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Saturday, December 29, 2007

Word of the Day: Recidivism

I was just blown away by this article... Mo. tries new approach on teen offenders It's a rather long article but here is the crux of it, I was particularly drawn in by the young man who was cited as an example of what the system could do. I almost teared up when I read about how far the young man had progressed. I wish there were more opportunities for similar programs available for at-risk kids, especially before they even get to jail. "Here, large, prison-style 'gladiator schools' have been abandoned in favor of 42 community-based centers spread around the state so that now, even parents of inner-city offenders can easily visit their children and participate in family therapy.

"The ratio of staff to kids is low: one-to-five. Wards, referred to as 'clients,' are grouped in teams of 10, not unlike a scout troop. Barring outbursts, they're rarely separated: They go to classes together, play basketball together, eat together, and bunk in communal 'cottages.' Evenings, they attend therapy and counseling sessions as a group.

"Missouri doesn't set timetables for release; children stay until they demonstrate a fundamental shift in character — a policy that detainees say gives kids an added incentive to take the program seriously.

"Those who are let out don't go unwatched: College students or other volunteers who live in the released youths' community track these youths for three years, helping with job placement, therapy referrals, school issues and drug or alcohol treatment.

"The results?

"_About 8.6 percent of teens who complete Missouri's program are incarcerated in adult prisons within three years of release, according to 2006 figures. (In New York, 75 percent are re-arrested as adults, 42 percent for a violent felony. California's rates are similar.)

"_Last year, 7.3 percent of teen offenders released from Missouri's youth facilities were recommitted to juvenile centers for new offenses. Texas, which spends about 20 percent more to keep a child in juvenile corrections, has a recidivism rate that tops 50 percent.

"_No Missouri teens have committed suicide while in custody since 1983, when the state began overhauling its system. From 1995 to 1999 alone, at least 110 young people killed themselves in juvenile facilities nationwide, according to figures from the National Center on Institutions and Alternatives."

I was particularly drawn in by the young man who was cited as an example of what the Missouri program could do. I almost teared up when I read about how far the young man had progressed. I wish there were more opportunities for similar programs available for at-risk kids, especially before they even get to jail. I guess I was also so touched by the article because I try myself to give opportunities to kids. I understand that many of the kids I work with don't have someone sympathetic to listen to them or help them or frankly, to even treat them with kindness. If I'm helping a kid with research I tell them about things they need to know for "when they go to college". Despite the fact that more than 30% of current high schoolers in my school district drop out. I want my library to be a place where they can come and hear that they "can". They can succeed in school, no matter their history. They can read anything they want--even comic books! They don't even have to read, they can pick up an "I Spy" book if they would rather. No lexiles, no grade levels, no tests, just a place where they can read and learn whatever they want. I suppose all this doesn't have much to do with the article, but it sure got me thinking.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Happy Holidays!

My favorite read-aloud of this year's holiday season would have to be Margie Palatini and Richard Egielski's Three French Hens. I only took elementary school French, but the kids were mighty impressed with my accent. And who doesn't love doing a silly accent for kids?

Plotline is as such-- three French hens are lost in the mail on the third day of Christmas. Believing themselves to have found the true love they were intended for, they arrive at Mr. Fox's in the Bronx. Mr. Fox is very hungry and plays the part, but he can't eat the hens because they're so nice to him (and provide many great perks such as warm baths, cozy tuffets, and French food). In the end they are all friends, but can't accept his Christmas presents because they are "kosher chickens". Lots of fun all around-- and great vocabulary for older kids.

One of my Scholastic Academy classes gave me holiday snowflakes today. These are my favorites.

I was particularly impressed with this one, so here are some up-close details. Art interpretations are up for grabs. My personal interpretation is that there are two things going on here. The first is Santa or Jesus giving a child a present which illicits a monster, "YES". The second is two kings driving a school bus full of children while shooting love torpedoes.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Storytime: Native American

Native American stories for grades K-2.

 Bone Man: A Native American Modoc Tale
The Bone Man: A Native American Modoc Folktale
by Laura Simms

Ten Little Rabbits
Ten Little Rabbits
by Virginia Grossman and illustrated by Sylvia Long

The Good Luck Cat
The Good Luck Cat
by Joy Harjo and illustrated by Paul Lee

This storytime was a home-run! Most of the K-2 groups I work with are fantastic, but I have one group of 2nd graders in particular that had me frustrated. Firstly, the teacher left me alone with the children for "two minutes" which stretched to ten-- a pet peeve of mine. Secondly, they knew I had no way to discipline them for their behavior. One girl in particular was the ring leader. She kept rolling her eyes and sighing during my monster storytime, and when I broke out into song she snickered and laughed at me. Of course, I had this horrible moment of oh-my-gosh I'm embarrassing myself, until I remembered she was in second grade. Then I just felt sorry for all of them, that the whole class can't even enjoy a simple song because of peer pressure from a few.

These classes visit the library every month because they're specially funded to help high achieving kids from low-income families. So, I decided to focus on fewer, more detailed books because all six of my classes were capable of focusing on a long story. Little Miss Ring Leader didn't say a word the whole storytime, even during the middle, shorter counting book. I must say The Bone Man is pretty freaky and I really got into it-- gravelly voice for the old grandmother, lingering on all the descriptive bits about berries running bloodlike down the Bone Man's chin, etc. And afterwards, she specifically requested the book-- I love my job!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

To Theme or Not to Theme?

I'm on the PUBYAC listserv and someone posted asking for recommendations for blogrolls. Of course I gave mine.

iLibrarian School Library Journal Breaking News Tandem Insights Unshelved Yay for great blogs! But one of the best discoveries from when she posted her compilation was The Monkey Speaks For more convoluted web madness, The Monkey Speaks (Library Storytimes: an Excellent List of Tips) linked to this fun blog post... Seven Tips for Satisfying Library Preschool Programs The reason I bring this post up is because I am now conflicted with tip #3! "You really don’t need a specific theme." Egads!!! It's not that this is a huge surprise. I've even heard this mentioned before. It certainly makes sense. Only use books you really love and love to read to give the audience the best experience. But, when I actually contemplate doing it...I mean not using a storytime theme. It's intimidating. I've just come to accept it as standard structure. All the other librarians I've ever worked with have used themes. All my current coworkers use themes. In my mind the kids have come to expect themes. Or do they? When I actually sit down and think about it, the kids probably wouldn't miss the themes. And I do end up using books I'm not thrilled about just to fill in the blanks. But there are so many professional books and websites and conversations about this theme or that theme, good books and fingerplays to use, etc., etc. Working with themes has it's benefits as well. I constantly have teachers needing books to work with their units and having done that theme myself, I've already been through all our books on a given subject and I'm more capable of assisting them to locate the best read-alouds quickly. Working with themes also forces me to look through books I might not have picked up otherwise. I've found some real gems while scouring the stacks to find another good theme book. Anybody else have any insight? I think I'm at a standstill for the time being, and will still be doing cookie stories for December. Mmm...cookies.