Your Library’s Superpowers
These days, libraries have events and services that stretch beyond books. Here are some of my favorite library add-ons. Interlibrary loan:You don't have to resort to online shopping when the library doesn't have a book you want; check ILL first. Sometimes this means connecting with other libraries in the area, while other times books could be coming from other states. Most times you'll need to check with the circulation desk to request a title; other times the library allows you to do this online. Ask the library to purchase a book:Did you know you can ask the library to purchase a book they don't have? If it is right for their collection, they will buy it. Simply ask at the circulation desk about the procedure for requesting a book. At my home library in Burlington, you fill out a piece of paper with the author and title. Often, if they don't wish to purchase the book, they will check ILL. Hoopla:Many libraries are connected with Hoopla, which offers access to ebooks, audiobooks, movies, tv shows, comics, and music. All you need is your library card number and you're in. This is an excellent resource for dyslexic students who wish to access audiobooks without paying for them on Audible.com or Learning Ally. Kanopy:Libraries are also often connected with Kanopy, which allows access to more than 30,000 movie and tv titles. Overdrive:See if your library is connected with Overdrive, which is another great way to access ebooks and audiobooks. These can be accessed through the Overdrive site or downloaded to a Kindle. Most libraries these days will have titles in multiple formats, so if a book isn't in the library in physical form, you can often get it as an audiobook or ebook. Librarians can also help you with research using their databases of magazines, newspapers, and journal articles. Some libraries even offer access to databases like Ancestry.com and Consumer Reports. It's not just the public library that has expanded: if your child's school has a library (sadly, many are closing their doors) they will often have access to Playaways, which are pre-loaded devices containing an audio book. They come with the device and a set of headphones. School libraries also often have interlibrary loan programs. Finally, check the events page at your library. There are often fun programs for kids, like animal interactions, crafts, music, yoga, math and science clubs, gaming clubs, or even Drag Queen Story Hours!
Recommended Novels that Tackle Mental Health
Students with learning differences often struggle with mental health challenges like anxiety and depression. Reading novels that feature characters going through similar struggles can help students understand their own challenges. I came across two fantastic lists of novels on the Brightly web site that I wanted to share with you. Middle grade novels that address mental healthYA novels that address mental health Two books I've personally read and can recommend are Challenger Deep and Turtles All the Way Down (both are YA novels). These books are well-written, thoughtful, and insightful, and I especially appreciated John Green's depiction of anxiety in Turtles. Additionally, I always recommend Fish in a Tree by Linda Mullaly Hunt to students with dyslexia. It's an excellent portrait of the struggles students with dyslexia face and it has a hopeful and positive story arc. Photo by Kimberly Farmer on Unsplash
Motivating Wigglers to Read
I long ago gave up on the idea that students should be sitting absolutely still when working or reading. Some students do better when they swing their legs, rock gently, fidget with Thinking Putty, or take movement breaks. Melissa Taylor, a Colorado teacher, pulled together a great list of ideas for how to keep wiggly students reading. You can see it here. Some of my favorite suggestions include having students sit on an exercise ball or indoor swing, allowing them to pace while they read (in an obstacle-free space, of course), or using a fidget device like a fidget cube or spinner. Another excellent idea in her list: creating a reading nook. This could be a pillow fort, a space under the stairs, a corner in a hallway, or an indoor tent. All your child needs is a light, a book, and perhaps a pillow and a blanket. They could even read to a stuffed animal (or real animal) audience! Photo by on Josh Applegate on Unsplash
Excellent Assistive Technology and Apps
It can be hard to determine which assistive technology software and applications are truly helpful and well-made, and the list of choices are overwhelming. I found two excellent lists of assistive technology and helpful apps your student can use to make various school tasks easier and more manageable. The first is this list of assistive technology from ADDitude Magazine. The recommendations are broken down by subject (math, reading) so you can easily find what you're looking for. The second is a list of beneficial Chrome extensions from Edutopia. I highly recommend taking some time during the holiday break to comb through these lists to see what might be good supports for them (or you!). Among my favorites of the recommendations on these list are the following: Learning Ally which helps struggling readers access audiobooks The Livescribe Smartpen, a great tool for students with ADHD and executive functioning struggles Grammarly, which catches spelling and grammar mistakes Noisili, which provides white noise backgrounds that are perfect for studying and concentration.
Praising Teens for Effort May Backfire
In searching for information on growth mindset, I came across an interesting article in Education Week that posits praising teens for effort can actually backfire. It is a natural tendency for parents and teachers to praise effort, so how can we shift that when we're talking with teens? First, let's define growth mindset: it's the idea that hard work, dedication, and perseverance are important elements when learning something new. Rather than focusing on natural talent or "brains," growth mindset encourages students to recognize how continued effort toward a goal, along with resilience in the face of setbacks, is the most important part of learning. Researchers discovered that adolescents, who, as a rule, question what adults tell them, have a tendency to dismiss feedback when adults praise them for working hard. This leads them to not believe that their hard work can enhance their skills. Like much of teenage behavior, this often exasperates adults. So what can we do? The article quotes mindset researcher Mary Murphy, who has the following suggestions: 1. Focus on giving students chances to reflect on what they're learning. Ask them to track their growth as they learn a concept or skill so they can watch their progress unfold. 2. Talk with them about how mistakes are natural and necessary as part of learning. Explain that mistakes are what help them recognize what they still need to learn or work on. Tell them about your own mistakes, especially recent ones, that you've learned from. Best of luck to you as you navigate those tricky teen years with your child!