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25 November 2014 @ 06:52 am
I know that the title might seems like an oxymoron. But there are occasions where accidents results in something unexpected, something interesting, something that makes me push beyond my boundaries.

As I was posting to social media the other day, I intended to use the word analyzing. What I tpyed was "alanizing." I am certain part of the reason was that I am here at ALAN, the joyous two day celebration oF all things YA. Often We ALANers are asked who ALAN is. ALAN is a what&: the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of NCTE. Now celebrating our 41st year as an assembly, ALAN pulls togetherness disparate groups including professors, librarians, educators, authors, publishers, and students who read, support, and enjoy YA literature. So perhaps "alanizing" is a good thing.

While I am on the subject, my autocorrect wants ego change the word Lexile to either evil or exile. Happy accident or a case of autocorrect understanding the damage of lexiles, levels, bands,and labels? You decide.
Current Location: DC
Current Mood: cheerfulcheerful
24 November 2014 @ 02:34 pm
First, a rant.

Dear teachers who bragged online about the number of books you got for "free," I need to tell you something about the hundreds of free ARCs.

1. They are not free except to you. They cost money to produce.
2. They are intended not for your classroom collection. They are produced for publicity purposes, to generate sales.
3. When you grab more than 1, it means others get ZERO..
4. i wonder how many you will read. If you picked uP 189 (one of the posts I saw had that brag), hoe long will it take you to read them before they pass along to other hand?
5. What kid did you envision when you picked the book up? Did you only take books that would be appropriate for your kids, I wonder.

I am weary of the greediness I see at conferences. Wheeled carts filled with books. Grabbing. Pushing. Shame on you. I am going home with 2 books plus a handful from my ALAN box. Theses are books I will read and then float on to other educators.

Second, a nicer rant.

If you did not stay for ALAN, you missed the BEST opportunity to meet authors, get books, network with colleagues and learn SO much about YA literature..

Third, a plea.

Make loans now for NCTE 2015.
23 November 2014 @ 07:59 am
There is something to be said for a good night's sleep. Yesterday was a draining day at NCTE, It began with the ALAN breakfast at 7 am. But for those of us active in ALAN, the call to assemble was for 6 am. From there, I went to meetings and from the meetings to my presentation at the Middle Mosaic. Finally, I made it back to the room in time to grade some work from my grad students and tumble into the bed. Trust me when I tell you that you are much happier that I did not try to post last night. However, you might not like me all perky and caffeinated, either. Because the first thing I saw this morning was a tweet proclaiming a new book that shows Hunger Games as 'literature.'

To be fair, this is an academic book analyzing the Hunger Games, some 250 plus pages long. But it is the HUNGER GAMES AS LITERATURE pronouncement that set my teeth on edge. Helloo. Hunger Games IS literature. It was literature before this book analyzng it. It will continue to be literature even if no one except we academics reads the analytical discussion. I know I might be accused of being oveerly sensitive. I am not being overly senstivie. YA and children's lit is often patted on the head in statements like, 'I was surprised by how good it was.

You see, I am never surprised at the quality that exists in literature for youth. I know the incredible art and story that exists in books. I marvel daily at the talent this field offers. And yet, there is still that condescension, that intimation that once we have kids hooked on read, the REAL JOB of youth literature, then it is time to move along to the REAL literature. Sorry to burst your bubble, snobs, but this is REAL literature. We need to challenge this condescenstion each and every time we encounter it. Time to SpeakLoudly for the literature.
Current Location: NATIONAL HARBOR
Current Mood: annoyedannoyed
22 November 2014 @ 08:09 pm
But not tonight. I am beyond tired. So stay tuned for more
21 November 2014 @ 07:26 am
Yesterday, Donalyn Miller quoted ALICE IN WONDERLAND. She read the piece about Alicemcoming to a fork in thenroad and how it had to be about choice. I always have another takeaway from Alice and her descent into the rabbit hole. There are so many rabbit holes in my life.

I often fall down the research rabbit hole. I will begin looking for one specific piece of information. But one link leads to another and another and, before I know it, I am miles away from my destination. These are happy detours, but they are rabbit holes that take me away from the task at hand, too.

Aren't conversations opportunities for some rabbit hole a Odyssey as well? We begin talking about Subject A and end up at Q. I do this when I present sometimes. I wander away and down and then have to pick up a bread trail to get back to point. Thank heavens for power point slides when I digress.

While I know that scuttling down the rabbit hole might be fraught with danger, it can also result in some wonderful discoveries and insights. Perhaps if we take along a friend, the danger is eased and the discoveries doubled? May this conference provide such opportunities.
20 November 2014 @ 07:38 am
Loving this post from Curmudgucation about questions to pose about PD. I would change just one piece of this post. I believe that PD has been sullied by folks who want to sell products and such for a LONG time. I recall programs purchased by school districts in the 80s about how to use overhead projectors effectively. I recall commodification of folks like Madeline Hunter and others in the name of the Almighty Dollar.

Here I am at NCTE where I will tour exhibits later. I know Pearson and Renaissance Learning are both here. I know there will be countless others of their ilk trying to promote even more sales. I know also that there will be an audience for these wares from educators who are desperate for that magic bullet, who are feeling the pressure to increase scores and levels. I wish instead that they could take to heart what will be happening outside the exhibit hall, in the sessions with Penny Kittle, Donalyn Miller, and others who will be speaking about creatng lifelong readers and writers.

Commodification has seen a new renaissance. I see the work of friends being changed into 'programs.' I talk about matching kids to books, and there are computer programs out there that purport to do the same. They cannot. Read Katherine Sokolowski's blog today to see how it is done, ye purveyors of programs.
Current Location: National Harbor
Current Mood: coldcold
19 November 2014 @ 06:25 am
The field of literature for children, tweens, and teens is green and fertile. Books are continuing to redefine genres at the same time they cross genre lines, create new formats, and invent new forms. And yet there are so many young readers that will never partake of the incredible richness these books can bring.

In some cases, they do not partake because the books are barred from them. Well-meaning (and sometimes not-so-well-meaning) adults underestimate the ability of readers to separate the world of the book from their own world. Or they overestimate the influence of books on behavior. They worry that because a book contains language that most polite folks do not use in public, that if it is in a book grants kids license to use it. They fear that books about the "other" might mean kids develop empathy. They are afraid that if someone does drugs or engages in sex within the pages of the book, readers will think that this is okay. That is playing out right now in Texas, in Highland Park, where letters of permission are needed for classics such as Huck Finn and The Scarlet Letter (and where contemporary books are being removed from lists right and left despite push back). And I will not even dive into CCSS and how it has acted as a limiting factor when it comes to books (well, not in this post, but there will be one coming soon, I am sure).

In other cases, books are not available due to funding. School libraries are left without a librarian; there is no funding for classroom libraries and little monies for collection development in the school library. I met a librarian this past week who covers more than a dozen campuses because the librarian positions at those campuses was eliminated. In many of these instances, the school library is the only source for books for young readers. There is no extra money for books in the home; public libraries are too distant and require transportation efforts often beyond what parents can provide.

As I head off to NCTE and ALAN, I am acutely aware of this starvation: readers who are withering because there are not books for them, books that might sustain them and help them grow. I will return from the conference with a suitcase packed with books (or I will be mailing a ton of them). They will float on to other hands as soon as they are read. But I am a trifle embarrassed by these riches. Yesterday, I put the final touches in place for our department's new review center. We have transformed one of our offices into a review library with shelves from wall to wall and all around the perimeter. A spreadsheet has been developed so that the student workers can enter information on the books that will soon go onto the shelves. We will have one section of YA ARCs (donated by moi and Karin Perry), one section for picture books (donated by moi, too). ARCs will be divided into fiction, nonfiction, and other (you know there will be books not comfortable in either division). By the first week of December, the center will be ready to receive folks who want to see the wealth, who want to take some time to read the latest books. Eventually, when we weed, those books will go into the hands of our teacher ed candidates.

We need to continue to find ways to share the wealth.
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Current Location: home
Current Mood: guiltyguilty
18 November 2014 @ 07:21 pm
All my bags are packed. I'm ready to go. Karin Perry will be at the house before dawn so we can head to the airport and NCTE. We will have a week of meeting up with old friends and meeting new ones. It is an exciting time, this day before it all begins. Anything is possible.

The only fly in the ointment for me is the incessant worry about my presentations. Like many of you, but will tweak and tweak and tweak right up to the final moments before the session. But we all want to do the best we can, and so the tweaking will continue. What did we do before all this technology?

I hope I have the chance to meet you at the conference. Come say Hi.
17 November 2014 @ 06:46 pm
The folks at Highland Park are at it again. Earlier in the school year, some parents challenged books for English classes. Now, the district has caved on their responsibility entirely. Here is the story:

"At a Tuesday board meeting, Highland Park ISD trustees charged administrators with reviewing the district’s policy on selecting “instructional resources,” such as library acquisitions and textbooks. Issues include the role of parents vs. teachers in making selections and how to pick challenging literature that is age appropriate."

I find it hard to believe that there is not a collection development policy for this district. If it is, as I suspect, in place, then why the hand-wringing? Because some parents are upset about Huck Finn and other classics (and, of course, about many contemporary books as well). I just want to spew here, but this case has gotten so out of hand that it is hard to put together any logical thoughts except these:

1. Let teachers and librarians select books for students.

2. Individual parents may always opt out of a required text. That is their right.

3. Parents cannot opt other kids out of a book. That is overstepping their authority. That is censorship.

4. Perhaps consider using a list and allowing for CHOICE? If a book is not required, then maybe the upset parents can get over their pique and move on to dress code and cheerleader tryouts, or something that MATTERS like the abuse of standardized testing here in Texas (snark intended).

5. Newspaper reporters must label this for what it is: censorship. When a handful of vocal parents can strike down books, policy, and even administrative decisions, there is something seriously wrong.

I urge all of you to post about this as widely as you can. Time to SpeakLoudly.
Current Location: home
Current Mood: angryangry
16 November 2014 @ 07:41 pm
BH and I made it back late this afternoon from the YALSA Lit Symposium in Austin. What an amazing three days. I hope to have time soon to put together a Storify of the tweets and posts from the conference.

This morning began with Sylvia Vardell's session on poetry with Janet Wong, Sara Holbrook, Michale Salinger, Guadalupe Garcia McCall, K.A. Holt, and Jacqueline Woodson. We did some interactive and choral reading of poems, listened to the talented poets, and just enjoyed the 90 minutes filled with poetry.

Then, Karin Perry and I moved on to the next session, another panel. This time, the chair was Kelly Milner Halls with authors Laurie Thompson, Andrew Smith, Jonathan Auxier, Lisa Yee, Bruce Coville, and Chris Barton. Lisa Yee dressed as Holly Go Lightly. Jonathan Auxier had to sing his responses to all questions to the time of "Moon River."

BH and I stopped on the way home and had BBQ. Now, Scout is settled into my lap. All is right with the world.