Biblioburro: The Donkey Library

If you missed Biblioburro on you local PBS station, you can view it here.  I’ve got to start considering a blog platform that will allow me to embed a wider variety of videos!

I watched this quiet story several weeks ago and was drawn into the labor intensive effort of delivering books to students in the Colombian country side. I was struck by the impact of violence upon these children in what appears to be such a tranquil environment. At the same time, I couldn’t help but note how this reminded me of the violence children at my school face just as frequently. Luis Soriano’s dedication is so inspiring not just in terms of working to spread literacy but in reminding us to do whatever is we have to do to accomplish what we believe in.

Here are ideas on donating to the Biblioburro project or supporting literacy on a global level.

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!







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!






Free Summer Audiobooks

SYNC Summer 2011 has launched with 16 free YA & Classic books!

The first YA novel / Summer Reading Classic pairing  is available June 23 – June 29
Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
Romeo & Juliet by William Shakespeare

download here:

These upcoming titles will be of particular interest to readers of this blog:

Available July 7 – July 13
Where the Streets Had a Name by Randa Abdel-Fattah
Available July 21 – July 27
Chanda’s Secrets by Allan Stratton
Available August 11 – August 17
The Cay by Theodore Taylor

complete list
(Remember to complete the entire process to secure the final MP3. You have from June 23 – June 29 to download the MP3 audiobooks below, but there is no hurry to listen to it–the title does not expire.)