One of the most difficult moments of the month was observing my English Learners come to check out books with their classes and not be able to find anything they could read at the high school level. It broke my heart to see dejection on their faces. It did not matter that I myself could not understand the words they were saying; I could just see it. Students perform better academically in literature courses when they see themselves in the materials and simply enjoy independent reading more. While I had some titles of interest for my Latinx students topically, all of them were in English. I set out to add books to my school library collection to assist my Spanish-speaking students. To purchase fiction in Spanish, I first posted a request on Donors Choose (www.donorschoose.org) for just ten novels. When the project was funded and the books arrived, I labeled each with a green S and shelved them above our fiction cases to aid new students trying to find them. After that success, I added another Donors Choose project to bring ten Spanish memoirs to West Haven High School, as all of our seniors must read a memoir.
This project garnered the attention of the Greater Bridgeport Latino Network (GBLN), a local organization working to feature Latinx success stories, encourage political activism, and support community endeavors. GBLN showcased the story on their website, and it was subsequently picked up by a local newspaper, the New Haven Register. It was my desire to inform the audience it was not just me, my school, or my district needing these materials and support from the Latinx community:
“Literacy is necessary for being a productive member of society. Volunteering time such as reading at a toddler story hour, helping at a resume writing class, or speaking on a vocation or cause are all ways to support local libraries, especially those serving predominantly Latino communities. Woychowski welcomes the donation of new or gently used books to her own library, but she also encourages readers to donate both books and time to their own local school or public libraries.” (http://gbln.net/books-in-spanish-needed-for-high-school-library/)
Sharing this story via social media has been a blessing in terms of the varied audience reached. Links to the story appeared on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and were shared numerous times by personal friends and professional connections. Books began appearing on my home front porch and in my school mailbox from all corners of the community, from a prominent defense attorney to a small Catholic Church to a representative of the Hispanic Nurses Association of a large local hospital. Our community’s support of literacy is invaluable, and as school librarians, we must be willing to advocate for it on behalf of our students.
Jillian Woychowski is a School Library Media Specialist at West Haven High School and is a member of the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School-Public Library Cooperation.
This year for Teen Read Week we celebrated and awarded students for “Reading Woke.” The Read Woke Challenge is a incentive based reading program that rewards students for reading books that:
• Challenge a social norm
• Give voice to the voiceless
• Provide information about a group that has been disenfranchised
• Seek to challenge the status quo
• Have a protagonist from an underrepresented or oppressed group
I started the challenge last year but this year I was able to really expand the program thanks to the Teen Read Week grant sponsored by Dollar General and YALSA. Last year, many students were not able to receive the prizes they earned but this year I made sure all students who completed the challenge received their prizes. This year’s program was different because I had more community involvement. In past years, I have worked alone and not really involved others. When I opened the doors up to the community, it made my program even better. I have established relationships and connections that have helped me to make a bigger impact. Because of the Teen Read Grant, I reached out to the manager of Dollar General. He was very supportive of the program and he was excited to be a part of our event.
The Johnson City Public Library (Johnson City, TN) began a new teen program called Stories to Service after receiving the YALSA Symposium Programming Challenge Award in 2018. Stories to Service is a teen volunteer program that combines literature with volunteerism through service projects and book clubs. The projects are both planned and implemented by teen volunteers between ages 12-18. Participants will gather to decide what service area they would like to focus on. Then the participants will read a book centered on their selected topic, discuss it together, and complete a project related to the book.
JCPL’s Teen Services Manager, Katelyn Wolfe, drew inspiration for this program from various discussions at the YALSA Symposium in November 2017, including presentations on teen volunteers and an author panel discussing Rudine Sims Bishop’s essay Windows, Mirrors, and Sliding Glass Doors. Her goal was to create a program that accommodated the large number of teens who needed volunteer hours but also gave them an opportunity to connect with their community in new ways. Upon returning to the library, Katelyn brought the idea to the Teen Advisory Board members, who were immediately on board and began brain-storming possible ideas.
Given the predominant whiteness and femaleness of the library profession and the increasing diversity of the populations served by libraries, it is crucial that Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) are at the forefront of our member’s minds and that we as an organization work to make YALSA a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive organization. Last Fall, as part of our EDI efforts, the YALSA Board assembled a taskforce, chaired by Nicole Cooke, to explore the challenges and opportunities library staff of diverse backgrounds face when connecting with YALSA by seeking feedback from both members and potential members and by researching industry best practices in EDI. Cooke and taskforce members Julie Winkelstein, Veronica Koven-Matasy, and Alice Son submitted their findings and recommendations to the Board in the Spring. The report was adopted by the Board and included as an attachment to Board document #4 which was approved prior to ALA Annual 2018. To make the report more visible to our members and to publicly recognize the work of the taskforce, we have included a link to the full report on the YALSA webpage. The Board thanks the Advancing Diversity Taskforce for their work and for laying the groundwork for YALSA to affirm our commitment to EDI.
Since receiving the report, the YALSA Board has taken a number of actions that were a direct result of the Advancing Diversity Taskforce’s recommendations. These include: adopting Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Next Steps, a Value of EDI Statement, and appointing a board member to serve as YALSA’s official liaison to the ALA Affiliates and Round Tables that focus on serving one or more traditionally underrepresented groups. We are currently in the process of updating the YALSA vision statement and intended impact statement for EDI inclusivity. As soon as the revised statements have been approved by the Board, both will be posted to the YALSA website. The Board is also in the final stages of completing an EDI Plan.
While YALSA has made progress on EDI, our work is far from over. Crystle Martin has chosen Supporting Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion through Outcomes and Assessment as her presidential theme for 2018-2019. Specifically, she will focus on how assessment and outcomes can support EDI through the questions asked and approaches taken. It builds off the recommendations made by the Advancing Diversity Taskforce and expands YALSA’s commitment to EDI. Additionally, the YALSA Board is in the beginning stages of strategic planning. EDI will be a core component of the planning process and of our new strategic plan.
We will continue to provide updates on the YALSA blog and through other YALSA communication channels. We welcome your thoughts and ideas as we continue to work with you to ensure that all teens feel included and empowered in library and information spaces.
Thanks for all you do for teens and for YALSA.
YALSA Immediate Past President
When I read Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds for the first time last year, I was completely overwhelmed–this story was about my students! So many of them have lost family and friends due to gun violence, and many of them have been faced with similar emotional tragedies in their lives. So I wanted them to see that their feelings and experiences are valid by reading a book written by a man who looks like them and understands them and IS them. But being a Title 1 school means funds are tight, and purchasing class sets of books (especially enough for all classes to read at the same time) is just not in our budget without help. YALSA’s Teen Read Week Grant is that help, and I am incredibly grateful.
When I saw that the Teen Read Week Grant was open for applications in May, I immediately texted my reading teacher and asked her what she thought about the potential of doing a school-wide read next year with a Jason Reynolds book. She responded with a resounding “YES” and I filled out the application. And then we were selected, and the brainstorming began.
But how do you plan a reading program for students who are reluctant readers? You make it relevant!
The Octavia Fellin Public Library (OFPL) in Gallup, NM used the funds from the Summer Learning Resource Grant to purchase equipment to begin a Youth Media Lab where tweens and teens would have access to film and audio equipment as well as editing software. At the end of May OFPL was approached by the Miss Navajo Council, Inc. seeking help for creating a multimedia project to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of 1868, which allowed the Navajo Tribe to return to their ancestral homelands after being deported to the Bosque Redondo Reservation. We partnered with the organization utilizing our new equipment and community members to create an intergenerational reading of the Treaty accessible to a modern audience.
The resulting project involved 14 community participants (youth and adult) from the community, and historical photographs from the Library of Congress and National Archives. It was shown at 3 commemoration events in Flagstaff, Arizona; Farmington, New Mexico; and Gallup, New Mexico. OFPL also hosted an exhibit detailing the importance of the treaty and its lasting impacts.
Each month, through December, YALSA is sponsoring free webinars (for members and non-members) on topics related to the Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff.
The September webinar (the full video recording is available after the break) on the topic of Cultural Competence and Responsiveness. The focus of the session was on creating inclusive computer science opportunities for youth and was by Lecia Barker from the National Center for Women and Informational Technology (NCWIT) and Cheryl Eberly from the Santa Ana Public Library.
This summer, with support from the 2018 YALSA/Dollar General Summer Reading Learning Resources Grant, the Dover Public Library hosted two ¡Vamos a Jugar! (Let’s Play!) events featuring bilingual and vocabulary-building board games. From bilingual Bingo to You’ve Been Sentenced, I selected a wide variety of games to challenge and entertain Dover teens. Now that the teens and I have tested our collection, we can give you our top picks.
Juego de Palabras
KLOO’s Learn to Speak Spanish and Race to Madrid
KLOO’s Learn to Speak Spanish is a card game that teaches players Spanish with color coded cards. The Race to Madrid board and pieces turn the card game into a journey to the finish line, eliminating the need for a score sheet. While this is the most inventive, educational game on my list, the teens were not as interested as I had hoped. On a different day or with a different crowd, I think we could have a lot of fun expanding the game, making our own boards, and learning more Spanish together.
Fitz It is a card game that plays a little bit like Scrabble and a little bit like a riddle. The Fitz It deck contains over 250 cards with various phrases. The games begins with one randomly selected card in the middle of the table. Players then add to the grid with their own cards, but they have to say a noun that fits the description of all the cards in the row or column. A little difficult to explain, this game is a fun challenge once the initial concept clicks.
The Hall County Library System in Gainesville, Georgia serves a diverse community, with over 28% of the population Hispanic. The library system has made it a priority to better serve the county’s diverse community, as well as to provide more outreach services, especially in the eastern part of the county where the East Hall Branch had been closed due to budget cuts.
Allysa reviewing the children’s Spanish books with me. Photo by Deborah Hakes with GPLS.
HCLS received a generous grant from Dollar General to hire two bilingual interns to help during the 2018 Summer Reading Program. Their work would mainly focus on helping develop better library services to Hispanic youth and families. In addition, they would help assist at the summer pop up library and programs at the East Hall Community Center. One intern worked 16 hours a week in June and the second intern worked in July. Rising junior, Alyssa Ramos and rising senior, Doris Toledo were selected out of several applications. The first week of the summer reading program, Alyssa Ramos helped sign up patrons for library cards and the summer reading program at the Hispanic Alliance’s Health Fair. Alyssa and Doris also helped translate into Spanish new library marketing materials and community services information.
In New Orleans at the 2018 Annual Conference, the YALSA Board discussed several documents related to Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. YALSA is committed to Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, and to make this commitment a reality the Board took several steps.
First, the Board approved the prioritization of the recommendations made by the Advancing Diversity Taskforce, which completed its work earlier this Spring. The recommendations of the committee were ranked by the board as High, Medium, and Low. The items ranked High Priority are currently being implemented. Those ranked Medium Priority will be tackled during the 2018-2019 board. Those that are ranked Low Priority will be re-evaluated at the beginning of the 2019-2020 board to determine what still needs to be done.
One of the High Priority recommendations was to evaluate YALSA’s current Mission, Vision, Intended Impact Statement, and Statement on Diversity. Jane Gov and Kate Denier offered a board document that recommends changes: