Thursday, February 12, 2015

Librarian Spotlight: LeeAnn Wilmot

   Librarian Spotlight is a series I plan to run this year. I am pleased to introduce you to my first guest, LeeAnn Wilmot.

     What are your thoughts on the value of historical fiction?

I believe that historical fiction is a nice path into reading NON-FICTION.  I hated non-fiction, did you? But, once I got hooked on some historical fiction, I wanted to know more. 

The value of historical fiction is the same as the value of any literature: a safe place to explore issues—different people, different time, NOT ME but the same issues. Historical fiction also provides a sense of place in space and time—so my “issues” suddenly have some perspective when I am remotely exposed to the suffering and trauma of other times and places.

Do you find it difficult to interest children in historical fiction? Why or Why not?

I’m finding here at the library that children are interested in whatever I present to them with enthusiasm.  I sometimes “forget” to label things as “historical fiction.”  I just say, “Oh! Here’s a story about a boy during the war….” I often will pull out a profound but vague descriptor.

I see lots of children who demand books based on television characters. So, any place to get in the door, right? But then I try to describe or “push” books based on characteristics of those same TV characters without naming them--heroism, determination, strength, “….a kid who had to hide out.” Then, sometimes, this works and the reader returns for more. Then, I let them know about this category called “historical fiction.”

      Do you have any gateway series that you recommend—a series or two that you have found works well as a way to develop a taste for historical fiction in middle-grade aged children?
  • The Royal Diaries (Scholastic)
  • If You Lived in... series (Scholastic) (It’s not fiction! But it reads like fiction.)
  • The American Girl  series (American Girl)
  • And, of course, Little Women and the Little House books
  • Boys of Grit series (Lamplighter) (It’s so difficult to find things which aren't really feminine—boys should read those, too but sometimes they want BOY stuff. And I can’t quite believe that I’m saying that…but I am.)

As a Youth Librarian, are there any library displays or programs that you have done to promote the reading of historical fiction? If so, would you describe one?

I’ve done very little but, oddly, I’m just now thinking of one for MLK Day.  The display will be something like “Champions Now and Then.”  I’ll include both fiction and non-fiction, but of course, Easy Juvenile will be mostly fiction.

I’ve also envisioned doing a reader’s theater of sorts with my Young Adult (YA) Book Group and reading, instead of plays, historical pieces such as letters, speeches, and documents.

     Do you have a resource that you use to recommend further reading or to recommend readings based on interest?

Oh! SLJ!! (School Library Journal). And, I follow loads of blogs by YA librarians.  I also love Goodreads. And, I’m very quick to stalk other public and school libraries for their lists and assignments. Teen Librarian Toolbox is a good place, and that leads to many more blogs by teen librarians. Check out this list:

Teachers and parents often want to link historical fiction with non-fiction text. Do you have a way to pair historical fiction with non-fiction texts in the same subject area?

I’m not really a teacher – so I can only think of the “paired” reading that I’ve done recently. Yes, I do read kid’s literature for fun, and once snagged, I go searching for the “mate” to whatever I’ve just read. Here are a few:

Counting on Grace, by Elizabeth Winthrop (Yearling) v Kid’s on Strike, by Susan Campbell Bartoletti (HMH Books for Young Readers)

King of the Mound: my summer with Satchel Paige, by Wes Tooke (Simon & Shuster) v We Are the Ship: the story of Negro League baseball, by Kadir Nelson (Jump at the Sun)

Code Talker: a novel about the Navajo Marines of World War Two, by Joseph Bruchac (Speak) v Navajo Code Talkers (a number of books with this title!)

Lions of Little Rock, by Kristin Levine (Puffin) v Little Rock Girl 1957: how a photograph changed the fight for integration, by Shelley Tougas (Compass Point Books) (These are going in my MLK Day display.)

As a librarian, I am generally able to invite a reader to either fiction or nonfiction, depending on the child. Once that’s worked its magic, I can entice the reader to the “other” side, the side they would not have chosen.

LeeAnn Wilmot is a youth librarian with the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Library. When she is not at the library, she can be found hanging out with her three Rottweilers, and reading, of course.

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