"When You Read a Book as a Child"

"When you read a book as a child, it becomes a part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your whole life does."​   This is one of my all time favorite movie quotes, said by Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan) in You've Got Mail.

The importance of reading was ingrained in me at a very early age.  Growing up, my stay-at-home mother did not drive, so my sister, my mom and I would walk to the local library once a week.  We would fill our backpacks with as many books as we could carry and walk the mile home.

I LOVED to read as a kid and I loved our public librarians.  My school librarian, on the other hand, well...I became a school librarian to break the stereotype.  I wanted to share my excitement for reading with students in a way I did not experience at school.

The Kathleen Kelly quote became my mantra.  I wrote it on the cover of my lesson planner each year to remind me of the lifelong impact I was making by introducing children to a wide variety of books.  Independent pleasure reading obviously improves  reading and writing skills and positively impacts students rate of learning, even in math! Beyond the academic, independent pleasure reading builds character by fostering imagination and creativity, improving the capacity for empathy and increasing vocabulary for emotions, helping students better communicate their own feelings.

I read Donalyn Miller's The Book Whisperer which further ignited my passion for students' independent pleasure reading.  INDEPENDENT PLEASURE READING. The kind of reading that is not assigned by a teacher.  The kind of reading that does not require a post-assessment.  The kind of reading that allows a reader to skip pages or abandon a book. The kind of reading that allows readers to re-read a book as many times as they want.  The kind of reading that allows reading above and below a dictated "reading level."  The kind of reading that allows a book to be enjoyed just for the pictures!

I have been thinking a lot about the Kathleen Kelly quote and about Donalyn Miller as it is the season for the "best of" book lists.   

I love the "best of" book lists and I pour through them as a reader, as a mother, and as a librarian.  I cannot read a "best of" list without thinking of specific current or former students. I find true joy in being a "book whisperer."  It is important to me to get to know students as individuals with personal interests and hobbies to help me make those connections.  I love when a student enthusiastically returns a book, can't wait to tell me about it and then asks for more.

Last month I returned to the elementary school where I worked for 19 years for a meeting. It was bittersweet when a group of 6th grade boys chased me down the hall and before even saying "hello" asked "what do you have for me to read?"

After my meeting, I went to the school library.  It was still during the school day and the library was unstaffed.  I left a stack of books on a desk in the library for those boys and let their classroom teacher know.  I loved that the boys were so hungry for something to read that they chased me down but it broke my heart that the library program in my district has been destroyed by last year's budget cuts and that now students no longer have access to a certified school librarian on a regular basis.

My usual excitement for the "best of" lists is dampened this year.  I am worried about my former student readers. The current elementary librarian now services 3 school buildings and only directly works with students in grades 4-6.  I worry that the K-3 students are not receiving the independent reading support and encouragement to create foundation for the love of pleasure reading.   

I am blessed that my current students were my former students and I am able to build upon the relationships I had with them when they were younger.  They already know me and trust my judgement when they ask me for a recommendation.  They also know it is okay to disagree with me.  It never hurts my feelings if they hate a book that I love.  They know I appreciate their honesty

Some may argue that parents can just take their children to the public library.  I hear you.  I do.  I am a full-time working mother and I love books and libraries.  Instilling a love of reading is a top priority for me as a mom.  But life is busy and I am lucky if I get in two visits a month with my son.  This was another reason I wanted to be a school librarian, I knew as a school librarian I would be able to make an impact children whose parents could not or chose not to take their sons and daughters to the public library.  I also wanted the opportunity to build a reading relationship with students over several years, helping them grow as readers and as people.

"When you read a book as a child, it becomes a part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your whole life does."   

If there are no school librarians, who is guiding our children to discover books that will become part of their identity?  School librarians are essential to instilling a love for independent pleasure reading in children, ultimately creating not just better readers but better people.

"Is your school staffed by a full-time certified school librarian who is uniquely trained in helping students, teachers, and other school and community leaders develop the knowledge, abilities, and attitudes that are crucial to their success in the 21st century?" For more information to help advocate for certified school librarians in your schools, check out the American Library Association Parent Advocacy ToolKit.

For more information about the importance of independent reading, please read Independent Reading and School Achievement. The manuscript a part of a national study, Assessment of the Role of School and Public Libraries in Support of Educational Reform, Westat, Inc., 1998–2000.

Videos to begin Screen Time Discussion with Students

These are three of my favorite videos to begin conversations with students about the use of and the addictive nature of technology.   I shared all three last year with 6th graders and simply asked for their thought and feedback. We had a great discussion as they shared their own experiences and concerns.   

Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? Evaluating News Sites - updated January 14, 2017

Available as a pdf and a jpg
This was made poster size 42cm x 59.4cm in Canva. 
Please contact me directly if you have difficulty downloading.


Available as a pdf and a jpg
This was made poster size 42cm x 59.4cm in Canva. 
Please contact me directly if you have difficulty downloading.

Mission: TRUTH

While creating my News Literacy LibGuide and lessons I stumbled up this quote from John F. Kennedy: "The goal of education is the advancement of knowledge and the dissemination of truth." Knowing not to take a quote off the Internet at face value, I researched the origins of the quote. 

What I found was a 60 year old speech that Senator John F. Kennedy gave at Harvard University. "I can think of nothing more reassuring for us all than to come again to this institution whose whole purpose is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge and the dissemination of truth." 

While I recommend you read the entire speech that then Senator Kennedy gave on June 14, 1956, this portion stood out to me, especially the parts I have bolded. 

"I belong to a profession where the emphasis is somewhat different. Our political parties, our politicians are interested, of necessity, in winning popular support - a majority; and only indirectly truth is the object of our controversy. From this polemic of contending factions, the general public is expected to make a discriminating judgment. As the problems have become more complex, as our role as a chief defender of Western civilization has become enlarged, the responsibility of the electorate as a court of last resort has become almost too great. The people desperately seek objectivity and a university such as this fulfills that function.

And the political profession needs to have its temperature lowered in the cooling waters of the scholastic pool. We need both the technical judgment and the disinterested viewpoint of the scholar, to prevent us from becoming imprisoned by our own slogans.

Therefore, it is regrettable that the gap between the intellectual and the politician seems to be growing. Instead of synthesis, clash and discord now characterize the relations between the two groups much of the time. Authors, scholars, and intellectuals can praise every aspect of American society but the political. My desk is flooded with books, articles, and pamphlets criticizing Congress. But, rarely if ever, have I seen any intellectual bestow praise on either the political profession or any political body for its accomplishments, its ability, or its integrity - much less for its intelligence. To many universities and scholars we reap nothing but censure, investigators and perpetrators of what has been called the swinish cult of anti-intellectualism."

Kennedy's speech is relevant more than a half century later. We are having the same conversations about the integrity and quality of information, about objectively and skeptically reading sources that claim to be factual, and about the importance of scholarly research skills to confirm authenticity.

The 2016 election brought the epidemic of fake news to the forefront. While there has always a perversion of the truth in politics and news, never has it seemed more dangerous than in the times we are currently living. It is hard to disseminate what is fact or fake. Before the Internet, it was clear what magazines at the check-out counter were sensationalized. The Internet has blurred that line with very professional and believable websites. Today people seem apathetic to misinformation, and those people include our leaders. People see something on the Internet they want to believe and they read it at face value and then turn around and share it on social media, where it takes on a life of its own.

I began working on lessons for students and creating a News Literacy LibGuide, collecting resources for students and teachers to use.  KT Lowe, the Coordinator of Library Instruction and Service Learning at Indiana University East allowed me to use and build upon her Fake News LibGuide. I worked with Casey LaPlante, the Library Media Specialist at Granby Memorial High School in Connecticut to enhance what Ms. Lowe had created, providing resources for high school students.   Laura Gardner, teacher-librarian at Dartmouth (MA) Middle School shared the presentation she is currently working on, allowing me to post on our News Literacy LibGuide.  The links are below. 

I don't think there is anything left to be said about the ugliness and pervasiveness of disinformation and misinformation in our society. I, like many other librarians, have made it my mission to ensure students are equipped with the research skills needed read critically and skeptically and how to validate authenticity.  Nothing should be taken at face value. Sources should always be verified.  I want the teachers to have all the resources they need to help facilitate this learning as well.  

I want to the librarian who is remembered for being dedicated to the advancement of knowledge and the dissemination of truth.  


The following presentation is also available as a Pear Deck for a more interactive lesson.  
While it is still a work in progress I am willing to share it in the Pear Deck format if you contact me. 

Badges Are Not An Alternative to Library Media Specialist Certification!

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