Thursday, October 29, 2015

Book Fair Judgment

Last week we had our state library conference and today I set up my book fair. One librarian remarked to me that she hated that a certain book fair provider sold "toys" at the book fair. I could not have disagreed with her more. Here's why:

1) Making value judgments on what a child buys is not your place. That is a parent's decision.

2) At my school, many children cannot afford $4-5 for a book. I remember not being able to buy anything from the book fair in elementary school. It was not fun. With 50 cents, students can buy at least something. Yes, a few books are discounted, but they do not always meet a child's interest.

3) At my school, every dollar earned at the book fair benefits the library, and all the money is used to buy books that the students can then check out. I inform the students of why we have book fairs and let them know that even if they buy a 50 cents eraser, all the money adds up, and they are helping their library.

4) We use part of our profits for giveaways that all students are eligible to enter. This way if students cannot afford a book, it is possible that they could win one!

As a school librarian, I pride myself on creating a welcoming environment for students. We have an unlimited circulation policy, and I try to make instruction rigorous, student-centered and engaging. I want that to carry over to the book fair as well. We have one of those libraries open to the hallway and I have heard excited cries of "book fair" all day.

Books about Mental Illness

I am reading two books about mental illness right now:

Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman has been selected as a finalist for the National Book Award for Young People's Literature. The story is told in short chapters and changes from Caden Bosch's reality as a teen suffering from schizophrenia to his adventures as a pirate crew member on a journey to Challenger Deep, the Southern part of the Marianas Trench.

Furiously Happy: a book about horrible things by Jenny Lawson is a laugh out loud take on living life with mental illness. Lawson suffers from anxiety disorder so severe that she feels compelled to rip her own hair out. The title of the book comes from a time when she was so depressed that she decided that she was going to be "furiously happy," come hell or high water. Lawson holds nothing back and says what she thinks.

My father committed suicide in 2002 and I have had my own issues with depression, most recently last year when I had trouble dealing with a diagnosis of chronic migraines, which severely impacted my ability to function at work and at home. Reading these books has brought up a lot of emotions. In one book, a character goes to a mental institution; my father spent his last few months in one and then committed suicide the day he was released. I've always wondered what happened to him there and what role that may have played in his death. The comparison of mental illness to a trench is very apt. I feel well now; I am functioning, but a bout with depression creates a fear. It is almost like it is a monster lying in wait, ready to drag me down. Once you have been in the dark trench of depression, the idea of going back there is terrifying.

Disclaimer: Some may view this post as oversharing. I share because mental illness is stigmatized. If this helps one person, it is worth it.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Perfectionist - pass it on

I share my experiences because mental illness needs to be talked about more. It shouldn't be a stigma. I'm sorry if anyone  thinks it is inappropriate. 

One of the most heartbreaking things about being mentally ill is seeing manifestations of the disease in your own children's behavior and knowing that you are responsible for passing it down to them genetically. Also, in all honesty, I have been a negative role model of someone managing these issues. I'm glad that I'm turning that around and I plan to start talking to them, since my own father never talked to us about his issues and he was my role model for handling mental illness.

My middle child (in 4th grade) has been identified has academically gifted. She gets extremely stressed out about grades and everything being perfect.

My youngest child (in 2nd grade) has had some behavior issues and we have made the assumption she doesn't care about success in school as much as my older children. Yesterday, she asked to go to the bathroom, but "disappeared." When they finally found her, she would not say where she was or why. She finally admitted that she hid in the stairwell because she couldn't figure out how to write a math journal on her morning work. In NC, students have to pass a written comprehension assessment. This kept Christine at a Level K (grade level is J) even though she can read fluently enough to read books in this series (at least level M): 

I think she may also be gifted, and a closet perfectionist. Middle child also struggled with the writing and would melt down if things did not come easily to her.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Hippocratic Oath for Librarians

Tis the season for awards and best of lists. I was thrilled to actively nominate books for the Cyblis for the first time. Several Mock Newbery blogs and groups are actively debating and choosing their favorite books. My friend Benji Martin and I even took a stab at it over at Newbery Pie, with our own predictions.

My husband is a nurse and I was thinking recently about the Hippocratic oath for doctors in comparison to our ethical standards. As librarians, our code of ethics doesn't really roll off the tongue the say way. Respect for authors and readers is definitely in there, as well as not self-inflating our own personal opinions, all things we need to keep in mind as we come to award/best of season. Ultimately, we need to remember that these are authors and illustrators who have shared something precious with us - their talent. I feel so blessed that I am the person who gets to share that talent with their intended audience - children.  Now something exciting; look who I got to meet last week!!!

Post from Facebook:

"It was completely worth the drive in the rain. I almost missed meeting Katherine Applegate because the event was at 5 at a school even though the website said 7, and I went to the bookstore. I even acted like a normal person, although I cried when I got to the car. I hope authors/illustrators know how much of an impact they have. I can't say awards mean nothing, but Ivan changed my life long before it got its shiny gold sticker. And while we as teachers/librarians share those awards and try to get our kids excited about them, a child's love for a book matters more. Kidlit authors: thank you for your work - you helped to set me on the path of my life when I was a child. If you are an author or illustrator my age or younger: you have helped to keep me on that path at times when I didn't think I could (or didn't want to) do this job anymore. You are my rock stars and my heroes. I wish I could give you all an award."