I have a new ‘do!

I never did pick a word for 2017, haven’t set any goals (well, except one) and haven’t made any resolutions. Yet, this year feels so new and so filled with possibilities!

For the first time, I paid attention to the solstice, watching the shortness of those deep screen-shot-2016-12-23-at-4-10-53-pmdark days of December and actually noticed the growth in the length of daylight toward the end of the month. On 1 January, without intending to, I was up in time to watch the sunrise. That brought a much greater sensation of newness to me than staying up until midnight (sober or not) has ever done.

I haven’t re-arranged my bedroom in the five years that I’ve been in my apartment but this weekend, it’s going to take on a new look.

Yes, change is in the air. I’m focusing on taking care of me, on improving my health and nutrition practices. I’ll be working on another institute this summer with area teachers for their renewal and I’m pretty sure self-care will be the focus of my session. Reading is something that so many people do for relaxation and for escape but it’s not always that when it’s part of your vocation. I plan to get the job done by specifically focusing on self help, self care and self maintenance books.

I recently read Jerica Coffey’s “Storytelling as Resistance” in which she relates various lessons used to teach narrative fiction in her classroom. She begins the piece by relating a lesson when she asked students what people think of the community where they live and she then asked what they themselves thought of the community. She compared outsiders’ perspective to an insider’s; an opinion based upon second or third hand information contrasted to lived experience.

But here’s the thing; here’s my light bulb moment: whose perspective is wrong?

I think therein lies a basic problem with the “diversity” discussion. As much as I want to believe an outsider’s perception of my community is wrong,–hard typing this—it’s not. It’s their perception. Of course, I want to believe that the insider knows their world –their language, food, geography and familial relationships – best, but ‘perspective’ is much like truth in that there’s yours, mine and ours. Children’s and young adult literature is filled with books written in whiteness, my contention is that it needs to be decolonized. It needs to brimming with authentic insider voices; with another perspective.

I think I would have missed this point if I hadn’t just read Laura Jimenez’s interview on Reading While White.

What I’ve discovered is that treating White, straight, able people as the problem or the enemy does not work.  I take that stance seriously.  Whiteness as an identity can’t be the problem–I start with that in mind.  I have to give them opportunities so they have the chance to be aware of their own identity.  It sounds strange to people, but I truly believe that White people do not realize that they are White.  It’s like trying to ask a fish to identify the water.  So I try to give them opportunities to see the water.  I have them identify their identities out loud.  I get them used to literally saying the words out loud: race, racism, White, Latinx.

If you’re looking for a resource to help you grow your perspective regarding race, consider reading selections from #CharlestonSyllabus. The syllabus originated from a discussion on Twitter after the massacre in Charleston on 17 June, 2015. The material has been developed into a book that attempts to contextualize the history of race and racism. It’s this contextualization that gives meaning to our stories. I have a pdf of the readings and plan to use it to grow my own awareness. It’s a new year, how about a new perspective?




Study African Cinema This Spring

2011 spring workshop flyer

Attached is information about the Indiana University African Studies Program spring workshop for teachers.  The workshop is FREE, will last 3 1/2 hours on Saturday April 9th, and the topic is Teaching Contemporary Africa through Film. Over the years, I’ve done several workshops through IU’s African Studies Center and if you’re at all able to attend, you won’t be disappointed!


New YALSA Journal

The Young Adult Library Services Association launched the inaugural issue of its open-access, peer-reviewed electronic research journal, the Journal of Research on Libraries and Young Adults at The journal will be published quarterly beginning in November 2010, with issues following in February, May and August.

The first issue highlights paper presentations from YALSA’s Young Adult Literature Symposium, held in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Nov. 5-7 with a theme of Diversity, Literature and Teens: Beyond Good Intentions. The papers in the issue are:

The Journal of Research on Libraries and Young Adults disseminates research of interest to librarians, library workers and academics who focus on library service to young adults, ages 12 through 18. It will also serve as the official research publication of the association, publishing annotated lists of recent research from YALSA’s Research Committee, Henne Award–winning research and papers from YALSA’s biennial Young Adult Literature Symposium.

Those interested in submitting a paper to JRLYA for future issues should contact the editor Author guidelines and more information can be found at


A Computer Is a Terrible Thing to Waste

One thing I’ve learned is that it’s very easy to criticize the decisions of policy makes. What’s not so easy is to have a larger vision that takes in the needs of a wide range of people. Just as an example, it was easy for me to criticize decisions to not support Google products by a school system because they felt unable to control student made content in that environment. Sounds crazy in this day and age, doesn’t it? The lack of control allows students to bully, antagonize and communicate other violence on the web.

I would so much rather see an environment that uses social media in the classroom along with conversations that teach students how to conduct civil discourse, validate sources, control one’s online identity and use the tools to gather and share information.

Could using 2.0 technology help fast track 9th graders reading at a 3rd grade reading level? Does the heavy hand of control really teach and protect? Would learning how to communicate in real life improve online communication?

HS Students place in top 5 in national competition

I know what I think, but . . .  I don’t have a larger vision.

Watching these videos found over at LibrariesandTransliteration give me some hope for our kiddos of color. I can’t post the Vimeo videos here daggone it, but do go watch them!  The short clips are from a public forum on digital literacy and children of color held by the United Negro College Fund with sponsorship from the MacArthur Foundation. I particularly liked this video from the event.

This “participation gap” refers to how youth of color engage with digital media. The concern is that they may be using technologies and tools that are less likely to encourage the development of sophisticated skill sets and literacies. Watkins was the keynote speaker at a public forum, “To Be Young Digital and Black,” held at Morehouse College in February and sponsored by the United Negro College Fund with support from the MacArthur Foundation.

He discussed how mobile technology has been one of the unexpected drivers in closing the access gap, but there are questions about the limited opportunities it provides for dynamic engagement and exploration. Watch the video for interviews with forum participants and students, as well as excerpts from Watkins’ talk. For more on this topic, read Spotlight’s interview with Watkins at​btr/​entry/​to_be_young_digital_and_black/​.

The forum was the first in a series, “Digital Media and Learning in Multicultural Contexts,” designed to provide arenas for discussion of how youth, especially youth of color, use new digital media and social networking tools.

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

pre PhD: preparing Black Men

Subject: University of Pennsylvania PhD Prep Program for Black Men

The University of Pennsylvania is launching an 18-month Academy  here
that focused on preparing Black men for admission to Ph.D. programs in
education immediately upon completion of their undergraduate studies.
They will begin the Academy this fall with 10 Black males who are  in
their junior year of college. Check it out here:

Each Academy participant will receive a 4-day all-expense paid visit with
the dean, faculty, graduate students, and Black male alumni; free
Enrollment in a 3-month Kaplan GRE Prep Course (for which Penn is paying
$1,200 per participant); a current Black male Ph.D. student who will
mentor  him through the application process; and an application fee
waiver  when he applies for Fall 2011 admission to Penn (valued at $85).
Most importantly, those who are admitted to our Ph.D. Programs two
years from now will be fully funded for their entire 3-4 years of
doctoral study.

Please forward this information to Black male undergraduates you  know
and encourage them to submit applications by August 21st. The  Academy
is only for Black men who are starting their junior year this fall and
planning to graduate in Spring 2011.   Spread the word!

In case you know a potential candidate.

Bonda Lee-Cunningham, J.D.
Director, Member Services
Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies
281 Park Avenue South
New York, New York  10010
Ph. 212-801-1324  Fax 212-982-0697
Website <>

How ’bout an MLS degree?

Indiana Librarians Leading in DiversityThe Indiana State Library last summer received a $1 million grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services to recruit 30 ethnically diverse students for the Indiana Librarians Leading in Diversity (I-LLID) project. The first class of 10 students began classes January 12, 2009. Seven students currently attend SLIS – Indianapolis and three students attend SLIS – Bloomington.

Potential candidates for the second class must apply to the Indiana University School of Library and Information Science (IU SLIS) before April 24, 2009. Candidates whose undergrad GPA is below 3.0 should take GRE as soon as possible. Fellowship awardees also must be accepted to the SLIS MLS program by June 30, 2009.

The Fellowship Application process is now open until 4:00 p.m. on Friday, April 24, 2009. Applications and more information can be found on the Indiana’s Librarians Leading in Diversity (I-LLID) webpage.