Making Connections

It’s show season! Staff from Lerner recently attended the International Reading Association (IRA) conference in San Antonio. In a few weeks, we’ll be heading out to Book Expo America (BEA) in New York, International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) in San Antonio, and American Library Association (ALA) in Chicago.

For many of us, the best part about conferences is talking face-to-face with teachers and librarians—in focus groups and on the show floor—about the kids they serve, the challenges they face, and the books they need. C
urriculum standards and literacy needs certainly drive book selection for schools. But when you get educators talking about what interests their students, that’s when you see their excitement rise!

Many educators come into our booth on a mission, asking for books on specific topics to suit specific students—often these topics are perennial such as the Titanic, music, hunting, martial arts and wrestling, or dogs, just to name a few. Other teachers and librarians browse display copies and recognize the perfect book when they see it—matching a book to a kid through the name of a main character, a genre like mysteries, or a gritty storyline dealing with tough issues. Some educators are even willing to make a mad dash for certain books: On the last day of the ALA 2012 conference, one librarian appeared at our booth less than a minute after the show opened, all out of breath. She ran over to be first in line to get the display copies of the celebrity bios she knew one of her kids would love.

It’s not about the celebrities, of course. Supplying that “just right” book is about making and strengthening connections with kids. A few weeks ago, I listened to Dennis “Tiger” McLuen, president of Youth Leadership, talk to parents of teens. One point he made, based on his years working in youth ministry, stuck with me: Every kid needs strong, positive relationships with at least five (5) adults—adults who intentionally reach out and talk with that kid about his/her interests, likes and dislikes, and activities. Without a doubt, teachers and librarians serve as a lifeline for many, many kids—championing their interests, supporting their struggles, showing them their worth, and helping them reach their potential. At conferences, we enjoy the conversations that start, “I have this kid” because hopefully we’ll have
or be able to createjust the book that helps an educator make a meaningful connection.
So what “just right” books are you searching for to help you make the connections with your kids?  We’d love to hear from you.