Dust from the Book Fairy

So I found this video on Joanne Jacob’s website. It’s a great explanation of the problems with merit pay.
In my area, teachers do get value added scores. So much depends on the group of kids you start with, how well you get them to do their work, the backup you get from parents and administrators, etc., etc. My value added scores my first year in the classroom were awesome.  I beat the 20 year veteran teacher down the hall.  By a lot.  In a year when I felt like nothing was going right, I changed my classroom procedures a million times, and went home to cry quite a bit.  Plus, my own classroom assessment results were not so good.  The next year, we got more done, class was calmer, and my value-added scores were not as good.  Okay, so I know this is all anecdotal, but that’s what really convinced me value added scores were crap.  crap. crap.  So it’s nice to find somebody else to explain why they are crap, in a more scientific way. (Besides the fact that teachers who do not have a tested subject just plain miss out)!


Ahh. . . summer vacation beckons.  The students are wild, the teachers are frazzlesd, and your friendly school librarian is nagging, nagging, nagging.  I spent the better part of my day calling the parents of the kids who still have 80ish books checked out of my library. That’s about 60 phone calls, people.  Of those phone calls:

  • 1/4 were to disconnected numbers, “She no longer works here,” and just plain incorrect numbers.
  • 1/4 had no voice mail/answering machine.
  • 1/4 were to voicemail, so  I left a message.  Easy
  • 1/4 I actually talked to the child’s adults.

So that last 1/4. 99.99% of the parents promised to look for the book and get it or the replacement cost to the library ASAP.

Now the others:

  • “My darlin did NOT check that out, I am not going to pay any $5, and the school had better NOT hold their grade card.”  Um. . . okay.
  • “My darlin said they returned that book, and we are not paying for it. It’s your word against theirs.”  My WORD?! We have spent the last two weeks inventorying all 10,000 items in the library.  The shelves have all been read and straightened.  We have searched for the books still checked out and/or missing several times.  My back still hurts, and my eyes still have a twitch from reading shelves in the semidark because our lightbults are blowing out all at once and we don’t have any replacements.  Your darlin has spent their last several library classes arguing with me about this book, and we have checked the shelves for it together.  Multiple times. It’s not here.
  • And my favorite:  Little darlin had failed to bring home any of my weekly overdue notices. SINCE JANUARY.   Darlin told momma they never got a note, and anyway they couldn’t return it because no one was in the library.  But, alas, momma wasn’t buying what darlin was selling. . . “I’m just calling to confirm that notes were sent.  I want to see how deep into this lie darlin’s gonna go.”

When does summer start?

So, I’ve managed one thing during my vacation. . other than family time. . . cleaned up the office. Oh, two things–I got rid of some old books (gasp).
I’m ready to go back to school.

This post from I.N.K. (Interesting Nonfiction for Kids), along with something else I saw today, in the Des Moines Register via LM_Net, along with a parent asking me to pull books about a family member’s death for her child today, got me thinking.  Are there topics that just can’t be written about for children?  Not just difficult, (like the books about death, which I think are necessary), but taboo?

I think the question isn’t whether such books can’t or shouldn’t be written, but is there  a market for them?  Will parents buy them?  Will librarians? Should I purchase books about controversial Supreme Court decisions, like Roe v. Wade?  Or books about homosexuality?  Kids should know about these topics, but what age is appropriate?

I don’t think my library has any books about puberty, even.  Do other elementary (K-5) librarians have such books?  I don’t even want to imagine the giggling that would ensue over titles about puberty.  The art books with ‘nekkid’ people are snicker-inducing enough!  But I’m sure some of my students would want/need to read them.

Reading about the brouhaha in Iowa, I wondered today if my choice not to buy And Tango Makes Three for my library was driven more by the considerations that it really doesn’t fit into our curriculum, my book budget is limited, and it’s available at my public library, or by the fact that I’m almost certain it would be challenged by someone in my school community.  I’ve read it, and I don’t think it should be a problem, but I’m always amazed by what books parents have complained about.

I’ve never had anyone complete a formal challenge for a book, but I’ve had a few complaints.  One complaint was a dog book that showed puppies being born.  Another was Gee Whiz!, a book about urine.  The chapter book I took home and read on a whim one afternoon that had a graphic rape scene  had been on the shelf since before I came to the school with nary a peep from anyone about its content–I sent that one to the middle school, deciding it was too heavy for fifth graders.

How do other school librarians make these decisions?  How do you draw the line between censoring your collection and choosing books appropriate for your community?  I remember discussing it during library school, but I still struggle with those decisions at times.

Just got back from the Tennessee Association of School Librarian conference yesterday.  Too pooped and sick to write much today, but hope to have more later.  Lots of good ideas I want to take back to my teachers and students.  Loved hearing Deborah Wiles and Will Richardson speak!  Wanted to blog about it while at the conference, but darned if I’m willing to pay $11 for wireless in the hotel or tie up one of the two computers available for that long!  (Boo Marriott).

Will hopefully write more about it later.

That Book Woman

That Book Woman

That Book Woman is both an account of the impact of the pack horse librarians that brought books to isolated Appalachian families, and the story of how one illiterate boy, Cal, becomes a reader.  As a librarian, this book made me tear up; I loved how Cal changes from resenting his sister’s love of books and wondering why “that book woman” is so persistent, to asking his sister to teach him to read and thanking “that book woman” by the end of the story.
This book was much better received by the adults in my school than the students (K-5).  The adults have uniformly loved it; the students gave it a lukewarm approval.  The vocabulary and dialect make it a difficult read for them, but it works as a heavily scaffolded read aloud–meaning, take the time to explain what’s going on as you read.

Posted at The Picnic Basket

The Day Leo Said “I Hate You!”
Robie H. Harris • Illustrated by Molly Bang
September 2008 •
Little, Brown and Company Books for Young Readers

I’ve been reading this book to my kindergarten through second grade library classes this week, and it has been a definite hit. An applause-after-the-story, read-it-again-now hit. It rates a 5/5 just on the students’ reactions. They are held rapt by Bang’s imaginative illustrations, which are a combination of drawing and Photoshopped objects, like the broccoli exploding around Mommy in one spread. They loved the crazy things Leo does and gets fussed at for, like squirting toothpaste down the toilet. The particularly observant ones have noticed that Leo’s stuffed dog and dinosaur react to his emotions by looking worried when he’s worried, etc. This book provoked a lot of conversation from the kids; I stopped just before Mommy’s reaction to Leo telling her “I Hate You!” and asked them what they thought.. Some of them were sure he was in BIG TROUBLE, and others admitted to doing something similar themselves. We talked a little about how angry words can hurt feelings, and especially about how it’s hard to take them back. The story ends with forgiveness and making amends, which relieved the students. Some of my teachers got to see it during Family Reading Night, and my behavior-assistance teacher decided to order her own copy, because it would be a great lead-in to talk about the hurtful power of words and the process of making amends with her students.

—posted as a comment at The Picnic Basket book review blog–