Thursday, November 19, 2015


Author Vince Vawter

"The book you don’t read won’t help." 

– Jim Rohn

This Spring my school welcomed author Vince Vawter for an author visit.  Vince's novel Paperboy is a powerful story about growing up in Memphis in the late 1950s.  The novel's protagonist "Little Man" wrestles with a serious stuttering condition.  I couldn't help but think how much this novel might help a child struggling with a disability.  Additionally, the story puts you into the mind of the little boy and provokes empathy for the battle against his own tongue.  Vince Vawter's novel is somewhat autobiographical and his struggle with speech drove him to write as a child on his very own typewriter, and then later to a long fulfilling career as a newspaper  journalist.

Author David Mitchell
Paul Stuart /Deckle Edge
Flash forward to this week  -- On the way to work I heard an excellent interview by Fresh Air's Sam Briger with author David Mitchell.  David Mitchell like Vince Vawter has a speech impediment causing him to stammer.  When asked about his stammer "It's this curse; it's this invisible doppelganger that's just out to wreck your life and destroy you and humiliate you and mortify you whenever it can. [That] is how you think about it and you view it as something you have to fight."

I write about these two authors as I further investigate the idea of bibliotherapy.  David Mitchell not only struggles with his own disability he also has a child with autism.  This is one of the reasons he gives for translating "The Reason I Jump", by Naoki Higashida, about a boy with autism.  David states "But as it happens, there was quite a useful overlap between Naoki's autism and our son's — that's reason one."

I believe that reading can have a therapeutic effect for those seeking specific help or solace.  This is why I am so interested in the study of bibliotherapy.  “Bibliotherapy is…a new science,” Bagster explains. “A book may be a stimulant or a sedative or an irritant or a soporific. The point is that it must do something to you, and you ought to know what it is. A book may be of the nature of a soothing syrup or it may be of the nature of a mustard plaster.” - Bagster quoted in a 1916 article in The Atlantic Monthly  and then again in June 2015 New Yorker.

For more on practical recommendations for YA bibliotherapy check out the SLJ blog by Karen Jensen "Teen Lit Toolbox."

Check out these links to articles about Bibliotherapy

Monday, November 16, 2015

Teens Need Sleep

A Librarian Mom never sleeps:

As the mom of teenagers, I work very hard to make sure that my teens are healthy.  I organize healthy meals, make certain that my kids have exercise, and of course I want them to get a good night’s sleep.  As a librarian, I see the research about adolescents and their need for additional sleep.  Research studies from UCLA, University of British Columbia, and The National Sleep Foundation, point out that puberty and the onset of puberty shifts the timing of a teens' circadian rhythms and that makes it hard for them to fall asleep before 10 pm.  Knowing all of this sent me on another research journey to find a solution, so that my teens get enough sleep.  Some articles suggest that the answer is simple, "start school later."  However, corporate business schedules within a community often drive school schedules, so recommending that we start school at 9 or 10 am is somewhat unrealistic.  Focusing on the things that we can change is the key.    Based on research and personal trial and error, the solutions for my family have been in routines and rituals.
Too much exposure to
smartphone screens ruins your sleep, study shows

Some nighttime rituals/routines to consider
  • Lower the lights throughout the house
  • A light snack 
  • No caffeine after dinner
  • Give the devices a bedtime [30 minutes to an hour before the teens bedtime]
  • Charge the devices in another room [not the bedroom]
  • Layout clothing for the next day
  • Have prayers or meditations 

See these articles about teens and sleep:

"Teens in the U.S. have been found to be chronically sleep-deprived and pathologically sleepy. A National Sleep Foundation poll found 59 percent of 6-8th graders and 87 percent of high school students in the U.S. were getting less than the recommended 8 1/2 to 9 1/2 hours of sleep on school nights."

"Adding to the adolescent shift in circadian rhythm are myriad electronic distractions that cut further into sleep time, like smartphones, iPods, computers and televisions. A stream of text messages, tweets, and postings on Facebook and Instagram keep many awake long into the night.  Just the light from a screen can suppress melatonin, the hormone in the brain that signals sleep."

"One 2010 study from the University of British Columbia, for example, found that sleep loss can hamper neuron growth in the brain during adolescence, a critical period for cognitive development."

Sleep Rituals: Training The Body And The Mind - by Dr. Michael J. Breus Clinical Psychologist; Board Certified Sleep Specialist
"These days, it's far too easy to push bedtime aside with countless distractions, including those from the television, computer, telephone ... But sleep is not a luxury that you can push aside or save for later. Sleep is critical."

"One change in the body during puberty is closely related to how you sleep. There is a shift in the timing of your circadian rhythms. Before puberty, your body makes you sleepy around 8:00 or 9:00 pm. When puberty begins, this rhythm shifts a couple hours later. Now, your body tells you to go to sleep around 10:00 or 11:00 pm.    The natural shift in a teen's circadian rhythms is called "sleep phase delay." The need to sleep is delayed for about two hours. At first, teens may appear to be suffering from insomnia. They will have a hard time falling asleep at the usual time. While they begin going to sleep later, they still need an average of nine hours of sleep at night. Because most teens have to wake up early for school, it is important for them to go to bed on time."

See New Study from 2017
Effects of Mobile Phones on Children's and Adolescents' Health: A Commentary

 CBS News contributor Lisa Damour joins "CBS This Morning" 
| A new study in the journal Child Development shows nighttime usage of a cell phone can increase anxiety and depression in teenagers and reduce self-esteem. This is the first study that shows a direct link between screen time and mental health. Psychologist and CBS News contributor Lisa Damour joins "CBS This Morning" to discuss tips for parents who want to decrease their teens' cell phone usage and how screen time affects important sleep habits.

Monday, November 09, 2015

What is a Library and What is a Librarian?

Profession and Institution in Question:

This weekend I encountered two very different articles.  The first article was about a school district that decided to eliminate library media specialist positions. The article's title asked the question "Are school librarians going way of the milkman?"  My reaction was "What?"  A principal prominent in the article, was explaining why a library media specialist position was being "traded" for a reading specialist in her school.  According to the article "Principals are given flexibility over whether to keep media specialists or use the position differently."  So the wheels in my brain were spinning -- First, what kind of horrible school librarian did this principal have as a child?  Second, did the former librarian at her school retire, quit, do a terrible job, etc.??  I guess the question is really "Why?"  Unfortunately, the answer to 'why this is happening' is that many decisions today are being made quickly and they are often a reaction to budgetary struggles and/or test scores.  
The second article was about a re-envisioned library space for the new Cabot Science Library at Harvard University.  The idea is to incorporate the promenade into a "dynamic commons" for learning and collaboration.  Also, the renovation will make the library areas more visible and inviting.  The plans for a new flexible space sound both progressive and practical to me.  

After reading both articles, I hope that more and more school librarians begin to think with vision for the future of our profession and the institution of the school library.  I know that many are embracing the learning commons model, and I find this exciting.  

What is a Library?

"The library is no longer a warehouse for dead books.  ...The library is a house for the librarian."  The Future of the Library by Seth Godin 

“The notion of a library as a fundamentally social space, where ideas are animated and engaged in collaboratively, is really an ancient idea,” said Schnapp.
"A school library without a librarian is like a classroom without a teacher." - ilovelibraries An initiative of the American Library Association

What is a Librarian? 

From my favorite source The Urban Dictionary"Librarians wield unfathomable power, bring order to chaos, wisdom and culture to the masses, preserve every aspect of human knowledge and rule the information universe." 
Second favorite definition The Future of the Library by Seth Godin"The librarian isn't a clerk who happens to work at a library. A librarian is a data hound, a guide, a sherpa and a teacher. The librarian is the interface between reams of data and the untrained but motivated user."

More about a librarian and libraries

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Are final exams truly college preparatory?

"the way of the dodo" - 

A number of articles were published between 2010 - 2012 explaining that the percentage of college final exams given at the nations top universities was dwindling.
"reversing the default procedure for scheduling examinations reflects a pedagogical reality.  It appears that finals are going the way of the dodo. Harris [Harvard dean] told the faculty that of 1,137 undergraduate-level courses this spring term, 259 scheduled finals  --- For the more than 500 graduate-level courses offered, just 14 had finals" -  Bye-bye, Blue Books
Many college preparatory schools still cling to traditional final exam schedules that mimic the "disappearing" university model.  So my question is - Are we truly preparing students for college by strictly giving exams?  Do we need to shift to more authentic assessment in the same way universities have shifted their practices?

Here is a reading list for the week: 

Fewer and fewer university professors are using exams as assessment.

Now some districts are considering foregoing exams at the high school level

Final Exams: A Necessary Endeavor?

One of nation’s largest school districts ditches high school final exams

Two major school districts eliminating some final exams

What Schools Could Use Instead Of Standardized Tests

Study: High Standardized Test Scores Don't Translate to Better Cognition