Saturday, July 5, 2014

ALA 2014 Highlights - #ALAAC14

with conference buddy and roommate Jessica Gillis
ALA 2014 Highlights

This year's American Library Association conference was both wonderfully-inspiring and incredibly overwhelming. So many sessions go on simultaneously, making choices pretty stressful! And, Las Vegas to me is a surreal and pretty uncomfortable place. The weather is unbearably hot, it seems that every hotel is designed to prevent you from finding your way out of the casinos to the meeting rooms, and the distances between one meeting venue and another are deceptively far. While I can't say I enjoyed the city, I do want to thank the local people for being consistently friendly. I also want to thank all the many, many ALA and divisions staff, leaders, and volunteers who worked so hard to make the conference an incredibly enriching experience for all of us who attended.

Although I know the minute I publish this, I'll fret about what I left out that was also great, but here are a few of the conference highlights for me:

21st Century Teens: Literacy in a Digital World

I spent the day Friday at a YALSA-sponsored workshop on "21st Century Teens: Literacy in a Digital World." There was lots of great material at this workshop, but the most engaging parts for me were the author talks and panels. I got to hear several authors of whom I'm alread big fan - Neal Shusterman, Scott Westerfield, and David Levithan - and I now have three-new-to-me authors at the top of my "must read" list: Lindsey Leavitt, Erin Lange, Marie Liu, and Graham Salisbury.

Kathryn Lewis, Chair of the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Common Core Task Force, kicked off the day with advice and insight on Common Core implementation. Not surprisingly to any of us librarians, she shared that "students need opportunities to stretch their reading abilities but also to experience the satisfaction and pleasure of easy, fluent reading." We librarians certainly must help provide the stretch reading, but we also need to champion students' right to read what they want to read and the profound value of reading what they enjoy. She encouraged us to visit the Common Core toolkit information on the AASL site.

Authors Lindsey Leavitt, Neal Shusterman, and Scott Westerfield participated in a panel moderated by Librarian Jack Bauer on "Click Here: Teens, Technology, and Literacy" which explored the impact of social media options on how teens communicate with each other. As an example of the power of social media, Shusterman shared that he discovered teens creating Twitter accounts for his book characters and tweeting in their voices. They did such a good job that he hired them to continue doing so professionally! Westerfield noted that one of the most important things libraries do is to create safe places for teens. He shared how teens use his forums to discuss all sorts of subjects, not necessarily related to his books, since they take advantage of it as a safe place.

Author Erin Jade Lange spoke to us about the intersection of social media and bullying.  She explained that she was bullied as a child. She cited cases of Alzheimer patients who have lost the memory of who family memories, are but still remember the details of bullying. "It sticks with you forever," she explained. Today, though, she explained, kids carry their tormentors in their pockets; they can't get away from it. Explaining why she writes books that include this cruelty, she shared that reality is worse than fiction; she writes to create stories with a new edge of hope. I have her newest book, Dead Ends, right near the top of my summer reading stack.

Authors David Levithan, Marie Liu, and Graham Salisbury participated in panel moderated by Librarian Walter Mayes on "Diversity in Literature." Some takeaways from that panel included Levithan's statement that our goal should be to lead kids to books that teach them about the world, not necessarily that are about them. Salisbury shared that a key to getting more diverse literature is getting kids to read more and become writers. It's dangerous, Marie Liu stated, to talk about books with diverse elements as "special interest"; they are for everyone. To experience diversity, Levithan said, you need to read a lot of books. I couldn't resist asking David Levithan if I could have my photo taken with him since I have enjoyed so many of his books myself and seen them resonate with my students:

I usually try to "sample" authors and then move on, so that I have knowledge of as many different authors to share with my students as possible. I clearly "broke that rule" this school year when I read three different books by Levithan: Every Day, Two Boys Kissing, and Invisibility. (Invisibility was co-authored with Andrea Cremer.) I really couldn't tell you my favorite; I loved them all. 

Printz Awards

Friday also included another conference highlight for me, the Printz Awards. Marcus Sedgwick, author of Midwinterblood, the 2014 Printz Award book, shared how his local library was a safe haven for him as a child. He told us that our reading experiences as children determine not just what we read as adults, but, more importantly, whether we read at all. So helping children discover the love of reading when they are young is vital to their futures. We were also treated to a panel with Sedgwick and the four Printz Honor authors. I was delighted to get to meet Rainbow Rowell, author of two books both my students and I have loved this year, Eleanor and Park (a 2014 Printz Honor book) and Fangirl:

(So I guess I broke my "one book by an author" rule with Rainbow Rowell as well. I'm also anxiously awaiting the publication of her new adult book, Landline, in a few days.)

Donalyn Miller Speaks at the AASL President's Program

I've been a big fan of Donalyn Miller since I read her book, The Book Whisperer, several years ago, in which she shares her strategies for turning each and every one of her middle school students into avid readers through the culture of reading she builds in her classroom. She tells them at the start of school that they will read 40 books during the year, and they all meet and often exceed that goal. I was delighted to get to hear her speak at the conference. I think I took more of my Twitter "notes" at this session than any of the others I attended. Here they are:

By me, Donalyn's The Book Whisperer is a must read for every librarian and English or reading teacher. Her newest book, Reading in the Wild is on my summer "to read" list.

Best Apps and Best Websites

Saturday afternoon I attended AASL's 2014 Best Apps for Teaching and Learning session, and, as a committee member, participated in the 2014 Best Websites for Teaching and Learning session.

The 25 newly-selected apps were organized into these categories: Books; Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM); Organization & Management; Social Sciences: and Content Creation

The 25 best websites were organized into these categories: Media Sharing; Digital Storytelling; Manage & Organize; Social Networking & Communication; Content Resources; and Curriculum Collaboration.

Being on the Best Websites committee meant that I got to experiment with many of the nominated sites earlier this year. I still have several I need to spend more time with, and am going to schedule some time this summer to check out those as well as all the best apps. I started using one of the apps, Duolingo (also a website), just yesterday, to fulfill a summer resolution to revive my lost Spanish-speaking skills. And, note that I used one of the best websites, Storify, for the embedded tweets above about Donalyn Miller's session. Do check out both lists for great offerings for teaching as well as for our own professional practice and productivity.

Here is a Pinterest board with the 25 best websites.

Sinner Party

Saturday night I had the fun of attending a launch party graciously hosted by Scholastic Publishing for Maggie Stiefvater's brand new book, Sinner. Maggie is not only an incredibly talented young author, she is also an artist and musician who creates trailers for all her books with original art and music. Check them out on her YouTube Channel.

At the launch party we all got copies of the book (in advance of the official July1 publication date!) and the bonus of a special book jacket created by Maggie. Here's the official book jacket:

And here's the special book jacket she created:

You'll notice a similarity between the art in this book jacket and the video she created to promote the book:

And here I sit now at home in Los Angeles, the city were Sinner is set with the book by me, with just 36 pages left and not knowing whether I want it to end or not and whether I should finish this blog posting or finish the book first. So... I'm going to conclude this posting now with plans to report about Sunday/Monday/Tuesday at ALA in another post and go finish the book. :-)

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