School Library Programs and Services

LGBTQAI+ books for children and teens: an interview with Christina Dorr and Liz Deskins

There is a rich and varied body of literature for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, asexual/allied and intersexed young people; in fact, within the past decade there has been a veritable explosion of new titles. A new book, LGBTQAI+ Books for Children and Teens: Providing a Window for All, surveys the landscape, not only spotlighting dozens of recommended books but also offering guidance on how to share them with young people. We caught up with authors Christina Dorr and Liz Deskins to talk with them about how their book came together, ways in which reading builds empathy, and some "desert island" picks for their favorite LGBTQAI+ lit. 

So, this is your second book together. What was the genesis of the project? Was anything different about your collaboration this time around?

We are both passionate about human rights issues, and gay rights is a large part of that. It was amazing ALA at 2015 San Francisco Pride Parade; photo by American Librariesserendipity that we were at the ALA Annual conference in San Francisco in 2015 on the day the Supreme Court handed down the ruling making marriage legal for same sex couples. We saw the celebrations in the streets and the Pride Parade, and realized that the time had come to provide a resource that would support and encourage public and school librarians, as well as classroom teachers to provide and share quality LGBTQAI+ literature with their patrons and students. This book was an amazing collaboration, as we both worked on all chapters, adding titles and annotations. Some of the ancillary portions, we divided and conquered.

Why is this topic so personally important to both of you?

This book was truly a labor of love for both of us. We each have someone near and dear to us in the gay community and saw the challenges they faced growing up. In a joyous event last summer, Liz’s son married his partner in a legal marriage. As school librarians we do our best to choose books to be windows and doors for all of our students. We believe in the power of empathy and understanding through good literature, and are hopeful this book will encourage other librarians to make these books available as well.

You’ve mentioned that LGBTQAI+ books act as mirrors and windows—what do you mean by that?

This is a concept put forward by Ohio State University professor emeritus, Rudine Sims Bishop, under which we both studied. She contends that It is so important for children to be able to see themselves in book cover for LGBTQAI+ Books for Children and Teens: Providing a Window for Allbooks, to know that they are not alone. But it is just as important they read books where they see characters different from themselves. Reading builds empathy and understanding, two qualities worth cultivating.

What advice can you offer libraries that are dealing with community objections to LGBTQAI+ books or outreach? Or who may be self-censoring to avoid potential conflicts?

Our job is not to only promote those books we like or find interesting; our job is to present a whole and balanced curated collection of materials. In this case, the issue is respect and basic human rights for everyone. Sexuality and gender identity are types of diversity, among many, but neither of these are the impetus of for this book, or the books we suggest. Everyone has a right to see themselves in a book, or their family, or their friends. And everyone has the right to be treated with understanding, empathy, and respect. Our book shares quality titles, conversation starters, and other resources that could assist in the defense of the book, if you should need it.

Okay, desert island time! If you could choose only three LGBTQAI+ titles to recommend, what would they be?

Christina’s picks: This Day in June by Gayle E. Pitman (for young children), The Best Man by Richard Peck (for middle grade children), and Queer, Here, There, and Everywhere by Sarah Prager (for teens); Liz’s picks: The Straight Line Wonder by Mem Fox (for young children), The Misfits by James Howe (for middle grade children), and Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan (for high school).

Learn more about the book at the ALA Store.

Building literacy skills through creative writing: a conversation with AnnMarie Hurtado

Decades of research show that children learn to read through writing. Creative writing in particular encourages children's'imaginations to take flight. In this way, a form of play can also build literacy skills. First-time author AnnMarie Hurtado explains this approach in her new book 36 Workshops to Get Kids Writing: From Aliens to Zebras.

So … your first book! Congrats! What was it like? And what did you find the hardest about the process? How did you stay motivated?

I really loved working with ALA Editions. I would love to write for you again. Jamie Santoro was my acquiring editor and she was a gem, offering a lot of feedback and support throughout the writing. And my hats off to Angela Gwizdala, who has been taking the draft and all my ideas for the handouts, and working with the designers to make everything come together!

I submitted a proposal to ALA Editions in late 2016, and after my proposal for the book was accepted, I dove into the research. I wanted to know all about how creative writing impacts children’s development of reading fluency and overall academic success. The things I learned for the writing of this book have continued to benefit my work at the library to this day. I have tried as often as possible to share those insights with parents who come to the library. I think that’s what kept me motivated, to tell the truth; the feeling that this book needed to be written. The more I read about how reading and writing go hand in hand, the more I sensed I was hitting on something librarians are not told enough in library school. We don’t get a lot of training on how people learn to read, but teachers do, and through organizations like the National Council of Teachers of English I was able to tap into an ocean of materials going back to the 1980s on the connection between reading and writing.

Research was a lot of fun, and it was all-consuming for about two months. I had numerous ILLs and lengthy visits to Pasadena City College Shatford Library. I would say that knowing how to do research and find current and historical information on a topic is a great skill for any writer, and that if you’re a librarian who has considered making the leap into writing and publishing, you should know you already have a strong skill set that will help you, not to mention a supportive community of fellow librarians (like the librarian who helped me at PCC).

The hardest part was probably switching from research mode to writer mode. Jamie often counseled me that the research was great, but I needed to also find my own voice and convey my own insights. Her help was invaluable. I worked hard on it in whatever snatches of time I could find at home, on weekends, in coffee houses, in libraries, and in the break room on my lunch breaks at work. The bulk of the writing took about six months. Having a detailed proposal at the start ensured that I never had writer’s block. It just wasn’t always easy finding time (because I have two small children at home). Fortunately I had supportive family who were able to lend a hand now and then.

How did your work at the Pasadena (California) Public Library inspire this book?

When I started working in the Youth Services department of the Pasadena Central Library five years ago as a children’s librarian, I was putting on writing workshops for tweens using prompts inspired by good middle grade books. Having a young daughter of my own I started to notice a gap in the programs libraries provide to kids as they age out of traditional preschool programs and yet are too young for advanced tween programs like some of the STEAM programs I did or the writing workshops. In many ways children in kindergarten and 1st grade are also a little too young for traditional book clubs or book discussions. The primary grades are difficult to reach because kids are becoming independent readers and writers, and yet the books they are interested in are too hard to read. Instead, craft programs tend to be the afterschool program of choice for public libraries wishing to offer something to early elementary school kids, and it’s not hard to see why—it gives them fine motor skill development while also giving them range to learn and express their creativity.

drawing of creative writing lessonBut when their older siblings were signing up for our tween creative writing workshops, many younger kids and their parents were disappointed that they were considered too young to write stories. They knew what I would soon learn—that they were old enough to make up stories of their own. I realized I needed to develop something that would be more catered to the primary grade student’s growing abilities. I started a creative writing program just for kids 5-8 years old. I’d choose a picture book, print out clip art and coloring pages, and spread the printed images all over the tables, along with scissors, glue, crayon and markers. I bought blank books for kids to make their own stories, which they illustrated with those glued-in clip art printouts. Having the images sometimes helped kids to come up with something fun to write about. It was almost like a craft program about making your own book.

I saw kids who hardly spoke a word of English at our first meeting come every month to draw, cut and paste, and write a few words, and within six months they were writing their own funny sentences in English, inspired by the books we read. I saw boys and girls collaborate on exciting pirate stories the same way I did when I was a kid playing with my sisters. And it struck me that this sort of creative writing program was something that other libraries could benefit from, replicate, and modify, to reach our goal of promoting literacy—Talking, Singing, Playing, Reading, and WRITING.

Yes: one mantra you repeat throughout the book is that children learn to read by writing. At what age do you get kids started? And as librarians and educators, *how* do we start?

I’ll include parents in this as well: as soon as your child can hold a pencil or crayon, start asking them to tell you what they are drawing and helping them to write it down. Ask the child to tell you stories and write the stories down for them. Model writing for them—be an adult who writes and who models for your child how valuable it can be to be able to express something important by scrawling symbols on paper. Then encourage them to write down their own stories and letters without help (these stories will look like illegible scribbles at first). Ask them to read the stories to you. And of course, read, read, read to them often.

One of the researchers and authors whose work was immensely important to me as I was researching this book was Lucy McCormick Calkins, who wrote about how reading and writing develop hand in hand, around the same time in a child’s life. Invented spellings, for example, (writing “pupe” to indicate a puppy) is an important step in the learning process for the development of decoding skills. Just as crawling precedes walking and babbling precedes talking, scribbling and invented spellings indicate a person who is well on their way to becoming truly literate. We can talk about the phonetics of the words but it is very important that we not discourage kids. We are here to help them to appreciate books and add their own ideas to the world of literature, and through that engagement they will develop their ability to read and write, to construct meaning. Kids have to feel that their early efforts at writing are meaningful and fun, just as babies need to feel that their early attempts at communication are giving them connection with their parents. You don’t understand everything your five-month-old is saying, but by pretending you do, you show them that you are listening and you care. Do the same thing with your five-year-old’s writing. That connection is what’s most important for the young child; refinements such as standard spelling will come with practice.

I’m sure some children’s librarians are thinking, gee, kids can get really rambunctious! So when you’re doing a storytime, how do you channel that energy productively into creative writing activities?

It’s certainly a challenge, yes! I recommend involving the kids in a group writing activity or a group brainstorming activity, and letting it be as long and as energetic as possible. Spend at least ten minutes on the group writing (and if you can spend longer that’s great!). Get their ideas flowing. Ask the kids lots of questions. Let them be the experts and you the scribe. Get your pen flying all over the whiteboard to capture their suggestions. If you are enthusiastic and focused, you will help to ignite and focus the children’s enthusiasm. And after they have been focused on the group writing activity for at least ten minutes, they’ll be ready to do some individual writing. The room will not likely be a quiet one—kids will be talking, sharing their ideas, asking you questions. My workshops are usually very noisy, but vibrant!

I also recommend making the writing activity as “crafty” as possible for the kids. Give them supplies to color, cut, glue. Break out the glitter now and then. Kids need to have a variety of activities available, and they need a wide range of artistic expression when illustrating their stories.

When working with older children, how do you vary the approach?

Older kids don’t need quite so many different segments or activities in their workshops—they can focus on writing for a longer time, and they rarely need to do illustrations. But I think the really surprising thing is how much of the approach is actually the same for older kids. Instead of cute blank books I give them legal pads, but many of the writing prompts I give them are similar to what I’d give the younger kids. That might be because I never like to underestimate what younger kids can do.

book cover for 36 Workshops to Get Kids Writing: From Aliens to ZebrasOlder kids don’t need quite as much help or scaffolding when it comes to generating their stories or writing things down, but the use of a mentor text to center our discussion on the writer’s craft is essentially the same approach with both groups. I always read excerpts from stories at the very beginning—usually from a middle grade novel, but not always. A picture book can be a surprisingly effective mentor text for teaching older kids advanced concepts about writing, such as plot. It’s hard to break down the plot of a novel in a fifteen-minute discussion, but it’s not so hard with a picture book. So several of the picture-book-based writing workshops in my book will actually work quite well even with older kids. For example, one of my workshops uses the picture book Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andrae as the center of a lesson on The Hero’s Journey. Once they make the connection to their favorite hero stories from other books and movies, older kids are generally able to learn the steps and then get to work crafting their own epic plots. I’ve also used the poetry workshops from this book with older kids, and they loved it.

I have an adult friend who has special needs, and every other week we get together to do some creative writing. It gives her practice with her reading and writing skills so that someday she can get her GED. Sometimes I use workshops from this book. She and I are currently writing a very funny story about her and her dog getting in a time machine and ending up on a medieval battlefield. We read books about knights for research and inspiration, and then we take turns writing alternate sentences of the story. It’s an approach I’ve used with kids that seems to be surprisingly effective with my adult friend. Perhaps approaches don’t have to vary quite so much by age or grade level—perhaps at our core, we’re all creative beings who enjoy stretching our imaginations to write something funny and weird and nonsensical every now and then.

Lastly, one chapter in your book is titled “All You Need Is a TERRIBLE Idea” … what’s the idea behind that?

As I was compiling my list of picture books and ideas for writing prompts for my book proposal, I noticed something—many of the really funny picture books I love are about characters doing something silly or foolish, or putting two things together that normally aren’t. And it just started to make sense to me: all you need for a good story is a really terrible idea. Books like that were easy to create writing activities for, because they work on an imaginative sort of logic that prompts multitudes of possibilities. But I also noticed that those silly picture books are intrinsically appealing to kids, and that if you give a kid a book about something that makes no sense, they will be curious to see what happens and will anticipate laughs and fun along the way. Furthermore, if you give a kid a writing prompt that is rooted in nonsense, you free the kid’s imagination to do anything they like with that premise—imagining a parade of snails, for example, or trying to teach an alien how to use the toilet. In the end, the child writer bring herself and her ideas to it, and pretty soon she is creating something she never would have dreamed she’d be creating.

Now, some teachers will prefer to encourage kids to just write about themselves and their experiences, and there is definitely a place for that. But when you have a group of kids who don’t know each other, as we usually do at the public library, you have to tickle their funny bones. It’s the quickest way to their creativity!

Read an excerpt from the book at the ALA Store.

Hilda K. Weisburg on the new AASL Standards

Recipient of the 2016 American Association of School Librarians’ (AASL) Distinguished Service Award, in this post Hilda K. Weisburg explores the six Common Beliefs of the new AASL Standards. Her latest ALA Neal-Schuman book is Leading for School Librarians: There Is No Other Option

Are you ready for the new AASL National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries or are you feeling some trepidation about them?  As a leader, you must get up to speed rapidly so you can tweak and revamp your lessons as necessary.  It is natural to want to cling to what you have known and used since 2007, but stop and think — it’s been ten years.  How much has the world changed since then?  How much have you changed? You – and your students – are doing things you couldn’t possibly have done, or even imagined, then.

The new standards will be brought out at the AASL Conference in Phoenix, November 9-11.  I will be there and attending one of the pre-cons on them on Thursday. There’s still time to put in a pre-publication order so you will be ready to go as soon as possible. Click HERE to go to the order page for the National School Library Standards. And HERE for the AASL Standards Framework for Learners Pamphlet preorder.

Meanwhile, AASL has set up a portal to get you started by providing the philosophical base of the new standards.   I recognized the need for new standards but there was so much in the old ones that I liked, I had a few concerns.  Thanks to the portal, I am eager and more prepared to embrace the new. Let’s walk through them together.






Start with the Common Beliefs. The existing standards had nine. The new ones have six. The first,  “The school library is a unique and essential part of a learning community,” promotes the program on a far wider scale than the old which stated, “School libraries are essential to the development of learning skills.”  As in the old standards, a short paragraph explains the Belief in more detail:

  • As a destination for on-site and virtual personalized learning, the school library is a vital connection between school and home. As the leader of this space and its functions, the school librarian ensures that the school library environment provides all members of the school community access to information and technology, connecting learning to real-world events. By providing access to an array of well-managed resources, school librarians enable academic knowledge to be linked to deep understanding.

The second breaks new ground by declaring the worth of librarians. “Qualified school librarians lead effective school libraries,” positions us as indispensable, stating:

  • As they guide organizational and personal change, effective school librarians model, promote, and foster inquiry learning in adequately staffed and resourced school libraries. Qualified school librarians have been educated and certified to perform interlinked, interdis­ciplinary, and cross-cutting roles as instructional leaders, program administrators, educators, collab­orative partners, and information specialists.

Complimenting Common Core, the third belief states, “Learners should be prepared for college, career, and life.”  The explanatory paragraph addresses our unique contribution to student learning:

  • Committed to inclusion and equity, effective school librarians use evi­dence to determine what works, for whom and under what conditions for each learner; complemented by community engagement and inno­vative leadership, school librarians improve all learners’ opportunities for success. This success empow­ers learners to persist in inquiry, advanced study, enriching profes­sional work, and community partici­pation through continuous improve­ment within and beyond the school building and school day.

Mirroring, “Reading is a window to the world” from the old standards, the fourth proclaims, “Reading is the core of personal and academic competency.”  We must never forget our commitment to literacy and the accompanying paragraph succinctly defines it.

  • In the school library, learners engage with relevant information resources and digital learning opportunities in a culture of reading. School librari­ans initiate and elevate motivational reading initiatives by using story and personal narrative to engage learners. School librarians curate current digital and print materials and technology to provide access to high-quality reading materials that encourage learners, educators, and families to become lifelong learners and readers.

Much like “Equitable access is a key component for education,” the fifth Common Belief is, “Intellectual freedom is every learner’s right.”  Our profession is staunchly committed to this right and has officially been so since ALA’s Bill of Rights was first adopted in 1939.  The new Common Belief states:

  • Learners have the freedom to speak and hear what others have to say, rather than allowing others to control their access to ideas and information; the school librarian’s responsibility is to develop these dispositions in learners, educators, and all other members of the learn­ing community. 


The final Common Belief is, “Information technologies must be appropriately integrated and equitably available.” This is a call to action as so many schools do not have adequate information technologies, and the new standards recognize that with this supporting paragraph:

  • Although information technology is woven into almost every aspect of learning and life, not every learner and educator has equitable access to up-to-date, appropriate technology and connectivity. An effective school library bridges digital and socioeconomic divides to affect information technology access and skill.

Do you think anything is missing from these Common Beliefs?  Don’t be too quick to decide.  The new standards also have six Shared Foundations, summarizing Competencies for Learners. The infographic link shows how learners Think, Create, Share, and Grow with each of them, and how librarians lead the way.

There is certainly lots to take in and learn, which makes me grateful for this preview from AASL. I was very proud in 2007 of AASL's Standards for the 21st-Century Learner. I think I am going to be even prouder to represent and lead from these.  I can’t wait to dig into them.

What do you think of these beginning documents?  Is there anything that stands out for you? Are there any which particularly that excite or motivate you? What are you doing to get ready for the new standards?

(This post originally appeared in a somewhat different form at Hilda K. Weisburg's blog.)

Books hot off the press, Meet the Authors at the ALA Store in Orlando

Located just inside the Shuttle Bus Entrance at the Orange County Convention Center, the ALA Store offers products that meet the widest range of your promotional and continuing education/professional development needs—as well as fun gift items. Make sure to carve out some time in your schedule during the conference to stop by and examine the many new and bestselling items available!

ALA Store hours:

  • Friday, June 24            12:00 pm – 5:30 pm
  • Saturday, June 25       8:30 am – 5:00 pm
  • Sunday, June 26          8:30 am – 5:00 pm
  • Monday, June 27        9:00 am – 2:00 pm

ALA Graphics will feature a selection of popular posters, bookmarks, and promotional materials, including new 2016 Teen Read Week and Banned Book Week items. And stop by early to get your pick of conference t-shirts—they sell out fast! We’ll also be introducing several brand new items and exclusive gifts:

  • Libraries Transform Expert Badges
  • CSK Book Award T-shirts
  • CSK Book Award Pashmina (limited quantity and only available at the Conference Store)

ALA Editions and ALA divisions are excited to offer several new titles hot off the press, such as “RDA Essentials,” by Thomas Brenndorfer; “Engaging Babies in the Library: Putting Theory into Practice,” by Debra J. Knoll; and “The Librarian's Nitty Gritty Guide to Content Marketing,” by Laura Solomon. Come by the ALA Store for these special Meet the Author events:

Saturday, June 25      

Sunday, June 26      

Remember that you can now find titles from ALA Neal-Schuman and Facet Publishing in the ALA Store. You can also get free shipping on all book orders placed in the ALA Store (posters, bookmarks, and other gift-type items are not eligible for this offer).

Stop by the ALA Store to learn more about our eLearning opportunities. You can also arrange for a live demo of RDA Toolkit—just contact us by June 20 to request an appointment.

Prices at the ALA Store automatically reflect the ALA Member discount, so there’s no need to dig out your Member number. And remember that every dollar you spend at the ALA Store helps support library advocacy, awareness, and other key programs and initiatives!

Back-to-School with Coteaching: Reading Comprehension Strategies and Instructional Partnerships

For this guest post we welcome Judi Moreillon, author of several books including the recent ALA Editions title Coteaching Reading Comprehension Strategies in Elementary School Libraries: Maximizing Your Impact.


All across the country the new school year is getting underway. As school librarians consider their unique contributions to learning and teaching in their schools this year, they can make time to review and recommit to their role in reading.

The American Association of School Librarian’s published a position statement on the School Librarian’s Role in Reading that notes: “Guiding learners to become engaged and effective users of ideas and information and to appreciate literature requires that they develop as strategic readers who can comprehend, analyze, and evaluate text in both print and digital formats” (AASL 2007) More recently, AASL published an infographic based on the findings of a National Center for Literacy Education research study that opens with the charge for school librarians to strengthen their commitment to building collaborative cultures in their school learning communities.

So how can school librarians maximize their impact on student learning outcomes this school year?

In school districts and states where the Common Core State Standards are being rolled out with a strong emphasis on English Language Arts (ELA) or where other literacy initiatives are being promoted (see TEKS ELA-Reading Figure #19), improving students’ reading comprehension proficiency is a top priority.

Research in the field of school librarianship has consistently shown that when school librarians collaborate with classroom teachers the results are evidenced in reading scores on standardized tests. Library Research Service has recently posted an infographic that illuminates the strong correlation between students’ reading scores and the work of school librarians.

In my professional books for school librarians and classroom teachers, I provide background information on seven reading comprehension strategies that can be applied across content areas, with multiple text formats, and with different genres. These strategies are aligned with the AASL Standards for the 21st-Century Learner (see my alignment charts here and here). Each of my books, one written for educators serving at the elementary level and the other for those at the secondary level, provides twenty-one sample lesson plans that specify how educators can coteach in order to motivate, model, guide students’ practice, and coassess the students’ progress in applying these strategies. The ALA Editions Web Extras for these books include downloadable graphic organizers, sample student work, rubrics, and other assessment tools—in short, everything school librarians and classroom teachers need to implement these lessons on Monday morning (see below).

If you are a school librarian who is committed to helping students become effective users of ideas and information and producers of knowledge, then aligning reading comprehension strategies with information literacy is a win-win-win situation.

A win for students who can learn to independently analyze texts in all formats and content areas; a win for classroom teachers who have a partner with whom to teach these essential strategies; and a win for school librarians who can use their role in teaching reading comprehension to demonstrate their value as leaders on their school’s literacy teams…

Check out these essential resources:

Coteaching Reading Comprehension Strategies in Elementary School Libraries: Maximizing Your Impact (ALA Editions, 2013) and the Web Extras

Coteaching Reading Comprehension Strategies in Secondary School Libraries: Maximizing Your Impact (ALA Editions, 2012) and the Web Extras

ALSC Offers Five Spring Course Options

Whether you’re looking for lively discussion about children’s librarianship, new programming ideas, or just want to brush up before summer, the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) has something for everyone.

With five excellent choices for your professional development needs, our spring online courses are sure to please. In addition to ALSC’s short webinars, these five-to-six week long courses give students more opportunities to interact with their peers in a convenient online atmosphere. The five courses include:

The Caldecott Medal (May 2 – June 10)                                            Instructor: Kathleen T. Hornung

Children with Disabilities in the Library (May 2 – June 10) Instructor: Katharine (Kate) Todd

Introduction to Graphic Novels for Children (May 2 – June 10)
Instructor: Janet Weber

Out of This World Youth Programming (May 2 – June 10)
Instructor: Angela Young

Reading Instruction and Children’s Books (May 2 – June 3)
Instructor: Katharine (Kate) Todd

For more information on these courses and special rates for ALSC members, please visit the ALSC online education site. Questions? Please contact ALSC Program Officer, Jenny Najduch,, or 800-545-2433 ext. 4026.

Continuing the Conversation: Supporting Early Literacy Through Language-Rich Library Environments

Earlier today, we held the ALA Editions Workshop Supporting Early Literacy through Language Rich Library Environments with Saroj Ghoting. We’re following up with a few of the questions asked during the presentation that we felt merited further discussion: Saroj will be part of the discussion as well!

  • What do you think is the role of technology in promoting early literacy?
  • What is the ideal timeline for replacing displays and material in your space?
  • What’s the difference between open and closed-ended toys? Which type is better in promoting early literacy?

Links to Resources that Saroj Mentioned today:

The preliminary readings for this workshop were:

  • Welcoming Place,  Chapter 6 in Designing Space for Children and Teens in Libraries and Public Places by Sandra Feinberg and James Keller. Chicago: ALA, 2010 HU
  • Parent Participation,  Chapter 4 in Learning Environments for Young Children: Rethinking Library Spaces and Services by Sandra Feinberg et al. Chicago: ALA, 1998. HU
  • Meece, Darrell and Anne Soderman. Setting the Stage for Young Children’s Social Development . Young Children. September 2010 p. 81-86. HU
  • Greenman, Jim. Places for Childhood in the 21st Century: A Conceptual Framework. Beyond the Journal: Young Children on the Web, May 2005. HU
  • Early Literacy Research-Explained, Chapter 1 in Early Literacy Storytimes @ your library: Partnering with Caregivers for Success by Saroj Ghoting and Pamela Martin-Diaz. Chicago: ALA: 2006 HU
  • The following materials are suggested resources, though they may not be available for free:
  • Copple, Carol and Sue Bredekamp, eds. Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through Age 8 (3rd ed). Washington, DC: NAEYC, 2009.
  • Curtis, Deb and Margie Carter. Designs for Living and Learning: Transforming Early Childhood Environments. St.Paul, MN: Redleaf Press, 2003.
  • Diamant-Cohen, Betsy and Saroj Ghoting. Early Literacy Kit: A Handbook and Tip Cards. Chicago: ALA, 2010. (includes school readiness domains)
  • Feinberg, Sandra and James Keller. Designing Space for Children and Teens in Libraries and Public Places: How to Carve Out a Niche That Epitomizes Service. American Libraries. April 2010, pg. 34-37.
  • Gronlund, Gaye. Developmentally Appropriate Play: Guiding Young Children to a Higher Level. St. Paul, MN: Redleaf Press, 2010.
  • Harmes, Thelma. Environmental Rating Scales--Revised. New York: Teachers College Press, various dates.
  • Neuman, Susan B. et al. User’s Guide to the Child Home Early Language & Literacy Observation (CHELLO) Tool. Baltimore: Paul Brookes, 2007.
  • Seefeldt, Carol. Creating Rooms of Wonder: Valuing and Displaying Children’s Work to Enhance the Learning Process. Beltsville, MD: Gryphon House, 2002.
  • Tough, Paul. Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada’s Quest to Change Harlem and America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2008.
  • Zigler, Edward. Children’s Play; The Roots of Reading.  Washington, DC: Zero to Three, 2004.
  • Todd Risley interview: Children of the Code
  • Library Environments for Early Literacy:
  • Early Learning Standards
  • School Readiness Domains
  • Governors’ Common Core State Standards

Saroj’s Slides:

How Does My Garden Grow? Children’s Programming Monthly v1 #8

You may still be coping with wintery days, but here at Children’s Programming Monthly, we’ve put away the umbrellas. “How Does My Garden Grow?” is ready to download, and it’s blooming with great ideas, books to read aloud, and fun activities:   

  • “Wonderful Worms” by Caroline Feller Bauer
  • “Grow, Grow, Grow!” by Judy Nichols
  • “Gardens” by Saroj Nadkarni Ghoting and Pamela Martin-Diaz
  • “Growing Books” by Sue McCleaf Nespeca and Joan B. Reeve
  • “In Our Garden” by Diane Briggs.

No subscribed yet? Visit us at to sign up. If you have a program you would like to share,  you’ll find submission guidelines at . Or contact me at

Design for Early Literacy

How you use space and design in your children’s area  can foster early literacy.  Saroj Ghoting will lead an ALA Editions Workshop on April 21 at 1:00 p.m. EDT that is sure to trigger ideas and support your planning. Below is an overview of the topics

  • Early literacy skills
  • Play
  • What are language-rich environments
  • Examples
  • Strategies
  • Considerations

We’ve collected a  a handful of examples of what language-rich environments in this Flickr set.

Among Saroj’s examples is the Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.) Library’s Play and Learn Islands™, interactive exhibits that encourage purposeful play. Play projecst like Discovery Dig, Big Build, and IlluminART develop skills in problem solving, sorting, sharing, early literacy, and collaboration. The colorful design, scale and varied activities appeal to a range of ages, encouraging families to play and explore together. Check out the library’s Flickr set.

You can register for this event or get more information at the ALA Store by going to:

Liven Up Baby and Toddler Storytimes with Sign Language with Kathy MacMillan

When a friend mentioned using sign language with his toddler,  the trend was news to me.  I now know that thousands of hearing parents teaching their hearing children basic signs. Nonetheless, I was skeptical when Kathy MacMillan, an ALA Editions author and storyteller who also happens to be a certified American Sign Language interpreter, proposed an ALA Editions Workshop on signing in storytime. What’s with this? I asked in an email message. Is it a Baby-Mozart thing? Kathy’s reply was impassioned.

In fact, research shows that signing with young children stimulates both spoken AND signed language development, decreases frustration, enhances bonding, and promotes early literacy.  (The books Sign with Your Baby by Dr. Joseph Garcia and Dancing With Words by Marilyn Daniels summarize the research.)  I attribute the widespread interest in signing with babies and young children to the fact that it works!  When a child can tell you what he or she wants by signing instead of screaming, amazing things happen.  

Giving a young child the power to communicate can even save a life: a colleague of mine who teaches baby sign language classes in Arizona had an 18 month old girl in one of her classes who was bitten by a baby rattlesnake while playing in the garden with her mother.  Her mother didn't see the snake, and because the bite was so small she assumed it was just a bug bite.  Only when the little girl kept signing "snake" did the mother realize what had happened.  The girl survived, and if that story doesn't illustrate the benefits, I don't know what does.

But you don’t have to be fluent in American Sign Language to bring its benefits to your storytimes.  Kathy MacMillan sees sign language as another tool in the children’s librarian’s toolkit, much like using music, props, manipulatives, or a bit of Spanish. Perhaps the best reason? “Parents get really into it,” Kathy says. “Programmers sometimes complain when parents don’t interact with their kids. I can tell you emphatically that it’s not a problem when I’m using sign language in a program. Parents are excited to learn it because it makes their parenting lives easier.”

The goal of ALA Editions Workshops is to offer practical, actionable knowledge while promoting discussion, learning, and information sharing. The relatively small audience supports focused, discussion through the chat window. We assign homework too! For ideas on how sign language can enliven your programs, see Six Super Ways to Use Sign Language in Your Programs, which is one of the preliminary readings for Kathy's Workshop.

In the online Workshop,  Kathy will present the basics you need to know to effectively incorporate signs into stories, songs, and more, including videos to get you started. We will provide attendees with handouts for reference after the event. Here’s a video for the action rhyme. Caterpillar, Caterpillar

You can register for Kathy's Workshop at the ALA Store by going to

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