Friday, April 24, 2015

Literacy Program Reflection

This semester I took a class called Literacy Programs, and focused my research on (surprise surprise) people with disabilities. I primarily researched literacy for children with disabilities, but since development can be so different across the board, my findings could really be applied at any age.

Most of the research I found was conducted in 2009 or later, showing the changing approach in special education. Now that students with disabilities are typically included in at least one "traditional" class, they also are required to take the same standardized tests as other students. If students with disabilities aren't being taught what their traditional classmates are being taught, then those students will score lower on the standardized test, which will lower the school's average and affect funding and support. I find it a little outrageous that students with disabilities have only been taken seriously for the last six years or so, but better late than never!

To be fair, I can see why this is the case. It can be difficult to teach anyone to read, but some disabilities might make a person unable or unwilling to speak. Some people with disabilities might be able to identify letters, but not when those letters are side by side to form a word. Some people with disabilities might be able to read words, sentences, or even paragraphs, but be unable to retain the information long enough to be tested about it. It does make sense for children with disabilities to initially be taught simple words necessary for everyday life, like their names, names of family members, words on street signs, and symbols they would encounter in public, like restroom logos. It's sad, however, to think that in many cases, this is where their education ended.

I observed two storytime programs at the Central library - one was a sign language storytime, and one was a music appreciation event. I loved seeing the array of programming the library offered, and it gave me a lot of ideas for different programs that could be aimed at people with disabilities, or how to change them slightly to try and engage different levels of development. I also attended a webinar about identifying and working with children and teens with autism. This hit close to home because a teacher I interviewed said a four-year-old with autism had been asked to leave the library after having a behavior. Even though his parents were with him and calmed him down, the librarian wouldn't let him back in to the program because she didn't understand his condition or how to work with him. It was a horrible story to hear, but it made me feel like the path I'm researching in my classes will be worth it in the real world.

I interviewed a teacher at a preschool and learned how they approach literacy with their students, ranging from toddlers to five-year-olds. Because this teacher had retired from the special education school system, she had a lot of experience to draw from, as well as a lot of great ideas on how to teach literacy to all ages. I learned from her that small victories had to be appreciated, like when students sat still for a whole picture book, or were able to ask for a story by its title.

I found a variety of resources that can be used to teach literacy to people with disabilities, including a website that has over 200 adapted texts. Adapted texts are traditional books (picture, chapter, novel, nonfiction, and more!) that are broken down to have larger text, sometimes accompanied by relevant pictures; these books have more white space and might summarize longer chapters and repeat key information for easier recall. I also found a great book (Including Families of Children with Special Needs: A How-To-Do-It Manual for Librarians) that will help librarians serve people with disabilities who come to the library. I also think webinars are a great way for librarians to quickly (in about an hour) and easily learn about certain disabilities and how to provide library services for those populations - while earning Continuing Education credits!

Overall, I felt very inspired by all the research I did this semester. At the same time, I felt very overwhelmed. Can -I- teach people with disabilities how to read? Do I have enough education - and enough patience? I still have a lot to learn, and I'm going to continue touring local special needs preschools and talking with the teachers there. I think the most important thing about teaching people with disabilities how to read is to use all the resources you can. Reach out to include parents, caregivers, special ed teachers, librarians, siblings, friends. Try a certain method, and if that doesn't work, move on to something else - but always come back and re-try what didn't work before. You never know when you're going to make a breakthrough, and repetition never hurts!


Browder, Diana, Susan Gibbs, Lynn Ahlgrim-Delzell, Ginevra R. Courtade, Maryann Mraz, and Claudia Flowers. 2009. "Literacy for Students With Severe Developmental Disabilities: What Should We Teach and What Should We Hope to Achieve?" Remedial and Special Education 30 (5): 269-282. Accessed January 22, 2015. doi: 10.1177/0741932508315054. 2015. “Investigating Adolescent Issues in Autism Spectrum Disorder and the DSM-5 Criteria.” March 18. issues-in-autism-spectrum-disorder/

Exceptional Parent, published by epWorld, Inc.

“Family Tunes and Tales.” February 28, 2015. Memphis Public Library and Information Center, Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library.

Feinberg, Sandra, Barbara A. Jordan, Kathleen Deerr, Michelle Langa, and Carrie Banks. 2013. Including Families of Children with Special Needs: A How-To-Do-It Manual for Librarians. Chicago: ALA Neal-Schuman Publishers.

Goggans, Louis. 2012. “Memphis Public Library to Improve Literacy for the Hearing-Impaired.” Memphis Flyer, February 14. Accessed February 27, 2015. http:// library-to-improve-literacy-for-the-hearing-impaired

Lead Teacher (name redacted for privacy), special education at SRVS Kids. Interviewed by Allison Renner. February 19, 2015.

Paul V. Sherlock Center on Disabilities. 2015. “Adapted Literature and Lessons.” Accessed February 6, 2015.

“Read With Me, Sign With Me.” February 14, 2015. Memphis Public Library and Information Center, Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

500 Followers Giveaway! - CLOSED

I can't believe that a blog I started for a school assignment has gained 500 followers on Instagram! There is a great "bookstagram" community out there, and I love all the bookworms, reviewers, librarians, and libraries that I follow - and I'm lucky that so many of them follow me back!

To celebrate 500 followers, I decided to give away five books. I wanted them to be books I've read and reviewed so I actually feel good about giving them away. I hope the winner will like them!

Funnily enough, each book title starts with the word "The"! So I've created the hashtag "THEgiveaway500" on Instagram. To enter your name in the drawing, follow How I Feel About Books on Instagram, like the giveaway post, and repost the giveaway image tagged with "#THEgiveaway500"! You can repost the picture as many times as you'd like, until noon CST on Thursday, April 23rd. I'll throw everyone's usernames into a hat and pick a winner at random.

I'm sorry, but at this time I'm only able to offer US shipping. Hopefully my 1,000 followers giveaway will be worldwide!

THE giveaway!
                                          The Body of Christopher Creed by Carol Plum-Ucci
                                          The Fourteeth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm
                                          The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
                                          The Pregnancy Project by Gaby Rodriguez
                                          The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Body of Christopher Creed

Plot Summary
Torey Adams has a pretty good life - he has two successful parents who are still married, he’s on the football team, and he’s the guitarist for a band. Christopher Creed is a boy he’s known all his life, but hardly knows at all. When Chris goes missing, everyone in town has their theory of what happened. Chris’ odd behavior has gotten him beat up over the years, even by Torey. The note Chris left behind names names - not of those who bullied him, but those who he was jealous of. Torey’s name is on that list, which makes him wonder why, and makes him think of what it was like to walk in Chris’ shoes.
     Together with a girl from school, who is also Chris’ neighbor, Torey starts to put together the pieces. That’s a tough task when there’s no body - did Chris run away, or kill himself? Torey isn’t sure, but he’s determined to keep looking until he finds out.

Personal Response
I love disappearances, unsolved mysteries, and all that jazz. This book delivers all of that, plus a great lesson about having compassion for others. Torey used to beat up Chris Creed, but with the disappearance and seeing Creed’s mother, he develops an understanding about Chris’ actions and home life. This compassion overflows to other people in Torey’s life, but the lesson isn’t preachy or overwhelming. Sometimes books with an open ending leave me feeling unsettled, but the fact that this book doesn’t have a definite resolution really works for the story.

Reviews & Awards
The list of praise and honor for this book is long, so I’ll just list a few highlights: Printz Honor Book, Edgar Award nominee, Volunteer State Book Award nominee, starred review in School Library Journal.

Connections & Activities
Check out the sequel! I can’t wait to get my hands on it. Following Christopher Creed by Carol Plum-Ucci

Read it for yourself!
Plum-Ucci, Carol. 2008. The Body of Christopher Creed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers. ISBN 9780152063863

Friday, April 10, 2015

The Pregnancy Project

Plot Summary
Gaby Rodriguez was surrounded by teen moms. Her mother was one, her sisters became teen moms, and her brothers got their teen girlfriends pregnant. No one assumed Gaby would be any different, even though she always put school first, studied hard, and made good grades. She wanted to go to college and not have a baby holding her back from accomplishing anything she wanted in life. When she got a boyfriend in high school, people started making comments that she would end up pregnant. That didn’t happen. But because every student had to do a senior project, Gaby decided to pretend she was pregnant and see how people judged her and how the outlook of her future changed. She didn’t think ahead to what would happen when she told friends, teachers, and classmates that she had been lying to them for nine months…

Personal Response
I personally love social experiments. Adam Shepard’s Scratch Beginnings is one of my favorites for its uplifting message, and this book is on that list now, too. I think Rodriguez was really creative in picking this project, as well as brave for willingly doing something that she knew people would judge her for - and she had to listen to their comments! The writing was a little juvenile, but I think that will actually help this book have a wider audience. Young girls can read it, understand it, and take away a very important message.

Read it for yourself!
Rodriguez, Gaby. 2012. The Pregnancy Project. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 9781442446229

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Fourteenth Goldfish

Plot Summary
Ellie is eleven years old, feeling a little lost in middle school. Her parents are involved in the theater, and over the summer she “lost” her best friend to volleyball. Everyone is encouraging Ellie to find her passion, but she just doesn’t know what that is. When Melvin, her scientist grandfather is caught breaking and entering into his own lab, he comes to live with Ellie and her mom. He has to live with them because he can’t live on his own - everyone thinks he is thirteen! Melvin has discovered a way to reverse aging, and tested it on himself. He goes to middle school along with Ellie, helping her open doors to friendships, adventure, and finding her own passion - science.

Personal Response
I’m excited that this book is out there for young people to read! I feel like it’s especially an important book for girls, because of the stress of science, how appealing it can be, and how much Ellie falls in love with the subject. I can see this being a popular book (and series?) among young kids, and I think it could generate a lot of interest in STEM and Maker Space programs at libraries.

Reviews & Awards
From School Library Journal: “With humor and heart, Holm has crafted a story about life, family, and finding one's passion that will appeal to readers willing to imagine the possible.” Starred reviews in Publishers Weekly and Booklist.

Read it for yourself!
Holm, Jennifer L. 2014. The Fourteenth Goldfish. New York: Random House. ISBN 9780375870644

Monday, April 6, 2015

Literary Tourism: Vonnegut in Indianapolis

My family went to Indianapolis for Spring Break, and while we were there, we visited the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library. I'll be honest - I'd never read anything by Vonnegut. I heard so much hype about him in creative writing classes and grad school that I actually thought he was overrated. But Will loves him, and I love libraries and anything book-related, so I had no problem stopping at the Memorial Library.

It's basically two rooms in a downtown Indianapolis building. You walk in to a large, open space - inviting and well-lit, even on a rainy day. Some of Vonnegut's sketches are framed on the walls, as well as Vonnegut-inspired prints by other artists. A large touchscreen plays interviews with Morley Safer and other friends on a loop, and you can sit on a bench and listen for awhile. The next room has memorabilia from Vonnegut's military career, personal items like glasses and his last pack of cigarettes, and his original typewriter.

You can sit at a replica of Vonnegut's writing setup and type a message. He wrote on a typewriter, set on a low table, from an even-lower chair. It looks cozy and uncomfortable at the same time.

The library is an actual lending library, and there are more than just Vonnegut books for checkout. This is, however, a collection of signed books, first editions, and tickets to a speaking engagement that never happened, due to Vonnegut's death.

A touchscreen computer in this room allows you to read some of Vonnegut's unpublished works, plays, and letters. Oh - and rejection letters! Some of them are pretty funny, though I'm not sure if they're supposed to be. It was humorous to me, knowing what little I did about Vonnegut's risque subject matter, to see a rejection letter from Woman's Home Companion.

The Memorial Library is definitely worth a visit if you're anywhere near the area - this coming from someone who wasn't even a Vonnegut fan. Those who think it was crazy of me to visit a memorial library for an author I don't know might be pleased to note that as of now, I'm reading Look at the Birdie, a collection of previously unpublished short stories, and really enjoying them.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Our Reading Lives: From Birth

I didn't have a baby shower for my son for one main (selfish) reason: I hate being the center of attention. It's the same reason my husband and I eloped and never had a reception. It's why I haven't had a birthday party since I was six.

The second reason was because we didn't need anything. We had the crib, changing pad, and rocker. We had a stack of hand-me-down clothes for every few months. We didn't want the house to be cluttered with clothes that would be worn once (if at all) or toys that would easily break, or not be enjoyed until the babe was older.

That being said, we did need want books. We have four bookcases filled with books; still more volumes are stacked in and on our nightstands. Reading is our solace and our escape. It's comforting to see so many different worlds and characters stacked around us. We wanted our baby to grow up in this same environment.

I've seen a lot of people ask for favorite books as baby shower gifts. I've seen cute bookplates on the table next to the refreshments, so you can sign your name and paste it into the book you're passing along to baby. I love the idea of knowing everyone's favorite books, period, but their favorite books from childhood? Those have so many memories tied in: who read them to you, what they made you imagine, which you requested night after night.

Even without having an adorably-book-nerdy baby shower, we've still built up an awesome book collection for our babe. We read to him in the morning, after naps, and before bed. We read to him when we get home from the library with a stack of books, or when his new Imagination Library book arrives in the mail. And we keep a GoodReads account for him the way some people make Facebook accounts for their kids. Because how cool would it be to have a record of every book you've ever read? Call me a nerd (a fact we've already established...), but I think it's awesome. We record the date and how he reacted to the book, text, and illustrations. It's informal, and we don't do star ratings because, hey - that's personal opinion, and one a ten-month-old can't yet share with us!

But I hope he appreciates the record-keeping. And who knows - maybe some of the books will become favorites, will be given high star ratings by him personally, and will one day be gifted to another at a baby shower.