The Invention of Wings & The Songs of Willow Frost

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd is the most lyrical and poetically written non-poetry, book I have ever read.  The story is about two sisters who become abolitionists and 2 slaves who finally escape.  (No, not giving anything away.)  It is based in fact and set in Charleston, SC.  The writing is so beautiful that I would not allow myself to read too much each day so that I could savor the book.  Usually I read and do other things at the same time… NOT with this book!  

The characters are so ALIVE they actually breathe!  The women are not your typical mealy-mouths that were the women of the time period, but outspoken women who are able to stand up to injustice and espouse it to the world while handling the negative fall-out from others.

Not intentionally meaning to lessen the impact of slavery or even make a comment on it, but I was a bit put off with the topic and said, “Really another book on slavery?”  BUT it isn’t.  It is about so much more and the research on the treatment of slaves is critical. 

It is on Oprah’s book list and no telling how many other awards that it will win.  Sue Monk Kidd is our modern day equivalent to Margaret Mitchell or dare I say Harper Lee.  She has outdone herself with this book.  The Secret Life of Bees. was an exceptional book, too.

This will go into my favorites list!  Incredible book, well-written, A MUST READ!

Another MUST READ is The Songs of Willow Frost by Jamie Ford, which is another book that I wouldn’t let myself read too many pages a day… I love his writing! The characters are completely whole. He must get Divine inspiration from the Universe. I love Jamie Ford’s artistic writing abilities! His first novel called Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet was an excellent must-read. This book is about American-Japanese interment camps and the lives of the people including the American-Chinese who were thrown into the camps. Both of these stories will linger with you. Jamie Ford can’t write books fast enough for me.
I must say that this was so eloquently written in my head right before I fell asleep and forgot all those beautiful words! Aw, hell!

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Genre set up

No doubt we would all agree that going to a bookstore is a great place to go. What happens in the bookstore when you can’t find the book you are looking for because you don’t know the genre? Sometimes you stumble upon it. Other times you settle for something else. Sometimes you look it up on their computer system or ask someone… AND sometimes you cry out in frustration!

The genre set up is too limiting for school age students. Especially with a younger audience. I have seen a student who wanted sci-fi reach over and grab an historical fiction just because the books were next to each other on the shelf. When a library is set up by genre, the possibility of a sci-fi lover to go to historical fiction is slim. If books are on the shelf together in alphabetical order by author, students stand a better chance of becoming more rounded readers and branching out to other genres. Genre book tags are somewhat limiting but less so than by genre. What about books that might be two or more genres? Do we waste our limited funds buying the same title so that they can go into different genre places? Our chances of creating life-long readers grows exponentially if the books are together.

I remember as a young reader in school looking for a book “just like that one.” I found many different genres because our library was set up by author. It made me look at certain genres that I would never have looked at if the books had been by genre. My public library has changed to genre and I find that I am running around like crazy looking for books.

This really isn’t about change. I don’t mind change. In fact, I embrace change because it’s healthy. This is about book access and crossing genre lines. Happy Reading!

Pollyanna lives

I have always looked on the bright side of the world.  Through the years, students would ask me why I was so happy.  When I was a young girl, my daddy said that it takes as much or more energy to wake up on the wrong side of the bed as it does to wake up on the right side of the bed.  He said that we choose how we are going to feel each morning when we wake up.  From that moment on, I decided to be a “right side of the bed” riser.  I have pretty much lived a positive life and positive things flow my way.  The world has become a bit negative and students seem to be so downtrodden now, that they have a hard time with the concept that we make our own world or environment.

 

I am eager to share books with students, as well as my excitement about life. The students can’t help but catch the “happy” bug when they are around me. I tell them all the time- It’s about the attitude! You will get so much out of life if your attitude is a good one. You will “sell” a lot more books to students if you are excited about them.

I was at a librarians’ meeting today and a few of the librarians were bemoaning Manga as junk instead of a jumping off place for new readers. I had to say, “It doesn’t matter WHAT you read; it only matters that you DO read.” I told them that we rarely read classics and the same is true for our students. I mean, really how many classics have you read in the last few years?
Quite often, life-long readers are created by the “Pollyannas” in the world! We get people all hopped up on reading and they get addicted, and voila! they become life-long readers. Reading is how people become smarter and they don’t even it know it! All of the sudden, a new word makes sense and they hear it everywhere! Or a new idea has formed and they didn’t even know when the seed was planted.

This Pollyanna has to say it again and scream it to the mountaintops across the world – “IT DOESN’T MATTER WHAT YOU READ; IT ONLY MATTERS THAT YOU DO READ!” Can I get a Hell yeah?

Judging books by their covers

It took a year before I would read Bloody Jack by L A Meyer and now I have read all 11 of the books! It is a Young Adult book about a girl pirate, and the first cover was hideous! It looked like a silly cartoon and I wouldn’t touch the book for an entire year. The books are wonderful and the books on CD are even better! The Cockney accent in the beginning is a bit tough for students to read at the start, but then the book takes you for an adventure! They also give a history lesson through time. I love all 11 of the books. Can you believe a book about a “girl pirate” would be so much fun?
We all judge books by their covers, so I asked students to find books with awful covers that made them just want to put them down and create new covers. Some students really enjoyed it and created some beautiful pieces. Those book jackets are now enticing, and students want to read them.
As a librarian, you have to stay one step ahead, so reading the young adult novels is imperative. When a student brings back a book, I ask, “Did you like this book?” If they say yes, I have a new book to tell them about. If they say no, I ask them what their favorite book was and find them a book along those same genre lines. If they don’t know, I have a book for that, too!
They students really get excited that I have a new book for them. Whatever gets them to return and check out another book, is what’s important. Students are never a number at my school and Never do they leave the library wishing they had never come in.
Years ago I had an assistant who wasn’t very nice to the students. The students would come and tell me, “I want you to help me find a book, because she isn’t very nice.” I constantly corrected my assistant and she would say, “But I am nice to them!” That wasn’t the students’ perceptions. I would tell her, “It doesn’t matter what you think. It only matters what our patrons think, and they think you are mean.” I would have to have this conversation about 4 times a year with her.
I don’t know why librarians and assistants have to make students feel like they are “bothering” them! The whole idea is to get students INTO the library and keep them coming back. But once “judged by the cover,” most won’t read the book.

What good are Young Adult books?

Quite often I hear from other librarians- “We only have the Classic Literature in our library.”  What hooey!  What arrogance!  What snobbery!  They are stealing from students!  They are stealing students’ ability to grow as readers because VERY FEW young adults start with the classics and continue to become LIFE LONG READERS!  (You really can’t tell that this is a pet-peeve, can you?)  Certainly it would be great if we all read the classics and this world were full of educated individuals.  How do we get there?  Do you think when we all learned to read that we started with classic literature?  Ha! maybe “Run, Spot, Run” is classic now.  

The point is.  Students develop their reading skills by reading YA books and move on.  Some, as adults, will read the classics and others will read spy novels, but the actual point is THEY WILL READ, because they were able to develop their skills with YA books.  I am like a lot of educated individuals who feel that our classic literature is being lost;  allusions aren’t understood anymore;   aphorisms have become a huge joke; idioms are completely misunderstood and misquoted.  Yes, many of these are found in classic literature which used to be our basis of learning; however, our world has changed.  Alas, so must how we learn and transfer knowledge change.  (Yes, grammatically upsetting but poetic?)  

Young adults might move on to classical literature, but first they must be readers.  When an allusion is placed in a YA book, maybe the young adult will want to know more.  Nah, just like adult readers – they will continue on with the story.  Maybe that is what we need to do – continue on with the story.

The only safety net we have in our world is Education.  The more educated a person; the less likely the person will live in the lizard part of the brain and other brain areas will activate.  Reading gets us beyond ourselves and our small world.  It allows us to flourish, grow and forget about our small problems and look at the world on a larger scale and maybe, just maybe understand a little more.  Sorry, but I have to leave you with this run-on sentence.  Have a merry Monday!

Censorship offends me

Okay, I know this will surely date me to prehistoric times, but do you remember the BOOKMOBILE? The bookmobile day was such an exciting day! We could check out two books for a whole week. Wow! Exciting times. Well, reading has changed. Or maybe that should read – Young Adult books have changed since the bookmobile days! I believe that students should have access to literature and that the student and parent should decide together what is appropriate for the student. That being said, I know that sometimes the books I wanted to read, I didn’t want to discuss with my momma. She tells how she became a reader when she got ahold of the book Peyton Place. She was in high school and the book was passed around her crowd until it was a wreck that no one could read. The more I read – the more “stuff” I would read about. That was much better than hearing false information from friends or no information from home.
When I first became a librarian, the other librarians would talk about how their principal would remove books from their shelves without going through the correct procedures on reconsideration of material policy. I believe that is censorship in its vilest form. It is the job of the librarian to remind principals/parents/people about the district policy that has been adopted about reconsideration of materials. Censorship should not be tolerated. Yes, books have changed, but it isn’t your call what I should read.
Talk about changes – I remember when Judy Blume’s books were all the rage because of content! I couldn’t wait to read them. I don’t think that I became warped because of a book!
My mom thought being informed was better than not.
This quote from Joseph Henry Jackson certainly hits a high note with me: “Did you ever hear anyone say, ‘That book had better be banned because I might read it and it might be very damaging to me?'”
So yes, books have changed due to content and language, but does that make them bad books? It makes them “real” books. I think that librarians today would be hard pressed to find a YA book that doesn’t contain the F-word. Do words on paper really make us better or worse people? Isn’t it better to make your own decisions about what you read? In the words of Bob Dylan – “Times – they are a-changin’.”
In high school we teach Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 where books are banned and burned. I hope people today understand the awful implication of this and will stand against censorship.

Still loving it

I knew in the 4th grade that I was placed on earth to be a teacher.  At the end of the school year, I would carry a box around to all of the elementary teachers and ask for their leftover mimeograph (yeah, the purple stuff) worksheets.  I would tote the box home 2 blocks and have a plethora of worksheets for every grade, every level and every discipline.  I was differentiating back then!  When my mom made us take a nap everyday in the summer, I would open my window, push out the screen and teach all of the children in the neighborhood!  This went on for a long time.  I even taught non-school age children.  One day, my mom caught me and school had to have a new time schedule.

I started getting paid to teach 32 years ago and still love what I do!  My first year in teaching, I was with some really mean, jealous, veteran teachers who made fun of me for smiling all day… “You get a few years in this business and you won’t be smiling like that anymore.”  I told them, “If I’m not smiling, then I will go get a job I love.”  They also made fun of my wearing heels to school, so you can imagine all the other things they said to me.  They were mean bullies and I cried all the way home everyday, but I lived through the first year of teaching with no mentor and no help.  Yes, “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger…” plus “I remember that and help newbies as much as possible!”

 

It’s important to not only help the students become readers, but to keep teachers in the loop with new literature. My teachers are really good about taking advice about what they should read next. It’s great that the students see the teachers with “outside” reading material on their desks. That goes back to modeling the positive outcomes that you are trying to reinforce with students.
I also ask teachers what they are teaching next and find new material to help them or take their notes and put them into PowerPoint or Prezi. Things they don’t have time to do.
Ipads are a new teaching tool that our school just received and the teachers are exploring the Apps, so I tell them about ones that will help them with their classes. Whatever I can do to make their teaching world easier, I do it.
Today I am going to leave you with; “If you are not making a positive impact in your school with students and peers, it might be time to retire.”