Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Kwame Alexander at GEMS Modern Academy

Monday 24th of April was a special day for The Resource Centre. Newbery Award-winning author Kwame Alexander visited our library and had a book discussion with the students.

“Kwame Alexander is a poet, educator and New York Times bestselling author of 24 books. He received the Newbery Medal for his novel The Crossover. Newbery Medal, is the American Library Association’s top award given to the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children. Kwame Alexander regularly travels the world as a literacy advocate and expert.”

His book Crossover has many features that distinguish it from other novels. The novel is basically in the form of poetry. In other words, it can be called as a novel in verse. Words change from line to line and sometimes drops diagonally across a page as if the narrator moves down a basketball court. 12-year-old Josh Bell offers his story in a painful, sad and funny way. The story is quite compelling. Although the story tells a lot about basketball, it rummages through deeper issues like tension revolving around Josh and his twin brother. In Alexandre’s own words he tried to bring into attention in Crossover, the joy and sense of humor that was ubiquitous in his family.

It is not a small achievement to listen to a Newbery Award winner who is as persuasive and alluring as Mr. Alexander. He captured the attention of a large group of students from different grades with ease. He kept on switching from personal anecdotes, reading out his poems and asking questions to the students that made up the audience. Among the questions were who among the audience is a great basketball player and who is the best rapper among the audience.He recited some of his poems for the audience.

The students in the library were literally celebrating the moments with Mr. Alexander and passionately asked him questions like what inspired him to be a writer, what was his latest work, how many books he has written, why did he choose basketball as a theme in his novel and what made him switch on from basketball to soccer to endangered species and finally to a novel. Mr. Alexander was taken by surprise at the variety of questions coming from the students.

His another work ‘Booked’ deals with serious issues among middle schoolers like bullying, racism, and education. It is relatable equally to students, parents, and educators. It has a lot of message about family, friendship, and learning. One of the beautiful chapters that caught my attention while having a quick glance through his work ‘Booked’ is given below.

Basketball Rule #1

In this game of life
Your family is the court
And the ball is your heart.
No matter how good you are,
no matter how down you get,
always leave
your heart
on the court.

It was a wonderful experience to listen to such an appealing writer as Mr. Alexander. The students who attended the session were indeed lucky to have interacted with such a great author. His presence in the library was electric and heartfelt at the same time and he kept the students on their toes till the end. Applause to Ms. Madhur who arranged such a wonderful event in the library which I feel will remain in memory forever for all who attended the session.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Oceans on Earth Day

In the end, we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught” – Baba Diom, Senegalese Environmentalist

The first Earth Day was celebrated on 22nd April 1970. Causa Proxima for that was the devastation caused by 1969   Santa Barbara oil spill that killed millions of fish and thousands of sea mammals and birds. 47 years later, millions of people from hundreds of countries around the world are celebrating Earth Day today.

We are concerned about global warming, pollution in our neighborhood, vanishing rainforests and damages done to the terrain.  We should.   However, there is also another part of planet earth that needs our immediate attention- our oceans.

(An islet in French Polynesia)

Why are our oceans so important?

Oceans cover  71 percent of earth’s surface and is home to millions of marine organisms.  From single-celled bubble algae to blue whale, the largest animal on earth, millions of species call oceans their homes.  But we live on the land, how are our lives dependent on Oceans?

Let us start with oxygen.   The first image that comes to your mind would be that of a tree. Trees provide us oxygen to breathe.  However, they are not the major source of it. Rain forests provide us 28% of oxygen in the air. Trees and plants of other areas add another 2% to it. The rest of it is produced by sea plants- consisting of tiny algal planktons that help produce 70% of the oxygen we consume. In simple words’ if we ruin the marine flora, we all will choke to death.

Next vital element of life is water. You got it already! Water in the land is maintained by the water cycle. The water of the ocean evaporates and forms clouds and rains on the land.
The third essential is food. Seafood is an important source, but the story doesn’t end there. All our food sources, plants and animals need water to grow and absorb nutrients and without the water cycle, we just won't have any form of food to eat.

In a nutshell,   apart from sunlight, every single essential for life on earth is dependent on oceans.  Ruin them and ruin the life on this planet.

Christmas tree worm

 How safe are our oceans?

Sadly, not very. The increase in  atmospheric carbon dioxide is a major threat,  causing an alarming increase in ocean acidity, which is a threat to all life forms including planktons, the lungs of our planet. Many sea creatures such as the beautiful coral to sea bottom-dwelling clams are under serious threat.  Pollution, plastic pollution, in particular,  is another serious threat.   The increase of oil, mercury and pesticide pollution is yet another. Destruction of mangroves and over fishing adds to it. It is time we seriously do something.

Plastic and other marine debris in Hawaii Beach

 What can we, as individuals do?

A lot. Let us identify the important ones.
  •  Reduce your carbon footprint to slow down ocean acidification. Save energy in every way you can. Habits as simple as switching off lights when you exit a room helps. So do buy locally produced vegetables. A google search should get you dozens like these.  
  • Never buy products with microbeads. These get into the sea and cause serious hazards to sea life. Called the plastic soup, micro beads are the worst form of marine plastic pollution. Next time you buy a cosmetic product , check and avoid the ones that contain micro beads.
  • Use less plastic and turn to  recyclable  materials.
  •  Do not litter on beaches.
  • Do not buy fish that are below minimum legal size. Catching juvenile fish prevents them from breeding, causing a fall in their population.
  • Do not buy ornaments made of endangered or threatened marine wildlife. This includes corals and turtle shells.
  • Spread the awareness and be aware of ocean pollution and its devastating effects.

“The earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth. All things are connected like the blood that unites one family. Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself. The earth is sacred and men and animals are but one part of it. Treat the earth with respect so that it lasts for centuries to come and is a place of wonder and beauty for our children.”
Chief Seattle

All pictures in this blog post are from Wikimedia reproduced under creative common license.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Budding Talents

“There is not a particle of life which does not bear poetry within it” 
Gustave Flaubert     

This school year had been spontaneous so far. Past weeks had been hectic for us librarians as we had to welcome new students to the library. With these students coming to the library, we had to deal with more requests for library services and facilities. They require assistance and instructions on selecting a book, locating it on the shelf, using the library software and maintaining discipline in order to keep the decorum of the library. Most of these days we were busy orienting the Grade 4 students on all these matters.

As part of the information literacy program, I was introducing the different genres and sub-genres of literature to Grade 4 E students. With every genre and sub-genre described, they were asked to give an example of each and they came out with excellent examples. They talked about their favourite fiction and non-fiction books vehemently.

When it came to poetry I was curious to know how many of them were really interested in poetry. Kids usually love small poems, onomatopoeia, limericks and haiku. I believe some of these might even inspire children to create their own poetry. I asked the class if anyone has written a poem. To my surprise, two girls raised their hands and told they had. I asked them if they can recite it for the whole class. Saiyette Aima and Yvonne Marie Abraham came up with these beautiful poems upon my request.

Saiyette Aima

Yvonne Marie Abraham.

Until I heard this I never knew how much thrill a child-made poem could bring. I have no doubt that anyone who hears these kids will agree that they beautifully depicted their emotions. The candor and unique phrasing in the poetry are admirable. Children have the most vivid imagination and hence the best poets. 

One of the sheer joys of being a librarian are moments like these. Spending days with students, books and technology is quite enterprising. 

Friday, April 7, 2017

Authors talking about Literacy

Listed below are short videos of authors talking about literacy. This has been released by The Library of Congress. Please watch the videos. It explains views of different authors on the importance of reading and how it benefits one to shape his/her life.

Lois Lowry

Lois Lowry is known for her book The Giver which was inspired by her own life. She visits her father in a nursing home. He has lost all his past memories. Seeing him she feels that once memories are erased there will not be pain anymore. The book The Giver is based on this where she depicts a society where the past is erased from the inhabitants and they all live in a peaceful co-existence.The flaws inherent in such a society is brought into details later in the story. A society cannot exist without a connection with the past and lasting human relationships.This book has recently been made into a movie. The ambiguity of its ending is another interesting factor of the story. The reader is left to decide the ending of the story according to his/her imagination. This book is a great read for anyone who loves to read about a dystopian world like George Orwell's 1984.

Margo Jefferson

Raina Telgemeier

Riana Telgemeir is the author of the graphic novels Smile, Drama, and Sisters. There is no need to introduce this author to children as she is famous for these three books. Except for Drama, Smile and Sisters are true stories which she has taken from her own life.

Posted by Sreevidya Devanand

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Kindness In Small Packages

It is the beginning of the new academic year and we had cartons of newly arrived books in the library that needed to be sorted out, labeled and arranged on the shelves for the students and staff. I was sitting in a corner of the library doing this work when Ms. Madhur approached me with three girls. She told me they were there to help me with the work. I thought they might help me with two or three cartons of books.  Still, that would be a great help when we were running short of time.The children sat with me and I gave them careful instructions on how to do the work and what each one of them should do so that the work gets finished fast.

The kids were very enthusiastic, full of vigor and positivity. I started feeling positive too in their gracious presence. They were amazed to see the wonderful collection of books. We slowly started a healthy conversation about books, the things we like to do the most, how we spend our free time and so many other small things which usually doesn’t come to our mind but having a great impact on how we reflect ourselves as persons and in a group. I personally don't believe in the stereotyped question: what do you want to be when you grow up..Children get confused and their tastes and interests change as they grow up. So I asked about their ambitions. One of the girls Harsha who is very humble told me she wants to become a teacher.She always helps her mother and she likes to read Roald Dahl. Itrat, who is very energetic has not yet decided whether she should be an artist or a doctor. She is too much into reading that she finished a Geronimo Stilton while helping me. Her brother who was with us for some time is dreaming about his life as a scientist and is quite interested in farming. Kwaish, the third child surprised me by telling that she wants to become the prime minister of India. I was so enthralled to hear all this. Such wonderful dreams these kids have. Children are much more than what we think they are. I could see the spark in their eyes when they spoke about their dreams and ambitions. They do have a clear picture of what is happening in the world. I learned so much from them the two days I spent with them. They taught me how to stay calm in times of stress.

Each time I asked them to take a break, they humbly declined to say that they love doing this work more than taking a break doing nothing. In a world where everyone is busy with their own agenda, their own problems, these kids stand out. In a self-centered materialistic world, teaching our children to step beyond all that is a herculean task. The parents of these children deserve great appreciation in that respect.

I could hardly believe my eyes when we finished the entire tasks, the next day, at four in the evening. There were 29 cartons of books out of which we finished 25 in two days. Without out this three children, I couldn’t have made it possible at all. When I thanked them, they smiled and said: “there is no need to thank because these books are for us to read and we really enjoyed the work.” I left the school feeling very positive and radiant.

Acts of kindness come in small sizes and packages. It was a non-premeditated, and selfless act. To me, it was rather a Zen-like experience.  Achievement for a parent is how their kid treats others and how they see and feel about themselves.

“Do your little bit of good where you are; it's those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” 

Desmond Tutu.

Posted by Sreevidya Devanand

Peter Lerangis at GMA

“What really knocks me out is a book that, when you're all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific frie...