by Heather Love Beverley

Looking to get revved up for ALA Annual in Chicago? How about spending some time immersed in some deliciously good YA novels, all by extremely talented Chicago authors? Here’s a sampling of some of the literary YA wonders of the Chicago-land area:

Lisa Jenn Bigelow: First-time YA author Bigelow’s novel Starting From Here is captivating readers with its poignant, charming and compelling coming-of-age storyline, and has been named a 2013 Rainbow List Top Ten book.

Franny Billingsley: Billengsley has written a masterpiece of rich imagery and sensual language with her beguiling historical novel, Chime.

Fern Schumer Chapman: Chapman’s novel Is It Night or Day? is a heartwrenchingly beautiful account of a young Jewish girl’s journey from WWII Germany to America. This novel is a fictionalized account of Chapman’s mother’s own journey, which is also chronicled in her memoir Motherland.

Simone Elkeles: Elkeles’s novels range from intense and steamy- the Perfect Chemistry series, Leaving Paradise series, and her newest Wild Cards series- to comical and sweet- the How to Ruin series. All are delightful and engaging. Read More →

Happy Spring! Or is it still freezing cold where you are? Or already hot as summer? Regardless of the weather, spring is a great time for the birth of new ideas, approaches, and programming. Maybe something here will inspire you.

  • You might be working and living in the “stroke belt,” did you know? Eleven states (Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia) are designated as areas with incredibly high prevalence of stroke, and new research shows that teens living in these areas are at higher risk for having strokes when they are older. This means that encouraging healthy habits and the cessation of unhealthy ones that could contribute to strokes, like smoking and diet, should be emphasized. Have you done any health programming lately? Read a news report on the study here, or check out the full article in Neurology. Read More →

Do you re-read? I love to re-read. I do it all the time.

Some books are comfortable, familiar and relaxing (Harry Potter, Robin McKinley’s The Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown, Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere). Sometimes a particular character feels like a friend’  I want to spend more time with’ (Q from Paper Towns) or the world of a book is a place I wish I could go (Cabeswater in The Raven Boys). Lately, I end up reading books by favorite authors or new books in a series too fast to savor them properly on the first go (The Fault in Our Stars, Clockwork Princess), so I like to go back and spend a more leisurely time with them later to notice details and moon over sentences. I also spend a lot of time commuting by car and have decided the best books to listen to while driving are books where I already know what happens.’  That way I’m not distracted from driving by a suspenseful twist of plot. And it’s’  fun to hear someone else read a book, especially when they sound like the characters (The Scorpio Races was great for this). I am currently in the midst of a Shadowhunter audiobook marathon, in part because I am excited about the City of Bones movie, and in part to refresh my memory before the final book in the Mortal Instruments, even though it doesn’t come out until next year.
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“If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it. The more you do, the more you can do… and don’t you forget it!”
Lucille Ball

One of the biggest excuses/reasons I hear from my teens is that they just don’t have time to read!

These teens are too busy practicing, traveling to events, studying, and being involved with a myriad of other things that enrich their lives, help them be well rounded and will “look really great on their college resumes”.’  When we think of reluctant readers, we don’t often think of advanced students, and yet – there is a reluctance there as well.
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As a new YALSA blogger I should begin my first post with a short introduction. My name is Kim Anderson and I’m the Library Media Specialist at Jefferson Middle School in Champaign, Illinois. I’m a two-time graduate of the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois (MLS, CAS), and I received my National Board Certification in 2008. I’ve been in education for fifteen years, seven in the classroom and six in the library. I was thirty-something when I finally found my calling in the library and have not looked back once. I love my work. ‘ Love it. ‘ When I’m not working, reading or thinking about the library I enjoy doing yoga, P90, Insanity’ Asylum, and gardening. ‘ I recently decided I wanted to learn French and to play guitar. ‘ Wish me luck. ‘ Anyway, it is my love of talking and thinking about the library that lead me to start blogging here at YALSA.

At the beginning of each year our administration takes the JMS staff off campus for a retreat. I always arrive a bit early so I can walk out onto the docks and enjoy the peace of the lake while I think about where I want the school year to lead. ‘ The solitude is’ short-lived though’ since the peacefulness doesn’t last long once the rest of the staff arrives. The day is always full of lively discussion, laughter and inspiration. This year our discussion centered around the research of Dr. Charles Hillman of the University of Illinois. Everyone was inspired by the idea that getting students moving could improve their academic gains. (You can check out “A Fit Body Means a Fit Mind” ‘ if you want to read more). ‘ The question is, how can I, the school librarian, help increase student fitness? ‘ Last week the answer came in the form of two exercise bikes. In just under one hour we had two stationary bikes assembled in a corner of the library. They are battery operated (so no chords) and the wheels are completely silent.

The student interest was immediate. Now teachers just have to send their students to the library with a pass to read and ride. For now, the kids are enjoying a new place to move and I am happy to support a building-wide initiative.



A few years back at BEA‘ or ALA Midwinter, a publisher’s exhibit gave me a great idea for highlighting books. They had bookmarks with stars above the titles which highlighted a title’s reviews and awards. Of course, by the time I wanted to make my own bookmarks, I’d long since lost the one sample I had from the conference. So I’ve had to make my own.

Since I could make whatever kind I wanted, I decided to make three different types:

  • One to highlight Award Winning titles (though I did not mention the exact award on the bookmark)
  • One to highlight New York Times bestsellers (because these titles may not be new, but they will be titles my patrons want to find)
  • One with a blank space (so that patrons or librarians could highlight titles) Read More →

YALSA is calling on you to answer this question: If there was only one shelf of space available for YA materials, what titles should go on it?

YALSA is looking for a micro-core collection of YA titles to share with folks who only have a small space to work with, like book mobiles, classroom libraries, home libraries, recreation centers, doctor’s offices, school buses, etc. The goal of this project is NOT to compile a “best of all-time” list. The goal is to create a list of materials for 12 – 18 year olds that is balanced and represents some great YA authors across the popular teen genres. Ideally, the list would incorporate contemporary titles as well as timeless ones. Please add your suggestions.

(If I only got one shelf at my current library, I think I might fill it with Naruto….)

It is not too late to make plans to celebrate the second annual Support Teen Literature Day on April 17, 2008. This is a day to celebrate the vibrant world of YA literature. Create a display of the newest award winners. Post lists of BBYA, Quick Picks, and other lists from YALSA. Read aloud to teens from the latest and best YA books (a good place to begin might be with Printz winners from the past couple of years) or play a track or two from YA audiobooks (see the YALSA list of Amazing Audiobooks and the Odyssey winners). Highlight the work of some of the winners of the Margaret Edwards Award, a wondrous collection of incredible authors including Lois Lowry, Orson Scott Card, Chris Crutcher, Richard Peck, and M.E. Kerr to name a few.

Better yet, create some lists of your own to recommend to local bookstores, parent groups, schools. Write a letter to the editor of your local paper supporting the use of contemporary literature. Offer to do periodic reviews for your town newspaper of forthcoming YA books.

And don’t forget the new technologies. Use podcasts and wikis and blogs to pass along the news that YA literature is not only interesting for teen readers, it is a literature rich in language and imagery and can stand alongside the literary canon (most of which are contemporary stories from past times). How will you celebrate? Let us know what you did and how it all went. Share your experiences and successes with your colleagues.

For more ideas visit YALSA’s wiki. For 2008, YALSA has teamed up with the readergirlz and 20 publishers to distribute 10,000 books to children’s hospitals. You can get the details from the press release. There are tips on the wiki to help you connect with hospitalized and homebound teens in your community.

Today the National Endowment for the Arts published a report titled To Read or Not To Read: A Question of National Consequence. (Link is to a .pdf file.) The report discusses the reading habits of teens and adults and considers the frequency with which different age groups read for pleasure, read a book, and read at all.

Reading the study one has to ask, how did those gathering the data define reading? For example, there is a finding that states “Teens and young adults spend less time reading than people of other age groups.” How can that be true? Don’t teens read when surfing YouTube, looking for something on Google, figuring out how to improve their gaming scores, checking out photos on Flickr?

Maybe it’s because the authors of the report don’t consider using the web, playing video games, or even emailing to encompass valid reading opportunities. For example another finding states “Even when reading does occur, it competes with other media.” One of the sub-bullets in that finding is that “20% of their reading time is shared by TV watching, video/computer game-playing, instant messaging, e-mailing, or Web surfing.” Isn’t it pretty obvious that IMing, emailing, and web surfing require reading?

There are some valid concerns about multitasking and reading comprehension outlined in this report. However, if we as a society don’t seriously investigate how we define reading, and recognize that reading formats other than books is reading, we are going to alienate many teens and younger generations.

When you read about the report (or read the actual document) think about what the research really looked at, how the researchers defined reading, and how the data does or doesn’t reflect what you are seeing in your community and setting. Be careful not to make teens feel that just because they are reading something online, and not reading a traditional format such as a paperback book, that that reading doesn’t count. Let teens know that reading in a variety of formats is something you respect and value.