This week I'm in Minnesota for the Public Library Association's annual conference, but secretly, I'm here to get some free books, meet some authors, and find out about the town my sister lives in. My prize for being a good librarian and sitting in classes for the next two days is 4 days with my sister and her family. Here are some things I've done so far.
Monday, I and my 3 coworkers flew in to Minneapolis. We dropped our stuff at the hotel and went shopping. Down Town Minneapolis is amazing! It was cold and windy outside, but that wasn't a problem. The whole city is connected by "Skyways" (not "skywalks." They get defensive about the name.) that connect many of the buildings. For lack of a better comparison, it's as if the whole down town area is a huge ant colony, and all the people move though it in ant tunnels. "When in Rome . . ." We got our map and made our way though the down town shopping district by tunnel.
Yesterday, I talked about great toys for kids in libraries. One of my new favorite things that I've learned in the last two years is that there are things children can learn beginning at birth that will help them be more comfortable with the idea of reading. Reading is a hard concept. There are very few children who just wake up one day miraculously knowing that letters fit together to make words. For the rest of us, it was a long hard road.
I can't tell you how excited I was to learn about Early Literacy Skills. These are the things a child knows about books and letters and sounds before they get to the business of learning to read. Like holding a book the right way or knowing animal sounds, these skills are so simple that most people don't realize they are so important, but a child who doesn't know these simple things has that much farther to go when his teacher hands him a book on the first day of school. Early Literacy Skills aren't a cure-all for late bloomers, but they are a good start. And the great thing is, most parents practice the skills naturally as they play with their children. They just don't realize how important that play time can be. So . . . my most favorite part of my job is the help parents remember to play with their kids (hopefully with books and letters and stories).
At lunch I met Meg Cabot . . . and . . . she is just like her book characters. And, if this means anything to you, I've never read more than the back side of any of her books, and I'm not planning on cracking any of them open now. Is that too harsh? I'll end my opinionated remarks like this, She is an artsy soul, a real free spirit.
At the end of the day I walked by a table where Jon Scieszka was signing copies of his new beginning reader truck books. I grabbed a poster and walked on up. "Mr. Scieszka." I said, "My family has been following your career since I was ten. The Jacksons are all very excited that you are our ambassador." hope it's alright if I added all of you into my excitement. "Oh," he said, "So you must have jumped on board during the Stinky Cheeseman days?" "Yes, Sir." He laughed and signed my poster. I'm still a big fan. BIG FAN! I'll crack open all of his new Truck Town books. Just as soon as they hit the library floor.
Today, I got up, not so early, and took the ant maze to find some shoes that might go with a dress I brought. Minneapolis is the headquarters for Target! There is a HUGE, three story, city block sized target right outside my hotel window. Don't get excited. I was excited, but I quickly learned, as cool as Target is, it doesn't get any cooler with size. It stays at it's same level of coolness. So, if you want to buy a bikini from Target and you're not excited about the selection in Idaho, don't come to Minnesota. The selection is the same, there is just more of them.This is only a problem if you are tempted to buy clear plastic shoes. For some reason, it seems all that more tempting when there are MORE of them. (Don't you think they look like Cinderella's? Oooooh dear! and just across the street.)
After a Greek Salad lunch and a short nap, I went to "Market," so to speak. Everyone who has anything that librarians might want to buy sets up a booth and tries to get the librarian's attention by throwing free books and pens and stress balls at them. I caught a few books. I talked to a few vendors, and I met . . .
Leif Enger! He is coming out with a new book in May! So Brave, Young, and Handsome is in my hot little hands. You guys can read the summary and then tell me if you want the next shot at my uncorrected proof. I'll send it anywhere when I'm done.
I ended the day with a lovely "Welcome to the conference" snack buffet, all Greek food again. Just my luck. Did you know that ground up olives is an expensive Greek spread? And apparently dill weed rapped in phylo is big in that part of the world. Go figure.
Thanks for reading. I'll let you know how it goes.