By USBBY Member Quentin Russell
Hello! I have three simple tips for you today for supporting Outstanding International Books (OIBs) in your school.
As I was thinking about how to get momentum for supporting OIBs, it occurred to me that a randomized survey to the teachers and administrators in your school—“What piece of household furniture do you feel most like?”—would overwhelmingly return the response, “I feel like the coffee table: overutilized, and underappreciated.” We are overloaded! There is a very real chance that putting OIBs into the limelight will kick out other important priorities your school has chosen.
In “The Human Face of Reform,” Dr. Rob Evans argues that resistance to change is inevitable (and even good!), so the fundamental task of managing change is not technical, but motivational. This means that if Evans gave us advice for building support for OIBs, he would not unveil a newfangled 12-step district curriculum plan but advise us to simply get excited! As a teacher, I know that my energy is infectious; my students are more engaged if I care about the lesson that day, and if I signal that I do not, they pick it up immediately. So my first tip for promoting these books is to fall in love with OIBs. Consider this a blank check that permits you to read as many international books as you want; when we begin to relate these books to our lives, talk about them in every day conversations, and really make friends with these books, then everyone around us will start to think, “I wonder if there is an international book that I would like—or that my students would like!”
My second tip is to connect Outstanding International Books to the shared sense of purpose and vision that your school already has. Kent Peterson, in Shaping School Culture, describes a shared sense of purpose as “the bedrock of school culture.” It is already difficult enough to get everyone rowing in the same direction—adding yet another obligatory goal to the list will not necessarily help our schools. We can expand the diversity of our reading, even without adding extra strain to our priorities, by reading international books ourselves and falling in love with them; as we work out the vision and direction our school has, we will naturally see ways that international books can fit into those pre-existing goals—it will be spontaneous and energetic, but sustainable.
My final tip is to start small. Gretchen Rubin, in a wonderful book on habits, titled Better Than Before, notes that when most people (or organizations) pick new goals or habits, they want to start BIG with the ultimate end in mind, rather than to pick a goal that sounds smaller, but that is more concrete and sustainable in everyday life. It is more tempting to pick the goal, “Get as fit as I was in college!” than the measly goal of, “Eat one less donut per day.” So maybe you can only fit one or two international books into the curriculum at first—maybe none at all! It’s okay to start small and begin to fill your classroom library with Outstanding International Books, or to have an international book showcase with your librarian. Rubin points out that these small changes build momentum in the direction of our BIG goals, while staying easy to implement and manage.
Collectively, my advice amounts to this:
1) Get excited about OIBs! Fall in love with international books.
2) Match OIBs to the shared sense of purpose and vision that your school already has.
3) Don’t be afraid to start small and improve your school one Outstanding International Book at a time.
The United States Board on Books for Young People
The U.S. National Section of International Board on Books for Young People
Building Bridges Through Children's and Young Adult Books
Center for Teaching through Children´s Books
National Louis University
1000 Capitol Drive
Wheeling, IL 60090
V. Ellis Vance, Executive Director Executive.Director@usbby.org
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