A Nation Without Libraries

I’m back from a wonderful and much needed vacation in Atlanta. I have a few interesting pictures to post from my time there, but I had to stop catching up on email, paying bills and hitting the GoogleReader to post this dismal view of America that Zetta Elliott just shared with me. Take the time to click this link to a GoogleMap that will show you the school districts across America that will be losing librarians. I’ve told you why I know libriarians are critical.  Could you leave a comment about what school libraries have meant to you? Also, if your school or district is not on the map and needs to be, please add it!

I have to add that I do know school librarians aren’t the only ones losing jobs. It’s happening to too many good people in critical positions across the country. I just happen to know that school librarians are something we’ve always taken for granted. And, it kinda bothers me that as front line workers, workers who make a difference for any employer because of the direct impact they have are the ones who are losing jobs while executives and administrators continue to get raises, bonuses and perks that have a greater impact on the bottom line than front line workers’ salaries ever will.

A Nation Without School Librarians

A Print Read

Although the pain in my neck tells me I’m living online, I do take the time to do offline, informative reading as well. Sometimes the journals pile up and wait months before I get to them, but this month there have been very informative articles that couldn’t wait. I’ve already mentioned the current School Library Journal. Another good one is the ALAN Review. So many great articles this month! “Similar Literary Quality” and “Scattering Light over the Shadow of Booklessness” both give compelling reasons for including YA literature in the curriculum, the former to support AP curriculum and the latter to keep students engaged in reading. In  “Their Lives are Beautiful, Too”, we learn why Matt de la Pena decided to focus on the lives of urban teens in his books.

For urban teens who feel that their voices have gone unheard and the significance of their lives has gone unrecognized, Matt de la Pena’s novels provide a powerful space of affirmaton. The very existence of Matt’s work is testimony to the fact that these teens’ lives and voices matter. But Matt’s novels don’t just speak to urban teens. They also challenge readers whose lives have been shaped by race and class privilege to consider how the world looks to people who have less and live differently. As Matt reminds us, their lives are beautiful, too.(1)

The Trouble with Normal: Trans Youth and the Desire for Normalcy as Reflected in Young Adult Literature” postulates that while the presence of GLBT sexuality is growing in YA lit, its not enough to give a sense of normalicy to other than heterosexual teens. While the author details three main purposes in GLBT fiction, he states “The third and probably the most important aspect of these novesl is to show trans youths’ need–destire–to engage in the quotidian activities of life, whether going to the mall, dating or simply using the washroom at school.” (2)

“Why Do Chinese People Have Weird Names: The challenges of teaching multicultural adult literature” developed from research conducted right here in Indiana. The authors visited midwestern classrooms to find the best methods for teaching multicultural literature. They had to teach the teachers how to select good books from other cultures.

  • Check the background of the author
  • Look for appealing plots
  • Make sure the characters are positive
  • Select books that are realistic
  • Assess whether the culture is authentic
  • Look for award winning, contemporary books (3)

While this list is necessary, I think it borders almost on the ridiculous that you have to develop it to help teachers find PoC books. When good books were selected (the authors provide a short list with the article), the teacher’s knowledge and comfort will help them develop strategies that work for engaging students in books from different cultures. Several strategies are discussed in the article which would help any teacher expand their repertoire to include books that reflect today’s world.

There are other articles as well as book reviews in this peer reviewed  journal which is published by the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of the National Council of Teachers of English. It’s published 3/year and subscription is provided with a membership to ALAN. ALAN does maintain a blogsite but articles are not available online.

Did I really just review a journal??? LOL”


1.”Their lives are beautiful too: How Matt de la Pena illuminteas the lives of urban teens’ by Jennifer Beuhler; The ALAN Review, Winter, 2010 p. 43

2.  “Why Do Chinese People Have Weird Names: The challenges of teaching multicultural adult literature” by Robert Bittner The ALAN Review, Winter, 2010 p. 35

3.  “Why Do Chinese People Have Weird Names: The challenges of teaching multicultural adult literature” by Nai-Hua Kuo and Janet Alsup, The ALAN Review, Winter, 2010 p. 17-24


Most of my online time today is going to be spent updating my links. Let’s call it spring cleaning since it is getting close to spring break. I’m looking forward to getting away for a very short while and visiting my daughter in Atlanta. In the mean time, just a few things to get you reading today!

Or maybe to get you writing! The Asian American Writers’ Workshop has a short story competition open to all writers of Asian descent living in the US or Canada.  The contest will name 10 finalists and one grand prize winner. The deadline for submission is 31 March.

If you have time for reading and are looking for something really good, check out these adult  reads.

And if you’re viewing, CSpan recently announced that it will give online access to all its video files collected since 1978. What a wealth for educators!!

If like me you’re spending more time reading YA, be sure to read Greg Neri’s Chess Rumble if you haven’t already! Neri is the 2010 winner of the Lee Bennett Hopkins/International Reading Association Promising Poet Award for Chess Rumble, published by Lee & Low. CONGRATULATIONS!

School libraries continue to fight for funding. While Education Secretary Duncan admits that library’s are underfunded, he as yet offers no remedy. Does he realize there are school libraries that exist with no budget?? I just realized this myself through a thread on my local listserv. That’s right, there are school libraries that have no monies appropriated for books, magazines, technology, professional development …nothing! nada! rien!!  While certifying authorities often mandate that a specific amount of dollars per child be spent on the library, school administrators will be cute with the funds and include salaries as the amount spent on the library when the dollar amount is clearly meant to address how much should be spent on books.

Have you visited a school library lately? Go and visit on this week! Notice how busy it is! Find out if the librarian’s position will be funded next year. Ask if s/he has a budget for books, professional development and technology tools. If they can’t by print books, you know electronic resources aren’t even an issue! The students we’re educating today are our present and future leaders. Find out what they’re getting in the library, the hub of the 21zt century school!

Have a reading filled week!

review: Out of My Mind

Title: Out of My Mind

author:  Sharon Draper
date: Atheneum; March 2010
main character: Melody Brooks
Melody is an 11 year old 5th grader who spends much of her day in a pink wheelchair but, as Melody says, the pink doesn’t make it cute, it’s still a wheelchair. Melody’s got a mom and a dad, both of whom work outside the home so they often leave Melody with an neighbor, Ms. V.,  that earth-mother kind of neighbor that every child should have. She is accepting, empowering and no nonsense. Melody tell us about her classmates, her teachers and her daily routine which includes the tedious task of someone having to feed her because Melody can’t feed herself. There are in fact many things Melody can’t do but as we are pulled into her head (because Melody can’t talk either) we learn of the many, many things she can do.

In giving Melody a voice, Draper lets Melody be an 11 year old girl who, like any 11 year old girl, is learning how to maneuver in the world around her. It’s much more difficult for Melody because of the many physical challenges she faces and because of the stereotypes and biases which block her. But Melody has her family and Ms. V who love her and try to allow her to develop to her full potential. Needless to say, Draper took great liberty in her representation of what Melody thinks and knows. She did not, however take so much liberty showing how technology can unlock someones potential. Nor did she take liberty in showing how callous we can be toward those who are differently abled.  Some of Melody’s classmates are able to accept her, while others are not. Isn’t that how life is? While Draper depicts real situations, she sticks to the middle grade genre by giving situations that you don’t want to spend too much time thinking through. Out of my mind is a smooth, easy read that would make a wonderful all class or all grade read.

I was more than a little surprised to find so few reviews of this book online. Given how well established Draper is, given that we’re currently in a market that is looking for books about children who are differently abled, I would expect to see more written on this book. In one recent interview Draper mentions that Out is probably the most difficult book she wrote. I wish the interviewer had followed up on that! In another interview, Draper mentions here own daughter who is differently abled. I cannot help but wonder what would be the most challenging part of writing this book? The easiest part? I guess when an author leaves us wanting more, they’ve done a pretty good job.

You’ll start reading this book and you’ll wonder how in the world she’s going to get 200 pages out of this girls head and by the time you finish, you’ll want more.

Author Interview and first chapter

Study guide

additional reviews: