Transliteracy in your Summer Reading Program

It’s that time of year again when Children’s Librarians in public libraries all across the nation are busy making their plans for the summer reading program. You remember those, right? Read 10 books and get a cheap prize like a READ pencil made in China?  Aw c’mon,  everyone has those fond memories, nostalgic for the ‘good old days’ when the public library was all about BOOKS!
I’d like to share some ideas about ways to incorporate Transliteracy into your library’s summer reading program. Or at least share with you how we are trying to do it at MPOW.
When I started at my library a few years ago, I sat down with the Children’s Librarians and we talked about what the goal of the summer reading program (SRP) was. I wanted us to step back from the traditions and examine the core values we desired in an SRP. We agreed that we wanted it to be about reading, sure, but also about creativity, discovery and FUN. So, we set out to restructure our program to focus on those elements and embrace multiple literacies. At the time, I had never even heard the term Transliteracy. Yet, what we came up with actually supports it! We created a Passport that is filled with about 30 Reading Quests (though not all quests are actually about reading). Quests are activities that ask kids to read, think and create through various platforms. Children record their answers and ideas in their very own mini Library passport. Over the last 2 years Quests have included:

  • picture of child's drawingRead a book set in the future (read)
  • What is the coolest invention of your lifetime so far and why? (write)
  • Draw a futuristic car and name it (draw)*
  • Draw a map of your bedroom. Be sure to include a key (draw – spatial)
  • Take a picture of yourself holding your favorite book this summer and email it to the Children’s Library (digital)
  • Watch a movie about a different time period (visual)
  • Use Google Translate to translate the first line of the book you’re reading into another language (digital)

*in case you’re interested, the cars of the future will have ice cream machines in them, if kids have anything to say about it.  

And so on. Some quests could be done many different ways like Find out when the town of Darien was founded. Some kids read it on the town marker sign, some went to Town Hall, some looked it up on Wikipedia, some IM’d a Librarian – all kinds of different ways to answer! When kids had completed Quests, we stamped their passports and entered them into raffle drawings. The kids wrote and drew in their passports all summer long and the more Quests they completed, the more chances they had to win in raffle drawings for prizes. Instead of spending a ton of money on cheap prizes, we spent our money on prizes they would be willing to compete for – iPod Shuffles, Flip video cameras and this year, an iPad! Everyone got a free book prize just for singing up and we had other ways to win prizes throughout the summer.

The program as we run it now has been a HUGE success. The parents have raved about how their kids are eager to participate, the family can participate together or the kids can go alone. Each family is different. It also levels the playing field. A 3rd grader can zip through series books lickety-split while a 5th grader may take all summer to get through a dense chapter book. With the passport, kids can imagine and create at whatever level is right for them.

We also ask the kids to write reviews and tag items in our catalog (SOPAC). We’ve gotten our school librarians to help us spread the word and all the kids have been shown how to do this simple activity. We’ve shown them how they can use tags to create custom reading lists and ask them to write reviews in the catalog in order to receive an invitation to our finale event where they get to meet a popular author and get an autographed copy of his/her book.

For kids who couldn’t come into the library to check in, they could enter their quests online through a simple form we created using WuFoo to be entered into raffle drawings. I think our web portion of the program has much room for improvement, but sometimes you just have to make do with what you’ve got!

You know who has a GREAT summer reading website that also incorporates the ideas we talk about here? The NYC Summer Reading website. They have the traditional elements of summer reading available digitally, but also include elements of social media and gaming through the use of avatars, the ability to “Like” another child’s review and win badges. I see this activity as embracing a few literacies beyond simple traditional print literacy and have been impressed with it’s first year out and will watch to see how it evolves.

Summer Reading Programs are a great way to experiment with Transliteracy. What does your program look like? Would kids want to participate or do they only do it because their moms make them?

Transliteracy as pedagogy (LOEX 2011)

Image courtesy of longhorndave on Flickr (CC BY-2.0)

I’d like to thank the organizers of LOEX 2011 for a great conference in Fort Worth this past week-end; my head is still swimming with great ideas for tweaking our instruction program. I would also like to thank the attendees, who provided overwhelmingly positive feedback on my presentation, “Bridging the Gaps: Transliteracy as Informed Pedagogy”.

In a nutshell, my presentation was an examination of what the concept of transliteracy has to offer library instruction. Specifically, what does the ability to read, write, and interact across a range of platforms, tools, and media mean for library curriculum design? Moreover, doesn’t information literacy already cover everything relevant to library instruction? This last question is unfortunately common, so I’ll answer it first…

No. Information literacy is primarily an evaluative concept that only barely touches on the operational skills needed for effectively navigating the web. Though ACRL Standard Two comes close to covering information media (“The information literate student accesses needed information effectively and efficiently”), the desired outcomes involve the sort of linear, syntax-driven search behaviors that librarians love, while ignoring the more discovery-based, refinement-driven search behaviors students learn outside of our databases (cf. Holman 2011). As I’ve argued elsewhere, transliteracy is tied to the descriptive, medium-specific, literal “literacies” that are distinct from the evaluative literacies covered by information literacy (See Slide 27). This is pretty much just a rehashing of the original Transliteracies Project research and subsequent PART discussions, but it is important because it shows that transliteracy is not a replacement for information literacy, it is a complement to information literacy and the two are conceptually and logically distinct. So, library instructors out there, put down your pitchforks! Transliteracy is not a replacement for information literacy, it is just an incredibly useful concept to add to your instructional toolbox.

So, anyway, here are the slides. If you don’t want to go through the whole presentation, the moral of the story can be found in three keys for library instruction that I think logically follow from the concept of transliteracy:

  1. Effective information use requires several information sources. (Slides 30-34)
  2. Information resources do not stand alone, they interact (Slides 35-39)
  3. Navigating this interaction requires transferable skills (Slides 40-50)
Putting them together, we find that transliteracy encourages instructors to take students’ pre-existing skills seriously and harness them for academic research, rather than try to replace them with something else.
Anyway, here are the slides. (Make sure you view it on Slideshare if you want to see the speaker notes.)

Knowledgeable to Knowledge-ABLE

I finally had a chance to watch Michael Wesch’s new TEDxKC talk (October, 2010).

When I went to find the code for the video, I came across this article he wrote on the same subject here in the Academic Commons.

This new media environment can be enormously disruptive to our current teaching methods and philosophies. As we increasingly move toward an environment of instant and infinite information, it becomes less important for students to know, memorize, or recall information, and more important for them to be able to find, sort, analyze, share, discuss, critique, and create information. They need to move from being simply knowledgeable to being knowledge-able.

His argument that we need to be able to find, sort, analyze and even create new information in a new media landscape is perfectly in line with the principles of Transliteracy, but the section I was most struck by was around 6:30 when he talks about students seeking meaning in their lives. Near the end he states, “meaning is not just something you find, but ultimately something you create.” As someone also working with young people, I know he’s absolutely right and I find myself thinking more about context.

Knowledge Ability changes over time, based on the communication environment they are in.

Media are not just tools, they mediate relationships and allow us to connect with each other. When media change, our relationships change. Does that sound familiar to anyone who read Transliteracy: Crossing Divides?

The literacies (digital, numerate, oral) may be different, but the transliteracies (social, economic, political) often transect them in similar ways, depending on cultural context.

Wesch says learning is not a one-way conversation anymore – I say neither is librarianship! The old model with youth was “sit-down, be quiet and take in what I tell/give you.” We need to find ways to transform the one-way into two-way conversations.

But here is my great challenge as a children’s librarian in a public library. How do I help teach this in my informal learning environment? How can I help students learn outside the classroom? Wesch’s quote from Neil Postman, “You will do nothing” is not an option for public librarians!

So, what AM I doing? I’m going to do a quick self-audit of Wesch’s criteria to make young people knowledge-able:

  • Connect – We bring together students from across the district with shared interests through our programs and with their friends in the physical space. We’re working toward making our website/catalog (SOPAC) to become a social space where members can connect with each other through the site.
  • Organize – I don’t think I’m doing much of anything to help them organize.
  • Share – Our kids and teens have a voice. They can write comments on the website, write reviews in the catalog and I work hard to hire staff that listens and encourages the kids to share their stories and ideas.
  • Collect – I guess we help kids collect their research, but most often kids come in when they’ve finished their web research and the teacher is making them use a book. The nature of our work as Librarians allows us ample opportunity to collect resources and make them available, but I don’t see us having much of a role in our patrons experience of collecting anything.
  • Collaborate – Staff collaborates all the time using tools like google docs (I have introduced staff in other departments to these tools too) to plan summer reading programs, big events or preparing resource lists. Our Teen and  Kids Advisory Boards collaborate to plan events and collaborate with staff, and sometimes they may work together on a game or craft, but nothing I can identify as an organized effort in our department.
  • Publish – We are experimenting with an elementary school class to digitally publish their personal narratives and make them available on the library’s website. Close, but an unfinished project. Some of us try to “publish” content the kids and teens make in programs, but there isn’t much more I see us doing to publish kids’ creations at the moment. I see lots of potential in this area for public librarians.

Sadly, this makes me realize I am doing a better job of providing this structure for my staff than I am for my patrons. The places I see this type of work happening in a public library are through programming and through our Reference/Reader’s Adivsory with the public. I guess I need to think about those services with an eye toward this concept.

I will take his statement to heart and continue to keep this in my mind:

Knowledge-ability is a practice

I shall practice making more opportunities for my patrons that’s for sure!

Barrington Area Library Media Lab and Technology Classes

A couple of weeks ago I put a call out on Twitter and Facebook asking for examples of library policies, programs, events, services etc that support translitearcy. One of the people who emailed me was Ryann Uden from the Barrington Area Library in Illonios. Ryann said:

Here at the Barrington Area Library in Illinois, we are focusing more attention on the transliteracy needs of our patrons. We are days away from opening a digital media lab (similar to one in Skokie, IL) and one of the librarians in our youth services department has been active in creating unique technology programs for kids.

Here is a link to the current and past classes created and presented by Amanda and Mike.  http://balibrary.org/books/YSTech

You can see on the website all the classes they’ve done in the past including watching videos and listening to recordings they created in classes. Great examples! I’m impressed.

Then this week she emailed me to let me know there Media Lab is open. Check out the video they made to promote it and all the software they have

software

What Are You Doing to Promote Transliteracy?

One of the goals we have with the blog is to share the ideas and exciting things readers are doing in their libraries, so we’ve created a Transliteracy in Practice section. It includes a form for readers to submit the exciting things their libraries are doing. We’ll post those stories here on the blog under the Transliteracy in Practice category and linked to them on the page. You’ll be able to ask questions and share ideas.

We have seen an amazing response to the blog in the short time it has been up and running and we’re very excited to add this new community involvement feature.

Share your story!

Posted in Transliteracy in Practice. Comments Off
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