Over the past several weeks I’ve read articles and books and listened to podcasts that I think are must reads (and listens) for any person working in libraries and specifically with teens. Here’s the list:
- The Lexicographer’s Dilemma: From Shakespeare to South Park by Jack Lynch. This book is a must read because of its coverage of the way that language changes over time, how changes in language have a relation to culture and happenings in the world, and the need to allow language to grow and change. Why is this so important to librarians serving teens? Because today we are watching language change before our eyes and there is a lot of concern from adults about the impact that has on teen reading, writing, and learning. After reading this book I think you’ll be able to talk with colleagues, parents, and teachers about what’s really going on and why it’s important to allow the change to happen.
- Reading in the Brain by Stanislas Dehaene. How is it that human beings can read and what is going on with the human brain that makes reading possible? Those are questions answered in this book that also looks at different approaches to teaching and learning reading. For teen librarians, the more we can know about how people learn to read and how to make connections to reading and what’s happening in the brain, the more successful we can be connecting teens to materials.
- Writing holiday cards this year I realized that the act of writing by hand was incredibly painful to my brain. Writing by hand is something I never do, yet it wasn’t the physical act of writing that was painful. It was the worry I had about making a mistake that was not easily correctable. That’s what caused my painful distress. When writing using a computer, if I write something differently than I want to, it’s easy to fix. But, that’s not the case when writing by hand. Fixing a mistake either requires completely doing the entire document over, or using erase and cross-out techniques that can be very ugly.
Right after that experience I read the article, Handwriting is History. The author of the article provides a history of handwriting, use of typewriters and other technologies as writing tools, and considers whether or not writing by hand is any better than writing using a technology device. The author of the article writes, “…what the Sumerians wanted â€” is cognitive automaticity, the ability to think as fast as possible, freed as much as can be from the strictures of whichever technology we must use to record our thoughts.” For librarians serving teens, being free from the strictures means no longer lamenting that teens use devices for writing instead of using pen on paper. Instead be glad that teens can select the best tools for their own needs in order to create written content.
- Seth Godin is a businessperson, entrepreneur, marketer, author, and more. He’s well known for his out-of-the-box no-nonsense approach to business and innovation. Godin was interviewed recently for the Spark podcast. At one point Godin said, “The future belongs to those that take initiative.” I thought to myself, “exactly.” Librarians working with teens have to be willing to take initiative in discussing with colleagues, administrators, teachers, and other adults in the community how to serve teens successfully. Teen librarians have to initiate conversations with teens about programs and services. They have to be wiling to initiate risky activities in order to provide materials and programs teens want and need. There’s a lot more in the interview with Godin, including some interesting ideas about emotional work. According to Godin’s definition, teen librarians are emotional workers and when listening to the interview those working with teens in libraries should find good ideas on how to be successful in that work.
- In late December 2009, the Spark podcast included an interview with educator and literacy and gaming expert, James Gee. The focus of the interview was on how techniques used in gaming can be used in the classroom in order to provide students with meaningful learning experiences. Gee provides information on gaming, literacy, and education in a straightforward and understandable fashion. This podcast is perfect not only for teen librarians to listen to, but also to pass on to parents, teachers, and others who might need some more information on techniques that will improve teen learning in the year 2010.
This might be a lot of reading and listening. But, I hope you’ll take my word for it, it is definitely worth it.