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Sunday Reflections: Being a Librarian Did Not Prepare Me for Parenting a Child with Dyslexia

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When I learned I was pregnant with The Teen, my first thought was “I hope she likes Science Fiction.” I was 29 at the time and was in the final semester of my MLS program at Kent State University. At this time I had been working in YA services as a paraprofessional for almost 10 years. I was an avid reader with a strong interest in science fiction, both loves I was looking forward to sharing with my child. The Teen has always been a strong and natural reader and now that she is a teenager, we love to read and talk about YA literature. It makes my YA librarian heart happy.

Six years later I was once again pregnant, this time with Thing 2, and was thinking similar thoughts. By this time I was 35 and had been a MLS degree holding librarian for almost six years and had been working in YA services for 15 years. Little did I know of the struggle we would have in our future trying to build another enthusiastic reader.

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As Thing 2 began Kindergarten, it became clear to me that she was exhibiting some of the signs of dyslexia. Dyslexia was not something we ever talked about in library school. As a public librarian, even one studying the youth services track in an ALA certified graduate program for library science, dyslexia was not something that we talked about. I could see the signs and felt a vague feeling that something was wrong in large part because I grew up with some family members who were themselves dyslexic. But more than that, there was just something going on at an instinctual level, that parental tickle at the back of the brain that lets you know that something just wasn’t right.

In the 1st grade, these concerns grew exponentially. Thing 2 often practiced mirror writing, she would write a word correctly, it just happened to be an exact mirror image. It wasn’t just that the letters were backwards or out of order, they were written so that if you held the piece of paper in front of the mirror, they would have been correct. Each letter was backwards and the order of the letters was backwards as well. Every time I saw her write that way, my concern grew.

It was during this year that my father came to visit. Thing 2 was happy to sit next to him on the couch and read to him from her book. She would see the word was and read it as saw. He looked at me as she left the room to get another book and said, “you should have her tested for dyslexia.” Having my worries confirmed by someone else without any prompting really validated my suspicions. Later that day, she would write her sisters name in sidewalk chalk in the driveway and he would marvel at how perfectly mirror like it was.

It took The Mr. and I almost 2 years to get Thing 2 tested and confirmed. We live in the state of Texas and it is one of the few if not the only state that has a cap on what percentage of students can be diagnosed as special needs. This cap puts pressure on the schools to keep their students undiagnosed so that they are in compliance with the state standards. In addition, in the first grade Thing 2 had a pregnant teacher who would miss many months of school and the long-term substitutes were not able to start the testing process in time for her to be tested in that year. At the end of the year the principal finally met with us and said that yes she there was sufficient reason to test her, but by this time it there was only two weeks before the end of the school year and we would have to wait until midway through the next year to get her tested. The next year, we had to start the process all over.

Thing 2 now participates in a special program which has helped her learn to read, though she still struggles and finds the overall process of reading unenjoyable. It is a fight each and every day to get her to read. She knows she is behind her friends in reading and often comments about how stupid she is. She will cry, rage, scream and cry as she struggles to read. As a parent, it is heartbreaking to see. My heart aches for my child.

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During those first years when we struggled to get her diagnosed, she had teachers who would continually send home letters telling us our child was behind her peers and made helpful suggestions for us to help her be a better reader. Take her to the library, they said, as if my daughter wasn’t being raised in a library with an army of library staff. Make sure she has access to books, they said, as if she didn’t have shelves full of books, many of them signed directly to her by the authors and illustrators that I had brought home from conferences and read to her each night. Read to her each night, they said, as if I hadn’t been doing that from day one. There is an issue, I replied, please help us help her. At one point, in a moment of extreme frustration and in a rage after getting yet another note in her take home folder telling me I needed to read to her more, I looked at The Mr. and said, “do you think I should just send them a copy of my resume?” I didn’t, for the record.

The fight to get her tested took almost two years. In those two years I had to learn a lot about being an advocate and what the school process was and what a 504 plan was. It was a frustrating time in which I felt that I was failing my child, felt that I was a failure as a librarian, and worried that she would fall so far behind it would be hard for her to catch up.

As I mentioned, she now goes to a special program and has a teacher that she loves. She has made a lot of progress and we are encouraging and engaged every step of the way. But it has been hard. It’s hard to watch her struggle to read and feel discouraged. It’s hard to hear her cry and call herself stupid. It’s hard to know how to get her to read without fighting about reading and making reading an even more negative experience for her.

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I have done many things along the way to help encourage her to be a reader, all the things that I have told parent after parent who has come into my library asking for help:

1. I take her to the library.

2. I let her choose her own books.

3. If we go to the store and she asks me to buy her a book and we have the money, I never say no.

4. If she asks me to read with her or to her, I say yes.

5. We listen to audio books.

6. I don’t fight with her about the books she chooses. If she wants to read the same book over and over again, we read the same book over and over again. If she wants to read a picture book instead of a chapter book, we read a picture book. There is already enough negativity in her life surrounding the concept of reading, her father and I try not to add to or be a source of that negativity.

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We recently went to the store and I suggested that she read a copy of Love That Dog by Sharon Creech. This is a book written in verse that met the minimum number of pages for her school assignment, but many of the pages have short poems and have a lot of white space on the pages. This is only the second book she has ever finished reading and she loved it.

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My co-worker recommended she read a Branches book and selected several that she thought Thing 2 might be interested in. Thing 2 selected and read Hank, a book that is written in a special font that is supposed to be easier for children with dyslexia to read. She loved this book as well.

She currently has to read 40 books by the end of the year, 20 by December. Half of these books are supposed to be chapter books over 64 pages. She has read well over 20 books, but I’m not sure we’re going to meet the 10 chapter books requirement. I’m trying to figure out whether or not I can be at peace with that. It’s a constant struggle for me as a parent to know when I should push her and when I should accommodate her special needs.

In library school and in libraries in general, we talk a lot about reluctant readers. We usually operate from the assumption that reluctant readers simply don’t like to read, that they just haven’t found the right book for them yet. What I am learning is that people are reluctant readers for a wide variety of reasons and I think we need to change our narrative. My child is a reluctant reader because reading is a challenge for her. When she looks at the words on a page she doesn’t see the same things that I do. She literally has to decode what she sees to make sense of it and that process is physically exhausting, emotionally challenging, and not really a lot of fun. It’s work for her in ways that it isn’t for other readers.

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I have now worked in public libraries for 25 years and I have never worked at a library system that talked about working with struggling readers or, more specifically, children with dyslexia. I have seen my peers put together sensory storytimes and storytimes in sign language, but I haven’t really heard a lot of discussion about how, specifically, to help children and the parents of children navigate the world of dyslexia. Now that I feel like I’m coming to a space where I can breathe and we’ve had some successful reading moments, I want to challenge us all in the field to look at ways that we can provide better services to children and adults struggling with dyslexia.

Some of the things I recommend are:

1. Visit The Dyslexia Foundation website and learn what the basic signs are and take a look at this page which helps you understand the difference between what a dyslexic child sees on the page versus what a non-dyslexic child sees on the page.

2. Invite your local school district’s dyslexic specialist to come and do some staff awareness and training.

3. Learn about dyslexia fonts.

4. Find digital resources that you can help steer parents towards.

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5. Consider making a booklist for kids with dyslexia at various ages and stages and include books like Hank, which is written specifically for kids struggling with dyslexia in mind.

Always keep in mind that not all people are dyslexic in the same way and not all tips, resources or tools work the same for everyone. There’s a lot of trial and error involved when you’re a parent and not an expert. Dyslexia is considered a spectrum disorder and knowing this information is very helpful. We were also told that dyslexia usually co-exists with other neurological differences, such as ADHD. So children who are dealing with dyslexia may also be dealing with other issues as well.

In just a few short years Thing 2 will be a teenager and people like me will be serving her in our public libraries. I wish that we talked more about ways to build a solid foundation for children like her and how to help them be successful readers in our libraries.

Friday Finds: November 9, 2018

This Week at TLT

tltbutton3New and forthcoming YA and MG to know about, including a middle grade debut, a dead female DJ and an epic fantasy

Cindy Crushes Programming: Hosting a Stranger Things themed Escape Room

Book Review: This Is What It Feels Like by Rebecca Barrow

Supporting our Latinx Readers

An Open Letter to the Middleton School District from Authors in the Latinx in Kidlit Community

Sunday Reflections: Looking for Hope and Finding My Superpowers

Around the Web

We Can Do Better: Rethinking Native Stories in Classrooms

‘We’re Bringing Education Back': Takeaways From The Election

How One Woman Is Teaching Homeless & Foster Care Children To Dream

 

 

New and forthcoming YA and MG to know about, including a middle grade debut, a dead female DJ and an epic fantasy

tltbutton7Books, books, and more books! My neighbors probably wonder what exactly goes on over here at the house where UPS of FedEx stops nearly every day. All of the books I get end up going back out the door in some fashion—to teen readers I know, to classroom libraries of friends, to my own school, or in giveaways. I can’t read/review every book I get, but it’s fun to be able to sift through boxes and see what grabs my attention, and to see what books will find loving new homes with the right reader. The following are the books that have arrived here in the past few weeks. I will be reviewing many of them in the upcoming months on TLT. See something you’ve already read and need to make sure I don’t skip? Or something you’re super excited to read when it comes out? Let me know with a comment here or on Twitter, where I’m @CiteSomething.

All descriptions from the publishers.

 

 

 

illusions2Illusions by Madeline J. Reynolds (ISBN-13: 9781640635630 Publisher: Entangled Publishing, LLC Publication date: 11/06/2018)

Dear Thomas,

I know you’re angry. It’s true, I was sent to expose your mentor as a fraud illusionist, and instead I have put your secret in jeopardy. I fear I have even put your life in jeopardy. For that I can only beg your forgiveness. I’ve fallen for you. You know I have. And I never wanted to create a rift between us, but if it means protecting you from those who wish you dead—I’ll do it. I’ll do anything to keep you safe, whatever the sacrifice. Please forgive me for all I’ve done and what I’m about to do next. I promise, it’s one magic trick no one will ever see coming.

Love,
Saverio

 

 

 

whispersThe Whispers by Greg Howard (ISBN-13: 9780525517498 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 01/15/2019)

A middle grade debut that’s a heartrending coming-of-age tale, perfect for fans of Bridge to Terabithia and Counting By 7s.

Eleven-year-old Riley believes in the whispers, magical fairies that will grant you wishes if you leave them tributes. Riley has a lot of wishes. He wishes bullies at school would stop picking on him. He wishes Dylan, his 8th grade crush, liked him, and Riley wishes he would stop wetting the bed. But most of all, Riley wishes for his mom to come back home. She disappeared a few months ago, and Riley is determined to crack the case. He even meets with a detective, Frank, to go over his witness statement time and time again.

Frustrated with the lack of progress in the investigation, Riley decides to take matters into his own hands. So he goes on a camping trip with his friend Gary to find the whispers and ask them to bring his mom back home. But Riley doesn’t realize the trip will shake the foundation of everything that he believes in forever.

 

 

 

thats not what i heardThat’s Not What I Heard by Stephanie Kate Strohm (ISBN-13: 9781338281811 Publisher: Scholastic, Inc. Publication date: 01/29/2019)

What did you hear?

Kimberly Landis-Lilley and Teddy Lin are over. Yes, the Kim and Teddy broke up.

At least that’s what Phil Spooner thinks he overheard and then told Jess Howard, Kim’s best friend. Something about Teddy not liking Kim’s Instas? Or was it that Teddy is moving to Italy and didn’t want to do long distance? Or that Kim slid into someone else’s DMs?

Jess told her boyfriend, Elvis, that he needs to be on Kim’s side. Especially if he wants to keep her as his girlfriend. But Elvis is also Teddy’s best friend.

Now, Kim’s run out of school for the day. Jess is furious. Elvis is confused. And half the lunch period won’t talk to Teddy. Even the teachers have taken sides.

William Henry Harrison High will never be the same again!

 

 

spinSpin by Lamar Giles (ISBN-13: 9781338219210 Publisher: Scholastic, Inc. Publication date: 01/29/2019)

When rising star Paris Secord (aka DJ ParSec) is found dead on her turntables, it sends the local music scene reeling. No one is feeling that grief more than her shunned pre-fame best friend, Kya, and ParSec’s chief groupie, Fuse — two sworn enemies who happened to be the ones who discovered her body.

The police have few leads, and when the trail quickly turns cold, the authorities don’t seem to be pushing too hard to investigate further. Only no one counted on Paris’s deeply loyal fans, ParSec Nation, or the outrage that would drive Fuse and Kya to work together. As ParSec Nation takes to social media and the streets in their crusade for justice, Fuse and Kya start digging into Paris’s past, stumbling across a deadly secret. With new info comes new motives. New suspects. And a fandom that will stop at nothing in their obsessive quest for answers, not even murder . . .

 

 

 

stand on the skyStand on the Sky by Erin Bow (ISBN-13: 9781328557469 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 03/05/2019)

An exquisitely written, uplifting middle grade debut by acclaimed author, Erin Bow, about a young girl who defies her family’s expectations in order to save her brother and become an eagle hunter, perfect for fans of PAX.
It goes against all tradition for Aisulu to train an eagle, for among the Kazakh nomads, only men can fly them. But everything changes when Aisulu discovers that her brother, Serik, has been concealing a bad limp that risks not just his future as the family’s leader, but his life too.

When her parents leave to seek a cure for Serik in a distant hospital, Aisulu finds herself living with her intimidating uncle and strange auntie—and secretly caring for an orphaned baby eagle. To save her brother and keep her family from having to leave their nomadic life behind forever, Aisulu must earn her eagle’s trust and fight for her right to soar.  Along the way, she discovers that family are people who choose each other, home is a place you build, and hope is a thing with feathers.

Erin Bow’s lyrical middle grade debut is perfect for fans of original animal-friendship stories like Pax and Because of Winn Dixie.

 

 

all the wallsAll the Walls of Belfast by Sarah Carlson (ISBN-13: 9781684422524 Publisher: Turner Publishing Company Publication date: 03/12/2019)

The Carnival at Bray meets West Side Story in Sarah Carlson’s powerful YA debut; set in post-conflict Belfast (Northern Ireland), alternating between two teenagers, both trying to understand their past and preserve their future. Seventeen-year-olds, Fiona and Danny must choose between their dreams and the people they aspire to be.

Fiona and Danny were born in the same hospital. Fiona’s mom fled with her to the United States when she was two, but, fourteen years after the Troubles ended, a forty-foot-tall peace wall still separates her dad’s Catholic neighborhood from Danny’s Protestant neighborhood.

After chance brings Fiona and Danny together, their love of the band Fading Stars, big dreams, and desire to run away from their families unites them. Danny and Fiona must help one another overcome the burden of their parents’ pasts. But one ugly truth might shatter what they have…

 

 

 

BLOODLEAFBloodleaf by Crystal Smith (ISBN-13: 9781328496300 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 03/12/2019)
A roar of a dark and luscious epic fantasy that’s layered with heady romance, bloodthirsty magic, and ghostly intrigue—an absolutely wicked delight.Princess Aurelia is a prisoner to her crown and the heir that nobody wants. Surrounded by spirits and banned from using her blood-magic, Aurelia flees her country after a devastating assassination attempt. To escape her fate, Aurelia disguises herself as a commoner in a new land and discovers a happiness her crown has never allowed. As she forges new bonds and perfects her magic, she begins to fall for a man who is forbidden to rule beside her. But the ghosts that haunt Aurelia refuse to abandon her, and she finds herself succumbing to their call as they expose a nefarious plot that only she can defeat. Will she be forced to choose between the weight of the crown and the freedom of her new life?

 

 

Supporting our Latinx Readers

In light of recent news, we felt it would be useful to many to have a list of resources as a starting point for supporting our Latinx patrons – any of the below would be a good place to start.

Latinx in Kid Lit

13 YA Novels By Latino Authors Everyone Needs To Read

15 Latinx Authors You Really Need To Be Reading Right Now

LATIN AMERICAN YA BOOKS: A YOUNG ADULT READING LIST

8 YA Books With Latino Protagonists We Wish We Had As Teenagers

5 Latina Young Adult Authors You Need on Your Radar

23 YA and Middle Grade Books To Honor Hispanic Heritage Month

 

An Open Letter to the Middleton School District from Authors in the Latinx in Kidlit Community

Last week we learned that educators from the Middleton Heights Elementary School had celebrated Halloween by dressing up as the border wall and in racist stereotypes.  Images were shared far and wide on social media. If you aren’t familiar with the incident, you can find some information about it here:

https://www.idahostatesman.com/news/local/education/article221015995.html

Over the weekend, I was approached by one of my favorite authors, Jenny Torres Sanchez, and asked if TLT could post the following open letter to the Middleton School District in hopes that members of the Latinx authors in the Kidlit community could make an attempt to counter the hate that was on display last week in this school district. We at Teen Librarian Toolbox are happy to post this open letter and hope that you will all read and share it widely. The best way to counter hate and bias is by speaking love, and these authors are offering to do just that. I sincerely hope that the Middleton Heights School District will take these authors up on their generous offer in an effort to undo the damage that these teachers have done to children who are developing their view of self and others and their place in our world.

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Superintendent of Schools

Middleton School District

5 South Viking Avenue

Middleton, ID 83644

 

November 5, 2018

Dear Superintendent,

We are a group of award-winning Latinx children’s and young adult authors. We are writing to you to express our love and concern for the children of Middleton Heights Elementary School. While we are disheartened and dismayed by the decision of staff to wear offensive and racist Halloween costumes, we are also writing to extend a generous offer, an offer of compassion that we hope you will see it in your heart to accept.

Children, their welfare, their education, and the shaping of the world, is our business. Many of us are or were educators in addition to being authors for children and young adults. To hear that the children at Middleton Heights Elementary School were subjected to this offensive behavior by the very people they trust and look to for education and guidance was beyond disappointing. And we feel such a drastic offence requires drastic measures to remedy.

While your teachers should know better, their actions show they do not. While we question their intentions at wearing such, in your words, “clearly insensitive and inappropriate” costumes, we are willing to accept your conclusion that they had no “malicious intent.” However, their poor decisions also clearly embraced close-minded and hateful thinking. And worse, modeled it for young impressionable minds.

All of your students deserve better than this. We are sure this was painful and confusing for many of them, and especially for Latinx students. Not only are they subjected to this kind of thinking outside of their school, but now within their school too, a place where they should feel secure and loved. Not excluded.

We take you at your word that you would like to learn from this and change. In that spirit, we would like to help you.

We are extending an offer to visit your school. We would like to talk to your students and staff about the richness of our culture. To show a positive and realistic representation of the very people this costume depicts as one-dimensional beings and implies should be kept out. To show that there is no danger in opening our hearts and minds to ALL people and displaying empathy and love to all mankind.

To this end, we propose a school visit where we will:

  1. Give a presentation to a general assembly where we will give motivational speeches to inspire students to accept, love, and respect each other as we build community in our country.
  2. Read excerpts from our books—books which we created to help children understand and treat others with love and compassion.
  3. Speak to and support your faculty and staff in a meet and greet apart from the general assembly.
  4. Bring and donate books by Latinx authors to enhance your classroom and school libraries.

We implore you to take us up on our offer. We are eager to visit your school and hope you will welcome us.

 

Most sincerely,

Jenny Torres Sanchez

Guadalupe Garcia McCall

Angela Cervantes

Reyna Grande

Erika L. Sanchez

David Bowles

Diana Lopez

Carmen Tafolla

Jennifer Cervantes

Isabel Quintero

Lulu Delacre

Yamile Mendez

Christina Diaz Gonzalez

Xelena Gonzalez

Lilliam Rivera

Lidia Gil

Pablo Cartaya

Celia Perez

Meg Medina

Aida Salazar

Hilda Burgos

Emma Otheguy

Anna Meriano

Debbie Reed Fischer

Julissa Arce

Full Circle Literary Agency

Sunday Reflections: Looking for Hope and Finding My Superpowers

Hope

For me, it’s been in short supply since around this time two years ago.

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As a survivor of sexual violence, I woke up devastated in the early morning hours after the election to hear that our nation had elected a man who openly advocated sexual violence to the office of president. Even more so, I was devastated to learn that it was fellow Christian brethren who had chosen to do so. I had spent months leading up to the election wondering why my fellow Christians weren’t speaking out about this man’s violence towards and statements about women. Every day of silence I felt my hope seeping out of my pores.

As the growing incidents and speech regarding misogyny, racism, bigotry, anti-semitism and hate for the marginalized and the poor have increased, I have felt a growing lack of hope swell within me. This lack of hope started to sink into despair, darkness, fear and extreme anger towards my fellow Christians who had spent years preaching one thing and were now openly endorsing something that did not and does not in any way align with the teachings of Jesus. But then I found hope in the writings of John Pavlovitz.

Sometimes soon after the election, I found a blog post by Pavlovitz that expressed a Christian regret that felt familiar to mine. Here was a man of faith, a minister, openly questioning the Christian church’s support of the current president. He spoke specifically about why victims of sexual violence had felt betrayal, a betrayal I felt and continue to feel deep in my bones. He called out the Christian church’s silence on growing racism and anti-Semitic speech. He openly challenged the Christian church’s support of Trump as president. He is bold, brash, and speaks directly to my own concerns.

Pavlovitz represents the type of Christianity I feel called to. A Christian faith that asks us to truly love our neighbor, to give to the poor and support the hurting, to welcome the other because the Imago Dei is in every human being. Reading the online blog of this man and several other progressive Christian women – including Jen Hatmaker, Rachel Held Evans, Sarah Bessey and others – helped me to reclaim my Christian faith. You see, I had been told for so long that I couldn’t call myself a Christian if I didn’t support x, y or z that I started to believe it, even though x, y or z didn’t align with Scripture. I was hurting and lost and Pavlovitz was one of the writers that helped me find myself again and to reclaim the Christian label that was an important part of my identity.

A few weeks ago, Simon and Schuster tweeted about an upcoming book called Hope and Other Superpowers: A Life-Affirming, Love-Defending, Butt-Kicking, World- Saving Manifesto, and I was anxious to read the newest book by this fellow Christian whose blog had helped put me back on solid ground. And I really needed a little bit of hope as mid-term elections approach. The people at Simon and Schuster were kind enough to send me an advanced copy and it did not disappoint.

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When I began reading Hope, my family was sitting in the living room with me. I kept reading sentences out loud to them and feeling so inspired, I just started from the beginning again and I began reading the book out loud to my husband and two children. I didn’t read the entire thing out loud to them, but I have shared with them several passages and have encouraged them to read it.

Here’s another thing you need to know about Pavlovitz: One of my best friends in the world is an atheist. Even he follows Pavlovitz and reads his blog, because Pavlovitz is inspiring, challenging, respectful, welcoming and factual. I was stunned when I discovered that we were both reading and being inspired by this same writer, especially because Pavlovitz does not hide or downplay his beliefs in any way. He is firm in his faith while being holistic and welcoming.

One of the metaphors running through this book is that of the superhero. Like many of us, Pavlovitz was obsessed with superheroes as a child and has thought long and hard about what kind of super powers he would want and why. But in Hope, Pavlovitz reminds us that we can all be superheroes. It doesn’t even have to be in big, splashy ways. Opening your home up to a stranger for dinner. Saying a kind word. Speaking up and out for truth. We all have our own super powers, we just have to find out what they are and then boldly use them for good.

Being a huge Avengers and Wonder Woman fan, I really appreciated the underlying theme of super heroes with super powers as a call to action. It works for me, though it will not work for everyone. I have a friend who hasn’t seen any super hero movies and finds the concept quite simply stupid, so even though she would agree with the main points of this book, she would find the ongoing superhero metaphor tedious and ham fisted. I love her any way.

Hope and Other Superpowers is the book we need for right now. Actually, it’s the book we needed two years ago. And in many ways I fear that right now is too late, but later is better than never. In some ways, it breaks my heart that this book is coming out on the same day as the mid-term elections as I feel it could have inspired a lot of people preceding the elections. And I fear that we will need it more than ever after the mid-term elections depending on the outcome. Although to be honest, we always need hope, and though I personally feel this book is coming out too late, too late is definitely better than never.

Pavlovitz did not disappoint with this book. It challenged, it inspired, and it calls us all to action. Some of the qualities he discusses, in the stories of superheroes of course, are compassion, sacrifice, courage, humor, humility, honesty, kindness, creativity, persistence, wonder and gratitude. He talks about archenemies and kryptonite, the self-doubt and other crippling things we have picked up along the way that stop us from seeking out our inner super-hero. He reminds us all that every hero has an origin story and that along the way there are moments of failure and regret.

operation bb

I loved reading this book. I needed Hope and, as I often do, I found that hope in the pages of a book. This past month, Thing 2 and I have been hard at work on a project that she asked me to help her do called Operation BB: Books in Backpacks. It takes time, it takes money, and it takes space in our home in which I can’t stand clutter. But when she came up with the idea, there was something in me that wanted to help her and wanted to help her succeed. We started the project before I started reading this book, but reading it reminded me that not only as her mother, but as a compassionate human being, helping her do this project was the exact right call. I could have shrugged her off with concerns about time and money, both real concerns. And we have relied on the kindness of friends and strangers to help this project be successful. But every moment that she is engaged and supported, she is being given a building block of hope and a chance to find her super power and ways that she can make a difference. She felt a stirring inside her and though she needed support, as we all do, she has pursued it. The chapter about kryptonite and archenemies really resonated with me because I know that so many of us have had those harsh and discouraging words spoken to us that makes us feel like we have nothing much to give to this world and reading Hope helped me to address them in my own life and reminded me that I was doing a good thing as a parent in helping my child by giving her positive building blocks on her journey to hope and finding her true identity.

I hope that everyone will read this book. You don’t have to be a Christian to do so as Pavlovitz is very clear that this is a message rooted in love and compassion for all and that everyone has some super power to offer into this world. I also highly recommend following him on social media and reading his blog.

I’m going to go to end this post and go to church now, a place I thought I would never be able to return to after the election. It’s a different church and I still struggle with some of the messaging, but I’m finding ways to hope again. And I keep trying to find my superpowers and use them to help bring hope to the hurting world. I hope you’ll join me.

Friday Finds: November 2, 2018

tltbutton3This Week at TLT

Book Review: Pulp by Robin Talley

Things I Never Learned in Library School: Decolonizing Our Public Libraries

Blog Roll Call: Diversity in YA Literature, a list of resources to help librarians diversify their shelves

Guest Post: Author Karen Rivers on Writing a Love Story

Book Review: This Is Kind of an Epic Love Story by Kheryn Callender

What Can Librarians Do to Help Combat the Current Political Climate?

MakerSpace: Finding Inspiration in Places Other than Pinterest

Around the Web

HOT OFF THE PRESS: NOVEMBER 2018

13 Books To Read After Marathon-Watching ‘The Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina’

21 of November’s Best New Young Adult Books

How Americans Feel About Affirmative Action In Higher Education

 

Things I Never Learned in Library School: Decolonizing Our Public Libraries

thingsineverlearnedinlibraryschoolI am a big advocate of being engaged in ongoing professional development, which is why I try and stay engaged on social media with my professional peers. Lately, I have seen a lot of librarians talk about “decolonizing your library”, a phrase that is very new to me. So I have been starting to do some research about this concept. This is me just dipping my toe into this topic and trying to find out what it means, how to go about it, and sharing this concept with you because it may be new to you as well. If it’s not, I would love to know you’re thoughts on the topic in the comments.

Let me begin by saying, I have no idea where this expression started or who all is advocating for it, so I feel like a failure as a librarian because I can’t give proper credit where credit is due here. What I can do is share with you some of the resources I have found to help us all who don’t already know about this to start to learn more. This is a new educational journey for me, come along.

Let’s begin with the basics. The average American librarian is a 45-year-old white woman, a category I fall solidly into. I could not be more of a librarian stereotype at this point if I tried. So a lot of American librarianship assumes a white point of view. More specifically, most of librarianship assumes a white, cisgender, hetero-normative, Christo-centric point of view. Everything outside of this is considered “diverse”, or other. This is true of how books are catalogued in our library catalogs. This is true of how books are purchased, displayed, and used in things like storyimes and book clubs. The phrase decolonize your library is asking us to move away from the predominantly inferred point of view that librarianship operates from.

Before we can talk about what it means to decolonize something, we need to have a basic understanding of what it means when we say something is colonized. History was never my best or favorite subject, but even I remember the basics.

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America is a colonized country. European settlers came to this land, which was already inhabited, and they stole it to build their colonies. There’s that word: colonies. Colonization is the process of taking over someone’s land/country and re-writing history. To colonize something is to take it over and erase what already exists and replace it with your own government, religion, etc. In the case of America, Colonial History is a very sanitized version of the who, what, where and how the current iteration of the United States came to be. It’s very much a white-washed version. American history, American policy, American libraries are all very much colonized.

Decolonization literally asks us to withdraw from that model and restore independence. Decolonizing our thinking asks us to change the ways we think. It literally asks us to change the way we view the world and to be more inclusive. If we truly decolonize our thinking, our world view will literally change and inclusion would not be an after thought, but a natural way of being.

A great introduction to the concept of decolonization can be found in Teen Vogue:

To talk about decolonization, people need an understanding of what we are decolonizing from. Colonization is when a dominant group or system takes over and exploits and extracts from the land and its native peoples. Colonization has taken place all over the globe, through the stealing of lands; the raping of women; the taking of slaves; the breaking of bodies through fighting, labor, imprisonment, and genocide; the stealing of children; the enforcement of religion; the destruction—or attempts to destroy—spiritual ways of life. All of these things have left a psychological, spiritual, and physical imprint on indigenous peoples, and a governmental ruling system that we did not create, that was not made for us. These are the things we need to heal from, where we need to start reclaiming. This is where organizing and decolonizing comes in.

Before we can decolonize our libraries, we must be honest about the history of America (and other countries) and our public library systems. Though we now claim our public libraries to be welcoming bastions of free and equal access, the truth is that we weren’t always. Segregation and racism are a very real part of the history of public libraries. And like most of the world, many forms of systemic racism and unconscious bias still influence our libraries. And we must also acknowledge that our profession is still overwhelmingly and predominantly white. Remember that statistic I began this article with? Yeah, that’s all are part of the issue.

The phrase “decolonize your bookshelf” has been on the rise in recent years, and its meaning is fairly simple. Decolonizing your bookshelf means examining the books you keep and the books you love and considering whether/how each book has served to uphold the acts of colonialism. In addition to sifting through the works you’ve already read, decolonizing your bookshelf means actively seeking out and reading works by authors whose work has been disadvantaged by colonialism. There is an incredible wealth of literature out there that has not made it into the Western canon simply because of the circumstances in which the author lived/lives. Source: What Does It Mean to Decolonize Your Bookshelf?

Let’s talk for just a moment about colonization and cataloging. I learned a lot about this while presenting a couple of years ago with Debbie Reese, who blogs at American Indians in Children’s Literature. When I saw Debbie Reese speak, she talked about how when we catalog Christian creation and flood stories, they are placed in the 200s for religion. However, the creation stories of Native Americans are often placed in myths and legends. This is an example of colonization. After taking the land and slaughtering literal millions of its original inhabitants, we place the Christian faith as an authority and relegate Native American religion to the category of myth and legends. For further examples of this issue, just look at the sheer number of Christian titles that take up the 200s of our local collections compared to that of non-Christian religions.  The number of books in our collections and the ways in which we catalog them are an example of colonized thinking. (Adding: I found this really helpful Slideshare presentation on this topic here.)

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So from what I am learning, and dear lord people please tell me if I’m getting it wrong or you can provide better clarification, decolonizing our libraries asks us to move away from the traditional white, hetero-normative, cis-gender, Christo-centric point of view and to be truly inclusive in our libraries in all ways. It means that we must stop assuming our way is the natural default. Look at that sentence, that right there is an example of colonized thinking. I said “we must stop” assuming that TLT readers are white like me. I’m still trying to decolonize my thinking. It’s a process, but I’m going to keep doing the work.

So in this time when white nationalism is gaining a stronger public foothold and patriotism is being confused with nationalism, I think it is important that public libraries do the work of exploring what it means to decolonize our libraries and then do just that.

Some Resources to Explore Further

Decolonized Librarian

Decolonizing the Classroom: Lessons in Multicultural Education

Decolonizing the Way Libraries Organize – IFLA Library

The Language of Cataloguing: Deconstructing and Decolonizing

The Decolonize Issue — YES! Magazine

Editor’s Note: Someone contacted me on Twitter to let me know that the Decolonize Your Library talks may have started with the Decolonize Your Syllabus movement, which is also new to me. Again, as this concept is very new to me, I don’t have a lot of good information yet about who started it or when. I did find find a lot of information by Googling Decolonize Your Syllabus, there is even a logo and a t-shirt. I found some additional information by Googling Decolonize Your Curriculum.

Here are a couple of additional articles of interest that I found:

Decolonize Your Syllabus, Part 1

The Art of Domination: On Decolonizing the Curriculum

It’s Time to Decolonize That Syllabus

Guest Post: Author Karen Rivers on Writing a Love Story

Screen Shot 2018-10-23 at 12.33.03 PMHere is one thing that I know:  It is easier to imagine a perfect love story than to live one, and goodness knows that I’ve tried.    Some days I think I’ve been lucky, to have had so many opportunities to not just fall in love, but to stay there.   Or to walk away.  

Other times, I feel cursed, like a fairy-tale princess, unable to continue to want what I thought I wanted at the start.   Which is to say, I have always been great at yearning, mediocre at real beginnings, and terrible at endings.

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When I sat down to write YOU ARE THE EVERYTHING, I knew I wanted to tell a love story, but I wanted to specifically tell a love story that began with one person, alone, falling in love with the other, who was unaware.   It seems to me that this is one of the quintessential human experiences:  The crush.

Not stalking.   Nothing scary.   But simply yearning.  

I also wanted to explore something else, something that has to do at least peripherally, with social media and how we instinctively have learned to curate our lives, presenting only photo-worthy moments to the world, unfolding an Instagram calendar of laughter and white teeth and shiny hair and warm embraces.   It seems to me that to grow up in a world where everything is curated in this way is to add an element of constant striving, but worse than that, an element of never quite measuring up.   Can reality ever be as good as the stories you tell yourself?

I set out to tell a love story that has already been imagined, rehearsed, perfected.   Elyse Schmidt draws her life in a graphic novel, Me and Josh Harris:  A Love Story, unfurling on paper a wittier, more clever, less shy, happier version of herself.    A version of herself who is both in love and who is worthy of love.    Into her story, she draws Josh Harris, who has been the boy of her dreams for as long as she can remember.   

But when he finally, through a set of unimaginably terrible circumstances, notices her, can it ever be quite as good as it was on paper?    Or does she “love” only what she believes she knows, but can’t really know for sure?

This distance between what we think we know and what we do know, the gulf between what we believe we want and what is real — that is one of the veins I wanted to explore.   I thought that’s what the novel was going to be about:  the graphic novel vs. the reality.

But when I sat down to write, the plane crashed.   It wasn’t what I was expecting, but planes do crash sometimes and I had to go with it.   “Let your characters lead the way,” is the one rule that I live by, when I begin to write.  

I was as surprised as anyone.   Definitely as surprised as Elyse. 

But isn’t that the magic of telling stories?   Sometimes the stories take us to unexpected places, including into the side of a mountain.   

So there I had Elyse and Josh at the back of the plane, the part that has broken off from the rest, able to make a choice that will decide if they live or die.

This will be a love story, I decided.  

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 When I was twenty-one, something happened to my heart.    The thing that happened to my heart shouldn’t have been unexpected (at least, to me) because it came after many years of depriving my body of what it needed, specifically calories, food, nutrition, hydration.   For a long time, I had punished myself ferociously for not looking the way I felt I was expected to look and the time came when I had to pay the price.  To make a long story short, I died.   For a moment, or two, or maybe three, my heart stopped beating.    In this pause between life and death, I felt at first panicked, and then safe.  

That feeling is something I took with me to this story:  The proximity to death, that terror, then finally, the sheer force of will that says, No.   

A relinquishing of control, while still battling for the choice.

Will I live or will I die?   

Choose.

Elyse’s experience is at once both different and the same.

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This is the first true love story that I have ever written.   I wrote it entirely from my heart, which twenty-seven years later is still doing what it needs to do to keep me here.     I want people to know that it’s the book of my heart.    I want them to know that my heart broke while I wrote it, but that it also wrote itself, it told itself to me, and all I did was write it down.    Which, after all, as a writer and a survivor myself, is all that I can do.  

“To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work,” said Mary Oliver and I agree, wholeheartedly, that’s all we can do.   

We imagine, we love, we see, we imagine, we listen, we write it down.  

I hope that all the people out there who have ever loved someone quietly, from afar, will see themselves in this book.  I hope they will love it, too.   

 

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Rivers_YouAreEverything_hc_jkt_HRKaren’s latest book, You Are the Everything, is out today!

About YOU ARE THE EVERYTHING:

When Elyse Schmidt and her not-so-secret crush, Josh Harris, are the sole survivors of a plane crash, tragedy binds them together. They become superstars in today’s social media-driven world, and they move with their families to the wide open spaces of Wyoming for a chance to live their lives quietly, together. It’s as if their love story is meant to be. Everything is perfect, or as perfect as it can be when you’ve literally fallen out of the sky and landed hard on the side of a mountain—until suddenly it isn’t. Elyse’s whole world begins to unravel, culminating in a shocking conclusion that will have readers flipping back through the pages to reread this incredible story.

 

About Karen Rivers:

KAREN RIVERS is the author of twenty-one novels for children, teens, and adults, including the highly praised The Girl in the Well Is Me, All That Was, Before We Go Extinct and A Possibility of Whales. She lives in British Columbia, Canada. Find her online at karenrivers.com or on Twitter @karenrivers.

Advanced Praise:
“This is good choice for those who enjoyed E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars or books with pieces that only fit together after a surprising ending. Fans of unreliable narrators and twist endings will clamor for this story of romance and survival.”
School Library Journal, starred review“Philosophical readers will find much to love here; Rivers picks apart the nuances of friendship and romance, with their attendant loyalties and conflicts . . . [You Are the Everything] is an unusual and compelling novel that skillfully plays with narrative perspective.”
Booklist, starred review“In a novel that challenges concepts of time and reality, Rivers examines wish fulfillment and subconscious defenses . . . [and] evokes the surreal quality of the world that Elyse sees.”
Publishers Weekly

“Well-written and emotionally resonant, this is an unusual and poignant story . . . that explores unfulfilled dreams and ideas of what might have been.”
Kirkus Reviews

What Can Librarians Do to Help Combat the Current Political Climate?

Made with a Scrabble board and an iPad with photo manipulating apps

Last week was another devastating week. It was one of those weeks that made me want to take to take to bed and wallow in my despair. I questioned whether or not the job I was doing as a librarian was making any difference at all. But yesterday morning I returned to my library with resolve. I am a librarian because I believe that access to information is essential to democracy. I am a librarian because I believe reading stories helps us to learn, grow, change and develop compassion. So I tweeted some thoughts about the things that we can and should be doing in our libraries to help combat the current state of our world; to combat racism, bigotry, hatred and the rising tide of fascism that I fear is growing and coalescing. I tweeted to remind myself to be accountable, to inspire myself to do the work, and to share these thoughts with others who may be feeling the same. If you have some additional thoughts, please add them in the comments.

It may be hard to realize that what we do matters, but it does, especially if we are doing our job well and with intentionality. Keep doing the work, one book at a time we can help make the world into a better place. And as election day quickly approaches, it is important for us to remember that public libraries do in fact matter in a democratic society.