Wednesday, January 27, 2010

How Does Your School Library Stack Up?

If your school is like many North American schools, it's not up to scratch. As school budgets are relentlessly cut, more and more boards start viewing their schools' media centres as a "frill." Less books get purchased, and teacher-librarians are replaced with less expensive library techs. When the straitened libraries don't "perform," - and how can they once they are gutted? - administrators then use that lack of performance to justify yet another round of cuts.

The irony is, though, that a well-maintained school library, staffed with trained teacher-librarians, is an integral component of a quality school. Information literacy is key in all other learning areas. Yet the only people who are trained to deliver it are frequently splitting their time between 3 or even more schools (I'm now thinking of the lovely TL I met in Long Beach, California last fall, who was responsible for five inner city school's library programs...Five!!!).

To put it bluntly, anyone who spouts platitudes about how important literacy is for their students, but who doesn't demand a top-notch library program, is blowing smoke. 

Many administrators, teachers, and parents may agree with me that a good school library should be a priority. At the same time, however, they may not have the tools to evaluate their own media centre. A contemporary school library is and should be a very different place than the library we remember from our childhoods.

A few years ago, I was on the board of the Ontario Coalition for School Libraries. Sadly, the condition of school libraries has deteriorated even further in the years since I first became involved in this issue (and now I'm thinking about the Canadian public school library I also visited this past fall that had books on the shelves about "Red Indians" - eek! and had two biographies of  "Young John Kennedy.") At that time, I prepared a document that will enable anyone to clearly assess the quality of a school library. It's in the form of a questionaire that describes some of the key features of a quality library, and gives standards to measure a library against in quantifiable form. Anyone can review a library and its collection, given enough basic information about its holdings and set up.

The questionaire follows the standards outlined by the Canadian School Library Association. Those standards are very similar to the ones set out by the American School Library Association.

Download the School Library Assessment Questionaire Here

Please feel free to pass this questionaire on to anyone who has a stake in a school library - a parent, a teacher, a principal, school board member, or the teacher-librarian herself! If you'd like to update this questionaire or use the basic format to create a new form that aligns with the US standards, please feel free to do so.

Support Your School Library! Tomorrow's adults will thank you!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Children's Authors Rally around Library for Visually Impaired

My friend and fellow author Valerie Sherrard posted the following info on the listserve of CANSCAIP, the Canadian Society of Children's Authors, Illustrators and Performers recently:

"For more than 90 years, Canadians who read print have enjoyed free access to public libraries, funded through taxes. For the same amount of time, blind and partially sighted people across Canada have enjoyed free access to the donor-funded CNIB Library, Canada's largest library of Braille and audio materials.

It's inappropriate to expect blind and partially sighted Canadians to rely on a charity to pay for a service that other Canadians enjoy as a basic right of citizenship. Furthermore, CNIB can no longer sustain the $10 million annual operating cost of the library without partnerships with all levels of government. Today, the CNIB Library is in jeopardy, and its services in danger of eroding. Partnerships are needed now to ensure the future sustainability of the library and avoid service reductions.

If you believe that visually impaired Canadians deserve to have their right to read respected, please take a moment to support them through a letter of support (already prepared) here:"

Thanks to Valerie's post, many of the writers who participate in the listserve immediately sprang into action. Letters were written and sent, and stories were shared by many about how this vital institution has played a large role in the lives of family members and friends.

We don't know yet what impact the kidlit author contingent will have on this issue, but I'm proud to belong to such a proactive, thoughtful, and community-minded group.

Please lend your voice of support to the CNIB library by clicking on the link and sending off your own letter of support! Mine is on its way today!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

What kind of CHEESE are you? And what does it mean if you're Limburger?

The Quiz Book for Boys just hit the bookstores, and I'm looking forward to presenting it at upcoming school visits this week in Toronto and in Lindsay, Ontario.

As is always the way when writing a book, a lot of my fabulous, fabulous words don't make it into the printed edition - page counts and editor's sensitivities to vulgarity being what they are.

So in the interest of whetting reader's appetites, and salvaging some of those otherwise un-read words, I've decided to post one of the quizzes that just didn't make it into the offical Quiz Book here . Not that this very cheesy quiz isn't completely worthy of inclusion; but in the toss-up between What Kind of Underwear are You? and What Kind of Cheese are You?, well, we all agreed to  go with Briefs over Brie.

So get out your lactase pills and lipitor.  Answer the questions and follow the instructions. When you are told your cheese name, scroll down to the bottom to find what it says about your inner fromaginality.

Ready, set Go(uda)!

What Kind of Cheese are You? (and what does it mean?)

1. Your favorite sweater is:

a. full of holes.> Go to question 2.

b. blue> Go to question 3.

c. striped. > Go to question 4.

2. Where would you rather go on vacation?

a. To see the fjords of Scandinavia>>>>  You are Jarlsberg

b. To ski in the Swiss Alps>>> You are Emmentaler

3. Which character appeals to you most:

a. A mouse detective>>>> You are Stilton

b. A mermaid>>>> You are Danish blue

c. A pirate> go to question 5.

4. what’s your favorite animal?

a. Goat>>>>>>>>>You are Chevre

b. Elephant >>>>>>You are String cheese

c. Sea slug>>>>>>You are Brie

5. Which would you prefer:

a. Eating snails in garlic butter>>>> You are Gorgonzola

b. hunting for treasure in the basement of a German castle owned by a one-eyed monster? >Go to question 6.

c. Bungee jumping from the top of the CN tower.>>>>>go to question 7.

6. Do you consider yourself to be:

a. Daring and adventurous? >>>Go to question 8

b. A class clown > go to question 7

c. Star material > Go to question 10.

7. Which would you rather be:

a. A star goalie> go to question 11

b. A superstar soccer forward> go to question 9

c. A megastar tiddly winks champion go to question 10.

8. Which “book: would you rather read:

a. Escape from valley of the dinosaurs>>>> You are Limburger

b. Sherlock Holmes meets the Earl of Sandwich>>>>>You are Cheddar cheese

c. Soldiers on Skateboards >>>> You are Buffalo Mozzarella

9. Which movie would you rather see:

a. Surfin Safari>>>>>>>>>> You are Monterey Jack

b. Frankenstein meets the Abominable snowman>>>>You are Munster

c. Scooby Dooby Sea-doo >>>You are Cottage cheese

10. How much is 12 x 3?

a. 36>>>>> You are American cheese slices

b. 3 dozen. >>>>> You are Parmagiana

c. I don’t know. >>>You are Cheese curds.

11. Which little pig do you like best?

a. The one who built the straw house>>>> You are Strawberry cream cheese

b. the one that built the stick house>>> You are Cream cheese with chives

c. the one that built the brick house> You are brick cheese

Jarlsberg – You are a little nutty, but get along well with others.

Emmentaler – You are neat, orderly, and cuckoo about clocks.

Stilton – You love the finer things in life – expensive clothes, expensive cars, hedgehogs.

Danish Blue – you prefer to keep to yourself. Others find it difficult to get to know you. Those who know you realize you are very, very strange.

Chevre – You have a tremendous appetite for life. You tend to chew on your pencils, notebook, tin cans.

String Cheese – You prefer the simple things in life – dirt bikes, baseball caps, and astrophysics.

Brie – You are soft hearted and have a tendency to pass gas in class.

Gorgonzola – You have strong opinions, many of them incorrect.

Limberger - You are strong, powerful, with a talent for annoying people.

Cheddar cheese – You are extremely popular among hamsters and the criminally insane.

Buffalo mozzarella - you tend to be stubborn, with a fondness for wide open spaces and cud.

Monterey Jack – You have a talent for finding things. So get lost.

Munster – your strengths include a commanding presence and small pores.

Cottage Cheese – You are a little shy, but you have a great sense of humor.

American cheese slices – Did you say something?

Parmagiana – You are the life of the party, the heart of the matter, the soul of a pizza.

Cheese curds – You are 100% pure Canadian.

Strawberry cream cheese – You are a little sweet, and very tenderhearted. What’s not to like?

Cream cheese with chives – You’ve got a sharp wit beneath a mild mannered exterior.

Brick – You are solid gold, and just as dense.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Quiz Book for Boys Hits the Bookstores!

They love me. 8 year old boys, that is.

If only  the boys had loved me as much in grade 3 as they do now, I'd have been queen of the schoolyard. As my mother told me at least 40,000 times, "No one ever said life is fair."

I've finally figured out (better late than never) what makes the male homo sapiens tick.


Yes, it's methane that makes them tick, burble, grunt, explode and giggle like crazy.

Flatulence, it seems, is the universal language of the male. This powerful non-verbal communication method predates symbolic thought and rational discourse. In the same way that laughter communicates safety to the herd, and  yawns transfer sleepiness, the fellas send eachother updates of emotional states and hunting prospects via  backside aromatics. 

With gas being so important to boys, no wonder they love to talk about farts. And anything that relates, no matter how tangentially, to farts. Underwear. Cheese. Alien arm-wrestling.

It took me a long time (one husband and two sons) to figure out this elemental connection. But once I got it, I've been able to reach a niche market - boy readers. The Looney Bay All-Stars series, although it features girls in many prominent roles, appealed mostly to boys. Science on the Loose, with its Famous Fart Experiment, made me an instant celebrity with the Grade 3-6 guys.

When I wrote The Quiz Book for Boys, I pulled out all the stops. I put in as much vaporous silliness as I could. As well as zombies with stinky feet, spy stuff,  supervillains, weird tests, and disgustingly poor dental hygiene. The result? One darn funny book that I know boys - and girls - will like.

 I see a sticky note from my husband attached to  the "How Well Do You Know Your NHL Hockey?" quiz. He says he scored "Hockey Star." There was a smiley face on the note.

I think that counts as a thumbs up.

The Quiz Book for Boys is published by Scholastic Canada in French and English. It's available in Canadian bookstores now and on-line through all the major players.

Because: Science!