Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Building Block Nominees 2007

It was my pleasure this year to serve on the committee for the 2007 Building Block award. For those of you who are not familiar with the award, it is for the picture book for preschoolers voted most popular by preschoolers. Librarians (and others) nominate books all year long, this year the books had to have a 2005 or 2006 publication year to be eligible. In addition either the author OR illustrator must be a resident of the United States. The committee reads the nominees (usually around 90-110) and votes. The top 30 make it to the next round. Those 30 are read to an audience of selectors (other children's librarians, MLS students, paraprofessionals, etc.) who vote for the top 10. Those top 10 are the nominees. Librarians all across Missouri work hard to get as many preschoolers to read or listen to these books as possible. We go to schools (headstarts and kindergartens are eligible), day cares, etc for votes as well as having ballots in the library. Since I only became a Missouri Librarian in August of 2006, I have been through one season of voting (voting runs September 1st through December 31st) and thoroughly enjoyed the process. The 2006 nominees were great and I had a lot of fun with them. Not all of our books are as strong this year, but more about it later. I will also talk a little in a future entry about which books didn't make it to my disappointment.

2007 Missouri Building Block Nominees
  • Move Over, Rover! by Karen Beaumont; Illustrated by Jane Dyer
  • Dooby Dooby Moo by Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin
  • Wiggle by Doreen Cronin; Illustrated by Scott Menchin
  • Looking for a Moose by Phyllis Root; Illustrated by Randy Cecil
  • A Splendid Friend Indeed by Suzanne Bloom
  • Snowball Fight! by Jimmy Fallon; Illustrated by Adam Stower
  • Starry Safari by Linda Ashman; Illustrated by Jeff Mack
  • Edwina, the Dinosaur Who Didn't Know She Was Extinct by Mo Willems
  • Cha-Cha Chimps by Julia Durango; Illustrated by Eleanor Taylor
  • Sakes Alive! A Cattle Drive by Karma Wilson; Illustrated by Karla Firehammer

Official Missouri Building Block Website - Check out the previous years' lists! There are some great books on there for storytime and you might find a new favorite; I know I did.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Is Book-It bad for children?

How many of you did Book-It as a child? I did, and I'm sure many of you did too. Simple concept, read some books, collect little stickers for your button and then eventually get a coupon for a free personal pan pizza. Marvelous. Or not?

Critics Denounce Pizza Hut Reading Program

The criticims make sense at first, but let's break it down.

It is a corporate program and should schools be supporting a corporation? Well... In an ideal world, no, but that isn't the world we live in. Almost every school I know hosts a scholastic book fair and/or passes out those brochures for book orders. It happened when I was a kid, and it still happens. (Often parents bring those in and try to get the books through us and we don't have them for a variety of reasons). It makes money for the school and gets kids a chance to order books, but it also supports one specific corporation and publisher. Schools have partnered with corporations and accepted private support in a variety of ways throughout the year. This is not signifigantly different.

It encourages childhood obesity. Yes childhood obesity is a national epidemic. I'm not arguing that, no one is. The article specifically mentions schools getting rid of soda machines. Soda machines provide daily access to sugary pop. As I recall, you can get two pizzas at most per year. Two little pizzas a year do not make you obese. Nor are parents forced into going to pizza hut. One time, we traded in our coupons to make pizzas with dad. (Dad makes the most marvelous pizzas, he worked as a pizza chef in college). That was a ton of fun. Parents can offer there children an alternative award if they don't want to go to pizza hut.

When children read for a prize, it doesn't make them readers. Basically this is the idea that kids are going to choose the quickest book and just do the minimum they need to get through the program. Perhaps. Some kids will. And the ones who are already good readers don't need this program. But then there are the other kids, the in between ones. Those kids will do it because they want the pizza, and in the process might find that one book, the first book they ever liked to read, the first book they ever read cover to cover. Granted they might find it in a school based awards program, but you never know. Rewards motivate kids, and some kids need that motivation to discover that they might actually like reading. It certainly is better than AR type programs. I would rather reward the children for doing any reading at all than force them into one level. (But you really don't want me to get started on AR. If you don't know about it, thank your lucky stars and move on.)

And I work in a library where we solicit coupons for freebies from businesses to give away as prizes. Schools and libraries don't have enough money for incentives and I'm all about accepting the partnership and rewards from corporations. At the PLA Spring Symposium I was just at, a librarian (perhaps one of the California State Librarians? I'm not sure) was talking about the presence of Coors as a sponser for an adult literacy program. They had to eventually reject them because too many adult learners have struggled with substance abuse in the past and it sent mixed messages. I understand nixing Coors, nor would I be in favor of letting a cigarette company sponser summer reading. But Pizza Hut? I have no problem with.

I personally would be disappointed and saddened to see this program ended. There are some ALA members (though I do not believe the two are officially affiliated) on the board of this program and I would also be saddened to see the ALA make a rash decision to pull out and condemn this program.

Total side note: the photo on this article must be a stock photo. It shows a marine reading to a bunch of kids and has nothing to do with the specific Book-it program.

Friday, March 02, 2007

PLA Spring Symposium - informal

I'm far too tired to keep writing up some highlights of my notes. I'll try to get to those in the morning. This is my first professional event and I am loving it. I keep refering to myself as a 'baby librarian' because I am younger and a new professional. Everyone is wonderfully friendly and open. I'm learning as much from sitting and talking to people as I am from my track on literacy (which is wonderful). People will mention things and I keep stopping to write down recommendations for books, articles, web resources, and programs to look into. I can also tell that one of my main mistakes was not picking up enough business cards. I actually walked out of the library with only three, and walked back in and grabbed some more. But I probably should have gotten more than I did for safety. This is such an amazing time to meet with people and hear what people are doing all over the country (and Canada). There is also a very rejuvenating quality to the chance to meet and laugh with my coworkers. By the end of work today, we were making Dewey Decimal jokes. These people are goofy in the same way I am goofy and I love it.

And from a librarian from Canada, I learned a wonderful new red light game, look at the license plate number (#s part only) of the car in front of you. What dewey subject does that coordinate to? For example, 743 - drawing. Marvelous fun, such a great thing!

PLA Spring Symposium 2007 Day 2 Morning

The workshop on Literacy initiatives has thus far been focused on sucessful programs and the history of how they got there. It is very interesting (and inspiring and frankly a little intimidating). A lot of the presenters are state librarians or work on that level and are discussing state wide programs. I keep reminding myself that it is okay to start small. I've taken pages and pages of notes and my hand is starting to cramp up. I would think about taking my laptop, but it can also be a bit of a distraction. Here are some of the highlights and I believe I have them all associated with the right people.

Susan Hildreth (PLA president and state librarian of California) talked about the new PLA service response that emphasizes literacy for teens and adults and family programs. It is separated out from early childhood literacy. Quite often it is easy to focus on early childhood literacy (as in the absolutely wonderful program Every Child Ready to Read) that these other components get missed. The way that PLA reshaped this service response seems a very good solution to this problem.

According to the National Association of Adult Literacy, 90 million adults (out of 221 million) are at basic or below basic literacy skills. 30 million of those are below basic level. At the basic level you can do some simple tasks like filling out a bank deposit slip, but not much more. Service is needed for adults whose reading level is below that required for entrance in adult educational activities.

Here's a controversial question posed by Gary Strong (UCLA librarian and former state librarian of California): Are libraries educational institutions? For many libraries this seems to be a tricky point. Are we here to provide books and access to information or are we also going to help people read those books and access that information in a more effective and more literate way? My personal opinion: While we can not and should not ever attempt to be schools, there is a place for some educational services such as literacy services in our libraries. This should be in supplement and partnership to those services provided by other agencies. However this is a tricky slippery slope. How much is too much? Is it really ever too much?

While so many people are interested in childhood literacy and early childhood literacy, Robert Wedgeworth (of ProLiteracy Worldwide) repeatedly pointed out that it is the educational level of the parent that most influences the child's literacy abilities. By offering literacy services to adults, we are increasing childhood literacy. This brings us to the idea of family literacy services and that we must (as several of the panel speakers pointed out) provide literacy programs for all ages and that these programs should work together. To paraphrase him (since I'm sure I didn't get an exact quote): No children's literacy program can be completely sucessful without a companion adult program.

I also really liked this: literacy is not just about knowledge, but it enables a better quality of life for your entire family. For example you can monitor your family's health and medications more effectively with a higher level of literacy.

Gary Strong also made an interesting point. Again to paraphrase: Libraries are not an island unto themselves - they can not solve every community problem by themselves. But they can be an amazing force to identify and help solve problems in partnerships. Which leads us to the next question: How do you place the library as a key player in the community?

There was a lot more, that was only the first panel. I only got through about half of my morning notes. I'll try to bring lots more later, but now it is time to head back to my afternoon session.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

PLA Spring Symposium 2007 Day 1

I'm in San Jose, CA for the 2007 PLA Spring Symposium. I got up early today to fly here from Kansas City and arrived mid-day. From there I found the Fairmont hotel (so far no complaints - it is beautiful and well situated downtime), and checked in. A quick check of the schedule told me I had just enough time to make a tour (followed by a lunch) of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Library (which is the main branch of the San Jose Public Library). However I hadn't registered. I took a chance and headed over (the four blocks). Luckily they had plenty of room (there were only a few of us and they had planned on many more).

We got a great tour of the library. They have lots of art incorporated throughout the building, but it is concept art and not labelled so you have to look for it. I especially like the shelf unit of books that rotate to reveal a back of trick books. Very cool, especially since it is in the mystery section. The library is a joint effort between the city and San Jose State University. Half the floors are dewey, half are loc. One entrance is a public entrance on the street, the other (directly through the main hall) is an entrance onto the campus. It is a really great partnership. Beautiful library, amazing use of space and also great merchandising of the collection. We then had lunch with staff from the library school and the public library. I had great conversations with my other attendees and their staff. Then there was an open house for the King Library's Adult Literacy center. I'm here for the workshop on literacy initiatives. It was great to see what they're doing and how much they're helping people.

The opening session featured the LJ Librarian of the year who talked about her work in Maryland libraries advocacy and lobbying. It was good and inspiring. I got to talk to some neat people during the desert reception.

Photos of the Symposium - mainly King Library so far.
I tried to get a picture of the very cool counter they have by their circulation desk. It is a large LED screen that continually counts their circulation stats ever since they opened. You can watch it go up as people check stuff out. Fabulous! (The picture isn't that great though).

I could go into more of all that, but I'm tired. It's late by any clock and I've had a long day. I'll try to blog more complete thoughts about the experience later. There is also the official PLA blog to read.

There was an earthquake about 50 miles away, it was a 4.2. I didn't feel anything. I'm almost a little disappointed.