YALSA Institute 2015, Part One

YALSA Institute Notes

Last month, I attended the YALSA Institute in Portland, Oregon. It was amazing, and ideas buzzed around my head afterward. I am typing up my notes here to try to organize my thoughts about it. I thought it would be nice to start before I head to ALA Midwinter Meeting next week!

Opening Session, Friday night November 6.


The speaker for the YALSA Institute Opening Session was Aija Mayrock, author of The Survival Guide to Bullying. She told her story.

The bullying against her started when she was 8 years old and continued for five years. She moved to another state when she was 13 – and then the bullies found her online and cyberbullying started.

She performed a rap poem. I like this line:

Have you ever hid
what made you wonderful,
Just to appear a regular kid?

She decided to write a book when she was 16 and another kid committed suicide. First she self-published, and now the book is commercially published. There has been an international outpouring of support.

Bullying impacts 13 million American kids and more all over the world, including Russia and Japan.

Five Biggest Problems:
1) Kids don’t communicate.
2) Parents don’t know how to hndle this issue.
3) Teachers don’t know how to interfere in the classroom.
4) Bystanders are afraid to stand up.
5) In schools, bullying is not taken seriously.
Cyberbullying: She wants to empower kids to be superheroes online. You can change someone’s life by standing up for them. In her day, one person was kind to her and got her through.

Creativity helps kids get through anything and communicate. The library was that place for her in middle school.

A teacher later told her, “It’s never your fault when you’re bullied.”

Often the problem is that bystanders don’t feel empowered.

Coding Camp

The Saturday of YALSA Institute, the first session I went to was about Coding Camp, but trouble catching the train meant I was quite late. I think I was mainly there for questions at the end, so the things I heard may seem a bit random. Here’s what I did catch:

The sessions of their coding camp lasted an hour and a half to two hours each. You could do it in an hour, but it can often take 45 minutes to get going.

They used Scratch, which has interactive curriculum. Scratch has many resources, and is coming to tablets.

It helps kids be willing to share if they see all is a work in progress.

In doing programs like this, be willing to fail.

You can do different formats. Once a week, 2-day intensive, etc.

If the kids share laptops, they talk more.

Try to get kids into coding through a variety of interests.
Having interns helped!

One library has an event monthly where kids play each other’s games.

Publicity: Emphasize the interest, then the coding. You do need to know what your patrons are into.

Make presentations optional.

Bringing coding in shows how kids can take interests and do something awesome.

Introducing Middle School Students to the YA section

Presenters: Todd Krueger, Alicia Bowers, Carrie Ryan, Beth Saxon

Todd Krueger:

There’s a dearth of material on middle school switch to YA. For recreational reading, middle school students read more personally relevant books than assigned reading. They find most things more fun when done with others.

Always give middle school students a choice what to read. They love to talk about books. Give them a chance.

Girls are more likely to read recreationally. More educated parents mattered, but not social class, race, or grade. They get as little as 17 minutes per day to read in the classroom.

Don’t use the term “reluctant reader.” Use “occasional reader” instead.

Carrie Ryan’s transition book was by Jude Devereaux. She’s written both YA and middle grade. The heart of the difference is not age or length.
The violence level is different – off screen in middle grade.

Sex is still mostly off-page in YA, but there’s plenty of angst on the page. “All angst all the time.” – the angst of figuring out who you are in the context of romantic relationships. Love triangles are about knowing who they are.

You won’t put anything past a kid reader. If they don’t know a word, that’s what a dictionary is for. In middle grade, there’s a little more telling with the showing and more signposts.

There’s still romance in middle grade, but it’s about friends and family.

In middle grade, you’re figuring out who you are in the context of someone else’s rules. In YA, you realize you make your own rules.

In YA you’re looking forward to the life you’re going to lead. It’s about the firsts.

YA readers don’t realize it’s going to be okay. “That’s not allowed; this can’t happen; I don’t know what to do.”

It’s about what the reader needs: In middle grade, they need to know it’s okay to leave some things behind (like Doll Bones, by Holly Black). In YA, they need to know they can transition forward. The characters are captains of their own ship.

In middle grade: Have a safety net. What reassurances does the reader need right now? Sometimes the safety net is the book itself.

Don’t withhold books. Say, “If you have questions, come and talk to me.” It will be okay.

Alicia Bowers:

She’s a book pusher. She helps transition readers to middle school reading.

Have a safe space, comfortable seating, quick picks, puzzles and games. Lure them into reading.

Kids always link on videos for book trailers (on her library web page).

Assigned reading, she uses Book Bingo: Choose the 5-in-a-row that works best for you. No page count minimum! No written assignment! Put down books you don’t like.

She does author visits and field trips on the weekends.

Choice is the main factor in the summer reading list.

There are always booktalks when she’s around.

Summer: Harry Potter Camp and Hunger Games Camp (see Librariyan.blogspot.com) Their favorite thing in Harry Potter Camp was dueling.

Set traps to lure your children into reading!

Beth Saxon:

Program for circulation. All programs should promote some of your collection.

Make the solitary reading experience a social reading experience.

All programs should promote some of your collection.

Goal: An inclusive community of readers.

Go outside your own comfort zone.

Give the message: I see you; I hear you; you are welcome here.

Middle schoolers are always trying to find out how they fit in.

She gave lots of program ideas:

Book Tasting or Book Speed Dating: Give them 3 minutes to read the cover, etc. Give them paper and pencil to note down titles. Pass the book to the right after 3 minutes.

Book Club formats: Traditional read & discuss, BYOB, “Limited Run” – 3 months in a row, that’s it, Quarterly, Genre (Specific or Rotating), Guest speaker (Math teacher with An Abundance of Katherines, detective with a mystery, etc.).

Booktalking: 30 books in 30 minutes (Flash booktalks). Have kids time you on their phones.

Throwback Thursday: Highlight some great backlist titles.

Multimedia: Fandom (collage, fanart), photo sets (Tumblr), music play lists, book trailers

Character Chats: Role-playing program. Come as a character. Ask loaded questions. (This works great for an anime club.)

Programs for Specific Titles and Series: Validate fandom. Encourage curiosity. Really talk with teens about what they’re into. Cosplay? Fan art?

Technology Programs: The Catalog for Fiction Readers (show how to place a hold), e-Content Tutorials, Follow-a-thon (author twitter accounts and Instagram feeds).

Passive Programs: Awesome Box — If you think it’s awesome, return it here; Six Word Book Review Challenge — Every submission is an entry; Nutritional Label for a Book (Example: Total Sex: 100g; Actual Sex: 5g; Desired Sex: 95g; Unfairness: 75g; Love: 250g)


That was only the first evening and morning of the Institute! More notes to come…

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