Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Behold the Power of Reading; Or, how my 8-year-old was inspired to start her own #TrashTuesdays

Last Saturday, Thing 2 turned 8. For her birthday, a friend sent her the following three books:

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Monday night, The Teen, Thing 2 and I curled up and bed and read them together. We cried as we read Malala’s story. We were inspired as we read about Barrack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

One thing that each of these stories has in common is that all three people started working at a young age to make the world a better place. They didn’t say, when I grow up . . . They started now. And that was a powerful message for Thing 2.

Thing 2 has often commented about the litter she sees around the world. We are an animal loving family and she is always worried about how the trash will harm not only the environment, but the animals. So that night, reading these books, she looked up at me and said, “I want us to go once a week as a family and clean up trash.” And so we did.

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Thus was born what she has called #TrashTuesday. (Please note, I have later learned that there is a movement to pick up 10 pieces of trash every Tuesday, but she doesn’t know this and I’m not going to tell her because I don’t want to undermine her passion.) So yesterday, we grabbed some gloves and a big plastic garbage bag and we walked around our neighborhood picking up trash. We picked up water bottles, drink cups, napkins, and empty cigarette packs. Lots of them. We walked up one street and down another. “Maybe we should do it two days a week”, she said to me. (PS, if you are looking for me on Friday, I apparently have to go out and collect trash again.)

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I couldn’t help but notice all the things that came out of a moment spent reading these books together. Yes, we got to cuddle and snuggle and practice our reading skills. Yes, we bonded as a family. But my girls also read powerful stories about people working hard and accomplishing things for the good of their world, and they were inspired. That inspiration didn’t just lead to a good feeling inside, it was an reminder to them that they can do something now, today – and they did. (The Teen might have gotten kind of dragged into it, but she’s a good kid and she’s supporting her sister.)

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So here’s what I would like to ask of you. Next Tuesday, wherever you are, grab some gloves and some trash bags and join my baby in doing what we can to act now to make our world better. Email me or Tweet me a picture of you and your trash with the hashtag #TrashTuesday. I will share these pictures with my two girls and show them that they can start something, that they can be empowered and inspire others, and together we can show these two little girls that we can work together to make our world a better place.

Video Games Weekly: Lego Harry Potter Collection

The Lego Harry Potter Collection is the remastered PS4 edition of the original Lego Harry Potter games, (it’s unknown if a remastered edition will be released for Xbox or Nintendo) but this time the entire game is on one disc!  The release was timely considering the movie Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them came out in the same month.

YouTube Trailer:

Platform:  PS4

Rated: E10+

Single or Multiplayer: Both, up to two-player co-op
Storyline: The storyline is based off of the Harry Potter books.  Similar to the movie, the game focuses on key plot points and glosses over the details.  Hardcore fans of Harry Potter will notice how the storyline combines events together in order to make each chapter shorter, but the game is overall charming and will make players nostalgic for their favorite wizarding school days.

Gameplay: In a standard Lego game, players are encouraged to wreck/fix as many things as possible in order to collect studs.  Studs are the standard Lego game’s currency that can be used to unlock bonus content such as levels, characters, costumes, and special moves.  What makes Lego Harry Potter stand out is how instead of just punching items repetitively for studs, players can use specific spells to wreck or fix items.  For example, the first spell players learn is Wingardium Leviosa, which can be used to levitate books back on their shelves, or lift benches.  You can only lift things with Wingardium Leviosa, and it’s up to players to figure out what spell they need in order to move what objects.

The best part about spells is how they foreshadow what is to come later in the game.  One example is during  Year 1, players can see a bunch of Cornish Pixies holding golden cauldrons or blocking players from entering certain parts of the Hogwarts castle, but players know they won’t be able to get there until at least Year 2.  This also encourages players to replay previous levels once they have unlocked that one spell they needed, which in turn lengthens the gameplay using the same levels/maps.

 

Each year takes about an hour or two to beat, meaning it’ll take about 14 hours to beat the entire game the first time through.  Players will definitely replay the game to unlock bonus characters, golden bricks, and other fun items, so this game overall takes over 20 hours to beat.


Audience:
This game is made for any fans of Harry Potter, young or old.  The game is also more fun to play in multiplayer mode, so be sure to grab a friend or relative to enjoy this easy-to-learn game!

Verdict: Recommended for circulating collections where Lego games are popular, especially if any copies of Years 1-4 or 5-7 have gone missing over the years.

Questions? Comments? Tweet them at me!

By: Alanna Graves
Twitter: @LannaLibrarian

 

Pricing: $50 on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/LEGO-Harry-Potter-Collection-PlayStation-4/dp/B01LPO6WF6

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Book Review: Safe is Not Enough: Better Schools for LGBTQ Students by Michael Sadowski

When I’m reviewing books for professional publications, I stay quiet about them on social media. I’m always really excited once a review comes out to be able to talk about the book, finally! Here’s one of my most recent reviews, which originally appeared in the November 2016 issue of School Library Journal.

 

safe-is-not-enoughSadowski, Michael. Safe Is Not Enough: Better Schools for LGBTQ Students 

ISBN-13: 9781612509426 Publisher: Harvard Education Press Publication date: 08/09/2016

★In his introduction, Sadowski writes, “Safety is an essential baseline…but it is not a sufficient goal in itself.” Aimed at educators, this book lays out many clear and detailed ways that schools can better meet the needs of LGBTQ students. The author advocates for moving beyond antibullying policies, safe spaces (often indicated by stickers), and gay-straight alliances (GSAs) to creating a more inclusive curriculum and environment. Chapters address integrating LGBTQ issues in the classroom, comprehensive inclusiveness throughout the school, the important work some GSAs are doing, the impact of race and socioeconomic status, transgender students’ unique needs, and avenues beyond GSAs for students to meet and talk. Sadowski profiles educators and programs, looks at policies, and offers arguments and counterarguments. He notes that progress is not uniform throughout the country and that students in some identity categories are more at risk than others. Additionally, there is a chapter dedicated to helping schools implement the ideas outlined here. It is clear that everyone benefits from more inclusive curriculum and policies and that moving beyond the idea of just being safe sends a stronger message of affirmation, value, respect, and acceptance. Though this is a brief volume, the detailed suggestions for advocacy and change are comprehensive and persuasive. Appended are a course syllabus, handouts, GSA materials, and a policy regarding transgender students that can be adapted for use. Online resources addressing curriculum, student support, and more are included. VERDICT As useful as it is essential.—Amanda MacGregor

Book Review: A Tragic Kind of Wonderful by Eric Lindstrom

When I’m reviewing books for professional publications, I stay quiet about them on social media. I’m always really excited once a review comes out to be able to talk about the book, finally! Here’s one of my most recent reviews, which originally appeared in the November 2016 issue of School Library Journal.

 

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Lindstrom, Eric. A Tragic Kind of Wonderful

ISBN-13: 9780316260060 Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers Publication date: 02/07/2017

Gr 9 Up—Mel has bipolar disorder and professes to have a “superpower” that lets her avoid thinking about certain things, especially her dead brother or the real reasons why she lost her best friends around the time of her diagnosis. She has made new friends, but she has been able to hide her illness from them. Mel works at a nursing home where a retired psychiatrist keeps an eye on her, and she is in treatment with her own doctor, too. After she meets a resident’s grandson, David, she wants to get closer to him, but she is worried that as he really gets to know her, he won’t like her. Though she has her ups and downs, Mel can appear fairly even-keeled until an incident with her former friends begins a terrifying descent into a manic episode. Lindstrom offers an intense look at one person’s experience with bipolar disorder, but unfortunately, the story’s execution is unsatisfying. The characters are undeveloped, particularly Mel, who seems defined by her diagnosis. In addition, there is a troubling correlation between her mental illness and her sexual behavior, and there are cringeworthy scenes relating her constant desire to touch the hair of minority characters. The messages that Mel needs to keep fewer secrets in order to truly be close to others (and to more effectively treat her mental illness) and that real friends will stick around in spite of her diagnosis are nearly lost in the meandering narrative. VERDICT Weak character development and plotting make this an additional purchase.—Amanda MacGregor

Teaching Teens Media Literacy 101

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In this post election season there has been a lot of focus on how fake and biased media influenced the election. It’s staggering to realize how much of an influence it has had. So yesterday I felt compelled to tweet to my teen (and adult followers) some tips for helping to examine the news and media we consume. The need for media literacy became even more evident for me yesterday when an article headline stated that Steve Bannon thinks that only homeowners should be allowed to vote. This is, of course, code for Steve Bannon thinks that only wealthy people who can afford to buy a home should vote. Decoded further, it really means Steven Bannon thinks only white people should vote, because white Americans still own a disproportionate amount of our country’s wealth. It’s a type of coded language – also known as a dog whistle (Dogwhistle politics is political messaging employing coded language that appears to mean one thing to the general population but has an additional, different or more specific resonance for a targeted subgroup.) – that can be easy to miss if you aren’t paying attention. Another example of this is the term “alt-right”, which is just a rebranding of white nationalism AKA racism. (See: AP Deems Term ‘Alt-Right’ A ‘Public-Relations Device’ That Enables Racism). Teaching teens how to really look at the media they consume has always been an important part of librarianship, but it is now taking on a new urgency. For an example of the influence on dog-whistles and the current rise of hate crimes, look no further than the current report by the Southern Poverty Law Center which reports a tremendous spike in post-election hate crimes.

Media Literacy 101




  1. A tweet string on media literacy.

    1) always review the source. Who? What? Why? Where? How?
    2) examine media bias
    3) examine personal bias



  2. 4) read entire piece
    5) after reading, write a real headline that summarizes article for self
    6) pay attention to what is AND isn't said


  3. 7) check for code words and euphemisms. Reread with real words in their place
    8) cross check with other reputable sources
    9) save for future


  4. 10) when talking w/others, be able to cite possibly multiple, reputable sources
    11) examine financial contributions of sources


  5. 12) to preserve freedom of press, pay for your news. Investigative journalists need to make a living. And we need them.


  6. 13) Differentiate between verifiable facts and stated opinions.
    14) Ask follow up questions! How? Why?


  7. 15) Put everything in context. Historical. Regional. Context matters.

 See Also:

Fake News and the Internet Shell Game – The New York Times

We Tracked Down A Fake-News Creator In The Suburbs

Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election

Some Fake News Publishers Just Happen to Be Donald Trump’s

How to Spot Fake News – FactCheck.org

From Hate Speech To Fake News: The Facebook Content Crisis

How To Recognize A Fake News Story | The Huffington Post

A Scientific Approach To Distinguishing Real From Fake News

How Fake News Goes Viral: A Case Study

Should I Share This News on Social Media

This post was edited 11/29 to add an introductory paragraph and resources. What tips and resources would you add? Please share in the comment.

Middle School Monday: Professional Development. Not the Optional Kind.

A Crucial Strand of PD.

We have an early-release day coming up. Does your school have those? Where you get to squeeze the work of a whole school day with students into a shorter time frame and then stay for meetings and/or professional development? Just typing that out is making me a bit tired.

This year, our staff is breaking up into small groups to work together on a professional development ‘strand’ of our choice. Two of our ELA teachers asked me to lead a strand on diverse literature. How awesome is that?

I eagerly said yes. Not only is it a favorite subject—and my guiding framework for collection development—but, we all need to be engaging in PD on this topic. We all need to continually be learning more. Thus, our REFLECTIVE LITERATURE PD strand was born. In addition to our ELA teachers from each grade, we also count our Assistant Principal and one of our Social Studies teachers as members.

Of course, the need for reflective literature is part of a larger conversation. When we talk about having books in our schools that reflect our students, their lived experiences, and their interests, it’s necessary to situate that idea in a discussion on culturally relevant pedagogy, structural inequities, institutional racism, and white privilege.

As we engage in these discussions with school staff, it’s helpful to remember that we are all at different points on our own cultural competence journeys. I thought I’d share our four point plan for our first meeting as these are resources or ideas that you might enjoy for yourself or want to share.

One. The Danger of a Single Story.

In Chimamanda Adichie’s illuminating TED Talk, The Danger of a Single Story, she shares her own first experiences with reading to drive home the point how “impressionable and vulnerable we are in the face of a story, particularly as children.” She brings together insights on reading, writing, power, stereotypes and story. And the joy of reading books that reflect you. Even if you’ve seen this before, each time is a gift for us as viewers—new understandings, powerful ideas, and favorite quotes. It made an ideal kick-off to our discussion.

Two. Diversity in Children’s Books 2015 Infographic.

The CCBC infographic below—Diversity in Children’s Books 2015—appeared on Sarah Park Dahlen’s post, Picture This: Follow Up. [The powerful imagery draws on the Windows/Mirrors analogy for literature first written by Rudine Sims Bishop. If you’ve never read her original article, find it here.]

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This infographic is talking strictly about QUANTITY. Debbie Reese’s post at A Close Look at CCBC’s 2015 Data breaks down the 0.9% for American Indians/First Nations even further—taking into account reviews and authors. It is a crucial complement to the raw publishing data.

We didn’t start with these numbers to depress us, but rather to galvanize us.

Three. Race: The Power of an Illusion.

After a quick walk-through of PBS’s informative site, Race: The Power of an Illusion, we broke apart to engage with the site on our own.

Four. #ownvoices.

We then talked about the importance and necessity of #ownvoices titles. I had curated a stack of novels from our library collection and gave EXTREMELY quick booktalks on the titles. We each then chose one to read for our next PD strand meeting. Below are some of the titles chosen.

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I’m Julie Stivers at @BespokeLib and I get excited talking about reflective literature!

Sunday Reflections: Common Sense isn’t Really all that Common

Occasionally you will hear someone say that a person – let’s say Joe – has a lot of book smarts but not a lot of common sense. The idea is that they’ve read a lot of books but they don’t have a lot of real life knowledge. I would argue that common sense isn’t all that common – and that it often comes from books as much as it comes from “real life experience”.

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I’ve been thinking about this a lot because of President-Elect Donald Trump. You see, he has both mentioned that he doesn’t read a lot (See: Donald Trump doesn’t read much ; Donald Trump doesn’t read books ; Donald Trump doesn’t read, and that’s not even the scary part) and that he will govern by “common sense”. It’s as if he is saying that there is both no value in reading – which is patently false – and as if he is demeaning education, literacy, and well, intellect. Which is dangerous. At the same time, he has just appointed Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, unfortunately DeVos doesn’t support the public education system and has never seen the inside of a public school (she and her children attended private school). Which doubles down on this message. And the truth is, we should all be concerned about this.

Let me explain to you the value of reading. Not just nonfiction, but fiction. All reading. Yes, we get facts and important information from reading nonfiction, but anything you read has value. Yes, even fairy magic rainbow puppy horse books.

Many parents think of fiction reading as just an exercise in vocabulary, but the truth is fiction reading is more than this. Here is a short and incomplete list of what readers learn when they read fiction:

Cause and effect

Problem solving

How to be a good friend

How to be a good citizen

How to be a good mother/father/son/daughter/family member

What it is like for people from different faiths/countries/backgrounds/etc.

History

How people manipulate power

Politics, both national and global

What it is like for victims of crime

Empathy

Compassion

Kindness

Bargaining

What we often think of as common sense are in fact things we have learned. Some of it we learn from experience, like not touching a hot stove, but a lot of it we also learn from reading. In fact, I would argue, readers have both much more knowledge and common sense because they have just been exposed to more. I’ve learned not only from my own experiences, but by walking in the shoes of others in the pages of a book. I personally don’t know what it is like to have tried to integrate schools, but I know more about it because I read The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine. I don’t know what it was like to be a female pilot in World War II, but I have a better understanding because I have read Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. Both of these books also helped me explore the concept of true friendship and compassion.

One of the things I valued in President Obama is his love of books. He was photographed going to book stores and we all looked to see what books he was buying. He talked about books. He told kids to read more and value reading. He, as a mentor and model to children, modeled a love of books first hand to the people that he was leading. He didn’t just entrust someone to lead education and step away, he engaged and HE MODELED A LOVE OF READING to the kids whose education he was now in charge of. This is a really important trait. Kids develop a love of reading when they see people in positions of power modeling reading. This is why teachers and librarians tell parents, make sure your kids see you reading.

There are a million and one reasons why I am concerned about the words and actions of the president-elect, but one of them is this perceived animosity and dismissal of the power of and importance of reading. I am a librarian after all. But I also know that what adults – what people say and do when they are in positions of power – can affect the overall climate and culture, this is also true of reading. And reading is an important part of education and citizenship. In fact, it’s an important part of humaning if you ask me. (Yes, humaning is not really a word).

Common sense isn’t all that different than book smarts – and it’s not all that common. And yes, they both matter. But you know what helps – reading.

So to our new President-Elect I would ask, please consider the ways in which you talk about reading and think of the children. Be an example to them and read. Your amazing new librarian at the Library of Congress, Carla Hayden, could probably make some good recommendations!

Friday Finds: November 25, 2016

fridayfindsThis Week at TLT

Sunday Reflections: On Being Appreciated and Making a Difference

Middle School Monday: Reading Incentive Programs Limit More Than Choice

Book Review: Gap Life by John Coy

Things I Never Learned in Library School: On Being a Teen Librarian 2 Weeks After the Election of Donald Trump

Uppercase Unboxing II: the Unboxenating

TPiB: The Great Ornament Hack

Around the Web

Girls in STEM

29 YA Books About Mental Health That Actually Nail It

We Need Trans Books… But We Really Need Trans Writers

A Poem Written By Anne Frank Just Sold For Nearly $150,000

This Teen Is Bringing Menstrual Products To Homeless Women Around The World

Euphemistic article title is euphemistic

Boosting Attendance In Preschool Can Start With A Knock On The Door

 

TPiB: The Great Ornament Hack

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Every once in a while, I feel like I have a moment of genius (it’s not often). This Teen MakerSpace activity was one of those moments, I hope. I was standing in Michael’s when I saw this big tube of clear plastic ornaments. In the past, I have done the paint inside the ornament craft with my kids, both at the library and at home. But what, I wondered, if I asked them to take it further? Thus was born The Great Ornament Hack.

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The challenge is simple: Use ANYTHING (Except Legos!) in the Teen MakerSpace to make your ornament how ever you would like. Everything includes both traditional craft and tech elements.

For example, one teen was working on hacking the cap of his ornament to add an LED light so that it would light up.

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We are giving teens about 4 weeks to make their ornaments. Each ornament is being given a number and hung from our ceiling. Beginning December 5th, teens will be invited to vote for their favorite ornament. One lucky teen will receive 100 button making pieces – which is a very popular incentive (we also used this as one of our summer reading prizes).

This is a really open-ended challenge that allows teens to create whatever they want to represent themselves. It can be holiday or non-holiday themed. It can be personal or a gift. The possibilities are limitless and the creativity has been off the charts and exciting to see.

The response to this has been overwhelmingly positive. In the first two days alone we had about 15 ornaments created.

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Some of our hacked ornaments hanging to dry

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Mixed media spider

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There’s a color theme happening here

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Makey Mouse made by me with computer bits and pieces from our Tech Take Apart station

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Mario in process

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Steampunk ornament

As I have mentioned, in addition to having our regularly opened space and standard stations, we like to have temporary stations to keep it fresh and interesting. This challenge has proven to do exactly that.

The complete Mario ornament

The complete Mario ornament

To find out more about the Teen MakerSpace at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County, start here:

Small Tech, Big Impact: Designing My Maker Space at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County (OH) (School Library Journal article, February 2016)

1 Year Later, What I’ve Learned (School Library Journal article, November 2016)

Uppercase Unboxing II: the Unboxenating

Welcome to the second of three posts on my free Uppercase boxes, which I was offered in exchange for an honest post about my thoughts. You can find the first unboxing post here.*

img_0873This month’s box comes with a similar array of goodies. First and foremost, a signed copy of The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon. (Please forgive my rather unprofessional backdrop.) I’ve heard really good things about Nicola Yoon’s books, so I am looking forward to cracking this one open. Here is a summary from the publisher:

Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.

Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.

The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?

There is also a complementary temporary tattoo that says “Love Always Changes Everything.” It’s a little hard to see in the photo.

Also in the box were 5 unicorn cards that state “Books are magical” (no arguments here) and are blank inside, a sneak peek at Veronica Roth’s next novel, and two Harry Potter themed cookie cutters. The cookie cutters appear to have been 3D printed? Maybe I’m wrong. Since they are quite small and I generally don’t do roll out cookies, I am planning on adding them to our play-doh tools at the library. I will most definitely be using the cards myself, though.

Altogether this box seems to be a good value for the money – it would make an excellent gift for your favorite teen or YA fan.

*Updates to last month’s unboxing: I tried the novel, but it just wasn’t my speed. I’m going to send it to Karen’s daughter to see what she thinks of it. I described the notebook to my sister and saw her eyes light up, so I gave it to her.