ALA Midwinter Meeting, Day Two

Laurie Halse Anderson

Today was my first full day at ALA Midwinter Meeting 2016 in Boston.

The day began with a meeting called “Leadership in ALSC.” I went to this because I’m chair of the Grants Administration Committee this year. I get to meet people who are active in ALSC — the other committee chairs, priority group consultants, and the ALSC Board. These are people who care about children and libraries — a wonderful group indeed!

Today we talked a lot about the recently revised Competencies for Librarians Serving Children in Public Libraries. It’s a wonderfully comprehensive document — I plan to take a good look at it and show it to my co-workers (those who work with children and those who don’t).

Then I went to the exhibit hall. I caught the end of a talk on “Fantasy in Middle Grade” and got signed books from S. E. Grove, James Riley, and Monica Tesler. Then I grabbed more books — and went to the post office and mailed them home. (They will probably beat me home.)

After lunch was a session sponsored by ALSC on Curiosity and Creating. Here are my notes:

Curiosity Creates: Research and Best Practices

Curiosity sparks learning!
We are wired for curiosity.

Our Mission: To ignite and advance creative thinking for all children.
Presenter works at the Bay Area Discovery Museum in Sausalito, CA.
Have we gone too far scheduling kids’ time? Do schools squelch curiosity?
Center for Childhood Creativity launched
Creativity = Workforce Readiness
What we need children to learn is totally different than what they used to need.
We no longer primarily need people who follow directions.
Agricultural Age > Industrial Age > Information Age >>> Conceptual Age

What you do with what you know is more important than what you happen to be holding in your brain.
We need disruptive thinkers, inventive kids, creative kids.
65% of kids today will be in jobs that don’t yet exist.
What are we doing to prepare kids for their adult lives?
We know it will be important to be lifelong learners.

How to build a generation of innovative creators?
They have built an interdisciplinary team — neuroscientists, psychologists, economists, etc.

Today’s focus: Research & Resources.
“Resources for Promoting Childhood Creativity through Libraries”
Had 150 activities — good examples of something you can do and then screened for libraries.
Top 10 librarian selected activities. Photocopyable handouts.
Download at
Go there and download research for free!
Also you can Join Their List!
Have coming out in the next 2 months two useful resources: Searchable collection of activities and Spanish translation of paper.

Considerations for programming in libraries: Space & volume constraints
Staffing constraints
Budgetary constraints
Unpredictable attendance
Activities should not feel like school.
Need flexible, inclusive activities.

Three Main Ideas:
Emphasize the learning process over the end product.
Shift language to open-ended prompts.
Choose activities for their playfulness and tinkerability.
Does that activity allow the child to choose what to do?
We’re looking for intrinsic motivation.

What is Creativity?
Heritability of creativity: Estimated to be 20-50% inheritability — less connected to genes and more to environment. Impact of the environment is tremendous.

Key Research Questions
1. What skills contribute to children’s creativity?
2. What types of learning environments foster creativity in children?
One of their kids invented a less expensive Braille printer with Lego Mindstorms.

7 Critical Components of Creativity. (155 studies cited from a variety of fields.)
42 specific recommendations.
14 exercises.

We’re wired for curiosity, which is why learning feels so good.
What we know about the brain changes every 6 months! About children, only since the 1990s do we have studies about their brain.
Much more brain engagement with open-ended questions.
Playing is an excellent way to learn.
We’re probably stopping children from playing too early.

Recent studies: Being curious before you have information significantly increases the likelihood you’ll retain that information. Curiosity relief effect.
When you’re curious, there’s arousal in your brain.
Because there’s a link between emotion and memory, satisfied curiosity helps you learn.

We also need to sleep! In your deepest sleep, your brain has the time to encode working memory into long-term memory.

Activity: Ice Exploration. Freeze interesting objects in ice. Have kids decide how to get the objects. (Provide salt, brushes, hot water…)

7 Components:
1) Imagination and Originality
2) Flexibility
A lot of innovations are recombining things.
We see it emerge in children related to language acquisition.
3) Decision Making
4) Communication and Self-Expression
5) Motivation
6) Collaboration
7) Action & Movement

On Imagination & Originality:
Childhood pretend play predicts later creativity.
Synthesizing ideas is a skill that predicts creativity.

Activity: Animal Remix — Imagine about it. (Front of one animal and back of another, then tell about it.)

Powerful Phrases: I wonder… (Showcasing your own curiosity about the world.)
I notice… (Sharing your interest and that you’re observing what they did. Not making a judgment.)
Tell me more… (Be sure to pause and listen after you say this.) (Try this!)
This gives kids the space and permission to elaborate on their ideas and go farther.

Activity: Finish the Drawing
It’s easier to measure convergent thinking than divergent thinking, so we don’t teach as much of that. Be sure in museums and libraries we give them time to play around with divergent thinking.

Key Concept: Design Thinking
Empathize Define Ideate Prototype Test Iterate
Adults listening to kids’ ideas is tremendously important.

Activity: Absolutely Very Worst Possible Idea Ever

Motivators: Intrinsic vs Extrinsic
Cultivate growth mindsets — Read book “Mindset.”
Use the word YET. “I can’t do that yet.”

Collaborative Activity: Build a cardboard maze collaboratively.
One word stories (each person adds one word).

Action & Movement — Physical activity is associated with better focus and ability to learn.
Read paper for even more! Go to their website
@C4Creativity on Twitter!

After this presentation, we saw what people were doing with Curiosity Creates Grants.
There was a new children’s area with a sensory table.
Another library did a Star Wars Reads Day with Creative Exploration (including a martial arts academy teaching light saber training! At another station, kids made their light sabers from wrapping paper rolls.) There was a BB-8 Maze.
Another library made “Toolkits for Emerging Artists and Innovators” — Robotics, fiber arts, engineering and paper crafts, with a different kit available for check-out each month and a launch party each month.
Finally, a library made an Open Art Studio called The Creative Edge. A tech-free zone with clay, paint, collage, oil pastels, and toddler crayons. They nurture creative confidence.
They told about a new Herve Tullet book: Art Workshops for Children


After that session, I went back in the exhibits and met Laurie Halse Anderson (see picture above).

I went to the Random House Book Buzz and of course now want to read *all* their books coming out this Spring. I got some more books from their booth, not being sure I hadn’t already gotten them and shipped them to myself.

And I finished off the day going to hear Lizzie Velasquez give an inspiring message. She has a medical condition that affects her growth and her appearance. When she was 17, she found a YouTube video someone had posted of her as “The Ugliest Woman in the World.” There were thousands of comments, saying horrible things. She read them all, looking for just one comment taking her side, and didn’t find even one.

That devastated her, but I’m going to interject that it’s wonderful that she was able to tell her parents about it. Cyberbullying is incredibly horrible — which I learned at the YALSA Institute in November. But Aija Mayrock was younger when her cyberbullying happened, and she didn’t know how to tell her parents.

Both women, though, have gone on to tell their stories and be proud of who they are and speak up with a strong message against bullying.

Lizzie Velasquez gets great meaning out of sharing her story and helping other people who might be facing hard things.

She wasn’t going to let the bullies define who she was.

Now she’d thank that bully, because that event ultimately helped her find her passion for public speaking and helping others.

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