Our Visiting Artist, Le Uyen Pham

Look at these beautiful drawings of the forest near the school!

We were so fortunate to have our visiting artist last week, Ms. Le Uyen Pham.

She spoke with students from Pre-K to middle school about art, practice of drawing, being in the moment, and working hard to fulfill your goals.  Some things she mentioned:

Procreate, an ipad app that she uses to draw.

Publishing your own work, which you can do here.

The Witch of Blackbird Pond and Mo Williams, big inspirations for her work and her reading.

Vietnamese Cinderella, as a culture shock.

See some photos of her visit here.

Wellness Table, Shout, and Breakfast and Browse

This week, as we do every week before break, we hosted a Breakfast and Browse.

It’s our chance to welcome the teachers in to get their books for their holiday, to showcase our newest titles and features, and to celebrate reading with snacks.

This B&B, we also had a Wellness Table, with all sorts of books for people looking to get into spring and out of the winter. With exams around the corner, stress seems to be a part of many people’s lives, and this is our way of presenting some of our resources to help.  We’ve been updating our mental health collection and making purchases to enhance those resources.

 

Speaking of mental health, K just read Shout, the newest book from Laurie Halse Anderson.

We are bringing Laurie Halse Anderson in December, and this new book is her memoir in poetry.  It’s heartbreaking and beautiful and honest, and worth a read for any person.

Any more would ruin it, but you can find it in the novels and verse section.

Join the Big Library Read, April 1-15 on Overdrive

Alongside thousands of readers worldwide, AAS Moscow patrons can discover a remarkable true story through the largest global digital book club, Big Library Read. From April 1–15, booklovers can borrow, read and discuss Abu Bakr al Rabeeah and Winnie Yeung’s heartbreaking yet hopeful Homes: A Refugee Story ebook from their library with no waitlists or holds. AAA Moscow readers may join by visiting https://soraapp.com/library/aasru  downloading the Sora or Overdrive app. More than 19,000 libraries around the world are participating.

Big Library Read is available in more than 90 percent of public libraries in North America and facilitated by OverDrive, the leading platform for ebooks, audiobooks and magazines. Homes: A Refugee Story, a 2018 Governor General’s Literary Award finalist for nonfiction, was chosen by a popular vote of readers and librarians worldwide.

Homes: A Refugee Story chronicles the struggles of the al Rabeeah family who left their home in Iraq for Syria in hope of a safer life – just before the Syrian civil war broke out. Abu Bakr, one of eight children, was ten years old when the violence began on the streets around him: car bombings, attacks on his mosque and school, firebombs late at night. Homes tells of the strange juxtaposition of growing up as a typical teenager in a war zone: horrific, unimaginable events punctuated by normalcy – soccer, cousins, video games, friends.

Readers can join an online discussion about the book at https://discuss.biglibraryread.com/. The free program runs for two weeks and only requires an AAS Moscow Overdrive account to get started.

Read with us and enjoy!

Events: The 2019 Youth Media Awards

The end of January always brings a wave of excitement to libraries around the world because this is when the Library Youth Media Awards are announced. This prestigious list includes the Newbery Award for best children’s book (for 2019 … Mercy Suarez Changes Gears), the Caldecott award for best illustrated book (Hello Lighthouse) and the Printz award for the best young adult book (The Poet X). There are also many other categories including nonfiction at both the children’s and young adult level (Unwanted: Stories of the Syrian Refugees), adult books recommended for high school readers (Educated) and more. Take a look at the complete list; almost all are already available at the AAS library. Stop in and pick up a winning title to enjoy.

Banned Books Week, Day 5

Welcome to the AAS Celebration of Banned Books Week!
Day Five

Every day this week, we will be bringing news of book banning from across the divisions and around the world.  

Today’s topic: Provoked Thoughts and General Reflections

When Kris and I began planning this week, we asked our fellow educators if they had any books challenged or removed from other schools that they had worked in.  We heard a few stories, but not nearly the volume that we expected. Today, on Friday of a week where we have seen so many people, we have finally heard the stories we expected to hear.

We heard stories of books not being taught because they couldn’t make it through the approval process.  Stories of books removed from curriculum, never to be encountered again. We heard stories of teachers spoken to privately because of the content of the book in their class.

One senior remarked that a book from his class may have given him another perspective, but that it was hard to be certain; if it had been removed, perhaps some other books would have done the same or brought him a new idea.  

We heard stories of books vanished from libraries.  Two middle schoolers said that books had been taken from previous school libraries.  One teacher mentioned that a parent had “lost” several copies of a book because she disagreed with the content in a previous school.  One teacher mentioned how she would get secret books in paper bags from her librarian.

We heard students and teachers express a wide range of emotions at books being taken away from libraries: surprise, disbelief, outrage, confusion, humor and frustration.  We heard concern about books being removed from the AAS Library, both in the greater sense and with a particular pointed question. We heard students encourage the removal of some books from our library, feeling offended that certain body parts and words were available in print.

Most of all, we heard respect for the library, for the curriculum, and for the right to choose.  Students and teachers here have the freedom to read about any sort of topic, to explore books that scare them or make them silly, that explore gender and identity, that tackle human issues of addiction and mental health, of their culture and their ethnicity, with any history that it may include.

As librarians, we see this as both a great honor and a great responsibility.  Our collection must have books for everyone, for patrons of all ages, for patrons from every country we represent, for educators and students working towards higher education.  We appreciate that we are gatekeepers to information, that we have power over what comes into our space and gets removed. We appreciate that we need to be sensitive to different perspectives, both in terms of supporting our young patrons and honoring possibly concerned parents.

In a world where there is ample information available at the tips of your fingers, we appreciate the power of a book, no matter its form.  Each new challenge of a book reminds us that what we choose to focus on is a powerful influence. Each new story we hear lets us into a different perspective, one that is ours to form and express.  And each new perspective reminds us that we can’t necessarily force another person to hold the same views as we do.

Thank you all for your support of the library, of literature, and of our students.

We honor the books mentioned in these stories, all books that exist in our collection and throughout the school.

“The Diary of a Part Time Indian”

“Persepolis”

“The Handmaid’s Tale”

“Walter the Farting Dog”

“The Diary of Anne Frank”

“Captain Underpants”

“Why” (a book in Korean)

“Harry Potter”

“Sex is a Funny Word”

Banned Books Week: Day 4

Welcome to the AAS Celebration of Banned Books Week!

Day Four

Every day this week, we will be bringing news of book banning from across the divisions and around the world.  Banning Books Silences Stories, and our community has more than a few stories of censorship, either from a home country, a place we’ve lived, or from family and friends.

Take a moment today to appreciate your right to your personal story, and your ability to see it in literature and on film, and feel free to share this message with anyone you choose.

Today’s topic: the subtleties and the details.

It’s easy to be outraged at widespread book challenges and banning, but the majority of cases that librarians see are secret, subtle, and whispered to one another.  For every case that we see in the news, there are many times more that are unreported. Sometimes, teachers fear retribution. Sometimes, it doesn’t feel worth the fight.  Sometimes, it is a private affair, not even known through the school community.

One of our teachers had one sentence removed from a library book.  It doesn’t seem like a problem, unless you know that the sentence was the only reference in the story to the idea that a family could have “two mommies or two daddies.”  

As librarians, we’ve noticed in several libraries that some books just go missing.  Perhaps a person is taking a book home in private to explore a topic, but sometimes that book is secreted away because someone disagrees with the content.  We’ve seen books returned with blackout marks, with pages glued together, or just never returned. Both Kris and K have found themselves in the stacks discovering a topic previously unknown, and believe that the library is a place to discover information about topics that are difficult to research online.

Every person has the right to their own choices, both for themselves and for their family.  One of our teachers is a relative of the author of “Amber Brown,” a popular series for younger readers.  The books are loosely based on reality, with Amber tackling some topics in the books that our teacher didn’t exactly experience.  Her brother chooses not to have those books in his home, for his own children, believing that the books are “too much” for his kids.  It is his right to do so, his parental decision.

In much the same way, we as professionals are choosing where to place the books so the “right” group has the “right” access.  Educators are deciding what to put in their classroom, how to find that just right balance of interesting and accessible for the kids that spend so much time in that room.  As librarians, we decide what to purchase, where in the library it goes, what books may have notes. Teachers make those choices as well.

One high school student this week mentioned that books don’t have a rating system like films do.  There are no systems of parental controls that influence our library either. We place a lot of trust in our patrons in knowing what they are interested in, what they are ready to experience, what they prefer for that moment.  Giving that trust can be very scary, but books are a safe place to explore topics that we struggle to make sense of in our real lives. They are a safe place to feel scared, to talk about grief, to think about choices, to develop empathy.  

Here at AAS, we are fortunate to have educators who trust the library.  And we would like to thank each and every person who has shared a story with us, spoken about a tough topic with a student, or just came up to enjoy the literature with us.

Banned Books Week: Day 3

Welcome to the AAS Celebration of Banned Books Week!

Day Three

Every day this week, we will be bringing news of book banning from across the divisions and around the world.  Banning Books Silences Stories, and our community has more than a few stories of censorship, either from a home country, a place we’ve lived, or from family and friends.

Take a moment today to appreciate your right to your personal story, and your ability to see it in literature and on film, and feel free to share this message with anyone you choose.

Today, the topic at hand is currency and community.

Yesterday, one teacher told me that while teaching in the middle east, he couldn’t touch even the idea of Persepolis in his school.  He told me that the parents at his school in Washington wouldn’t let him teach “Diary of a Part Time Indian.” Another teacher, though, wrote a grant for a class set while working on the reservation that made her teaching remarkably successful.  The students connected with that story beyond any “offensive” content that might be there.

Librarians are struggling with this book at the moment, though.  With the advent of the #metoo movement, accusations about the author of “Part Time Indian” came into the public sphere.  Kris and K both love the book, but struggle with the idea of splitting the artist and the art. While we won’t remove this particular book from the library, we did specifically re-evaluate the reader series “Young Bill Cosby,” based on the currency of books, circulation statistics and value to our collection, after his conviction. We chose to remove them.

One recent story connects with the #metoo movement.  A parent in the UK wanted to remove Sleeping Beauty from the curriculum and the libraries given the liberties that the prince takes by kissing Aurora while she is asleep.  This current news brings up issues in the stories that are being told and what they say about the culture.

Sometimes the community rebels against the idea that the issues in books could impact their children.  The book “Perks of Being a Wallflower” is currently behind the library desk (available only when you ask with parental permission) at the school where the book is set.  The author is from a school in the Pittsburgh suburbs, and it tackles child abuse, sexual identity, and teen drinking and drugs.

Other times, there is some benefit to being sensitive to different groups of people.  Books like “Babar” highlight the benefits of colonialism, often by showing discrimination in a positive light.  Other books, like Mark Twain’s “Huckleberry Finn” use racial slurs throughout the text. Perhaps changing politics and changing language warrants a change in story.

Of course, not every group has the same logic.  The Lorax was challenged by a group of parents who worked as lumberjacks, who didn’t want their children to see them unfavorably.  Many environmental books are challenged for a similar reason. Police officers didn’t like their portrayal as pigs in “Sylvester and the Magic Pebble.”

Our AAS community has such a diverse group of people, and we want to honor that diversity and respect that all of us are coming from a different perspective.  We want our library to reflect a story for each and every one of our patrons.

Banned Books Week: Day Two

Welcome to the AAS Celebration of Banned Books Week!

Every day this week, we will be bringing news of book banning from across the divisions and around the world.  This year, we are focused on stories. Banning Books Silences Stories, and our community has more than a few stories of censorship, either from a home country, a place we’ve lived, or from family and friends.

Each day, we will focus on a theme of banning with the stories that accompany that theme.  Please feel welcome to share these stories. Take a moment today to appreciate your right to your personal story, and your ability to see it in literature and on film, and feel free to share this message with anyone you choose.

 Today, the topic at hand is curriculum. Books are often restricted at the curricular level, given the power that is in the hands of the teacher and the school.  Students are required or encouraged to read a certain text, a person or a group finds an issue with this, and the book is removed from suggested lists, classrooms, or curricula.

Two of our teachers have seen this in action.  In one example, a teacher expressed that a book that she wanted for her classroom, Plainsong, had a passage containing some sexual material.  The principal allowed her to purchase a class set of these books, but when they came in, he had her take out that page with an exact-o knife. One page removed from every single book in her new class set.  The teacher remarked that this was the worst moment in her teaching career.

A second teacher saw this in a friend of hers, with a book (Stick, Andrew Winger)  being on a recommended reading list. The book deals with LGBT issues, bullying, and abuse.  One group of people pressured the superintendent to remove the book from the list and from the library after one parent complained about the content.  Against the recommendations of a committee formed to review the book, they decided to remove it anyway.

One of the more famed cases of curriculum removal is in the case of Persepolis, removed from the Chicago Public Schools curricula.  The district commanded the removal of Persepolis from both classrooms and libraries, citing that they were unsure the students had the maturity to appreciate and fully understand the book.  There were no formal complaints and no formal process for removing the book, just a sudden and urgent push from the administration. Removing the book from curriculum completely removed it from student hands given that the school libraries there are not nearly as well-developed as the library here is.

Another common reason for books to be banned from curriculum is that they “aren’t academic enough.”  Some books that touch on truths that don’t want to be believed, stories that some believe are too intense for kids to read.  Reading them as a class can provide context and clarity, and requires trust in the educator as well as the text. It’s unfortunate that not every school honors the experience of the educator to teach tough topics.

AAS is fortunate to have books in curriculum that tackle tough topics, as well as books in classrooms and book rooms that deal with real life, emotions, and true experiences.  We are also amazingly fortunate to have educators that teach books that some others have banned.