new media webinar takeaways

Before I leave for ALA in Vegas (and then take an almost month-long vacation from the internet), I wanted to share my notes from a free webinar I participated in through the Erikson Institute’s TEC Center earlier this month. It was called “Young Children and New Media: Librarians Reframing the Discussion” and it was led by librarian superstars Cen Campbell and Amy Koester. Specific slides and notes can be found on Amy’s blog, so I won’t repeat everything that’s already there. (It’s good stuff.)

Here are just a few random thoughts that rang true for me:

  • There is no one way to implement new media (be open and reflect often)
  • New media should support the development of a relationship (it should connect people)
  • New media in education is intended for creation and interaction, not passive consumption
  • Technology should be fulfilling a need, not just replacing something you are already doing well (it is a tool, not a learning goal)
  • Librarians need to recognize what they bring to the table and value passion where it is found (competencies vary, but people need to be aware of their strengths, weaknesses, and biases so that they know when to ask for help, when to offer it, and how to focus on meaningful conversations and positive outcomes)
  • Librarians have to respect caregivers as the experts on their own children
  • Services are just as important as collections (it’s not always what you have, but how you use it)
  • Overarching recommendations can create roadblocks, because every child is different, every device is different, and every situation is different (that’s why it is important to talk with people, learn from experts, follow research, and serve as ‘media mentors’)

Although the links and tips shared were great, what struck me the most was how Cen and Amy opened their presentation.They featured a medley of opinion pieces that could easily stir up emotions and arguments about technology and its place in early childhood education, and they took them all off the table right away, saying that these arguments are divisive and distracting. They get in the way of real discussions, and librarians should be reframing these debates so that conversations are collaborative, respectful, and child-focused. I appreciated that a bunch and felt as if the entire webinar experience was “safer” and more encouraging because of it.






slideshow sounds

And here, in no particular order, are some tunes I’ve recently added to my library:

Tegan and Sara-Everything is AWESOME!!! (feat. The Lonely Island)
Sugarland-Stuck Like Glue
Avicii-Wake Me Up
Sara Bareilles-Brave
American Authors-Best Day of My Life
The Beatles-Here Comes the Sun
Jackson 5-Rockin’ Robin
Selena Gomez-Who Says
Jackson 5-ABC
Michael Franti-Sound of Sunshine
Bruno Mars-Count on Me
Flo Rida-Good Feeling
Pharrell Williams-Happy
Avett Brothers-Kick Drum Heart
Imagine Dragons-Top of the World
Plus, almost anything FROZEN. 🙂

I should also mention that Common Sense Media has recommended music lists for families. This is one of the resources I explored when picking the songs here.

Copyright & Fair Use:
Fair Use from the US Copyright Office
“Copyright Flowchart: Can I Use It? Yes? No? If This…Then…” by Silvia Tolisano
“The Educator’s Guide to Copyright and Fair Use” from Education World 


whistling vivaldi

I try to read at least one education/social psychology/child-rearingish book per break. Here are a few of my favorites from breaks past (click each cover for more info.):

AloneTogether AppGen CurseG GoodKidsToughChoices Mindsetcover NurtureShock

This year my school decided to organize a summer book club around Whistling Vivaldi by Claude M. Steele. I jumped at the opportunity to read it right away, and I’m glad I did.


In it, Steele explains that stereotype threats arise when one’s setting either rewards or discourages aspects of one’s social identity. Regardless of our awareness to these situations, they influence us. When stereotype threat is experienced, we deal with the extra stress relating to how we might be seen as a member of a certain group (depending on the threat). This “multitasking” can impact both physical and mental performance on everything from golf putting to standardized tests.

I think the author sums this up well on pages 209-210:
“Negative stereotypes about our identities hover in the air around us. When we are in situations to which these stereotypes are relevant, we understand that we could be judged or treated in terms of them. If we are invested in what we’re doing, we get worried; we try to disprove the stereotype or avoid confirming it. We present ourselves in counter-stereotypical ways. We avoid situations where we have to contend with this pressure. It’s not all-determining, but it persistently, often beneath our awareness, organizes our actions and choices, our lives–like how far we walk down the isle of an airplane to find a seat, or how well we do on a round of golf, or on an IQ test. We think of ourselves as autonomous individuals. After all, we make choices. But we often forget that we make choices within contexts, always.”

The good news is that there’s lots to suggest that educators can make intentional choices that alter these contingencies and make stereotypes as irrelevant as possible to learning. Obviously reducing threat can’t change a student’s skills or knowledge outright, but Steele argues that no instructional environment can eliminate achievement gaps without first reducing the identity contingency of stereotype threat.

Here’s some of what Steele recommends:

  • Ensure that feedback is honest, specific, and tied directly to high standards for everyone (assure students that the same standards were used for all before giving critical feedback)
  • Increase “critical mass” by working for visible diversity in class groups as much as possible
  • Foster conversations amongst members of different groups to increase comfort and performance (use diversity within the group as the resource that it is)
  • Allow students to self-affirm by having them list their most important values (and reflect through journaling, self-assessments, etc.)
  • Provide students with information that can help them see a more hopeful personal narrative (stories about people who worked through hardships can keep students motivated when they face challenges)
  • Coach students through understanding of a fluid mindset (see: Carol Dweck)

This isn’t everything, but the entire book is worth reading and thinking about so I’ll stop here before I spoil it all. Does anyone have other favorite books like this that they’d recommend? If so, please share.

maker kits

Here’s a video where I talk about makerspaces and some kits I’m organizing this summer:

Each kit will have a notebook where students will be encouraged to list their thoughts, write what they did, and email a photo/video to our library’s general email address. The media will be added to an online gallery on our school’s intranet. For families who need more direction, there will also be index cards (held together with binder rings) featuring different prompts from which they might choose.

As promised, here are a few examples:

1. Shapes & Tiles Kit

With Magna-Tiles,  children create in 2 or 3-D. Kids can build whatever they want, or use prompts from the index cards that encourage them to complete specific tasks (“Build a house with only triangle pieces.”) as well as more open-ended ones (“Build a house!”). This construction can reinforce patterning and help children practice using their fine motor skills, too.
Bookspiration: Perfect Square by Michael Hall


2. Machine Building Kit


This one sort of feels like cheating because the kit comes all ready to go.
Bookspiration (besides the book included from the company):  How Machines Work by Nick Arnold


3. Bridges & Architecture Kit


This will use the K’Nex Intro to Structures: Bridges set.  (It’s currently out of stock at the K’Nex site but it is available through many online retailers.) With this kit, students will learn all about bridges and how they work by trying to build one or three on their own.
Bookspiration: Iggy Peck, Architect by Andrea Beaty


4. Box Lab Kit

(Photo courtesy of Brooke Dowd Sacco)
Roloblox sets allow you to add wheels to cardboard and let your imaginations run wild. Everyone loves a cardboard box, right? The prompts here will be about what to create (“Try building something with only 3 wheels.”) as well as reflecting on what is observed when supplies are swapped (“What happens to your vehicle when you change the size of your box?”).
Bookspiration: Not A Box by Antoinette Portis and The Big Fib by Tim Hamilton


5. Block Building Kit


Barclay Blocks is one company that makes and sells blocks here in the United States (and whose photo I used above). Similar to the Shapes and Tiles Kit, the prompts on this kit’s index cards will range from the super vague (“Design a school building.”) to the more precise (“Try to build the tallest structure possible using every block in this kit.”).
Bookspiration: Dreaming Up: A Celebration of Building by Christy Hale and Sky High by Germano Zullo and Albertine


6. Origami Kit


Besides a few sheets of origami paper, a pair of scissors, and tape, this one doesn’t need much else. The index cards will point out certain challenges from Harbo’s book (“Follow the directions in Easy Animal Origami to create the dog.”) and also ask children to innovate (“Try to fold an animal not in the book. List your steps in the notebook so that others can create your product, too.”)
Bookspiration: Lissy’s Friends by Grace Lin and Easy Animal Origami by Christopher L. Harbo


7. Cartoonist Kit


The idea with this kit is to encourage children to write and self-publish their own cartoons. I will allow children to keep their creations, but invite them to list their titles and a short summary of each in the reflection notebook. I hope that some of them decide to donate their comics to the library (when that happens, I catalog the donations and highlight them in a special “student-made” section). As much as I would love to order a ton of Moleskine Messages Note Cards for children to create 4-panel comics, it’s more economical to follow the old-school method Greg Bemis describes here. Besides a bunch of #2 pencils from ForestChoice, each kit will have a few pre-folded books, a Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pen, a Paper Mate White Pearl Eraser, and a set of Prismacolor Col-Erase Colored Pencils.
Bookspiration: Adventures in Cartooning by James Strum, Andrew Arnold, and Alexis Frederick-Frost and The Adventures of Sparrowboy by Brian Pinkney


I forgot to mention that these kits will each have a 1-week circulation period, and children will check them out with a grown-up during our open library time before or after school. I’m planning on storing items in plastic storage boxes that I’ll catalog and barcode like other library materials, and I’ll have a “Check for” sheet taped to the lids so that we can do a quick inventory when items are returned. I must admit that it is scary thinking of these kits, with all of their little pieces, going out into the world. If they start coming back damaged or incomplete, I might have to change the circulation policies. Right now, though, I think there is a huge benefit to having families use them at home and experimenting and reflecting together.



author visit policy

My school is lucky. We have connections with talented people and organizations, and we have the financial support to sometimes host visiting authors and illustrators. With so many community connections as well as the rise of self-publishing, however, earlier last year we getting overwhelmed by requests. We had to start graciously turning down offers from potential visitors. I had to be prepared to articulate WHY we were saying “thanks but no thanks,” and I wanted to be fair.

So, I made this author/illustrator visit policy and rubric:

Author Visit Policy: The following rubric will be used by the library when determining whether or not to host a specific author or illustrator to present for the school community. A visit from an author/illustrator scoring less than 12 may not be supported by the library.


# Initiation Curriculum Interest Resource Quality Cost
3 Presentation has been initiated by part of the library team. Author/illustrator, the presentation, and/or the author’s book(s) relate to the school’s greater curriculum and/or Strategic Plan. Students and teachers demonstrate interest in the author and/or   book(s). The author’s books have received positive reviews in professional journals and/or book(s) have received prestigious literary awards. The author visit is free and/or being funded through donor support.
2 Presentation has been initiated by someone in the faculty/staff community but outside of the Library Team. Author/illustrator, the presentation, and/or the book(s) relate to only the school’s library curriculum. Either the student population or teachers are interested in the author and/or book(s). Librarians have previewed the material and decided book is of standard quality—very few reviews available but those in existence are professional and favorable. There is a required honorarium and/or the library must pay for author fees.
1 Presentation has been initiated by someone outside of the  faculty/staff community. There are very few curricular or Strategic Plan connections between the author/illustrator and the school community. There is little interest in the author and/or book(s) amongst the school community. Reviews of the book are not favorable or the librarians have decided that the quality is poor using professional evaluative techniques. Honorarium is required and the visit costs more than the library budget can support.

To test our rubric, we ran all of our recent author/illustrator visits through it. For us, it works. The only feedback I received from colleagues was that I should change the numbers to be 2-1-0 so that we don’t have to give any points to the topics at the lower end of the spectrum. I get that idea, but I’m O.K. with giving them a 1.

I’ve only had to say no one time since I created it, and it was for an offer from an author who emailed me out of the blue. The author didn’t question our decision, but I felt a lot better with this on record.

Do you have an author visit policy at your school or library? Is it connected to your selection policy, or did you have to create your own separate document? I’d love to learn about how other schools make these decisions.


I went on a tour of another school’s new library space this week, which is currently under construction:


Yep. A fireplace.

This library is going to be incredible. (Do you see those mosaic tiles? And the storytime room has a circle-riffic Hobbit door!) I am so excited for the students, families, and teachers there. It’s tempting to be a little bit jealous too, but then I stop myself. Even though my library facility hasn’t changed since the 80s, my program has TONS of support and resources that I wouldn’t have ever dreamed about in my public school days. So, I need to remember what it is like for most schools and libraries, and knowing that it’s all relative, be oh so grateful.

I was recently asked to write this essay for my school magazine (the school’s name has been removed):

A Feast For Young Minds

People are often surprised to learn that I didn’t like my school library when I was a child. It was a quiet, stuffy place with an impossible to understand system of organization and a protector-of-the-books librarian who appeared to care more about where things went on the shelves than who could use them, not to mention why or how. To 9-year-old me, the library was a place for book storage and milk breaks. That was it.

As I grew, I discovered that there were other libraries out there—awesome ones. There were libraries where users could experiment with all sorts of literature and information, where they could print their own books, correspond with authors, or build their own web presence in the early days of the Internet. There were library classrooms where students could hone their research skills with guidance from experienced teachers. There were library laboratories that were available for book clubs, readers’ theater rehearsals, or even LEGO building contests. It wasn’t that these libraries’ traditional collections or services were unimportant: they were the necessary building blocks for so many of the meaningful opportunities available. What made these libraries special was that they were so much more than places to merely store stuff.

A lot has changed since I was a kid. Milk breaks—like the physical card catalog, print encyclopedias, and microfiche readers—are a thing of the past. But what hasn’t changed in all these years is what makes a library successful. In graduate school, I was taught to think about it this way: Effective libraries are not like grocery stores, where products sit idly until they are needed. Instead, good libraries are like kitchens. They must be well-stocked, but what brings them to life are the people in them, and what those people learn, create, and enjoy using the ingredients at hand.

In [my school]’s libraries, people come together, try new things, try old things, learn from mistakes, share their discoveries, encounter different ways of thinking, practice empathy, and more. We might try a technology or organizational system only to decide after deep consideration that it didn’t work out as well as we had hoped—and that is all right. What kitchen hasn’t seen its spills or spoils? At [my school], we respect our history and are thoughtful in our decision-making, but we are also constantly reflecting on what we can improve and how we can grow. With today’s dynamic information landscape, we’re experimenting now more than ever.

While meals are usually enjoyed within the walls of one’s home, sitting down at a table with others can make those dishes even more meaningful. This goes for sharing information, too. Our children can now participate as members of our school community, but also communities across the globe, connecting and sharing data with others in ways that were once unthinkable. The library is where children build their information literacy skills and discover literature that helps them learn about their place in the world, how their experiences relate to others, and how with courage, hard work and creativity, they can bring ideas to fruition and use them to make the world a better place.

No kitchen analogy would be complete without a mention of diet. Whatever your family decides in terms of healthy staples versus “sometimes treats,” I believe that there needs to be variety and balance. This includes reading different formats, lengths, genres, and styles. It means exposing children to authors and books that they might not seek out independently, reading books published in countries outside of the United States, and finding translations of books originally published in languages other than one’s own. It means reading about heroes from a variety of cultural backgrounds, especially those underrepresented in the mainstream publishing industries. It means challenging children to stick with materials that take longer to digest, that don’t provide instant gratification but have huge rewards. Our libraries’ collections are the curated pantry mirroring the diversity of our school, city, and world. The pieces in these ever-evolving collections are the ingredients for quite the banquet. I can’t wait to see what, over my time here, our community members make and share with them. Surely it will be delicious.


I believe what I wrote. No matter how many resources you have or how snazzy your space looks, it’s what you do with the opportunities and materials available that matters. My community HAS a kitchen, and a well-stocked one at that. That’s more than anyone can ask for. I am appreciative, but being thankful isn’t good enough. The way I see it, I have a responsibility to get cooking and keep at it. Because I have no excuse not to.

summer share

I’m facilitating a library engagement program for students this summer, with a little help from my friends at iREAD. Here’s the nitty gritty:

(This is my first stab at recording rather than writing a post. I’m not sure I prefer it.)

bee-bot update

The super helpful tech specialist at my school bought a second bee-bot, and sent the one I dropped and broke right back to the company. They fixed him up and shipped him back to us within weeks. That meant we had two!

Here’s how my early elementary students used bee-bot in the last few weeks of school:

  • We read Paul Galdone’s Little Red Riding Hood and discussed sequence. Then, we placed different images representing different parts of the story on different spaces of our activity mat. The children re-told the story by taking turns directing bee-bot to the first thing that occurred, the second, etc.
  • We also used bee-bot to practice reading call numbers. Different call numbers were placed on each mat space, and then children would receive a prompt, such as “Drive Bee-Bot to a picture book that is fictional and has an author whose last name begins with W.” Once bee-bot arrived at a space, the rest of the children would assess how bee-bot did [with a thumbs up (yes!), thumbs down (no), thumbs to the side (I don’t know) system]. This motivated discussion and evaluating “how bee-bot did” (instead of how the child programmer did) helped us focus on learning and less on mistakes.
  • We made the most of having 2 bee-bots. We would start them at different spaces and then have them “race” to a particular spot on the activity mat. This helped children problem-solve not just how to get bee-bot to his destination, but to consider multiple paths and to select the path that had the shortest number of commands.

In my students’ end-of-year library surveys, there was a definite trend: exploring with bee-bot was a favorite experience, and many children said it helped them remember what we learned together. The last week of school, I even had a child bring in this:

It is Bigtrak Jr, a toy originally sold in 1979 that has a lot of bee-bot similarities. On the day when the child came in with this, what choice did I have? We celebrated our year of learning by programming Bigtrak Jr around the floor of the library, discussing how we could create a new mat out of butcher paper that was scaled to his “steps” (he had much larger steps than bee-bot), and having a whole lot of fun.