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?

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!

My Tuppence Worth

The heated online discussion with challenges and questions about the term “transliteracy” and it’s place in Library Land seems to have subsided, but I had yet to chime in with my two cents to respond to the request for definitions and desire to see results.

A Brief Background:

When I decided to go to library school, I was drawn to children’s librarianship and found that storytelling was a natural fit for me with my theatrical background. While in the MLS program at Pratt, that interest began to cross into multi-media. My professors opened my eyes to see that Stories exist through forms of media. It wasn’t something that was taught. It wasn’t something that was even discussed (that I remember). It didn’t have a name and I couldn’t identify it, but knew it excited me.

A year or so later I attended a presentation by Bobbi at Computers in Libraries on Transliteracy and it clicked for me. This was a concept that aligned with my ideas! It helps me frame discussions with patrons and staff in my everyday work.


I do agree that there are many similar qualities between the two terms Transliteracy and Information Literacy, but I don’t see them as equal. To me, the term Information Literacy is very academic, with a focus on formal instruction. My work in a public library does not include or require formal instruction. In fact, I am not sure that I know of a public library anywhere that requires continuing education for librarians. What I do know is that there are still librarians who lack basic technology skills (I recently heard a story from a colleague of visiting a library where she had to demo how to cut and paste – no joke) and my thinking is that we have to keep exploring and presenting new ways of thinking about learning and literacy in the hopes that something will click for them too.

girl reading on laptop screen

photo by Flickr user yohann.aberkane

Transliteracy allows me to include fun, art, creativity, playfulness and what brought me here to begin with…Story. The definition from works just fine for me – “the ability to read, write and interact across a range of platforms, tools and media…” Sure there are other terms that are very similar like 21st Century Learning, e-literacy, and transmedia, but like Buffy J. Hamilton, I think Transliteracy is an umbrella term that allows us to explore the possibilities of communication and creation through many media forms (not necessarily just electronic) and quite frankly, I just like it!


Here is where the challenge lies. I don’t work in conducting research and formal studies with large groups. I work with a large cross-section of people, but in small groups. My task is to encourage and assist them in using modern tools to access information and entertainment as well as tools from the past.

My hope through working with this group is that I can share my own projects of exploration in my everyday work and hear stories of other libraries facing this challenge. Clearly formal educational environments provide more opportunities for exploring the concept while the absence of a classroom makes it difficult for those of us in public libraries to measure the effectiveness of an initiative. What a shame since public libraries have the potential to reach the largest audience!

So, I’m curious to know how public librarians are exploring multiple literacies at their libraries? How are you teaching transliteracy at your institution?

Does Your Website Meet the Needs of Patrons with Limited Literacy, English Skills, Cultural Backgrounds or Disabilities?

The Children’s Partnership has a great set of Guidelines for Content Creation and Evaluation of websites.  You can access them online or download a pdf

These guidelines were developed as a practical tool to help people identify and develop online content that meets the needs of the 50 million Americans who, because of their limited-literacy and English skills, cultural backgrounds, or disabilities, are poorly served by online content today.

These guidelines build upon the growing consensus about how to make online information more useful and reliable, and upon criteria that make content particularly useful and relevant to underserved users. We expect them to evolve with changes in technology and the way people use the Internet.

The sites includes not just the guidelines but an online tool that walks you through the evaluation step by step

Section 1: Baseline Requirements

  • Is the author or sponsor clearly identified? Yes or No
  • Is the site related to the following subjects: education, health, housing, jobs, legal services, finances, cultural perspectives, local content, or other topics of particular interest to underserved communities? Yes or No

Section 2: Requirements for Low-Barrier Web Sites.  Each category in this section focuses on a specific characteristic that can enhance the accessibility of online content. Assign to each applicable item in this section 4, 5, or 0 points.

Literacy Level of Text

  • Are “active” verbs used instead of “passive” verbs (for example, “The car hit the tree,” instead of “The tree was hit by the car.”)? 0 4 5 N/A
  • Are the sentences clear and short (on average not more than 15-20 words each)? 0 4 5 N/A
  • Is the text written in the simplest and most familiar words appropriate? 0 4 5 N/A
  • Does the site avoid busy or distracting graphics, animation, or audio/video content? 0 4 5 N/A

Languages(s) of Text

  • Is the text available in one or more languages in addition to English? 0 4 5 N/A

Accessibility to Individuals with Disabilities – For information on how to answer any of the questions in this section, see the Help section.

  • Are text alternatives provided for any non-text content on the page (like images, audio, or video), so that it can be changed into other forms people may need, such braille or speech? 0 4 5 N/A
  • Can all of the site’s content and functionality be accessed through a keyboard alone, without having to rely on a mouse? 0 4 5 N/A
  • Is all of the information conveyed with color also available without color? 0 4 5 N/A
  • Do the foreground and background color combinations provide sufficient contrast for those who are visually impaired or colorblind? 0 4 5 N/A
  • Does the site make explicit its adherence to the U.S. Government’s Section 508 guidelines or the Web Accessibility Initiative’s (WAI) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines? 0 4 5 N/A
  • If the site does NOT state its compliance with Section 508 or the WAI, does it make an accessibility policy available to its users? (If the site is Section 508 or WAI approved, mark N/A for this question.) 0 4 5 N/A

Cultural Focus of Content

  • Does the site reflect cultural and ethnic diversity in conveying mainstream/general content? 0 4 5 N/A
  • Is this site designed to benefit or be of use to a particular cultural or ethnic group? 0 4 5 N/A
  • Does the site indicate that it has an “authentic” connection to the community on which it focuses? 0 4 5 N/A

Cost of Access and use

  • Is the site’s content free or low cost? 0 4 5 N/A

Geographic Specificity of Content

  • Does the site provide information that is localized as much as possible at the state or preferably city/neighborhood level (for example, through the use of mapping tools)? 0 4 5 N/A
  • Is the site sponsored by a locally based organization, government agency, or business? 0 4 5 N/A
  • Does the site provide practical information for the local community (for example local job, housing, and school listings, or information about neighborhood events)? 0 4 5 N/A
  • Do members of the site’s intended audience create or contribute content to the content on the site? 0 4 5 N/A

Section 3: Requirements for High-Quality Web Sites

Section 3: Requirements for High-Quality Web Sites

Assign 3, 4, or 0 points to each applicable item marked “PRIORITY,” and 1, 2, or 0 points to each applicable item marked “DESIRABLE.”


Priority + 3-4 points

  • Is the author or sponsor clearly identified? 0 3 4 N/A

Desirable + 1-2 points

  • Are the credentials and backgrounds of the sponsors easy to find? 0 1 2 N/A
  • Is contact information (beyond just an e-mail address, such as phone, fax, or mailing address) easy to find? 0 1 2 N/A


Priority + 3-4 points

  • If the site collects information about users, is it easy to find the Privacy Policy or “Terms of Use” statement? 0 3 4 N/A
  • Does the Privacy Policy include a statement about how personal information is handled? 0 3 4 N/A


Priority + 3-4 points

  • Is the purpose of the site and the target audience clear? 0 3 4 N/A
  • Does a scan of the site’s text show it to be generally free of grammatical and spelling errors? 0 3 4 N/A
  • Is there a copyright date? Are there publication and revision dates on the articles and content? 0 3 4 N/A
  • Is the information current, for example has the site been updated in the past month? 0 3 4 N/A
  • Is the site objective in presenting information? If it intends to have a bias, is the bias clearly stated? 0 3 4 N/A
  • Is there a clear distinction between advertising and informational content? 0 3 4 N/A

Desirable + 1-2 points

  • Is the information edited down to the appropriate length for Web use, and is the need for excessive scrolling avoided? 0 1 2 N/A


Priority + 3-4 points

  • Does the homepage appropriately indicate the site contents including the options, features available, and intended audience? 0 3 4 N/A
  • Is the navigation consistent throughout the site? Are the menus clear and the section names descriptive? 0 3 4 N/A
  • Is an easy-to-find site map provided on the site? 0 3 4 N/A
  • Is the text a readable size and style? 0 3 4 N/A
  • Are the graphics simple and attractive without being distracting? 0 3 4 N/A
  • Is there an easy way to get back to the homepage from elsewhere on the site? 0 3 4 N/A
  • Do the pages have titles? 0 3 4 N/A
  • Does the site function without requiring Flash, Javascript, or other non-HTML technologies? 0 3 4 N/A

Desirable + 1-2 points

  • Does it have an attractive overall look and well-balanced use of color? 0 1 2 N/A
  • Is there a printer-friendly option? 0 1 2 N/A


Priority + 3-4 points

  • Is there a way to search the site to locate information? 0   3 4 N/A
  • Does the site provide content without the need to log in or register? If registration is required for any part of the site, are the benefits of registration clearly explained? 0 3 4 N/A
  • If there are financial transactions taking place on the site, does the site specify that the information is encrypted, for example, using TLS (Transport Layer Security) or SSL (Secure Socket Layer)? 0 3 4 N/A

Desirable + 1-2 points

  • Is there a way for users to provide feedback on the site’s content, for example by leaving a comment, filling out a form, or using a rating system? 0 1 2 N/A
  • Is there a way for users to contribute to the site’s content, for example submitting articles, links, or posting to a message board? 0 1 2 N/A


Priority + 3-4 points

  • Does the site function properly in Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox and Safari? 0 3 4 N/A
  • Is the time it takes the site’s pages to load comparable to other sites on the Web? 0 3 4 N/A
  • Does the site fit within the width of your screen? 0 3 4 N/A
  • Does a scan of the site show it to be generally free of non-working links, missing graphics, “Under Construction” messages, and errors? 0 3 4 N/A

Visual Learning and Mind Mapping

[tweetmeme source=”Strng_Dichotomy” only_single=false]
Visual Learning & Mind Mapping was created and originally presented by Roger Hannon and Kaitlyn Mesley of Adult Learning Centres Grey-Bruce-Georgian for Transliteracy Conference 2010 in Owen Sound, Ontario. These videos give you a great visual representation of mind mapping, immersive learning, and how we are primarily visual learners. They also go into explaining how to use Power Point and mental models to educate adult learners.

These presentations will give you some great tools and ideas for your adult technology/non-technology programs and help you understand how they learn and retain information.

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