Kiddle

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Protect by GotCredit (CC-BY)

I was just waiting for the fallout. News of Kiddle, the new google-like ‘safe’ search engine for kids splashed onto the scene over the weekend. In the beginning, most of the tweets in my feed were just quick retweets of news articles introducing the service and a few comments that it wasn’t actually a google product, but rather, used the google safe-search platform. Kids can choose to search by web, images, news or video. The first three results are handpicked by editors to include only articles written for children; results four through seven are also supervised by the editors and include content that is deemed simple enough for children to make use of; and the rest of the results simply rely on google safe-search filters without editor input. Wait, back up…did I just say ‘handpicked by editors’? Yup. Here’s the story as it unrolled on Twitter depicted in my storify.

 

 

 

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Thoughts on School Librarianship

Green screening
St. John’s Silkwood by franlhughes (CC-BY)

What Drew Me There

The idea of librarian-as-teacher first came to me in Michael Stephens’ course, The Hyperlinked Library (INFO 287). For the most part, this course was about public librarianship and the role of librarian as facilitator vs. gatekeeper. Of course, there were earlier classes, and the books we read in them, that helped set the stage- in particular, the works of Clay Shirky and Peter Morville, that helped grow my awareness of participatory culture. By the time we jumped in deep to the Hyperlinked Library course, I understood that things will never be the same again in libraryland: that regular people are no longer simply consumers of information, but also producers of it. This has huge ramifications for traditional authority structures, particularly education. The new vision of a teacher as the ‘guide on the side” instead of the ‘sage on the stage’ helped me imagine where I might fit in; I could see that I could add value as a guide- helping connect the dots, ensuring access, facilitating learning. Creative, rewarding, ethical work that lives at the intersection of people, ideas and technology.

reflecting guide
reflecting guide by Khuroshvili Ilya (CC BY-NC-ND)

Of course, ‘teachers’ are everywhere. They exist in all professional fields, at every level, from upper management to front-line workers, and in every every social strata. One need not work in a classroom or a library to be a teacher. But! If one did work as a librarian in a school, one would be afforded the opportunity to work with children, while also collaborating with adults- teachers, parents, administrators and fellow librarians. School librarians are in the unique position of serving all the students and teachers in the school, at each grade level. Their purview is broad- encompassing everything from literacy and technology, to advocacy and trendspotting- but their ideals are grounded in the longstanding values of intellectual freedom, diversity, open access, lifelong learning and service. The idea of collectively working towards lighting students’ fires is tremendously motivating. To do this from the the library environment is appealing because the library can be a place of both personal and academic safety…a helping place, that ideally works as a third space- neither home nor the classroom, but hopefully somewhere in between.

The public library is also a great venue for lighting fires and is increasingly being recognized as a third space that communities have come to rely upon. The real pull towards school librarianship for me is more personal. I like the idea of getting to know the kids; the continuity of the school community, and the flow of the school year, which coincides with my school-aged daughter’s schedule. The real clincher, however, has been the network of teachers and teacher-librarians that I have been exposed to in the last few months as part of my coursework and while volunteering in my daughter’s school library. I have been so impressed and inspired by my fellow classmates, professors, and teachers and staff at my daughter’s school- not to mention the thought leadership coming out of the school library blogs, class readings, and twitter feeds. Smart, creative, dedicated people. Simply put, they have shown me that there is interesting, worthwhile work to be done. I want to be a part of that.

What I Hope the Profession Will Be

mind the gap
mind the gap by Pawel Loj (CC – BY)

Well, I hope it is as I’ve described above. Like anything, there’s always a gap between what something could be and what it actually is. Closing the gap is a process; one probably never actually gets there, for another gap is always opening up. Still, we move forward, toward those things that inspire us, and in so doing, we begin to close the gap. I hope that…

  • …we can make the library a hub of openness to all kinds of learning, having earned the trust of the school community- the key component to being able to make a direct and meaningful impact on student achievement.
  • …the school librarian workforce becomes increasingly diverse. Some of our allied fields, such as publishing, are also paying attention to this gap, but it’s slow going.  
  • …school librarianship is increasingly attractive to creative, savvy,value-centered workers who get a kick out of kids.
  • …the library becomes the model for collaboration within the school- between librarians and teachers, between the teachers themselves, between librarians and the administration and the wider community, and between students from different grades and programs- leading to a third space within the school. This is certainly the way public libraries are headed, and given that school libraries are nestled within a school that is nestled within a district, that is in turn embedded into the wants and needs of the local community, it is both appropriate and necessary that school librarians collaborate with their broader stakeholders.

Concerns About the Profession

I remember as a sociology undergrad thinking that every. single. social. problem could be traced back to the evils of capitalism. If only it was that simple; that black and white. Of course, there is a constellation of causes and effects, misguided policies, and human foibles at work. Likewise, there are a number of concerns within the the library profession and the field of education that could be alternatively characterized as hiccups, obstacles, or outright wicked problems for school librarians (The Horizon Report always offers a great analysis).

To keep it simple here, and to focus on solutions, rather than problems, I would say, I hope the profession gets better at advocacy.  At a recent CSLA conference, I attended a session about library marketing by Brigeen Radoicich-Houghton, Library Coordinator for the Fresno Office of Education. She had us do an exercise that really brought home the point: We were to rate, from 1-5, which of our five constituents (community, parents, administrators, teachers, students) we impacted the most; then rate which we spend the most time with; and finally who pulls the most weight in terms of decision-making. You can guess where this is going. Major discrepancies exist between who we spend the most time with (students) and who makes the decisions (administration andadvocacy tweets feb 2016_cropped community). This is not to say we shouldn’t be spending so much time with students, but that we really need to be developing relationships with the administration and the community (including parents and teachers) in order to learn their pain points and tailor our services around solutions to those problems. When that happens, we have a broad base of support for our library program and we are fully integrated into the broader goals of student achievement. In this way, we are able to articulate the success of the library in a way that is understandable, meaningful, and actionable for our decision-making constituents. Librarians need to step away from telling their administrators what the library needs, and instead show them what the library has achieved. (Hint: circulation statistics alone won’t cut it). Disruptive technologies, budget cuts, and a widespread misunderstanding of the librarian’s role threaten the sustainability of our school libraries, and targeted advocacy may be one of our most powerful weapons.

Dispositions of the School Librarian: My Areas of Strength

Based on the dispositions outlined by Professor Harlan, I would point to communication and advocacy as being my top strengths. To the extent that dispositions are understood as attitudes and/or habits of mind, we can point to the ways we tend to respond to problems and the ways we tend to approach tasks and set goals as our dispositions. Our observable behaviors are ‘proof’ of what dispositions we actually hold. Here are some of the behaviors you would observe if you spent time with me:

I blog. I tweet. I ask. I seek. I write. I naturally seek out opportunities to ask questions and talk about what I’ve learned; you will see me telling everyone I know about libraries. If you were around the school where I volunteer, you would see me introducing myself to the superintendent when he is on site, and thanking him for supporting our Model School Library programs. You would also see me tweeting to him when the right opportunity arises. I realize that he doesn’t really know who I am, but I know that a simple ‘thank you’ from a parent and a reminder that I am volunteering my time in his library is advocacy in action. Similarly, you would witness me inviting different parents to come visit the library and jumping at the chance to tell them why I volunteer there. You would see me communicating with teachers about the future of libraries. Here’s an excerpt from a recent email I wrote:

future of lib_email_croppedFrom the very beginning of library school, I felt the pull toward advocacy. In fact, for my first paper, of my first class (LIBR 200) I chose to write about demonstrating the value of the public library. The paper was eventually published in the iSchool’s Student Research Journal and reflects my continuing passion to advocate on behalf of libraries. I am also interested in assessment, which ultimately, harks back to my disposition towards advocacy, since performance assessment gives us the means to demonstrate our value. If you were at the recent CSLA conference session about using centers in the library, you would have seen me asking about assessment- ‘how do you know if [the centers program] met the learning objectives…how did you assess if it was all worth it?’ If you were a fly on the wall at my daughter’s school where I am collaborating with a first grade teacher, you would see me writing the assessment piece into the lesson plan- it’s one of the first things I thought about when we began our collaborations. Indeed, even my blogging is rooted in assessment and advocacy, using it as a reflective practice, which is really a self-assessment strategy as I progress through library school.  

In my future professional life, my disposition for assessment will allow me to see problems and address them effectively. My communication skills and disposition for advocacy will in turn help me broadcast the right information to the right people at the right time, resulting in a funnel of support for my role, my library program, my school, and my students.  Likewise, my penchant for communication will enable me to share with and learn from members of the profession, further positioning me as a leader.

As a communicator, I enjoy sharing information with people who might find it useful, forwarding news articles or links with a quick note of why I think they should take a look. Likewise, I like to keep people in the loop. When a teacher recently sent me two students who needed some assistance in the library, I wrote her a note outlining what we did so that she would be on the same page. This wasn’t expected, but it’s natural for me to try to keep the lines of communication open. This has helped us build trust and is laying the groundwork for future collaboration.

Related to my inclination to communicate is my natural disposition toward participating in learning communities. I use Twitter for this and attend free webinars that are of particular interest. Although I am still a student, yet to work in a library, I actively participate in these channels, asking questions and sharing news, my own blog posts and papers. Both of these avenues have given me access to professionals I never would have been able to engage with otherwise. I recently paid my own way to a professional conference where I was able to soak up new ideas, observe how the profession interacts with each other, and make new contacts. In a similar vein, I carved out a volunteer position for myself at my daughter’s school library, knowing it would be a fantastic learning opportunity.

Indeed, the volunteer work has proven to be a rich source of learning. It has also given me the invaluable opportunity to ‘try on’ the profession. Sure, a lot of my time there is spent shelving books, but this gives me the perfect location from which to observe, ask questions, and get to know the students and staff. I made it clear to the media specialist that I was open to helping in a variety of ways, which led to me writing and delivering an instructional unit on Destiny and giving a digital citizenship lesson to 4th and 5th graders.

The more I learn in library school, the more I try to practice it in my volunteer position. It is natural for me to want to collaborate; it is something I have done in previous work outside librarianship and is something I enjoy. Despite having no teaching credential and little instructional experience with children, I have reached out to a few of the teachers to explore some potential collaboration. To my surprise, I have an offer to jointly develop an inquiry-based project for high-reading-level first graders! I think there are a number of factors as to why I got this opportunity, but the foundation for it comes from my communication skills and my ability to successfully advocate for what libraries can do for students.

Dispositions of the School Librarian: Areas for Improvement

Among the areas for improvement, the need to develop a variety of instructional strategies at my fingertips will be crucial to my success as a school librarian. I have theoretical knowledge of various pedagogical approaches and have done instructional design coursework, but do not have a working familiarity with teaching. I will either need to obtain a teaching credential, or look towards work with private/independent schools while getting as much informal teaching experience as possible, and continuing to be active in learning communities. Either way, teaching will be at the forefront of my practice. Whether it is in a public school with a teaching credential, or in an independent school without one, remains to be seen.

Finally, I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t say that I will need to work continuously on developing resiliency. I have a hunch that if I traded in the desire for perfection in favor of persistence, I might get further faster. Perfect is the enemy of good, right? I suspect this is a tough one for many school librarians who have to do so much with so little; who tend to be under-appreciated and whose work is often misunderstood by the very people they are serving. I think that if we were to pull from our professional ethic of intellectual freedom, in the sense of always being open to new ideas, we might find a sense of possibility opening up. To this end, I also think that reading outside the field of education and librarianship is beneficial. Brian Mathews offers a good example of this kind of thinking, wherein he applies commercial/business concepts to his academic library practice, recognizing a number of ways that ‘thinking like a start-up’ can help build great library programs and build culture of problem-solving resilience.

room for improvement.jpg
Improvement by Celestine Chua (CC- BY)

  

 

My Personal Learning Network: A Baseline

baseline
Baseline by Megan Elizabeth Morris (CC-BY-NC-ND)

My personal learning network for all things library began in the Spring of 2014 (2 years ago). The heart and soul of my PLN was Michael Stephen’s Hyperlinked Library course (now also a MOOC), which provided the necessary information, impetus and inspiration for developing an PLN. For that course, I was asked to start a blog with which I would turn in assignments and reflect on what I was learning. I saved this little infographic which shows just how far I had come after one semester (or rather, just how low of a base I began with!)

final PLN

*Icon attributions at the end 

And now, here we are. I wasn’t so good at maintaining my blog and developing my network over the summer and throughout other courses, but thankfully, I never lost it altogether, and now, with more direction in my studies, I can really begin to tailor my PLN. I’m so grateful for this opportunity.

Since that initial push, which mostly revolved around public librarianship, I starting following a few school library people on twitter, added several school library and educational blogs to Feedly and most importantly, began volunteering in my daughter’s elementary school library. I’ve been sucking up information ever since.

Here’s what I’ve done the last couple of days to organize and revitalize my PLN:

LEARNING ENVIRONMENT

  • Looked into the idea of using a dashboard product as my homepage. I’m currently using a chromebook (LOVE*), which is fine because everything is web-based these days. I considered Symbaloo and Netvibes and then just decided to stick with the existing products I love: Diigo and Feedly. I can set up my chromebook to always open with these tabs active. (I will probably add Twitter and Canvas to the active tabs).

LEARNING NETWORKS

  • Joined a couple groups in Diigo related to EdTech and then subscribed to those feeds in Feedly….that way I can see some of the links people are adding directly from feedly. Not sure if this will be helpful or not. Time will tell.
  • Reorganized Feedly with new collection categories, promoting some blogs to ‘must read’ and adding new ones. (Re-promised myself to read. feedly. every. day.)
  • Tweeted out an interesting article or two. I’m pretty good about avoiding the temptation to blindly re-tweet; I typically aim to provide some input/value add. At least I checked that this article wasn’t already all over #tlchat.
  • Made arrangements to go to the Friday session of The CSLA 2016 Conference (Vista Unified School District is presenting) and attend SJSU’s iSchool meetup. Who am I to turn down an invitation to cocktails?

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*Icon Attributions: RSS by Daniel Llamas Soto from The Noun Project; Texting by Luis Prado from The Noun Project; Twitter by aguycalledgary from The Noun Project; Telephone by Simple Icons from The Noun Project; Network by Bruno Castro from The Noun Project; Cloud Computing by Andrew Forrester from The Noun Project; Icons not cited are public domain.

Library Display

WhatsNewI’ve recently been volunteering in my daughter’s elementary school library. I used to volunteer in her classroom and when I enrolled in a school libraries course this semester, I realized how helpful it would be to get some experience in the k-5 library environment. Well, it has been a blast! You know, the library is a great vantage point from which to see the workings of the whole school. Everyday, students and teachers from every grade filter in, each with different wants and needs. I’m beginning to build up my repertoire of books to recommend, but it’s something that just takes time. It’s so important to get the right book into the right hands…there’s always that chance of a single book lighting the fire of a child who began as a reluctant reader.

I wanted to create a library display to introduce the new books we just purchased from the Junior Library Guild. With the help of an artist friend and my handy husband, we came up with this shadow-box of sorts, hoping to make a real splash!

SeaWhatsNew)

During library time, students will be encouraged to take a look at our new collection, and if they check out one of the new books, they can write their name and the title of the book on a sea creature cut-out that will be posted to the wall behind the display, near the whale. In a way, this works as a recommendation wall. Ideally, I’d like to replace the book blurbs that I wrote, with student reviews. If only we had more library time 😦

whale wall

BlurbsQR

A bubble-shaped book blurb posted underneath each book includes a short synopsis and the reading level and quiz number (if applicable). The students are always interested in the level and if there is a quiz, since (unfortunately) they need to take a quiz after each book they read, and many teachers do not allow their students to read outside their ‘level’. I suspect many students will not read the blurb, but will instead go straight to looking at the pictures and/or thumbing through the book. The blurbs may be more useful for teachers.

For teachers, I have also included supporting digital content/multimedia resources for about half of the books, via QR code, which is posted directly next to the book blurb. The emphasis that the Common Core State Standards place on more complex texts (including primary source documents), content-rich nonfiction, and new media literacies creates an additional workload for teachers. Librarians can help.

teacherSign

Poetry for Elementary School Pick: Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems

Firefly_July_Janeczko, Paul B, and Melissa Sweet. Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems. , 2014. Print.

Plot: Noted poet and anthologist Paul Janeczko presents 36 poems organized by season. The collection includes both famous and lesser known poets. Opening in Spring, and moving through the seasons, simple yet elegant verse explores the physical world’s seasonal cues- Rain beats down / roots stretch up / They’ll meet / in a flower- as well as the quiet personal moments that remind us of a particular season- a young girl is pictured, having pulled her bicycle to the side of the road so she can sit and look out over the water at an island shaped just like an elephant: The Island / Wrinkled stone/ like and elephant’s skin / on which young birches are treading. The book closes with the imagery of moonlight streaming in the window and stars formed into the shape of the words THE END.

Topics: Children’s Poetry, Seasons

Awards: Cybils AwardsParent’s Choice Awards

Review: These are not ‘poems for kids’, but rather real poems, for people.  Sure, there are poems about cats and birds, fireflies and stars, but also tight little packages of real life: the subway, morning dew, urban alleyways, and bad moods. The page for winter opens with Cynthia Pederson’s poem about an old truck that has seen better days, evoking the inevitable sense of loss and the reality of reduced mobility that comes with the cold months. But it’s not all meaningful melancholy- there’s much to celebrate here, as the title suggests. The book is marketed as a PreK – 3rd grade book, but I think it would appeal all the way up to 5th grade, and even beyond.

Quantitative Reading Level: Lexile: n/a, ATOS Book Level: 4.5, AR Interest Level: Lower Grades (PK-3)

Qualitative Reading Analysis: This collection of 36 short poems (none over 10 lines) spread over large-format pages with full color bleed has a rating of medium text complexity. The font is consistent and conventional with the exception of the section titles which are incorporated into the artwork, some of which are difficult to recognize, yet serve as an amusing side activity to poetry reading. Organizing by seasons is something every child can relate to, but the poems are not overtly seasonal which elevates the quality of the arrangement and creates an instructive challenge for young readers. A table of contents makes it easy to find a favorite poem or jump to a specific season. The artwork is central to the appeal of the book, its mixed media collages unpredictable and full of interesting textures. The youngest children will enjoy it as a feast of colorful, friendly imagery, content to connect only occasionally with a poem’s message, while others will crave the interpretive assistance of an adult to take in the full meaning of the poet’s words. The oldest children are likely to appreciate the artistry of both word and image.

Content/Subject Area & Standards: 

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.K.7
With prompting and support, describe the relationship between illustrations and the story in which they appear (e.g., what moment in a story an illustration depicts).

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.K.10
Actively engage in group reading activities with purpose and understanding.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.1.4
Identify words and phrases in stories or poems that suggest feelings or appeal to the senses.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.2.4
Describe how words and phrases (e.g., regular beats, alliteration, rhymes, repeated lines) supply rhythm and meaning in a story, poem, or song.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.3.4
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, distinguishing literal from nonliteral language.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.4.2
Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text; summarize the text.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.5.2
Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text, including how characters in a story or drama respond to challenges or how the speaker in a poem reflects upon a topic; summarize the text.

Curriculum Suggestions:

For younger students: have a selection of songs and poems and have students choose which songs best match the mood or topic of the poem.

For older students: have students work together in poetry circles to examine the form, content, language, and meaning of poetry, beginning with Firefly July and progressing to more complex poetry.

Stage a poetry Slam (From Education World)

Links to Supporting Content:

Eight Ideas to Celebrate National Poetry Month

Online Resources related to National Poetry Month

Poetry Outloud Teaching Resources

Tags: Book Review, K5, K5-ELA, Poetry, Seasons, School Libraries, INFO237

Math Picture Book Pick: That’s a Possibility!: A Book About What Might Happen

Thats_a_PossibilityGoldstone, Bruce. That’s a Possibility!: A Book About What Might Happen. , 2013. Print.

Plot: Using action-oriented photographs in a riot of colors, this book introduces the mathematical concept of probability to the elementary school set. Each page poses a question prompting an interactive exercise with the answer provided in plain language: These gumballs are in this machine. What color gumball will you probably get? What other colors are possible? Is it possible to get a blue gumball? Sure, it’s possible- but it’s improbable. Key terms, including possible/impossible, certain vs. likely; probable/improbable; possibilities and odds; and combinations/permutations, are conveyed in bold, colorful font and made explicit through instructive, engaging photographs.

Topics: Mathmatics – probability

Review: This book is a real looker! So much fun, it’s sure to engage even the most reluctant student. Kids will initially pick it up because of the large format color photographs of things like gumballs, animal shaped balloons, and frogs in flight, but they will stick with it because it feels like a game of logic- each page pulling you into a new compulsive challenge: When you flip a coin, there are two possibilities: it can land on heads or tails…what are the odds it will land heads up?  Goldstone has a true talent for simplifying otherwise complicated topics. At first glance, I wondered why elementary school students would need to learn about probability, but the book makes it clear why probability is important (helps you predict what will happen) and how foundational the concepts are to mathematical literacy. Every math teacher should have this one up her sleeve.

Quantitative Reading Level: Lexile: 580L (adult directed), Interest Level: K-5

Qualitative Reading Analysis: As a adult-directed text, this book has a medium-low level of complexity.  It is the graphics that do the heavy-lifting in this book, conveying the bulk of information. The photographs do require some visual literacy skills, but are carefully selected for their effective portrayal of very targeted subject matter. Certainly, probability is a complex subject, but the book is well-paced, beginning with the most simplistic concepts and moving steadily toward more the nuanced ones. No prior mathematical knowledge required- kids may not even realize they are doing math!

Content/Subject Area & Standards: Mathematics

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.K.MD.A.2
Directly compare two objects with a measurable attribute in common, to see which object has “more of”/”less of” the attribute, and describe the difference.

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.K.MD.B.3
Classify objects into given categories; count the numbers of objects in each category and sort the categories by count.

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.1.MD.C.4
Organize, represent, and interpret data with up to three categories; ask and answer questions about the total number of data points, how many in each category, and how many more or less are in one category than in another.

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.2.MD.C.8
Solve word problems involving dollar bills, quarters, dimes, nickels, and pennies, using $ and ¢ symbols appropriately.

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.3.OA.D.9
Identify arithmetic patterns (including patterns in the addition table or multiplication table), and explain them using properties of operations.

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.4.OA.C.5
Generate a number or shape pattern that follows a given rule. Identify apparent features of the pattern that were not explicit in the rule itself.

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.5.OA.B.3
Generate two numerical patterns using two given rules. Identify apparent relationships between corresponding terms. Form ordered pairs consisting of corresponding terms from the two patterns, and graph the ordered pairs on a coordinate plane.

Curriculum Suggestions: 

Use this as a read aloud, working on a few pages at a time, and challenging students to come up with similar scenarios to illustrate the point.

Create a collage, using magazines to cut out high contrast, sharp graphics that can illustrate the concepts of possible/impossible, certain vs. likely; probable/improbable.

Links to Supporting Content:

Probability (PreK-4): Explore mathematical chance by showing your children how to use a “Lucky Guess” spinner to see if it knows all, in this activity from Arthur. (PBS Learning Media)

4th Grade Card Game

5th Grade Probability Carnival (news story)

 

Tags: Book Review, INFO237, K5, K5-Math, Probability, School Libraries

Science Picture Book Pick: Me…Jane

Me_JaneMcDonnell, Patrick. Me– Jane. New York: Little, Brown, 2011. Print.

Plot: Young Jane (Goodall) loves her stuffed toy chimpanzee Jubilee, and takes him everywhere she goes. Jane and Jubilee have busy, fun-filled days investigating the miracles of nature- from spider webs, to tree sap, to chicken eggs. Jane feels so alive in the outside world and harbors a cherished dream of living in Africa, helping the animals. She continues to study books and record her observations, until one day her dream comes true.

Topics: Biography – Jane Goodall, Biography – Women, Biography – Scientists, Animals – Apes & Monkeys, Nature Study

Awards: Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Children’s Video; Charlotte Zolotow Award; Cybils Awards; New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Books of the Year; Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children; Parents Choice Award; Randolph Caldecott Medal

Review:  This book does so much to describe the passion and commitment that must be inherent in Jane Goodall’s character- and which most certainly describes what it takes to be a true scientist.  Yes…Jane observed, read, and studied, but crucially, she also ‘cherished’, ‘loved’ and ‘felt’ the magic, joy, and wonder of being a part of nature. Patrick McDonnell has given young readers the inside scoop on the practice of science and the joy of following your dreams.

And since we’re talking about science, I decided to test this book on an actual child: my daughter, an avid reader who, while only in first grade, can read into the Lexile 500 range and is typically drawn to chapter books in the AR 3-4 level. Having surreptitiously left  Me…Jane in a pile of other books waiting for review, I watched my daughter pick up (and read) several other books (including Separate is Never Equal, That’s a Possibility and Firefly July) before finally turning, to Me…Jane. I could tell she was only mildly interested and when I asked her about it, she reported, “I just don’t understand it.”  I suspect it wasn’t so much the words themselves, but the fact that she doesn’t know who Jane Goodall is, or appreciate her contribution to the world. In addition, there is not a strong plot line, so it was kind of a ‘so what’ moment for her. Perhaps what adults find endearing about the book- Jane’s sense of magic and wonder- is simply taken for granted by young readers still so deeply connected to their passions.

Quantitative Reading Level: Lexile: 740L, ATOS Book Level: 3.2, Flesh-Kincaid Reading Level: 3.5, AR Interest Level: Lower Grades (k-3); AR Reading Level: 3.2

Qualitative Reading Analysis: Despite the simplicity and brevity of the text, this book scores high for text complexity. The complexity comes primarily from needing some kind of background knowledge in order to understand why we should care about a little girl who carries a toy chimpanzee and likes being outside. The purpose of the text- ostensibly to inspire young people, particularly girls, to follow their dreams- is not made explicit; without reading the biography at the end, one wouldn’t know the obstacles she was up against- there is only joy and happiness, no obstacles, presented in the main story. Additionally, the language is often figurative: suspense mounts when, “one day Jane was curious…she snuck into a chicken coop…stayed very still….” but then falls flat, “…and observed the miracle.”  Likewise, the purpose of the two facing pages of drawings and puzzles is unclear. It is not until the very last page of the back matter, in tiny font, that we learn that it was Jane herself who created the intricate drawings when she ran a science club as a young girl- a compelling fact that may best be related prior to reading the story, along with the “About Jane Goodall” page.

Content/Subject Area & Standards: 

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.1.3
Describe the connection between two individuals, events, ideas, or pieces of information in a text. (Young Jane / Adult Jane)

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.1.2
Retell stories, including key details, and demonstrate understanding of their central message or lesson.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.1.5
Explain major differences between books that tell stories and books that give information, drawing on a wide reading of a range of text types.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.1.7
Use illustrations and details in a story to describe its characters, setting, or events.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.2.7
Use information gained from the illustrations and words in a print or digital text to demonstrate understanding of its characters, setting, or plot.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.3.3
Describe characters in a story (e.g., their traits, motivations, or feelings) and explain how their actions contribute to the sequence of events

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.3.4
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, distinguishing literal from nonliteral language.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.3.7
Explain how specific aspects of a text’s illustrations contribute to what is conveyed by the words in a story (e.g., create mood, emphasize aspects of a character or setting)

Curriculum Suggestions: Read this book aloud in class as a way to introduce the role of observation in the scientific process, being sure to use the book’s back matter and other media to bring students up to speed on Jane Goodall’s achievements and fame.

It could also be used as a biography for young students interested in female scientists, though it won’t be in this book where students source their facts. Instead, use Me…Jane as a way of communicating the way Jane used her natural talents and interests to turn a dream into reality.

Compare picture book biographies: Me… Jane by Patrick McDonnell and The Watcher by Jeanette Winter, discussing what parts of Jane Goodall’s life they chose to include and how they each used illustrations to support the text. (The Classroom Bookshelf.  (2011, May 2) Me…Jane and the Watcher [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://classroombookshelf.blogspot.co.uk/2011/05/me-jane-watcher.html.)

Links to Supporting Content:

The Jane Goodall Institute’s (JGI) global youth-led community action program, Roots & Shoots (website)

National Wildlife Federation

The Watcher by Jeanette Winter

Tags: Biography, Book Review, Goodall, INFO237, K3, K3-Sci, School Libraries