Thursday, February 23, 2012

Insights into the 2012 Caldecott Books

Librarian Booktalk with Deanna Romriell – Part 2
 Part 2 of my interview with Deanna Romriell, Caldecott Committee member (2012), Manager of the Salt Lake City Public Library's Children’s Department, former president and long-time member of the Children’s Literature Association of Utah (CLAU), and reviewer of audio books for School Library Journal.

You recently served on the 2012 Caldecott Committee. What can you tell us about your experience on the Caldecott committee?
Deanna: I could go on for hours about what a wonderful experience serving on the Caldecott Committee was.  I have had a long-time dream of serving on either the Caldecott or Newbery. So I have served on several Committees for ALSC hoping to one day have that opportunity.  This past year every day was one of discovery.  I loved coming home from work and seeing boxes of books stacked on our kitchen table.  I loved the anticipation of looking at each new title.  I loved reading and taking notes and really thinking about everything I read.

Then, meeting with the full committee in January to make the final decision was an awesome opportunity.  To be literally locked in a room for hours and hours with other committee members who have also put countless hours of thought and consideration into the titles being discussed is an eye-opening experience.  I really learned to respect all of the committee members and the value of their unique insight.  I also think I will never be disappointed in a winner again as I have so much appreciation now for the process.  It’s amazing what comes up in committee conversations that I would not have considered on my own or even talking with colleagues.  
What insights can you share on the medal and honor winners?

Deanna: I can share very little, as we are sworn to secrecy about any conversations that occur once that committee meets.  That said, I can say that they are all exceptional books.  A Ball for Daisy, which was our winner, is outstanding in the way that it captures the deep emotions of love, loss, and ultimately joy – all on a level that a very young reader can relate too.

Me…Jane allows readers a powerful connection to a person that is admired by many and has such a wonderful “aha” moment at the conclusion.  Blackout is wonderfully paced and the use of light to carry the story is quite lovely.  With Grandpa Green, Lane Smith offers up a wonderful story of love and connection across generations.  And, it’s just amazing how much variety and texture that is created using primarily the one color of green.

I love all four books for what they have to offer and feel even more strongly about each after hearing the insight of those other 14 committee members.

What did you like most about participating on the committee?
Deanna: Receiving all of the books published during the year and coming across those that are really gems. It’s an amazing feeling to open that one book, after reading a dozen others, and finding something really special. 

Do you have any unique or interesting stories about your experience on the committee that you’d like to share?
Deanna: When the committee gathered to call Chris Raschka, we were all so excited of course.  We were crowded into a tiny room and gathered around a speaker phone.  We enthusiastically dialed the number given to us only to hear a voice on the line telling us that we had dialed a number that is no longer in service.  What a let-down!  We then called our contact with his publisher and she tracked down a new home phone number as well as a cell phone number to try.  We tried both – no answer!!  We had to move on and call all of the Honor Winners.  We then went back to Raschka – still no luck!  We were on a very tight schedule and were told we would have to leave.  The disappointment was huge.  We had all really looked forward to making that call.  Then, just as the committee was filing out of the room, the publisher contact called our Chair on his cell phone with yet another number we could try.  With high hopes we all hurried back into the room and made the call.  Chris answered!  It was so great to hear his voice and be able to share that exciting moment with him.  After all of the drama of not being able to get through to him, it was the perfect ending.

Any last words?
Deanna: I know that libraries are at an interesting point in time with a lot of questions about the future of libraries circulating out there.  But, I am sure that libraries in some form will be essential to our communities for many, many years to come.  Libraries are about books but, more importantly, they are about information in all of its forms as well as discovery, community, and life-long learning.  Libraries offer people a place to come and make connections to each other and the world at large.  I love being a part of that.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Instilling a Love of Reading

Librarian Booktalk with Deanna Romriell – Part 1
 Interview with Deanna Romriell, Caldecott Committee member (2012), Manager of the Salt Lake City Public Library's Children’s Department, former president and long-time member of the Children’s Literature Association of Utah (CLAU), and reviewer of audio books for School Library Journal.

Tell me a little about your role at the Salt Lake City Library.
Deanna: I am the manager of the Children’s Department which is, I’m sure, the best job in the world.  Not only do I get to do all of the things I love like Pre-School Storytime, Book Baby, Puppet Shows and Outreach Storytimes but I also have the opportunity to work with the most amazing staff on the planet.  They are full of energy, creativity, and a passion to serve the young members of our community and their parents, teachers and caregivers.
What advice do you have for parents who want to instill a love for reading in their children’s lives?
Deanna: Read!  Read with your children.  Provide materials for them to read.  And, read yourself.  I think that one of the most valuable things parents can do is to let their children see them reading and talking enthusiastically about what they read.  I also think providing a variety of reading experiences for children adds to the fun – let them read magazines, comic books, fiction, non-fiction.  In the midst of all of the possibilities they are likely to find something that turns them on to reading.

What are some of the more recent books you recommend to young readers?
Deanna: I do like to recommend Diary of a Wimpy Kid because it is so appealing to so many.  It looks fun and is not at all intimidating.  I also love to recommend John Flanagan’s new title, The Outcasts from his new series The Brotherband Chronicles.  I was a fan of his Ranger’s Apprentice series and I think I like this new one even more.  For younger children I still love whatever is new by Mo Willems.  I think everything he does is just perfect for the pre-school/beginning reader crowds.  He really knows how to have fun with words and with his illustrations.  In the realm of alphabet books I adore the new E-mergency by Tom Lichtenheld.  I laughed so hard my first time through and every time I go back to it, I find something new that makes me laugh out loud.  Anyway, I could go on for ages.  There are always so many excellent new titles coming out and each reader is so different, I am always finding a new favorite to recommend.

Do you have a favorite book you like to recommend to young readers?
Deanna: Well, every reader is so different I really make recommendations based on the individual child that I am helping at the time.  That said I have had a number of young animal lovers ask for recommendations lately.  For them I love to recommend Jenny and the Cat Club by Esther Holden Averill (or any of the other titles in that series).  Originally written in 1944, it is still full of wonder for today’s animal-loving young readers.  It’s so fun to recommend because very few of them have ever heard of it before so it’s a new discovery.

Tell me some of the ways you hope to make an impact with the work you do at the library.
Deanna: I am always hoping to ignite a spark in children that will lead them to a lifetime of learning, reading, and exploring new possibilities.  I went to an Outreach in a Pre-Kindergarten classroom the other day and when I walked in the children were jumping up and down and yelling “Miss Deanna, “Miss Deanna” – not because I am amazing but because they absolutely love to hear the stories and join in the fun of learning something new.  Children have such great enthusiasm and I am so blessed to get to experience that first hand.  I hope that the things I do as a librarian serve to encourage that joy as they grow older.
Do you or the library do anything unique or interesting to help get children excited about reading?

Deanna: We have a wonderful preschool program called Start Smart.  As part of the program children’s librarians across our library system visit Pre-K classes and Head Start classrooms once a month to provide what we hope is a fun and interactive storytime.  Then, during the course of the year, we work with the School District to offer Parent/Family Literacy nights.  The individual schools plan the evening and we are given the opportunity to meet with the parents for 45 minutes or so and talk to them about literacy and the huge impact that they can have on their children’s reading development as they interact with them.  The parents receive a brochure full of ideas to help them read with their children and have fun doing it.  Then, each child receives a free book.  The program has been a great opportunity to get out into our community, to get to know the children on a personal basis, to meet with parents that don’t always come into the library, and to partner with the Salt Lake City School District.

What do you enjoy most about being a librarian?
Deanna: I became interested in becoming a librarian while working on a Master’s Degree in Children’s Literature at Simmon’s College in Boston.  So, I started out in librarianship because I love children’s books in all their forms.  However, I have come to love working with the children the most.  I particularly love storytimes as they give you the chance to really connect with the children and see their eyes light up as you share the books with them.  For me, not much could be better than that. 

Deanna recently participated on the 2012 Caldecott Committee. Next week I'll post part 2 of my interview with her, in which she relates her experience on the committee.

One hundred years since the Salt Lake City Library first opened its doors in 1898, it now has five branches in addition to its new 200,000 square-foot main library building. The Salt Lake City Library system is a dynamic civic resource that promotes free and open access to information, materials and services with a focus on enabling community members to better enjoy life, explore new ideas, ensure early literacy, access technology, and make its community an even better place to live.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Nightmare Sports Parents

Okay, so this article has nothing to do with writing or books, but it has everything to do with what to do and not do when your a parent of child that plays sports. Enjoy!

What Makes A Nightmare Sports Parent -- And What Makes A Great One

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

20 Ways to Get Children to Love to Read

In one of the social networks that I participate in, I asked the question, “How do you get children to read?”

A little more than 40 people responded with the suggestions that worked for them. I’ve listed them below in the order of the most frequently mentioned suggestions with the percentage of how many people mentioned that particular suggestion.

I have to admit that I’m not surprised by many of the suggestions. We used most of the suggestions with our own children and have had great results (* indicates those we’ve used in our family.) That said, I think it takes a multifaceted approach. You have to find what works best for your family, but there are probably multiple things you need to do to be successful in fostering a love for reading in your children.

List of top ways to get children to read or develop a love for reading:
  • Read every day or frequently to your children, starting at a very young age.* – 55%
  • Find books they will enjoy or that interest them specifically. Every child's tastes are different (i.e., Harry Potter, comics, non-fiction, magazines, etc.)* - 21%
  • Let your children see you reading.* - 14%
  • Take children on frequent trips to the library.* - 14%
  • Make reading fun.* (i.e., competition, family read-a-thon, games, flashcards, races, let them create their own books) - 12%
  • Be involved in what your kids read. Know what they're reading. Discuss with them what they're reading.* - 12%
  • Buy them books as gifts or let them pick their own out at the store.* - 10%
  • Leverage fun DVDs, websites, or books that help young children learn to read.* - 10%
  • Limit computer and TV time.* - 7%
  • Make lots of interesting books available to your kids. (adventures, mysteries, classics, biographies, fantasy, encyclopedias)* 7%
  • Find books that match their age or ability. (Librarians can be a great help with this)* - 7%
  • Determine if they have a certain condition that makes reading less enjoyable. (Needs glasses, audio learners vs. visual learners)  - 5%
  • Don't force a book on a child. Let them read what they want.* - 5%
  • Turn on closed-captions when you watch TV, especially for shows in another language, like Japanese cartoons. -  5%
  • Provide them books with lots of interesting or entertaining pictures.* - 5%
  • Listen to audio books.* - 5%
  • Let them stay up past their bedtime to read.* - 5%

Other Mentions of How to get Children to Read
  • Have fathers read to their children.*
  • Encourage children to read books aloud.* (Especially helpful for audio learners)
  • Stay away from mediocre books
  • Read together as a family.*
  • Have a place in your house just for library books so that it's easy keep track of them.
  • Create a special reading nook in your house.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Writing for Charity 2012

Mark your calendars. On March 17, 2012, Utah children's authors will be donating their time to host and present a writer's conference that will not only help aspiring authors to improve their craft, but proceeds from the conference's low $45 registration fee will be used to help place children's books in the hands of underprivileged children.  Hosted at the Provo City Library, the conference will be a day full of interactive break-out sessions, professional critiques and a silent auction of donated autographed books, critiques, and even lunch with famous authors..

The Writing for Charity conference was originally founded by Shannon Hale in 2008, who will be participating along side an array of other children's authors including Brodi Ashton, Kristen Chandler, Kristyn Crow,  Bree Despain, Sharlee Glenn, Mette Ivie Harrison, Tess Hilmo, Clint Johnson, Matt Kirby, Kristen Landon, Lisa Mangum, Janette Rallison, J. Scott Savage, Emily Wing Smith, myself and others.  

You can learn more about the conference at