Friday, May 15, 2015

Summer reading options

Time to start thinking about summer reading … there are tons of lists of great titles – old and new – plus the choice of technology. Of course, we are encouraging teachers and students to grab print copies or to select eBooks from Follett (Winnetka or Northfield) or OverDrive as we have offered in the past. Other places to look for eBooks include the Daily Deal offered by amazon’s Kindle or perhaps choose from the list of Vintage Shorts. And do not forget the many options for all ages available through the local public libraries.
There are a couple of other programs worth attention, too. In case you are interested in listening to audiobooks for free this summer (or even during the next school year), please check out the program at:   These titles (YA Lit and a classic) are available in pairs and change every Thursday morning. I just downloaded a free audio book in a few minutes and my understanding is that these MP3 files are the user’s to keep BUT the download period is limited to a specific week. Note, for example, that both Monster and Lord of the Flies are available during week 8 (June 25th to July 2nd).

As mentioned, we support the OverDrive app since we offer a number of eBooks through New Trier’s Library, AND local public librarians would also be familiar with the technology and be able to help. More directions for download prep are available on the sync site.   Plus, (helpful for teachers who are parents, too) they will send you to a literacytoolkit with links for reading lists ACROSS the K-12 spectrum, including ones for high school and adult titles for high school students.
Students who are interested in combining reading with some writing should consider participating in the 6th Annual New York Times Summer Reading Contest.  Every Friday from June 12 through August 14, they will pose the same question: "What interested you most in The Times this week?"  According to the Learning Network, anyone 13 to 19 years old from anywhere in the world can post an answer, and contestants can choose any Times article, essay, video, interactive or photograph published n 2015, on any topic they like.  If chosen your response will be posted on the blog. 

HEY, LIBRARIANS and other avid readers: Are you looking forward to Fall and Winter previews? Buzz Books is offering another free download with a big (33 excerpts) selection of both Fiction and Non-Fiction titles for adults and high school students. Plus, there is a special YA Fiction set (20 titles) available with excerpts of upcoming titles from James Dashner, Patrick Ness, and Jennifer E. Smith to name just a few.  These collections from Buzz Books keep getting better and better, even offering links to request the full text. They encourage you to experiment by sampling work from debut authors and a variety of publishers. It is a source for ideas on many books that are reviewed at our Book Talk blog. Be sure to enjoy the summer and keep reading!!!

Have any other summer reading ideas to recommend?  Please let us know!

Thursday, April 02, 2015

School Library Month Resources

Happy April! Take a few minutes and celebrate School Library Month. 

Watch and SHARE this great, short new video from Common Craft called “Libraries in the Internet Age.”  They say, “We love libraries and librarians. We want them to succeed and we made this video to help the public understand how libraries have changed in the Internet Age.”

This year’s theme for School Library Month is “Your School Library Where Learning Never Ends” which reprises the very first theme celebrated 30 years ago on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. So much has happened since 1985 and so much innovation, imagination and collaboration is underway as essential school libraries transform learning across the country.  For a few more facts, browse this infographic from AASL which is available online (and for download) :

Also available to download is the recent American Libraries issue which was produced in partnership with AASL and focuses on advocacy for school libraries.

With articles titled “Do Kids Even Use the Library Anymore?” and “Creating Coalitions,” it is designed for librarians to share with stakeholders like parents, colleagues and administrators.  So keep sharing … it’s exactly what school librarians are all about … learning that never ends!   

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis by Robert D. Putnam

Is income inequality a serious concern? Impacting opportunity for upward mobility? Robert D. Putnam, Harvard University professor and author of Bowling Alone, argues yes to both in his new book Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis. Putnam combines observations of his 1959 high school classmates and of current students with statistics, data and research to support his argument. 

Putnam and his book Our Kids were recently featured on pbs so if you only take one thing away from this rather long post be sure to watch that interview:


Video and transcript available here.

Putnam focuses on families, parenting, schooling, and community in separate sections of his book.  He makes many wise observations, including, “Because of growing class segregation in America, fewer and fewer successful people (and even fewer of our children) have much idea of how the other half lives. So we are less empathetic than we should be to the plight of less privileged kids.”  Don’t agree? Then take the “quiz” proposed at a recent Ted Conference by journalist and author Anand Giridharadas; he says:

“If you live near a Whole Foods; If no relative of yours serves in the military; If you’re paid by the year, not the hour; If no one you know uses meth; If you married once and remain married; If most people you know finished college; If you aren’t one of 65 million Americans with a criminal record. If any or all of these things describe you, then accept the possibility that, actually, you may not know what’s going on, and you may be part of the problem.”  

Read that again – and then turn to Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis for more detailed insight.
In the past few years, I have noticed much more interest from our students on economic and social class issues.  They have been sharing ideas recently as they grapple with questions for a major research paper.  Here are a few examples of questions that interest them:
  • Why do people end up becoming homeless? What factors contribute to it? To what extent are parents obligated to sacrifice their dreams to provide for their family? 
  • Should the Federal minimum wage be raised? Who works in fast food establishments? How has this changed over time? Can those workers earn enough to support a family?
  • How do parenting styles impact children’s ability to cope with stress and to succeed at school?
As we research, I am certainly mentioning Putnam’s Our Kids and the pbs interview, but I am also encouraging them to be on the lookout for other articles and editorials that will contribute to their arguments.

Here are a few that we found recently which are worth a look by everyone. Each probably deserves its own blog post, but they are certainly more powerful when read together:
  •  The Global Flight from the FamilyWall Street Journal (Feb, 20, 2015) which provides additional examples to show that these changes are not just happening in America.

Kudos to the teachers involved for encouraging exploration of these issues and kudos to the students for their critical thinking and raising some important, timely and relevant questions. If you are looking to explore these ideas further, read Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis by Robert Putnam.  Think about it – maybe take it with you on your family’s Spring Break trip to Mexico or Belize – we will have plenty to discuss when you return.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Illinois Computing Educator Resources

The Library Department spent our Institute Day (Friday, February 27th) at ICE, the annual conference for Illinois Computing Educators.  The schedule included an opening keynote and then a variety of poster and breakout sessions. Especially helpful this year is the set of online resources which are posted here. It means that even though we did not attend Thursday’s keynote on the Maker Movement, for example, we can still access the shared notes or look at presentation materials from other sessions like the one which Kathy Garneau  with husband Marc (who is New Trier technology Staff Developer and Librarian)  presented on “My school is 1:1 what do I do now.”  Use the drop down menus at the top of the main page to search by presenter, by day and time and so forth to find materials of interest to you.

This year, tons of resources covered topics like “Creating with iBooks Author” to “Getting the most out of your ChromeBook” and many, many more ideas. In fact, even though they were applicable across a range of grades and subjects, it did seem as though the sessions were more stratified by device and I am wondering what that portends for the future of both the ICE Conference and student exposure to technology.

As always, it was great to see friends and colleagues from sending schools and many local high schools.  I found myself missing Judy Gressel and thinking of how she always encouraged us to come away with at least one new thing that we could use immediately.  Lisa Dettling of Stevenson provided the one for me.  Her poster session was highlighting primary sources now more easily searchable due to a Library of Congress grant to Barat Education Foundation.  I know that are Modern World History students will love the cartoons and other information about Imperialism in the Philippines. Certainly, our AP US students who are building DBQ’s will be grateful for the general link, too.  

But the learning doesn’t stop – it will be fun to go back and review presentation materials from bloggers and tweeters like Nick Provenzano, Josh Stumpenhorst, Vinnie Vrotney, and more.  Also, several of us attended a session on Flipboard and decided  to explore its functionality further at an upcoming Library Department meeting.