Showing posts from 2012

third places, monitored spaces

While the tenure papers may not be done (I've thought they were twice, and more revisions came back each time), I have moved on to refreshing my research brain.  Refreshment, in this case, has involved travel to public libraries.  So far, I've been to about 10 different public libraries in the general region (east to Indianapolis, north to Chicago, west to Bloomington-Normal, and south to Tuscola) big and small, rural and urban, and it has made for a fascinating set of informal conversations. The first goal of my trips has just been to look, with fresh eyes, at public libraries as spaces.  I go into buildings and explore websites, seeing how physical and virtual spaces relate to each other and to me, a stranger on the road just stopping by.  Several times, because of professional connections, I have quickly become *not* a stranger on the road, but in fact a colleague.  That happened in Forrest, IL, and even moreso in Tuscola where I know the soon-to-be-former director from GS


Tenure paper prep is in progress, so this is going to be brief: Note that the YouMedia spaces are taken as the model.  This reinforces my sense that the innovations getting broad attention are aimed at teens, not younger children.

girl culture and the cute and the cool

In Cinderella Ate my Daughter,  Peggy Orenstein explores a wide range of questions related to contemporary girlhood, from the marketing of the Disney Princess product line to the how biological differences between male and female brains are used to justify it.   Orenstein has done her homework, but the book is a personal exploration of her motherhood choices rather than a scholarly work.  I don't have a daughter, but the thought-provoking questions that Orenstein raises about the world of gender and the marketing of all things pink to girls are certainly important.  What stays with me most is her analysis of the Disney actress trajectory, from self-declared virgin to marketable sex symbol.  As she writes:  "...self-respect has become a marketing gimmick, a way for female pop stars to bide their time before serving up their sexuality as a product for public consumption." (p. 124)  It may be true that, just like we overestimate young people's technical abilities on a re

Int'l Ch's Media & Culture

Back in spring, I read some chapters from... The International Handbook of Children's Media and Culture , Eds. Drotner and Livingstone.  Sage, 2008. "Harlequin Meets the SIMS:  A History of Interactive Narrative Media for Children and Youth from Earily Flap Books to Contemporary Multimedia" by Jacqueline Reid-Walsh (71-86) "Children and Media:  A Cultural Studies Approach" by David Buckingham The whole text is a combination of media theory and media effects research, with a special focus on non-US settings in later chapters. Some quotes and ideas: "...adults are wholly dependent upon children to secure the continuation of life..." (p. 9) Geertz's definition of "culture" "...system of inherited conceptions expressed in symbolic forms by means of which people communicate, perpetuate, and develop their knowledge about and attitudes toward life." Other things to look up: Ellen Seiter in Toys, Games, and Media Jou


Kristin Cashore has captured intelligent female fantasy readers with her books Graceling, Fire, and now Bitterblue, where we pick up with the beleaguered daughter of Ashen as she is growing into being queen.  I hesitate to assert these themes, but if Graceling is about learning about loving connection despite fear and Fire is about discerning the different flavors of love and admiration that "monstrous" attraction can evoke, then Bitterblue is about learning to compassionately encompass a kingdom.  In other words, Bitterblue is about power. And those who are captivated by court drama will enjoy this immensely, although the romantic flair that characterized Graceling and Fire is significantly toned-down here.  Bitterblue is struggling to reclaim her kingdom--and even to understand it--since the 35-year reign of her father King Leck.  Leck's grace was the ability to fog others' minds, take them over, and force them to do his bidding without their understanding that it


I am celebrating this: I am also celebrating that my cat is okay, that my spouse is a rockstar, that my friends are awesome, that I have new glasses and comfy, sassy shoes.  Life is short and full of injuries of all kinds.  Some days, we just sweat it out.  My wish is that everybody, at some point, gets to work hard and be rewarded for it. I'm also in the middle of Bitterblue by Cashore.  More to come! p.s. my cat:

links list

I've read Sarah Dessen's beach-perfect summer high school book  Along for the Ride and I'm re-reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (#6) right now.  I read the travel memoir  Wild by Cheryl Strayed while traveling (I was on planes, she was on the Pacific Crest Trail, but hey).  But reviews will have to wait... I lag behind in everything but the coming tenure papers, which I work on daily now that the biggest chunk of summer travel is done.  In the meantime, here are some intriguing links. Will there be a new Fraggle Rock movie?  Time will tell... Plus, Reading Rainbow is coming back, er, sort of!  Reading Rainbow is looking to the iPad as a new platform for relaunch. Are American kids spoiled?  If so, why?

Obama's haircut

Image Children's books represent, but so do people, and this photo captures an amazing moment when a young boy asked President Obama " if the President's haircut felt like his own."   Obama responded by letting the boy feel his head for himself.

reading becomes us

In what Geoff Kaufman and Lisa Libby term "experience-taking," it turns out that reading about characters can actually influence us to become more like them.  The effects actually seem to persist and even influence some real-world behavior.  There are as many questions raised as answered by these findings, but it's intriguing to consider. So we become what we read.  Sounds an awful lot like the old adage "you are what you eat." (If so, I am comprised of much more kale than you might suspect just looking at me.) More fun links on this phenomenon:

summer reading plans

Summer reading plans fall into two categories:   1) children's literature and resources, in preparation for teaching LIS403 in the fall 2) media studies history:  sources that tie together communications and children's reading, in the present and historically The rest of this post will be lists of texts, so perhaps less interesting than book reviews. Media Studies/History: possible journals... Skim current media studies by MacArthur and Kaiser: Best Apps for Kids: thinking about aesthetic comparisons and connections to children's literature Children's Literature (this is most of the required texts list


Presence, as opposed to distance.  This time of year, even presence of mind is scarce. In the Presence of Each Other:  A Pedagogy of Storytelling  by Johanna Kuyvenhoven presents a study of a classroom with a storytelling teacher.  The definition of "presence" shows up late in the book, but offers much to think about: "The pedagogy of storytelling entails its medium of presence.  The medium is the sounds of words, the faces and gestures of one another, and the warm contact of each other's bodies in physical place." (187) Which leads me to wonder about what removing one element might mean.  When does presence become distance?  What about time, being simultaneous, but at a distance?  What about removing the sounds of words?  What about telling stories back-to-back? There's an interesting diagram that illustrates Kuyvenhoven's model:

memories of dissertation writing

Looking back to my notes on the dissertation process, I stumbled across this little gem to describe how the experience felt: " like trying to get my arms around an elephant made of jello." Back in 2005, that was indeed how it felt, on a daily basis.  Changing research directions and embracing new ideas doesn't feel quite the same, but a real commitment to learning probably always leads to, at some point, encountering a jello elephant.

kates of the world, contrast!

I am a nerd.  This comes as no surprise to any of you who know me.  My undergrad alma mater, New College of Florida, has just been name the nerdiest school of all: I am so very proud.  In addition, my very own GSLIS is flying its discreet, professional, and amiably top achieving nerd flag: While searching for my blog, What Kate Reads, I came to have typed the terms "what kate" and google filled in the rest with "what kate wore."  That is not my blog.  Kate Middleton is not a nerd.  But, if you're reading this blog, you might get a kick out of the What Kate Wore blog by means of extreme contrast: And kudos to Merinda Hensley whose thought-provoking talk on the ridiculously idealistic framework of comprehensive information literacy made for a great Grad College program today:

toward teaching children's literature, again

It has been a few years since I taught our "children's literature and resources" course, and a lot has changed.  For one, we now have frequently taught courses in nonfiction, fantasy, and media as well as young adult literature and history of children's literature.  While I know the books I'll be teaching (list is being formatted, but I'll post it here when it's done), I'm still developing approaches. If I go with teaching book reviewing, then there will need to be some prep for that.  The text by Horning, From Cover to Cover , is terrific, and it's from 1997.  Here's a post from a blogger describing how it has been helpful despite changes over time in the children's book world: Many syllabi teach book reviewing, as I have done in the past, but book trailer creation has a similar thought process behind it, only with different creative media. http://ww

story as a problem

When I teach storytelling, I talk about and assign readings about the power of story, importance of story, and its positive uses.  But there are negatives as well, as this TED talk illustrates: Chimamanda Adichie presents the danger of a single story that masks the many myriad stories behind it.  The problem with stereotypes, she argues, "is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete."  It's good to wind up my spring storytelling classes with this reminder.  Thanks to N. in LIS409LEA for advocating for this story.

teaching and multiracial experience

A post of notes in list form... From the book The Multiracial Experience:  Racial Borders as the New Frontier  edited by Maria P. Root "Challenging Race and Racism:  A Framework for Educators" by Ronald David Glass and Kendra R. Wallace (pp. 341-358) from a section on the limits and possibilities of exploring racism through multicultural education 1) cultural difference, based on essentialist constructions of identity 2) cultural competence, viewing diversity as a resource 3) cultural emancipation, with a commitment to economic justice and success and they outline five core values (which I find a big wiggly in definition...): community, mutual respect, truth seeking, compassionate responsibility, justice from the book How Learning Works:  Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching by Susan A. Ambrose, Michael W. Bridges, Michele DiPietro, Marsha C. Lovett, and Marie K. Norma. What is Learning (p. 3, I'm paraphrasing) 1. a process, not a product 2

working where criticism is praise

I may have just stumbled across the best resource for academics ever.  Built by academics for other academics.  The one piece of advice I noted in a recent thread I read was to "avoid toxic threads."  Academics are good at arguing their points, and relatively bad at thinking at the meta-level about where they want the conversation to go. I've read The Chronicle, but definitely hadn't even notice the forums before.  I found this by searching for some input in the tenure process. The particular thread I read was about encouragement, specifically, where do you get yours in a work culture where criticism is praise?  The whole thread is worth reading:,88480.0.html Also came across these in my search:

in search of new questions

Slowly, the old falls away, and the new comes into view.  In this case, the view is one that I actually had in undergrad.  I proposed to do my undergrad thesis on schools, by which I really mean the emerging area of childhood studies.  The timing would have been perfect, back in 1995, but I didn't know it, and neither did my sociology professor.  Besides, I had a lot of other things to do in the last 20 or so years. Today, I'm posting about what I might read next, in a scholarly vein.  This isn't all of what I have on my shelf for summer.  In fact, I'm not even going to duplicate that shelf (except perhaps in a picture) and, instead, I'm listing Stuff I'm Finding Interesting... A Journal: Several books requested: And delving into media studies New Media & Society, The Information Society The International Journal of Media & Cultural Politics Communication, Culture & Critique Plus

across the universe vs. glow

Two books with one sci-fi premise, long-distance human travel to colonize potentially inhabitable planets, present two very different narratives... Across the Universe by Beth Revis is a comparatively leisurely and internal journey through the experience of Amy, a teenage girl whom we meet as she is being cryogenically frozen.  So that she can be revived, along with her parents, to colonize a new planet.  In about 300 years.  And, of course, it takes awhile before she is revived, and the contemplations of her conscious-yet-static mind occupy many chapters before the reanimated action begins.  One interesting strength of this book is that the chapters vary in perspective, and sometimes it takes a minute to figure out what's going on because of that, especially during the part when she is still frozen.  Once Amy is thawed, the book becomes a combination dystopian fantasy and mystery.   Amy meets Elder, who will become the ship's leader in the future.  She also meets Eldest, t

so many books, so few blog posts...

I've read a lot these past few months and posted hardly at all, so this will be an inelegant pile-up of mini-reviews... Heart and Soul by Kadir Nelson If I'd only posted this back in December when I read it, then I'd have beat the Coretta Scott King award by predicting that this was going to win.  This is an entirely African-American-centric retelling of American history, from the perpective of an elderly woman.  It's a fascinating and moving tale of how African Americans have contributed to the history of the United States, and it's illustrated with gorgeous paintings.  Definitely worth reading as a supplement and/or corrective to your average history textbook. Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos Gantos finally won the Newbery!  This is a small-town charmer of a book, with a misfit hyperactive boy protagonist who learns less about how to fit and more about how to not fit comfortably.  Personally, I still like some of his other books better.  But it's a goo

more representation problems

Folks in children's literature have been struggling for awhile now with how people of different races are represented (although white people haven't been the topic as much as they should be) and who should get to represent whom.  But a couple of recent articles suggest that there are such basic issues with who is represented at all that the various lit-theory inspired arguments may, in fact, be jumping the gun. Check out this article about a study-in-progress finding only one Latino character in a decade of transitional chapter books. But also note the title "Urban."  I read this expecting something else, which was more in line with this definition of "urban," with an emphasis on hip-hop and African American experience.   Which suggests that we still haven't achieved a multi-racial society that knows how to talk about race consistently.

apps and more

Just in case you missed it, last May School Library Journal started reviewing iPad/iPhone apps.  Here's the link to their introductory article about it: Meanwhile, based on some of those reviews, I have just downloaded three classic children's books to my iPad: Go Away Big Green Monster, The Monster at the End of this Book, and Harold and the Purple Crayon. Of the three, Harold is the clear winner, with lots of "hidden" interactivity and the opportunity to fill in the gray lines with satisfying purple crayon.  That's what makes the story move forward, you "helping" Harold to draw his way through the adventure.  The "lite" version is free, but it's also very "lite" indeed, with all the interaction and none of the story.  It's worth the money to pay for the full version, where touching on a distant bird lets you zoom in to see a m