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    Kate DiCamillo: Ambassador for Summer Reading

    By Angie Manfredi
     | May 26, 2016

    Kate DiCamillo-052616From her time as National Ambassador for Young People's Literature to her work promoting summer reading, Kate DiCamillo is a champion for kids. Talking with Kate about writing, her latest bestseller Raymie Nightingale, and her work in getting kids—and the adults who care for them—excited about summer reading was an honor.

    ***

    How can adults be summer reading champions for the kids in their lives?

    One thing is to take kids to the library! My mother did that for me and my brother. Parents can make the decision to get to the public library once a week. You can even load up the car and take all the kids in your whole neighborhood to the library—my mom used to do that for our neighborhood.

    That leads right into my next question! Kids often want to know about what grown-ups were like as children. So, Kate, did you participate in summer reading programs as a kid?

    Yes, I did. They had prizes for reading, can you believe it? I got a prize for the thing I most wanted to do. It seemed ridiculous to get prizes for reading. I participated in summer reading every summer, because the library was always a haven.

    Related to that—what are some of your favorite memories of your childhood library or, especially, of your school libraries?

    When you say “school library,” I can remember it all exactly. I can remember where I’d stand to check out books. I was given free reign of the library, and that’s very important for kids: choice. Choice is important for the kids, like me, who loved to read, but it’s also important for the kids who don’t know they love to read—yet. The library was a place I could be seen for who I was. There was always a sense of safety and of being seen.

    That’s so true! Why are libraries especially important for kids during the summer?

    Choice! It’s choice. You can read for yourself. And the privilege of the library is you can go anywhere into a library and they’ll help you. It’s a privilege, but it’s also a joy. It’s astonishing that a public library is there—you can walk in and read whatever you want, it’s such a joy!

    Because we are talking about summers, may I ask why you chose to set your new book, Raymie Nightingale, during the summer?

    Ha! That’s a good question! Raymie isn’t autobiographical, but it certainly has autobiographical elements. It has something in children’s lives that perhaps happens only in summer: long, unoccupied stretches of time.

    Yes, the narrative couldn’t have happened if it wasn’t summer! Their friendships, their adventures—summer helps it all unfold.

    Yes, exactly. It is as close as I’ve ever come to putting myself in a book, but I’m not sure I thought about why it was set in the summer!

    Thank you so much for chatting with me today! I always like to wrap up with a question from a kid! One of my patrons, Audrey, is sure that she is your biggest fan. The Tale of Despereaux is her favorite book of all time. She wants know why you started writing.

    What a good question. It’s because I was a reader. It’s because I was sick as a kid and learned to live in my head. It’s because my father left. I often say I like a hole to write into, an absence. You get told stories and so you tell them back. I became a writer because I love stories and stories matter.

    ***

    What an amazing way to end an interview with a favorite writer!

    In May, DiCamillo’s publisher, Candlewick Press, hosted a free live webcast with DiCamillo from Edgewood School in Woodridge, IL, where she talked about the importance of summer reading and encouraged students nationwide to sign up for the summer reading program at their local public libraries. Response was tremendous: 975 schools signed up for the webcast, with an estimated reach based on classroom tallies at around 50,000 students and viewers in all 50 states.

    Hear more about Kate's role as a National Summer Reading Champion, as well as her Top Ten Reasons for joining a summer reading program and her 2016 recommended summer reads here.

    Angie Manfredi is the Head of Youth Services for the Los Alamos County Library System in Los Alamos, NM. She loves when children shout “LIBRARY LADY!” at her in the grocery store and is dedicated to literacy, education, and every kid’s right to read what he or she wants. You can read more of her writing on her blog, Fat Girl Reading, or find her on Twitter.

     
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    Reaching for 1,000 Books

    By Rachee Fagg
     | Oct 27, 2015

    ThinkstockPhotos-71553617_x300Last month, the Lansdowne Library officially kicked off their 1000 Books Before Kindergarten Program.  With this preliteracy program, libraries across the United States encourage and support families and caregivers in reading to newborns, infants, and toddlers—in turn, fostering bonding between parents and children. Research shows that reading to children at home increases their reading readiness skills, so we are targeting children who have not yet started kindergarten.

    The idea is that children will have a positive attitude about reading and will be eager to learn. They will acquire letter knowledge, background information, an awareness of the structure and sound of language, and a richer vocabulary—all from just listening to stories!

    Although the idea of reading 1,000 books before kindergarten seems like a daunting task, it really is not! We broke it down into easy-to-accomplish goals:

    • 1 book a day for 3 years = 1,095 books
    • 10 books a week for 2 years = 1,040 books
    • 3 books a day for 1 year = 1,095 books

    The Lansdowne Library was fortunate to have Charlotte Ryan, a fellow librarian within the Delaware County Library System, assist us with setting up and launching the program. Charlotte provided templates for logs and literacy tips, and she supported us when we had questions.

    One thing Charlotte stressed was the ease of the program and she was correct. After the initial preparations (which really meant photocopying logs, stuffing folders, and reaching out to families of young children), the program is quite simple. Families are discovering new books and spending time together reading, and the feedback has been very positive.

    How our program works:

    • Register at the Lansdowne Public Library and receive a folder and reading log for the first 100 books.
    • Read to the child/children and record the titles read.
    • Report via the reading log to the library when 100 books are read.
    • Receive small incentives for each 100 books read: a reading tip, and a log for the next 100 books.
    • Keep going! When 1,000 books are read, families receive a certificate and the child’s picture will be posted on our 1,000 Book Wall of Fame.

    This program is for every child under 5 in a family, from infants to prekindergartners. The club’s end date is when the child begins school. There is no need to feel rushed, as this program is made to be enjoyed. It is to be used as an opportunity to read, talk, and sing with children. These activities will not only prepare children for school but also create special memories.

    The most frequent question we were asked is, “Does the same book read over and over count?”

    Our answer: Yes!

    Children’s author and reading advocate Mem Fox encourages parents to “read at least three stories a day; it may even be the same story three times.”

    We encourage families to read library books, books from their personal collection, books borrowed from a friend, anything to begin on the path to learning how to read while introducing thousands of new words and experiences along the way.

    For more information about the 1000 Books Before Kindergarten Program or for a location near you, visit the 1000 Books Before Kindergarten website.

    Rachee Fagg is head of children’s services at the Lansdowne Public Library in Lansdowne, PA.

     
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    When We Talk About Banned Books

    by Andria Amaral
     | Sep 30, 2015

    some girls areIt’s Banned Books Week, and all across the United States, public libraries feature displays encouraging patrons to read banned books. Somewhere, someone will pick up a book from one of those displays and say, “Whoa. This has been banned?”

    Book banning is a loaded term that implies totalitarianism and conjures up images of bonfires. Library patrons sometimes look disappointed when they learn that the book they are holding in their hands has not been banned outright, only challenged.

    Banning and challenges are often conflated by librarians and other literacy advocates including the American Library Association (ALA), which annually publishes a list of the most frequently “Banned and Challenged Books.” ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom explains the difference: “A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. A banning is the removal of those materials.”

    Here in Charleston, SC, the book Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers was challenged recently when a parent declared the book, which deals with difficult issues like sexual assault and bullying, “trash,” and requested its removal from the summer reading list at West Ashley High School.

    The principal of West Ashley High culled the book from the reading list before a committee could review the parent’s complaint. (It was replaced by Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak, which, ironically, appears on ALA’s list of Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books, 2000-2009). The parent also requested the book be removed from the school library, but this action was not taken. The school district has since formed a Literacy Advisory Council to address this and other curriculum challenges.

    News of a challenge spreads quickly in the book-loving world, and within days I was contacted by famed book blogger and teen advocate Kelly Jensen, who asked if I was willing to try something. If she requested people send her copies of Some Girls Are, would I find a way to get them into the hands of any students who wanted them? I was all in.

    Not only do I believe in standing up for the freedom to read in general, I have strong feelings about this book in particular. Over the years, I’ve recommended it frequently to teen readers, many of whom have returned to say how deeply it affected them. Some Girls Are has sparked real, honest conversations with teen girls about the issues they face. It’s a powerful and important book, and dismissing it as “trash” is insulting not only to its author but also to all the young people who have found truth and solace in its pages.

    Kelly wrote about the situation on her blog, Stacked Books, and issued a challenge of her own: “Let’s do something together with our collective reader, intellectual freedom-loving power, shall we? Can we get this book into the hands of kids of West Ashley who want it?”

    The next day, she e-mailed me: “Be prepared. This is going to be much, much bigger than I anticipated.”

    A couple of weeks later, boxes of books started arriving at my office door. They are still trickling in. So far, more than 1,000 copies of Some Girls Are have been donated, and I can barely find my desk beneath all those boxes.

    Here at the Main Library Teen Lounge, I cleared out an entire bookcase and filled it with donated copies. Library branches serving the West Ashley community also set up displays. Local news picked up the story, and other branches of the Charleston County Public Library offered to help with distribution after their visitors asked about the book.

    The best part of this project has been the discussions library staff have had with teens and tweens as a result. They want to know, “What’s the deal with this book? Why do you have so many copies?” They listen thoughtfully as we explain, and then say things like, “Wait, they took it off the list just because one person didn't like it? That's like if I said that just because I didn't like Divergent then no one should read it. That's just wrong."

    Teens take home a copy and come back to say, “I can’t believe they took it off the list. I mean, it has some bad words in it—a lot of them, actually—but like, the things it talks about are really important. Cause stuff like that happens in real life. It's sad."
    When I tell these teens that total strangers from all over sent these books because they care so much about them, their lives, and their ability to choose for themselves what they do or don’t read, their jaws drop and eyes widen in amazement.

    Some have asked, “What’s the big deal? The book wasn’t banned. It’s still in the school library.” But here’s the thing: It’s crucial that we stand up for the freedom to read, speak out when challenges occur, and stand up to censorship attempts. Left unchecked, these elements easily can start a slippery slope that results in actual bans and even book burnings.

    Andria Amaral was the first Young Adult Librarian in the state of South Carolina, joining the staff of the Charleston County Public Library in 1997. She has spent 18 years planning and developing public library collections and services for students in grades 6–12, including after-school activities, summer reading contests, and innovative outreach programs targeting at-risk and incarcerated teens. Andria has provided professional development workshops at state and national library conferences and has been a guest lecturer to MLIS students at the University of South Carolina and YA Literature students at the College of Charleston. She also serves on the YALLFest Board of Directors. She lives in Charleston, SC, with her husband and four dogs.

     
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    Superhero Summer at the Library

    By Rachee Fagg
     | Aug 13, 2015

    masked manGraphic novels are often overlooked, dismissed even, when people come into our library. On more than one occasion, I have overheard a parent dismiss a book as nothing but a silly comic book and steer their child towards something they deem more acceptable. I will admit I was one of those parents. Graphic novels and comic books seemed too busy for me to follow, so when my daughter would look for a book to read, eventually selecting a graphic novel or comic book, I would pair her picks with “regular” novels. After being introduced to some wonderful titles through a former library vendor, I changed my opinion about comic books in general and have been looking for ways to share this revelation ever since.

    Each summer, my library system is a part of the Collaborative Summer Library Program, a consortium of states working together to provide high-quality summer reading program materials for children, tweens, teens, and adults with a theme for children. The theme for 2015 is “Every Hero Has a Story,” which led to the creation of Superhero Reads at our library. Superhero Reads was originally to be a book discussion group for tweens, ages 8–11, to discuss books featuring heroes. The library would provide a list of titles from which the students would choose, and they would read the books on their own. During our weekly meetings, we would discuss our books. This would allow students the opportunity to share what they are reading, practice public speaking and expressing themselves, and introduce titles that may otherwise go unread.

    The plans I made were abandoned after the first meeting. The group of students who showed up for the initial meet up ranged from ages 5–12, and the range of books being discussed was so broad that some of the children wanted to leave the first meetup.

    The name of the program confused some of the members, because they thought a superhero was coming to read to them. Once we explained that THEY were creating their own heroes, the children were excited to get to work. As we started the ice-breaker activities, some of the students needed more encouragement than others to share their favorite hero traits and what book they were reading, and the format was altered to accommodate the attendees.

    There was a discussion about favorite heroes, what makes a person a hero, and what’s in a name. Using an online tool to generate names, we created the ultimate superhero name and then we wrote backstories. Children were encouraged to read what they wrote in a judgment-free space. Feedback and suggestions were offered to those students who were struggling. Some participants created original characters whereas others went with established characters. Although some of the stories were familiar, there also were some unique additions that made familiar characters fun and fresh.

    What good is a hero without a nemesis? So we created some.

    I had found that many children were reluctant to share, worrying that their creation was not “right,” but I show them some of my artwork—which only can be described as horrible—to put them at ease and to demonstrate that everyone struggles, but that is not a reason not to try.

    Supplies for these creations included paper, pencils, color pencils or crayons, books (which we got from the library), and a place to meet. My library owns a machine to make spiral bound books but we could easily substitute rings or use a binder, so costs were kept to a minimum.

    The range of backstories were so much fun that for a moment one student said that he wished that he could be a supervillain (me too!). We flushed out characteristics for the villains. The students who were further along created logos and costumes for their characters. The first meeting seemed to be the most diverse with age and ability, and subsequent meetings found different students attending throughout the run of the program. We discuss what makes a hero, offered scenarios in which our hero may be confronted with unheroic behavior, and choices the hero should make. We talk about unlikely villains. We share artwork which may or may not be perfect. We have fun.

    The final product is currently in production. We are combining the art and stories we have created into a graphic novel each student will receive at the end. Some stories are more complete than others, which is just fine. The idea was to encourage imagination, exploration, and to put to rest the words “I can’t.”

    Resources to start your own graphic novel discussion group

    rachee fagg headshotRachee Fagg is the children’s librarian at the Lansdowne Public Library in Lansdowne, PA.

     
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    Keep Kids Coming Back With Graphic Read-Alikes

    BY Angie Manfredi
     | Aug 11, 2015

    sisters graphic novelMy library’s copies of Raina Telgemeier’s books are never on the shelf. They fall apart from repeated circulation, even when we have them in hardcover. Our kid readers just can’t get enough of Telgemeier’s funny, thoughtful, painfully real graphic novels. And they aren’t alone. As of the week of August 2, 2015, Smile, her autobiographical graphic novel about the year she suffered through orthodontic traumas, has been on The New York Times Best Seller List for a whopping 162 weeks (that’s a list that encompasses adult titles too!). Her other books are also permanent residents of the list—with Drama clocking in at 103 weeks and Sisters, her new title, at 43 weeks. That is a rare and special kind of intense, sustained interest—the kind that mean kids have a deep love for Raina Telgemeier’s work. 

    But what to do when your readers have finished all of Telgemeier’s books? Deep love is a great chance to hook readers, so you don’t want to lose the kids that want more reads like Telgemeier’s. Here are some of my favorite read-alikes for Raina’s wonderful work. 

    When recommending read-alikes for Raina Telgemeier, I choose graphic novels that tell realistic stories about personal lives, school adventures, and family ties. I try to avoid work with fantasy or sci-fi elements (unless a reader indicates an openness to the addition of this content) to more closely match the content of Smile, Drama,and Sisters. Here are a few favorites to expand your graphic novel collection and keep your fans reading. These books are all in print as of August 2015 and are recommended, in general, for readers ages 8–12.

    Akissi: Feline Invasion.  Marguerite Abouet. Ill. Mathieu Sapin. 2013. Flying Eye Books.

    Nothing stops Akissi: She’s funny, clever, and determined. Meet her family and follow along on her daily adventures through her bustling West African town in this read-alike translated from French.

    Awkward. Svetlana Chmakova. 2015. Yen Press.

    Peppi just wants to fit in at middle school, but it’s harder than she imagined. When her art club starts to clash with her enemy Jaime’s science club, can they find a way to move past the awkwardness?

    Chiggers. Hope Larson. 2008. Antheum Books for Young Readers.

    This summer at camp everything is going wrong for Abby—none of her friends seem the same and the only girl she seems to get along with is the new girl, Shasta.

    El Deafo. CeCe Bell. 2014. Harry N. Abrams.

    CeCe is deaf but she hates being “special.” El Deafo follows her amazing journey of finding the superpowers and regular resilience within herself.

    GraphicNovels_9-2015_150x150Luz Sees the Light. Claudia Davila. 2011. Kids Can Press.

    Inspired by the energy shortages in her neighborhood, Luz works with her friends to make their neighborhood more self-sustaining in this first book in The Future According to Luz series.

    Page by Paige. Laura Lee Gulledge. 2011. Amulet Paperbacks.

    Paige has just moved to New York City, and she uses her sketchbook as her safe space to explore her new surroundings and develop her skills as an artist.

    Play Ball. Nunzio DeFilippis and Christina Weir. Ill. Jackie Lewis. 2012. Oni Press.

    Dashiell can’t believe her luck when she finds out her new school has a great baseball team. She decides she’s going to join them, no matter who says girls can’t play.

    Roller Girl. Victoria Jamieson. 2015. Dial Books.

    12-year-old Astrid gains self-confidence, fails some, and learns about herself, her friends, and her life as she falls in love with the sport of roller derby.

    Secret Diary (Lou!). Julien Neel. 2013. Graphic Universe.

    Translated from French, this series follows Lou, a 12-year-old who confides all her secrets to her diary. She crushes on boys, creates her own clothes, and tries to navigate middle school.

    Sunny Side Up. Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm. Coming 8/25/2015. Scholastic.

    Sunny is spending the summer with her Grandpa in Florida and falling in love with comic books. But her life isn’t as sunny as it looks at first.

    This One Summer. Mariko Tamaki. Ill. Jillian Tamaki. 2014. First Second.

    Rose and Windy usually spend their summers having fun, but things are getting harder as they get older. This one summer, the girls will have to rely on their friendship to get them through.

    And hopefully many other titles will follow Raina Telgemeier’s winning formula of appealing to tween readers by telling the truth about their lives in engaging, funny, and immediately relatable narratives. Librarians and teachers join the call of our young students and patrons: More, more, more—we want more!

    Angie Manfredi is the head of Youth Services for the Los Alamos County Library System in Los Alamos, NM. She’s been reading comics faithfully since her beloved Archie comics in the fourth grade and is dedicated to literacy, education, and every kid’s right to read what they want.  You can read more of her writing at www.fatgirlreading.com or find her on Twitter.

     
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