A small lecture I put together for a 7th grade world history class. I was trying to give them some background knowledge before turning them loose on an independent project.
It’s commencement season, which is the perfect time to rewatch David Foster Wallace’s speech at Kenyon in 2005, arguably the greatest graduation speech ever given:
A 15,000 word tour-de-force article that conveys how Black Americans’ wealth was systematically stolen from them by the government through slavery, Jim Crow, separate-but-equal, and until as late as the 1960s through discriminatory housing policies, how it affects Black communities today, and why we as a country need to come to terms with this past.
The Summer 2014 issue of Independent School magazine has 2 articles on this topic, which are sadly not yet online. One is about how to teach white students to engage in constructive conversations about race and racism. The other is a case study of a high school class that examined contemporary racism in America.
Further thoughts to consider:
-How the current climate of unequal wealth distribution greater than any in our country’s history possibly creates resistance to the idea that racism is still an ongoing systemic problem.
-Mass incarceration of Black Americans via the War on Drugs is the current leading cause of the destruction of Black communities.
For the main book display in March, I used this awesome article from Buzzfeed of all places. 22 Books You Should Read Now, Based on Your Childhood Favorites. We didn’t have all of the rec’d titles in our collection, so we purchased some of them, or I just left them out. Of the 18 or so books that were displayed, we had 9 of them checked out, and some of them were checked out more than once, like Never Let Me Go and Catch-22. So, success! I think the students found it easy to understand which book would appeal to them, since I taped the blurb next to each pair.
Also in March we got our spring shipment in of new fiction from Follett, and we displayed them right at the circulation desk, which is as front and center as you can get in my library. It was a great way to push fiction onto the kids. It’s not that they don’t like reading, it’s just that most of them are extremely bogged down with school work, so fiction gets pushed to the side. But when a tempting book is right in their face, it’s harder for them to say no.
February’s bulletin board was famous African Americans from Washington, DC. I had a lot of assistance from a couple of the kids when creating the list, as well as a pretty spirited argument over whether or not to include Thurgood Marshall and Frederick Douglass. My argument was that they lived here so long they counted and were too important to leave off, and the kids’ argument was that Douglass was more associated with Baltimore, and I was just plain crazy to have Marshall. But since I’m the adult, I won haha.
For February I pulled all of the books with a strong romantic element that I could find in our fiction stacks (fortunately we have a lot!). Then I searched the net for the most playful, groan-inducing pun-filled Valentine’s Day cards I could find, bonus points if they referenced some sort of nerdy tv show or book (think Dr. Who, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Mine Craft, Sherlock, Downton Abbey, etc. Just search funny valentines and a whole bunch will come up on Google Image Search). Of course everything had to be kept PG. I printed them out, cut out some paper hearts and plastered the walls, windows, circulation desk, study carrels, basically any open surface with V-Day goodness. The kids have really enjoyed it so far, I see a lot of them showing their friends their favorites. The in-your-face cards are the most important piece in my plan to bring the kids into the library, and then hopefully to the books.
As for the books themselves, I wanted to make sure I had a lot of different genres represented. In the email I sent school-wide I divided them into 3 general categories: Contemporary slice-of-life YA, fantasy action and adventure, and historical/literary fiction. The full list of titles featured is at the end of this post.
And speaking of the email, I sent 2 test emails to personal accounts that I could check on my smartphone because that is how the majority of our students read their school email. My first draft was a nice table with lots of images at the top and a long descriptive paragraph. It looked great on my laptop, but it was way too long on the phone. I cut a bunch of the verbiage and reduced the number of pictures and all-around simplified the entire thing to get straight to the point. Yes, it is less pretty than my original draft, but when your priority is getting teens’ attention for long enough to get your message across, the quicker you can get to the main point, the better.
In order to maximize all opportunities for grabbing the kids’ attention, I created a virtual bookshelf on our OPAC. I’m not sure how much eye traffic it will get, but since it was easy to do, I felt it was worth doing.
So the plan in summary:
1. Pull books with strong romantic elements off the stacks and onto displays
2. Create a fun, visually exciting gimmick to grab attention and give the kids reasons to come back for repeat visits
3. Send mass email for more promotion
4. Cross-promote with any other applicable website/app possible. The more times you can hit your users with your message, the greater your chance of successful outreach!
Contemporary slice of life YA:
The Beginning of Everything, Artichoke’s Heart, Someone Like You, Vintage Veronica, Bloom, I Like Him He Likes Her, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Winger, The Infinite Moment of Us, I Love You Beth Cooper
Unraveling, Hunger Games, Pulse, Wicked Lovely, Across the Universe, Impossible, Delirium, A Corner of White, Pure, Fated, Beautiful Creatures, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
A Room With A View, Jane Eyre, Anna Karenina, One Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, Pride and Prejudice, Wuthering Heights, The English Patient, Emma, 1Q84