Booktalks 2.0

Just in time for back-to-school, Joyce Valenza, on NeverEndingSearch posts a list of podcasts and online booktalks for kids. What a great idea to get kids interested in reading – link this to your library website, and lead the kids to try it out. Hope the kids can find the books in libraries.

Even better, record podcasts for the new books added to your library! They’ll think you’re really cool.

A sad day for kids and school libraries

Today I learned that another school has eliminated their school media specialist. The budget is stretched to the max, and something has to go — so it’s the professional teacher librarian media specialist who teaches kids how to learn and where to find the information for successful learning. The teacher librarian is part of the curriculum teaching team that teaches kids the literacy skills to help them succeed in a world where being a lifelong learner is critical. Just as the student uses the school library to complete the assignments from the classroom, the graduated student will use information seeking behaviors learned from the teacher librarian to complete life’s assignments.

I’m heartsick to think that the successful information literacy program this teacher has built has no value to the board who makes the decisions what to pay for and what to ax. Minnesota has no enforceable standards for students’ access to instruction by a certified teacher librarian. Indeed, the opinion of a number of schools is that they will keep the library open with a (much cheaper) non-teacher to carry out technical tasks. I wonder, how do they expect their students to acquire the higher level literacy skills of research, critical thinking, and problem solving without the curricular involvement of a skilled and certified teacher librarian.

A long time ago, when my mother began her teaching career in a one-room school, her classroom library was a collection of several book shelves, each with books for a different reading and learning level. When I attended a 2-room rural school in Wisconsin, my classroom library was a low shelf of books under the window. That world of information was somewhat finite and manageable by the classroom teacher.

As the world of information increased through the latter part of the 20th century and exploded through the technology of the 21st century, the need for instruction by a skilled information professional has become critical. Children must learn to learn – and keep learning. While we cannot predict what they will need to know as adults, we can equip them to be lifelong learners using the network of the communities’ libraries as their learning lab. Children who have not learned the information literacy skills critical to continuous learning from a teacher librarian will enter the adult work world with a fatal learning disability and handicap.

A media specialist’s words about what is important

Who would have thought that the word “scrotum” would cause such lively discussion among librarians, media specialists, the media, some parents, and the biblioblogosphere. In case you’ve missed it, the newly named Newbery Award-winning book by Susan Patron, The Higher Power of Lucky, uses the word on the first page when the book’s heroine, a scrappy 10-year-old orphan named Lucky Trimble, hears the word through a hole in a wall when another character says he saw a rattlesnake bite his dog, Roy, on the scrotum. Thus far, there have been praises and challenges for the book nationwide. Fortunately, in Minnesota, we’ve not heard much, although there has been considerable discussion on E-mail lists. The Star Tribune published an article Wednesday, Newbery flap more a ripple with media specialists in state

Media Specialist Tom Ross, Plymouth Middle School in Robbinsdale, wrote an amazing piece in a letter to the MEMOlist (Minnesota Educational Media Organization) about what is truly important to him (and the other wonderful educators I am blessed to work with). I asked his permission to share the piece with my readers, and he said he’s “honored.” Thank you, Tom for these words:

Higher Power of Lucky.

Come on folks… I am not worried about this word. I am worried about my student who attempted suicide twice. I am worried about my student who is falling through the cracks because everybody wants to discipline him, but I think he is so depressed that he will end up like that first student. Everybody is trying to do the right thing, but we are not perfect people. Sometimes we may not cover every child perfectly and yet our heart is breaking over each one. I am worried about the gangs x-ing out each other, I am worried about my principals giving up because they are being worn down by parents who are demanding perfect people handle their children and there are none to be found. I’m worried about my Goth student that thinks that nobody cares about him as a human being and I wonder if he is cutting again. I’m worried about the little girls that come to school with bruises and bumps and social services is working on the problem… but there are not enough of them to cover everybody fast enough… I’m worried about the teachers that are leaving because they can’t handle the disrespect, intensity and pace of their job…Good people who will be lost forever to one of the most important task society has given them. I’m worried that society is abandoning us because they want to pretend the problem is the language in the book and it’s not the kids who are dying. I’m worried about the kids whose mom has 3 part time jobs and no insurance. I’m worried that if one of my students ends up running away, she may end up a street child who will be abused by some evil man for something as fleeting as money. I’m sorry this is a word that just doesn’t worry me. I want my students to live to the next day… That worries me.

Sorry if I have my values misplaced, my heart is breaking for my kids right now.

Tom Ross
Plymouth Middle School