Lovers of children’s picture books and early literacy advocates gathered earlier this month at Bank Street College for “Literature for Early Childhood: What Do You Need to Know?” an inaugural mini conference sponsored by the Bank Street Writers Lab. The event brought together child development experts, educators, and creators of children’s literature.
From Belarus to Brooklyn, the world’s students, teachers, and librarians marked the fourth annual World Read Aloud Day on Wednesday with a diversity of celebrations and special events. The special day was created by Pam Allyn and Lit World, a nonprofit organization she founded that encourages a global celebration of the invaluable practice of reading aloud.
Although I didn’t come up with this column’s name—YA Underground—I’m appreciating it more and more. The kids I serve are living underground both metaphorically and literally. My library is in a 350-bed lockdown facility Amy Cheney juvenile cellthat serves adolescents ages 11 to 19, and it’s in one of three rooms with windows. I have the only room with windows that are at eye level. The sunlight streams in and looking out, you can see trees, grass, clouds, sky, and sunsets beyond the barbwire. When Jonas (not his real name), an avid manga fan, was in the library on his every-other-week visit, I heard him describe the library as “a lonely bright spot.” He was talking about books—but aren’t books windows?
If your school or public library is looking for some ideas for teen programming, the following sessions from NCTE’s recent annual conference are bound to inspire you. While most of the presenters focused on older teens, their programs can also be adapted for middle schoolers. And there are many more sessions that can be explored on NCTE’s 2012 website, such as But I Hate Poetry, Using Signal Words in Graphic Novels for Sequence and Cause/Effect, or Ah Ha Allusions!—Pop Culture Allusions & Dystopian Literature, to name just a few.
Over the next few issues of SLJTeen, I’ll be posting brief summaries of many of the sessions I attended at the annual National Council of Teachers of English annual conference, held in Las Vegas, Nov.15-18, 2012. Hand-outs for many of the sessions are available from the NCTE 2012 website. This round up includes sessions on nonfiction resources for English teachers, literacy efforts for incarcerated youth and adults, and faeries in young adult literature.
Thousands of students are meeting the challenge to start and complete a novel over the course of a month this November for National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo). Librarians and teachers trying to get students interested in writing have a ton of resources from the Young Writers Program, including lesson plans that align to the Common Core.
Ten teens, ages 16 to 17, dressed in tan pull-on pants and dark blue sweatshirts with “Alameda County Juvenile Hall” stamped across their chests, are in my library, crowding around me and talking all at once.
“He said he was hit with an electrical cord, but in the book he says it was a snakeskin belt,” says one boy, pouncing on a disparity between what an author told us when he recently visited and what he wrote in his memoir.
Over the past five years, I’ve returned to the New York neighborhood in which I met the children whom I first described in Savage Inequalities, Amazing Grace, and other books I published in the 1990s. The neighborhood is called Mott Haven. It’s the poorest section in all of the South Bronx, which is the poorest Congressional district in America.
Seven Title I media centers throughout the district continue to keep their doors open two hours each week, and local kids are welcome to read, check out books, or attend read-alouds. Although it’s not a new concept, it’s the first time Salem-Keizer has kept summer hours—and so far, kids seem to be enjoying it, says Stephen Cox, the district’s library media program specialist.
The prospect of working with adolescents may inspire fear in some, “but for a small, dedicated group of us, middle school is where it’s at,” said librarian Jennifer Hubert Swan, who gleaned some insight on engaging young readers from panelists Sharon Creech, Eoin Colfer, Rebecca Stead, Joan Bauer, and James Dashner at SLJ’s event held June 4 at the Javits Center in New York.
This is the worst time to be a school librarian and the best time to be one. Our profession is under daily threat of extinction, yet the implementation of the Common Core Standards affords incredible opportunity to make the strongest case for the importance of librarians and libraries in schools. Together we must commit to gaining a deep understanding of these new standards and determine to be at the fore of the Common Core conversations taking place in our buildings. We are uniquely suited for this because the Common Core Standards dovetail elegantly with inquiry, and we know inquiry.
It’s toddler storytime: let the rumpus begin! Toddlers bound quickly into the room. One hurdles mom’s legs while waiting for the opening song. Some hop, others roam, and a few practically climb our unflappable colleague Janie. Even after getting most of their wiggles out, many toddlers continue to float around the room—until Janie begins to read one of her favorite books, Owl Babies (Candlewick, 1996) by Martin Waddell.
Think about the number of times in a day that you make your way to Google (or another search engine) or how frequently you check your cell phone (whether or not it’s smart); we depend on information and communication that’s just a click or swipe away. Now, consider the technology available in classrooms with one or two outdated desktops.