Teacher Day @ TLA - now open!!!

by the Teacher Day @ TLA Committee

Do you know a classroom teacher who would enjoy the TLA Annual Conference? Our annual conference – made up of books, authors, technology integration, makerspaces, curriculum connections, and supportive  librarians – may very well be the stuff of teachers’ dreams. They would unquestionably have to experience it to believe it.

Now is your chance to make a teacher’s dream come true!  On Thursday, April 5, 2018, classroom teachers will have the opportunity to experience a special one day event during the TLA conference, comprised of speakers, activities, and pricing designed just for them. Here is your chance to help. You, as a sponsoring school librarian, will play a crucial role by identifying interested teachers, helping them secure permission and funding for their attendance, guiding them through the registration process, and ensuring our guest teachers have a positive experience.

[Remember, the TLA dates were adjusted to accommodate STAAR Testing dates...]

The planning has begun for a fun, interactive day for the teachers who attend, as well as the librarians who sponsor them. Participants are welcome to stay for the full conference. Now is the time for interested librarians to:
a) identify motivated classroom teachers and
b) start to lay the groundwork for conference attendance and travel funding. 
Teachers have great things to say about Teacher Day.  “For me, Teacher Day at TLA was an introduction into a world of educators who have a passion for fostering a love of reading in their students every day,” , said San Marcos CISD teacher Ryan Damron, who attended the inaugural Teacher Day @TLA in 2017.  “I can't express how encouraging and inspiring it was just to be in that kind of environment. The connections I made with other teachers and librarians are invaluable and have given me an extended professional learning community to whom I look for advice quite often. Teacher Day definitely made a lasting impression on me as an educator. Every teacher would love it!”

The focus of this program is for classroom teachers who experience a TLA conference to return to their districts as library advocates and collaborators  - or perhaps become librarians themselves. Details about Teacher Day @ TLA, an event that has become an annual highlight, will be shared by task force members soon via listservs, social media, and the TLA website.   Applications to attend Teacher Day @ TLA will be accepted starting on November 1.  Find more information and register for Teacher Day @ TLA .  This is an event that should not be missed!
EDITOR'S NOTE: A shortage of qualified and certified applicants for jobs across the state makes this TLA effort especially important. I can speak for HISD, but other districts were crying for applicants just this past September - let's inspire our classroom colleagues to see what we do and maybe change career tracks now that our advocacy efforts are beginning to gain traction.

Lilead Fellows Program Holds Potential to Positively Influence Texas School Librarianship

by Judi Moreillon, Literacies and Librarians Consultant, and Lilead Project Cohort 2 Mentor

Just as school librarians are usually the only educators in their buildings who know what their job entails so, too, are school library administrators most often the only person at the district level who understands the many hats school librarians wear in today’s educational landscape. Being responsible for school libraries and librarians in a district is not easy. Just as school librarians need support from job-alike colleagues so, too, do school librarian supervisors.
One reason Texas school librarianship is strong is because it has the largest organization in the nation for school librarian supervisors—the Texas Association of School Library Administrators (TASLA). TASLA supports school librarian supervisors’ professional learning throughout the academic year and at the annual TASLA Workshop held in Austin every summer.
Now, there is additional support for the work of school librarian supervisors at the national level. The Lilead Fellows Program, led by Ann Carlson Weeks who coordinated the National Library Power Project from 1992-1996, is building a peer-community among district-level school library supervisors that builds upon the work of Library Power. (Read a summary of Library Power outcomes on the California Department of Education’s Web site. The Lilead Project offers a professional development program and a network of support “designed to empower, enable, and equip school district library supervisors to think differently and creatively about their library programs and to be effective and inspirational leaders for change in their districts” 
With a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the University of Maryland iSchool-based Lilead Fellows Program invited the first cohort of twenty-five school librarian administrators, known as Fellows, to join the program in January, 2015.  Robin Ward Stout from Lewisville, ISD, was among the supervisors from across the country who participated in the first cohort’s 18-month program of face-to-face and online learning and sharing. 
Thanks to an additional IMLS 2016 Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program award, the iSchool is partnering with the Darden College of Education at Old Dominion University (Norfolk, Virginia) to offer a program for a second cohort of twenty Fellows. The funds are also supporting the Project in developing a series of leadership courses for school librarian supervisors.
Carter Cook, Fort Worth, ISD, Carolyn Foote, Eanes ISD, and Ann Vickman, South Texas ISD, are the Lilead Project Cohort 2 Fellows from Texas. Like Robin and the Cohort 1 Fellows, they are participating in professional development designed to help them “tackle challenging and pressing issues in their districts and work toward transformational change to support student success.”

            Each Lilead Fellow has the charge and opportunity to develop an Action Plan to achieve a positive change in their districts. While each plan is uniquely focused at the local level, their professional development experiences and action plans may lead the Fellows to identify a shared purpose for a project that crosses state borders. Cohort 1 and Cohort 2 Fellows’ actions, networking, and collaboration is bound to strengthen the school librarian profession. Stay tuned to the TxASL Talks blog for more information about the learning and leading experiences of the Lilead Fellows.

NOTE: We hope to offer posts by our TX Lilead fellows later this year.

Texas Book Festival - A Bookish Bliss

by Brooke King, Middle School Librarian in Humble ISD, TxASLTalks Editorial Board

This past weekend I attended the Texas Book Festival in Austin. I’ve had the pleasure of attending the festival many times, and it is one of my favorite literary experiences. The TBF, a nonprofit organization founded in 1995 by Laura Bush and Mary Margaret Farabee, sets out “to connect authors and readers through experiences that celebrate the culture of literacy, ideas, and imagination.”

The TBF features an amazing line up of over 250 authors for reading interests of all genres and ages. This year, Dan Rather, Tom Hanks and the Bush sisters were some of the prestigious names of presenters. The festival spans the State Capitol grounds with exhibitors, live music, food trucks, family activities, and of course, interaction with nationally and critically recognized authors. The festival is completely FREE (even parking!) and is funded through sponsors and book sales at the festival which also support their statewide school and library programming.

Students from nearby schools announced the 2018-2019 Texas Bluebonnet Award Master List - Photo courtesy of the Texas Bluebonnet Award 

One of my favorite sessions at the festival is the announcement of the Texas Bluebonnet Award Master List. This year, twenty-four students from nearby school districts introduced the new list followed by cheers and applause. Occasionally, the audience even gets the pleasure of having one of the newly-nominated or past-nominated authors in attendance.

Authors Cynthia Levinson, Donna Bowman, and Don Tate in the audience at the TBA Master List announcement - Photo credit: Susi Grissom

Then there are author sessions for all age groups. Since I am a middle school librarian, I focused on sessions and panels for middle grade and YA readers. I had the pleasure of hearing Andrew Clements talk about his new book, The Losers Club, and he even read from the first chapter. He also told the story of how the title Frindle came to be and gave writing tips to the audience of both kids and adults. Then I listened to a panel of YA authors, Brandy Colbert, Tillie Walden, and Julie Murphy, talk about their latest novels and how the characters in their novels explore identity, sexuality, and growing-up as females.

Authors Brandy Colbert, Tillie Walden, and Julie Murphy discuss their newest books - Photo credit: Brooke King

Listening to authors speak about their books and writing can be a powerful tool for promoting reading and literacy. The TBF encourages educators to bring students on field trips to the festival. Classes can even apply to introduce authors at the sessions. There are also many resources on the TBF website for promoting author visits in your school including a list of Texas authors by region, reading and writing resources, and an Author Visit Tips guideline.

Knowing the importance of author visits, the TBF’s Reading Rock Stars Program makes sure that Title I schools can have their own author visits by nationally recognized authors. The program not only includes an author presentation, but each student receives their very own book and a set of the author’s books is donated to the school’s library. The Reading Rock Stars program has grown from the original service area of Austin and is now available to Title I Elementary schools in Austin, the Rio Grande Valley, Dallas, and Houston. It is supported by the H-E-B Tournament of Champions, The Wright Family Foundation, the ECG Foundation, The University of Texas – Rio Grande Valley, and individual sponsors.

Although I have attended the festival several times in the past, I was unaware that there was a creative writing contest specifically for secondary students. The Fresh Ink Fiction Contest is hosted by the TBF and the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement (DDCE) at the University of Texas at Austin. Students are invited to submit a piece of original fiction, no more than 2,000 words in length, to their division: grades 7-8; grades 9-10; and grades 11-12. Each year there is a unique theme, and this year’s was “Funny Running Into You Here.” Submitted entries are judged by TBF authors, local educators, and leaders in the publishing industry. There are cash prizes and winners are also awarded a plaque, have their stories published on the TBF website, and are invited to participate on a panel at the festival. The new contest opens in January 2018.

In collaboration with the Texas Book Festival, the Texas Teen Book Festival (TTBF) is a one-day event that occurs in October on the campus of St. Edwards. It celebrates reading by inviting teen fans to connect with some of the most popular young adult authors in the country.  In addition to interacting with amazing YA authors, students can attend free writing workshops if they register in advance. They can also enter a literary-themed costume contest. Educators are invited to programming held during the festival. This year’s included a We Need Diverse Books workshop and a book club discussion with author Adi Alsaid. Be sure to stay tuned for 2018’s events because it will be the festival’s 10th anniversary!

Be on the lookout for information about the 2018 Texas Book Festival. Authors are announced in September and the schedule is released about one month prior to the festival.

Connect with TBF:

Tomas Rivera Award - another great opportunity

by Priscilla Delgado, Bowie Elementary, San Marcos Consolidated ISD; member Tomas Rivera Award committee 2017. Also: TALL Texans Class of 2016, Teacher Day @ TLA Task Force, Tejas Star Reading List committee

#ThrowbackThursday – 1996, sitting in a dimly lit auditorium surrounded by my classmates, anticipating the presentation that was about to start.  There was lively music, clapping, lots of smiling faces, so much excitement.  I was extremely curious about what was to come next and why all the adults seemed so excited, but my 13-year-old self was too shy to start partaking in the fun.  I just knew that something amazing was coming.

A few minutes later, someone came on stage and welcomed everyone to the 1st annual Tomás Rivera Mexican-American Children’s Book Award presentation.  There was a roar of applause.  The speaker shared how this award was created by the Southwest Texas State University College of Education to honor authors and illustrators who create literature that depicts the Mexican-American experience.  They said the award was named after an author and distinguished alumnus of Southwest Texas State (now Texas State University) and countless people were thanked for making this day possible.  I was among a few hundred grade school students brought in from nearby schools to attend the award ceremony. 

After the introductions came the authors.   There were 2 authors receiving this brand-new award, Rudolfo Anaya and Gary Soto.  At the time I wasn’t familiar with Rudolfo Anaya’s books, but I knew many of Gary Soto’s works.  He was the author of Too Many Tamales, one of the first books I remember reading as a child that reflected something I could connect with – a Mexican-American family on Christmas Eve making tamales.  Growing up in the 90’s, I was an avid reader, but I rarely saw myself in any of the characters and books that I read.  But in Gary Soto’s books, I could always identify with something that reminded me of my family, my upbringing, that struck a chord with me.  When Gary Soto took the stage, I was completely mesmerized.  Here, in front of me, in the flesh, was the author who shared my story, nuestra historia, whose works reflected the Hispanic experience.  After the presentation, we had the opportunity to meet the authors.  My heart was pounding the whole time I talked to Gary Soto.  He autographed my well-worn copy of Baseball in April, which I still have.  That day, my first encounter with an author, is a day that I have never forgotten.

Flash forward to present-day: The Tomás Rivera Award is still thriving and is in its 22nd year at Texas State University.  The award has evolved over the years, now recognizing an outstanding book for younger readers (up to age 12) and for older readers (ages 13-18) every year.  The book award ceremony is held every fall at Texas State University, and, like when the award started, hundreds of students from surrounding schools come to Texas State to attend the ceremony.  Students, teachers, librarians, and guests have the opportunity to see the award presentation and meet the author.  In the weeks leading up to the award, schools will begin a book and/or author study of the award winners.  Original student work is displayed at the award ceremony and is always a point of pride for those participating students and schools. 

In 2015, the Tomás Rivera Award held a 20th anniversary literature fair, similar to the Texas Book Festival but on a smaller and more intimate scale.  All the authors who have received the award within the past decade plus a few from the earlier years were on-hand at the San Marcos Public Library for the literature fair to do book readings, autographs, and lead conversations on trends and issues in the literature world.  This event was free and open to the public.  San Marcos CISD participated by having each campus adopt a book, engaging in a campus-wide book study, and creating props and materials for a book parade that was held during the literature fair.  As the school librarian at Bowie Elementary in San Marcos CISD, this project was dear to my heart, and it was a beautiful experience seeing my students prepare for the parade, getting to interact with the authors, and most importantly, finding reflections of themselves among the books they were reading.  I feel privileged to have been at the first award ceremony and to have witnessed the growth of this award and celebration.  There is already talk about what kind of festivities will be planned for the 25th anniversary of the award. 

Have you attended one of the award ceremonies?  This would be a perfect opportunity to take students on a field trip to Texas State University and participate in the book award presentation.  This year’s award ceremony is scheduled for Wednesday, November 1. The Tomás Rivera Award winners will also be at the Texas Book Festival in Austin.  Keep this event in mind! For more information, visit the Rivera Book Award website