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June 6, 2015

Travel Tips From Dawn

Mexico, 1987

This summer marks the 30th year my husband, Sam, and I have been traveling this world and this life together. Here are some (poor quality!) memory photos of some of our early travels:

Scuba Diving in Cozumel, 1987



US Virgin Islands, 1990
St. Croix, 1990

River Dancing in Costa Rica, 1993

Chil-axing in Manuel Antonio, 1993






Spain, 2014
These days, we travel as a family of four.

We've learned a lot throughout our journeys together. After last year's trip to Spain, I reflected on how my travel experiences were relevant to my creative writing life.

As I prepare for this year's summer travel season, I thought it might be helpful to share the full list of "debriefing notes" Sam and I made after last year's trip.

I hope some of our learnings might make it easier for you to plan your own adventures:

-If a flight has been delayed, don't assume it will stay delayed.

-For a family of four, it is nice to secure two aisle seats. We either book one solo aisle seat and the bank of three seats directly across the aisle in the same row, or we book two sets of two seats, separated by an aisle in the same row. This allows us to separate the kids if need be, and still be able to each have an aisle seat and talk to each other.

-In terms of pacing the trip, stay in the "arrival town" a minimum of 3 nights so you can sight see AND relax (i.e. on second or third day schedule a low key beach day with few/no sight seeing "goals"), OR plan to stay in the arrival town for a shorter period of time, stumble around/sight see in a jet lagged stuper for one or two action packed days, then move on to the next place (that is intentionally more relaxing) and make a point to stay put there a bit longer. (Essentially, build in some down time days in the earlier portion of trip, either in the first town or second town).

-If it's hard to find lodging (due to festivals/holidays, etc), there will be other factors such as crowds and prices, that will influence our overall enjoyment of the location (i.e. take it as a signal that the town might be too crowded for our liking).

-Speaking of lodging, we are HUGE Airbnb fans. Here is the apartment we stayed in when we visited Barcelona last year, and here are the super cool places we're planning to stay in when we visit Italy!

-Spending a chunk of time in at least two diverse locations makes it feel like more than one trip (i.e. Barcelona and Madrid were vastly different, so it almost felt like we took "two" trips to Spain last year. Many years ago, we visited Greece and had a three night "layover" in Paris on the way home. That definitely gave the illustion that we had two entirely different European vacations in one year). 

-In most cases, two nights in any one place does not seem like quite enough time. Transition days are harder days. Better to stay put and get to know a place a little bit better than to push it to travel to some place you just "have to see" that may or may not be all it's cracked up to be. Enjoy where you are. Better to see fewer places and really connect with them vs. spending lots of days in transition. 

-Neighborhood restaurants are WAY better than over-priced touristy restaurants. If there is someone at the doorway greeting you with a menu, it's a touristy restaurant. Go back a few streets and listen for the loud laughter coming out of little restaurants. Those are the local spots. 

-Pack trail mix, dry cereal, baggies, plastic silverware, paper plates, paper towels, toilet paper and hand wipes. A light weight beach towel is much better than a heavy one.  A little bit of clothes line and clothes pins (and some liquid dish soap to wash clothes in) is worthwhile to bring. Cork screws and plastic glasses that travel with us for happy hours in the moment are a must. A small knife for cheese is nice to have (but don't lose it in carry on!). Nothing beats a nice beverage, fresh fruit, bread and cheese, and a good view. 

-Breakfast: In our room or on our rooftop: fresh fruit, bread/jam, cheese, yogurt, ham. Lunch: picnics while out and about during the day. Dinner: out.

-We value having a kitchen, but really the main part of the kitchen we use/value is the fridge (and freezer--because we bring gel packs to keep our picnic lunches cold).

-Printing out an area map (or a screen shot of a map) is helpful in orienting to new places (but each place will "make sense" after about two hours there).

-On reflection, the places/towns we seem to like the most have a river (or some other water feature). We also like old cities with old walls. 

-We also find ourselves drawn to small towns/villages (but remember to check the population of the "small town" and compare it to the population of other towns we've liked. What the tour books describe as "small" is quite variable . . . the population is a solid point of reference to help make comparisons/decisions).

-Be willing to "cut your darlings" (towns/sights to see) if they are too far out of the way from the other main stops for your trip.

-When choosing lodging within a particular town, convert the location to "minutes on foot" in relation to where we ideally want to be near before deciding if the lodging is too far/or close enough to our "ideal location." (Make that a key question when inquiring with hosts).

-It was really helpful to bring our GPS (loaded with map of country we are visiting . . . which we had to order/load ahead of time). This was more of a driving issue, and wouldn't be as relevant if you are not driving. 

-Bring Ebooks and a couple of real books. It's nice to have both options. Plan ahead and load library versions of travel books onto EReaders (though one hard-copy travel books is helpful to bring on trip for ease of navigating. 

-Take photos of key pages in guide books for day trips vs. lugging full guide book around all day. Take photos of maps (this also works for big signs at entrance of towns or major sights). 

-It is worth the additional effort to find lodging with internet access (internet cafes were not as easy to find/use as we hoped).

-Make use of the tourist office (maps, free internet, questions answered), but beware of our tendency to arrive into new towns during siesta when the tourist office (and town!) is closed. 

-Just because it fits you don't need to add it to the baggage. Heavy bags get very tiresome after the second cobbled road and third flight of stairs. Take only one carry-on sized bag and one small back pack per person (because it makes you pack light). You can still choose to "check" one of the carry-on sized bags to transport the liquid items that are harder to take through security.  Day packs are essential throughout the trip (pack them empty or use as "personal bag" for carry on).

-Little games like backgammon, dice and cards are nice to have on hand. Also, a small paddle ball set is fun to have for the beach. Sarongs make a nice, lightweight picnic blanket. 

I hope reading these travel notes gets you excited for new adventures to come! I encourage you to share your own travel tips below.

Happy Travels!

May 26, 2015

Out of the Mouths of Babes

First Grader Advocating for Strong School Libraries
As an author, one of the most rewarding experiences is being invited into schools and community spaces to help young writers find their voices.

As a sign language instructor, one of my greatest pleasures is helping parents and caregivers teach their babies how to communicate using signs before they can talk. In essence, I'm helping babies find their voices.

This past year, I've invested a significant amount of time and energy advocating for school libraries. One of the most satisfying aspects of this experience has been seeing students find and use their voice to advocate for themselves.

Over the past few weeks, students have attended a variety of public meetings to advocate for Strong School Libraries staffed with certified teacher librarians. Here is a photo essay that captures the variety of young people who have added their voices to this important issue:

5th Graders Advocating for Strong School Libraries

Public Testimony Delivered by Beaverton School District 2nd
Grader

5th Grade Student advocating for Strong School Libraries
BSD Student advocating for Strong School Libraries


Beaverton School District 5th Grader Still Advocating for Strong School Libraries.


BSD 5th Grader Advocating for Strong School Libraries

High School / Early College Student Advocating for Strong School Libraries
High School Student Advocating for Strong School Libraries


6th Grader Advocating for Strong School Libraries
Beaverton School District Kindergartener Advocating for Strong School Libraries (used with permission)


Soccer Players Advocating for Strong School Libraries
I hope you will consider adding YOUR VOICE to this important issue. You can find lots of inspiration and information about the value of Strong School Libraries here and here, and if YOU'D like to write a blog post about Strong School Libraries, (or, you've already written a post you'd like to share) contact me using the form to the left. 

#SchoolLibrariesMatter!

May 15, 2015

Oregon Library Supporters of the Year

Dawn Prochovnic, Mitzi Sandman, Debbie Plawner
Last month I received some 'atta girls for my advocacy work in support of Strong School Libraries.  I was named a School Library  Ambassador by the American Association of School Librarians, and I was honored as one of the Oregon Library Association's Library Supporters of the Year.

As promised in my last post, here are the words I shared when I accepted the Library Supporter of the Year award from the Oregon Library Association:

On behalf of my colleagues in Beaverton, Oregon, thank you so much for this honor. But more importantly, thank you so much for the valuable work that you do in schools and libraries each and every day. And, special thanks to the many librarians across Oregon and across the country who answered our myriad of questions and supplied us with top-notch resources to support our advocacy work.

I have two children in the Beaverton School District. Three years ago our schools faced a budget crisis so catastrophic and so deep that few programs were spared. We went from being a school district with library programs that were the envy of others, to being a school district with a single district-level librarian serving 39,000 children in 51 schools.   

As a children’s author and early literacy consultant, I have the privilege of visiting schools, libraries and professional development conferences around the region. I get to see and hear the many amazing things teacher librarians do to promote lifelong learning each and every day. Our advocacy effort resulted in funding for up to ten schools to add a teacher librarian next year. But we are not done. I want every child to have the opportunity to build a lasting relationship with a teacher librarian and a lifelong relationship with reading and learning.


I’ve learned so many things during this advocacy process. I would like to share one of those learnings with you today:

Advocacy, like authorship, begins with a story. First you must write a remarkable story. Your library program is your story. Build the best library program you have in you. Revise it regularly. Make your library story the best of its kind. 

But that’s not enough. If you do not share your story with others, no one will know it’s there. I get that this part is hard. Writing the story takes nearly everything you’ve got. It’s all consuming. It’s brain draining. It’s exhausting. I have several stories I’ve written and love, but haven’t had the bandwidth to submit out to agents and editors. Guess what? Those stories haven’t been published yet. It’s as if they don’t exist.

Authors are told again and again that it is not enough to be good writers. We also need to be effective marketers. When you, my librarian friends, do book talks and deliver “just right books” into the hands of just the right readers, you are using your storytelling and marketing skills. I urge you to use those same skills to develop relationships with parents, volunteers, past students, classroom teachers, school board members, administrators, community leaders and lawmakers, even family members and friends. These are your agents and editors. Give them a book talk about your library. Put just the right library story into just the right stakeholders' hands. If they don’t know your stories, it’s as if they don’t exist. Don’t wait for the next budget crisis. Don’t wait until you have more time or more or more energy or more bandwidth. Make storytelling an integral part of your job. Make it a part of each and every day. 

Thank you again for honoring the work of our advocacy team. I look forward to trading stories with you in the months and years to come. 

If you'd like to continue to follow our story, please join the School Library Advocacy Council and "like" our School Libraries Matter: Beaverton Facebook page. #SchoolLibrariesMatter.






April 23, 2015

I Am a Library Evangelist and You Are the Choir

This past year I discovered one of the best ways to procrastinate on my in-progress writing projects: Library Evangelism!
Photo Source: G. Douglas Bundy RHS K-8 

My local school district has not had certified teacher librarians in any of our schools for the past three years. We currently have three district-level librarians serving 39,000 children in 51 schools. Although these three librarians are fabulous, our kids are missing out on the benefits associated with full-time teacher librarians in their schools.

Last spring I started asking questions and realized that no one was talking about the issue. No one was making plans to change the situation. No one was fired up. School libraries without certified teacher librarians was fast becoming "business as usual."

The issue has been complicated by many factors, not the least of which is the dedication of the library media assistants/clerks who currently staff many of our libraries. In many cases they have gone well above and beyond the requirements of their job descriptions to keep our school libraries operating for the past three years. But the situation is not sustainable. Young readers need to be nurtured. Digital citizenship and research skills need to be taught. Rich library collections need to be curated. And classroom teachers need professional development and support. These are just some of the unique contributions that a 21st-Century Teacher Librarian can bring to a school.

Photo Source: Oregonlive.com
Last spring I partnered with a former teacher librarian (the wonderful Andrea Burke) to bring some attention to this issue. We founded the School Library Advocacy Council and hosted some community gatherings. The community gatherings were well attended by public librarians, but poorly attended by parents and other community members. My original hope in hosting the spring meetings was to find "someone" to take on the issue and bring change. I quickly realized that if it is to be, it's up to me.

So I started making noise. Lots of noise. I talked about the importance of school libraries and teacher librarians to anyone who would listen. I blogged about the issue (and tried starting a "school library advocacy blog tour" that never really took off). I wrote emails, spoke at School Board meetings, and pummeled my social media contacts with library advocacy messages. Eventually, (thankfully!) the amazing Mitzi Sandman stepped up to join the advocacy effort, and she soon introduced me to the equally amazing Debbie Plawner. They brought their marketing and communication prowess to the table and together we became an advocacy team.

We reached out to dozens of school and public librarians who helped us better understand the issue. They invited us to their schools. They attended our planning meetings. They showered us with resources and support. They became our librarians, and supported us as only librarians can do. Many of them offered this help and support on their own personal time. Debbie, Mitzi and I dove into the plethora of research studies that have shown that strong school libraries, led by certified teacher librarians are linked to higher academic achievement, and soon we developed an advocacy plan.

We piggy-backed off of the national #SchoolLibrariesMatter campaign and created our own #SchoolLibrariesMatter: Beaverton social media campaign. We met with principals and classroom teachers. We wrote to lawmakers and regulators. We spoke at PTO meetings, School Board meetings and School District Budget Committee meetings and encouraged other parents, community members, and students to do the same.

Photo Source: School Libraries Matter: Beaverton
During this process, we were invited to collaborate with our School District Superintendent and his appointees to create a compelling vision for a re-imagined 21st Century School Library.

We recently learned that our school district has plans to staff up to ten of our school libraries with certified teachers in the coming school year. Ten is less than 51, so it is not enough. But it is progress. We have let our school district officials know that we will not stop advocating until every student in every one of our schools has the opportunity to develop a lasting relationship with a library teacher and a lifelong relationship with reading and learning.

Debbie, Mitzi and I were recently honored as "Library Supporters of the Year" by the Oregon Library Association. We are grateful for the recognition, but remain focused on the goal of every student in our school district having a teacher librarian in their school.

In my next post, I will share the acceptance speech I delivered when the Library Supporter of the Year award was presented at the Oregon Library Association's Awards Luncheon. In future posts, I will share some powerful examples of students advocating for strong school libraries.

Here is a photo glimpse of one such student:

March 4, 2015

Sign Language Story Time Video Play List and Sign Language for Your Día Program!

A frequent question I get from teachers and librarians is, "How do you physically hold a book and sign along with it?"

I've modeled how to do this in several different videos over the years, and I recently organized these videos in a Sign Language Story Time Playlist. You can access that playlist here:



If Sign Language Story Time is something you'd like to do more of, you might also be interested in my Start to Finish Story Time series of posts where I provide lesson plans to make it easier for you to do your own Sign Language Story Time.

And, for those of you interested in incorporating Sign Language into your upcoming Día or other intercultural /literacy-focused programming, here is a link to some great free resources to help you plan your own sign language-themed event at your own school or library.

Speaking of which, I'd love to compile a list of libraries that are featuring American Sign Language and/or Deaf Culture in their Día Events. (If you're not familiar with Día, according to the American Library Association, "Día is a nationally recognized initiative that emphasizes the importance of literacy for all children from all backgrounds." You can find out more at the Día website).

If you are incorporating ASL and/or Deaf Culture into your Día programming, please share your plans in the comment section below or in the contact form to the left.

Happy Signing!

February 26, 2015

Top Tips and Tricks for Signing with Your Baby: Summary Post

In past posts, I've shared some of my Top Tips and Tricks for Signing with your baby or young child. I thought it might be helpful to compile a summary of those posts and some instructional videos to go along with it. Here are the links to my Top Tips:

Tip #1: Use Signs Liberally, But Select One or Two Key Signs to Focus On at a Time 

Tip #2: Resist the Temptation to Focus Only on Signs that Gratify You

Tip #3: Follow Your Child's Lead

And here are the links to my video playlist,"Tips and Tricks for Signing with Your Baby or Young Child":



Keep checking back, and/or bookmark this summary post, as more tips (and maybe even more videos) will be added over time!

And . . . if these tips are helpful to you, I suggest you also give my series, Quick Ideas for Getting Started with Signing a look as well. 

Happy Signing! 

January 7, 2015

New Sign Language Videos Featuring Yours Truly

A couple of months ago, one of the libraries I work with invited me to visit their studio and film some videos that incorporate sign language. They've now started uploading these videos to their YouTube channel.  The librarian who coordinated the project observed the filming process and assured me that it all went well, but I've been nervous waiting to see how the videos would turn out. I've now watched the first three, and I'm pleasantly surprised.

Don't get me wrong. I'm an expert at self-critique. There are all kinds of nitty-picky things I can find to distress about in each video, but when I look at the videos as a whole, I'm happy with the end result. I'm pleased that I have something like this to share with my readers, clients, and other folks who might have an interest in sign language. I'm excited that I have one more tool in my toolbox that might inspire someone to learn and use sign language to help their pre-verbal baby communicate, or to enrich their story time or to incorporate sign language into other learning opportunities at home or in the classroom.

I have a longstanding teaching and consulting business, and I present regularly at schools and libraries. As a result, I've had several of my school visits and other presentations filmed over the years. For some reason, I was more nervous than usual leading up to this particular project. Truth be told, I rarely get nervous before presentations. I thrive on the opportunity to teach and present, but I tossed and turned restlessly the night before we were scheduled to film for this project. The only reason for this that I can come up with is that I love this library (and the librarians who work there) so much. I did not want to disappoint them in any way. They tell me they're pleased. I hope you will be, too.

Please join me in thanking the Fort Vancouver Regional Library District for inviting me to participate in this project as well as ABDO Publishing Group for publishing the books in the Story Time with Signs and Rhymes series featured in the videos. Here are the first three videos:

Sing and Sign with Your Baby:



Play and Sign with Your Baby:



"The Nest Where I Like to Rest:"



As new videos are added, you will be able to find them on the Fort Vancouver Regional Library District's YouTube channel as well as my own YouTube channel.

Happy Signing!