It’s That Time of Year Again: School’s End & The Ninth Annual 48-Hour Book Challenge

48HBC base graphicWell, we’ve almost reached the end of another school year.  My middle school students have had their recognition ceremony, we’ve almost managed to round up all the overdue library books, and the senior class of 2014 will graduate this weekend.  It’s that time of year when school librarians wrap up the past year while beginning to prepare for the fall–just as our public library counterparts prepare for the onset of summer reading!

And once again, it’s also time for the Ninth Annual 48 Hour Book Challenge, hosted this year by wonderful MotherReader.  This weekend between 7am Friday morning and 7am Monday morning, participants will each read and blog for an individually selected 48 hour period.  I’m planning to start sometime Friday evening around 9 or 10pm and then finish at that same time on Sunday evening.  In even more exciting news, this year the 48HBC has a theme.  To support the critically important cause and message behind the WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign, this year’s challenge will be dedicated to celebrating, promoting, sharing, reading, and reviewing diverse books and diverse authors!

While this weekend involves some very specific scheduling restrictions due to our school’s commencement activities, it also feels like an ideal time to participate in a reading challenge like this.  I’m trying to reflect on my past year’s work, prepare for a new year of work, and say goodbye to some students I’ve been lucky enough to teach and work with over the past few years.  So I appreciate the opportunity to make a dent in my every-growing To Be Read pile and recharge myself through reading & writing about some great books.

I will post lengthier updates here and (obviously) shorter updates on Twitter.  I have a ridiculously overambitious pile of potential reads for the weekend.  I cannot imagine that I will read even half of them but I decided I wanted to treat myself with lots of options.

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Some of the many titles I’m considering for this weekend!

brown girl dreamingthe secret skyOn my Kindle, I have a big backlog of e-galleys to tackle over the next few months.  This weekend I might read my e-galleys of Brown Girl Dreaming – Jacqueline Woodson or The Secret Sky – Atia Abawi. 

I am also reading It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens by danah boyd and I will likely include some pages from that book in my final count.

Remember, it’s not too late to join in and participate this weekend!  Check out the main 48HBC post for more information.  Either way, please feel free to follow along with the challenge via the Starting Line post that will go up on MotherReader’s blog tomorrow or by following #48hbc on Twitter.

A Sampling of Sweet Links: July 2013

Screen Shot 2013-07-26 at 11.09.49 AMWhew! July was fabulous month in the online worlds of young adult & children’s literature and librarianship!  There have been so many great conversations flowing through cyberspace and so I’ve gathered together some of my recent favorite links.   I discovered many of these links through the awesome people I follow on Twitter and other brilliant bloggers’ regular link round-ups.  Since I appreciate other bloggers’ similar features so much, I’m going to make an effort to start regularly sharing my personal content curation as well.  To see more of my favorite sites and articles, check out my Diigo account.

Here are some of the posts, articles, and links that I found most interesting and enlightening over the past couple weeks:

Diversity, Multiculturalism, and Equity Issues in YA & Kid Lit

As my earlier post kicking off my Multicultural Middle School feature indicates, I make a concentrated effort to seek out resources about multiculturalism, diversity, and equity in education and young adult & children’s literature.  I find a lot of wonderful book reviews, analysis, and discussion through a combination of general YA/kid lit blogs (maintained by librarians, authors, etc.) and blogs/websites focused specifically on multicultural and diverse YA/kid lit and on multiculturalism and equity in education.

Lee and Low Books, a independent publisher focused on diversity, maintains a blog and they wrote a fascinating article about the recently released statistics about the continued lack of racial and ethnic diversity in children’s books. Check it out here–they’ve pulled together comments from a great variety of children’s literature professionals!

If you haven’t been checking out the excellent Disability in Kid Lit blog, click over there right away!  They’ve gathered articles and columns from a huge range of individuals invested children’s and young adult literature and each piece addresses an aspect of disability in kid lit.  Additionally, over at YALSA’s The Hub, the newest edition of the “Box Outside The Box” series focuses on “Different Operating Systems,” collecting a wonderful list of titles featuring characters on the autism spectrum.

Additionally there continues to be consistent and thoughtful conversations about gender and YA lit across the web. Over at Thought Catalog, there was a fascinating article about the ways that young adult lit challenges and pushes gender norms while YALSA’s The Hub had a great short essay about feminism and YA romance.

Reading, Reading, Reading

Some people might say that the internet is damaging reading somehow but I would definitely disagree (for many reasons which deserve a separate post!).  The web especially is fantastic source to find and follow the most up to date research, practical tips, and ongoing conversations about reading.  Here are a few recent posts about reading (specifically children’s and teen’s reading) that caught my eye this past month.

On the New York Times Motherlode blog, Stephanie V. W. Lucianovic wrote a refreshingly honest column entitled: “I’m Tired of Reading Out Loud To My Son, Okay?” This column then prompted a great response post by Julie Danielson over at Kirkus.  It’s wonderful to see this kind of respectful and practical conversation about children and reading!

Meanwhile, over at the fabulous Nerdy Book Club, the equally fabulous Donalyn Miller wrote about value of being a bookish fangirl and the challenge of sharing and encouraging such enthusiasm for books in children and teens.  I just love this post; Donalyn Miller asks such valuable questions that push us to rethink how we as educators approach the teaching of reading, language arts, and literature.  As she writes, “How would children see reading differently if we taught language arts as an art appreciation class?”

Hot Topics in YA Lit and Youth Services

Young adult literature and controversy appear to be forever bound together; young adult literature has, since its earliest beginnings, pushed the envelope through its content, its audience, and, frankly, its mere existence.

Earlier last month, awesome librarian and blogger Kelly Jensen wrote a great post over at BookRiot, “What Are Grown-Ups Afraid of in YA Books?”  It’s a short and excellent piece discussing the fear, distain, and disgust many adults express towards young adult literature; she touches on both historical examples and recent events (such as yet another attempt to ban Laurie Halse Anderson’s brilliant Speak).  The comments section quickly evolved into an intense (and increasingly rude) discussion and the article was featured over at the Huffington Post as well.  Kelly has pulled together her thoughts about the article and the reactions it has sparked–along with links to several response posts–over at Stacked.  If you work with teens and/or care about YA lit even slightly, you should head over and read both the original article and her round-up of responses.  Liz Burns also posted a response to the article and its resulting controversy–be sure to check that out as well!  This conversation might seem repetitive but it’s one that we must keep having.  As Kelly writes at the conclusion of the original BookRiot piece, the young adult books causing controversy among adults exist for a reason.  The issues or content included in books like Speak (which deals with sexual assault) might be frightening or unsettling for adults but there are teenage readers who absolutely need those books.  They need to know that they are not alone in their experiences and their feelings.  They need that reminder and acknowledgement that the world is not always kind, fair, or safe–and that there can be survival, growth, healing, and help.

Meanwhile, there was a lovely post over at The Hub addressing the all to common disdain expressed by many towards young adult literature and providing a succinct response to such detractors.

Finally, in a moment of shameless self promotion, I’m thrilled that my first post on YALSA’s The Hub went up yesterday.  If you’re interested in adult dystopian fiction with high appeal for teens, please go check it out!  I’m incredibly excited to be joining the amazing team of bloggers over at The Hub and contributing to the web presence of one of my favorite and most valued professional organizations, YALSA.

Meanwhile, happy August!  I’ll be posting a few more reviews of my recent reading over the next week.

The Club Connection: Bringing The Library TO Students!

This post represents a category of content that has been fairly rare on my blog so far: writing about library programming.   I have yet to blog much about library programming, lesson development, or other library activities for several reasons.  Mostly, as a young rookie librarian, I find the amazing, creative programming blogged about by my more experienced peers a bit intimidating. However, I hope the use this summer to change this pattern!  Especially since I believe that offering a break down of my tentative programming will encourage other newbie librarians.  After all, one of the biggest lessons I learned during the last few years as first a library intern and now a full-time librarian is the value of accepting and embracing failure–especially the failure of new activities or programs.  A program or a lesson won’t always work the way you hoped–or work at all.  But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t valuable.

Today, however, I’d like to share a couple of library activities I developed this past year that were actually successful.  These two particular activities were especially successful in connecting specific groups of students with the library and reminding them how the library can be a source for information & support outside their academic needs.  It’s not a particularly new idea but I want to write about the great value in using pre-existing teen groups (such as school clubs) to connect young adults with the libraries in their lives.

My collaborations with student groups this past year represent two different methods for the creation of such events: the ‘active search & approach by librarian’ method and the ‘eager seizure of an unexpected opportunity’ method.  The first collaboration came about when I initiated contact with a student leader of a club and made a direct proposal. After spending the last week of June 2012 attending a wonderful conference of multicultural education–The Georgetown Day School’s Equity Collaborative, I began the school year  determined to find new ways within my particular sphere of influence to make our school a more explicitly supportive, inclusive, and safe environment.  One fairly simple act was to quietly reach out to our Queer-Straight Alliance and offer to share some LGBTQ-specific resources available in our library.    Initially my offer was, in fact, too quiet and it was lost in the bustle of the new school year.  However, I tried again in the spring and was able to make a connection.  Through quick conversations with our QSA’s president, it was decided that I would come and visit their next meeting to share a list of resources relevant and interesting to LGBTQ youth.  I spent just over a week pulling together a resource list that included a diverse group of YA fiction featuring young, LGBTQ protagonists, a few key nonfiction titles, and a couple of good websites.  I also put together a quick Power Point presentation that allowed me to give an overview of the list’s contents.  My goals were: to show them rich diversity of currently available fiction and nonfiction for & about LBGTQ youth, to explain explicitly where they could find these resources and get good information, and to demonstrate that their library is safe place where they have adult allies.

Now, as I stated at the beginning, this simple activity is neither revolutionary nor extraordinary.  However, I am very proud of it because it accomplished a rare feat:  I actually achieved all my initial goals and it will likely be a repeatable activity! Students who attended checked some books out right away and some came back & asked for more later.  The president of the club requested a digital copy of the resource list to share with club members unable to attend the meeting and the group’s faculty advisor was enthusiastic about the idea of repeating this event early next fall.

Here are my presentation and resource list, both of which I plan to update slightly over the summer 🙂

The second collaboration with a student group came about through pure chance and, even more excitingly, a direct approach from a student.  This year my newborn Student Library Advisory Board (SLAB, as its members like to call the group) and I planned & ran two very fun movie nights in the library.  Our second movie night was a Valentine’s Day theme and had around 25 students in attendance–which is awesome, especially considering the relatively small size of our school, the many other options for Friday night activities, and the geographic spread of our student body.  Afterwards, a student that attended this movie night emailed me, saying how much she enjoyed the event and that she was interested in doing a movie night event for a student group she had recently helped begin on campus. She asked if I could give her some tips about setting up such an event.  I happily responded, offering to help her plan the event.  The group is focused on spreading awareness about various issues related to adolescent health and the members wanted to do a movie night as a fun way to begin a discussion about adolescent mental health issues.

I was thrilled to be asked and so we worked together to plan a small Friday evening event during which we would show the recent film adaption of Ned Vizzini’s It’s Kind of A Funny Story.  Both the student leader and I connected with a member of our school’s awesome counseling department and she agreed to open the event with a informational discussion about adolescent mental health and mental illness.  Meanwhile, I, of course, offered to create a resource list of websites (based on suggested from our wonderful counselor) and fiction dealing with adolescent mental health issues.  To create this list, I made use of one of the best resources out there: other librarians!  I sent out a request for fiction titles related to adolescent mental health to the yalsa_bk listserv.  In response I received an amazing wealth of titles! So again, thank you to the wonderful subscribers of the yalsa_bk listserv!  The event went wonderfully–the opening discussion was really informative,  the movie touching and funny, and the resource list well received–with a digital copy requested to be emailed out to friends 🙂

Here is the resource list I created with the help of our wonderful counseling department and the awesome subscribers of the yalsa_bk listserv.

I somewhat stumbled into this method of library outreach over the past year but I’m very excited about these small successes since they were fairly simple to implement but powerful in their impact.  As a result, I’ve created relationships with more students and I’ve found ways to share the library’s resources in targeted doses to interested audiences.  I’m hoping to continue this type of outreach next year by repeating events like the QSA resource share and by seeking out other student groups who might be open to collaboration.

How have you used pre-existing student/youth organizations or clubs to connect teens to YOUR library?  I’d love to hear more ideas in the comments!

Welcome to My New Home!

welcome blog post collageWelcome to the new home of Fresh From The Stacks, the blog of a serious book addict and rookie middle & high school librarian with a baking problem!  My name is Kelly Dickinson.  I am a librarian at an independent all-girls school in the Washington DC Metro area; I work in the middle and upper school library with 7-12 grade students.  I started blogging back in the summer of 2010 right after graduating from college and before beginning my master degree in Library and Information Science.  I write about a variety of topics related to youth services, education, young adult & children’s literature, the library life–and occasionally, my baking adventures.   Primarily, I post my reviews of middle grade and young adult literature and reflections on programming ideas I test out on my unsuspecting students 🙂

To read my past entries, check out my former blog.  You can also find me on Goodreads, Twitter, and Diigo.   My general online pseudonym is onesmartcupcake–acknowledging my continued obsession with those particularly trendy baked goods: cupcakes.   Although I’d like to claim that I loved cupcakes long before they were cool 😉  I hope you’ll come back and check out the blog as it grows (and as I jump back into a regular posting schedule of some kind!).  Friendly comments are always welcome!