Monday, October 12, 2015

Blather- What I Learned at Kidlitcon

Picture by Maureen Kearney.
Kidlitcon was a great way to spend a lot of time connecting with other book people thinking about how I spend a huge portion of my life-- reading and recommending books for kids.

Since that is a small part of what I do at my job, I lack confidence. I'm not a great media specialist. The treasurer's office is always on my case about pay tags. It's hard to get classes in for instruction. We don't do a ton of technology at my school. I never, ever, ever want to have a maker space. And I always feel that no one reads my blog, even though I have striven mightily to post at least one quality book review every single day.

What I lack on this blog is voice. Because I'm not confident, I try to be vague and professional and not offend anyone. I try to filter out anything that is not books, figuring out that no one cares.

But here's the thing: I know middle grade literature, and I know my middle grade kids. I could save teachers, librarians and parents a whole stinking lot of time if they would just read my blog, especially since seriously, no one else seems to review sports books on a regular basis!

As I close in on ten years of blogging, I am going to try to make a few changes. I may include some anecdotes about how I interact with kids. Matthew Winner encouraged me to learn to podcast, and I would like to interview my students about what they like to read and why. I'm thinking of calling it "Reviewing Readers".

As Charlotte likes to say, we are all "special snowflakes". Some people do great at interviewing authors or creating great projects with Three-D printers, and some people rock Noodletools instruction or genrefying their libraries.

I read books. I talk to students. I match them up with books.

I rock at it, and I shouldn't be shy in letting the world know.

What anecdotal blather would YOU like to hear from me?


  1. I do love it when you throw in some things about what's going on in your library.It'll be fun to hear what your students enjoy in whatever format you choose. Looking forward to hearing from "you" more.

    I feel the same way about my blog. I'm good at pairing readers and books but I lack confidence as well. Without a clerk I can't spend as much time working with teachers as I'd like. I get to do very little instruction. I keep up with techology but am not obsessed with it and not interested in posting "5 apps that do X!" type crap. I also am not interested in doing a maker space. But worse, is I'm a slow reader and I like to keep up with grown up books of my own choosing. So I don't read a kids book a day! But I'm working on it.

    But I read your blog and now will start recommending it to parents and teachers more! I love the idea of getting the boys to read the Shannon Hale books first. And I love the idea of student interviews. Maybe I'll try some of that myself.

    I am also trying to post more things on the school blog for the teachers and students. I'll see how that goes and maybe move my focus there? I just don't know.

    Oh! I know! I wouldn't mind hearing a) more about your interactions at the con and b) what YOUR other favorite blogs are.

  2. I appreciate your book reviews and would like to get to know you better through your voice here on your blog. It is hard sometimes to put yourself out there. Good luck! Here is my week. Happy reading!

  3. Whenever a parent or student ask me to recommend books I give them a few to consider but also give them your blog location. You have a treasure trove of recommendations and even though I don't comment on every post, I read each one. Keep up the good work. Student stories are always appreciated. They always hit home.

  4. I think you get more attention than I do with mine Karen. I love to read your reviews because I know if you recommend a book, I know it will be worth while.

    I've had ideas about interviewing kids about what they are reading, but I just find I couldn't find time to do it. Technology at our school is about as scarce as hen's teeth, so while I feel relatively competent, there just isn't enough to go around.

    I enjoy working with classroom teachers and their kids, especially helping kids learn to unpack nonfiction text and take notes. I don't often get to go through a whole unit with a group because our library is pretty busy.

    Having no clerk, and dealing with cutbacks at our board office means that I end up taking on more and more of that work, which leaves less time for the teaching piece.

    I think the idea of 'reviewing readers' is a great idea.

    One of the ways I get classes and teachers in the library is opening up space (aside from regular book exchange times) where I invite teachers to sign up for book talks. I lay out books all over the tables and for the first fifteen minutes I book talk new books appropriate for the age group. On occasion I've had 80 to 90 kids and their teachers in there. It is a bit of a zoo, but adults come to realize and respect your expertise.
    Whatever you write, I'll read it!

  5. Jane Allgood1:09 PM EDT

    I'm a newcomer to the middle school library, and love the solid reviews and opinions you post regularly about books - I don't comment often, but do read you faithfully and have purchased several of your recommendations with good results!

    It would be wonderful to hear more from or about your students and what they enjoy reading and doing in the library. I have 7th & 8th graders, and surprisingly (to me) have a lot more active readers who are boys than girls this year. Don't know if its our collection or our students, but I'm definitely trying to reach both. I'm not a blogger (yet!) so can't really reciprocate that way, but will do my best to comment more so that you know that you do have readers! :)

  6. I enjoyed your post and musings, especially this comment -- "I rock at it, and I shouldn't be shy in letting the world know." Good for you!

  7. You have fabulous reviews of books. I love the strengths and weaknesses section. I have been sharing your reviews on my Pinterest Best Books for Kids page.

  8. Looks to me like you have more readers relying on your blog than you think, Karen. I'm not a teacher, but I absolutely rely on your blog on a personal level, and send people there when the need arises. I think that if you were to share some more of your experiences and tips around connecting kids with books, this would be well received. But if you decided to just keep doing what you're doing, I'd read that, too. Because you do rock!

  9. I love your honesty - and you have great taste in books. Kid stories are always fun to read!

  10. Oh, I think you have voice. You're your own special snowflake, and I'd recognize your distinctive voice anywhere. You do one main thing and you do it well, and that's ok! Your reviews are very helpful. I do like the idea of interviewing students, though.

  11. I loved connecting with you at KidLitCon. I mean really. I feel like we are a lot alike. We should present together next time. Or something. I feel like I got to know you much better/quicker in person than from reading your blog. When you've commented on my blog, that has helped me to know you a bit, too. And I am very, very interested in anecdotal blather. Whatever that may be. Doesn't even have to be directly connected to books, in my opinion. Just do your thing. Share what you want. I'm perking up my ears.

  12. No one reads your blog?! Wadda ya mean? The Don was highly offended when I told him this, but since this is a family friendly forum I can't repeat anything he said. However, I can tell you that this is one of the number one places we go to to check out whether we are completely off-base in our reactions to middle grade novels. Your "strengths and weaknesses" are a must-read.

    Student interviews would be great. Occasional "cross country rules the world" posts would be great. But really, just keep on being you.

    One last question: what the heck is a "maker space?"

  13. I've always wanted to attend a Kidlitcon at one point - seems like you do learn a great deal of information and come out very inspired. Hopefully next year or the year after that? :)

  14. I agree with Michael G-G. Whaddya mean no one reads your blog??? This is one of the first places I turn when I have a few spare moments at the library. Plus, I've read many a book based on your recommendations. In fact, the library system has purchased a couple books (like Petlandia) after I sent the Collection dept. links to your reviews.
    I believe that often the most talented people have the least confidence, so don't feel bad if you feel you lack confidence. You do exactly what you need to do here, which is talk about books. And you EXCEL at that! And that gives you a very strong voice. The best way to get a voice is to not worry about getting a voice but concentrate on saying what you mean and being passionate about it. Which is what you do exceedingly well. And that has given you a strong and confident voice these many years.

  15. I've recently realized (perhaps as recently as this past week) that I have been holding back in my blog, which makes it more of a boring read. I used to have a livejournal that I was very good about posting in and having a great voice because I was always talking about things I cared about in a way that interested me. So I'm trying to relax a bit more and stop overthinking so much on my book blog.

    Great post. Thanks for sharing.

  16. Your blog is the only blog that I have ever snorted and chuckled out loud while reading it. Please never stop blathering! I read every post you publish!

  17. (Coming very late to the party because I first read this on the iPad, which is a bear about letting me comment) but it was lovely to meet you at KidLitCon. I have been reading your blog for years now, and have recommended it to every one of the stream of media specialists that has come through my kids' school as well. I rely on you for telling me about all the non-fantasy books that I want to know about without necessarily reading myself. I think that a podcast with you talking with your kids would be great!