It’s Monday Again! – What Are You Reading?

It’s Monday Again! – What Are You Reading?

 Wow!!!!  It’s been kind of an emotional reading week.  I picked two books that took me longer than some of the other to tackle, but they were ones that were difficult to put down as I became so invested in the characters. 

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 The first book that I read was “The Fault In Our Stars” by John Green.  My 15-year old daughter recommended it to me and said that it is her second favorite book.  (Her favorite book is “Looking for Alaska” also by John Green, but I haven’t got to that one next.  I am planning on reading it sometime this summer though.)  Hazel is an inspiring young woman battling cancer, and it really slows her down in life.  Although her life expectancy is short, she is a witty teen that continually keeps moving along despite her terminal diagnosis.  This is a book that I would definitely recommend to others.

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 Next I read “One Crazy Summer” by Rita Williams-Garcia.  Although it wasn’t nearly as emotional as my first read this week, it was again a good read.  Many of the books that I have encountered this summer are definitely centered on the courage of young adults to overcome difficult circumstances in their lives.  Obviously this theme addresses some of the difficulties that teens have transitioning to adult.  The difficulty is definitely amplified when living with struggles within the family structure.  This book is also a good one for students to see diversity during a time of racial struggles in our country.

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My final and favorite adolescent book this week was Chris Crutcher’s “Deadline.”  In the beginning of the story, I was wondering if I would really like the book.  It took me longer to get into it than others I have read.  However, I liked the overall premise of the book, so I marched on.  After a while I became very invested in the characters and what the outcome of the situation would affect each and every one of them.  It was an inspirational story that I promptly recommended to my daughter to read before I have to return it to the library.  I’m not going to give details of this story today, as I would like to challenge others to read it for themselves.  The only hint of the story line is this…..

WHAT IF YOU ONLY HAD ONE YEAR TO LIVE……… AND YOU KNEW IT?

Intrigued?????

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Finally, I thought that I would share a children’s story with you that I read this week.  You see I am four and half hours away from my family for the entire month of June completing my library internship.  I had planned on interning at our local library, but the mean librarian (and I am serious…. Long story) backed out after I started completing my hours.  While working in my new location this week, a person that heard my truly unbelievable story of how I arrived here recommended that I read the book, “The Library Dragon.”  I promptly put the book on hold and checked it out the next morning.  It is a cute story that really hits on the importance of children having access to books.  Please “check it out” if you have time.

Happy reading for the remainder of this week!!!!!!  I am still LOVING the relaxation of curling up with a book for hours every night before bed.  Maybe I should continue to enroll in my adolescent literature class every semester just for an excuse to hide from the world every day.

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Censorship

Censorship

Censorship of reading materials has been going on for as long as writers have written.  What a shame for our children.  I realize that there are books on the market that may go against some people’s family values.  However, they have a right to not read those books if they disagree with the content.  Parents have the right to monitor what their children read.  But censorship takes away the books from EVERYONE.  Each family has the right to make those decisions for themselves and not have someone else’s biases determine what is available. 

One of my favorite authors as a young girl was Judy Blume.  I remember people talking about “that book” with the embarrassing information.  The book as you might have guessed is, Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret.  I remember burrowing down in my bed preparing for the most embarrassing read of my life.  But what????  It really wasn’t bad at all.  I already knew about everything that she discussed in the book, so I really didn’t see what all of the fuss was about.

This week I have taken some time to research about censorship.  While looking for information, I found two links with information and interviews from Judy Blume herself.  I felt that hearing her thoughts on the matter would be quite an interesting take on the subject.  My son posted the first link to his Facebook on Sunday, and just by doing so it has caused a great deal of controversy.  We have family members that believe differently than we do about children’s access to reading, and some of our family members have taken offense to the article.  They don’t understand the true issue of censorship.  One member stated, “ I understand that there’s a fine line between being crazy about what your children are allowed to read-not letting them read anything with even a twinge of inappropriateness- and being just as crazy by simply not worrying because “they probably won’t get it or else they already know…” There need to be MORE not fewer parents who actually “parent” and guide their children. And, censorship is part of parenting. Bottom line is; I don’t believe kids just let things they don’t understand “wash over them. 

Some definitions from dictionary.com regarding censorship are:

  1. an official who examines books, plays, news reports, motion pictures, radio and television programs,letters, cablegrams, etc., for the purpose of suppressing parts deemed objectionable on moral,political, military, or other grounds.
  2. an adverse critic; faultfinder.

The problem that I see with censorship is that it takes away other’s rights to read what they determine to be appropriate.  I agree with my family member that parents should monitor children according to their beliefs.  What I disagree with is her terming that as censorship.  I feel as though what she is talking about is being a good parent.

In addition to my son posting the link on Sunday, one of the blogs that I am following also had the article listed.  I don’t believe that the idea of censorship will ever go away.

The following link was entitled, “Judy Blume:  Parents worry too much about what children read.”  In the article, she Judy argues that children “will simply ‘self-censor’ by getting bored of anything they do not understand.”  What an interesting concept.  Below the link, I have copied and pasted the entire article written by Hannah Furness, Arts Correspondent for The Telegraph.

 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/hay-festival/10868544/Judy-Blume-Parents-worry-too-much-about-what-children-read.html

Parents worry “much too much” about what their children are reading, said the author Judy Blume. She argued that they will simply “self-censor” by getting bored of anything they do not understand.

Blume, the bestselling author of Forever, Blubber and Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, said people should not be unduly concerned about their children’s reading material.

If the content was unsuitable, she argued, children would simply tire of it or let it wash over their heads without understanding.

Speaking at the Hay Festival, she said the experience of having her own books banned in the Eighties was “alarming”, leaving her feeling “very alone”.

Her novels, which confront issues of teenage sex, racism, divorce, bullying, puberty and masturbation, were considered shocking at the time, and are remembered by a generation of women for teaching them the facts of life.

Blume, now 76, has sold more than 80 million books worldwide and her work has been translated into 31 languages.

She told the audience that parents should be less concerned about the suitability of their children’s reading material, concentrating more on simply getting them to love books.

“A lot of people worry much too much about what their children are reading,” she said.

“A lot of people will want to control everything in their children’s lives, or everything in other people’s children’s lives.

“If a child picks up a book and reads something she has a question about, if she can go to her parents, great.

“Or else they will read right over it. It won’t mean a thing.

“They are very good, I think, at monitoring what makes them feel uncomfortable. If something makes them feel uncomfortable they will put it down.”

Some of Blume’s own books, written and published in the Seventies, were banned in the United States during the Eighties, with Deenie becoming her “most banned book” for references to the main character’s “special place”.

“Most of the time they hadn’t even read the book,” Blume said of the complainants. “Even if they had, they only read what I would call the ‘good stuff’.

“It was definitely alarming. It was a very scary time and I felt very alone.”

Speaking to her young fans in the audience, she added: “I say go and read. Read what you like to read.”

Another link that I found about Judy Blume was entitled, “Judy Blume’s ‘Summer Sisters’ is Full of Things You Never Noticed.”  The article was written by Rachel Simon of Bustle, and I have copied part of it for you below the link.  Summer Sisters is a book of hers that I hadn’t heard of, so I will need to look at it the next time I am at the library.

http://www.bustle.com/articles/25235-judy-blumes-summer-sisters-is-full-of-things-you-never-noticed

Although the subject matter in Judy Blume’s books may occasionally be cause for controversy, there are a few matters related to the author in which there’s nothing to debate: a) she is the best; b) without her books, none of us would’ve survived adolescence, and c) while all her novels are fantastic, none of them are quite as good as Summer Sisters, her gorgeous, sprawling love story about female friendship, a book that, this year, turned 16 (!) years old.

 I remember the first time that I read Summer Sisters well. I was 15, a sophomore in high school, and had grabbed the book off my mother’s shelf one weekend afternoon out of curiosity—what was this Judy Blume book I hadn’t read that looked decidedly more adult than the copies of Deenie and Blubber I had laying around my room? Five hours later, I finished the book. Five years later, I practically know it by heart. 

There’s just something about Summer Sisters that makes it so special, so important. It’s the rare piece of fiction that considers the friendships between women as the complex, emotional, intimate relationships they are, never belittling them or tearing them apart because “women never get along.” The book knows well how consuming these friendships can be, how the invitation of a popular girl to stay at her home can forever alter the course of a wallflower’s life. All of Blume’s books have relatable elements, but in Summer Sisters, every page feels like a personal message, telling you, the reader: Judy Blume understands.

 

It’s Monday! What Have You Been Reading?

This week I was again able to meet my reading goal.  Woot!  Woot!  It is amazing to me that when you really set your mind to something how easy it is to attain your goal.  Even though it wasn’t always during the times I had originally planned to read, I made sure to read just books for at least two hours per day.  That total doesn’t include reading the newspaper, blogs, or from online news sources.  I am thoroughly enjoying getting back into reading mode.  With any luck, this will be just the beginning of staying on this path.

The first book that I read was actually recommended to me by a sophomore at the high school where I was completing my library internship.  I have never been one to choose biographies over other choices of reading material, but I decided for this class that I need to stretch myself as I sometimes ask my students to do.  “The Glass Castle” by Jeannette Walls is a story about a young girl’s struggles through life that hooked me front the beginning.  Jeannette was raised by a sometimes absentee and alcoholic father and a mother that was more consumed with herself than raising children.  This book showed the strength, determination, and ability to overcome dire life circumstances to become a talented and productive member of society.  What an inspiration she is!  One of our English teachers actually got to hear her speak years ago, and some people felt as though she didn’t really understand homelessness in America.  Jeannette’s parents eventually became homeless and stayed that way by choice.  They had children that were willing to support them as well as investments in land worth millions of dollars that they refused to sell.  For a first stab at reading biographies, this one was truly a winner.

Next I chose to read “Rules” by Cynthia Lord.  I worked with Special Education students for many years, and this book also hooked me immediately.  Although I had only intended to read for a little bit that evening, I ended up hitting what I consider the “point of no return,” and I read it in one sitting.  It was an inspirational story of the kindness and patience that it sometimes takes even for loved ones to know how to handle difficult situations occurring raising children with disabilities.  The young characters showed strength in character that many adults don’t possess.  I would definitely recommend this to others.  This would also be a wonderful book to complete as a shared reading in a classroom to teach students about compassion and understanding as well as not judging a book by its cover.  By this I mean, they need to realize that everyone has strengths and weaknesses in life.  It is how we choose to treat others that are different than ourselves that matters.

Another genre of book that I haven’t taken much time to explore is graphic novels.  When I worked at our local high school, I worked with a young man with Asperger’s Syndrome that in general didn’t enjoy reading; until he found graphic novels that is.  He talked and talked about some of the books he has read.  My sixth grade class studied the Holocaust this spring, and my book club group read The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.  Therefore, I decided to read the graphic novel “MAUS” by Art Spiegelman as it is a topic that interests me.  It took me a little bit to get used to the format, but once I got going I did enjoy the book.  I enjoyed it enough that after reading the first one I immediately tackled “MAUS II” as I wanted to know what happened next.  J  I would definitely recommend this format of book to students that might struggle with traditional texts.  My hope would be that if they became interested in this format of reading that they would eventually transition to other types of reading material. 

The final book that I completed this week was “The Ghost of Spirit Bear” by Ben Mikaelsen.  I read Ghost of Spirit Bear last year for one of my methods courses, and I had not seen the sequel until I was shelving books during my recent internship.  Since I enjoyed the first book, I decided to read this one as well.  The author did not disappoint me.  It was another book this week that I read in one sitting as it kept me interested from start to finish.  This is definitely another book that I feel could be useful in my classroom.

Sunday night I started reading “The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green.  My daughter actually recommended this book to me, and she said that it is her second favorite book of all time.  So far I love it.  I will update you on my opinion of the book next Monday!

I also started my final library internship today at a public library in Sheridan, Wyoming.  While shelving books I pulled out a few more to read over the course of the next few weeks.  Interning at a library comes in very handy for me with taking adolescent literature at the same time.

 Have a wonderfully fun, reading filled week…  Until next time…

A Librarian’s Responsibility to our Youth and Adolescent Literature

Adolescent Literature and Library Collections

This week I have been assisting a K-12 librarian with re-organizing the stacks so that her collections are not only easier for students to access, but are up-to-date with current material.  My focus has been on the junior high and high school fiction collection although I have also assisted with their non-fiction section.  Since I am currently working on completing my library endorsement to be a library media specialist, I decided to discuss adolescent literature and how librarians need to keep on top of the weeding and organizational process to make sure students have relevant information.

While working through the stacks over the past three days, I noticed that although the school provides many new titles, there are great deals of books that are very old and dusty.  It was obvious that students haven’t checked them out in a very long time.  In addition, instead of shifting books to accommodate new books, many sections have books either lying on top or in front of other selections.  This system definitely limits easy access to materials for staff and student use.  The librarian that I am working with is very open to new ideas.  She believes that a “fresh set of eyes” can be very beneficial, and help her with finding “new and improved” ways to organize materials.

Libraries can definitely be a huge asset to schools and getting books to into the hands of our youth.  I have taken the past couple of days to move the most popular books into more accessible areas of the library.  I shifted the remaining books so that they are in different places so that students will need to look for books instead of getting stuck going to the same areas of the library and getting stuck in a rut of sorts.  Also, I have repaired books that were slightly damaged as well as “weeded” books out of the circulation.  It is important to have current collections.  When I got home from working in the library, I decided to complete some research on what is currently considered to be “best practice” for deciding what books should stay and what books should be removed from a library collection.  The following information is what I felt was worth mentioning.

1.  Professional responsibility when weeding collections:

Librarians in all types of libraries must weed.  Avoiding weeding degrades the appearance of the collection and creates the opportunity to spread dangerous or misleading information.

As professionals, we need to make informed and responsible decisions so that the information that we provide to our patrons is up-to-date and accurate.

2.  Getting rid of items that are weeded from a collection:

Make sure that after you make a decision, that the books are removed from your OPAC system to avoid any confusion for patrons and staff.  When getting rids of books, librarians need to be thoughtful in regards to what to do with the materials.  Having a plan and following library policy will help diffuse patrons that may be upset by the process.  Once decisions are made as to what to get rid of, there are different options for disposal.  Items can literally be thrown away.  This may be difficult, but it might be what is deemed best.  Some libraries may choose to have a book sale, give them to other organizations, or transfer them to a storage site of a special collections area.  There isn’t one solution that will work for every library.  Librarians need to be cognizant of policies within their own library and follow those guidelines.  The school library that I am currently volunteering in has a couple of ways to deal with the removal of books.  Students always have the option to take these books for free and give them a new home.  Any books that have not been taken home by students at the end of the year are taken to a recycling facility.

On a personal note, I love the idea of donating books to soldiers.  I have MANY military people in our family, and I know that they appreciate reading anything that they can get their hands on to pass time while overseas.

3.  When to weed a collection:

Weeding should be a continual process.  If we wait to complete it once per year, the process is too overwhelming and probably won’t be successful due to time constraints and volume of work.  By breaking the work down over the course of the year, this process remains manageable.

4.  Five different weeding plans:

                1.  MUSTY guide.

                2.  CREW principles.  (Continuous, Review, Evaluation, Weeding)

                3.  Heinemann and Sunlink websites.

                4.  Gail Dickinson’s 3-Step Plan  (One-shelf-per-week procedure)

                5.  Karen Lowe’s Resource Alignment:  Providing Curriculum Support in the School Library Media Center.

5.  The acronym MUSTY stands for:

                M – Misleading information

                U – Ugly

                S – Superseded by better works

                T – Trivial – may have been more valuable to the collection years ago.

                Y – Your collection has no use – (irrelevant to curriculum, student, or teacher needs).

6.  A weeding plan that I would be most inclined to follow and why:

I actually liked a combination of the weeding plans.  Gail Dickinson’s 3-Step Plan makes sense to me as it has a plan for continuous weeding so that the job doesn’t get too overwhelming.  By taking that approach combined with the CREW approach though, I think that a good process could be worked out.  I am the type of person that likes to keep up with things as I go through life.  I am not a procrastinator and feel that people wouldn’t get so overwhelmed with tasks if they would just make a commitment to tackle jobs from the start and not put them off until later.  Every time that I choose to put work off, I tend to end up feeling very overwhelmed and it makes it harder to produce a successful project in the end.  The library is a place that I feel should be relaxing not only to patrons but to the staff as well.  By tackling this large job one bite at a time, it shouldn’t have to be so dreaded.

 CREW = MUSTY + the following:

                1.  If the book fits the MUSTY standard.

                2.  If of a certain age determined by subject category.

                3.  And has not been checked out in several years.

                4.  THEN THAT BOOK WILL PROBABLY NEED TO BE WEEDED!

I constantly encourage students to find a type of book that they can enjoy.  It saddens me when students say that they hate to read.  Each time I hear that comment, I visit with the student about how with so many books available in the world that there is something for everyone.  Librarians need to be cognizant of how they make selections and organize their collections to assist students with finding materials.  If stacks are “pleasing to the eye” and accessible, that is a great start.  Encouraging students continually is also important.  One of my non-readers at the high school was hooked on reading once he started reading graphic novels.  Although this is a type of book that I have never been terribly interested in, I decided to read a couple for my adolescent literature class to see if they might be beneficial for me in a classroom setting.  I just completed reading Maus & Maus II.  During my student teaching experience, my 6th graders studied the Holocaust.  Some of my readers struggled some with getting into the books that were assigned to them.  A few of my kiddos would have definitely benefited from the graphic novel selection, and I will definitely keep these in mind for future students.

It is my hope that all librarians take into account why and how they make selections for our children.  Also, I hope that they keep on top of the weeding process so that the information students are exposed to is current and relevant to their needs.  It would be a shame for a student to study about a topic that is so outdated that they are receiving inaccurate information.  Librarians can be the first line of defense in making sure that doesn’t happen.

It’s Memorial Day Monday!!!!

It’s Monday! – Memorial Day

Wow!  How time flies when I am reading…  I literally lose track of it.  After finding a quiet place to snuggle down, I sometimes look up and can’t believe how long I have been reading.  This week was no exception.  I set a goal for myself to read for at least 2 hours a day.  To make sure to hold myself accountable to this, I made a checklist to write what hours I read each day.  I was so excited this morning when I added up my reading time for last week and realized that not only had I met my goal, but I had exceeded it!  Last week I read books for a total of 16 hours.  I have no idea the last time that happened.  Since going back to college, my free reading time has been limited.  Reading this much again is so much fun!!!!!

 As I reflect on the meaning of today, I take note of the fact that one of the books I read this week was “Bomb.”  That seems quite fitting as we take time today as Americans to remember those that have and continue to fight for the freedoms that we hold so dear to us.  It was amazing to read first-hand accounts of men and women that were such an integral part of designing weapons of war.  Seeing how they reacted to and questioned the power of such tools really makes one reflect on the chaos of the world in which we live.

 Reading gives us all an opportunity to continually stay on top of what is happening not only in America but globally as well.  Sometimes I think that we take for granted the blessing that our freedoms bring to us.  They completely allow us all to live the way that we choose.  We can read what inspires us.  Each day we have the freedom to stay the course or to take a new path in life.

I hope that we all continue to embrace and be thankful for the opportunities that we have been blessed with due to the sacrifices of others.  Today… I hope that we all choose to continue to educate ourselves in a way that would make us all proud.

 God bless the USA!!!!

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Reading for the Middle Grades

Since starting my adolescent literature class on May 12th, I have been blessed to read many really good books.  Reading for the middle grades definitely seems to be geared around learning more about themselves as well as discussing issues regarding acceptance and diversity.  Middle school is an overwhelming time for many young people.  They don’t quite know who they are or where they fit into not only social groups at school, but where they fit into the world in general.

 I started the class by reading the book “The One and Only Ivan.”  Early on, the animals in the story seemed to see one another as individuals, even though they weren’t the same species.  They looked out for one another and had empathy for each other’s situations in life.  I believe that this is a very important concept for students to learn from an early age.  However, when students are really trying to redefine themselves in these “middle years,” it is a wonderful time to reinforce these concepts so that they can all be empathetic to each other through the trials and tribulations of the changing times in their lives.

 My favorite book by far at this point over my past 2 week of reading is “Wonder.”  For eight years I worked in the Special Education department of our local high school.  So many times I would see the struggles of students and the insensitivity of others.  This book very eloquently shows the importance of acceptance during these important times in students’ lives as they are so rapidly changing.

 Acceptance of diversity among others is also important during the middle years.  We live in a very rural community, and our students aren’t exposed to very many different ways of living.  Therefore, literature can be one of the only ways that our students can get a glimpse of how other cultures function.  I went on a field trip with my 6th graders this week, and it was amazing to me at how many of them had never traveled very far from home.  We expanded their horizons only by a four-hour drive, but for some of them, this was quite a distance away.  I love that by connecting them to literature in our classrooms that we can essentially give them some of these experiences on a continuing basis.  It is wonderful when we have class discussion about our group readings, and I can see that they are visualizing and really connecting to what is being taught.

 The one area that I personally struggle with that is shown in some books for the middle grades is when the topics get personal.  For example, in “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian,” there were parts that I would be uncomfortable discussing with students.  I actually know teachers in our district that have used this book as a read-aloud, but it is not something that I would be comfortable tackling.  Even with some of the classics that I have had to read aloud with students I have had moments that make me uneasy.  When interacting with students, I am always aware of speaking professionally.  I can remember reading books such as, “Of Mice and Men” and “Saint Iggy,” where some of the language was so inappropriate that I would skip those parts and students would giggle.  They got used to me skipping words eventually, but I would prefer to find books that provide powerful messages without the use of bad language or sensitive issues that students are dealing with throughout puberty.

 I am excited to see that there are MANY books out there that provide quality messages in school appropriate language.  By continuing to network with other like-minded professionals, I am confident that I will never have a shortage of wonderful books for my students to absorb.  Today I will be starting a biography by Jeannette Walls.  By reading the book jacket, it appears to be another story for YA literature that shows students that no matter what hurdles they have to make in life that a good outcome is possible.  One of the students where I am completing my school library internship recommended it to me, and I can’t wait to get started!

It’s Monday!!!!! Here’s what I’m reading…

It’s Monday! – What Are You Reading?

 It’s Monday!  I can’t believe how quickly the weekend flew by.  Today I am reading “The Mighty Miss Malone.”  I am about one-third of the way into the book and truly enjoying it so far.  Deza Malone (the main character) is an extremely bright young girl growing up during the Great Depression.  She is fortunate to have a teacher that recognizes her talents and encourages her to keep working hard.  I am looking forward to this evening when I can immerse myself into the continuing story.

 Over the weekend, I read two other books.  The first was called, “Wonder.”  This book has now rocketed up to one of my all-time favorites!!!!  It is a heartwarming story that discusses the trials and tribulations of a fifth grade boy trying to fit in when entering school for the first time.  Due to his extreme facial deformities and health issues, he had been homeschooled up until that point in his life.  It is an inspirational story about not only overcoming challenges, but how students can learn acceptance of differences as well as forming authentic friendships.  Over the course of my adolescent literature class, one of my hopes was to find books that I can use in my classroom.  This is definitely one that I will invest in as it can teach students a great deal about compassion and diversity in the human race.

 I also read “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.”  My teenage daughter said that she loved this book and picked it for me as my next reading choice on Sunday.  Although I did enjoy the overall storyline of the book, it is definitely not one that I would keep in my classroom due to some more mature content in parts.  I know for certain that I would have parents upset with me if I were to use it in a group reading setting.  It is available in our school library in the high school section though, so if they were interested in checking it out on their own, I do see that it is a book that could also teach students about diversity, acceptance, overcoming challenges, and friendship.