Teenage Brains….Delicious Brainsssss

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So (sadly?) this post is not about teen zombies. It is however about teen brains. Weird topic right? But two weeks ago I talked about being amazed by learning about baby brains and you know what? Teenage brains and how they function are pretty interesting. It also explains a lot about when I was younger.

Let’s go to the book: Sex, Brains, and Video Games by Jennifer Burek Pierce. I loved learning about Deborah Yurgelun-Todd, Harvard researcher, who looked at “teen and adult abilities to interpret facial expressions” (35). What she learned is that teens frequently couldn’t interpret nonverbal cues between fear, anger, and other emotions. In fact, the younger the teen the more they got it wrong. In contrast, adults could correct read people’s faces. The conclusion was that adults use their prefrontal cortexes to figure out expressions but teens’ weren’t involved as much. Teens therefore were using another part of their brain to figure out what they were seeing.

The author suggests that since surveys keep bringing up that teens see librarians as being mean and we’re told to be friendlier, it’s possible that teens are misreading our faces and thinking that our “concentration” face is really our “I’m pissed” face. Isn’t that interesting?

I think back to an experience I had at the YS desk. We always get middle school boys on the computer that sometimes get too loud or use inappropriate language for the kids floor. One evening, after being told once or twice to keep it down, everyone was great for the rest of the evening. I thought since we were always “yelling” at them to keep it down that I should tell them that they were really great. When I walked over and told them it was wonderful how great they were this evening and we really appreciated it, a regular tween looked at me with suspicious and doubt in his eyes and said “Are you being sarcastic?”

I thought this was so funny. I was being sincere and heartfelt and he didn’t get it. And you know what? Now I have a better idea of how he might have been reading me.

Does knowing about teen brains help our interactions with teen patrons? I think it will a bit. Understanding how they develop can help us in understanding what they are going through. It gave me insight into the exchange I related about. It makes me pay attention to my facial cues. What else is going to help our interactions? Remembering what we were like as teens.

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Library Advertising? Yes Please!

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Normally when I visit a new town I love getting to see what’s happening in the local libraries. I like to walk around, pick up programming handouts, scope out how they do displays–basically get an idea of how everything looks. It also makes for fun job ideas-would I like to work at this library?

 
Sadly, I didn’t get a chance to look at any libraries in Las Vegas or it’s surrounding suburbs while I was there. I did however spot this awesome signage on my way through the airport on my way heading home.

I’m serious–the library really is amazing! Awesome library advertising at the Las Vegas airport.

Helping Babies Learn

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Confession: I do not have kids. I’ve never taken child development classes or anything like that. I’ve babysat, worked in the kids department of my library for 4 years, watched a best friend’s child go from infant to toddler, but yet I’ve never really sat and thought about the miraculous thing that is a kid’s mind.

This week in class we’re looking at early literacy and Every Child Ready to Read. Sometimes, let’s be real, class articles can be a bit dry. These book chapters were fascinating. Here’s some amazing information from Early Literacy Storytimes @ Your Library by Saroj Nadkarni Ghoting and Pamela Martin-Diaz:

–Babies are born with a lot of brain cells (100 billion) but they’re not connected. What makes electrical impulses between the cells? Sensory experiences: sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing. (Chapter 1 page 6)

–Serotonin helps the electrical impulses and the connections. When does the brain produce higher levels of serotonin? When the baby feels loved and cared for. (Chapter 1 page 6-7)

–“Emotions boost memory by creating a release of chemicals that act as a memory fixative. When emotions are engaged, the brain is activated….High levels of stress have a deleterious effect. (Chapter 1 page 7-8)”

Honestly, it’s a little hard for me to wrap my brain around baby brains. It’s incredible to think that these tiny little things when they’re born are wired to start receiving everything we give them, and everything that we do–tell stories, talk to them, read to them, love them, hug them, care for them–will lead up to and prepare them for being ready to read.

Isn’t it simple and obvious when you think about it? That a child who is read to in a positive and fun environment will associate reading as being pleasurable instead of being a skill. That talking to your baby about what you’re doing, pointing out vocabulary, showing them words on a page, rereading the same book 57 times in a row because they say “Again!” is building skills that will lay a great foundation for getting them ready to read and creating repetition that builds memory and learning. And these are things that you can do from the moment they’re born!

As they get older you can start helping early literacy development by embracing the six early literacy skills (Chapter 1 pgs 12-14 ):

  • Print motivation-having an interest in and an enjoyment of books
  • Phonological awareness-the ability to hear and play with the smaller sounds in words
  • Vocabulary- knowing the names of things
  • Narrative skills-ability to describe things and events and to tell stories
  • Print awareness-noticing print in the environment, how to handle a book, how to follow words on a page
  • Letter knowledge-knowing that letters are different from each other, the same letter can look different, each letter has a name and is related to specific sounds

Be ready and able to point them out during storytime or just having a conversation with a parent (or even your friends with children!). It can make a huge difference towards a child having a strong foundation towards starting to read.

Youth Services: Do You Have it in You?

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Recently I read Elizabeth Bird’s cover story in School Library Journal entitled ‘Role Call’. The subtitle sums it up pretty well: “Want to work with kids in a public library? Here’s the scoop.” In the article she gives gives a breakdown of your options (public vs. school), LIS classes she found useful, salaries and job prospects, and the importance of networking. She touches on the kind of personality it takes to be a public librarian.

I would have loved to have seen this article before I started school several years ago. While I started this program set on being a Youth Services librarian, it’s always great hearing another person’s perspective on what you need to know and it’s a nice overview. I’ve been working as an assistant in the YS department for four years now and I’d like to elaborate more on the skills (personality and inner strength-wise) you’ll need to have in you.

Patience

Of course, this seems obvious. Patience is something we all need. Betsy used a great phrase in her article “Have a short fuse?” If you do, than YS might not be for you. You might have a child come up to you 17 times in one night asking for Barbie DVDs and though you’ve showed her exactly where they are 16 times earlier on that 17 time you need to still have a smile and be enthusiastic.

Quiet vs. Kid Quiet

The kids department will never be “library quiet.” There are always babies laughing or crying, toddlers who don’t know how to talk quietly, middle school age kids who can’t be quiet, and a wide range in between. It’s a mix of voices and excitement but it will never be like the adult floor. So don’t expect pure silence. Also, be prepared for the few adults who will complain about the volume of your floor.

Know the Classics

Not the classics like Alice in Wonderland. Every library will have the top series that every kid seems to be reading. This was one of the biggest pieces of advice I got when I started in the department. Once I knew where Geronimo Stilton, Magic Tree House, Judy Moody, and Amelia Bedelia books were things started going smoothly.

Forget Summer

Summer is classic for vacations and relaxing, but not for Youth Services staff! This is when our customers are here. Again it seems obvious, but don’t expect to get much done through June and July. You’ll be running from one program to another if you’re not constently at the YS desk. You might forget what your desk looks like buried underneath your projects. Summer will fly by like that and the best part: it’s a lot of fun.

Plan for Summer in January

Seems early but it will save you a lot of stress come May. And since I’m a person who’s not the best at planning ahead, trust me on this one.

Be Friendly and Have a Big Smile

This goes with tip 1, but you should be super friendly and smiley when you’re on the floor. Say hello and have a nice day to everyone. Having a bad day? Fake it till you feel better. Kids do not care. But they will remember if you were grumpy. Besides, even if you’re having a bad day I bet you won’t be when you way goodbye to a toddler and they respond by blowing you a kiss. See? Things are looking up already.

Do you have anything you feel are key skills or things new or soon-to-be YS librarians should know? Please respond! And make sure you check out Betsy’s article “Role Call” by clicking here.