Thursday, October 22, 2015

We Are Allies!

As I write this blog post, Allen-Stevenson is in the middle of celebrating Ally Week. This is probably a little later than some of your schools if you are following the GLSEN schedule. Our Community Life and Diversity team initiated Ally Week for the older boys just three years ago and this is only the second year that the whole school has joined in. I feel that we have made a lot of progress in a short amount of time. See what you think!

When we first started Ally Week, our primary focus was on making sure the boys had an excellent understanding of what an ally actually is. Advisory groups worked together to refine their understanding and then made a video, explaining what being an ally meant to them. I’m including a link in case you want to check it out.

The cornerstone of Ally Week this year was Hudson Taylor’s visit on Monday to our Middle and Upper Schools (Grades 4-9). Currently a wrestling coach at Columbia, Hudson became the first three-time All-American in the University of Maryland’s wrestling history. During his time there he was deeply upset by the homophobic language he heard in the locker room, and he decided to speak out. He began by wearing an equality sticker on his wrestling headgear. Taylor went on to become the founder and executive director of Athlete Ally, a non-profit organization dedicated to educating and activating athletic communities to eliminate homophobia and transphobia in sports. On his website, Hudson invites students to take a pledge. We have a fourth grade class who were inspired by his visit to write their own pledge. We are hoping more classes will decide to do this too.

Our Lower School boys are participating in Ally Week, primarily through reading and discussing books, with an emphasis on different types of families and why it is important to stand up for others. The reading list includes
Who’s in My Family? by Robie Harris
The Different Dragon by Jennifer Bryan
Uncle Bobby’s Wedding by Sarah Brannen
A Tale of Two Daddies by Vanita Oelschlager and Kristin Blackwood
Oliver Button is a Sissy by Tomie De Paola
Donovan’s Big Day by Leslia Newman
And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson

In the Upper School, boys are being invited to several discussions that are sure to be a catalyst for reflection and, who knows, maybe even activism! A former A-S alum, Chris Persley, who used to be a teacher and is currently a writer, is going to spend some time with boys discussing masculinity. How does one define it, why is it so often tied to sexual orientation and how should masculinity be defined in the 21st century? Boys will also have the chance to meet with a few faculty and staff members who are going to discuss their personal coming out journeys.

We reached out to the parents too and yesterday our school held the first Gay Straight Alliance meeting to which both parents and teachers were invited.

I’m going to end with an anecdote which some of my colleagues said made their day! Last Friday I was showing an introductory video about Hudson Taylor to my Fifth Grade advisory group. Afterwards one of the boys mentioned that he had a distant cousin who was proposed to by his boyfriend at a Home Depot in Utah and the couple shared their story The Ellen Degeneres Show. Of course we had to watch the video. It was a fantastic flash mob dance featuring the couple’s friends and family. At the end, after Dustin’s proposal to Spencer was accepted, the boys in my group burst into applause. I have to admit I got a little teary!  I can’t sign off without giving a shout out to our amazing CL&D team without whom none of this would have happened! - Sarah Kresberg

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Goings On Around Town

There are lots of goings on around town this month that would be of interest to HVLA members.
Here’s a round up. Have fun!

Open House New York

Saturday, October 17th and Sunday, October 18th
There are all kinds of amazing buildings that you can tour on this special weekend, including a number of libraries. Among the offerings are a behind the scenes tour of Central Library in Brooklyn and a tour of the Frick Art Reference Library.

Book Fest@ Bank Street
Saturday, October 24th - 9:00-4:00pm
BookFest is an event devoted to the celebration, discovery, and discussion of books for children and teens. This event, designed for adults, features luminaries from the children's literature community. Authors, illustrators, editors, reviewers, and scholars will take part in panel discussions and breakout sessions.

Fierce Reads at 92Y
Friday, October 16th - 7:00-900pm
Fierce Reads is one of the most popular tours in the world of YA lit and on October 16th, this exciting tour makes a stop at 92Y with four can't miss authors. Don't miss Leigh Bardugo (Six of Crows), Leila Sales (Tonight the Streets Are Ours), Emma Mills (First & Then) and Josephine Angelini (Firewalker) all in one night, only at 92Y.

David Baldacci, Cassandra Clare and Holly Black at 92Y
Thursday, October 22nd - 6:00-8:00pm
Don't miss this star studded event as master storyteller DAVID BALDACCI, whose new YA title is The Keeper, joins the bestselling partnership CASSANDRA CLARE and HOLLY BLACK to discuss the new volume in their Magisterium collaboration, The Copper Gauntlet.

NYPL Children’s Literary Salon
Saturday, October 17th - 2:00pm
The Natural World of Winnie the Pooh
Join Kathryn Aalto (The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh: A Walk Through the Forest That Inspired the Hundred Acre Woods) for a journey into one of the most iconic settings in children's literature: the Hundred Acre Wood, inspired by Ashdown Forest in East Sussex, England. It is here where A. A. Milne lived and set the tender adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh and his merry band of friends. Learn about Milne's extraordinary childhood and how he and illustrator E. H. Shepard became the Lennon–McCartney of classic children's literature. A landscape historian, designer, and writer, Kathryn will present a lively, visually-rich talk and describe how the books are a field guide for the free-range child and a hymn to those days of doing nothing, yet learning everything.

Saturday, October 31st - 2:00pm
The Rise of Latino Literature for Youth
Please join authors Sonia Manzano (Becoming Maria, The Evolution of Evelyn Serrano), Danette Vigilante (Saving Baby Doe), Torrey Maldonado (Secret Saturdays), Adam Silvera (More Happy Than Not) , Crystal Velasquez (Hunters of Chaos) and Daniel José Older (Shadowshaper, Half-reserrection Blues) for a discussion of the past, present, and future state of literature written by and starring Latino-Americans.

Barnes & Noble - Union Square
Saturday, October 17th - 11:00am
Educator Appreciation Day
All pre-K to 12th grade educators are invited to celebrate Educator Appreciation Days with a special brunch featuring workshops, discounts and giveaways.

Books of Wonder
Tuesday, October 13th 6:00-8:00pm
Launch Event for Ice Like Fire
Don't miss YA star author SARA RAASCH as she come to Books of Wonder to launch the second book in her hit series Ice Like Fire. SARA RAASCH will take the stage with friends and fellow authors AMY EWING (The White Rose), KRISTEN SIMMONS (The Glass Arrow), and HEATHER DEMETRIOS (Exquisite Capitve). This talented panel will engage each other and fans in a lively conversation about their new books and thrilling fiction!

Wednesday, October 14th 6:00-8:00pm
Launch Event for Heroes
Get ready for a supernatural adventure of epic proportions as SCOTT WESTERFELD, MARGO LANAGAN, AND DEBORAH BIANCOTTI celebrate the launch of their latest YA novel, Zeroes! Your teen readers won't want to miss this action packed tale of teens with powers.

Saturday, October 17th, 1:00 PM– 3:00 PM
Fantastic Middle Grade Reads
Get ready for an afternoon of magic and adventure as Books of Wonder welcomes four fantastic Middle Grade authors! 
MICHELLE SCHUSTERMAN for The Kat Sinclair Files
POLLY SHULMAN for The Poe Estate
DAN POBLOCKI for The House on Stone's Throw Island
SUZANNE WEYN for Faces of the Dead

Sunday, October 18th, 3:00 PM– 5:00 PM
Fantastic Teen Reads with Moderator Dhonielle Clayton
Books of Wonder is proud to present Sci-Fi/Fantasy New York Times Bestselling authors ELEANOR HERMAN and COLLEEN HOUCK, and author ALEXANDRA DUNCAN as they share their latest YA novels. Moderated by DHONIELLE CLAYTON, author of Tiny, Pretty Things, this is an event your teen readers won't want to miss!

Saturday, October 24th - 1:00-3:00pm
Go Wild for Halloween Book Bonanaza
Get ready to Trick-Or-Treat early this year as we bring you some Halloween fun a week early! Join us, and these four great authors and illustrators, as we get into the spirit of the season with these spooky, hilarious new picture books.
JOE McGEE for Peanut Butter and Brains
ADAM LEHRHAUPT for Please Open this Book

EMILY JENKINS and HYEWON YUM for The Fun Book of Scary Stuff

Friday, October 9, 2015

HVLA Fall Meeting


DATE: OCTOBER 22, 2015
      BRONX, NY 10471
TIME: 4:30PM – 6:00PM
SOCIAL: AN BEAL BOCHT CAFÉ (Following the meeting)

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

How Excited Are Your Teachers About Kid Lit?

I have many dreams (perhaps too many) but one of them is to have the strongest possible community of readers here at Allen-Stevenson. Teachers’ interest in children’s books runs the gamut but sometimes I’ve found myself wishing there were more teachers eagerly anticipating the next book by Rebecca Stead or Gary Paulsen. Imagine the amazing conversations that would take place between students and teachers of all disciplines if they sometimes read the same books. A few years back I decided to make it a goal to see if I could get more teachers in my Middle School (Grades 4-6) interested in children’s literature. It’s still a work in progress - here’s what I’ve tried so far.

Maintaining a Constant Presence
Although our library is centrally located, my philosophy is that I can never remind teachers about us enough! To that end, I maintain a bulletin board on the Middle School floor, advertising our latest titles. (In case you are wondering, the library has bulletin boards on the Lower and Upper School floors too.)

Improving the Classroom Libraries
The library at A-S is filled with shiny, up-to-date, volumes but it dawned on me one day this was not the case for some of the libraries in the classrooms. I could see why teachers would not be attracted to some of the books on their shelves (obviously the same goes for our boys) so I negotiated some funding from the division heads and we rebuilt the libraries in all the classrooms over a three year period. Now when I go to the classrooms to teach I see lots of appealing books but I have to resist the urge to reorganize them!

Displaying READ Posters
Over the years we have made READ posters featuring many of our faculty and staff holding their favorite children’s book (all but the most camera shy). The idea is to inspire the boys but I’m secretly hoping that it inspires the teachers too! We plaster these posters all over the school the night before Allen-Stevenson Book Week in November and then take them down again the minute Book Week is over, in order to preserve the mystique!
Picture of my READ poster

Faculty Meetings
Last year during Book Week it dawned on us that we do a lot of activities for the boys but very little for the teachers. We asked if we could take over the faculty meeting that week so that we could have a little fun with books. 
The result was a speed dating event (dating books, that is!) which we ran in each division. There were red pencils and heart bookmarks, chocolate covered strawberries, Hershey’s kisses and prosecco. Not to mention a tower of (plastic) champagne glasses. It is still being talked about to this day! The fantastic Katie Archambault, wrote about it in a post she did for the AISL blog so if you want to know the details, take a look here
We are still figuring out what to do this year for Book Week but we know we are going with a mystery theme. If you have any ideas, please feel free to share them below!

Summer Book Discussion Groups
One idea that the Middle School faculty came up with during the speed dating event was for each teacher to sponsor a different summer reading book. Boys would choose a book and then form a group with the sponsoring teacher and some other boys from the division on the first day back at school to talk about the book and do a related activity. This simple idea entailed a lot more work than I had anticipated but it all proved to be worthwhile in the end. The teachers were amazed at how thoroughly many boys knew the book they had read and quite a few teachers said that they saw individuals in a new light.
To see how I presented the book choices to the boys, take a look at this Voicethread.

Book Award Challenges
This is our second year of running a Mock Newbery Challenge and to be honest, I like reading and predicting the next winner so much more than reading former winners...and so do the boys! Since there is no official short list I relied on blogs, such as SLJ’s Heavy Medal, for ideas about serious contenders. You can see the titles we are reading on our Pinterest board.
There are some cracking good reads here! 
All the boys who read eight or more books get an invitation to a voting party in early January. Pizza is involved and, despite the fact that many boys seem to eat it on a very regular basis, it is a ridiculously powerful incentive.We offer other incentives along the way, as well as a few different ways to show what they know about the books. What has this got to do with getting teachers reading children’s books? Well, we have been talking it up a storm with the teachers and placing book covers of the contenders in their classrooms. What better way to get teachers reading than by presenting them with the ‘best’ of what’s new? The covers of all the contenders are also posted on the wall in the library and everybody who reads a book gets his or her name attached to the cover of the book for all to see. Teachers know that boys will be taking note of who they can discuss the books with and since the teachers enjoyed talking about the summer reading books so much, they are more open to the idea than they were last year. In fact, we’ve checked out a number of books to teachers over the two weeks since we started the challenge!
Place picture of wall?

It has been a few years now since I first developed the goal of adding more adults to our reading community and though it started slowly, I feel that in the last year the momentum has really begun to pick up, due in large part to the terrific team we have in the library, so thanks, Liz, Bonnie and Kate! I’m sure there’s more I could be doing. What have you tried? - Sarah Kresberg