Monday, May 9, 2011

Professional Reading #16

Klebanoff, A. (2009, July 1). "Block Party: Legos in the Library." School Library Journal. Retrieved from:

My tween materials class has been focusing on programming for tweens this last couple of weeks. Through our discussions I read about this article with a fantastic idea for tween programming. Radnor Memorial Library in Pennsylvania has a Lego club that meets once a month. Attendance for this club can some months be as high as 50 kids. The club is open to children and tweens, but they have had an incredible turn out of tween boys. What's awesome about this club is that it isn't just a bunch of kids getting together to play with Legos at their library; the organizers incorporate books into the Lego club as well. The program lasts an hour and a half. A theme has been selected and advertised in advance, there is a book on that theme for each age group represented. Each group is either read to or reads a bit of their book and then goes to creating something that represents that theme out of Legos. Not only does this program get tween boys into the library, it also gets them reading.

Another thing I love about this program is that it makes the library part of the community. It offers a program for kids from different schools within the same community to meet over a shared interest. Libraries have to continue to find programs like these that bring in kids who might not have an interest in reading yet, but they love to create things out of Legos or music or art or any other interest which can be made into a library program. Books can even be incorporated into these programs, like with the Lego club.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Professional Reading #15

Pearson, M. (2009, September 10). "What YA Lit is and isn't." Retrieved from:

Up until this class it had been awhile since I had read tween or young adult fiction. Sure, I'd occasionally picked up a tween book now and then and read it, but then went right back to my adult fiction. Through my tweens materials class this semester I have had the opportunity to absolutely immerse myself in young adult books, focusing primarily on young adult fiction. This was an incredible experience for me, cathartic at times, as I recognized bits of my awkward former tween self within the characters of the books. Anyone who could possibly think that young adult fiction is just a watered down adult book has it dead wrong. These books I've read are meant for young people going through more changes mentally, emotionally, and physically than they will ever again in their lives. These books speak to those changes, the awakening of feelings of empathy or lack of self-identity. Characters like Gypsy and Woodrow from Belle Prater's Boy deal with heavy issues, such as the loss of their parents and how their small town views them. Books like Are You There God, It's Me Margaret teach about physical changes in a young girls' life how no nonfiction book on puberty ever could, as told by a tween girl, with human feelings and concerns included.

These books tackle heavy issues like racism, death, religion, disease, and war. There are many who focus on friendships or interpersonal relationships, also often heavy and complex topics within tweens' lives. These books I've read have also come from all directions, conservative in their approach to tween issues, or incredibly liberal. I have enjoyed them all, as they have reminded me of what it was like to be a tween, the good and the bad. After these last few months of reading tween books I feel as if I've been able to reconnect with my inner tween and have a better understanding of tweens themselves. I would encourage anyone who has smirked at me noticing the tween book in my hands to pick up some young adult fiction and read it for yourself. You may be surprised to learn some important lessons in life you had forgotten.

Professional Reading #14

Rhood, D. (2009, May 29). Sweet Valley Twins: Reading to Understand Contemporary Social Networks. Retrieved from:

Stout, H. (2010, April 30). Antisocial Networking? The New York Times. Retrieved from:

The writer of this article makes a pretty interesting comparison between Sweet Valley High books and social networks, in that they both provide a model of socializing for viewers, without them having to participate. As a tween, she used the books as a way of learning about and witnessing social interactions, interactions she was too afraid to experience for herself. I love the idea of learning about social interactions from books. The writer paints herself as on the nerdier side, enjoying reading about how popular girls interact with one another. She relates this to young people looking at Facebook.

I find the author's suggestion that Facebook can be a way for young people to view social interactions from a comfortable distance very interesting and reminded me of an article I discussed earlier, "Antisocial Networking?" which questions if social networking sites are damaging to young peoples' relationships with one another. I am a Facebook user who likes to look at friends photos and read what people are up to, but seldom comments and rarely posts anything myself. I never thought of it in those terms before, but I could see where young people could spend hours on Facebook (an easy thing to do) looking at friends' interactions with one another as a method of learning how peers socialize. As with reading fiction novels to achieve the same purpose, I'm not sure that Facebook communications are going to give young viewers a realistic social exchange. I feel that many younger Facebook users I have witnessed choose to post a more projected view of themselves, rather than the real thing. As an adult, this is easier to recognize, but I would worry about a tween who spends a great deal of time viewing Facebook posts and comments of friends to learn about socializing. I could see where this might lead to "Facebook depression," the recent studies of young people with low self-esteem becoming depressed by spending hours on Facebook looking at peers happily socializing.

The Westing Game

Raskin, E. (1978). The Westing Game. New York, NY: Scholastic, Inc.

Plot Summary:
Barney Northrup sent letters to potential renters of the apartments in Sunset Towers. In one day he had rented all the apartments to the only people he had sent letters, their names already printed up on the mailboxes before they agreed. Soon after moving in, the residents were invited to the Westing house on the hill for a reading of Samuel Westing's will. The house had been empty for some time, but smoke mysteriously had come out of the chimney one night, the night Mr. Westing died. As they gathered to hear the reading of the will, the residents were informed that one of them was the murderer and it was up to the others to determine who that was. They would each receive $10,000 to play the game, the winner becoming Westing's heir of over $200 million. The residents were paired off, some in the unlikeliest of pairs, and each given a set of clues. From these clues the pairs were to determine who was the murderer. The Westing Game had begun, players consisting of a dressmaker, a secretary, an inventor, a doctor, a judge, a bookie, a burglar, a bomber, and a mistake, and ultimately not what it seemed at all.

This book is fantastic. It was just as good reading it now as it was when I was a kid. It is a wonderful mystery, full of twists and turns, and an unlikely ending. The characters are wonderfully developed, each with their own quirks and secrets. One of my favorite parts of the book is the unlikely pairings of residents and how they each end up growing to care about one another and helping each other. Through this, the reader is reminded to not always judge a person without knowing them. Even though it is over 30 years old, the book stands up to the years, it isn't outdated at all. Tweens will love reading this book, as I did when I was younger. This book is likely to have and continue to awaken the mystery lover within many a young reader. An truly incredibly book, not a dull moment at all.

mystery, fiction

Reading Level:
Ages 9 - 12

murder, inheritance, friendship

Award Information:
Newbery Medal winner
ALA Notable book

Character Names/Themes:
Sam Westing (Barney Northrup, Sandy McSouthers, Mr. Eastman, Windy Windkloppel): millionaire owner of Westing Paper Products; likes to play chess; poses as salesman; poses as a doorman and heir to his own inheritance; poses as new director of Westing Paper Products; was married to Crow; paid for Judge Ford's schooling; loves the 4th of July; develops the Westing Game
Turtle Wexler (Alice, Tabitha-Ruth, T.R.): junior high student; likes to kick people in the shins; wears braids; plays the stocks; sister to Angela; partner to Flora Baumbach
Angela Wexler: engaged to Dr. Denton Deere; older sister to Turtle; partner to Sydelle; a bomber
Dr. Denton Deere: plastic surgery intern; engaged to Angela; partners to Chris
Grace Wexler: interior decorator; becomes a restaurateur; wife to Jake; mother to Turtle and Angela; partner to James; niece of Sam Westing
Jake Wexler: podiatrist; husband of Grace; father of Turtle and Angela; partner to Sun Lin; a bookie
James Shin Hoo: restaurateur; inventor; father of Doug; husband of Sun Lin; partner to Grace
Sun Lin Hoo: second wife of James Hoo; stepmother to Doug; cook at Hoo's restaurant; partner to Jake; a burglar
Douglas Hoo: track star; son of James Hoo; friend and partner of Theo
Flora Baumbach (Baba): dressmaker; partner to Turtle
Otis Amber: delivery boy for Sunset Towers; private investigator; partner and eventual husband to Crow
Sydelle Pulaski: secretary; fakes an ailment for attention; paints her crutches to match her outfits; partner to Angela; is a mistake
Berthe Erica Crow: cleaning woman for Sunset Towers; wife of Sam Westing; partner and eventual wife of Otis
Theo Theodorakis: high school senior; works in family's coffee shop; his father was once in love with Sam Westing's daughter; brother to Chris; plays chess; friend and partner to Doug
Christos Theodorakis: younger brother of Theo; has a degenerative disease; confined to wheelchair; studies birds; partner to Dr. Denton Deere
Judge J.J. Ford (Josie-Jo): judge; partner to Sandy; Sam Westing paid for her schooling

The residents of Sunset Towers are invited by the recently deceased Sam Westing to play a game. The participants play to discover the murderer among them and to win Mr. Westing's inheritance.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Professional Reading #13

Associated Press. (2011, March 18). “Young Math Whiz Helps Students to ‘Get It.’” Retrieved from:

This article is about a 12 year-old boy named Sandeep who is taking his love for math, something he enjoys working hard at, and using it to help others around his own age. He offered to provide his tutoring services in a program called the “After School Math Club” at his local library. The idea was his own and one he came up with after seeing his friends struggle with math. He was able to help these friends have a better understanding of math, which led him to volunteering at the library to a broader group of kids. Not only does he offer homework help, Sandeep provides grade appropriate worksheets he creates himself and then helps the kids work through him. At the time of the article Sandeep had 10 attendees to his math club, ranging in ages from 3rd to 6th graders.

Of course this article is incredibly inspiring and it shows the awareness of others that arises in kids when they hit their tweens. Sandeep developed an empathy for his classmates who were struggling with math, something he enjoyed. He took these feelings and did something with it. We have a tendency to get lost in the overwhelming media of cyberbully and sexting tweens and lose sight of the good that can come out of tweens. Their growing awareness for those around them, some take this and do harm, such as bullying, but others use it for good. I also am slightly tired of reading articles about tweens who write incredible blogs, or have their own clothing lines. I want to read more articles like this one, about kids who use their talent not for glory, but to help others their own age. Kudos to Sandeep and others like him, I hope to continue finding articles similar to this one.