Monday, July 13, 2015

A Much Needed Victory for School Libraries: Senate Bill 1177

Every parent, student and teacher should be outraged if their school does not have a library.  Instead, there is a sense of  inevitability about the situation.  Well, we  all knew it was going to happen sooner or later, right?   That shouldn't be the case.   Unless people prefer WebMd to getting their medical diagnosis over getting the right information from a doctor.   Then by all means accept the inevitable and be prepared for a dumbed down school program.  A bit dramatic?  Perhaps but none the less true.

Studies after studies have proven that schools who have an established library program to assist students in their academic endeavors excel in their educational goals.  Students read more.  Comprehend their assignments easily and have better critical thinking skills then their peers who have no to libraries.   With so many studies making the critical case that libraries are needed then why are so many schools opting out of the library programs?   Why are there so many school librarians reassigned to the classrooms as aides?   It's mind blowing.  Yet there is a small glimmer of hope for school libraries and the students who need them.

On  July 8 the US Senate unanimously passed legislation  (Senate Bill 1177) to amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act/NCLB to include support for school library programs.    School districts are authorized to develop effective programs using certified school librarians at its core.   This is important because it is the first step in recognizing what the studies have been showing all along.  Librarians and libraries are valuable tools to have at students' disposal as they grow and learn.    It goes without saying that a huge applaud and pat on the back is due to the two senators who cosponsored the amendment Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Thad Cochran (R-MS) .

While this is a huge leap in the right directions for schools and their libraries, there is still much to do to reclaim this vanishing education gem before they are all gone.  Quite frankly, it is imperative that anyone who has a stake in the education of children  should speak up and ask Congress to follow the Senate's lead.   This means that parents, grandparents, teachers, administrators and even students themselves should contact their local Congressional representative to ask for their support.  Consider this, if children are failing in schools, the community fails as well.   School libraries are important to the educational growth of each child.  To say that it weakens the educational outcomes is not an exaggeration, it's a fact.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Kate DiCamilo's Flora and Ulysses Are Hopeful Heroes

Kate DiCamillo is one of a kind storyteller.  If you have not yet read this author's books,  then it is either because you're not an avid reader or you live under a rock.  In either case, it is definitely a crying shame not have been touched by her stories.   As the Summer Reading programs progress, it is appropriate to mention the author who has been chosen as the 2015 National Summer Reading  Champion.  It's an inspired choice.

There are stories that stay with a reader long after they are read.  This is only true of stories that are well written.  Ms. DiCamillo has managed to create these stories not once but several times over.  Do the titles, Because of Winn Dixie or  The Tale of Despereaux ring a bell?  They should.  Not only because they were fabulous books but because they were made into blockbuster movies as well.  Her soft and soul stirring style in these stories contain a mix of magic and wonderment of what if's that truly belong in the world of children's stories and dreams.   The stories are timeless.  Her characters in spire readers to look beyond what they know and find a new reality  where a lonely girl finds a furry best friend in a grocery store,  a simple mouse can defend a princess,  a beloved toy find his way home again and a superhero squirrel can save the day.   Timeless, yes and special as well.

DiCamillo's latest book, Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures  is another exceptional tale that brightens the children's literature bookshelves.   It fits in with the theme, "Every hero has a story" and what a story she shares about Flora and Ulysses.  It is well worth the time to read.  Especially, out loud.  The reader and audience will enjoy the story that flows from the pages, dances softly in the air and drifts directly into the heart.    The cast of characters are quirky, lovable and strange but in a normal kind of way.  This is especially true of Ulysses,   your typical run of the mill, neighborhood squirrel who suddenly finds himself changed by a vacuum cleaner.   Changed how?   Some might say the vacuum cleaner changed him.  Others may say it could be something more deeper and wonderful.  Friendship. Love.  Acceptance.

The brilliant part of this tale of an unlikely superhero is that it is a reminder that hope comes in all shapes and sizes.   To be perfectly honest,  it's a nice reminder.  Which is why, this is a need-to-read book for this summer.  

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Firefighters Are Heroes too!

This years's Summer Reading Program theme  provides librarians lots of ideas to explore the world of Superheroes.  Of course, the first instinct is to search out books about superheroes that leap tall building,  get the bad guys and lives to fight another day.  All very well and good.  However,  here's a different spin on the theme.  Why not celebrate the heroes in our neighborhood who fight the good fight every day?  Yup,  talking about the firefighters who step up to help get a cat out of a tree or go into a burning building to put out a fire and save lives.

There are three wonderful titles for children that stick with theme of heroes and saving the day that can liven up a story time.  (As a personal note,  never begin a story time about firefighter without the proper firefighters hat. It just adds more flare and fun to the event! )   

The first title to take a look at  is  Firefighters to the Rescue by Kersten Hamilton.  This title is such fun to read because of it's invitation to audience to get into the story.  Children will quickly learn when to chime in "Firefighters to the rescue" during the story.   The illustration are vivid and bright to   catch and keep children's attention.   If this book is not a hit with the crowd, it just may be that the crowd is filled with boring three and four years olds.   

If the first title is not available or you have children begging for more exciting firefighter stories,  Patricia Hubbell's Firefighters: Speeding! Spraying! Saving!  is an excellent choice.  As the title suggests, this book is filled with action words that paint a clear picture of what firefighters do everyday.   Add to this Viviana Garofoli’s digital art that add to the simple, rhyming text that preschoolers take great delight in.

It goes without saying that Mark Teague's Firehouse! had to make the list.  Teague's humorous tale begins with Edward and his cousin's Judy trip to the firehouse.  Everything is fine from the slid down the fireman's pole to riding on the firetruck.   After a little excitement, Edward learns how it feels to  save the day.  It's every child's dream to be a fireman and through the eyes of Edward, they get a small taste of what's it's like.  It is great fun for everyone. Even for the librarians sharing the story.

Of course this is not a complete and final list of books for Firefighter heroes.  It is a great beginning.
Enjoy the stories with the little ones.and don't forget your hat!

Firefighters' helmets hung at the station!