School Summer Reading: An Opportunity to Evangelize for Pleasure Reading

 

When it is difficult to determine who dislikes your high school’s summer reading program more – the students who have to produce evidence of having done their reading or the teachers who have to assess grudgingly penned essays – it is probably a wise idea to consider a revamp. Such was the case nine years ago at San Jose, CA’s Harker School. My then campus librarian and now director, Sue Smith and I longed to refocus our students’ summer habits on pleasure reading. We sketched out a plan and appealed to our head of school to take a leap of faith. ReCreate Reading, a program title that cued the philosophical shift toward the recreational, was born.

ReCreate Reading asks all teachers to select a book they would like to discuss with a small group of students. As librarians, we encourage sponsorship of popular mysteries, science fiction and fantasy appropriate for teens. Each spring we create a LibGuide that features a page for each title. Last year, we had over 70 books on offer. Titles ranged from intellectually challenging (Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens, Eric Ries’s The Lean Startup), to culturally significant (Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me, Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything), to awarding-winning YA (Jandy Nelson’s I’ll Give You the Sun, E Lockhart’s We Were Liars), to pure fun (Erika Johansen’s The Queen of Tearling, Hugh Howey’s Wool). Students are required to register for one book, with upper classmen getting first shot at the 16 seats in a group.

Continue reading

Protecting Teen Privacy

privacyAt ALA Midwinter, the YALSA Board was pleased to adopt the position paper “The Library’s Role in protecting Teens’ Privacy” written by Mary K. Chelton.

Libraries play an integral role in protecting the intellectual freedom and privacy rights of our communities and users. In early 2016, the FBI published Preventing Violent Extremism in Schools, a proposed set of guidelines for surveying internet use of students seen to be at-risk of recruitment by terrorist organizations. These guidelines cast American high schools at hotbeds for terrorist action, and recommend identifying teens for surveillance and intervention on factors so broad that almost every teen fits the description.

It is documents like this that remind us of the important role that libraries play in protecting the privacy of teens (both in and out of school). This highly connected population, is already subjected to privacy threats every day, and policies like the one proposed by the FBI are in direct opposition of the library’s mission.

In the newly adopted position paper, Chelton suggests several actions we can take to protect the privacy rights of teens:

  • Refresh your knowledge of key documents, like ALA’s Intellectual Freedom Manual and AASL ‘s Standards for the 21st Century Learner
  • Report challenges or violations of teens’ privacy to ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom
  • Embed educating teens and their parents and caregivers about their rights into library services and programming
  • Keep up to date on privacy and surveillance issues through resources such as ALA’s District Dispatch and the YALSAblog
  • Seek out training on topics including but not limited to: privacy, students’ rights, libraries’ role in intellectual freedom, and how to leverage technology tools that protect privacy
  • Participate in events such as the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom’s Choose Privacy Week
  • Take advantage of technology that protects library patrons’ privacy
  • Make a commitment to reach out to and serve at-risk youth in the community and address their needs, whatever they may be
  • Identify and work with community partners who are also committed to protecting teens’ rights

The YALSA Board adopted the position paper at ALA Midwinter and has committed to reviewing YALSA guidelines and policies to assure teen information seeking and privacy needs are addressed.

See the full board agenda and documents online to get the details of what the board talked about. We will also be posting meeting minutes there in the next week or so. You can also read the upcoming blog posts from board members about some of the actions taken at Midwinter.

Kate McNair

YALSA Board Member 2015-2018

Gimme a C (for Collaboration!): Adapting Public Library Programs for Schools

In an environment where great emphasis is put on statistics like door count and program attendance, it is tempting for public library staff to view school counterparts either as competition, or conduits to promote our programs. A better approach to the numbers game is to collaborate together on programming, which can mean adapting public library programs for a school setting.

One example is the transformation of our annual Teen Read Week art contest into a passive program built around a collaborative display. This contest has been evolving year-by-year in an effort to find the elusive perfect formula, and remains a work in progress. Participation by a pair of local therapeutic private schools has traditionally been high, thanks to enthusiastic teachers. In an effort to encourage more in-library participation, this year it took the form of a month-long InkTober program. Pens and pads of sticky notes were placed around our teen space, while signs invited teens to contribute a drawing to the display each day. To include schools, I adapted the concept into a paper form that I sent out and then picked up at the end of the month. While there weren’t a huge number of entries, what we got made for a great display. Next year: large sheets of paper taped onto the tables and delivered to the schools, instead of the stickies.

inktober2Another example is our winter reading program for teens, during which students can earn points by visiting their school and public libraries, as well as reading. This came about after listening to a local high school librarian’s concerns over statistics. The reading log will follow the same basic concept as the bingo cards often used by libraries, but with only nine squares — like a tic-tac-toe board. Teens can earn a small prize for completing one three-square line, and a bigger prize for completing the whole board. Students will still be encouraged to read for pleasure, in fact I’ll be visiting at least one school for book talks (as well as promotion of the program). The talks will end with a reminder to visit both their school and public library to get help finding books they might enjoy. Signing off on the squares adds a little work for
library staff, but also adds a tally for their desk statistics and the real benefit: the opportunity for positive interaction with a young patron.
splc-committee-wordle-300x240Tips for Collaborating on Programs

  • Find the right partner; whether that’s a teacher, school librarian, or administrator.
  • Enhance rather than duplicate; if a school is already doing a similar program, ask how you can help.
  • Keep it simple; fit all the information people need to participate onto a single page.
  • Make it inclusive; consider the needs of schools that serve special populations.

 

Donna Block is Teen Services Librarian at Niles Public Library District, Illinois and a member of the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School-Public Library Cooperation.

YALSAblog News of the Month – November 2016

Welcome to the YALSAblog News of the Month. In this post we highlight a few news items from the past month that we think are of interest to staff working with teens in libraries, schools, and youth development organizations.

Advocacy in Action: Speak Up for School Librarians with ESSA

What’s happening in your state with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)? This federal plan replaces No Child Left Behind, and includes language regarding “effective school library programs,”  thanks to your advocacy!

In Illinois, the State Board of Education (ISBE) is charged with creating the plan for implementing the ESSA. The Illinois School Library Media Association (ISLMA), with the help of John Chrastka from the nonprofit group EveryLibrary,  worked hard over the summer to develop a plan to ensure that the ISBE includes school librarians as they implement ESSA. Now, as the ISBE holds listening tours all over the state, ISLMA asked for volunteers to speak up.

So I did.

Why?

Because my daughter needs a certified school librarian in her school with dedicated funding for library materials and services, not a paraprofessional trying her or his best with funding only from book fairs.

Because I want my community college students to come to me from high schools with certified school librarians–too many of them don’t. And I can tell by the research questions they ask me at the reference desk and during library instruction sessions that they are seriously lacking in information literacy skills.

Because I want to live in a community that values libraries of all kinds because of their ability to improve lives.

Each speaker at the event could talk for 3-5 minutes, so I made my story personal.  I’m a member of ISLMA, and, once registered to appear at a listening session, received talking points from the current ISLMA President, Patti Fleser.  I was able to coordinate with other speakers before the session I attended at Effingham High School so that we didn’t duplicate each other.  Because of my experience as a high school curriculum specialist, I discussed how school librarians are valuable to school improvement, serving as the natural curriculum and professional development experts in their schools, especially the small schools downstate. School librarians and a retired high school principal spoke concerning school libraries and how they support the concept of the whole child and promote the Illinois Learning Standards.

Guests at the ISBE Listening Session also received updates about what’s happened lately.  At its September meeting, ISBE adopted a college and career framework that consists of a benchmark for declaring a student “ready” for college and career:  a 2.8/4.0 GPA, a readiness college entrance score on the SAT, two or more academic benchmarks or an industry credential, and two or more behavioral and experiential benchmarks.  This led to several school administrators voicing their disagreement with this proposal, with one giving the example of a student who is an expert welder as a teenager. That student won’t be considered college and career ready according to this new proposal (especially if he’s a poor test taker), yet he’s already secured a career with a salary that will eventually pay more than most teachers.  In reply, the ISBE officials reiterated that they welcome feedback, and provided an email address for citizens to send comments and concerns. If you’re concerned about the teens in your communities, these are the meetings that librarians need to attend!  Superintendents, principals, teachers, librarians, the press, and local business leaders were in attendance, and the conversation before and after the event was uplifting and important.

As members of YALSA, we #act4teens. We know that effective school library programs make a school more successful in preparing students for college, career, and life. In the new YALSA organizational plan, one of the three priorities is advocacy to policy makers at all levels to increase support for teen library services. By attending this meeting, speaking up, and emailing comments to ISBE, I was able to advocate for libraries to employees of our state board of education. It didn’t hurt that I was able to build connections with community members concerned with the education of children and teens either.

What’s happening in your state? Check out this blogpost from EveryLibrary to find an ESSA calendar for school library stakeholders and to find more information about ESSA in your state.  What can you do to advocate the teens in your community?

YALSAblog News of the Month – August 2016

Welcome to the YALSAblog News of the Month. In this post we highlight a few news items from the past month that we think are of interest to staff working with teens in libraries, schools, and youth development organizations.

Back to (After)School – Rethinking a School Book Club

Our school reading specialist and I decided to revisit our middle school student book club. We took a year off from it for several reasons, not the least of which was lack of interest by students and us. It had been run like a traditional book club, everyone reads the same book and meets twice a month after school to discuss the book. Our problem was that our after school clubs meet for an hour and a half, and that time was too long to just discuss a book and choose the next one. We tried having everyone read a book by the same author to give more choice. We found a similar, disinterested reaction. Our students were happy to talk about the book for about half an hour, but wanted the rest of the time for social chat. We tried coming up with some related crafts to fill the time. Everyone painted one of the standard ceiling tiles with a reading theme or based on a book. This was a hit and made for a colorful library ceiling, but that only covered two meetings. We tried to make the book club available 24/7 through an Edmodo group to develop stronger relationships with our students, and get everyone to share what they were reading.The students found it to be just an extension of what some of their classes were already doing – it was too much like school. Our attendance dropped off, resulting in no book club for the last school year. We needed to regroup and rethink what a book club looks like for middle school students.

In the meantime, the library has had some spontaneous, pop-up or “lunch bunch” book clubs. Groups of four to six students create their own book club by reading the same book and meeting during lunch to read and discuss it. These clubs may read only one book and disband or choose to read several throughout the school year. Lunch bunches are not formal and are student led. Usually, student visitors will notice a lunch bunch eating and meeting in the library and then form their own with their friends. We just monitor to make sure the noise level is appropriate and suggest books when the club is stuck for ideas. It is very hands off for adult participation. A way to inspire students to create their own lunch bunch is to create a display of books that have multiple copies for a lunch bunch club. We hope our lunch bunches will meet again this year.

Continue reading

District Days: Griffin High School

My name is Nell German, and I have been a high school media specialist for three years, one in Illinois, and two in Georgia.  I have had the blessing to work in two public libraries and a law school library, so I have sort of covered the gambit.

We have a unique opportunity during the month of August, to really advocate for our libraries, at all levels.  How, you may ask?  By taking advantage of the Congressional break and inviting our legislators into our libraries.

Illinois has not had a state budget for two years.  School districts are having to cut certified media specialist in most, if not all of their schools.  I interviewed for a position where I would have been a district media specialist for a district with one high school (1600 students), two middle schools, and six elementary schools.  The two middles schools would have had an aide, and the elementary schools relied on parent volunteers.  There was no budget for additional collection development.

In Georgia, the public libraries are severely underfunded.  Despite the herculean efforts of the staff, many public libraries are not able to add even the most popular new titles to their collections.

We all know how crucial our school and public libraries are, let’s get our legislators into our libraries and let them know the struggles we are all dealing with.  YALSA and the legislative committee have some great resources available to you.  The one to start with is the brief webinar of how to approach your legislator and how to open these very necessary conversations.

Continue reading

YALSA’s Fall Webinars: Learning Together

photo of feet in red sneakers surrounded by pencils, notebooks, books, tabletYALSA’s webinars this fall cover a variety of topics from school library partnerships to coding as a learning activity to transitioning from summer reading to summer learning. Along with these new webinar topics YALSA is moving to a new webinar platform and format. Starting in September webinars will be hosted using Zoom and instead of 50 minutes of presentation and 10 minutes of Q&A we are going to focus on 30 minutes of presentation and 30 minutes in which attendees get to talk with each other, and the presenters, about the topic. Here’s a brief overview of what’s coming this fall: Continue reading