Archive for the ‘Library Links’ Category

Super Pi Day at City of Fairfax Regional Library

Saturday, March 14th, 2015

Today was Super Pi Day! 3.14.15, celebrated especially between 9:26:53 am and 9:26:53 pm.
(My son says it should be called Slightly-More-Accurate-Approximation-of-Pi Day, but I’m going with Super Pi Day.)

PiDay1

I got my geek on, with my Floating Point Pi Earrings from ThinkGeek, my Pi t-shirt from the Mathematikum in Giessen, Germany, Apple Pi socks, and of course my Prime Factorization Cardigan. I also brought in a Chocolate Angel Pi Pie.

My favorite comment was when I was explaining all this to one of the Library Friends. She said, “It’s good to see someone who loves what they do.” My translation: “You really are a Math Geek.” Yes, I am. Yes, I am.

Since a Children’s Used Book Sale was going on all day, we couldn’t use the meeting room, and decided to run an all-day Pi Day Scavenger Hunt.

Scavenger Sign

Participants only needed to answer 8 of the 10 questions, and we hoped they’d be pulled into the library to answer them. They were to write the answer on the pie piece, and get a prize when all the pieces were filled in. These were the questions:

1. For any circle, pi equals the circumference of the circle divided by what?
2. Albert Einstein was born on March 14th. What famous equation did he write?
3. Some people think we should celebrate Super Pi Day next year. Why is that?
4. What library number would you look under for books about pi?
5. What library number would you look under for books about pie?
6. List another irrational number.
7. What U.S. city has the zip code 31415?
8. Find a book in the library with “circle” in the title. List the title.
9. What letter comes after pi in the Greek alphabet?
10. Someone in the library is wearing a prime factorization sweater. What is her name? (Hint: You can google it.)

The prize was a wristband from thepidayofourlives.homestead.com celebrating Pi Day, along with some circular candies.

We ordered 57 wristbands. A hat came along with it, and none of my coworkers wanted to wear it, so I added it to my Pi gear:

PiDay2

Response was wonderful! By the end of the day, we’d given out 56 wristbands! I loved watching the kids working to figure out the answers. And I’ve never gotten the chance to talk to so many people about my prime factorization sweater all on the same day!

I admit this family, with Super Pi, Pi a la mode, and a Pi-rate, were my favorites:

Customers

But overall, it was simply a huge success!

I was going to fill in the answers, but instead, why don’t you add them in the comments if you know the answers? 🙂

Happy Happy Slightly-Better-Approximation-of-Pi Day!

Book Spine Poetry at City of Fairfax Regional Library

Friday, December 13th, 2013

This month, the person who had reserved the display case had to cancel, so my co-worker Lynne Imre used an idea that Suzanne Levy had suggested from seeing Travis Jonker’s 100 Scope Notes blog: Book Spine Poetry!

Lynne started off the display case with this poem about poetry (with the beginning borrowed from one on Travis’s blog):

How to Write Poetry
Brainstorm!
Where Yesterday Lives
Where Dreams Begin
Where the Heart Leads
Where Wonders Prevail
Poetry Matters

Here’s my contribution, with the last line suggested by my co-worker, Karen Jakl:

Oh, Look!
Snow Day!
Let’s Go Nuts!
You Can Do Anything, Daddy!
Red Sled
All Aboard!
Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!

Here’s another poem I wrote, feeling a little cynical — but it ends happy!

The Liar in Your Life
Lies! Lies!! LIES!!!
Deep Deception 2
Pack of Lies
“I Love You But I Don’t Trust You”
You Don’t Have to Take It Anymore
Breaking Free
Free from Lies
It’s My Life Now

And one more by me:

Why I Wake Early
The Rooster Crows
The Dogs Bark
Baby Says “Moo!”

Now come more by Lynne Imre. I especially like this next one:

Cinderella
Four Past Midnight
Runaway
Sweet Dreams
If the Shoe Fits
Now We Can Have a Wedding!

Where the Wild Things Are
Beside a Burning Sea
Under the Volcano
Beneath Blue Waters
Around the Next Corner
Right Here with You
RUN

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
Outside Your Window
Waiting for Wings
A Home for Bird

Have You Seen Bugs?
What’s That Bug?
Insects
The Beatles
Hooray for Fly Guy!
Spider-Man The Venom Factor
Spider Web
I Love Bugs!

What’s the Big Idea, Molly?
Think Big
Big Plans
The Big Game
The Big Leap
The Big Bang
The Big Kerplop!

And here’s one by Lisa Treichler. It’s a conversation, so I’ll use italics for the second speaker.

Kitty Cat, Kitty Cat, Are You Going to Sleep?
When the Library Lights Go Out
Absolutely Not
I Don’t Want to Go to Bed!
There’s a Monster Under my Bed

Monsters Are Afraid of the Moon
When the Moon Is Full
Take Another Look
I See the Moon
Go Away, Big Green Monster!
“I’m Not Scared!”
I Am So Strong.

Another co-worker, Carla Pruefer, made one, but I didn’t get a picture. Here are the words:

Board Stiff
A Dying Fall
Look Around
Dead Lawyers Tell No Tales

These are such fun once you get started! We are hoping some library patrons will catch the bug and write some more poems for us to display. Come to City of Fairfax Regional Library and write your own!

Fun with Math for Parents and Preschoolers

Friday, September 20th, 2013

This last Saturday I got to do an Every Child Ready to Read Workshop (sponsored by the Association for Library Service to Children and the Public Library Association), but I confess I made some changes.

The workshop, as prepared, was “Fun with Science and Math for Parents and Preschoolers.” The workshop I did? Well, I confess I left out the science and added lots of math activities.

Some friends on my Facebook page asked for details, and I thought it might be helpful for other librarians to know the adjustments I made. So I’ll just give the basic outline of the program. Imagine nice slides that came with the Every Child Ready to Read workshop.

As they came in, I gave every parent-child group a piece of paper and a box of crayons. I told them to write their child’s name in large letters so everyone could see. Some parents did this and some had their children do it. I let them keep the crayons and paper just in case the kids got restless during the talking-to-the-parents part.

We began with the welcome song, where we sing to each child. For example, if I were the child, it goes like this: “Sondy’s here today. Sondy’s here today. Everybody clap their hands. Sondy’s here today.” And we go all around the room. (I use this particular welcome song in all my programs because kids respond so well to their name. In this one, the addition of a writing activity with their parents and holding up the sign is perfect.)

What follows is a bit of an intro about Every Child Ready to Read. To warm up the audience, I mix it up by reading a book, and this time I chose Let’s Count Goats, with words by Mem Fox, and goats by Jan Thomas.

But the meat of ECRR2 is the five easy practices. These five easy practices, done often with your child, will help your child get ready to learn to read when they start school. What’s more, they’re fun. What’s more, they are also practices that will help your child learn math concepts. The beauty of them is that they use teachable moments and can be tailored to fit your child’s level.

The five easy practices are Talking, Singing, Reading, Writing, and Playing.

I have a lot of material on Talking about math as you go through your day.

Here are some examples of some questions you can talk about during the day:

How many toys are on the floor? (A great way to suggest cleaning up: see who can guess how many toys are on the floor.)

How many cars are going by? When riding in the car you can extend this by counting cars you pass and subtracting cars that pass you.

Look! Can you find a “3”? (Play “I spy” with numbers.)

How many spoons do we need? (Setting the table is a math activity.)

Can you find a matching sock? (So is sorting laundry.)

I spy something shaped like a circle! (Identifying shapes is a math activity as well as a predecessor to learning the alphabet.)

How many jelly beans do you want?

After that question, I talk about how when my boys were little, before they had much of a numerical concept, I’d ask them how many candies they wanted. They learn quickly that way! This is a great lead in to reading the book How Many Jelly Beans? By Andrea Menotti and Yancey Labat.

Also under Talking about math, I mention that counting, measuring, sorting, and comparing are all math activities. I pass out a handful of foam shapes to each family and tell them to decide how to sort them. They usually choose by either color or shape. They help the child sort them. Then they should count how many shapes in each group and write down the numbers. The families did great with this.

On the third slide for Talking, I have a link to www.bedtimemath.org, and this time I was able to bring their new book for checkout! We read an example problem from the website. I talked about how I did this with my own younger son. The magic words that my son learned could extend bedtime forever were “Just one more math problem, Mommy, please!” I could not resist that plea!

And bedtime, which is indeed a lovely time for reading to your child, is also a cozy time for talking with your child. The problems on bedtimemath.org and in their book are nice problems you can talk about a little bit and work out an answer together. They come at three different levels, so you don’t have to stop when your child is small.

The next of the five easy practices is Singing.

Singing slows down language, so it helps kids learn the sounds in words. It also helps them learn numbers by putting them to music. At this point, we sing “Ten Little Beasties” (same tune as Ten Little Indians), first clapping with each number, and then trying to hold up the number of fingers as we sing. Then we do “Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed” with motions.

The centerpiece of the five easy practices, the most obvious one, is Reading.

Of course reading to your child will help them get ready to read! But did you know it will also help them get ready for math? I bring a cart full of books with mathematical concepts to the program. And at this point I read one of them. I like to use Quack and Count, by Keith Baker, because it also introduces the concept of addition, and it’s a fun story. The group this week spontaneously added a “Quack, Quack!” at the end of every page.

The fourth of the five easy practices is writing.

Here I talk about all the reasons to write numbers in life. Any time you write a list, you’re modeling this. Even if you don’t use numbers, if you write your grocery list in groups, that’s still a mathematical skill of sorting.
For a little activity here, I ask the parents to help the children count how many letters are in their name and write down the number on the paper next to their name.

The fifth of the five easy practices is playing.

For reading, dramatic play is so good. For math, I use this opportunity to put in a plug for board games. Candyland’s a great start, and you can’t beat Monopoly Jr for beginning addition and counting.

But playing is also at a much less formal level. Any measuring, counting, sorting, and comparing can be playing. At this point, we have all the families get in line in order of the number of letters in the children’s names from the front of the room to the back. This time, we went from BJ to Alexandra.

For another playing activity, we did a Venn diagram. I brought in a bucket of cars and trucks. I put two yarn circles on the floor. One circle was for red things. One circle was for cars. I put them on the ground so they overlapped. We figured out together where the different objects went. (“Is it red? Is it a car?”) I definitely should have used red yarn for the “red things” circle. But the kids had fun with it, anyway.

On another “Playing” slide, when it works, I show this clip from the Fred Rogers center.

This time, for some reason the link wouldn’t work. But it shows a family making beaded bracelets and necklaces using repeating patterns. Then we get the same idea reading the book Pattern Fish, by Trudy Harris.

Finally, we summarize the five easy practices. For a closing take-home activity, I pass out foam rectangles and half-sheets of paper. They can staple the paper inside the foam to make a counting book. They are welcome to decorate the outside with patterns using the foam sticky shapes. (We probably don’t have to have a craft at the end, since the program does go long, but I had the materials, and it’s a nice take-home reminder….)

So there you have it! Some simple ways to incorporate Talking, Singing, Reading, Writing, and Playing… about Math!

I’ve done this program twice, and we’ve had a lot of fun both times. The parents get lots of ideas, and we all have fun together. It does run long, a whole hour, but the kids stay engaged, so I must be doing something right.

Any ideas and tips you have from using the Every Child Ready to Read Workshops? Or just ideas for Talking, Singing, Reading, Writing, and Playing about Math with Preschoolers?

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Librarians Help! – Library Snapshot Day

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

Yesterday was Library Snapshot Day in Virginia. Later, when they’ve compiled the data, they’ll post statistics like how many people were served. Last year, for example, 412,969 items were checked out from Virginia libraries in just one day.

We had a busy day, since of course it was tax day. On top of that, the kids in the public schools were off for the day for a teacher work day. We had a Puppet Workshop that was well-attended. Kids got to use art supplies to make puppets and then try out our puppet theater.

My co-worker Jackie Butler was the one who cleverly took these lovely pictures that didn’t show anyone’s face. Those who think libraries are dying or aren’t necessary to the community need to take a look at a typical day!

Yesterday, I also learned that ALA’s “The State of America’s Libraries 2013” has been published and is available on the internet. Click through! It’s fascinating! Again, libraries are alive and well and thriving. And librarians are still a valuable part of libraries. 53% of the Americans surveyed in this research project used a library in the last year, and 50% of those asked a librarian for help. I told you! Librarians Help!

And finally, I read a wonderful post by author Jo Knowles about why libraries are important. Who has a personal stake in the survival of libraries? We all do.

Librarians Help!

Librarians Help! Excellence, Education, and Innovation

Thursday, August 9th, 2012

The Carnegie Corporation has a wonderful article on their site, “Today’s Public Libraries: Public Places of Excellence, Education, and Innovation.” This picture was taken at one of the libraries in my own system.

Here are some sections I particularly like:

The second reason libraries persist is the notion of improvement, something that has been an article of faith among librarians and their civic backers for as long as there have been libraries in this country. We Americans were early proponents of universal education and individual initiative, and we long ago recognized the importance of giving people a chance to make their lives better by gaining knowledge and cultivating their minds—in other words, improving themselves both materially and intellectually. It’s an idea redolent of Ben Franklin and Samuel Smiles, Horatio Alger and even Dale Carnegie.

Visiting the Flushing library helped me realize that libraries persist because the marketplace, with all its many splendors, provides no good alternative to these comforting institutions where you can sit and think without a penny in your pocket. Libraries also persist because the idea of improvement persists—and because libraries continue to meet the needs of their patrons, perhaps even better than they have in the past. Library layouts have been evolving in recent years to accommodate different groups of patrons—just as they did years ago, to accommodate children. Librarians also have more training nowadays, not just in using computers but in communicating with patrons. And they are using the tools of the digital revolution—the very ones that were supposed to make librarians obsolete—to do a better job for the public, for example by promoting community discussions online, offering help on the Web and using Twitter to keep patrons informed.

In New York City, in Chicago, in Los Angeles and so many other places that are magnets for immigrants, libraries provide reading material in a host of tongues, not to mention instruction in the English language and workshops on how to become a citizen. They still provide books, of course, but they also provide Internet access for those who lack a connection, a computer or even a home. In smaller communities, they remain cherished civic and cultural spaces, anchoring sometimes tattered main streets and serving as a destination for children after school and the elderly after a lifetime of work. This idea of improvement—of helping people to make their lives better through knowledge, just as Andrew Carnegie sought to do through his vast international library-building program—is what ties together all the things libraries do today.

Yet even with the Internet at their fingertips, Americans still need—and want—their public libraries, even if only as a place to access the Internet. Most of us, though, want and expect much more from our libraries, and that’s reflected in every measure of public attitudes toward them. Consider that homes near libraries sell for higher prices. Two-thirds of American adults say they visit a library at least once annually. Last year voters approved a remarkable 87 percent of library operating ballot measures, suggesting that taxpayers overwhelmingly believe they are getting their money’s worth from these venerable and much-loved institutions.

Instead, librarians can focus on their unique capabilities as repositories, organizers and guides to knowledge. They can provide a focal point for their communities, as well as a necessary refuge. And they can carry forward the faith in improvement that has sustained them all along. By upholding their great tradition of public service, libraries will continue to win public support—and, it is hoped, public dollars. It’s a great bargain for society, and one likely to keep libraries in business long into the digital future.

The whole article is excellent, talking about the same thing I’m trying to emphasize here — how many different ways libraries and librarians help their communities.

And it’s been awhile since I posted about the things I’ve gotten to do myself.

A big summer theme is parents or grandparents coming in, looking for books to tempt their children, with the children along. That’s one of my favorite questions, and I usually offer them several choices. I love when a child’s eyes light up with interest. One little boy said, “That looks interesting!” when I showed him the book The Polar Bear Scientist. I found him some fiction and nonfiction that he found appealing.

I always like to stress to kids that they are allowed to stop reading if they don’t like it. I try to give them several possibilities, in hopes that something will spark their interest. That won’t work if they feel obligated to read my suggestions all the way to the end. Summer reading should be non-required reading, and a big huge part of summer fun.

I’m a lot more frustrated with parents who come in with lists or who only want books from a list. In the first place, parents in the same area use the same lists, and they tend to be checked out. (Put them on hold from home if you just want those particular books!) But when the parents are willing to talk to me and get similar suggestions, when they have a little flexibility, and especially when they bring their kids, then we can find some wonderful choices.

A fun thing happened one day at the end of July. Three different kids on the same day asked where the books by Roald Dahl were, but none of them knew his name. Instead, one asked for books by the author who wrote The BFG, the next one asked for books by the author of Matilda, and the third one asked, “You know James and the Giant Peach? Are there more books by that author?”

Also this month, one of my co-workers put on a “Book Bingo” program that was a big hit. They play bingo with a modified card (using book titles), and the prizes are — books. We use gently used donations that the system doesn’t need. Some are wrapped, and there are opportunities to exchange for a title a child wants. What I love about it is how enthusiastic the kids were and how excited about their winnings. It’s a super simple program, but what a great way to get kids excited about reading.

But my favorite question of the last month or so was the guy who walked nervously up to the information desk and asked, “Where’s the nearest exit?” Now, mind you, we have one main entrance and exit to the library, and it’s quite obvious from the information desk. He got me wondering if there was a specific reason he wanted the nearest exit, and I evaluated whether the nearest emergency exit was nearer than the main entrance. I decided it wasn’t and pointed him to the big doors through which he must have entered the library in the first place.

Did he know something I didn’t know? I have to admit, I was relieved when no alarm went off in the next five minutes.

Spread the word — Librarians Help!

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are entirely my own and do not in any way reflect those of my employer.

Librarians Help! Conference Edition

Thursday, July 12th, 2012

It’s been more than a month since my last Librarians Help! post. During that time, I went to ALA Annual Conference. What did I learn there? More ways to help, of course!

Librarians:

— Help parents build early literacy skills in their little ones.
— Help older kids learn to read.
— Help show kids the fun side of reading.
— Provide a place to come in from the heat.
— Provide conversation about technology and privacy and ethical use of technology.
— Provide exposure to technology.
— Show how to use technology to promote learning.
— Help people trace genealogy.
— Help people find their next book to read.
— And, of course, promote great books by giving prestigious awards.

I’ve got notes from some of the people I helped before I went to California for the conference (and vacation with family and friends), so I’ll post a few of those.

— Lots and lots of requests for specific books or specific topics
— Got out some old photos of a local high school from the rare book room.
— Ordered microfilm from the Library of Virginia.
— Figured out the title of a book from a fragment on one copied page.
— Answered the question: What were the top three companies (by any criteria) in 1939?
— Helped someone copy a pdf file on the public computers.
— Helped someone load library books onto their Nook.
— Helped a customer format her resume.
— Answered question about salaries of congressional staff.
— Provided a definition of “cognitive dissonance” over the phone.

And here’s a link to an excellent article on Kentucky Teacher about the value of School Librarians: “Why You Need Your School Librarian.”

Have I convinced you yet? Librarians Help!

Librarians Help! – Book! Book! Book!

Sunday, May 27th, 2012

It’s been a couple weeks since I did my last Librarians Help! feature. I chose the title because of my very favorite incident in the library this week.

A mother was walking into the library with her toddler son in tow. Now, from a toddler’s eye level, there’s not a whole lot going on at the entrance to the library. The shelves aren’t facing out, and mostly what he’d see are desks. But we do have two book displays just before you get to the information desk, and one of those I had just stocked with children’s nonfiction, trying to put the simplest books on the lowest level.

I didn’t notice the mother until she passed the children’s books display on her way to the nonfiction. I heard, “Book! Book! Book!” Mom had already passed them on her way to the nonfiction, but the son was holding back, pointing happily at the books on the display. I knew there was a family that used the library often and a little boy who already knew that books are objects of delight.

I don’t have a picture of that incident, but thought this was a good excuse to insert a picture of my Dad reading to my son, many years ago. What’s better than helping make books objects of delight?

In these last two weeks, I got to help people in lots of ways:

— Made English tutoring appointments
— Booked meeting rooms
— Helped a little boy visiting the Virginia Room with his Grandma find his home on a map
— Showed a man the website telling about the Sherwood collection so he could match the items in the display case up with his memories
— Put creative books about Math on display
— Helped people with e-books

And I helped people find lots and lots of books:

— Books on Liberal Arts Math
— Easy readers for a preschooler
— Fairy tales
— Science books for a 1st grader
The Pioneer Woman Cooks
— Books about Kookaburras
— Books about Venice
Brunetti’s Cookbook
Tunnels
— Books about Chinese dragons
Into the Wild
The Anglo-Saxons
— Specific issues of Science Magazine
Magic Tree House books
— Books about the history of oil usage
— Books and resources for a retiree wanting to become a government contractor
— Video and books about Vermeer
A Little Princess
— Books on starting in real estate
— Books on Windows 7
— Books on basic math
— Books on fractions for a Kindergarten class

Here are a couple books on fractions I pointed out to that Kindergarten teacher that she didn’t already know about:

The Doorbell Rang, by Pat Hutchins (not specifically about fractions, but a good tie-in)
Piece = Part = Portion, by Scott Gifford

I really wish I had found Eating Fractions, by Bruce McMillan.

She did have a list of several books, we found several on the shelf, and I showed her those ones I knew about. Those kids are in for a treat!

One more thing I want to do with this Librarians Help! series is provide a link about other librarians helping.

This link provides statistics from Snapshot Virginia Day, when we counted the basic ways the Fairfax County Library helped people.

For example, more than 16,000 people visited our branches that day. Librarians answered more than 1,700 reference questions. We offered 13 programs or classes that day that were attended by 385 people. What’s more, that was a Saturday, when our hours aren’t as long as other days and our staffing is not as good.

Spread the word: Librarians Help!

Didn’t I Say That Would Happen?

Friday, October 7th, 2011

Last week, I posted about the Digital Divide and how I think that will affect students in Fairfax County. This week, The Washington Post ran an article reporting that very thing is already happening.

Here are some pertinent paragraphs:

But questions remain about whether the least-privileged children will have equal access to required texts. Many don’t have computers at home, or reliable Internet service, and the school system is not giving a laptop or e-reader to every student.

A survey of the schools that piloted online books last year, including Glasgow, indicated that 8 percent of middle school students and 12 percent of high school students do not have a computer at home.

On a recent day at the Woodrow Wilson Library in Falls Church, she signed up for a terminal and dived into her homework — several pages of questions about the Reconstruction period after the Civil War that required visiting a particular Web site. She finished more than half of the questions before the library closed at 6 p.m.

The article links to an earlier article that expressed how difficult it was — even before textbooks were online — to get enough computer access to do homework. It frustrates me that this is the same county that drastically reduced library hours. I have no doubt that a large proportion of middle school and high school students who don’t have a computer at home also may not have a parent at home until after 6:00 — when their local library hours have been cut.

That seems to me an awful large number of students (ten percent of such a huge county is a big number) to make jump through extra hoops just to get their homework done. The article mentioned that some schools are trying to accommodate those without a computer:

At Glasgow, which is in the Alexandria portion of Fairfax County and where about 62?percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, Principal Deirdre Lavery has extended after-school computer lab hours and developed a way for students to check out laptops overnight. Other schools are making similar adjustments.

Now, for me, I’m relieved that even though he has his own computer, my son is a Senior. And AP Social Studies textbooks are not yet online. Aside from all the other issues, I don’t really want him reading from a computer screen that much more in a day. He already wears glasses.

Two thoughts spring to mind, for the whole county and the future, though:

1. It seems to me that Fairfax County decision makers need to think much harder about the kids who aren’t getting a fair shake out of this situation. You’ve just made their lives that much more difficult.

2. Please acknowledge that now the libraries in the county are more important than ever. The library hours and funding should be restored, because now more children than ever before need the library just to do their homework.

The Digital Divide, Fairfax County, and E-textbooks

Friday, September 30th, 2011

I came across this outstanding article about the Digital Divide the other day. I forget who posted it first on Twitter, but thank you very much! Seanan McGuire is the blog author.

I was going to copy out paragraphs to discuss here, but the entire post is so good, I would end up copying the whole thing. Here’s a crucial sentence: “Every time a discussion of ebooks turns, seemingly inevitably, to ‘Print is dead, traditional publishing is dead, all smart authors should be bailing to the brave new electronic frontier,’ what I hear, however unintentionally, is ‘Poor people don’t deserve to read.'”

Strongly put, you say? The writer definitely backs up her point and tells us why personal experience causes her to react this way.

So I was upset when I heard one of my co-workers say that, here in Fairfax County, at her daughter’s Back-to-School Night, she was told that all social studies books are now online, and they are moving to all textbooks online, “because it’s the wave of the future.”

Now, this is the same county that has drastically cut library hours. I know for certain that lots of kids get their only Internet access at the library, and that their local branch is not open every night after school. Now they can’t even read their textbooks without a computer?

I also very much hope that the people making the decisions about this have grappled with the things Seanan McGuire mentions:

“Some people have proposed a free reader program aimed at low-income families, to try to get the technology out there. Unfortunately, this doesn’t account for the secondary costs. Can you guarantee reliable internet? Can you find a way to let people afford what will always be, essentially, brand new books, rather that second- or even third-hand books, reduced in price after being worn to the point of nearly falling apart? And can you find a way to completely destroy—I mean, destroy—the resale market for those devices?

“Do I sound pessimistic? That’s because I am. When I was a kid with nothing, any nice thing I had the audacity to have would be quickly stolen, either by people just as poor as I was, or by richer kids who wanted me to know that I wasn’t allowed to put on airs like that. If my books had been virtual, then those people would have been stealing my entire world. They would have been stealing my exit. And I don’t think I would have survived.”

My co-worker’s reaction to the school’s announcement was that this will make the gap wider between the Haves and the Have-Nots. And she hadn’t even read this article! I hope the leaders of Fairfax County will think hard about the Digital Divide when they contemplate “the wave of the future” and keep from turning it into a tsunami for the many, many people in this county living in poverty.

Let me close off the same way Seanan McGuire did:

“Libraries are losing funding by the day. Schools are having their budgets slashed. Poor kids are getting poorer, and if we don’t make those books available to them now, they won’t know to want them tomorrow.

“We cannot forget the digital divide. And we can’t—we just can’t—be so excited over something new and shiny that we walk away and knowingly leave people on the other side.

“We can’t.”

Preach it, Sister!

YA Saves, Revisited

Thursday, June 9th, 2011

On Saturday night, I posted about the frightful (in more ways than one) Wall Street Journal article that was creating a stir by saying Young Adult books have gotten horribly dark and subversive. The response on Twitter was beautiful with people tweeting about how dark and light YA books have enhanced and even saved their lives, using the hashtag #YAsaves.

Since then, there have been many, many insightful articles on the topic. Two that I especially enjoyed, yes, put in a plug for libraries — where it will never be a problem to find a book for a reader, no matter how picky they are. That’s what we do. That’s what we’re good at. (Today, in fact, I had fun finding a book for an eight-year-old who didn’t like any of her grandmother’s suggestions and introduced herself by saying, “I DON’T want a princess book!”)

First, I loved Cecil Castellucci’s article on the Los Angeles Review of Books blog, “Better to Light a Candle Than to Curse the Darkness.” One thing I loved about this blog post was that it gave me a new motto: “Putting the right book in the right kid’s hands is kind of like giving that kid superpowers.” Yes!

Today I read a parody of the original article, written by Sarah Ockler on her blog. The blog post is called, “All This Darkness! What to Buy the Grownup Reader? (A Parody)” This parody was completely successful with me once I read this paragraph right at the start:

I recently stood slack-jawed in the adult fiction section of my local big box book store, having decided that supporting my community while getting personalized recommendations by professionals who generally adore books and make it their business to know exactly what sorts of things a reader will love was just not on my to-do list this year, feeling stupefied and helpless.

I love it!

Of course, it’s a little ironic that even as I’m defending dark books, I stopped listening to an adult book on CD because it was too dark for me. But I simply wasn’t in the mood for it today. And the difference is that I understand that the particular book I stopped listening to is considered great literature by many, and is a popular book club choice. I’m fine with that. I tend to like lighter books, but that’s exactly how I knew that the mother in the Wall Street Journal article would have been able to find all kinds of great, current, light, uplifting, well-written books for teens if she had only gone to a library and consulted with a professional.