Sunday, March 28, 2010

Children Literature Loses A Great Writer

As a child, I didn't like to read very much. It was a difficult task and frankly, I'd rather have my teeth pulled out one by one than read a book. (Funny, I became a librarian eh?) One of the books that turned me onto reading was The Ghost of Saturday Night. This was an amazing feat for two reasons. One as I mentioned before, I hated reading and two I hated ghost stories. So what made me pick up this book? My third grade teacher. For that I will be forever grateful because I discovered a wonderful storyteller in Sid Fleishman. As a matter of fact, this book is one of the few that I saved and it still sits on my bookshelf.

Fleishman introduced his readers quirky, off-beat characters who would get into the minds of the reader, challenging them to read behind the lines to find the true story behind the story. The Ghost of Saturday Night was a story not about ghost, but more about how things are not always as they appear. Sometimes it is just fog that clouds the eyes from seeing what is really in front of them. This taught a little third grader that readers should not judge a book by it's title. Sometimes a little investigation, also known as reading, is in order.

Another lesson learned from reading this book was that fiction is not only about the art of storytelling, but it also can give the reader an informal eduction. For example, Fleishman introduced me to the word "moonshine". Mind you, at the tender age of 8, that word meant that the moon was shining. It only made sense since sunshine refers to the sun shining. Right? Wrong. Oh, so wrong. When that word appeared in sentences and it didn't make sense that the person was talking about the moon, it did cause some confusion. I just plugged along hoping that I would understand the context eventually. I didn't think to look up the word because I thought it was another reading "trick" that the slow reader like me would find hard to understand. Thank goodness my third grade teacher set me straight! As part of the requirement that I read this book, I also had to sit with my teacher to discuss the story with her on a one on one basis. The topic of moonshine came up and it became apparent that I had no clue what that word meant. I remember the conversation well. Moonshine, she explained was homemade whiskey. The light bulb went on in my head, and I blurted out "Just like my dad makes homemade wine!" The connection was made and I learned a valuable lesson. To look up the word if you don't understand the meaning is not a sign of a slow reader. It is actually a step towards becoming smarter.

Fleishman's work remained original and entertaining throughout the years. His final book, "The Entertainer and The Dybbuk" published last year, was a tale rich with Fleishman's twist on irony, unusual characters and the realities of life that sometimes adults would like to forget. It was his first story about the horrors of the Holocaust. It was, in my humble opinion, one of his finest work. The world of children's literature has lost a great storyteller, but fortunately for future young readers, his legacy will live on in the pages of his books. For old time sakes, a visit with Opie and Aunt Etta seems to be the right thing to do right now.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Teen Tech Week - Teens Can Teach Us Lots!

It is not surprising that teens can learn the latest technology quicker than adults. Let's face it, they've grown up with techie gadgets, while the rest of us were watching the gadgets become reality. In a book that I recently read, there was a story about preschool children going to a Retirement community to visit and read to the residents. As each child was paired with their reading partner, amazing things began to happen. Children read better, the residents became more active, which boosted their overall health and lasting relationships were formed. A girl in the preschool class began to ask her partner, an older gentleman, about how life was like when he was growing up. This lead to stories of life on a farm in the 1930’s when it seemed everything was much simpler and quite different. The girl then asked, “How big was your iPod?” You can imagine the look on the older gentleman’s face. Which proves the point, our world has changed so much in the past decades, that teens can be much more in tuned to change and technology than adults. Is this to say that adults can’t adapt to new technology? Not at all. However, what better excuse can librarians have to connect with the next generation than to watch teens using technology and learning from them?

For Teen Tech Week at my library we decided to host a Game Night where teens, sixth grade through twelfth can play Wii games and socialize. Instead of having prizes for the best Guitar Hero player, the prizes can be won in other ways. This will require the teens to use their iPods or cell phones to text messages. A prize will be given to the first teen who can prove that they have a Beatles song on their iPod. Name that app! will be another game where teens can team up to identify as many Apple application symbols in two minutes. There will also be questions for teens to answer to win prizes. The catch, they will have to IM the librarian with the answer. The IM with the correct answer and reaches the librarian first, wins a prize. Besides giving the teens a chance to have fun at the library, the games are aimed to bridge that technology and generation gap, allowing teens to show off their knowledge.

As I get older, working with teens has alerted me to the fact that it is a huge responsibility of my generation to learn to use the tools of today. Especially in my line of work. If teens are to be attracted to the library, knowing how to use technology is vital. On Facebook, many of the teens from the library are my “friends.” It is a wonderful way to keep in touch with them in between our monthly meetings. The most important lesson I learned from having these bright, witty and bold teens “friend” me on this site, is that I need to be flexible, go with the ebb and flow of technology, and be ready to learn something new. When Facebook changed it’s format, I complained for three days straight on my wall. My displeasure was noted by one of my teens, who replied to my post, “Mrs. Nowc, you are old and old people don’t like change.” Granted, it was not the nicest thing to be told, but grudgingly I had to admit he was right. Teen Tech Week is just perfect to bring me up to speed with the teens and humbly acknowledge they can teach me quite a bit. Then again, maybe I can impress them that I know how to download music onto my iPod. I can hear them now, “Cool, but that’s old news! Can you download a video from YouTube?”