Friday, October 26, 2012

Fun with Book Trailers

Today, I came across a Watch. Connect. Read. (, a fun blog that explores children's literature through book trailers. Check it out. Here's a sample of one of the videos on the site.

Monday, October 15, 2012

How to Connect with Teen Readers and Non-Readers

Booktalk Interview with Allison Tran – Part 2
Part 2 of an interview I conducted with Allison Tran, teen services librarian in Orange County, California, children's and YA book reviewer for the blog Reading Everywhere, and co-host of the Authors are ROCKSTARS! podcast.

In your role as a teen services librarian and with your Reading Everywhere blog, you focus a lot on teens. Tell me what you enjoy most about working with teens.
Allison: Teen literature is really exciting right now and it’s what I like to read, personally. Teens are at a really exciting point in their life, where they have so many opportunities available to them. They’re just learning how the world works and where they fit into it all. Their options are wide open. They have the rest of high school and then college to look forward to. They’re making a lot of big decisions that are going to shape the rest of their life—which also means there’s a lot of pressure. And it’s just really interesting to see them grow. And they’re really enthusiastic. I love the way teens get so excited about a book or a movie or whatever they’re in to. I also love that they’re very free to express their opinions.

How can books help or make a difference to teens during this time of their life?
Allison: Books can be so many different things for a teen. They can be an escape from anything—from a really bad home life to stress about the SAT. It’s something that can just take them away. Also, books can really speak to them and let them know they’re not alone. Maybe they’ll open the pages and discover a character who is going through the exact same thing that they are. They might find another character who is being bullied or is dealing with an illness. Books can make them feel that they’re not the only one going through what they’re going through. They can be a source of inspiration that gives them hope.

What do you say to teens who don’t have a love for reading?
Allison: I have a real sympathy for non-readers. Everyone constantly pressures them, telling them they have to read something, that they just need to find the right book. And of course I hope they do find the right book, but… what if they don’t?  I imagine they feel about reading the way I feel about math. Let’s just say math is not my strong point. It doesn’t matter how many people tell me that math is awesome and that if I just find the right math program, then I’ll love math. Sadly, that’s not going to happen.

So, I really respect those teens that don’t like reading, and I realize that it won’t necessarily change their mind about reading by simply sitting them down with a big novel and telling them what a super-fun time they’ll have reading it. I want them to know that I’m on their side and that I understand what they’re going through. Still, I’ll always try to recommend a few different books that that might catch their interest. Hopefully one of those choices will speak to them

What if the teen ends up not like any of those book choices?
Allison: Even though I empathize with the non-reader, I still emphasize the importance of reading. Let’s face it: they’re going to have to read at some point. So, I try to open their minds to the fact that there are different forms of reading, including magazines, comic books, websites and blogs. There are also different styles of learning. Some kids aren’t visual learners and that’s simply what turns them off about books. In that case I try to sell them on the idea of listening to an audiobook and experiencing the story that way. Sometimes that’s what they need to get them through.

What are some of the best ways to connect both readers and non-readers with the right book?
Allison: Probably one of my favorite parts of being a librarian is finding the right book for a reader. Avid readers are pretty easy. I just find out what they’ve been reading, what they like, what they’re into, what they’re in the mood for and give them a few choices and they’re usually happy. Since I’m an avid reader of teen books myself, I can always make personal recommendations. For non-readers, I try to approach it by asking, “What kind of movies do you like? What kind of video games? What kind of TV shows?” Then l try to find them something that fits in with those interests.

What advice do you have for teen parents?
Allison: I try to reiterate to parents that no matter what their teen is reading, they’re going to be okay. For example, some are concerned that their teen reads too much fantasy— I think they’re worried the fantasy books aren’t going to help their child succeed academically. They say, “Can we find something that is not fantasy, please?” I can certainly do that for them, but at the same time I’m thinking, “What’s wrong with fantasy? I really believe that if the kid is reading- whatever he’s reading- he’s going to turn out great. Let him read what he likes!” I think parents need to trust in their kids to choose the right books for themselves.

Also, one of the best thing parents can do for their kids, especially at a younger age, but even as they get older, is to model reading behavior. Read together as a family. When they get too old for read-alouds, have a family reading time. Mom and dad can read their books while the kids read theirs, and everyone just kind of chills together and reads for 20 minutes or so. Make it a habit. The more that young people see their parents reading, the more they’re going to do it too.

Do you have some favorite books that you like to recommend for teens?
Allison: There are definitely different books for different readers, but there are a few series that I can recommend to almost anyone and it will be a hit. Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series has wide appeal with its snappy dialogue and fast paced action. Romance, adventure-- it’s pretty much a win-win for both boys and girls. Scott Westerfeld is another author that I can generally recommend to just about anyone. Holly Black is really great too—fantastic urban fantasy. For girls who want something realistic, often Sarah Dessen or Jessi Kirby are winners.

Clearly, I could go on and on!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Top Three Librarian Skills for Connecting with Readers, Patrons and Authors

Booktalk Interview with Allison Tran – Part 1
An interview I conducted with Allison Tran, teen services librarian in Orange County, California, children's and YA book reviewer for the blog Reading Everywhere, and co-host of the Authors are ROCKSTARS! podcast.

How do you hope to make a difference as a librarian?
Allison: Almost everything I do with my blog, podcast and as a librarian have to do with getting people—and especially young readers—excited about literature. There are so many great books being published for children and teens today, more than ever before. It’s so exciting and readers are really getting into it more and making it more of a social thing. So, I want to build on that excitement and keep them getting excited. And maybe even introduce non-readers to something they might like. I really want to connect readers to books that they’re going to love; books that are going to speak to them and help them develop a lifelong love of reading.

Why do you feel reading is so important?
Allison: Reading is almost like breathing to me. I believe reading is important because it provides a window into another world. It can make us feel like we’re not alone. It can reaffirm our own experiences, or show us new experiences and new worlds that we might not otherwise be able to see. Faraway places, people in different situations, and people who are different from us. Reading also provides a shared connection between people. When you find someone else who has read and loved the same book, you’re instant best friends. You have something to talk about.

You co-host a podcast called Authors are Rockstars! Tell me about that.
Allison: Authors are so interesting and insightful. They always have interesting stories about what drives them and how they got published- but a lot of people haven’t had a chance to meet authors and hear their stories. So, my friend, Michelle, and I decided in our spare time to do this podcast where we feature author interviews and share our love of YA literature. It’s so much fun to be able to create a venue for authors to share a more personal side of themselves with their readers in a medium beyond the written word.

How do you typically conduct the author interviews for your podcast?
Allison: We like it best when we can chat with authors in person, but we also do Skype interviews. Sometimes we do the interviews at events like book signings and get comments from people at the event, so our listeners feel like they were there, too. It’s really fun to connect with other book lovers that way.

What advice do you have for today’s librarians, especially those who are just entering the field?
Allison: There are so many different kinds of librarians, but in general for those who work with the public, the three most important things newly minted librarians should be savvy with are 1) Technology/social media, which has become so important with its ability to connect us with other professionals, our patrons and authors. 2) Teaching. Librarians are educators. We’re always teaching people. So we need to feel comfortable and empowered in that role. 3) Marketing or advocacy. Libraries offer so many great resources, but sadly, a lot of people don’t know what we offer. We should constantly be on the lookout for opportunities to tell people what we offer, whether it’s through the Internet, social media, or through partnering with community organizations.

Are there any unique experiences you’d like to share?
Allison: I’m really privileged to be able to help people all day. That’s one of my favorite things about being a librarian. I’m there for people. One of the most unique experiences I had as a librarian was back when I was a children’s librarian. A pregnant woman came into the library and wanted to find a classic picture book. As I was helping her, she explained that she wanted to make a video of her husband reading the picture book because he was about to get shipped off with the military to Iraq and was not going to be there for the baby’s birth. Of course the implication was that they were worried that he might not make it back. My heart just dropped. I wanted to hug her and weep all over her, but that wasn’t my place to do that. She wasn’t looking for someone to make a big reaction. But I felt privileged as a professional to be able to respond appropriately, telling her how meaningful that would be, and then finding some wonderful book for her. I wish I knew the end of the story, but I assume all went well. And I am so grateful that I had the privilege of being able to help her get what she needed at that time.

What do you enjoy most about being a librarian?

Allison: It’s such a great thing to have the opportunity to connect with people and connect them with books that they’ll love. It’s really my dream job.

Watch for part 2 of this booktalk interview in the coming days.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Release Day for Old MacDonald had a Dragon

Happy release day for Old MacDonald had a Dragon. You no longer have to wait to buy it. Yay!