For publishers, librarians, and educators, the Common Core and its impact on trade books was a key topic of conversation at this year’s Book Expo America. One panel in particular sought to debunk myths about the Common Core and also discussed how it gets kids hooked on reading, its positive effects on students, and the opportunities it creates for librarians, publishers, and booksellers. As Eric Heidemann, owner and managing partner of Fujii Associates, told the audience: “It is a good time to be an educator, and it is a good time to be a bookseller.”
Moderated by Neil Jaffe, president of the Booksource, the panel’s speakers included Heidemann; Becky Anderson, co-owner of Anderson’s Bookshops and Anderson’s Bookfair Company; Marc Aronson, lecturer from Rutgers University School of Communication and Information; and Melissa Jacobs-Israel, coordinator from the Office of Library Services in the N.Y.C. Department of Education.
The Common Core’s rough rollout has made national headlines, but what was of concern to the professionals gathered at BEA? Mainly some general misconceptions surrounding the standards, especially regarding the text exemplars provided in Appendix B, and the simmering debate over Lexile and other forms of collection evaluation known as “leveling.”
“My only thought about text exemplars and Appendix B is to ignore them,” said Marc Aronson, summarizing his thoughts on the credence given—and attention paid—to the books listed in Appendix B. “They were selected in 2010 as a representation of the kinds of books that are related to the Common Core. They were never meant to be the only books you should buy. Text exemplars are there to be a broad representation.”
Melissa Jacobs-Israel agreed and noted that teachers and librarians should not be dissuaded from choosing certain titles because of a Guided Reading letter or Lexile number. Lexile levels are useful since they provide a trusted scale for text difficulty and student reading ability. But the panel was in agreement that the Lexile number is only one of several components that aid in the selection of a book. Jacobs-Israel added that, for her, professional reviews are one of the most important factors in the selection process.
The panelists stressed the idea that any book, fiction or nonfiction, can fit inside the framework of the Common Core, if that book includes an engaging narrative. Debunking the myth that fiction no longer has a place in education or as a viable means of engaging readers, the panelists spoke about the importance of pairing fiction with nonfiction to get kids interested in the idea of reading.
Marc Aronson stressed the importance of evidence, argument, and point of view as referenced in the standards and noted that works of nonfiction can now be considered “author-driven books” without setting off the red flags that once surrounded point of view for educators. Authors are free to speak with their own passion, voice, and interest, he explained, and this, in turn, will allow readers to juxtapose, compare, and contrast nonfiction with other works.
Addressing the perspective of the bookseller, Anderson stressed that the standards provide opportunities for booksellers to connect with educational communities and parents, and to “ramp up” their community engagement efforts. One idea offered was for booksellers to host educator nights, complete with food and wine, in order to gather information about what resources educators need most. Heidemann mentioned that, for booksellers, knowing which books are being written into the curriculum is key and that those titles can then be paired with their fiction or nonfiction counterparts to attract and engage readers.
The importance of librarians as information experts was stressed by Jaffe, who ended the session by stating that “librarians are book experts who can bring the books to the teachers and the students.” During the q&a portion of the session, one attendee spoke about the important “symbiotic relationships” between schools and public libraries that should be developed to support these new opportunities for reading and student engagement.
With BEA closed, we can now look ahead to the American Library Association Annual Meeting, set for June 26–July 2 in Las Vegas. Once again, the Common Core will be a big part of the conversation. Listed below are three Common Core–related sessions at ALA.
Is there anything you want to highlight at the upcoming ALA conference, or from your BEA experience? Do you have a common core experience you wish to share? We want to hear from you! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Biting into the Core: How Public Librarians Support Student Success
Saturday, June 28, 8:30–11:30 a.m.
(presentation from approximately 10–10:45 a.m.)
This session will take a look at a new tool kit that will help public librarians support students and educators in schools that are adopting the Common Core State Standards and promises “tools, tricks, and strategies to work with children, parents, teachers, and school librarians.” You can also learn about some Common Core basics, resources available for immediate use in your library, and tools for planning a parent event about the standards—certainly important given the heat that Common Core has generated. The panelists are all members of the AASL/YALSA/ALSC Interdivisional Task Force on the Common Core, and participants will have the opportunity to ask questions.
The Common Core IRL: “In Real Libraries”
Sunday, June 29, 10:30–11:30 a.m.
Throughout the U.S., schools are implementing the Common Core standards with varying degrees of success. This panel discussion will show how librarians can support elementary school students as they read “gradually more difficult text around a subject, with a special focus on informational books.” Two key shifts associated with the Common Core are the call for balancing informational and literary texts and the new focus on helping students read increasingly complex texts. The panelists promise to show how school and public libraries can provide students with stimulating “just-right” books of increasing complexity, and how librarians can play a vital role supporting the professional development of teachers as they implement the Common Core.
Play, Play, Learn: Games and the Common Core Library
Monday, June 30, 1–2:30 p.m.
Games and reading—sounds like a winner for libraries. This program will focus on the application of play theory to Common Core–aligned instruction. The use of curriculum-aligned modern board games allows libraries to provide an additional medium to support student learning. Participants will be introduced to play theory and shown how the elements of play are closely connected with the underlying themes of Common Core instruction. Through game-play examples, participants will learn how to identify successful game elements that promote learning through play.