Libraries add ‘coder time’ to story time

Librarian Brooke Sheets uses colored cups to teach algorithms and debugging to girls at Los Angeles’ Central Library. Photo: Alex Schaffert-Callaghan, KPCC

To play a drawing game called Phenomenal Turtle, nine-year-old Perla Hernandez had to “break down big complex problems into small sequential steps,” writes Alex Schaffert-Callaghan on KPCC. She was one of a dozen children who came to a Los Angeles’ library for “coder time.”

 Children can program a turtle to create designs in Phenomenal Turtle

Children can program a turtle to create designs in Phenomenal Turtle

Librarian Joanna Fabicon “would love coding to be as ubiquitous in libraries as story time.” She works with an afterschool program to reach children at eight LAUSD elementary schools.

Girls feel comfortable coming to the library, said Brooke Sheets, a children’s librarian at the central branch. “More than half the kids in Hernandez’s class were girls, a ratio most computer science programs can only dream of,” writes Schaffert-Callaghan.

At the end of the lesson Hernandez showed her game to the group. “The kids watched as a small green turtle moved quickly across the screen, filling it with a rainbow of intricate pop-art patterns, earning a big round of applause.”

Within 10 years, all New York City schools will offer computer science, pledges Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Chicago plans to require a year of computer science for high school graduates by 2018, reports the New York Times. (Really! How many can add fractions?) “The San Francisco Board of Education voted in June to offer it from prekindergarten through high school, and to make it mandatory through eighth grade.”

Libraries without books

Florida 2

Florida Polytechnic University’s Commons houses an all-digital, bookless library, reports The Open Standard.   The new college is focused on “science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and preparing students for jobs of the future.”

Library to offer high school diplomas

Dropouts will be able to earn high school diplomas at Los Angeles libraries, which will partner with an online learning company. Students will take courses online, but will meet at the library to interact with other adult learners and receive help.

Via Marginal Revolution.

Librarian: Top reader ‘hogs’ glory

Tyler Weaver, 9, read 63 books in six weeks to win the summer reading contest at Hudson Falls Public Library in upstate New York. The incoming fifth grader has won five years in a row.  Which is . . . unfair?

Tyler “hogs” the contest every year and should “step aside,” Library Director Marie Gandron told the Star-Post.  Over five years, Tyler has won an atlas, a T-shirt, a water bottle and certificates of achievement.

Tyler’s mother, Katie, had alerted the newspaper to his streak. His younger brother, Jonathan, 7, won second place for the second year by reading more than 40 books.

“Other kids quit because they can’t keep up,” Gandron said.

Gandron further told the reporter she planned to change the rules of the contest so that instead of giving prizes to the children who read the most books, she would draw names out of a hat and declare winners that way.

Prizes also are given to the top kindergarten reader and for best rock people (?) and coloring entries.

Lita Casey, an aide at the library for 28 years, said the Weaver boys visit the library every week year round. She estimates they’ve checked out 1,000 books in the last few years.

Changing the contest rules is “ridiculous,” Casey said.

“My feeling is you work, you get it. That’s just the way it is in anything. My granddaughter started working on track in grade school and ended up being a national champ. Should she have backed off and said, ‘No, somebody else should win?’ I told her (Gandron), but she said it’s not a contest, it’s the reading club and everybody should get a chance,” Casey said.

A few years ago, the summer theme centered on regions of the United States, Casey recalled. “Kids were supposed to read a book on each section of the country,” but some found it boring and dropped out. “Tyler read at least one book on each of the 50 states,” she said.

One commenter suggests that Marie Gandron has hogged the library director job long enough and should “step aside” to let someone else have a turn.

Harrison Bergeron, call your office, Instapundit writes.


To and through college

To graduate from college, students must work harder in high school and reach out for help in college, advises the co-founder of a college coaching service. Those who need help the most are the least likely to ask for it.

Ssssshhhhh. There’s a new innovation at the college library — a room for quiet study! Nothing that beeps is allowed.

Library sends cop to get overdue books from 5-year-old

The public library in Charlton, Massachusetts doesn’t fool around. When a five-year-old girl and her mother forgot to return two books, the library called the police.

Shannon Benoit reads a book to daughter Hailey.

Shannon Benoit reads a book to daughter Hailey.

Police Sgt. Dan Dowd stopped by the home of Shannon Benoit to tell her she had two books several months overdue. Hailey burst into tears, afraid she’d be arrested.

The books were found and returned. The mom says she never received an overdue notice.

Though failure to return library books is a misdemeanor in Massachusetts, Charlton police didn’t want to get involved, said Dowd.  “But the library contacted us, and the chief delegated, and apparently I was one of the low men on the totem pole.”

It’s nice to know there’s so little crime in Charlton.

That should scare Haley away from the library, writes Betsy.

Santa grants child’s wishes

Santa grants student’s wishes, via Expat Tutor.

Parents sit-in to save school’s ‘casita’

To save an old school building known as the “casita,” Chicago parents are sitting in around the clock at Whittier Dual Language School, reports the Wall Street Journal. The $356,000 budgeted to tear down the 2,000-square-foot building should be used to fix it up and turn it into a library, parents say. They’re already collecting books.

School-district officials say the building, in a poor Latino neighborhood southwest of the Loop, is unsafe and would be too expensive to bring up to current building codes. “It’s not even a building. It’s a structure,” said Monique Bond, a spokeswoman for the Chicago Public Schools. “It would need to be torn down and rebuilt from the ground up.”

Building a new library would cost $5 million to $20 million, the district claims.

The building has been used for after-school activities, community events and, most recently, as a place for students’ mothers to take classes in sewing and English as a second language. Last year, the district built a parent meeting room, as well as science and computer labs, as part of a $1.4 million in improvements at the school.

Parents say the old building could be fixed up cheaply with the help of volunteer labor from students’ parents. They’ve already shelved 600 books and more are coming in.

Does it really take $356,000 to tear down a one-story building? And more than that to bring it up to code? Of course, the district wouldn’t get away with using volunteer labor, even if half the dads are construction workers.

'Look at your grades. Now look at mine.'

This Week In Education links to a video spoof of  the Old Spice ad that promotes BYU’s library.

A day in the school library

As part of a Stanford alumni day of service, I spent Saturday at an elementary school library helping to mark books with the Accelerated Reader grade level, quiz number and points awarded for doing well on the quiz. The school has quite a few books, most of which have an associated quiz in the AR computer. Kids enjoy earning points so much they sometimes choose high-point books they’re not all that interested in, the librarian told us.

My partner and I coded lots of sports books, lots of Beverly Cleary and Roald Dahl and some Artemis Fowl. Sometimes the reading level or the points seemed odd:  Barbara Cohen’s Passover story, Carp in the Bathtub, was only one point, while similar books were three or four points. (Thirteen was the highest we handled in the C and D authors.)

Both of us questioned whether Sandra Cisneros’ House on Mango Street, which includes a sexual assault on a young girl, belongs in an elementary library. (AR marks it as upper-grade reading with a surprisingly low reading level.) The librarian said she’d take a closer look at the book, which had been donated.

It was fun. I love children’s books.