Wednesday, May 21, 2014

What Public Librarians Need to Know about CCSS

Today I'm hosting a webcast, sponsored by LJ and SLJ, on what public librarians need to know about common core state standards. Since they've been around a while, they aren't as mysterious as they once were, but myths remain.

The Myths
1. CCSS are a mandate. Not true. The Standards are an initiative. Before they began, it was decided that kids weren't prepared for college or a "real job" after high school. Something needed to be done to push kids to learn more. Learn to write. Learn to think. What if each grade level built on the next? What if reading material got harder and harder? Enter the CCSS. Each state adopted and developed its own state standards. They aren't curriculum. They show the location of the finish line, but they don't tell teachers how to get their students to it. Educators have great flexibility in how they teach the standards, but it's another reason why it's scary.

2. Appendix B is a shopping list of books students must read. Also not true. In fact, if you tried to buy them, you'll find that many are out of print. Some of the science books are old enough to weed from your collection.  Appendix B is a list of example exemplars. They are the type of books that show increased rigor and text complexity needed to support CCSS.

As librarians, we then need to examine our own collections. Are they current? Do we have texts on the same topic but different reading levels? Do we know the reading level? While it's not necessary to mark them on the book, knowing how to find the level is a good support for your patrons. Perhaps you can add it to the MARC record. You can teach your patrons how to search the catalog by reading level. If you have access to teaching guides for texts, be sure your parents and teachers know about them.

3. Fiction is no longer needed. Seriously false. The Standards increase the use of nonfiction, but certainly don't discount the need for quality literature. It's like changing the way you eat to be more well-rounded. Perhaps you add more poultry and fish, but you don't have to completely give up steak.  By the time students are in grade 12, they should be reading 70% nonfiction. When you think about it, that's what the real world is like (unless you're like me and you read for a living).

Informational text is all around us--in our email, on the internet, and in our work. Reading for informational purposes is what adults do. Helping our students digest and think about what they read has always been our goal. Making a conscious decision to use nonfiction allows readers to learn more about their world. It's up to us to make sure they have access to the best.

So in today's webcast, we'll also address how to find the best texts, and look at ways our programming can support CCSS. It's not too late to join me. Sign up at See you at 2:00 Eastern.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Testing Conundrum

I was recently asked about a common testing conundrum. It's also a reading conundrum. What does a kid read when his ability level is high, but his grade level is much lower? Say he's a sixth grade boy with the ability to read Catcher in the Rye, but really, does he want to? Do we want him to?  Let's make it even worse. There has to be a test!! What's a guy to read? Fortunately, with a little guidance, it's not quite as bad as it used to be. Publishers have seen the need and authors are prolifically churning out series titles to curb your every testing need.

As a librarian, I would encourage you to ask questions before you answer that question. What genre does he like to read? Favorite author? Favorite book? You can waste a lot of time making suggestions by going down the wrong path. Take a moment to do a little inventory questioning before you rattle off the best authors/series.

Suppose he likes adventure/mystery. He could try:

Patrick Carmen
John Feinstein
Magaret Haddix
Will Hobbs
Dorothy Hoobler
Anthony Horowitz
Kenneth Oppel
James Patterson
Rick Yancey

Maybe he likes fantasy:
DJ MacHale
Terry Pratchett
Rick Riordan
Jonathan Stroud
Neal Shusterman

How about nonfiction?
Marc Aronson
Candace Fleming
Russell Freedman
Kathleen Krull

You'll note that none of these belong to the "Dead White Writers' Club." In fact, there are even a few women on the list.

In addition, there are online sites to help you in the selection process. Unfortunately, your school may not have the test. (which is another problem all together) You can go to AR BookFinder and use the advanced feature to select an appropriate book. Enter your interest level, ATOS level, choose a genre, a language, and narrow it down with additional factors to browse through potential titles. Parents, teachers, and librarians will appreciate the "warnings" of sex or language that appear in the short descriptions.

Check with your school or public library and look for a product called What Do I Read Next? (a Gale product) And certainly check out Jon Scieszka's Guys Read site. If your guy isn't sure what he wants to read or which authors he might like, check out the new series, Guys Read. Each of the projected 10 volume series will cover a different genre. It's a great way for guys to test the water to see which author's they like. Each book is full of the best in people (not just guys) who write for guys in a short story format.

How about you? What do you do when you get into the Testing Conundrum?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Multi-Posting @ JLG Shelf Life

So where do I write when I'm not posting here? I'm posting on JLG- Shelf Life. As part of my new JLG job, we decided that to be the true librarian's partner, I would offer my insight and expertise on all functions of the library world, not just about the books. Part of the plan is that I will write 2 to 3 times a week. My co-conspirators will write as the muse hits them and the keeper of time allows it.

So, who writes with me? Susan Marston is the JLG Editorial Director in New York. Susan has been selecting books for Junior Library Guild for a few years shy of half her life and even after all this time, finds that the work never grows old. (Talk about a job with pressure!) Susan will write about the choices the editorial team is making and about children's book publishing in general. (Except for the big dark secrets that she is under blood oath not to tell)

Leslie Bermel, whom many of you know, is our resident book talker. Leslie came to Junior Library Guild 11 years ago and travels throughout the country talking with thousands of librarians each year. Last year she gave 100 presentations across the country. Since I've been here in the last 4 weeks, I've seen her twice (her desk is upstairs). Leslie will be our spy and give us Reflections From the Road.

And me, I'll be writing about all things library. I'll try to try to be the scout for what's happening in our world. So from time to time, I'll write here, but if you want to keep up on a more frequent basis, check out the Shelf Life blog. No, you don't have to be a member, but don't you want to be?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Three Times Lucky

 Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage. How could you not pick up a book with a cover like this? Then you read the first sentence- " Trouble cruised into Tupelo Landing at exactly seven minutes past noon on Wednesday, the third of June, flashing a gold badge and driving a Chevy Impala the color of dirt. Almost before the dust had settled, Mr. Jesse turned up dead and life in Tupelo Landing turned upside down."

I'm sold from the first sentence and the book just gets better. Full of quick wit and humor, mystery and mayhem, this novel for upper elementary will have readers turning those pages.  Plenty of trouble waits for Mo (ses) and Dale (Earnhardt Johnson III) with lots of red herrings to steer them astray. Mo is an orphan who washed up in a storm eleven years ago and was found by The Colonel, who had lost his memory. When Mr. Jesse is found dead, Mo and Dale decide to solve the murder themselves. So when Dale is also a suspect and the Colonel goes missing, things just get complicated.

Know that in addition to murder, the story also touches briefly on alcoholism and domestic violence. Without giving away the resolution, know that you'll be pleasantly surprised in the end. Mo will steal your heart and give you a laugh along the way.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Bird Talk: What Birds are Saying and Why

Have you ever heard birds outside your window and wondered what they're saying? Maybe you've been at the zoo and seen some dancing and prancing and wondered what that's all about. Then Bird Talk is the book for you. Lita Judge, granddaughter of ornithologists, has written about her love of birds and what they do to communicate.

This fascinating look into bird behavior will have you spouting off facts to anyone who will listen. I, myself, jumped right to the online databases to do a little research of my own. Indian Sarus Cranes mate for life. They do a wonderful ballet on the surface of the water, bowing and leaping. Western Grebes also dance on the water's surface with their mates. The Blue Bird of Paradise hangs upside down to attract his mate.

Birds also communicate to protect their young. The North American Killdeer screams and flaps a "broken" wing to lure a fox from her eggs. They communicate to stay safe. The American Bittern silences its loud, booming voice when danger is near and sits "still as a stone."

Some birds listen and learn. Northern mockingbirds can mimic other birds or even cell phone rings. Alex the parrot learned 150 words, could name objects and count to six.

Lita finishes her informational picture book by giving more facts about the birds in this book. Go ahead and do what I did. Look it up. It's true. And while you're there, look for videos. You can see see Grebes dance and Sarus Cranes ballet. Better grab a tissue- it's amazing. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Bon Appétit!

Happy 100th birthday, Julia Child. Changing the way we cook, the way we eat and the way we think about food, Julia Child made a difference in our lives. Despite not cooking until she was 32 years old, Julia found her passion when she was in her beloved France. She learned to cook and began to write with her new friends. She overcame obstacles- her age, her size, her gender, rejection letters and the little red pen of her editor. Julia taught us to think about what we eat. To shop for the best at our local markets. To use what was in season. To enjoy eating. Oh! And use real butter- lots of it!

So for today, in honor of Julia, skip the fast food. Shop for local fresh food. Make dinner an event. Go out to eat at a French restaurant. Be brave and make her famous bouef bourguignon. (You won’t find a better recipe and the video from ABC is wonderful.) Watch a video episode of her live television show. Go to the Smithsonian and see her marvelous kitchen. Wear pearls. And laugh. Laugh at your troubles. Laugh at yourself.

If there is a child in your life, share a wonderful picture book. Bon Appétit! The Delicious Life of Julia Child by Jessie Hartland tells the life story of Julia. From her childhood as a prankster to her spy missions in WWII to the famous American chef, Hartland shares the real Julia with us. Complete with recipes and sprinkled with French words and phrases, the life of Julia and the obstacles she overcame will encourage every child. Read about Hartland's inspiration behind the story. (Doesn't everyone want to know where stories come from?) No matter how tall you are, what your family wants you to be or what your interests are, Julia teaches even the children to admit your mistakes, learn from them, laugh at them and enjoy being who you are. Bon appétit!

Monday, August 13, 2012

A Rock is Lively

Using beautiful watercolor illustrations (they aren’t photographs?!), Sylvia Long illustrates Dianna Hutts Aston’s text in the award-winning creative style of An Egg is Quiet, A Seed is Sleepy and A Butterfly is Patient. Young readers will delight in the facts that are revealed as we learn about how rocks are created and how we use them. A Rock is Lively is just the thing to add a much needed boost to your "rock books." Are there ever enough?

For middle school students, you may want to check out Rocks and the People Who Love Them by Nel Yomtov. Published by Capstone’s Graphic Library, this nonfiction book uses graphic novel format to both inform and entertain. In addition to supporting earth science curriculum, teachers can use the back matter as they teach students how to research- and connecting to the common core curriculum.
Enslow’s Weird But True Science series includes a rock title for our primary nonfiction readers. In Weird But True Rocks by Carmen Bredeson, we learn that pumice floats and flint sparks. Complete with “Words to Know”, pronunciation guides and a two page spread on each rock, this title will educate your readers on their reading level.

If you're looking for support material, there are free lesson plans at Discovery Education for middle grades. The Geological Society of America is also a resource of lesson plans and other resources for grades, K-12. And don't forget about the US Geological Survey site. From maps to multimedia, there are plenty of resources for your teaching of earth science.