Category Archives: reader’s advisory

Librarian’s best friend: Earlyword

Ever since I learned about the epic blog EarlyWord I have made a point to look at it at least once week, if not once a day (depending on the season).

If you want to be ahead of the game on all things Reader’s Advisory, this blog will be a big help, especially if you are short on time to read through all the starred Library Journal and School Library Journal reviews. EarlyWord keeps you abreast of the next book set to hit the big screen, the titles that book clubs will be fighting for, and just some fresh new authors and award winners that you can recommend when someone’s favorite writer is on break.

EarlyWord also mentions any books or authors doing the rounds on tv shows and radio so you’re prepared when that patron comes to the desk to ask about the book she heard about on the Today Show.

I always tell any new staff I’m training to check this blog when it’s slow on the desk. A quick glance can take you from giving your patron a confused look as they fumble for a title to being a superhero for knowing it before they could even complete their thought.

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RANT TIME! Lexiles – just stop

Seriously, who ever you are out there telling kids that they need to read on “their lexile level”, just stop. That is NOT how you teach people to read. It does not help improve their reading. All it does is make them unable to pick up the books they want to read and struggle with titles that they are uninterested in.

When I’m helping a reluctant reader find a book and I hear the word “lexile” I want to scream. If you want your child to enjoy reading, match them up with a book that is interesting to them and fits into their life.

Let’s be honest, you’re just telling your kid they are deficient in some way. It’s like the parent that tells the child “that’s too hard for you”. Now they have an *approved* way to make their child feel bad about not reading on a certain made-up level. Instead of saying “you’re too dumb/slow/below the grade level” now parents can say “it has to be on a lexile of” blah blah blah.

Guess what, the Lexile is generated by a computer, and we all know how great *those* work. It scans the text, calculates the vocabulary, and makes up a number. Meaning the writing in a classic novel by Ernest Hemingway is on par or lower than Hunger Games. Yeah, THOSE are the same reading experience. (Go ahead, search some of your favorites and see how ridiculous this thing is. Think about what kind of reader you would have been with this restriction placed on you.)

(oh and surprise surprise these are the geniuses behind the new Common Core that everyone is so excited about)

Please please please – do not enforce lexiles! If you need it for your behind-the-scenes paperwork, that is fine, but don’t mention it to a parent or child. They will obsess over it and there will be no gray area. I just had a young girl ask about the lexile level of a book and – guess what – the publisher did not get it submitted for a lexile rating so it doesn’t have one. So she is not allowed read it. And when it comes to reading and school, kids can really only fit in what “counts”.

Do yourself and your child a favor: Find a librarian that loves to read and knows how to do reader’s advisory for kids, tweens, and teens, they can find a book that will connect with your child, not just fill in another standardized test way, but on a level that will make them get why people get excited about reading. We are out here, Reader’s Advisory is one of our favorite parts of the job.

Okay…my rant is over. For now…

But if you want more READER!WRITER!RAGE check out these posts:
How the Lexile system harms students

Guess My Lexile (this one has lots of great links at the bottom too)

Review: Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation

Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation
Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation by Michael Pollan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

4.5 stars

I listened to this on my drive to work for a few weeks and I loved it. It felt like I was back in college, listening to a wonderful lecture series on the history of cooking and how humans have manipulated ingredients to create food.

Like In Defense of Food, Cooked is a mix of microhistories, anecdotes and a dash of politics (but just a dash). Less preachy than In Defense of Food, this book focuses on baking (bread), cooking with fire (BBQ), and fermentation (plants, dairy and alcohol). But within these three activities, Pollan finds a wealth of cultural and historical things to discuss. You will finish this this book full of random factoids about all the foods you eat and the science and stories behind them.

Be warned, you will find yourself craving some delicious barbecue, cheese, and beer before this book is through!

I highly recommend this in audiobook format, though it is a great read too. But Pollan’s conversational tone helps the hours on the road fly by. It would be a good listen for teens/young adults who will enjoy hearing those bits of history you never get in school.

View all my reviews

This morning I had a message from another librarian in my system sitting in my inbox. She told me that during her shift the evening before a young lady, a senior in high school, came into the library with her family. Her younger siblings were signing up for the Summer Reading program and the librarian told her about the teen program we have this year. This prompted the girl to start telling the librarian about how she didn’t used to like reading until she visited my branch. Apparently, she was at my library and her father told her she couldn’t leave until she picked out a book and she huffed and puffed and dragged herself over to the Information Desk.

This is the point in the story where my colleague decided the girl was talking about me –

[…]the teen asked for book recommendations. She told the librarian she enjoyed The Hunger Games and said the librarian became so excited she was spazzing out. It was pretty funny; she starting waving her arms etc. and you recommended several titles but I remember The Uglies. She said she read every one and rattled off other titles that I’ve seen you post about.[…] She said please tell her everything you see here (and she waved her hand from her head to her feet) is all because of her! It was very sweet.

How awesome is that?  Usually I worry (after the fact) that my spazzing will scare the children and teens away from reading.  But apparently she found it endearing and really enjoyed the books I gave her.  So, YAY! I really hope she makes her way back to my branch at some point, I’d love to put a face to this story. ❤