Highlights from the EJK Discussion Panel

I was surprised to find that yesterday’s Ezra Jack Keats event at the New York Public Library was not the announcement of the 2011 award winners (that will be May 10th), but a discussion about the award, its history, and the current state of picture books.  Although I was initially pumped up to hear the award winners announced, it turned out to be a rather pleasant surprise, as the conversation was smart, illuminating, and directed by some of the most interesting and well-read women in the biz.

The discussion ranged from the frustration in finding quality picture books about and by people of color, to the importance of arts education in shaping and encouraging future writers and illustrators, to the explosion of ebooks and children’s book apps and the place of picture books in this brave new world.

Although some of the arguments and predictions reiterated points that I have heard before, it was nevertheless refreshing to hear a panel of experts talk so passionately and confidently about the future of the picture book.  This was no doom and gloom affair, but rather a confirmation of what all savvy librarians and teachers already know to be true: the picture book is alive and well, thank you very much.

One point, made by Lisa Von Drasek, that really stuck with me was that librarians and teachers have a responsibility to spread the gospel of the picture book as a medium for all ages (not just babies and toddlers) to the parents in our communities.  It’s all well and good to attend panel discussions, conferences, and participate in the kidlit blogosphere, but that’s a little like preaching to the choir.  The places we really need to reach are the mommy, daddy, and caregiver networks.  This has really got me thinking about how to use this blog to reach out farther and better to parents and caregivers.  Hmmm….  Definitely some very good food for thought.

Many thanks to the amazing and brilliant panelists, and to NYPL and the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation for organizing and hosting the event.

NYPL lion photo courtesy of Flickr user Mike_fleming; picture book photo courtesy of Flickr user Enokson.

Steal This Storytime: Spectrum Edition

Back in 2008 I began blogging over at ALSC about doing programs for children with autism. I felt then, and still do, that is is important for libraries to provide storytimes that are distinct from our usual preschool storytimes for children with sensory issues. Children’s Librarian Tricia Bohanon Twarogowski also did a fantastic series on the ALSC Blog in 2009 on Programming for Children’s with Special Needs.

Since 2008, when the rising number of children being diagnosed with various forms of autism began gaining national attention, few libraries were actively providing programs specially designed for these children.  Now, a Google search of “library storytime autism” pulls up over 80,000 results.  Yes!

It makes me so happy to think about the hundreds of children and parents who are being welcomed with open arms into libraries across the country because of this type of specialized programming.  Every single time I offer a Spectrum Storytime, I am bowled over at the gratitude and appreciation from parents and caregivers.  So many moms and dads of children with autism feel uncomfortable, judged, and nervous in most libraries.  Creating a time and a space just for them is such a small, easy step that can lead to a whole new community of users.

At my library, we’ve been offering Spectrum Storytime as a once-a-month program on a Saturday morning.  It’s a very laid back, low-stress environment in which we sing a few songs, read a story, and engage in a sensory-rich activity.  While I’m very proud of the work we have done together meeting once per month, I’ve been itching to do a weekly series for some time.  So, I am incredibly excited that my library will be offering a 5-week session this April in celebration of Autism Awareness month.  Since this will be my first opportunity to do cumulative projects that stretch from week to week, I’ve been rethinking my usual program plan.  I want to keep the basic structure that the kids and parents have come to know and rely on, but add some elements that build on each other throughout the session.  I’ve decided to keep the “storytime” part the same, but design the sensory activities to create works of art that will begin in week 1 and conclude in week 5.

Below is is my program plan for storytime itself and the sensory activities that will change from week to week.  As always, please feel free to steal it whole or in part.  I would also love any suggestions or ideas!   Continue reading

The Reluctant Reader’s Bill of Rights: The Redux

Waaaay back in the summer of ’08, I wrote a post musing about the formation of a Reluctant Reader’s Bill of Rights.  Using Daniel Pennac’s famous Reader’s Bill of Rights as a jumping-off point, I attempted to draft a document that would enumerate the many acceptable forms of reading (for pleasure) that would help encourage, and perhaps inspire, reluctant readers.  I offered a couple examples including “The right to read graphic novels and manga,” “The right to read non-fiction,” and “The right to not like a book.”  I also asked for feedback and further suggestions and promised an updated post compiling the responses at some future date.  Now that some time has passed, I thought it would be useful to take a look at some of the interesting, often surprising, comments and criticisms and offer a newly updated Reluctant Reader’s Bill of Rights. Continue reading

Great Website Alert: Autism Resources for Libraries

via the Librarian in Black:

Here is a great resource: Libraries and Autism: We’re Connected.  Many library users have autism, and most library staff don’t know the first thing about interacting with them appropriately.  We’ve just never been trained.  This website offers resources about communication, customer service tips, a video, workshop resources, contacts for more information, and a lot more.  Public libraries and school libraries especially should check this site out.

Children’s Library of the Future: 10 Commandments

I just found the latest issue of SCL News.  There are some great articles, like the one on the opening of the first English children’s library in China. 

I was especially impressed by a list of ten recommendations issued by the Danish Library Authority on the future of children’s services in the public library.  Here they are (sorry about the weird spacing):


The committee’s main recommendations are set as

“Ten Commandments”:

1. New competences create new activities in the library

A new media landscape, new cultural habits and different demands

and expectations require the development of new competences in

the library. Library staff must be more visible on the net, facilitate

activities in the library and organise meetings and dialogue with

users where they actually are.

2. The library space must create surprise and inspiration

We need new concepts for the design of the physical library space.

The library must be attractive for children to be, learn and play in.

3. The libraries develop their net services

The libraries create new frames and facilities i.e. by exploiting social

technologies and using staff as hosts and resources in virtual

networks for children.

4. Children play – in the library

The library can turn play and play culture into a central area of

activity. The library can create space for play, make toys and games

available and advise on games and toys.

5. The library gives children reading experiences and reading


The library continues the work on encouraging children’s zest for

reading, reading experiences and reading skills.

6. Create assets in new forms of cooperation between school

library and public library

Schools and libraries can work more closely together and coordinate

services to children. Exploit the various competences of the two

library types by doing things together.

7. The library creates community feeling – also for those


The library adapts its services to children with special needs:

Handicapped, socially vulnerable and children with ethnic

background other than Danish.

8. The library supports learning and cultural development

The library supports formal and informal learning that enables

children to grow and develop competences in coding, creating and

exchanging text, sounds and images.

9. The library must reach out to children

The library reaches out to children and offer services where children

actually move around: Kindergartens, day-care centres, schools and


10. The library’s management focuses on children

The libraries’ management prioritizes staff, money and time – for

continuously rethinking, innovating and locally adapting the library’s

services to children.


I think the Danish Library Authority has it going on.  I think these recommendations are broad enough to apply to most library systems.  Next time (or, you know, if ever) I get asked my opinon about the future of children’s services in the public library- I’m going to whip this out as my starting point.