Core Values in School Librarianship Responding with Commitment and Courage

Book Cover: Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and CourageI am a card-carrying collaborator but before Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage (Libraries Unlimited 2021) the professional books I’ve authored have been solo projects. Working with 17! co-contributors to Core Values has been a once-in-a-lifetime learning experience for me and now we all get to share in the celebration.

After an 18-month journey, our book is published and available for purchase from ABC-CLIO!

Core Values
When proposing this book, I suggested four core values for school librarianship: equity, diversity, inclusion, and intellectual freedom. From my perspective, this is an interdependent set of values and a combination of values that are unique to school librarians. While some of our non-school librarian colleagues may share two or more of these values, I proposed that school librarians have the commitment and responsibility to ensure all four of these values are fully accessible and functioning in our spheres of influence.

Indeed, we share other values with our classroom teacher and administrator colleagues such as literacy and education as a path to lifelong learning, innovation, and collaboration. Yet, these four—equity, diversity, inclusion, and intellectual freedom—are the foundation on which school librarian leadership is built.

Editorial Role
As the editor of the book, I had the honor and responsibility of securing an approved book proposal and then soliciting contributors for specific chapters. I am so pleased that the chapter co-authors said “yes!” They remained committed to this work through one of the most difficult years any of us has experienced in our professional and in our personal lives. I am grateful for their perseverance and dedication to our book.

Infusing our profession with voices of our present and future generation of school librarian leaders was one of my goals for this book. (The co-authors are not of my generation of school librarianship!) They are diverse in terms of race, ethnicity, and gender identity. The contributors, including those who offered vignettes of practice found in each chapter, live and work in various parts of the country, serve in urban, rural, and suburban schools and in libraries at all three instructional levels. Our hope is that all Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage readers will find themselves and their work reflected in this book.

I wrote the introduction to the book (and the final chapter as well). In the intro, I share my passion for school librarianship and my inspiration and motivation for proposing this project to our initial acquisitions editor Sharon Coatney at ABC-CLIO.

The introduction begins with a one-sentence theme that summarizes the message I hope we clearly convey throughout the book.

Introduction: A Passion for School Librarianship
All school librarians need a firm foundation to provide strength and direction during these rapidly changing and challenging times.
Judi Moreillon

Based on my experience and thirty years of involvement, I can honestly say that our core values are what initially fueled the fire of my passion for school librarianship, have kept me going in times of trouble, and have—without fail—reaffirmed and reignited my commitment to the profession. I believe that our values are the firm foundation we can rely on during times of change and challenge. As a practicing school librarian and as a school librarian educator, I have met many courageous school librarians who have stepped up to ensure that our core values were accessible to all of our library users when others might have shrunk from that responsibility.

Core Values Chapters: First Four Chapters and Contributors
In the first four chapters of the book, the contributors share their understandings of, passion for, and commitment to four core values: equity, diversity, inclusion, and intellectual freedom. The co-authors frame their chapters with one-sentence themes that convey the overarching meaning of each value. They also share how they and their colleagues have enacted these values in their practice of school librarianship.

Chapter 1: Equity
Equitable access is a matter of social justice.
Erika Long and Suzanne Sherman

Chapter 2: Diversity
Diversity in resources and programming is not optional.
Julie Stivers, Stephanie Powell, and Nancy Jo Lambert

Chapter 3: Inclusion
Inclusion means welcoming and affirming the voices of all library stakeholders in a way that shares power.
Meg Boisseau Allison and Peter Patrick Langella

Chapter 4: Intellectual Freedom
Intellectual freedom, including access and choices, privacy and confidentiality, is the right of all library stakeholders.
Suzanne Sannwald and Dan McDowell

Courage Chapters: Chapters 5-8 and Contributors
The co-authors of the courage chapters share how they have enacted the four values in specific contexts: professional relationships, principal-school librarian partnerships, and through specific behaviors—leadership and advocacy. Their one-sentence themes convey connections to the application of our core values in practice.

Chapter 5: Relationships
Relationships are the root of a strong community.
Jennifer Sturge with Stacy Allen and Sandy Walker

Chapter 6: Principal-School Librarian Partnerships
Principals are our most important allies.
M.E. Shenefiel and Kelly Gustafson

Chapter 7: Leadership
Leadership requires confidence and vulnerability.
Pam Harland and Anita Cellucci

Chapter 8: Advocacy
Advocacy involves effective communication and building partnerships.
Kristin Fraga Sierra and TuesD Chambers

Final Chapter
I had the gift of contributing the final chapter to the book. Advocating for collaboration through instructional partnerships is the hill on which I will make my final stand in school librarianship and K-12 education. The four core values must be enacted throughout the learning community if school librarians are to achieve our capacity to lead and positively influence every student’s learning. Collaborating with others is the way to co-create the learning environment in which students and the adults who serve them can thrive.

Chapter 9: Collaboration
Collaboration is THE key to co-creating a values-centered culture of deeper learning.
Judi Moreillon

All Chapters
All chapters in the book include two vignettes that spotlight core values and behaviors in action. The co-authors have also included quotes that have inspired them from a wide variety of scholars, practitioners, and writers. Each chapter concludes with questions for reflection.

ALA Annual
The contributors and I are enthusiastic about sharing our work. We will provide many opportunities for you to engage in conversation with us around these core values and their implication for practice beginning at ALA Annual where the co-authors of the first four chapters will offer an on-demand video session #SLCoreValues #alaac21:

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

We invite you to join us in promoting and enacting the unique contributions of school librarians to our learning communities!

And, of course, we hope you will read our book, discuss, and share the ideas and examples of practice with colleagues in your PLNs.

Work Cited

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

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.

Professional Book Review: Intellectual Freedom Issues in School Libraries

Book Cover: Intellectual Freedom Issues in School LibrariesWhen school librarians consider our unique set of core values, we must include intellectual freedom along with equity, diversity, and inclusion. Intellectual freedom is a bedrock of our practice. It impacts our work in so many overt and covert ways as we serve the literacy and learning needs of our students, colleagues, administrators, families, and communities.

Intellectual Freedom Issues in School Libraries (Libraries Unlimited 2021) edited by April M. Dawkins is a collection of 57 previously published articles that address this topic in variety of contexts. Readers may be surprised by the many ways the contributors frame our work as school library professionals in terms of intellectual freedom.

In our forthcoming book, the co-authors of the intellectual freedom chapter defined intellectual freedom in this way. It “is the right of every individual to both seek and receive information from all points of view without restriction. Rooted in U.S. law, intellectual freedom is further supported through library professional standards and guidance, and involves protecting the rights of access, choice, privacy, and confidentiality” (Moreillon 2021, in press).

From 2012 through 2015, I was privileged to contribute to a column for School Library Monthly. Four of the articles in Dawkins’ book are from those columns: “Leadership: Filtering and Social Media,” “Policy Challenge: Closed for Conducting Inventory,” “Policy Challenge: Consequences of Restricting Borrowing,” and “Policy Challenge: Leveling the Library Collection.” My fifth contribution, “Progressive Collection Development = A Foundation for Differentiated Instruction,” which was originally published in 2017 in School Library Connection, is the last article in the book.

Although each of these articles speak to the commitment it takes to remain true to the core value of intellectual freedom, the most recent “Progressive Collection Development…” has an important place in today’s conversations about racial and social justice.

“Collaborating librarians cannot overestimate the importance of their work as literacy stewards who provide the resource foundation for DI [differentiated instruction]. With their knowledge of literature, librarians can support teachers’ teaching and help motivate students to engage in deep and meaningful learning. Providing multiple sources that serve as mirrors and windows can make DI a reality.

Diverse resources are an essential first step in opening doors for all students to succeed” (Dawkins 2021, 197).

Other contributors to the book are school librarianship’s long-time staunch intellectual freedom leader Helen R. Adams, April M. Dawkins, Elizabeth Burns, Chad Heck, Maria Cahill, Lucy Santos Green, Michelle Maniaci Folk, and more.

Contributing to this book was important to me because the First Amendment applied to the rights of library users was my initial pathway into developing a passion for librarianship. Ensuring that K-12 students had those rights has always been part of my mission as a school librarian and school librarian educator. Intellectual freedom can position our values and work in sharp contrast to outdated school policies and practices. It can cause us to consider and reconsider the distinctions between selection and censorship. And in the case of book or resource challenges, intellectual freedom can require that we show courage to stand up for the rights of youth, authors, and illustrators.

I know readers of Dawkins’ book will want to add Chapter 4: Intellectual Freedom by Suzanne Sannwald, high school teacher librarian, and Dan McDowell, Director of Learning and Innovation, Grossmont Union High School District, San Diego County, California, to their essential readings on intellectual freedom (Moreillon 2021, in press).

In their chapter, Suzanne and Dan explore intellectual freedom from access to print and digital resources to students’ opportunities to exercise agency. The co-authors make a strong case that intellectual freedom is a mindset for students and for educators. It includes seeking and receiving information, securing privacy and confidentiality, and fostering democracy. Suzanne and Dan note that when school librarians collaborate with other educators to design pedagogy, they can make a shared commitment and practice of honoring students’ rights to lead their own learning.

And isn’t that the ultimate goal of intellectual freedom?

Works Cited

Dawkins, April. Ed. 2021. Intellectual Freedom Issues in School Libraries. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

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

 

 

Banned Books Week and The Freedom to Read

Censorship is a deadend. Find your freedom to read.This week, classroom teachers, librarians, and libraries across the country are honoring the American Library Association Office of Intellectual Freedom’s annual Banned (and Challenged) Books Week, September 27 – October 3, 2020.

The observance began yesterday with the publication of the Top 100 Most Banned and Challenged Books: 2010 – 2019. This list is compiled and published every decade and once again testifies to the fact that books written expressly for youth dominate the list.

The top seven books on the list were written expressly for children and young adults. Perennial “favorites” on this list, including Captain Underpants, Hunger Games, and Speak, are some of the books that young people repeatedly request, read, enjoy, share, and eagerly discuss. Those are the books that should be in the hands of our youth. (See last year’s 9/24/19 post about Speak!)

Each year, the OIF publishes the ten most frequently challenged books from the previous year. The 2019 list should cause all school librarians to pause and reflect on their own commitment to students’ intellectual freedom and right to read. Nine of the ten books were written expressly for children and young adults. Of those nine, four are nonfiction titles focused on sexuality, gender identity, or LGBTQIA+ experiences. Let me repeat. Four of the nine are informational titles: biographies or narrative nonfiction.

Why would be deny students access to information presented in age-appropriate books?

Four Book Jackets for the Books Listed Below

Four Frequently Challenged Books – 2019

#2. Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin – Narrative Nonfiction

#4. Sex is a Funny Word by Cory Silverberg, illustrated by Fiona Smyth – Expository Nonfiction

# 6. I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas – Biography

#10. And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson illustrated by Henry Cole – Narrative Nonfiction

At this time in the lives of our K-12 students and in the life of our country, school librarians must raise our voices with and for young people’s access to ideas and information. For as long as I have been in the profession, school librarians have facilitated many different kinds of learning experiences centered on students’ right to read (See Banned Books Week Projects blog post 2016.)

Since 2011, school librarians have also been observing Banned Websites Awareness Day to hone a spotlight on over-restrictive filters that compromise students’ and educators’ access to information. It will be held on Wednesday, September 30, this year.

Last Thursday, I attended the ALA Connect Live: Intellectual Freedom webinar. Thank you to ALA President Julius C. Jefferson, Freedom to Read Foundation President Barbara Stripling and ALA Intellectual Freedom Committee Chair Martin L. Garnar for this program. (See information about ALA Connect Live! Programs.)

Here are some resources:

Check out the Banned Books Week Facebook page. There will be live events throughout this week.

For research related to banned books, read Banned Books: Defending Our Freedom to Read by Robert P. Doyle (2017).  ALA offers a link for members-only online access. You can also purchase the book for $15.00 from the ALA Store.

There are resources to support the popular “Dear Banned Author” program including printable and virtual postcards, author addresses, and tips for libraries in hosting virtual programs.

On Friday, October 2 at 6 p.m. CT, ALA is hosting a national watch party of “Scary Stories,” a documentary about the censorship history and impact of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz. (I cannot count the replacement copies I purchased of Schwartz’s book during the ten years I served as an elementary librarian!) Libraries can learn how to stream the film for free, or host their own watch party.

Follow these Twitter hashtags: #BannedBooksWeek; #BannedBook; #BannedAuthor

Learn more about the webinar series hosted by Intellectual Freedom Round Table, the Graphics Novels & Comics Round Table and Image Comics.

I hope you will join me in proudly wearing your “I read banned books” button and continue reading, recommending, and discussing these books with youth.

Image Credit

American Library Association. http://www.ala.org/advocacy/bbooks/bannedbooksweek/ideasandresources/freedownloads

 

Free Speech and Editorial Cartoons

Image: "We the People" U.S. Constitution flanked by the U.S. flagOn this Labor Day holiday, I’m thinking about how students learn the history of our national celebrations and observances. In my experience, Labor Day could be one of the least studied of those. At this time during a pandemic, it is important that we reflect on the sacrifices being made on our behalf by first responders and front-line workers, including educators who care for the academic as well as the social-emotional health of U.S. students.

Not to diminish this holiday for U.S. workers, but considering the 2020 election cycle, Constitution Day, which is celebrated on September 17th, seems to me to be more pressing in terms of students’ needs to understand the meaning and relevance of this day of observance.

Connie Williams wrote an August 20, 2020 Knowledge Quest blog post that provides resources for educators who want to guide students as they dig deeper into the frameworks of our system of government. See her post “Integrating Constitution Day into Your School Curriculum,” including a link to information about a poster contest with an October 2, 2020 deadline.

First Amendment Rights
For me, the time is right and ripe to focus students’ attention on the First Amendment to the Constitution.

First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

With the Black Lives Matter Movement protests and counter-protests happening across the country, questioning the purpose, exercise, and limits, if there are any, of this right is relevant whether or not we are actively engaged in civil unrest.

One of the ways I have engaged students in thinking about our freedom of speech and freedom of the press is through deep dives with editorial cartoons. Not only do these texts, which are accessible online and in paper print, sharpen students critical thinking skills but they also give students the opportunity to learn and practice questioning and drawing inferences, essential reading comprehension strategies.

Free Speech
In Tucson, we are lucky to have David Fitzsimmons, a talented and “no-holds-barred” editorial cartoonist who has been sharing his opinions in the Arizona Daily Star since 1986. He’s won many awards and his cartoons are syndicated to over 700 media outlets worldwide. Like many editorial cartoonists, David shares his work via social media as well. You can find his cartoons and commentary at: @DWFitzsimmons (Notice he describes himself as an “insultant.”)

Like all editorial cartoonists, David makes no bones about the fact that he is a “biased, partisan, unfair” commentator on social and political topics. I recently attended a Star Opinion Page Reader Chat where David shared his work. (The quotes are from my notes.)

In that chat, David shared how a cartoon he penned and published on May 31, 2020 after George Floyd’s murder was used as a “political satire” text by Cooper Junior High social studies teachers in Wylie, Texas, located just north of Dallas.

According to the newspaper article in the Fort Worth Star-TelegraphWylie ISD faces backlash after assignment includes cartoon comparing police with KKK,” the students were learning about the Bill of Rights and the cartoon was not part of the district’s curriculum.

On August 26, David Fitzsimmons wrote an op-ed in the Arizona Daily Star in response to the controversy: “Fitz’s Opinion: Texas, Governor Abbott and the National FOP are not happy with this cartoonist.” I agree with David that the Fort Worth Star-Telegraph’s headline misrepresents his cartoon. I also agree with his assessment of the overall situation surrounding this incident: “Persecuting, smearing and scapegoating public school teachers for teaching truth, civic dialogue, historical context and critical thought is beyond unacceptable. It’s un-American.”

Intellectual Freedom
Intellectual freedom is a core value of librarianship. I believe school librarians have an essential role to play in bringing thought-provoking texts into the academic programs in our schools. When I served as a librarian at Sabino High School in Tucson (2001-2003), David was an engaging and effective guest speaker for social studies and history students and classroom teachers. Sadly, he reports that invitations to share with K-12 students have sharply decreased in recent years.

David gave me permission to reproduce one of his cartoons in in my book Coteaching Reading Comprehension Strategies in Secondary School Libraries: Maximizing Your Impact (ALA 2012). The ‘toon entitled “Asterisk” focuses on how the Constitution grants us the rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights. The asterisk leads readers to a briefcase with these words printed on its side in capital letters: SPECIAL INTERESTS.

Whether teaching face to face or remotely, these widely available texts are goldmines for students. Visual texts like editorial cartoons capture today’s students’ attention. Pairing cartoons penned by editorial cartoonists with divergent viewpoints can create deep conversations. Questioning these texts and using readers’ background knowledge and evidence in the drawings and carefully selected (minimal) words in editorial cartoons to make inferences are ways to shore up students’ thinking and reading skills. Educators can also use editorial cartoons as provocative texts to launch inquiry learning, especially in the areas of civics, social studies, and history. (My hats are off to the classroom teachers in Wylie ISD.)

Additional Resources for Editorial Cartoons
David Fitzsimmons’ editorial cartoons and op-eds can be accessed via the Local Editorials and Columnists Opinion Page at Tucson.com.

The American Association of Editorial Cartoonists offers a gallery of editorial cartoonists’ work.

Many cartoonists have websites where they display their work. The Cartoonist Group site includes editorial cartoonist Clay Bennett’s work, which I use it in the “advanced questioning” lesson plan in my book.

Side note: In his 9/3/20 reader chat talk, David Fitzsimmons stated there are only 23 editorial cartoonists working in the U.S. today. He also listed the local newspapers that are on the brink of collapse. If you are as lucky as I am to still have a local paper, I hope you subscribe to it. I also hope you are integrating the paper printed or online issue of your local newspaper into your teaching. In 2017, The Washington Post adopted “Democracy Dies in Darkness” as its official slogan. It’s worth asking yourself and your students how local newspapers can be beacons that shine the light.

Image Credit:
wynpnt. “Constitution 4th of July.” Pixabay.com, https://pixabay.com/illustrations/constitution-4th-of-july-july-4th-1486010/ 

Speak-ing of #BannedBooksWeek

This week (September 22 – 29, 2019), classroom teachers, librarians, and libraries across the country are honoring the American Library Association Office of Intellectual Freedom’s annual Banned (and Challenged) Books Week. When I served as a secondary school librarian, this week was one of my most treasured. For those three years, I collaborated with 8th grade (one) and high school English language arts classroom teachers to spotlight the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books from 2000-2009. (I look forward to the 2010-2020 list!)

I gathered as many as possible children’s and young adult books from 100 Most Frequently Challenged list from our library and interlibrary loaned through the public library. (There were a few titles that were not appropriate for the school environment such as Private Parts by Howard Stern.) We launched the lesson by helping students make connections among these three terms and books written for youth: banned, challenged, and censored. Students who had read Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 made connections and often led the discussion.

The classroom teachers and I co-read one of the picture books from the list and modeled a conversation about why the book had been challenged. Then, students working in small groups were given a short stack of books and the task of discussing each one to determine why they thought the book had been challenged. Students read picture books and book jacket information for novels to guide their thinking. Their ELA-R teachers and I facilitated these discussions by monitoring students’ conversations and asking probing questions.

Each group reported to the class by selecting the most surprising book in their stack and shared their determination for the “reason” the book had been challenged. One of the biggest takeaways from this lesson was that students had read a good number of these books in the past and where annoyed or shocked that any adult would think they were incapable of thinking critically or shouldn’t have even be allowed to read the story or information.

Laurie Halse Anderson’s Books
Laurie Halse Anderson’s book Speak appears as #60 on the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books from 2000-2009. I have been a fan ever since the book was published… and this year read both the graphic novel version and her latest book Shout. It isn’t often that readers have such a powerful example of three texts—one novel, one graphic novel, and one free verse memoir—to compare their responses to the “same” story told by the same author. Anderson has given us all a gift with Speak (1999), Speak: The Graphic Novel (2018), and Shout: The True Story of a Survivor Who Refused to Be Silenced (2019).

Speak, the Novel
I read this book when it was first published. In 2002, I facilitated a student book club at Sabino High School. (It was my first year as a high school librarian after serving in elementary school libraries for ten years.) The students in the club were freshmen and sophomores. I provided students with a stack of books for which I could secure multiple copies. They picked Speak as our first read. I sent home information to students’ families about the book club (we met once a month during lunch) and noted the list of nine books the students had chosen to read that year.

Of course, I suspected that Speak would be an important book for the young women in the group. Protagonist Melinda’s experience, silence, inner turmoil, and trauma were clearly and poignantly conveyed in the story. What surprised me, at the time, was that the young men in the group were equally affected by Melinda’s story. Anderson’s voice rang true and authenticity created an invitation for readers to relate to the story on an emotional level. Students’ discussion was open and frank. It was an outstanding beginning for building our caring and thoughtful community of readers.

Speak, the Graphic Novel
Emily Carroll’s illustrations in the graphic novel add another dimension to Anderson’s story that may help some readers relate more deeply to Melinda’s story. The black, white, and sepia tones of the illustrations portray the fear and suffering of a freshman girl who has been raped and shunned. Her isolation and depression are vividly drawn. When Melinda finally takes the opportunity to strike back at the rapist, the image of her punching him captures the emotional power of finding one’s courage, using one’s strength, and protecting one’s self from further harm.

The parallels with the acts of superheroes will not be lost on readers. Carroll, who is known for penning horror comics, was the perfect pick to illustrate Anderson’s modern classic. The graphic novel format with brief text, frames that sequence and chunk the text, and drawings that pack an emotional punch will bring many new (and returning) readers to this text.

Shout, the True Story of a Survivor Who Refused to Be Silenced
And finally, for me, Shout, the free verse memoir brings Laurie Halse Anderson’s first-hand experience with abuse, rape, and resilience into an even sharper focus. Her intimate poems about family dysfunction, microaggressions (a word I didn’t “have” when I first read Speak), and most importantly of all, ending the shame associated with sexual assault will tear at your heart. As a woman, mother, and grandmother, I wept for young women who have suffered and continue to suffer in silence and must find resilience without family or societal support.

With today’s #MeToo movement, I believe all three “versions” of Speak/Shout provide a rich literary experience for critical conversations. But from my personal perspective Shout was the most powerful of the three. For me, Anderson’s memoir presents undeniable truths from which I, the reader, could not turn away.

Thank you, Laurie Halse Anderson, for your courage in breaking the silence, for openly sharing your life experiences, and for your heartfelt truth telling.

As you honor and celebrate The Freedom to Read and The Library Bill of Rights, this week and 365 days a year, school librarians must recommit to advocating for and protecting students’ rights. Our library materials reconsideration policies are a place to begin. Please read Mona Kirby’s article that appeared in the September issue of American Libraries: “Up to the Challenge: Dealing with School Library Book Challenges Before They Happen.”

Reading Dangerously

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

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

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

The Foundation has three primary activities:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Work Cited

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

News Based in Facts

As I pack my suitcase and organize my schedule for the American Library Association Conference in New Orleans (#alaac18), I am once again reminded of how important our national associations have been and continue to be essential components of my professional learning. In addition to seeing long-time friends and colleagues, participating in the Lilead Project meetings, attending AASL meetings, keynotes, events, and enjoying the Newbery-Caldecott-Wilder Banquet tradition with select tablemates, I am especially looking forward to this session:

Fake News or Free Speech: Is there a right to be misinformed?
Saturday, June 23rd from 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
With James LaRue, Nicole Cooke, Damaso Reyes, Joyce Valenza, and Mary Minow
Morial Convention Center, Room 288

This is the session description:
“‛Fake news’ has always been part of the communication landscape. The difference now is that we are inundated with social media that makes it possible to disseminate “fake news” quickly and easily. In the past ‛fake news’ was used as propaganda to isolate individuals or groups of people, destabilize governments, and foment anarchy. ‛Fake news’ may be inaccurate, dishonest, misleading, intentionally untrue, and even intended to damage the paradigm of factual information. But is it illegal? Is it protected by the First Amendment? Can ‛fake news’ — or suppressing it — undermine our democratic way of life?”

A few days ago, Loretta Gaffney posted a compelling reflection in her Knowledge Quest Blog post: “School Librarians and Truth in an Era of ‘Fake News.” Loretta shared how students had come to her in the library on 9/11 when they were unsure about what was happening in the world. They trusted Loretta and they trusted the information they could access in the library (with her support).
This was the comment I posted to Loretta’s article:

Loretta, Your experience in creating and promoting the library as an information source learners can trust is a model for all of us.

I, for one, would like to see the term “fake news” abandoned by school librarians and the library profession as a whole. Yes, all information/news is a social construct and reflects the perspective of the author/reporter.

However, using the term “fake news” legitimizes it in a way that makes me uncomfortable. Nearly every day, the Arizona Daily Star publishes a “Fact Check” article that has taken up to two pages in our small Tucson newspaper. The constant need for fact-checking our country’s leaders and political candidates is alarming to me.

I believe we can acknowledge that news always has a point of view and still agree that there should be “facts” to back up any information source. I also believe we should expect our leaders to get their facts straight, and we must start holding them accountable at the voting booth.

Let’s give no more credence to “fake news.” Let’s encourage students and classroom teachers to abandon the term in favor of “news” and call the fake stuff what it is: half-truths, distortions, propaganda, outright lies…

To my way of thinking, that would be a start at maintaining the librarian’s and the library’s reputation as a person and place of trust (end quote).

As Brian Bess, Library Assistant, Huntsville Madison County Public Library, recently posted in ALA Connect: “…our mission is to disseminate reliable, reputable, and helpful information to the public…” I agree with Brian and am very much looking forward to learning what others in our profession are thinking at next Saturday’s session at ALA. Could suppressing “fake news” undermine our democratic way of life? Really?

I welcome your comments here. I will post a follow up after the session. Thank you.

Image Created at The Ransomizer.com

Banned Books Week Projects

muniz_img_2403_thumbnailAs AASL President Audrey Church notes: “Intellectual freedom and the right to privacy have been with us throughout the history of school librarianship. The issues are the same, but the formats, the situations, and the contexts have grown” (qtd. in Adams, 41).

During Banned Books Week, every school librarian has the opportunity to involve students, colleagues, administrators, and families in projects related to the Freedom to Read (http://ftrf.org).

Celia Muniz is the library media specialist at Harlingen High School in Harlingen, Texas. She created a flyer to spotlight her school’s week-long observance of Banned Books Week.

On Monday the Harlingen Information Literacy Center (ILC) kicked off the school’s observance with a display of books and projects created by English language arts (ELA) teacher Mrs. Huerta’s students. (Ms. Muniz sweetened the deal by giving those who stopped by the library circ desk and joined the fight against censorship a candy treat.)

On Tuesday and Wednesday, Mrs. Huerta’s students and the ILC offered Banned Books Week presentations to other classes on a sign-up basis. Today, on September 29th, Ms. Muniz is taking photos in the ILC of staff and students wearing super hero t-shirts and capes. Finally, on Friday Ms. Muniz is distributing “Defending the Right to Read Banned Books” stickers in the cafeteria during both lunch periods.

Similarly, Erikka Adams, head librarian at the Proctor Academy in Andover, New Hampshire, set out to involve the entire campus in Banned Books Week. She created a school-wide, campus-based banned books scavenger hunt, which she kicked off with a school-wide announcement. She followed up the announcement with details via email.

All of the banned books in the hunt had a sheet inside explaining why they are banned and a QR code to a video talking about banned books in general.  She posted the scavenger hunt clues on the library’s social media accounts; students and faculty had to follow/like/friend to get the clues.

Anyone who finds one of the challenged books, snaps a selfie holding the book, and posts the photo using these hashtags (#bannedbooksweek #proctoracademy #proctorreads) will be invited to the post-banned books book swap and pizza party.  Finally, during a school-wide assembly, some students will share the title of the books they found, why each has been banned or challenged, and how students found that particular copy.

Danielle Lewis, middle school librarian at the United National International School (UNIS) in New York, New York, sent this message to the school learning community: “The right to books, libraries, and information is a human right embedded in the UNIS Mission, the Charter of the United Nations and the 2030 SDGs.  I want to start a conversation that helps middle school students explore how our diverse stories enrich the human community — and why we need to celebrate and protect everyone’s right to read and write.”

In collaboration with advisors and subject area teachers, Ms. Lewis opened a discussion with the entire middle school community.

  • There has been a “pop-up” library with banned books and poster-making materials in the middle school lounge during lunch over the past few weeks.
  • The school’s book clubs have dedicated their opening meetings of the year to exploring banned books, censorship, and the freedom to read and think for themselves.
  • In addition, Ms. Lewis has been speaking about intellectual freedom with ELA and advisory classes.  Last Thursday, she spoke with one grade level as a whole group during Drop Everything and Read time.

After students were introduced to the issue of intellectual freedom, they were encouraged to participate in a variety of activities including making a poster, taking a “banned book shelfie,” participating in a virtual read-out, and reading diverse banned books. Ms. Lewis created this presentation to support this call to action.

Seanean Shanahan, who shared Banned Books Week activities in Monday’s “Freedom to Read” blog, snapped photographs of ELA teachers wearing their “I Read Banned Books And I Cannot Lie” t-shirts.

Involving classroom teachers, staff, and students in these week-long projects is one way for Ms. Muniz and the Harlingen High School ILC, Ms. Adams and the Proctor Academy Library, Ms. Lewis and the UNIS Library to diffuse conversations and learning about censorship and First Amendment rights throughout their school buildings.

Brava to these four leader school librarians. If you have questions about their work, you can contact Celia Muniz (@celiamuniz2), Erikka Adams (@LovetheLovejoy), and Seanean Shanahan (@Librarytalker) using their Twitter handles.

And hurray for all of the school librarians who remain defenders of students’ intellectual freedom.

 

Work Cited

Adams, Helen. “65 Years and Counting: AASL and School Librarians—Still Champions of Intellectual Freedom.” Knowledge Quest, vol. 45, no. 1, 196, pp. 34-41.

Image courtesy of Celia Muniz, Library Media Specialist, Harlingen (TX) High School

Freedom to Read

bbw-logo122hThis week school librarians across the U.S. are collaborating with classroom teachers to promote students’ freedom to read. In many school libraries, librarians have put up displays that spotlight challenged books; many are leading students in discussions about censorship. This Pinterest “Banned Books Week” search yields photographs of many such displays.

While displays are important, they can isolate students’ questions and discussions about their Constitutional freedom to read in the library. Other school librarians are involving their faculty in order to diffuse these conversations throughout the building.

Seanean Shanahan, teacher librarian at Mesa Middle School in Castle Rock, Colorado, spent part of the summer developing a logo that read: “I Read Banned Books And I Cannot Lie.” (See her logo at redbubble.com: https://goo.gl/4s0edX)

She created an iron-on and placed it on shirts, which she presented to the classroom teachers in the English language arts (ELA) department. She also provided them with a list of the frequently challenged and banned books that are on the shelves in their small library. The classroom teachers used fabric markers to add the titles of banned books they had read to their shirts. (All of the titles they added are in the Mesa Middle School Library collection.)

While all of the shirts started the same, they ended up very different. The ELA teachers agreed to wear their shirts on the first school day of Banned Books Week, today, Monday, September 26, 2017. Seanean hopes to snap a photo of the group wearing their personalized “I Read Banned Books And I Cannot Lie” shirts.

Last year, Seanean asked classroom teachers to volunteer to wear cards around their necks that had the picture of the cover of a banned book on one side and the reasons, locations, and years those books were banned or challenged on the reverse side. They wore the cards around school for the week and many of the teachers started trading them around.

You can reach Seanean on Twitter @Librarytalker if you have questions about her efforts to support students’ understanding of their Freedom to Read.

How are you leading and involving your learning community in #bannedbooksweek?

Image courtesy of Banned Books Week.org