Monday, July 2, 2018

The power of stories: ALA Annual 2018

I just returned from my annual "Librarians Gone Wild" weekend, otherwise known as the American Library Association Annual Conference. I'm filled with gratitude for my fellow librarians who help me think more carefully about my craft, and for the authors and publishers share their stories with us.

Time and again, I was reminded of the power of stories and the responsibility we have in finding stories that will lift up young people. From former first lady Michelle Obama to best-selling debut author Angie Thomas, I was reminded of the important role stories play in our lives.
Michelle Obama speaking at
the American Library Association, June 2018
Michelle Obama opened our conference in conversation with Carla Hayden, the Librarian of Congress. I was inspired by the way she described the very ordinariness of her extraordinary story: "I grew up with music, art and love -- that's about it. There's no miracle in my story." Even more so, she talked about how important it is to learn about each other's stories and how we're all trying to figure it out. This video captures a key moment of her talk.

As a child, I often felt unsure--unable to connect to my peers, alone yet surrounded by people. Books filled my imagination, helped me see myself and feel connected to the world.

As a teacher, I have seen this same power of stories again and again. Stories can fill children's hearts and emotions, giving them courage when they feel most alone. Stories can spread laughter when everything around us seems heavy. They can help us see ourselves in other people's stories. They can make us feel less alone.

Erin Entrada Kelly, winner of the 2018 Newbery Medal, spoke directly to this. "My greatest wish as a writer is that the person reading my book -- or any book, for that matter -- feels less alone." She, too, often felt alone as a child, and it was through books that she discovered friends and companions.
Yet children must see these stories as a piece of themselves. They must see themselves in stories, for when we don't recognize ourselves, what can anchor us--as Nina LaCour (author of We Are Okay) said in her Printz Award acceptance speech.

Every day we are bombarded with terrible news, from school shootings to police brutality to inhumane immigration policies. Angie Thomas (author of The Hate U Give) said, "I often wonder what's the point of creating fiction when our society has failed young people so much." Yet I see every day young people determined to make it, to love and laugh and walk in this world. We need to give our children the message that the things they do, the people they are, all that they care about has value.

In his preface to Out of Wonder, Kwame Alexander quotes poet and author Lucille Clifton: “Poems come out of wonder, not out of knowing.” I think the same can be said of our children. They grow when they are given the love, support and encouragement to wonder. We must listen to them, see them, love them.

I wanted to capture the inspiration and wisdom that so many authors shared this weekend. Enjoy this slideshow:


©2018 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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