian positions disappearing, state Board of Education told,” New Jersey School Librarian Association President Beth Thomas reported that school librarian job cuts are happening across the state. Beth wrote, “This is the first time seen we have seen the position officially abolished per district policy (in Essex County).”

According to the preliminary data from the SLIDE national study as many as one fifth of New Jersey school districts do not have a certified school librarian although the state’s administrative code mandates the position.

Follow New Jersey Association of School Librarians and @bibliobeth.

Arizona School Librarians?
Don’t get me started…

Your tweets could help our colleagues
in DC, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.

Equity and the First Amendment
If you have not as yet read ALA Freedom to Read President Barbara Stripling’s article “School Librarians, Equity, and the First Amendment,” I hope you will do so. In it, she writes this: “school librarians must take a leadership role in ensuring that all young people have equitable physical and intellectual access to diverse content, the right to receive and read that content, and the self-confidence and determination to exercise their right to speak.”

That requires that we ALL stand-up for the “have” students and educators in our own schools and districts AND for the “have not” students and educators in schools and districts that lack state-certified school librarian leaders in their schools.

Let’s create an unstoppable advocacy network—beginning with our support for one another.

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

Image Credit
Moreillon, Judi. 2018. Figure 8.1: Public Relations and Advocacy Tools. Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy, 133.

Classroom-Library Collaboration with the Global Oneness Project

School Library Month, Part 4

I have been following the work of the Global Oneness Project (GO Project) since it began in 2006. “We aim to connect, through stories, the local human experience to global meta-level issues, such as climate change, water scarcity, food insecurity, poverty, endangered cultures, migration, and sustainability.”

I believe that connecting the GO Project’s work with school-based learning can strengthen students’ opportunities to experience their roles as global citizens who take action to positively support the interconnectedness of all living things.

Being part of a global learning community is a thread woven through standards for students, including the National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries (AASL 2018). Being involved in a GO Project is one way for students to understand their global citizenship role and share their knowledge with a global audience.

Earth Day, Every Day
As a follow-up to last week’s post focused on classroom-library collaboration for Earth Day, the Global Oneness Project is currently sponsoring a contest for students 13 years of age and up: “The Spirit of Reciprocity: Student Photography and Original Illustration Contest.” Student contestants’ work must be focused on the GO’s mission statement: “Planting seeds of resilience, empathy, and a sacred relationship to our planet.”

Reflecting on one’s relationship with the natural world, this contest centers on the five statements from the work of Robin Wall Kimmerer. botanist and member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, and author of the book Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants (Milkweed 2015).

In addition to the earth and other sciences, art, and photography curricula connections, the contest participation includes an artist’s statement and components that support the ethical use of ideas and information, including seeking permission from any people who appear in the work and parental permission to participate. I hope you will check it out!

Sara Jaffarian School Library Program Award for Exemplary Humanities Programming Award
I was delighted to read last month that middle school librarian Amy Harpe, who earned the 2017 Sara Jaffarian School Library Program Award for Exemplary Humanities Programming Award, has involved students in her school with the Global Oneness Project. (Amy also serves on the Educator Advisory Committee for the GO Project.)

In her 3/1/21 Knowledge Quest blog post “Connecting to Cultures and Communities through Story,” she shares her work helping students begin their understandings of cultures and community through a study of their own community. Making local connections is a necessary step before reaching for global connections.

A summary: Amy launched a GO Project unit for third-grade students with the video Marie’s Dictionary, a powerful 9-minute video about a Wukchumni woman who is the last fluent speaker of her American Indian language. Building from that background of how cultures change, Amy guided students in looking at local cultural artifacts and art: sweetgrass basket crafts of the Gullah people, hula dancing, bluegrass music, and storytelling. Students learned to finger knit as a way to understand craft. They compared various dance forms and learned some steps. They played the spoons in the context of learning about the banjo and other instruments.

To further their study of how communities change over time, Amy expanded the library collection to include books and information related to their community’s history. She invited a local historian to speak with students.  Amy also guided students in examining (copies of) primary source photographs after which they created replicas of buildings in Minecraft. When students ended the unit with a walking tour of their town’s historic district, they had a great deal of background knowledge to spur on their questions for the historian guide.

To learn more about the Sara Jaffarian School Library Program Award for Exemplary Humanities Programming Award, please visit the ALA website. This award is for given to a school librarian serving a K-8 population; the award is $5,000. The deadline to apply is May 5th.

Image Credit
Photograph from the Personal Collection of Judi Moreillon

Classroom-Library Collaboration for Earth Day

Image of Global Map imprinted to two hand palms

School Library Month, Part 3

As a global citizen who has deep concern about the health and future of the planet and the safety of her human, animal, and plant inhabitants, I have participated in Earth Day activities since they began in 1970. The official Earth Day website offers a history that may surprise today’s youth in terms of the origin of Earth DAy, how it led to the formation of the Environmental Protection Agency, and evolved from a national U.S. event to a global one in 1990.

Earth Day will be held this week on Thursday, April 22nd. This year’s theme is “Restore Our Earth™.”

This theme and a study of climate change go hand in hand. In this post I share how I suggest using resources from the School Library NJ resource portal and a tool and guide from the Washington Digital TeachKit to co-launch an elementary or a middle school Guided Inquiry Design® (GID) unit into a school-based celebration of Earth Day followed by a service project.

This GID would be co-designed, co-taught, and co-evaluated by a school librarian and one or more classroom teachers.

Open: I found Jeanette Winter’s picture book Our House Is On Fire: Greta Thunberg’s Call to Save the Planet (Beach Lane 2019) to be the ideal read-aloud to launch this inquiry for upper elementary and middle school students.

“You are never too small to make a difference.” Greta Thunberg

Many students will have heard of climate change, Greta Thunberg, and protests for environmental protections so they will be able to connect their background knowledge to the information in this book. With few words, Jeanette Winter’s text follows Greta Thunberg’s awakening to the climate crisis. The illustrations powerfully show Greta’s concern, courage, commitment, and success in building a global movement of young people. The final page of the book reads:

“What Will You Do?” Greta Thunberg

After a discussion, the educators would propose the purpose for this inquiry (connected to earth science and civics education curricula): Determine the “best” way for students at our school to celebrate Earth Day and use the celebration as a launch for a community service project.

Invite students to brainstorm some keywords and concepts.

Immerse
We would share a video and lead students in a discussion to further increase their investment in the purpose for the inquiry.

For upper elementary students and 6th-graders: “Earth Day 2021 & Beyond | 8 Ways to Celebrate (I bet you don’t know the fact in #1)” by Kid Conservationist

For 7th and 8th graders: “Earth Day 2020” by Culture Collective

If the timing was right, I would also promote students tuning in with their families for this year’s National Geographic Earth Day Eve, a celebration with Dr. Jane Goodall and others and musical headliners Yo-Yo Ma, Ziggy Marley, and Willie Nelson (4/21/21 at 8:30 EST).

Explore
I used some of the elementary and middle school search tools and resources from the School Library NJ portal to identify the possibilities that follow.

I accessed Newslea from the News & Current Events page of the Middle School section to identify several articles about Greta Thunberg (grades 5-8).

Screenshot of Newslea.com articles about Greta Thunberg

I had not previously used Sweet Search (from the Elementary Search page) and wanted to test out the site before recommending it to students.

Using search terms “Earth Day” and “climate change,” my collaborator and I could identify sites similar to these four for elementary or middle school students to explore in small groups. (We would model these searches when students begin to gather their own resources.)

NASA Climate Kids: Definitions and connections to climate change

Earth Day: EPA Earth Day: The site includes projects and ideas for youth.

The Nature Conservancy: Earth Day 2021: #SpeakUpForNature 2021 Virtual Event will be held on 4/22 at noon EST.

United Nations: International Mother Earth Day: The strength of this site is its global perspective.

Identify
In this phase, students would begin to form their ideas for answering the overarching question: What is the best way for our school to celebrate Earth Day and launch a service project?

Using Flipgrid (as described by the WA Digital TeachKit) could allow individual and small groups of students to make PSA announcements to identify team members, seek feedback, and gather support for their idea. See Flipgrid in the Tools section and the Guides section under Student Interaction.

Using Resource Portals
The School Library NJ resource portal would be useful for this guided inquiry project. In terms of resources, I was able to find useful sites for the Explore phase, AND I still had to do my homework. When entering the Gather phase, student searchers would find a number of dead ends when sites they predicted would be useful turned out to be a bust, which was also true for me. (An alternative would be for the educators to use the portal to develop a pathfinder that included searching strategies as well as fruitful sites and databases. The Middle School section offers Crash Course Research Tips videos.)

The WA Digital TeachKit would help educators provide students with a menu of possible sharing tools to use to promote their “best” idea, present their new knowledge, and further their service learning project.

Let’s celebrate Earth Day 2021 and School Library Month in collaboration with our students and classroom teacher colleagues! Their future (and ours) depends on it.

References

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.

School Library NJ. https://schoollibrarynj.libguides.com/home/

WA Digital TeachKit. https://sites.google.com/view/wa-digital-teachkit/home

Winter, Jeannette. 2019. Our House Is On Fire: Greta Thunberg’s Call to Save the Planet. New York: Beach Lane Books.

Image Credit
stokpic. “Hands World Map Globe Earth.” https://pixabay.com/photos/hands-world-map-global-earth-600497/

Civic Education with Kidizenship

“A democracy must be reborn anew every generation, and education is its midwife.” – John DeweyI believe that civic education has never been more important than it is today. In January just before President Biden was inaugurated, the Arizona Daily Star (Tucson’s daily newspaper) asked readers to submit what they expect for the next four years. My letter to the editor was published in the Star on January 20, 2021:

Civic Education Expectations for the Next Four Years

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

Many educators across the U.S. are reconsidering how to teach civic education in our K-12 schools, colleges, and universities. It is clear that youth and adults alike 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; and
  • to learn multiple ways to positively and nonviolently enact change in classrooms, schools, and communities.

It is my fervent hope that civic education for youth and adults alike will lead to a national electoral process that honors the votes of all citizens and is characterized by confidence and trust in our democratic process.

Kidizenship
You might imagine that I was thrilled to learn shortly thereafter about a new (to me) civic education organization called Kidizenship.  Kidizenship was founded by Vanderbilt University professor and Bloomberg columnist, Amanda Little.

From a grades 5-12 perspective, I especially appreciate their motto: “You may be too young to vote, but your voice is powerful. We want to hear it. Enter a contest, Show us YOUR America.”

Designed for tweens and teens, Kidizenship is a non-partisan, non-profit media platform for youth to share their voices beyond the classroom. The combination of civics education with creative self-expression and community action is especially powerful.

Speech Contests
Kidizenship is using social media to promote and share their contests. Their latest nationwide creative civics contest invites 8- to 18-year-olds to compose and perform a 2-to 3-minute presidential speech. For the “Make Your Speech” contest, young people are asked to step into the Oval Office and take on the responsibility of serving as President of the United States. They are to tell their constituents about their vision and values for our country and what they will accomplish in the next 4 years.

The contest is co-hosted by YMCA Youth and Government programs nationwide and will be judged by actor Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Obama White House speechwriter Jon Favreau, Representative Will Hurd of Texas, and civic leader Baratunde Thurston. The deadline for submitting speeches is April 16th.

This contest will be judged in two age categories 8-12 and 13-18. There are cash prizes for first-, second-, and third-place winners.

Classroom-Library Collaboration Opportunity
Classroom teachers (civics, ELA, history, social studies, and more) and school librarians can collaborate to plan and implement a mini-research (or inquiry if you have more time) and writing series of lesson plans to support students in developing, recording, and submitting their speeches. The connections between classroom curriculum standards and a host of digital and information literacy standards is limitless. Plus the open-ended nature of the project supports student voice and choice.

Research could include listening to and analyzing presidential speeches in terms of the vision and values they represent. Here are two of many possibilities.

  • The American Rhetoric Speech Bank has a searchable database that includes many U.S. presidents’ speeches—both recordings and transcripts.
  • The Library of Congress has recordings of historical presidential speeches with an accompanying lesson plan.

Writing, Presenting, and Recording

  • Students could collectively brainstorm and discuss their visions for the country as well as the values on which their visions are founded.
  • As they are composing their speeches, students’ peers and both educators can offer writing conferences to help speechwriters hone their ideas and fine-tune their speeches.
  • In small groups, students can present their speeches orally to classmates and seek feedback before polishing, video capturing, and submitting their speeches.

And if you are ambitious, you could organize your own local contest to complement the one sponsored by Kidizenship.

I look forward to hearing the speeches of the winners and following Kidizenship’s future opportunities to expand civic education beyond the classroom, the library, and out into the community.

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.