It takes a Neighborhood to Nourish a Children’s Librarian
It’s The Cardigan’s 1 year anniversary! Our first issue went out in November 2018. Thank you so much for joining the neighborhood. When Katherine and I decided we would create The Cardigan, we had no idea we would grow to over 2,600 subscribers in just one year! When we discussed the idea in a Panera Bread over soups and salads, we knew we wanted this to be a space to connect and share ideas with fellow children’s librarians. It brings us joy to get emails and Instagram messages from you all. Your encouragement and AMAZING ideas blow us away. You all have made the Neighborhood a better place than Katherine and I could ever have hoped for.
Last month we did a small survey with you all and we are so excited to share the results! Over 450 of you responded, which provides us with a great look at who is reading and what you all have enjoyed. Katherine put together this infographic with all the information you all shared. If you didn’t get to participate in the survey, we’d still love to hear your favorite articles of 2019 and what you would like to see in 2020.
Katherine and I are going to take a small break in December, but we will be back in your inboxes in January! Thank you again neighbors for all your support.
Allie and Katherine
Reporting Child Abuse and Neglect
Deepen your knowledge on a topic related to Children’s Services.
This is a hard topic to cover, but so important! As someone who interacts with children on a regular basis, you may come to suspect that one of them is not safe. State laws vary, so be sure to check up on what is expected of you in your state or in your country!
The most important takeaway from this section is that you may be (again, depending on your location) a mandated reporter: this means you are legally obligated to report any suspicion of abuse or neglect. In fact, in Oklahoma, every single person is a mandated reporter, not only those who work directly with children.
Here are some common signs of neglect and abuse (information lifted from the Texas Department of Family Protective Services):
- Frequent injuries such as bruises, cuts, black eyes, or burns without adequate explanations
- Frequent complaints of pain without obvious injury
- Burns or bruises in unusual patterns that may indicate the use of an instrument or human bite; cigarette burns on any part of the body
- Passive, withdrawn, and emotionless behavior
- Obvious malnourishment
- Lack of personal cleanliness
- Caregiver who belittles the child, withholds love, and seems unconcerned about the child’s problems
Ok, so you suspect abuse or neglect, what next?
- Find out if you are a mandated reporter and if your library has a child abuse reporting policy.
- If your state identifies you as a mandated reporter, it is up to you to decide if you want to involve your supervisor/manager/employer in this process. You can report suspicion of abuse anonymously. Regardless, you are still required to report.
- If your state does not identify you as a mandated reporter, and you wish to report abuse, follow your library system’s policy. This will likely involve having you or a supervisor call the county.
- If your library doesn’t have a policy on this issue, you can choose to report anonymously or involve a supervisor and follow their advice.
- Call your county’s Department of Human Services. Look up the county’s abuse and neglect hotline. The county will use the information you provide to decide whether or not an investigation is warranted. You may be asked to provide a phone number in case the agency needs to follow up with you.
- No action will be taken against you if it is found that there is not abuse or neglect and your identity will remain protected. You don’t have to be sure abuse or neglect are happening.
I want to acknowledge that reporting a suspicion of abuse can be hard for librarians, who pride themselves on maintaining their customers’ privacy. It’s tempting to think that it’s none of our business or that we are violating our customers’ trust. However, we could very well be the only person in a child’s life there to advocate for them and their safety.
I was surprised to see this article in American Libraries stating “Librarians are not “mandated reporters”—people who are legally required to report abuse if observed or suspected—nor should we be. We have no custodial roles, as schools do. We do not operate in loco parentis. Patrons have a right to confidentiality, and mandated reporting provides an uncomfortable, if not impossible, conundrum.”
As mentioned above, in some states, librarians are mandated reporters and can be charged with a misdemeanor if it is found they suspected abuse and did not report it. Be sure to know what is expected of you! Also check to see if your library has a policy in place for handing suspicions of child abuse. If not, it would probably be worth advocating for one to be created so you’re not having to create procedures in the moment of need.
- Should Librarians Be Mandated Reporters?
- Sample Child Abuse Reporting Policy (Wood County District Public Library)
- Sample State Library Guidelines (Indiana State Library)
Thank you to Steven Glover for checking this article for accuracy. Steven worked as a Child Welfare Specialist for Oklahoma Child Protective Services for 6 years.
Fantasy Play for Elementary-Aged Kids
Play is a right! Learn quick tips to optimize play experiences in libraries.
In last month’s issue, I shared about the importance of fantasy play for elementary-aged kids and discussed the play programs we hosted for families to play together. We created a grocery store, doctor’s office, restaurant and a veterinarian’s office. You can read more about the importance of fantasy play for elementary kids and the playtimes in our October issue. I loved hearing from you all and was asked if I had made any special purchases for the playtimes. Many of the items I asked friends and staff to borrow, but I did buy items as well. Below are some of the special items I bought and asked around for:
- I bought a cash register that I used in every play program and was a great investment!
- I heavily relied on staff and friends to save me their empty grocery store items. (Examples: milk jugs, orange juice jugs, granola bar boxes, egg cartons, etc.) Once I got the items I clean and filled them with paper and taped/glued them shut. I tried to stay away from anything that had nuts, just in case we had any children who were allergic.
- We already had lots of plastic food from our other playtimes, and I relied heavily on these too.
- I asked people to collect their plastic, paper, and re-usable bags from their grocery shopping and encouraged kids to bring their own reusable bags to shop as well.
- I asked staff and friends to save their prescription bottles so we could have a pharmacy. This forced me to have the important conversation with the children that we never play with pill bottles at home.
- I bought a Doctor’s Play Kit from Lakeshore.
- I also bought some extra stethoscopes.
- We also already owned a light table that served as an X-Ray table. We had some shrinky-dink paper that allowed the kids to make their own X-Rays! We also used this for the Vet Office playtime.
- I bought children face masks and latex-free kid gloves that we also used in the Vet Office Playtime.
- The penlights were also very popular in both the Doctor’s Office and Vet Office.
- I used almost EVERYTHING from the Doctor’s office (prescription bottles, stethoscopes, light table, face masks, gloves, and penlights).
- I also bought one Vet Office play set from lakeshore.
- I also made a “grooming” station where we had empty shampoo and conditioner bottles, a brush, and big tweezers (something we already had).
- We already have a small play sink and play stove so I incorporated that for the kitchen.
- We also already had some pretend plates, cups, and bowls. I supplemented it also with some paper plates we had on hand.
- We heavily used the plastic food again. I also printed out plate settings so they could draw any food we didn’t have.
- I covered the tables with some tablecloths we had used for another program.
I also used Teachers Pay Teachers for inspiration on making some of the supplemental print materials (menus, sign-in sheets, prescription pads, etc.)
I highly recommend Serious Fun: How Guided Play Extends Children’s Learning by Marie L. Masterson & Holly Bohart. At the end of each chapter, the authors have some questions that were helpful in inspiring the playtimes we had at the library. As you think about what types of items to buy or what kind of playtime to provide, please consider the following questions Masterson and Bohart provided in their book:
- What specific purpose does each material serve?
- What do you see children doing, talking about, comparing, and trying out? What does this tell you about what they might be thinking?
- What opportunities do you see to add complexity, introduce vocabulary, or prompt higher-level thinking?
- Think about ways to reinforce connections between the purpose of materials and activities and what children know and can do.
- Notice how children respond to your gentle prompting and guiding. How do you see their engagement with materials and play partners change as you offer suggestions and guidance?
LEGO Coding Express
Learn about an interesting program you can easily replicate at your library
I recently bought 4 sets of the LEGO Education Coding Express. I have used LEGO Mindstorms and LEGO WeDo in programs before and they have been popular with older children. I was excited when Coding Express was announced as it is designed for preschoolers. It introduces coding concepts, with the fun of building and manipulating Duplo LEGOs. My favorite part of LEGO Education sets is they always have Teacher Education materials available which helps planning programs.
I limited the program for 16 kids in Pre-K-3rd grade. Although it is designed for Pre-K, the K-3rd graders enjoyed it and learned just as much as the Pre-K students. I had 4 students per LEGO kit and left the room open so that their LEGO building would not feel limited.
At the beginning of the program we discussed what coding is and how it is used in everyday life. For this particular program, I discussed specifically CAUSE and EFFECT since that’s the most obvious connection for Coding Express and coding with computers. I first had them get familiar with their tools: the tracks, the battery pack, and the action bricks. I asked them to build certain track examples that the kit gives and then had them test each of the action bricks with the battery pack. Kids can place blue, yellow, green, red and white action bricks on the track, and the Coding Express vehicle will recognize the colors as it travels. For instance, the train will change directions when it senses it’s over a green brick or refuel itself over the blue. The kit also includes scene cards that can inspire LEGO building. After familiarizing the kids with the tools, I gave them small building challenges that incorporated the action bricks.
Sometimes it was hard to keep their attention because of all the LEGOs available to them. Working in groups is also a challenge for this age-group. Thankfully parents were heavily involved and helped direct the group’s attention. Sharing for this age group is also problematic, but these challenges all provide opportunities for kids to practice their social-emotional skills.
I also found that some of these kids are already very familiar with coding, so they were a little bored. This is definitely an introduction to coding so I might not call it “Coding Express” in the program title next time. Pairing this activity with other coding activities might also be a great way to incorporate the kit into a program.
You Don’t Have to Break the Bank
LEGO Education sets are not cheap and while I am lucky to have had some leftover funds to afford it, I realize it is not realistic for every library to buy. Coding programs don’t always have to involve high-tech and high-cost material to learn coding concepts. A colleague in my library system, Juliet Alavicheh shared with me they are doing a computational thinking activity where they categorize different monster parts (patterns) and give each other instructions (algorithms) to put them together in different combinations. Studio Code has some other excellent activities to introduce coding concepts that don’t necessarily involve having access to a computer or other technology.
YA/Middle Grade Novels: Did the “Curse” Make Them Do It?
Libraries are for everyone!
I have been reading many YA/middle grade novels this year for our state’s intermediate book award team. One of the books we read was a fantasy novel where the character, very similar to the Beauty and the Beast, falls in love with a character who has been cursed to be a wolf. There were a couple of scenes in the book where he bites her and hurts her not just physically, but also emotionally. When the wolf hurts her, she excuses it by claiming it is the curse that is making him do it. While discussing the book, a colleague on our reading team formed the words that I couldn’t forget: Just because he’s cursed, doesn’t make his hurtful actions okay. We then discussed if we were to recommend a book or movie like this one to a middle grader, it’s important that we try to have conversations about what a healthy relationship might look like. In a real relationship, the “curse,” might sound like, “Oh he just had a bad day,” or “That’s just her personality. She’ll get better if I only do better.” Please consider when reading YA/middle grade fantasy novels featuring “cursed,” but abusive relationships, you talk about it with your students. It can still be a great book and still be worth reading, it just gives us an opportunity to discuss what healthy relationships, whether platonic or romantic, should look like.
Also check out this booklist of Dating Violence, Consent, and Healthy Relationships in Young Adult Fiction from YALSA for reference on books that discuss these topics.
Discover new authors!
I really enjoyed reading Josephine Cameron’s book, Maybe a Mermaid. I loved the themes of friendship, mother-daughter relationships, and learning how to navigate your fears. Also who doesn’t wonder if mermaids really exist? Check out our interview with Josephine Cameron below and don’t forget to fill out the form under “Giveaway” for a chance to win this amazing book.
Tell us about your new book, Maybe a Mermaid, and the inspiration for the book.
Maybe a Mermaid is about an 11-year-old girl named Anthoni who has spent the past five years bouncing from town to town, helping her mom sell beauty products for a multi-level marketing company. Anthoni craves a True Blue Friend—the kind of forever-friend who doesn’t forget you when you move away—and when she ends up for the summer at the “spectacular” Showboat Resort, she decides to use her mom’s sales tactics and a fool-proof plan to finally make it happen. But nothing at the Showboat goes according to plan. The resort is dilapidated, run by an eccentric ex-vaudeville star; Mom has been stretching the truth about their finances; and against her practical nature, Anthoni starts to believe there might be a mermaid living in Thunder Lake. She has to decide if she’ll “stick to the plan,” like always, or dive into a summer filled with hope and possibility.
There are so many seeds of inspiration scattered throughout Maybe a Mermaid, but one of the strongest root systems is place. I grew up on a lake in Northern Wisconsin not far from a once-famous resort with a boat-shaped building called Marty’s Showboat Lounge. Ex-vaudeville stars (even Bob Hope!) came to perform there, but when I was a kid, the place was deserted and run down. The Showboat and so many other elements of growing up in the Northwoods—pine trees, waterskiing, mosquitos, the strong locals-vs-summer-people tension—found their way into the book while I was writing.
On a more thematic level, I’ve always been fascinated by “humbugs” in American history and the ways we willfully blur the space between what is real and what we want to be real. Friendships seemed to fall into that category for me at Anthoni’s age. Sometimes I was working so hard to see what I wanted to see, that I missed the true friends who had been there all along, just below the surface.
What are some books that have had an impact on your life and/or writing?
I read voraciously as a kid, though I had lot of rules (both parent- and librarian-imposed) that limited my options. Magic was strictly off-limits, but I gravitated toward books that had a hint of something otherworldly in them. The Secret Garden felt magical to me. Emily of New Moon. A Cricket in Times Square. It wasn’t until high school that I got up the guts to blatantly break the reading rules. I secretly read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings in my bedroom and I can’t quite describe it, but I still vividly remember this intense feeling of wonder exploding around me as the story unfolded. Following the Fellowship through Middle Earth, I felt like my whole universe was expanding. Unsurprisingly, The Lord of the Rings is still my favorite book of all time.
How can our readers connect with you?
My website is https://josephinecameron.com and you can sign up for my newsletter there if you’d like to get updates in quarterly, summarized chunks. On a day-to-day basis, I can be found on Twitter (@josephinewrites). I also have author pages on Facebook and Instagram (@josephinecameronbooks), but those are updated less frequently.
Some of our favorite books.
Click on the image to be directed to a list of books by Indigenous authors featuring Indigenous culture.
E-Books and Children
Where we reflect on the deeper questions.
Earlier this year, a study was published showing that children’s reading experiences on electronic devices were not as rich as their reading experiences with print materials. The author the study claimed, “we found that when parents and children read print books, they talked more frequently and the quality of their interactions were better.” The author hypothesized that the enhanced elements in e-books dissuaded parents from asking questions and engaging with the text.
This highlights the need to model dialogic reading experiences for parents on electronic devices. I know some of you use electronic systems during storytime, such as an iPad or a smart board which lend themselves well to this kind of media mentorship. It would be very easy to add something like “and grown ups, be sure to interact with your children and the book when you are reading at home on your devices.” For those of us who don’t use electronic devices in storytimes, I’m curious how we can promote deeper engagement. If you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org! Many libraries have expansive digital collections of children’s materials – how can we help parents make the most out of them?
Parachute Activity Mega List
Thank you to everyone who contributed on Instagram to our mega list!
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We love connecting with great authors like Josephine Cameron and can’t wait to send her book to one of our lucky readers! To enter, fill out this form. We will pick a winner next week!
Congratulations to Martha for winning last month’s giveaway book!
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