They shouldn’t have to ask us!

I recently received an email from an author stating “I hate to ask, but…”  She had read the review I wrote for her book and she knew I really enjoyed it, so she asked me if I’d nominate it for an award. Can you imagine how she felt? I assume it’s something like how I feel when I as an author to do an interview, but a little worse.

And, she should have to feel like that, shouldn’t have to ask! Reader, I’m on a mission here to promote literacy for teens of color and by default, to promote authors of color and books that feature teens of color. I feel like I’ve been failing that mission. How about you? Are you promoting authors better than I am, and if so what are some of the things you’re doing?

Here are my suggestions.

  • As soon as you finish reading this post, go to your local library’s online catalog and look up 2 -3 new books by authors of color or that do an excellent job of featuring main characters of color. If the library does not currently own the books, request that they purchase them.
  • Buy your next 2-3 books by authors of color at a local bookstore. Call ahead and if they don’t have the books you want, have them place an order. Wait a few days to pick up the books so that the store employees can have a little time to explore the books.

These next suggestions are really, really important.

Nominate your current favorite books written by authors of color for awards and booklists. We have to stop passively complaining about how few authors who write for teens of color are included in a booklist if we make no effort to have their books included.

You might have missed the opportunity to nominate books for NPRs list of best books ever, but you still have time to vote on the finalists.

Nominations are open for YALSAs Best Fiction for Young Adults. Anyone can nominate a book, but authors cannot nominate their own books. So, nominate for them.

Finally, each state has lists of books that are nominated for awards in that state. These lists are often what teachers look at when selecting books for class reads and many librarians rely upon them to select must have books for their libraries. These lists are critical in getting books by authors of color to become part of the curriculum and thus part of the cultural landscape. Know what list your state uses and know the process for getting books on these lists.

The Cybils will begin soon and what was once a small award among bloggers has grown into something quite prestigious. Be sure to get your favorite authors nominated.

Part of the reason that Latino, African-American, Native American and Asian American authors have a difficult time publishing new books is that they’re not getting on these lists; their works are not getting enough recognition.

Readers, we often hold the key to our favorite author’s success!

It’s really late here. I’ve tried to proofread this, hope I’ve caught my typos but I hope you’re feeling my passion here and I hope it motivates you to do something!


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’m working on an interactive learning area for the media center and decided to discuss plans with my colleague, Jackie. Isn’t it amazing what happens when colleagues talk? One thing leads to another, to another and to another! Of course we discussed what’s popular in our media centers and from there it went to keeping track of series and then I think it went to authors, or was it technology again?  Recently her students watched a video of author Sharon Draper, one of their favorites and the were enraptured! We talked about the availability of  authors on Skype and the possibility of visits from local authors and we discussed the migration from distance learning to online conferencing and Skype. I’ve learned from blogging that YA authors, the really good ones, don’t just write books but they’re committed to education, to promoting literacy and to making a difference in student’s lives and they know the difference they can make just by showing up.

Walter Dean Myers has teamed up with to create the Second Chance Initiative. On their webpage, you’ll find

  • a reading guide for Dopestick
  • ,three free chapters of the book
  • author podcasts

I was really impressed with the podcasts and would have uploaded ‘Myers on Race’ but I’d have to pay to increase my blog services with WordPress in order to do that and given that I’m considering moving my blog, I can’t justify doing that. But, do go to the site and listen, I think you’ll want to use these resources with students. Obviously, Myers is one author who cares about students!

I have to quickly mention that Miss Domino’s blog made me aware of the fact that titles from Kimani Tru, Ni Ni Simone and Baby Daniels have been included on the ALA’s Recommended List for Reluctant Readers.  Also there is L Divine’s Drama High Series, Perfect Chemistry, I love yous are for white people by Lac Su (and I still want to read this!!), and Dopestick.  I think that’s it. I think that’s all of the PoC titles among the 101. I guess PoC students aren’t reluctant readers and then, it’s only African Americans who are.

I gotta thank my Colts for a great season and give a might CONGRATULATIONS to the Saints!


What a beautiful blue Sunday! Colts blue, that is! If you need another reason to cheer the Colts on this evening, check out their commitment to literacy.

Always committed to literacy is PaperTigers. They’re all about multicultural books for young people with a focus on voices in the Pacific Rim. This past week, PaperTigers kicked off their Spirit of PaperTigers Project which promotes literacy by putting multicultural books into the hands of children all over the globe. Of particular interest this year, is the need for books in Haiti.  PT links to IBBY’s Children in Crisis Fund as one reliable way to donate. As immediate needs from this devastation are addressed, long term development issues will come to the forefront and this will certainly include the need for educational materials. These will be critical as Haiti gets a footing on the path to becoming self sustaining. The ALA has developed a fund with the MCCA to get libraries going again.

I would suggest donating to one of these funds rather than collecting bunches of used books to ship overseas.

  • Books are heavy to ship!
  • Haiti’s infrastructure (which includes postal services) is quite strained right now.
  • People want/need to read books that relate to them. Haitians speak Creole, a blend of French and local languages. It would be best to have books in their own language.
  • Local librarians can best select books that will meet local wants and needs.

Another take on developing literacy is Internet access. It’s difficult to believe that someone would find it difficult to see Internet access as a civil right! With no access, students cannot fully develop skills necessary to thrive in today’s world. Access to job applications, consumer information and government services is severely limited when one has no access. Thanks to Teaching Paperless for highlighting this issue!

Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich invited me Faves on Friday where I did a post to help teachers and librarians form meaningful collaborations to celebrate Black History Month. Of course, the ideas are generic enough to adapt to celebrate any culture.

In another attempt to promote literacy this week, I’ve compiled two African American author’s lists, one for middle grades and the other for young adults. If you’re favorite book isn’t there, remember these lists are meant to contain contemporary African American authors. YA’s: I didn’t do the Kimani Trus. Yes, they are GREAT books, there are just too, too many and no way to link to the imprint instead of each individual book. And, there will be author’s I’ve completely missed. I do hope you’ll post or email those I need to add to the list!

Middle Grades

Young Adult

time to go Back to School

ASCD’s article on Engaging African American Males in Reading provides useful information for selecting and using literature to motivate African American males.  Instead of just selecting text that builds skills, the study highlights the importance os selecting texts that

  • is intellectually exciting for both student and teacher.
  • serves as a roadmap and provides apprenticeships.
  • cognitively challenges students.
  • helps students apply literacy skills and strategies independently.