Category Archives: Literacy

Fanfiction in Libraries

Fanfiction in libraries!?! I’m sure many of you are thinking “not in my library!” but with the growing popularity of fanfiction and pop culture this is an easy programming idea. During the North Dakota Library Association’s annual conference Dr. Aimee Rogers, from the University of North Dakota, and Justine Sprenger, from the Grand Forks Public Library, gave the presentation Fanfiction: Why you should be a fan! Through this presentation the two presenters described why fanfiction is beneficial to young patrons in libraries, how many main stream authors began in fanfiction, and even books that highlight fanfiction as a part of the plot line. Their focus was to help the audience understand what fanfiction is and why it should not be scoffed at as a writing style. In fact, studies show that teaching writing through fanfiction helps the novice writer because they do not need to come up with their own characters and their own worlds, they can just add to the one that already exists.

If a library has a creative writing program within it, for children or teens, allowing them to begin by writing fanfiction may be more helpful than making them create everything on their own. Though some patrons may have all those ideas others may be intimidated by the fact that they need to create everything themselves, especially if they only have a character idea that could fit into another world. This presentation encouraged librarians to continue to embrace pop culture in their libraries through clubs and programming that highlight items like fanfiction, graphic novels, and cosplay. After the presentation, the presenters welcomed a discussion on how the librarians in the session felt about fanfiction in general and about it as a tool to be used to help with creative writing.

Reading Without Walls

Reading Without Walls is a reading challenge program for April created through a partnership between the Children’s Book Council, Every Child a Reader, Library of Congress, and Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group.  Gene Luen Yang is the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature and has done the artwork for the program.

Books act like windows when they show us the lives of people who are different from us.  The Reading Without Walls program asks our young people to explore the world through books by challenging them to:

  1. Read a book about a character who doesn’t look like you or live like you
  2. Read a book about a topic you don’t know much about
  3. Read a book in a format that you don’t normally read for fun

This program aims to promote diversity and open readers’ eyes to new ideas and experiences.  Reading Without Walls is an inclusive way to spread appreciation and understanding for others – and to learn new and exciting things.

What can YOU do to read without walls?

The box comes with a poster (wall and easel standup), activity book, stickers, bookmarks and pins.  There is also downloadable content!

The State Library received one box and wants to send it to a library that will consider doing this program (sorry for the short notice!)

Please respond to the Facebook post by 3:00 p.m., Friday, March 31 and we’ll pick one lucky random library to receive it!

Contact Kristin Byram at with any questions.

Reading BrightStart!

Mother and Daughter Reading Together --- Image by © Royalty-Free/CorbisLast week I highlighted physical activity resources from Nemours. This week I am highlighting Nemours BrightStart! reading program. The mission of BrightStart! “is to promote reading success and prevent reading failure for all children, focusing on birth to age 8.” As librarians, we understand the importance of acquiring reading competency, and this site is a great resource to share with parents to help them develop their child’s skills at home.

The Nemours website has information about the importance of childhood literacy and the BrightStart! program, but BrightStart! also has its own site as well. On it, you will find tools such as Reading Skills by Age and Pre-Reading Milestones from birth to age 5. Pre-Reading Milestones list motor skills, language and cognitive skills, tips for working with your child at home, and developmental warning signs. The section on Pre-Reading Skills covers the development of oral language, letter knowledge, phonological awareness, and beginning writing.

There are Articles for Parents, and parents can also use the Preschool Reading Screener to help determine the reading readiness of their 3-5 year old and generate an action plan. There are also Recommended Books, which you can sort by age group as well as the type of book, such as non-fiction or poetry.

There are also At-Home Activities designed for parents working with their children at home, but you could use them as story time activities as well. They can be sorted by age group and the pre-reading skill you would like to emphasize.

How do you encourage parents to work with their children on literacy skills at home? Share your suggestions in the comments!

Letters About Literature

boy writingEach year, the Center for the Book sponsors the  “Letters About Literature” contest. Readers in grades 4-12 are invited to write a personal letter to an author for the contest, which is a national reading and writing program. The letter can be to any author (living or dead) from any genre explaining how that author’s work changed the reader’s life or view of the world.

Prizes will be awarded on both the state and national levels. The North Dakota Center for the Book’s panel of judges will select the top letter writers in the state. Their winning letters will be published online at the North Dakota State Library’s website. North Dakota winners will also receive monetary prizes and then advance to the national judging.

  • Submissions from Grades 9-12 must be postmarked by December 4, 2015.
  • Submissions from Grades 4-8 must be postmarked by January 11, 2016.

Please visit for more information and entry forms. If you would like to incorporate this into your classroom lessons, there is also a Teaching Guide.

The 23rd annual writing contest for young readers is made possible by a generous grant from the Dollar General Literacy Foundation. Additional support has been provided by the Center for the Book at the Library of Congress, in partnership with the North Dakota Center for the Book and the North Dakota State Library.

If you have further questions about the North Dakota contest, please contact Shari Mosser at the North Dakota State Library at or 701-328-3252.

Early Learning with Vroom

PrintLibrary story times are geared toward developing young minds and building skills that children will need for school. However, story time at the library is only a small part of a child’s week. The rest of the time a child’s development is up to parents and other caregivers. As a librarian, you can help by equipping parents to support children’s development at home.

Vroom is an app based on research and developed with funding provided by the Bezos Family Foundation to help parents support their child’s brain development during the crucial first 5 years of life. The app provides daily tips and is free to download from Amazon, iTunes, and Google Play.

Of course not all parents have smartphones, so the tools and activities are also available on the website, including flyers you can download and print to hand out to parents. Each activity is labeled with an age range and includes background on why the activity is important to a child’s development.

It is easy enough to pass out flyers at story time, but there is also a playbook you can use for ideas to help bring Vroom to your entire community. There is a whole Dropbox folder of materials and tools, including low-ink versions of the flyers for printing in-house.

What do you do to encourage parents to work with their children at home? Share your suggestions in the comments!

The Long Goodbye to the ACT & SAT

Some very Testsbright students just do not do well with standardized tests like the ACT or SAT. Often, they do not bother to apply to prestigious schools because their test scores are too low. No clear connection between high SAT or ACT scores and future academic success has been proven. Consequently, more than 800 colleges and universities across the nation are adopting a “test-optional” policy. Students may apply without a SAT or ACT score. The goal is to attract a more diverse pool of students.

It is not surprising that the College Board (the organization that prepares and administers standardized tests) defends the use of SAT and ACT scores for college admission. They maintain that the scores on these tests are the best predictors of college success. However a study shows that the best predictors of student success in college are high school grades. Students who did not submit SAT or ACT test scores did just as well as those who did submit.

Critics of standardized admission tests argue that these tests are primarily used by influential schools as sorting tools to filter thousands of college applications. Most likely the ACT and SAT will not go away soon. But as more high-profile schools adopt a “test-optional” policy, they are acknowledging that high-achieving students, who are not necessarily good with standardized tests, should not be excluded from admission.

Love Talk Play

love talk playEach week you spend time imparting early literacy skills to children at story time. But what happens when the children go home? Are they going home to environments that support early learning and development? Do their parents realize the importance of interacting with their children? Do parents feel prepared to work on early learning skills at home?

Love Talk Play is a resource from Washington state that “aims to surround parents of children birth to age 3 with simple messages about three key things all parents can and need to be doing with their children every day: love, talk and play.”

Love Talk Play offers handouts you can share with parents on the importance of interacting with their children. They also provide a list of suggested activities parents can do with their children. You can print the activity sheets to pass out to parents. Parents can also sign up to receive a weekly tip via email.

In North Dakota libraries, many story times focus on the 3-5 year old pre-school age group, rather than the 0-3 year old baby and toddler age group. However, kids never get too old for attention from their parents, and many of the 3-5 year olds at your story time may have younger siblings.

If you have a lot of children attending story time with a day care provider instead of their parents, perhaps the day care would be interested in sending home information with the kids. It would be a great way to remind parents that their child visited the library that day and to encourage them to visit the library with their kids.

What resources do you share with parents at story time? Share your suggestions in the comments!

Story Time Math

math_symbols[1]One of the partners of the Collaborative Summer Library Program (CSLP) is Bedtime Math. Bedtime Math encourages making math as integral to your child’s bedtime routine as a bedtime story. The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) suggests mixing math into bedtime reading as one of 5 Ways to Build Math into Your Child’s Day. Along those lines, why not make math a part of your story times in the library as well?

While math is a subject that makes many people panic, math for pre-schoolers is not something you need to fear. In a post titled “Everyday Math Play in Pre-School,” Deborah Stewart says that “As adults, we can tend to over-think how to go about teaching math to young children but promoting mathematical thinking and basic math concepts can come through all kinds of simple hands-on activities.” She goes on to share simple math activities that can be incorporated into story time.

In order to help you brainstorm math activities for young children, I’ve rounded up some resources for you. Perhaps you’ll recognize that you already do many of these activities during story times!

How do you integrate math concepts into story time? Share your suggestions in the comments!

Early Literacy Skills and Story Time

2840740920_7be2b55a23_z[1]Researchers at the University of Washington Information School have conducted a study called Valuable Initiatives in Early Learning that Work Successfully 2 (VIEWS2). It is the first study which demonstrates that “Storytimes can provide many opportunities to help children develop early literacy skills.”

This seems obvious, right? Isn’t that the whole purpose of story time? While it may seem readily apparent that the goal of story time is to increase children’s early literacy skills, it is important to remember that there are key concepts that we can address during story time to increase understanding of these ideas.

The VIEWS2 study resulted in resources demonstrating how to incorporate eight early literacy concepts into your story times. The concepts include:

Each resource page includes a definition of the concept and a brief video (under 3 minutes), along with a concept tool and a tip sheet.

What are your favorite ways to incorporate early literacy skills into story time? Share your suggestions in the comments!

Dia! Diversity in Action

Dia_Hi_ColorAre you celebrating Dia? More formally known as El día de los niños/El día de los libros (Children’s Day/Book Day), Dia is a celebration held on April 30 that “emphasizes the importance of literacy for children of all linguistic and cultural backgrounds.”

Recently on the blog we’ve highlighted the importance of diversity in your collection, and Dia is a great way to celebrate diversity at your library.

To help you celebrate, ALA has put together a publicity toolkit, with templates for press releases and PSAs, as well as talking points. There are also downloadable program materials, including event posters, a resource guide, book lists, and coloring and activity sheets. The resource guide provides ideas for programs, outreach, and partnerships, as well as best practices. There is also a Dia Family Book Club Toolkit.

If you are hosting an event at your library, register your event so people will be able to locate Dia events in their area.

Do you celebrate Dia at your library? How else do you celebrate literacy and diversity at your library? Share your stories in the comments.