The Children’s Book Review | November 17, 2013
Allison is a youth services librarian the Mission Viejo Library in Orange County, California, and she’s passionate about empowering kids and teens to develop a lifelong love of reading. Actively involved in professional activities, Allison manages YALSA’s young adult literature blog, The Hub, and reviews books and apps for School Library Journal. In her spare time, she’s a mom to two small children, co-hosts the YA lit podcast Authors are ROCKSTARS!, and takes ballet classes.
Why did you choose to be a librarian?
My answer starts like most other librarians—I always loved books! But the career calling goes beyond that. Soon after earning my undergrad degree, I landed a library assistant position at my alma mater, which gave me perspective on a variety of roles that exist within the librarian profession, and gave me a passion for information literacy. I’m very invested in empowering people with the skills to find, synthesize, and use information ethically and thoughtfully. After earning my MLIS while continuing my library assistant work, I transitioned to youth services librarianship in public libraries, which allows me to bring my enthusiasm for information literacy to a whole new audience. It’s increasingly important for today’s young people to be able to navigate information effectively, and I love being in a position to help them build those skills.
Librarians are the ultimate evangelists for reading. How do you encourage students and children to read?
When left to my own devices, I gravitate towards children’s and teen books, so I read what my patrons read with genuine enthusiasm. I love getting into discussions with young readers about what they’ve read lately, and what kind of TV shows and movies they’re into so I can tailor my book recommendations to their tastes. Sometimes the tables are turned, and they have a book they recommend to me—and when that happens, I take their suggestions seriously and let them know when I end up loving their recommendation.
It’s easy to connect with fellow bookworms, and it’s also important to empathize with self-proclaimed non-readers. It must be incredibly difficult to be told your entire life that reading is so great and you should love it so much—when you still think it’s boring and awful. I think non-readers get a lot of flack, especially from adults, so I try to let these kids know that I understand, and I’ll work with them to find them a book they won’t absolutely hate. They may discover a book they love at some point, and I’m honored if I can play a role in that—but even if they never fully latch onto reading, I want them to know they’re still okay and I’m here to make the reading experience less painful for them.
What kinds of regular reading events or story-time sessions do you host?
As a librarian serving ages birth through 18, I get the best of both worlds, conducting programs for children and teens. I administrate the library’s teen literature blog (http://mvlteenvoice.com) and lead an enthusiastic group of 55 middle and high school students in writing book reviews, book event recaps, author interviews, and themed book lists. This program provides a volunteer service opportunity for local teens that helps them sharpen their reading and writing skills while cultivating a positive digital footprint.
I also do a weekly preschool storytime, which is so much fun. At my library, we call our storytimes “early literacy classes” to emphasize that they’re more than entertainment, but also are skill-building opportunities for children, as well a venue for their parents and caregivers to learn ways to help their kids become readers.
What is your favorite read-aloud for a preschool story-time? Why?
I love Millions of Cats by Wanda Gag. It’s a great audience-participation piece, and I find that contemporary kids still respond to this classic! The illustrations with all those cats are fascinating in a surreal sort of way—and the rhythm of the text is unforgettable. The repeated refrain (“Hundreds of cats, thousands of cats, millions and billions and trillions of cats!”) really gets the crowd involved as everyone chants it together.
I also like sharing this book in story-time because it’s a great opportunity to introduce ALA’s Youth Media Awards. This book won the 1928 Newbery Medal, but I think it would have been a candidate for the Caldecott Award, which wasn’t established until ten years later, so this book is a good way to talk about both awards.
If you could be any fictional character from children’s literature, who would it be? Why?
Betsy Ray, from the Betsy-Tacy series by Maud Hart Lovelace. She has the best friend ever in Tacy, her style is impeccable (Merry Widow hats!), she gets to eat endless amounts of fudge while maintaining her willowy figure, she takes a glamorous whirlwind tour of Europe before World War I, and she marries the cute guy in the end.