Must See TV

I’m so glad I caught the following announcement on @ PaperTigers in time to view the broadcast this evening on my local PBS station!

An Inspired Elementary School Teacher Launches a Revolution in Reading For Colombia’s Rural Children in POV’s “Biblioburro: The Donkey Library”, Premiering Tuesday, July 19, 2011, on PBS

Donated Books, Two Donkeys and One Determined Man Refashion the Bookmobile For a Region Better Known for Guns, Drugs and Poverty

A Co-­presentation With Latino Public Broadcasting


Watch the full episode. See more POV.

Luis Soriano is surely the most famous resident of La Gloria, a small town in a rural area of northern Colombia plagued by poverty, crime and armed insurrection. But Soriano’s fame has little to do with guns, drugs or politics. His reputation rests on the eight hooves of two sturdy donkeys named Alfa and Beto, his own two feet and his willingness to spend weekends tramping through rugged and dangerous backcountry. These are the components of a simple but brilliant idea using donkeys to bring a circulating library of donated books to the children in some of Colombia’s poorest and most remote towns and villages.

Carlos Rendón Zipagauta’s new documentary, Biblioburro: The Donkey Library, tells the story of 39-year-old Soriano and his traveling library from the point of view of the man himself and, one might say, his two hardworking burros. The film rides along with Soriano on one of his arduous weekend rounds and discovers a world of dense tropical beauty, nearly impassible trails, dangers both natural (snakes, swollen streams) and human (guerillas, bandits), open-air classrooms and, most wonderfully, a thirst for reading and knowledge. But Biblioburro is also a portrait of Soriano — an unassuming, small-town elementary school teacher who not only had a great idea, but has been acting on it every weekend for over a decade

Biblioburro provides a bracingly up-close sense of the determination and hard work required to saddle up each Saturday in the early morning darkness, and the sheer nerve and patience — not always expressed quietly by man or donkey — needed to brave Colombia’s poor and violence-torn hinterlands. Why would a man, and his family, persist in bearing such a burden? It soon becomes clear that Soriano is bringing more than books to the education-starved children of northern Colombia. He is bringing a gospel of education as the way the members of the next generation can transform their troubled country and their lives.

Dividing and Conquering

I’ve been thinking about books and literacy for a while now, thinking I better master a new tech tool before returning to the same ol’ job and finding effective ways to implement and teach … new literacies. I have developed and action plan quite yet, but Librarian by Day has got me thinking.

You don’t know this about me, but not too long ago, I was functionally illiterate. I was unable to read, write and even speak, in the culture in which I lived. I lived in Taiwan but couldn’t read or speak enough Mandarin for it to matter.  I could successfully live on the fringes of the culture by using the Internet to find sites that had been translated into English and by having friends write useful phrases for me but I knew nothing about what was in the news, what the weather forecast was or even what students had to say about the day’s lesson.

 I was reminded of that existence when Will Richarsdon wrote about his children being illiterate because in their classrooms they’re not meeting the National Council for Teachers of English definition of literacy which says they should be “designing and sharing information for global communities to meet a variety of purposes.”

Remember when literacy simply meant being able to read and compute at a 4th grade level? I would call that basic, functional literacy at best today. The term ‘literacy’ has been attached to cultural-, science-, health-, financial-, math- and other terms to promote the essential information we need to have to survive in society.

For me, the essential literacy is ‘information literacy’. I think children need to be able to acquire knowledge from a variety of sources, that they should have the ability to learn from/to read from a variety of platforms, but I’m still working with that concept.

Here’s where it begins to get tricky for me. Students should learn how to read text, right? Some read it by sight, some by feel and some even within those two basic categories have a variety of ways they perceive information which makes reading text a challenge. So, we have audiobooks which provide the exact same information, but requiring a while new skill set. Rather than decoding letter combinations, they’re listening for inflections and speech patterns. Are they giving up something by not reading text, I mean they’re still acquiring information and isn’t that the important thing, that they acquire information?

This is another definition of literacy from Ed Social Media.

The definition of literacy is dynamic, evolving, and reflects the continual changes in our society.  Literacy has, for instance, expanded to include literacy in information and communication technologies and critical literacy (Cunningham, 2000; Harste, 1994; Leu, 2002; Mol1, 1994; Paris, Lipson & Wixson, 1994; Yopp & Singer, 1994).

I think this expands the definition a bit to say it’s not enough to know how to read what’s on a webpage but we need to know how to access it as well. There’s a discussion of ‘digital literacy’ and knowing how to use cameras. I would ad being able to ‘read’ an image for information.  If we don’t know social networking, are we becoming illiterate?

I think my response found clarity on TheYoungandtheDigital which discusses the digital divide. While some think the numbers which indicate high usage of cell phones among African American and Latino teens for Internet access seems to indicate a closing of the digital divide, this article keenly points out not so! No, not if they’re not using the more expensive smart phones instead of feature phones and not if they’re not creating innovative learning experiences.

The issue, of course, is not that young people’s adoption of mobile phones causes an achievement gap that began long before any of us ever heard of the Internet or mobile phones.  Rather, what is the potential for learning and engagement with mobile media in closing the learning divides that exist between low and middle income students?  The mere adoption of mobile phones is certainly not the solution to the achievement gap.  Technology—social network sites, laptops, smart phones, games, tablets, interactive books and maps—alone will never close America’s learning divide.  This is the myth of the “digital native” narrative, the notion that youth can thrive in the digital world without any adult support, mentoring, or scaffolding of rich learning experiences.  While a greater diversity of young people are using digital and mobile platforms than ever before not all media ecologies are equal.  Thus it’s very possible that if poor and working class students adopt technologies like mobile phones in environments that do not offer adult engagement and scaffolding the potential benefits in terms of learning and empowerment may not be realized. 

It’s back to my rant about blocking access rather than teaching how to use web services responsibly. Too many urban schools tell students they may not bring phones to school, may not use FB or Twitter under the guise of keeping them safe. Actually, they’re intensifying the digital divide and adding to our children’s illiteracy.

I don’t think we have to be overly careful in defining ‘literacy’. I do think exploring the term with educators, parents and students may begin getting more of us to see the ways education needs to change. While developing more literate students is critical, it’s more important to kindle the flame, to have young minds that want to learn! Maybe they already want to learn and maybe the students already know some of the literacies they need, or maybe they just know the ones they don’t need.

Can you believe people teach just for the paycheck?!

Don’t forget I’m still giving away a free book!







My summer taste buds are craving peach cobbler, a real tomato, corn on the cob and ice tea drowning with lemon. Intellectually, I need a good summer romance story. No doubt, some are written better than others. I’m not talking high literature, just a good story. I thought I found a good romance book last night, it was about summer romance and seemed so appropriate but, it was going nowhere fast except back to the shelf.

My music taste has blossomed from re-discovering the Brasilian sounds of Tribalista and Ed Motta to newly discovering Amina Alaoui.

Black Lotus, created in 1983

I’m trying to figure out the fascination with this Casey person trial. Well, not really; I’m doing all I can to avoid it. There’s this little deficit issue that to me is so much more important, but getting so much less conversation. What if the deficit limit isn’t increased? Why is this taking so long? If the budget continues to grow, what number is bigger than a trillion? That would be a quadrillion and the largest number would be a centillion.

C’est le 14 juilliet!! Happy Bastille Day!! Today is a French national holiday remembering the storming of the Bastille.

Today is also the Fourth Day of the Summer Blog Bast Tour and I lifted this schedule from the HappyNappyBookseller.

Check out the SBBT Day 4 interviews
Tessa Gratton @Writing & Ruminating
Micol Ostow @ A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy
Maria Padian @Bildungsroman
Genevieve Cote @Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast
Vera Brosgol @ Iectitans

I’ve had a couple of people invite me to join them in Google+. It feels like just one more thing to do and it scares me because it’s Google. Sorry Google, I don’t trust you. Google is not just a search engine, Google collects information. I get that  Google has better people to collect information on than me, but I don’t like the idea of them knowing any more about me or my loved ones than I want them to. From what I understand, people are having a difficult time figuring out Google+ so if you’re one of those people, here’s a cheat sheet. Perhaps there’s also a cheat sheet for the deficit.

If you’ve been wondering, comic book characters are not only Black and White. They’re Asian, too!

Did you know that Candlewick Press has free online audio samples? Listen here to the soon to be released Ghetto Cowboy by G. Neri, illustrated by Jesse Joshua Watson.

Can anyone translate this for me?

College costs are getting outrageous! While a college education should improve a person outlook for the future, it can also increase their personal deficit (seeing a theme here?). These scholarships could help make continuing education a reality for a young person of color.

Not much luck on the job front, yet, but I’m still looking. I’m cleaning clutter and arranging memorabilia my children have left with me. I feel like I’m getting to know them in a new way by seeing what they felt was important enough to keep, the memories they cherished and what they’ve accomplished. Who they were, what they are…what’s the opposite of a deficit?

There’s so much left to do this summer! Trips to take, places to go and people to see! I don’t want returning to work to feel like a death sentence. Returning to work with young minds should feel like beginning a new discovery, a year of promise and possibilities, a year that grows from a summer full of life!


book review: Urban Teens in the Library

book review: Urban Teens in the Library

edited by Denies E. Agosto and Sandra Hughes-Hassell

American Library Association, 2010

I really wanted to like this book. I expected it to refresh, renew and maybe even validate my work with urban teens. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. Let’s start with the $60 price tag for a 186 paged paperback book, several of which are inserted upside down. ALA has got to make these books affordable to people who need and want to read them!

A lot of effort was made to describe just who urban teens are. From there, chapters were devoted to topics such as designing space, urban lit, social networking and addressing health issues. While these are interesting and relative topics, I wanted something a bit more current from the authors mentioned to the topics addresses. While I have to commend the editors for including such a scholarly approach to urban lit, I do wish that some of the more contemporary YA urban lit (Latino and African American) would have been included. To me as an urban school librarian, these titles are quite important.

And school librarians weren’t there, except to be criticized for creating negative images about libraries with teens. It would have been helpful to read about effective ways public and school librarians have collaborated to build effective teen programming. Collaborations with museums, social agencies and academic libraries were missing and I know these things are being done to address numerous issues. Here in Indianapolis, we’ve had many Burmese refugees move to the city. Schools and libraries have had to be resourceful to find materials to assist this population as well as in learning how to bring them into the library.

School and public librarians would love to know more about addressing language issues, talking about controversial issues with teens in non-biased ways, finding hi-low reading materials that appeal to teens and approaching the topic of race.

If you’re new to a public library in the center of the city and have the money to splurge, Urban Teens in the Library will introduce you to well research practices that will be relevant to the topic you serve, but if your needs are not so basic, I suggest you wait for volume 2.


Male Monday started with Ari @ Reading in Color

My package from Lee and Low arrived this weekend and one of the books in it was Wolf Mark by Joseph Bruchac. I also picked up his MG book The Warriors  during my recent visit to Half Priced Books. So, just who is Joseph Bruchac?

  • He’s the author of poetry, short stories, novels, anthologies and music that reflect his Abenaki Indian heritage and Native American traditions.
  • His work as an educator includes eight years of directing a college program for Skidmore College inside a maximum security prison.
  • He has been a storyteller-in-residence for Native American organizations and schools throughout the continent, including the Institute of Alaska Native Arts and the Onondaga Nation School.
  • His awards include the American Book Award; Horn Book honor; Cherokee Nation Prose Award; Hope S. Dean Award for Notable Achievement in Children’s Literature;  Virginia Hamilton Literary Award;  Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers Circle of the Americas;  Knickerbocker
  • his son, James, is also an accomplished storyteller
Bruchac offers this personal narrative on his Scholastic Book Author’s Page.

I grew up in the small town of Greenfield Center, New York, which is in the foothills of the Adirondacks not far from the city of Saratoga Springs. It is a place I love, close to the forests and the mountains.

I was raised by my grandparents, who had a little general store. My grandmother, Marion Dunham Bowman, was a graduate of Albany Law School. Although she never did practice law, she kept the house filled with books. It’s because of her that I was always reading.

My grandfather, Jesse Bowman, was of Abenaki Indian descent. He could barely read and write, but I remember him as one of the kindest people I ever knew. I followed him everywhere. He showed me how to walk quietly in the woods and how to fish. He told me that his father never spanked him, but would only talk to him when he misbehaved. He raised me in the same way.

I loved my grandparents’ little general store. I helped out as much as I could, ringing up purchases on the cash register and washing customers’ cars and windows. In the fall and winter, I would sit around the wood stove and listen to the local farmers and lumberjacks tell tall tales. One of those men was Lawrence Older. When I grew up, he taught me the songs and stories he knew about the Adirondacks.

I started to write when I was in the second grade. I wrote poems to my teacher. One day, when she read one to the class, some of the bigger boys got jealous. They beat me up after school. That was my first experience with hostile literary critics. But I kept on writing. And I was always reading, especially classic children’s stories about animals.

I think I always knew I would be a writer some day, but it wasn’t until I was grown and had children of my own that I turned to telling Native American stories. My Indian grandfather never told those stories to me. Instead, I began to seek them out from other Native elders as soon as I left home for college. I wanted to share those stories with my sons, so I started to write them down. My first book of stories was published in 1975.

Bruchac continues to live in his grandparent’s home in New York.  I am eager to get to know Mr. Bruchac through his  writings be reviewing Warriors and Wolf Mark soon.

There’s a Giveaway here!!

The summer has passed its midpoint and I’m still job hunting. I think I’m more frustrated by not knowing what I want to do than by not having an offer in hand. I’m remaining optimistic, though because things always work out.

I’m really optimistic and excited about a box on the way to my front door from Lee and Low! I haven’t received many books this summer, so this is something to look forward to.

I’ve purchased a couple of professional books that are making very good reading.

Building and Running a Successful Research Business: A Guide for the Independent Information Professional, Second Edition by Mary Ellen Bates

This is the handbook every aspiring independent information professional needs in order to launch, manage, and build a research business. Organized into four sections, Getting Started, Running the Business, Marketing, and Researching, the book walks you through every step of the process.

Urban Teens in the Library: Research and Practice – Paperback (Jan. 26, 2010) by Denise E. Agosto and Sandra Hughes-Hassell

This work does much to explain who urban teens are and what they need from their libraries. The authors examine the existing research—some of which they have performed—that provides a wealth of data for public and school libraries. Given the challenges in serving these patrons, practical options and suggestions are invaluable, yet few of the chapters build off the research to make such recommendations. Two examples of the combination of theory and practice are found in the chapters on developing a leisure reading program and urban teens’ search for health information. In addition, the four examples of best practices are also full of ideas. Other chapters, such as those on social networking and YA spaces, are more general and do not offer much guidance on applying the research to urban libraries. The chapter on street lit is a mixed bag: it provides a much-needed background to the genre, but does not explore the literature written for teenagers, such as the works of Coe Booth, Alan Sitomer, or Paul Volponi. All in all, this guide does live up to its title, combining research and practice in one volume. (SLJ)

I”m also reading Acts of Grace  by Karen Simpson(Nook version) on the treadmill. It’s the perfect treadmill book as it keeps me wanting to go to the gym so I can read more!

As Grace reluctantly embarks on the unlikeliest of journeys and into the magical world of the African-American traditions used by her ancestors to fight slavery and oppression, she undergoes a spiritual transformation that leads to the true nature of her calling: to lead Jonathan Gilmore, the town of Vigilant and her own soul on a path toward reconciliation, redemption and true grace. (Goodreads)

My ever growing Book Mountain grew last week when I ventured into HalfPricedBooks. Look what I found!

I’ve already read and thoroughly enjoyed The Jacket  by Andrew Clements (author of Frindle) and a review is coming! I also bought a second copy of the keepsake edition of The absolutely true diary of a part-time Indian. It’s such a beautiful edition! BUT!! Since I already have a copy, I’d like to give this to one of my readers.I have two ways to register:

  • leave your name the comments to this post
  • tweet this post to #crazyquilts
  • Deadline: 31 July 2011 @ midnight EST
Good Luck!           


I went to a family bar-b-que yesterday and saw a few interesting things while driving across town. I was stunned to see a brothas on horseback, ghetto cowboys on the east side of Indy!  Corn was knee high just as it should be by the fourth of July! There were children, so many, many children and all of them gave up the video games in favor of playing with cousins, water guns and footballs in the hot, hot sun! My night ended with new-to-me episodes of West Wing and a surprise fireworks show that I could see from my window.

Even though I am a librarian, I am always learning of new things, new specialties that exist for librarians. I’m looking into what it takes to use my library skills to work as a researcher. I think the most interesting job I’ve seen (besides being a CNN librarian) was a woman who started her own business setting up libraries. Many companies don’t realize that they should have a library: a place

" If you’re interested in social justice issues, this is a good book to add to your TBR list." The Feminist Texan

where they collect and organize information related to their company and their industry. Some will collect materials for years and then realize the need for someone to come in and organize their information. It can take years to get a good library established in some places!

There are film librarians, textile and food librarians. There are academic librarians and there are prison librarians. The Feminist Texican has a really interesting post about why she wants to be a prison librarian along with a review of Running the Books.  After reviewing the book, she reminds us that prisons are a wonderful place to donate books. Their libraries are funded way less than school and public libraries which are already underfunded. I would imagine that prison librarians are paid less too and thus unable to come out of pocket for materials. [I’ve seen adds for librarians with community agencies who want full-time librarians with masters degrees that they’re going to pay $29K.] If you are unable to donate to you local prisons, here is a resource for donating books to prisons from the Feminist Texican.


Be warned!

<—- Have you seen these boxes in parking lots near you? I’ve seen two of them now and did a little research on them, thinking that they’d be worth telling my readers about. Well, I’m going to have to suggest to you NOT TO DONATE to Books for Charity. It seems that over half the books they receive are destroyed. Some are even sold for profit.

These boxes may not put books quite where you want them, either—–> Share A Book

The Share a Book website reports that 99% of their books go to thrift stores such as the  Womens Assistance League, Deseret Industries, and Salvation Army. No doubt, these agencies each serve important causes, but the books are not freely redistributed.

Even people who don’t like reading don’t like the idea of throwing away books. They’re objects that need to be passed on to someone else who will read, enjoy and cherish. I prefer the idea of passing on books to be read, assuming it is in good condition with contemporary and accurate information. Nonfiction books that would have been in my library when I was in high school pretty much need to be gone!

In America, 4 July is all about freedom.  And, so is literacy!