Sunday, April 11, 2010

That's What I'm Talking About!

Okay, now that the 2010 conference is over, I'll be adding to this blog about once a week. And what a wonderful conference we had in 2010! I hope you got a chance to go. Susan Cisna identified fabulous speakers to invite; as usual, the office staff did an amazing job of organizing and facilitating the conference; and the teachers, authors, and other professionals who led sessions were nothing short of remarkable.

For this blog, I have to share with you something that happened last week. It is predicated, unfortunately, on the passing of my legendary uncle, Richard "Uncle Buddy" Nitsche. He and my aunt and their children lived most of their lives in Lake Bluff, and a trip to their house was always fun for us as kids. Those trips were also punctuated by a drive through the beautiful Lake Forest, and also by Uncle Buddy's chuckles. That's what comes to mind immediately when I think of him: chuckles leaking out around the sides of his pipe. He was an amazing sailor and won repeated awards for his skills in the Regatta. So his passing prompted my brother Mike and I to make a quick drive to Collierville, Tennessee, where my aunt (his wife) and cousins Rick and Sue and Sue's husband now live. Other family members joined us, including my cousin Chris and his lovely wife, Mel, and their fifth-grade daughter Sophia.

Just a few days prior to this trip, I had made a goal for myself of reading every book that every author comingto the 2011 conference had written (with the possible exception of Jane Yolen - do you KNOW how many books she's written?) and I had just begun Patrick Carman's
The Dark Hills Divide. My brother and I had a chance to have Sophia in our car for a short drive to the coffee shop, and I asked the question I ask most kids: "So what are you reading these days?" She gave me a whole list of books to investigate, explaining to me how much she loves reading. Sophia is an adorable wisp with an adult vocabulary and logic that surpasses most people three times her age. I asked her if she had ever read Patrick Carman's The Dark Hills Divide, and her animated reply was that she and her family had listened to the audio book version during their drive from Savannah to the Memphis area! After some discussion about the characters (I was not far along enough in the book to know anything about her favorite character - the squirrel, Murphy, but she made me look forward to meeting him), we decided that it would be a good idea to take her picture with my copy of the traditional form of the book and her copy of the audio book - and she offered what she calls her 'librarian' look to top it off. Isn't she adorable?
Anyway, one part of next year's conference theme, "Literacy Outside the Box," refers to differing formats of 'reading' and 'writing.' Although Sophia and her family experienced what happened with Alexa and Bridewell through a different medium than I did, we still experienced the same story. I'm not advocating doing away with written text - rest assured of that - but there are different cognitive requirements for decoding through listening than there are through making visual contact with symbols on a page. We've known for a long time that the right listening skills can make a huge difference in what we 'get' from what we 'hear;' now that technology is expanding how much listening we do, do we need to identify those skills even more specifically? And what are some new ways in which we can utilize audio resources with our students? I'd love to see some conference proposals related to this topic.

And I'd love to find out what happens with Alexa in her next adventures in the land of Elyon, so I'm heading to the bookstore today!