Storytime Success

Part of my storytime responsibilities at my current library are planning and performing baby and toddler storytimes each week.  I have two classes, Babytime and Mini-Movers which are for children up to 3 years old.  I love seeing the smiles on these faces and we always have a great time together singing and playing.  It’s also a supportive outlet for parents and caregivers to have some ‘adult’ conversation time.  I’ve met some great families along the way and am glad they continue to choose my classes for storytime.

Hug Machine by Scott Campbell.  Visit him at http://www.pyramidcar.com/.

Hug Machine by Scott Campbell. Visit his website at http://www.pyramidcar.com.

This fall for one of my September Mini-Movers classes, I chose a newly published picture book called, Hug Machine by Peter Cambpell.

At first, I thought, this is probably more appropriate for a Valentine’s theme, but as soon as I read it  was hooked!  Hug Machine is a delightfully simple story about a little boy who declares himself, the Hug Machine.  He then proceeds to go around town and hug everyone and everything in sight, spreading love, joy and kindness to all.  At the end of the day, he finds himself too tired to hug, and then is surprised by a huge hug from his mom.  The story has been compared to Shel Silverstein poem “Hug O’ War,’ a modern classic indeed.  This book illustrates with soft, gentle and warm colors the feelings and emotions one gets when reading that poem.   It’s a fantastic author debut from Cambpell and has received much critical acclaim from Kirkus, School Library Journal and hundreds of reader reviews at Goodreads.

Reading the book with a cozy puppet in hand and letting the children hug him, made for an even warmer story.  Asking the kids if they like hugs and can they hug someone they love, were easy questions and provided an attention grabber for wandering toddlers.    Adding in a simple fingerplay further illustrated the theme of friendship and even added counting and math concepts.    It was an all around, heart-warming and fun storytime.  Books such as these make great selections for reading aloud and sharing with children of all ages.  I can’t wait to see what Cambpell comes out with next!

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March 2014 Book Club Discussion and New Selection

Sigma Kappa Book ClubWelcome to our Virtual Sigma Kappa Book Club! Be sure to visit us on Goodreads, and please join our Sigma Kappa Group! Even if you can’t participate in our book discussion, join the group and meet a new reader.


malalaOur book selection for what turned into January and February 2014 was the New York Times bestselling memoir, I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb. This book has been so incredibly popular, it took me at least three weeks to get the book from my library, and I’m a librarian! I hope the extra time we took for book club gave you extra time to not only get the book, but read it, think about it, and want to just share your thoughts about it!

While I do love biographies and memoirs, this isn’t the kind of book I would normally pick up. I was hesitant I would like the story, and yet, I was completely surprised! I couldn’t put this book down once I got involved in Malala’s story, so I finished it in a few days. I also read the reviews, watched her videos, and did a bit of research about A World at School. Fascinating and enlightening to learn about people who seem so very far away, yet just want to go to school.

The most influential part I found was that no matter what others told her, Malala never gave up. She fought for her rights as both a young woman and a student in what came to be a discriminatory and war-torn country. I also found the history of this area to be both fascinating and puzzling. I became completely aware of how lucky I am in America to have the rights I do as a person, woman and student, and just how much others in this world just don’t have those same standards. I found some of the writing to be a bit terse, perhaps that came as a result of the story being told and written through her co-writer. There were moments of confusion because the political structure of this area is always changing, and those were some of the parts I tended to have to re-read. Overall, I was simply surprised, and I really enjoyed this read. Thanks Sigma Kappa members for the suggestion!

What are your overall impressions of this book? Were you surprised? Would you have chosen this on your own?

What do you think of Malala’s story? Would you have done what she did by continuing to go to school, despite the situation?

Do you find this story has increased your awareness of global education, the area of Swat, women’s rights, or other topics?

How do you think her parents’ positive influence in her life had an impact on her decisions?

If you could ask Malala any question, or talk to her about any topic, what would you choose and why?

There is some controversy about this book, some claim it has been overinflated or puffed up to add drama. Others in her native country have protested her movement. This article explains some of the controversy. What do you think? I found her Wikipedia article interesting and it gave some good links to other stories.

 


Our March 2014 selection is from one of my favorite authors and on the lighter side — Fly Away Home by Jennifer Weiner. I have yet to dislike one of her books, and I find she is a smart and intelligent writer for women who like funny, clever characters or over-the-top scenarios and situations. Fly Away Home is available in paperback and e-book edition, as well as the library, and was first issued in 2010.

The book tells the story of a political mogul, his wife and children who find themselves in the midst of a heated scandal. However, this is also a book about mothers and daughters and their relationship with each other. It’s a book I hope will make you turn the pages and want to talk about with someone as soon as you finish!

Visit Jennifer Weiner’s website and learn more about her writing, personality, and what she has in the works. Jennifer Weiner also is pretty active on Goodreads and Twitter. She is a bit silly, and fun.

Enjoy the book and see you in April!

What I’m Thankful For: Stories of Sisterhood and Friendship

November is a good time to remember what we are thankful for, and reflect on what is good and true in our lives.  This month helps our mindset be put into a ‘thanks’ and ‘giving’ kind of mood.  While it may be easy to reflect in our minds and moods, it’s not always easy to put down on paper.

Me and My Sister Stephanie early 80’s

I have been lucky enough to be blessed with an incredible little sister who is five years younger than me.  I was the typical bossy older sister and I never realized just how much she looked up to me until I was an adult.  I see it now in my two nephews the sheer admiration a younger sibling has for his or her older sister or brother.  I wish I knew as a child just how much I influenced her life.  She has certainly influenced mine probably more than she ever realized too.  My baby sister has grown up into a woman who I am so proud of, I could probably never effectively express her impact in my life. She is unbelievably strong, smart, generous and thoughtful, beautiful inside and out, kind and loving.  She is a mother, a daughter, a wife, and she will always be my first and best friend.  We laugh, argue, talk as any sisters would, perhaps more than others.

I never thought I needed other ‘sisters’ because well, I already had one.

I never thought a network of hundreds and thousands of Sigma Kappas could one day become my sisters.  Yet, they did.  Sigma Kappa is one part of my life that I am always thankful for, and hope I can always give back to.

To us women who call ourselves Sigma Kappas, November 9, 1874 is a very special date because it’s the founding of our beloved sorority.  The more I learn about our history and the time period in which these five brave and intelligent women met, I am amazed at their fortitude to form a sorority.   Women in 1874 were not seen as equals in the eyes of men, they could not vote or own property, and the women’s rights movement was just beginning.  Perhaps that movement was some motivation for starting an organization in which these five young ladies were not judged based on what others believed they could or could not do.  In fact, these five women praised and loved each other for their unique talents and gifts of lifelong friendship.

Over the years during my involvement with Sigma Kappa, I have met women across the country who I never would have met otherwise. I call these smart, funny, lovely women my sorority sisters even though I didn’t go to college with them.  It’s truly remarkable to have so many strong minds to engage with, and I’ve loved every minute of it!   As a librarian, I try to break the stereotypes of the crabby old lady with bun in her hair, glasses hanging on her chain and really ugly shoes.  As a self-proclaimed sorority girl, I hope I’ve broken the negative stereotypes by the work I do, along with the good and true person I strive to be every day.   I hope in 100 years when our blog posts are archived into databases, and other young Sigma Kappa women research us to find out what life was life in 2012, that I and my sorority sisters can be examples of voices strong and hearts united.

It’s not too difficult in today’s book world to find stories of sisterhood and friendship.  There are even titles and series such as, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares or Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells, with the word ‘sisterhood’ right in it.  These are great reads to try if you haven’t discovered them.  Yet, I wanted to dig a little deeper and find suggestions that also dug a little deeper into this idea of sisterhood and friendship.  Let me know if you’ve read any or have other ideas in the comments.  Enjoy and Happy Founder’s Day!

The Seven Sisters by Margaret Drabble
Perhaps a bit different in terms of the use of sisterhood or friendship, this is the story of Candida Wilton who starts over late in life.  She begins by writing in a diary about her new life in London, and eventually takes a trip to Italy with her new friends.  This is a uniquely written novel with some twists and turns in the ending.  I haven’t read this one but it’s made my to-read list.  Check it out on Google Books.

Dinner with Anna Karenina by Gloria Goldreich
I will admit, I chose this because it’s about a book club who reads Anna Karenina.  However, it’s also the story of six very different women brought together by their love of a beautiful novel.  It’s the story of friendship, literature and secrets and betrayals.  I haven’t read this but it’s on my to-read list now!  Find out more at Google Books.

Women of the Silk by Gail Tsukiyama
A novel about the women in communist China of 1926.  Rural families were often forced to sell or abandon their children so they could simply survive.  Pei Chung is a young woman whose family does just that as she then find her new life in a silk factory.  Yet, she forms friendships and a type of sisterhood with the women who work there.  This book spans decades as Pei grows up from a young child into an adult.  This book also has a sequel with equal positive response and praise called The Language of Threads.  Find Women of Silk here on Google Books.  The premise reminds me of Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden which also has a sense of sisterhood and friendship among the geisha women.  Another good read worth pursuing.

Sorority Sisters by Claudia Welch
This is a book in which some readers have described as a light read, yet I chose it for my list because it puts that typical sorority girl into a more positive light.  It does have some stereotypes, but the overall theme is everlasting friendship.   This is a book about four women in 1975 who become friends during their new member education period and how they build bonds that last after graduation.  Read more at Google Books.

Spooky, Spooky, Spooky…

I absolutely love the fall season, and where I live, the trees are changing colors and the air is crisp and cool.  I recently visited my favorite apple orchard and winery and it was such a sweet and simple pleasure!  I am also one of those adults who likes to still dress up in a costume, and this year, I’m going to be a fairy at the library Halloween party.  I was never one for ugly costumes.  I am also going to attempt reading two ‘scary’ classics, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (which is one of my all-time favorite books) and Dracula by Bram Stoker, which I’ve never read.  If I’m feeling ambitious, I may try Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde whose premise has always scared me.  What are your favorite autumn or Halloween traditions or tales?

In my scariest witch cackle, I bring you a booklist of scary, thrilling and spoooooky novels to enjoy for the Halloween season.  I named this post after one of my favorite Halloween picture books for younger kids, appropriately called, Spooky Spooky Spooky! by Cathy MacLennan.   The simple rhyming story of velvety bats, howling cats and slithery slugs brings laughter and smiles every time I read this to a child.  Perhaps try discovering your childlike nature and take a few minutes at the bookstore or library to read a Halloween picture book.  I find many are creative stories that will bring the wonder of the changing autumn season back to your eyes.  You could even try an R.L. Stine Goosebumps or Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz.  These will definitely have you remembering how much fun it was to tell a spooky story at a sleepover or while driving in the car at night, without losing sleep because you are so ‘freaked out’.   I also discovered this website called “Scary for Kids”  which has scary stories, videos, games, music and much more, and I found the site to  be entertaining without being gruesome or too adult.

For those who are looking for a truly creepy novel to get you in the mood for Halloween, then try one of these.  Some are recommendations from friends thanks to another informal poll.  Others are simply books that I, as a librarian, would suggest to someone interested in a creepy read.   I would love to hear your favorite scary stories and tales in the comments below!

Tailypo;  Now here is a folktale I have never heard about and one that would scare anyone!  This version is retold by Jan Wahl and illustrated by Wil Clay.   I was researching the history of this tale, and it appears to originate as an African-American story typically told in the Appalachias.  No one ever knows what the Tailypo is, but this large animal haunts the man who tried to hunt him.  If this folktale isn’t for you, check out American Folklore online, it’s a huge resource for all kinds of scary stories.

The Shining by Stephen King;  I think we can all agree that Stephen King is the master of thrills and chills.  The Shining is undoubtedly one of his best.  This is the story of Jack Torrence as he starts his new job in the Overlook Hotel, looking for a fresh start in his life.  Winter begins to set in, and so does the horror.  Other popular tales from Stephen King are Carrie, Misery, It, and Pet Cemetery.  Check out Stephen King’s website where you can get to know him as a writer and learn more about his books.

Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris; This classic is the story of FBI agent Clarice Starling as she interviews the twisted mind of Dr. Hannibal Lector, a former psychiatrist who delves deep into the corners of Starling’s mind.   This is a series, and some say the sequels are not as good as this first one.  This book was also made into a blockbuster movie.

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski;  According to Library Journal’s review, this is the story of a man named Johnny Truant who comes into possession of a strange manuscript which gains possession of his very soul. The manuscript is a complex commentary on a documentary film (The Navidson Record) about a house that defies all the laws of physics.   It is described as a horror novel, but also characterized as a psychological thriller, a quest, a literary hoax, a dark comedy, and a work of cultural criticism.

Nightmares:  Poems to Trouble Your Sleep by Jack Prelutsky;  Those of us who know Prelutsky know his poetry for being funny and witty.  His Nightmares poetry is perfect for sharing with older kids or reading alone as an adult, offering just enough “spooky” to delight on a Halloween night.   It also includes illustrations from Caldecott winning artist Arnold Lobel, so it’s a treat for your eyes too.

Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice;  While most everyone now associates vampires with the Twilight series, Anne Rice was the original master.  Some of you may have seen this movie adaptation with Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise.  Now you need to read the book about the makings of a good-old-fashioned vampire, as he tells his story to a young reporter.  The Washington Post called the book, thrilling, original, sometimes horrible, sometimes beautiful and always unforgettable.

The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman;  Now a television series, the story started as a graphic novel!  In just a few short months, the world has reached the apocalypse and zombies have taken over.  The main character is Rick Grimes who befriends a group of survivors as they try to find their loved ones, and essentially figure out what to do in their new atmosphere.   If you haven’t read graphic novels before, give this one a try.  The artwork is muted colors, along with blacks and whites, giving it a more eerie feeling as you read.

Gaining Stories Through Loss

This month’s topic of Alzheimer’s, I admit was a little perplexing to me in the theme of books and reading.  The topic holds a special place in my heart, yet how I could relate it to my column was challenging.   I hope my post delivers some inspiration to your reading needs.

As a college undergrad and a member of Sigma Kappa Sorority, I admit, I did not realize the depth, nor fully understand the serious nature of Alzheimer’s disease.  While I participated in the Memory Walk, it still didn’t sink in as to why we, as a sorority,  were so involved.

As an adult, and a granddaughter, I now understand the importance of making such a disease known and its needs to be researched.  The sheer sadness of having a grandparent suffer with dementia is one I didn’t think I would experience.  Forgetfulness and losing your memory seems common, and mostly normal, in the elderly.  Yet, when my beloved PaPa, developed dimentia in his later elder years, it broke my heart.  He still had his charm with the ladies, his goofy laugh and smile, and the best WWII stories in the world, but this strong, tough, handsome, gentle and intelligent man started to forget more than normal.   It was then I realized just how serious Alzheimer’s and dementia can be to a person, and to the whole family.

How to relate this personal experience to reading?  Well, it certainly has peaked my interest in the topic.  I expect a large amount of nonfiction to be published about the disease and didn’t want to cover that aspect.  One idea I have is that Alzheimer’s is the loss and gaining of stories; family stories, individual histories, personal accolades.  While it can be easily understood that the disease is a form of loss, the gaining of stories is one more difficult to articulate.  We as family members lose a part of our beloved when they have Alzheimer’s, yet we also gain compassion for the sick and respect for the caregivers.  We realize the fragility of the mind.  We laugh at the silly new things our family member says or does because without a sense of humor, we will not be able to get past the sadness.  We gain new stories, accomplishments and histories to share.

I was surprised in doing my research for this post at the vast numbers and wide range of fiction stories available concerning Alzheimer’s patients as characters or stories about how the disease affects a family or person.  In an attempt to see how we can gain stories rather than lose them, I would like to share some thought provoking novels concerning the topic.

One book I picked up on a whim because it was a ‘bookmarked’ selection at Target, is called Still Alice by Lisa Genova.  It became a book I read in one night because I couldn’t put it down.  It became a book I suggest to everyone who enjoys reading about character-driven stories that will give you a new respect for your mind and brain.   Intelligent writing told in a brilliant perspective from that of the woman suffering from Alzheimer’s, makes this a must-read, especially if you are interested in the elderly or Alzheimer’s care.

I haven’t read these others, but they have made my to-read list.  Check them out and let me know if you’ve read any of them or how you like/dislike them.  The summaries are from NovelList Plus and I’ve included links to Google Books so you can find out more about these books and authors.

The Story of Forgetting by Stefan Merrill Block
Resigned to memories of the family he has lost, seventy-year-old recluse Abel Haggard spends his life alone on the family farm while, hundreds of miles away, fifteen-year-old Seth Waller seeks to uncover his mother’s genetic history after a diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s.

The Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean
In a novel that moves back and forth between the Soviet Union during World War II and modern-day America, Marina, an elderly Russian woman, recalls vivid images of her youth during the height of the siege of Leningrad.

Memory Wall:  Stories by Anthony Doerr
A collection of short stories, set on four continents, describing how memory affects different people.

Keeper: One House, Three Generations, and a Journey into Alzheimer‘s by Andrea Gillies
‘Keeper’ is a very humane and honest exploration of living with Alzheimer’s, giving an illuminating account of the disease itself. Gillies tells about the time she and her family spent living with someone with dementia, in a big Victorian house in the far, far north of Scotland.

The Good Husband by Gail Godwin
The brilliant, charismatic Magda Danvers had once taken the academic world by storm with her controversial book, “The Book of Hell,” and now, gravely ill, she still influences and transforms the lives of those around her.

The Wilderness by Samantha Harvey
With his memories slowly eroding from Alzheimer’s, sixty-five-year-old Jake Jameson struggles to preserve his sense of identity by building stories about his feelings and the events of his life, unaware that even his clearest recollections may not be true.

Tangles by Sarah Leavitt
Recounts in graphic novel format how the author’s well-educated, intellectual mother, Mildred, known as Midge, began showing signs of Alzheimer’s disease at fifty-two, and follows the effects of the disease on the woman and her family.

Choke by Chuck Palahniuk
Medical school dropout Victor Mancini comes up with a complicated but ingenious scam to pay for his mother’s elder care, cruises sex addiction groups for action, and visits his zany mother, whose Alzheimer’s disease hides the bizarre truth about his parentage.
What is your story?  Share yours in the comments or message me.

School Supplies and Summer Reading

The crisp opening and binding crack of a never before read book reminds me of biting into a juicy piece of fruit. It’s absolutely delicious.  It is why I haven’t transitioned all my reading to an E-Reader.  I would miss that smell of the paper too much.   I have to say, I was a complete booknerd and had the same feeling about a school textbook…but only when I received the brand new textbook, because it had so much possibility!  No one else had smudged their dirty fingers on the pages or written their name on the inside cover. It was all mine, even if I didn’t really enjoy the content inside.

There is a great quote from one of my favorite movies, “You’ve Got Mail” in which Tom Hanks is writing an email to his then unknown love, Meg Ryan about the start of fall in New York City.  He says, “Don’t you love New York in the fall? It makes me wanna buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address.”  Yes!  I love school supplies!  I want to buy that newly sharpened bouquet of pencils every time the end of summer comes around.  It reminds me of those brand new books I can’t wait to read.  It also reminds me of the books I didn’t get around to reading that were on the summer reading list.

Working in youth services at a public library means there are tons of requests for books on the summer reading list.  I love to scour these different lists to check off what I’ve read and to also see what unusual titles make the lists.  The best this year I found was The Crucible by Arthur Miller on a junior high/middle school list.  Yes, you heard right, a college level book usually found in American Literature classes Freshman year was found on a middle school list.  I have a BA degree in English and I didn’t read Arthur Miller until college.  I was very surprised.

I also thought it would be fun to take an informal poll amongst friends to find out what books they enjoyed most that were on their summer reading lists.  Have you read all of these books?  Did any of these books stick with you even today as an adult? Perhaps there was one you dredged through but ended up appreciating later on?

I have two books that make my all-time favorites and strangely, I was assigned to read them sophomore year in high school English;  The Catcher in the Rye and The Old Man and the Sea.  I love the wit and dry humor of The Catcher in the Rye and I think Salinger is one of the great American authors in modern times.  It’s definitely a character driven novel, and I love how he captures this young boy’s whining, his torments, and his anguish.  The Old Man and the Sea introduced me to the greatness of Hemingway.  Such a simple tale told in such carefully crafted simple prose, makes this a truly remarkable book.  Interestingly, both are male authors telling the story of one male figure, which is not a typical story I would be able to relate to.  However, when you look deeper at the symbolism and depth of human nature written about, it makes sense why I would love these books.

I did some digging to find the most assigned summer reading books and came up with so many choices, there could have been a list of 100 books.  I thought this was an interesting list from the Illinois State Library’s Read for a Lifetime program which appears to cover mostly contemporary literature.  Although now a bit old, this list from the Washington Post is a great mix of classics and contemporary authors.

Here are my top choices for summer reading catch-up ideas (aside from Salinger and Hemingway, which yes, you MUST read!).  I also included a list of the books that came about from the poll I took.  What would be your top books?

If you must give someone Charles Dickens, then give them A Tale of Two Cities.  War, love, Paris, nothing but the essentials of a great novel. One of my favorites of all time and a great book for British Lit lovers. Learn more about Dickens at Victorian Web.  Another fantastic family and semi-suedo-historical saga is East of Eden by John Steinbeck which has great scandal and family squabbles.  If I ever make it to Monterey Bay area, I will definitely put the National Steinbeck Center on my tour.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, 1984 by George Orwell, or Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.  You can also try The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins  or Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Even if you are not a science fiction/fantasy fan, read one of these fantastic books and you will be transformed. They will make you think more about the world in which we live and how we as humans react and interact.  Check out the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s of America website for even more ideas.

Kate Chopin’s The Awakening or Virginia Wolf’s To the Lighthouse will provide a beautiful read into the lives of women in literature.  Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar is another great insight into women’s literature.  While these are not necessarily happy-ending books, they will definitely have you think about and explore how emotions and struggles were once experiences and shared.  For more interesting women writers and topics try the National Archives.

Read a memoir or biography, even if it’s fiction.  A book like Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer is one example of a fictional story told from the perspective of a young boy who lost his father on September 11th.  Even though it’s not true, you are instantly in this boy’s world.  You realize his story could be anyone’s in search of understanding an influential person in life.  Hole in My Life by Jack Gantos is a great read along with The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, all three a bit of coming of age combined with overcoming struggles stories with a bit of a fictional twist thrown in there. All are highly engrossing and entertaining.  For more biographies and memories, try this page on the Barnes and Noble website.

Other popular books that made the “Favorite High School Required Reading” from my informal pool were:

  • And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
  • The Scarlett Letter by Nathanial Hawthorne
  • The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Lee Harper
  • The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  • The Jungle by John Updike

I hope these ideas have brought back some great reading memories or inspired a new interest in your reading tastes!  If you have more ideas, I would love to hear them in the comments.

The Freedom to Read

The Freedom to Read can mean many ideas to different people.  One meaning I want to explore is that we as individuals literally have the absolute freedom to read.   We can enjoy the simple act of reading and know that no one can take that act away from us.

As educated women, we have an advantage over those who haven’t had the same opportunities.  We not only have the capacity and skills to read from a variety of sources and topics, we also have the responsibility to use what we’ve learned by engaging and entertaining in what others have put into the written word.

As a librarian, I have seen many times simple cases of children and adults who simply can’t read or are struggling to read.  Unless we are a part of the education system or work with undereducated people, we may not see literacy as a problem.  The Freedom to Read may not exist for this part of the population because they don’t carry the necessary skills or haven’t had the support to become lifelong readers.  There are informative resources especially helpful in determining illiteracy rates for a particular area.   In Illinois for example, (where I live) according to the Secretary of State:

“The American Community Survey indicates that 474,082 of Illinois residents over the age of 25 have less than a ninth grade education. Another 634,000 residents have between a 9th and 12th grade education, but have no high school diploma. That means there are 1.1 million people who do not have a high school diploma. Source: American Community Survey, 2010

While it doesn’t surprise me that this happens, it is baffling to me that in the year 2012 people are not finishing high school and obtaining an education that will help them succeed.  Literacy becomes a huge component in this number, and there are many factors involved in why this problem occurs.  If you are interested in obtaining more information about the topic of literacy and education in our country this, try this website. 

As Americans, we are protected by a very important Amendment in the Bill of Rights in the US Constitution.  Article 1 provides that“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Focusing on the Freedoms of Speech and Press, both affect our ability and our individual freedoms to read.  Without these two rights, we would not have publishing companies or newspapers or bloggers like us putting ideas and opinions out in the public sphere for others to see, hear and ultimately consider that we have something important to say.   As a librarian, I find myself frequently coming across this topic and addressing how far this Freedom to Read can be extended.  Essentially, without such a freedom would mean many children and adults would be subject to censorship.  Yet, censorship, despite our freedoms and the Bill of Rights still exists across the country.

Most recently, the adult romance novel Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James has been a target causing huge controversy because of its erotic nature and has been deemed ‘mommy porn.’   Libraries in Mobile County, Alabama refused to buy it or continue lending it because it claimed to go against its selection policies.  After reading the first book, getting hooked and quickly reading the second and third books, sure it’s erotic.  I can also understand why women across the country want to read it and discuss it with their friends.  You simply have to discuss it because it is so controversial!  I think this is what makes the power to read, the freedom to read what we choose a marvelous topic.  Regardless of whether someone else thinks a book is trashy or poorly written, the Freedom of Speech and Press makes it possible for us to read the book in question and make our own judgements.

Each year, the American Library Association produces the Top Banned Books lists and celebrates them in Banned Books Week.  I find myself often gasping not with shock that people want them banned, but that the idea of banning even becomes a possibility in a country which was founded on personal freedoms.    Also check out the Freedom to Read Foundation whose purpose is to protect free speech and press for libraries and librarians.

There is a Voltaire quote I remember made famous from the Superman movies where the uncle is telling Peter Parker, “With great power, comes great responsibility,” and it’s always stuck with me.  Reading, the ability to read, the freedoms to read, and the power this gives us as individuals means we have great responsibility to share our words and ideas.  Embrace the challenge and consider that you have great power to share and freedoms unlike any other in the world.  What does the Freedom to Read mean to you?