April 21, 2017

Librarians: Protecting our First Amendment Rights, One Book at a Time

Image Source: Amber's Website
This time last year I used this space to share my thoughts about the importance of voice and my thoughts on Amber J. Keyser's book, The V-Word: True Stories About First Time Sex. In that post, I shared a love letter I wrote to my daughter encouraging her to honor and value her own voice.

Today, I'm using this space to share my thoughts about the importance of using our voices to stand up for our First Amendment rights. The April 12, 2017 edition of the Palmetto Business Daily reports that Amber's book is at the center of a controversy at a library in Charleston, South Carolina. I've pasted below the letter I've emailed to the Library Board of Trustees that will hold a meeting about this issue at 8:00 AM on Monday, April 25, 2017. If you'd like to bring your own voice into the conversation, message me via the comments below or the contact form to the left and I will provide the email address where comments can be sent.



April 21, 2017 

Dear Charleston County Library Board of Trustees:

I am a parent, children’s author, and library advocate. In 2015 I was named Oregon Library Supporter of the Year. I believe strongly that libraries have a duty and responsibility to champion First Amendment rights and to ensure that all community members have unrestricted access to the information they seek. I also believe that parents have a duty and responsibility to set appropriate limits for their own children. These ideas are not mutually exclusive.

I read in the April 12, 2017 edition of the Palmetto Business Daily that your Board of Trustees will be meeting on April 25th to discuss community concerns related to the placement of books that provide accurate and factual information about sex, including, but not limited to The V-Word: True Stories About First Time Sex.

Our society is filled with an abundance of information and images, much of which may not be age-appropriate for any one particular child. There are provocative photographs on magazine covers in the grocery store, explicit videos that are accessed via the Internet and shared on social media, and graphic news stories and programs shown on television. Again, it is the library’s role to champion freedom of speech and uncensored access to information, and it is a parent’s role to set appropriate limits for their own children.

Each parent will navigate these challenges differently, depending on their own values and the maturity of their particular child. Some parents intentionally refrain from watching graphic news stories while their children are in the room, opting instead to chat about world events at the dinner table. Other parents might watch graphic news stories alongside their child, and have a rich conversation afterwards. Some parents turn off the news completely to protect their children from the troubling truths in our world, and some children hunger for information nonetheless. The public library serves all of these children and all of these parents.

I write books that incorporate AmericanSign Language (ASL), and even this seemingly innocuous subject can stir different comfort levels in different parents. Some parents acknowledge the research that early exposure to sign language enriches and stimulates verbal communication, while other parents fear that sign language is a verbal language inhibitor. Some parents consider ASL as an important part of their family’s culture, and other parents consider ASL an inferior substitute for verbal language. Some parents contend that sign language should only be taught via three-dimensional formats such as in-person or through videos, while other parents strictly forbid screen time. Some parents have never considered teaching their child a second language, and some children are curious about ASL nonetheless. The public library serves all of these children and all of these parents. It would be a disservice* to the general public and an affront to the First Amendment and the ideals of free speech and unrestricted access to information if the library were to avoid displaying my sign language books in a prominent location for fear that they might be seen by a child whose parents were uncomfortable with my treatment on the subject.

I would urge you to resist the temptation to censor controversial materials from your library shelves. I would also urge you to resist the temptation to hide books that provide accurate and factual information about sex, such as The V-Word, effectively making it more difficult for the young people for whom these books are written to find them.

I applaud the librarians who continue to stand up for the First Amendment, freedom of speech, and unrestricted access to information. I encourage you to support them in fulfilling their important role in our democratic society.


Dawn Prochovnic, MA
Founder of SmallTalk Learning

*This word was inadvertently mis-spelled in the original letter.

Again, if you'd like to bring your own voice into the conversation, message me via the comments below or the contact form to the left and I will provide the email address where comments can be sent.

April 18, 2017

26 Ways to Incorporate Alphabet Signs into Your Story Times (#26)

I've had my nose buried in book-related projects, and that has resulted in some extended gaps between blog posts. Thanks for your patience, dear readers. At long last, here is the culminating post for my series on enrichment activities to incorporate alphabet signs into your story times:

26. ABC Sign with Me (aka, Anything Goes!)

Photo Credit: Independence Public Library
ANY alphabet-related learning activity you currently enjoy can be enriched by incorporating the alphabet signs into the activity. If, for example, you like searching for the letters of the alphabet on road signs during car trips, you can add the alphabet handshapes to this activity (assuming you are a passenger and not the driver, or course). If you like stacking alphabet blocks, or sorting alphabet magnets on the fridge, or putting together alphabet puzzles, add the alphabet handshapes to your play activities. You can even add the alphabet handshapes to learning activities that don't directly involve the alphabet. For example, in this picture, I'm focusing on the signs for colors, but since many of the signs for colors involve the handshape for the first letter in the color word, it makes it easy to incorporate the handshapes for letters of the alphabet along with signs for colors.

To help you get started, here are some links to web sites that have some alphabet-related learning activities. Try adding the alphabet handshapes to some or all of these activities:

Alphabet Activity Links: 

I'd love to add to this list of links. If you have a favorite website that incorporates alphabet-related learning activities, share it in the comment section below, or via the contact form to the left. Here are some additional helpful resources to support your interest in signing the alphabet:

Helpful Resources

ASL Alphabet Glossary from my publisher's website (use this link to download the activity packet for younger children, and the alphabet glossary from my books is included in that packet)

The sign for Alphabet

A to Z Sign with Me

Abdo Publishing Group
Please contact Dawn using the form to the left if you'd like to receive reduced pricing on books in the Story Time with Signs & Rhymes series. This offer is available to workshop participants, consulting clients, and subscribers to this blog or Dawn's social media accounts.  

If you'd like to be on the mailing list for the next offering of my online class: Sing, Sign and Story Time for Professionals, please use the form at the left to send me your contact information. 

Please share your own ideas and experiences in the comment section below, and subscribe to my blog to receive more ideas over time.  Happy Signing!

January 18, 2017

2016 Year End Post, Albeit Belated

I took a break from blogging after the election. I spent time grieving. I spent time reflecting. I spent time taking positive ACTion (and will continue taking positive ACTion in the days and weeks and months ahead).

Today I listened to President Obama's last Press Conference as President of the United States. He opened with a statement about the important role of a free and vibrant press. He said, "I spent a lot of time on my — in my farewell address talking about the state of our democracy. It goes without saying that essential to that is a free press. That is part of how this place, this country, this grand experiment of self-government has to work. It doesn’t work if we don’t have a well-informed citizenry, and you are the conduit through which they receive the information about what’s taking place in the halls of power." (Quoted from the full transcript from the New York Times.)

There are many things the recent election has illuminated for me. One of those things is how much I value a free and vibrant press. I now subscribe to several news sources, and I encourage others to do the same. I have also implemented a new practice in my home, whereby I ask my teenager to read and discuss one credible news article a day. Hopefully this practice will support his development into an active, engaged citizen and a critical consumer of information. I've been very proud of the way my son has risen to this challenge I've placed before him, and his insights and opinions have challenged me to be a more critical thinker as well.  

As President Obama answered the last question at the Press Conference, he acknowledged that parents generally like to brag about their children, then he gushed about his own daughters, saying, "But man, my daughters are something. And--they just surprise and enchant and impress me more and more every single day as they grow up." It is no secret that I am a big fan of President Obama; his delight for his children is one of the many reasons I admire him so.

I too like to gush about my children, and my annual holiday letter is one way that I do that. Although it seems that fewer and fewer people send annual holiday greetings, I treasure this tradition each year. Both the receiving of cards, letters, and photos from friends and family near and far, and the preparation of my own annual update. Each year I try to provide a relevant update embedded in some creative format (here are examples from 2012 20132014, and 2015)This year I leaned into the "news" theme:

In the coming year, I will continue to give my time and attention to the local and national issues that compel me, and one of the issues I will more actively advocate for and support is a free and vibrant press. A logical extension of my longstanding advocacy for Strong School Libraries and information literacy, don't you think?