Conversations in Education

From teacher book groups to conversations in the faculty lounge, Prep faculty and administrators think a lot about how we support students. Each month in 2017-18, we are featuring a piece by a Prep faculty member or administrator that gives a slice of life at Prep. If you would like to share your ideas, feel free to comment on an individual post or contact Dean of Studies Sarah Cooper.

From teacher book groups to conversations in the faculty lounge, Prep faculty read and talk a lot about education. Each month we highlight a few memorable pieces or videos. Our goal is to make the process of parenting, learning and living a little saner, to put things a little more in perspective. These articles will be chosen by Prep teachers and administrators.  If you want to share your ideas, feel free to comment on an individual post or contact Dean of Studies Sarah Cooper.

 

Bringing Book Bliss to Prep’s Library

By Meryl Eldridge

With the pleasures of summer reading on our minds here in Prep’s library, I wanted to share a glimpse of the local literary scene from a recent trip to one of L.A.’s many fabulous festivals.

Imagine it!

Books.

Book lovers.

Book authors.

All gathered in one space under the quirky title of YallWest.

On a sun-drenched Saturday in early May, I headed to Santa Monica for a festival featuring young adult literature. I hoped to take the pulse of YA lit and see what new gems were out there.

Our student Library Advisory Council at Prep is planning to bring a YA author to Prep next year, to meet and talk with students about story making and writing. YallWest seemed like the perfect venue to browse books, meet authors and to mingle with other book lovers.

The day almost didn’t happen. At 8:30 am, the line to enter YallWest swirled hopelessly around the school, spinning hundreds and hundreds of people onto the sidewalk.

Once inside, the crowd was thick. Disneyland-style lines formed at events and vendor booths. My vision dimmed. I considered fleeing.

Refuge, however was not far away, in the form of a pair of dogs, who eagerly accepted ear scratching.

Soon we were joined by a smiling author, Jeff Sweat, who offered me a bookmark. As we chatted, I learned that his book, Mayfly, is set in Los Angeles. As he spoke about characters, writer’s block and the landmark Los Angeles buildings included in his book, I realized I was no longer thinking of escaping the convention but was thoroughly engaged in its flow.

YallWest exists for about 24 magic hours once a year, transforming Santa Monica High School into a mega-event.

You can grab your next “must read” title and meet a new friend – after all, you both love books, isn’t that the beginning of a terrific conversation? Or you can snag a few minutes with your favorite author at a book signing. Authors gather together and talk about their writing challenges, what inspired their characters and how they wrapped a story around a passion.

YallWesters gathered to read and chat on the grassy hill

If the crowds at YallWest tell a story, it is one of popularity. Retail sales for books were up 3% in March of this year, compared to March of last year. Not surprisingly, YA literature is a healthy component of the publishing picture, and we see its popularity in Prep’s library every day.

With a collective sigh, YallWesters released their inner book nerd for a day of soaking up sunshine, inspiration, and armfuls of books – piling into the cafeteria, music room or auditorium to hear uplifting keynotes and spirited panel discussions. Sometimes lines formed to receive book giveaways, buttons, water bottles, beach towels and book bags.

One of the many places to collect books and great stuff

The most important discovery of the day, for me as a book lover and librarian, was the reader-author connection. That connection is powerful and strong. How is it that these YA authors manage to look into our collective souls and tap the strings of our hearts? Their passion for life and our journey through it together fueled the keynotes and panel discussions.

I heard authors talk about narrating their own internal challenges – challenges our students often face as well – such as finding confidence, reacting to being judged as different and fighting through situations beyond their control.

Presenters also reflected on what inspired or directed their writing: advocacy, self-esteem, busting up expectations and stereotypes, slavery, racism, climate change, human rights.

Author Jeff Sweat with bookmark promoting his book, Mayfly

Maureen Goo’s book, The Way You Make Me Feel, also made its way into my book bag, along with a sweet enameled pin of the lunch truck featured in the book. Snagging the novel three whole days before its official release date made me feel so current. Maureen is a cousin of Emma Goo, from Prep’s front office! I zoomed through the book, and, without bias, I can say that it is pitch perfect.

Maureen’s book, The Way You Make Me Feel, and Maureen at the signing table. Maureen moderated the Sorry Not Sorry panel and was part of the American Stories panel. 

The best thing? Both Jeff Sweat and Maureen Goo are willing to build that special reader-author bond with our Prep community next year. More book bliss for me and for our students.

Want more as you’re looking toward a summer of reading pleasure? Here are some of the Prep library’s best suggestions for recent YA books, for teenagers and adults alike! Please also check out Prep’s new Rebel Reading Corner for book suggestions from students and clubs.

 
Librarian Claire LaPolt and author Neal Schusterman
Marie Lu, here in the signing tent. She also was on the Future Fictions panel and the Sorry, not Sorry panel.
Posted by rfeliciano on Tuesday May, 22
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