Thursday, September 27, 2012

This was a tough one...

Hey all!

Mark Sher, a fellow youth services librarianship blogger, just can't seem to shy away from the tough topics.

Click the link below to read my thoughts on a captivating and controversial topic:

This one was a doozy!!


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Another great post on The Power of Reading!!

Greetings everyone!

I implore you to click upon the link below to take you to another rich and compelling post on Krashen's work, brought to us by fellow library school student PinkTink12.



Stephen D. Krashen's The Power of Reading - An Invaluable Resource for Youth Librarians!!

All I can say is wow.

So, I just finished The Power of Reading: Insights from the Research by Stephen D. Krashen.  In my previous classes, I heard many accolades for the book, and now I can absolutely understand why. Strikingly genius in its simplicity, Krashen compiles research from hundreds of studies all in support of free voluntary reading or FVR.  Effectively, Krashen has proven that FVR, or reading simply for the purposes of intrinsic enjoyment, entails the best way for students to amass a multitude of skills including reading comprehension, vocabulary acquisition, spelling improvement, and overall increased literacy and command of language.  He argues that FVR leads to greater gains in language and literacy development than direct instruction focusing upon teaching phonics and phonetic awareness.

If you really think about, Krashen's theory totally makes sense.  The only way to grow as a reader and to hone those invaluable oral and written communication skills is through the act of reading, compounded with even more reading, and then to read, read, read some more.  However, if educators and librarians are forcing prescribed reading material upon students, or are turning reading into a chore through requiring them to answer complicated questions and take tests, then chances are that the students will be reluctant to tap into the profound power of reading. 

In terms of how youth librarians can best utilize this knowledge to advocate for their libraries and programs, I wholeheartedly believe that Krashen's work strikes a special chord with school librarians.  To clarify, school librarians can easily turn to the book and pull out solid evidence to clearly justify their worth (sadly, it seems like librarians and perhaps especially school librarians are forced to prove their value now more than ever).  Indeed, this evidence is inclusive of the fact that first and foremost children will read more when they have greater access to compelling reading materials.  It follows suit that in order to create these reading havens, well-stocked with quality reading materials, we need school librarians for their selecting and promoting expertise.  According to Krashen, the quality of the library with regard to books and staffing positively correlates with reading achievement. Furthermore, research has shown the school libraries staffed with professional librarians also corresponds to gains in reading prowess.

In my opinion, it is up to school librarians to embrace this research and to share it with teachers, administrators, and parents.  It is evident that we are all living in a culture of assessment, so having comprehensible, unambiguous proof at our fingertips that quality school libraries are a direct link to improving testing scores remains an inestimable weapon in our arsenal. Reading is clearly a self-fulfilling prophesy; in actuality, it is an organic process that gives rise to its own reward.  Furthermore, it only takes that one unforgettable reading experience, that one "home run book," as Krashen calls it, to create a lifelong reader.  Youth librarians take note - The Power of Reading, might just be a "home run book" in its own right.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A great resource for teen and YA librarians!

Howdy blogosphere!

Check out my comment on Tiffany Lefler's blog: The Teen Screen.  A link to my comment on her compelling post regarding why teens use the library is located directly below:

Tiffany's blog is an amazing resource for teen librarians - it is clear that she keeps up to date in this important field of librarianship and I can't wait to see what she has next for us!!

Happy reading!!


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Ch-ch-check it out!!

Hey everyone!!

Check out the my fellow blogger's insightful blog post and my comment here:

Maggie is a fellow graduate student studying Library and Information Science at the U of I and she is currently working with visually impaired students in the classroom environment.  Her blog post really touched me, and I can't wait to hear more from her!!


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

How important is early literacy development?

Is there really a drastic difference developmentally-speaking among children who are read to, avidly spoken to, and who engage in wordplay versus those who are not and do not? I recently read a fascinating chapter of Maryanne Wolf's Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain that suggests the answer is a resounding YES.  Chapter 4 of the work, entitled "The Beginnings of Reading Development, Or Not" purported a myriad of unique insights concerning just how critical it is to develop early literacy skills in children. 

It turns out that reading skills are constructed one level at time, much akin to building a pyramid - each subsequent level is dependent upon the previous level's solidity.  In this way, if just one layer or element is missing or askew, then the whole structure can come crumbling down.  Wolf implores the reader to picture a young child, sitting on the lap of a loved one, listening to a story. She delves into the aforementioned inherent intricacies upon remarking, "Consider more carefully the scene we just described: a very young child is sitting, looking at colorful pictures, listening to ancient tales and new stories, learning gradually that the lines on the page make letters, letters make words, words make stories, and stories can be read over and over again.  This early scene contains most of the precursors crucial to a child's development of reading" (Wolf, 82).  Something interesting that Wolf also mentions pertains to the fact that the nurturing impulses and feelings of love naturally emanating from the parent or caregiver during this encounter creates an inestimably powerful association in the child.  This association between hearing stories and feeling loved forms the crucial groundwork in developing early literacy skills.

Furthermore, the author contends that literacy and linguistic skills continue to sharpen as children learn (around eighteen months of age) that everything in the world has a name and they begin to categorize the objects they see in the world around them.  It is also around this time that emotional development is concurrently honed, and the child will begin to be able to actually relate to characters and feel empathy for others.

At the most basic level, the vivid, flowery language of books and stories provides an essential stepping stone in cognitive and vocabulary enhancement.  Hearing this rich type of literary language, which is often not spoken in everyday life, allows children to flex their cognitive muscles, becoming veritable wordsmiths.  According to Wolf, "What makes this significant is that when children are able to use a variety of semantic and syntactic forms in their own language, they are also better able to understand the oral and written language of others.  The linguistic and cognitive ability provides a unique foundation for many comprehension skills a few years later, when children begin to read stories of their own" (Wolf, 88).

Moreover, by the time recognizing letters comes into play the child is progressing by tying together the concept that a given visual representation actually stands for something and has meaning.  To put this theory in action, simply think about the staggering amount of brand logos that young children can recognize.  According to the article "Products R Us: Are We 'Brandwashed?'" on, "...the average American 3 year-old can recognize 100 brands" (

I remember, far before my now five year old niece could read, she was asking me questions such as, "Hey what do you have in that TJ Maxx bag over there?"

So, what does this mean for librarians and teacher librarians?  First off, even if all the building blocks are firmly cemented in place, we should not force a child to read before he or she is ready.  There is a common conception in our society that we always need to be better, smarter, and faster than the generation before us.  Not only is this not true, but research has shown it may actually be detrimental to a child's learning progress if we force the child's hand too early (Wolf, 96).  As librarians, we must stress to parents and teachers that it is important not to rush development - that every child is unique and this is not a competition.  It is up to us to emphasize the importance of making sure that the child is communicated with, read to, and engages in and interacts with all forms of oral and written language - if this occurs early and often, then the child will be destined to succeed.

Finally, librarians are also in a unique position to assist those children who hail from what Wolf describes as "impoverished-language environments." These children arrive at kindergarten at a severe disadvantage, their cognitive development clearly stunted from a lack of engaging with words and texts.  In these cases, librarians have a responsibility to perform outreach services to the affected populations and educate them about the importance of language development, and the consequences of being language poor.  Librarians can develop programs stressing word play and story engagement, put together educational presentations based upon the concrete facts, donate books to homes that may have none, and above all, be champions for the cause of early literacy development. 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

What youth services librarianship means to me

Greetings blogosphere!!!  My name is Courtney Novotny, and I am a proud student of the University Of Illinois' Graduate School of Library and Information Science.  Welcome to my blog, Courtney's Youth Booth!!!  My aim in authoring this blog pertains to exploring issues pertinent to Youth Services Librarianship and hopefully establishing a genuine connection to the existing community of Youth Services professionals, colleagues, and students.  I hope this blog gives all you readers something to think about, and please feel free to reach out to me at anytime to further the conversation!!!

And away we go.....

For my first official blog post, I thought it would be meaningful to start reflecting upon what youth services librarianship means as a profession and also what it means to me. I know- seems like a huge undertaking, right? However, I am embarking on this blogtastical journey with this mega question in anticipation that I can return to this concept later on down the road and see what has changed.

Youth librarianship essentially as we know it today, took rise during the Progressive Era (approx. 1870-1920), as Americans became increasingly concerned with the welfare of the country's children.  Tied to this concern was the widespread notion that reading "good" books would actually contribute to becoming a better person.  Librarians at the time responded by creating the children's librarian specialization, and even though society as a whole was more disquieted over the fact that the children may develop unscrupulous morals, the early pioneers of youth services librarianship conscientiously culled their collections with the aspect of child  appeal in mind.

In her 2010 book, Virgina A. Walter, Ph.D, recognized the following six tenets of youth service librarianship (in the public library) as most the most tantamount in terms of achieving success in the field

  • "Reading good books contributes to a good life."
  • "Readers' advisory services, storytelling, and booktalks are the key strategies for promoting reading."
  • "The individual child is the primary user of children's library service."
  • "The library's children's room is an integral element in library service to children."
  • "Children's librarians are the appropriate specialists who can best deliver service to children."
  • "Children's librarians are advocates for library services to children." (p.22-23)

School librarianship, also an important branch of youth services (and the topic of future posts), focuses on many of the same aspects, but also incorporates professional standards into the mix and stresses teaching information literacy in addition to fostering a love of reading.

So, in light of the past and the present modes of thinking, what does youth librarianship mean to me?

First, I wholeheartedly believe that every child should have access to library materials and services.  Reading most certainly has the power to transform the way in which we see the world, and part of youth services also pertains to assisting the patrons in developing multiple literacies to comprehend all the formats that information currently comes in - effectively changing the way we interact with the world.

Most importantly, to me, youth services librarianship means establishing a genuine connection with each patron or student.  It is through this one-on-one relationship with the child that librarians can work to not only create lifetime readers, but also readers who sincerely enjoy reading.  Today's youth services librarians are subsequently tasked with creating ethical users of information and teaching children to become critical thinkers in their own right. 

Obviously, technology and digitization also plays a huge role in the field and will continue to do so in the future.

All of these are important elements of the field, but I think there is also something more that I have yet to put my finger on....Stay tuned.