Librarians Address a Critical Need

Every Child Ready to Read really did change my life,” Jeanne McDermott said at the beginning of her presentation at SCLS Wednesday morning, October 26th. She was describing how her experience teaching the 6 ECRR skills to parents on Saturday mornings at the Brooklyn Public Library was how she heard her calling to librarianship after years of working in the publishing business.

Now the 6 skills have been folded into 5 practices: talking, singing, reading, writing, and playing. All of this and much, much more is described in the ECRR 2nd edition manual.

Other lives besides Jeanne’s are about to be touched by early literacy efforts. Andrea Pavlik – another of yesterday morning’s presenters ­– and her library are partnering with Raising a Reader, a national network of 2,500 community partners serving 110,000 children and families annually. Huntington Public Library is purchasing 44 book kits to circulate to children at the Head Start Freedom Center in Huntington. Andrea will also be visiting the center on Fridays, when the kids will open their new bag of books to borrow and bring home to share with their family for the week.

“If it were not for the Raising a Reader program,” one participant of the national program reported, “I would not have read to my child at all.”

Carol Burnett of L.I. Head Start also attended yesterday’s workshop focusing on early literacy skills and library service to young children and caregivers. Head Start Centers, Carol explained, are eager to partner with libraries in a way that will benefit both the families of Head Start and libraries looking for a new audience.

Renee McGrath spoke about a program that’s been in place in Nassau County for many years. Children’s librarians visit Head Start Centers on a rotating schedule (similar to Suffolk’s Stony Brook hospital visits) and offer storytime. “These visits are one of the most rewarding parts of our job,” Renee said. Many in the audience are already visiting their local Head Start centers and they, too, could attest to how fulfilling it is to see the children excited about reading.

If you missed the program on October 26th, the Power Point presentations are available on the SCLS Gateway page. You may also contact Alison for more information.

Peace the World Together with Children’s Books

Nearly 250 librarians, authors, professors, publishers, and students gathered at California State University at Fresno for the 9th Regional IBBY (International Board on Books for Young People) Conference this past weekend. The United States Board on Books for Young People (USBBY) hosts the IBBY Regional Conference every other year at a site in the United States. USBBY Executive Director Ellis Vance reported that there were representatives from 30 states and 6 continents at this event celebrating international children’s literature. Fresno State – home of the Arne Nixon Center for the Study of Children’s Literature – made an ideal setting for the gathering. The Nixon Center’s special exhibit “Down the Rabbit Hole with Lewis Carroll and Leonard Weisgard: Literary, Visual, and Sculptural Translations of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” was the icing on the cake.

The theme of the conference was Peace the World Together with Children’s Books. Some of the featured speakers were Pam Muñoz Ryan, Margarita Engle, Grace Lin and her editor Alvina Ling, Adwoa Badoe (pictured right), David Diaz, Roger Mello (a talented and prolific illustrator from Brazil), and Dorothy Briley lecturer Beverley Naidoo. Mary Lois Nicholls, retired children’s librarian from Smithtown, Anne Pellowski, K.T. Horning, Nina Lindsay, and Michael Cart were just a few of the well-known participants present from our field.

On Saturday morning, the group broke out into book discussion sessions featuring the books of the guess speakers. I particularly enjoyed discussing Between Sisters by Adwoa Badoe. When storyteller Badoe addressed the group, she treated us to a tale about why fisherman always sing the same peculiar folk song. On Saturday afternoon I sat in on a session led by the previous and current chairs of the Outstanding International Books Committee, Elizabeth Poe and Kathy East. The two chairs book-talked twenty-two books from the 2010 and 2011 lists that pertained to five themes: fleeing oppression, surviving adversity, forging friendships, finding family, and creating peace.

USBBY President Elect Doris Gebel (pictured here with Beverley Naidoo) presided over the awards ceremony on Saturday evening. One of the many people she introduced was long-time supporter of USBBY John Mason (Scholastic), who chaired the committee that selected Beverley Naidoo to give the Dorothy Briley lecture. Naidoo delivered her remarks – which included an homage to editor and publisher Dorothy Briley – in an arresting, almost hypnotizing voice. It was an unforgettable evening.

When Doris asked what my favorite part of the conference was, I was hard-pressed to answer. Hearing Grace Lin read from the first chapter of Starry River of the Sky, the companion novel to Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, was certainly a high point, as was seeing the work of an illustrator as talented as Roger Mello (especially since his books are, regretfully, not available in the States). Margarita Engle’s story about her grandmother who lived her whole life believing she was “word blind” was heart-wrenching (Engle’s grandmother, who was dyslexic, is inspiration for the protagonist in Engle’s next book titled The Wild Book.) But my favorite part had to be hearing Kang Woo Hyon speak about the making of Peace Story, a collection of illustrated stories commissioned for NAMBOOK-010, the Nami Island Children’s Book Festival in Korea. Peace Story is available to Suffolk library staff from the SCLS Youth Services Review Collection.

The next USBBY conference will be in St. Louis, October 18-20, 2013. If you can’t wait that long, the next IBBY Congress is next August in London! To become a member, or for more information, visit the USBBY website or contact Doris at the Northport-East Northport Library.

(Photos taken by Junko Yokota)

Find a Grave in Cutchogue

The Find a Grave Project offers the opportunity for people to request photos of headstones in cemeteries throughout the United States. Requests come from family and friends who don’t live near the cemetery and from genealogy researchers. 

On Saturday, October 15th, a Find a Grave Project event was conducted by the Cutchogue New Suffolk Library at the Old Burying Ground in Cutchogue. Children’s Librarian Bev Christianson led a group of four young people and two adults to photograph headstones from the late 1700s and early 1800s to fulfill photo requests. 

“I was especially interested in doing this project with young people because it involved local history, community service, research skills, photography, and technology,” Bev said. “The two adults that accompanied us were just as interested and involved as the children.”

Pictured here is one young patron photographing the headstone of Charlotte Goldsmith, who was born in 1792 and died in 1828 at the age of thirty-six.

For more information about the Find a Grave project, visit or contact Bev at the Cutchogue New Suffolk Library.

The Picture Book as Meeting Space

At last week’s Lit-Fest, keynote speaker Megan Lambert spoke about her Whole Book Approach to sharing picture books with groups of children. This method invites children to “read the pictures” while the adult reads the words, creating a space to meet together in the picture book. She describes this method as “reading with children” as opposed to “reading to children.” An opening question adult readers can ask is: “What do you see happening in this picture?” Technical elements such as trim size and endpapers are also great places to invite discussion. Lambert was well-prepared with examples, anecdotes from her experience, and research on how children learn.

Lambert made it clear that the Whole Book Approach is only one method of sharing picture books with children – a method she used for ten years at The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. Not all children take to it right away; some pushback she’s received has come from kids who can, as Lambert puts it, “do school.” They might say to her, “Why can’t you just read the story all the way through without stopping?” But when she explains that they are practicing reading the pictures, she finds that the kids who can “do school” are eager to learn this kind of reading, too.

Lambert’s Whole Book Approach is based on a teaching method called Visual Thinking Strategies. To learn more about VTS, visit their website. Look for Lambert’s column in The Horn Book called “Books in the Home” and her blog posts about reading with children.

A Community Finds the Well of Stories Full

This morning at the Northport Library, Linda Sue Park inspired a room full of students from Northport and East Northport Middle Schools to read, write, and most importantly, re-write. When introducing herself as a writer, Linda feels like she really should say she’s a “re-writer,” since that’s what she spends most of her time doing. The published version of When My Name was Keoko was the 37th draft. “Imagine if your teachers asked you to write 37 drafts,” she teased the audience. Fortunately, none of the students fainted.

These students, after all, were well prepared by their teachers for the Newbery award-winning author’s presentation; the sixth graders had read Project Mulberry and the seventh graders read A Long Walk to Water.

Linda charmed her audience with photos from her childhood (she was very cute) along with photos of her son’s puppies (who are also very cute.) The slides she displayed of full grown silk worms? Not so cute! Linda explained how she called upon her nephew and father to grow silkworms to prepare her for writing Project Mulberry. Linda was just too grossed out to grow them in her own home. It became a sort of “family research project,” she joked.  

After Linda had all the students’ attention with the photos, she delved into a more serious discussion of her latest novel, A Long Walk to Water. Just recently released in paperback, this book based on a true story has been the topic of Linda’s student presentations around the country. Pictured on the screen above Linda is a photo of her taken with her friend, Salva. Salva was one of 3,800 Sudanese “Lost Boys” airlifted to the United States beginning in the mid 1990s. He was adopted by a family in Rochester, which is where the author now resides. Linda paired his story with one of a girl named Nya. Although Nya is fictional, she is a composite of real young women Linda’s husband interviewed in Sudan. Because families have to live far from water to avoid tribal warfare, many daughters walk up to eight hours a day to bring fresh water to their families. Today, volunteers like Salva are using modern equipment to build wells in villages all across southern Sudan, freeing up young men and women to attend school and become literate.

Did the middle school students in the audience walk away with a deeper appreciation for running water and the opportunity for a free education? I can’t say for sure, but I can report that they were attentive and responsive. The librarians and teachers in the Northport-East Northport community deserve kudos for forming a successful partnership that has been connecting students, books and authors at the public library for over twenty years.

CLASC’s 40th Anniversary Celebration

On Thursday, November 10th, CLASC will celebrate its 40th Anniversary at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Centereach from 6pm – 8:30pm. Join your colleagues from around the county for appetizers, FULL BUFFET DINNER, dessert, music from 1971, a visual reflection on the last 40 years of CLASC, and remarks from special guests Sandra Feinberg and Marie Orlando. The 40th anniversary is the “ruby red” anniversary, and all are encouraged to wear red to this event. The cost is $35 a person, and RSVPs should be directed to CLASC president Kristen Todd-Wurm at Middle County Public Library. All library staff is welcome.

Audiobooks on MP3 from

With the fall publishing boom, the approach of Mock Discussion season, and my attempt to catch up with children’s literature’s back catalog, I’m turning to every format available to read books. There’s the CD in my car, the book in my lunch bag, the e-reader on my night stand, and the MP3 on my phone. This format – MP3 – has the least availability on Overdrive, making it difficult to find something to listen to on my phone. I did some digging on, however, and found a few things of interest:

The 39 Clues

If you’re trying to keep up with Amy and Dan, try David Pittu’s narration of The 39 Clues series. His stage performance experience lends itself to these dramatic mystery/adventures. Suffolk libraries own the new Cahills vs. Vespers series, too. Even listening to one or two will give you enough sense of the series to discuss it with its fans.

The Hunger Games

If you haven’t read or completed this series by Suzanne Collins, now’s the time; the movie is in post-production and will hit theaters next year. You might recognize narrator Carolyn McCormick’s voice from Law & Order (pictured at left); she does a fine job in her performance of Katniss and the many other characters of Panem.

The Bloody Jack Series

This humorous historical-adventure by L.A. Meyer is narrated by Katherine Kellgren. To quote Audiofile magazine, “Kellgren has recorded well over 100 audiobooks and won four Audie Awards, three ALA Odyssey Honors, eight AudioFile Earphones Awards . . . and the list of honors goes on.” If you’re unfamiliar with this series, give the first one a try and enjoy one of Kellgren’s best performances.