Social Media Institute 2016: I Tweeted, I Tumbled, I Taught



Social Media is increasingly the communication lifeblood among educators, librarians and creators passionate about children, their literature, and their education.  To address the growing power and influence of social media, the Center for Teaching through Children’s Books kicked off 2016 with its annual CTCB Institute with a focus on Social Media. This event, sponsored in part by the Pajeau Foundation and in partnership with SCBWI and SCIRA, brought together nine diverse and dedicated voices all speaking to the power and problems in our online lives.


The event opened with a comprehensive and frequently hilarious keynote talk by Julie Danielson, creator of the “Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast” blog.  Julie offered our 60+ attendees a glimpse at the relatively brief and frequently bumpy history of social media among educators, librarians and creators. She then shared her personal highs and lows along her own social media path.


Following Julie, our first panelists addressed our morning theme, “Social Media as a Creative Force.”  The three-member morning panel—teacher and prolific blogger Colby Sharp, teacher, blogger and recipient of the Apple Distinguished Educator’s Award Mike Lewis, and Evanston Library Collection Development Manager, author and blogger Betsy Bird—was mediated by Andrew Medlar, President of the Association of Library Services for Children, a division of the American Library Association and Assistant Chief of the Chicago Public Library. Colby and Mike each shared examples of how they use social media in their own classrooms to connect their students with larger themes as well as with authors and illustrators—as Mike described it, “revealing the inner workings of the world of books”.  Betsy expanded the talk to encompass the scope and depth of using social media in a library setting as well as the rewards and challenges of striking the balance between personal and professional life in the online public eye.

The afternoon panel tackled the challenging theme of “Managing Internet Culture,” a topic mediated by Dean Rob Muller, Dean of the National College of Education, National Louis University.  Our panelists represented diverse approaches to this theme:  Chicago attorney Darcy Proctor, Associate Superintendent Laura Beltchenko, Research Librarian and blogger Edi Campbell and William Teale, University of Illinois at Chicago University Scholar /Director of the UIC Center for Literacy and incoming president of the International Literacy Association. Our attendees were taken on a journey that encompassed a multitude of challenges related to using social media: from legal concerns for educators and school districts to integrating social media into teacher training and preparation programs, and from ethical and social responsibility in social media for marginalized people to the changing face of professional organizations in the internet age.  

Each panel was followed by breakout sessions, where attendees divided into smaller groups with individual panelists and CTCB mediators. These breakout sessions proved to be valuable opportunities for attendees to connect with panelists and other attendees, by exchanging ideas in a relaxed format.  

Attendees were also treated to two lunch time speakers thanks entirely to social media and Skype. As attendees relaxed and enjoyed lunch, Chicago school librarians and CTCB Friends Board Members Patrick Gall and Elisa Gall interviewed the creator of the “Let’s Get Busy” Podcast Phil Bildner.    Panelist Betsy Bird then  dug deeper into the role of social media for creators with author Matthew Winner, adding new perspectives to our day’s discoveries.


At the end of the day, however, what did attendees and panelists take away from this day, so full of divergent and at times conflicting perspectives on social media?   The feedback was as consistent as it was promising—that social media has far more potential to expand and deepen learning, librarianship and creating than many of those in attendance thought possible.  Attendees, panelists and CTCB members made their way from today’s event actively engaged in conversation, still exchanging ideas long after the microphones and projectors had been turned off.  



by Christina Moorehead

SCBWI Author/Illustrator Showcase

On Saturday, September 27th, 2014, the Center for Teaching through Children’s Books, in partnership with the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, Illinois Chapter, and SCIRA (The Suburban Council of the International Reading Association), presented our 5th annual Local Author/Illustrator Showcase for the 2014-15 school year.


Our morning session included author/illustrator visits with the following guests: Suzanne SladeW. Nikola-Lisa (Gyroscope Books), Natasha Tarpley, Laurie LawlorMiriam Busch, Jim AylesworthLarry DayRachel WilsonAmi PolonskyBrianna DuMontLori Degman, Laura Montenegro, Jude Mandell, Jan Spivey Gilchrist, Chris Rylander, Nancy Stevenson, Marlene Targ Brill, Scott Gustafson, Fern Schumer, Cindy Kenney



Our afternoon session featured an additional professional development opportunity, a conversation with a local author/illustrator, a keynote by W. Nikola-Lisa, intimate Writer’s Workshop breakouts with SCBWI authors:


  • Suzanne Slade: Practical Ways to Inspire Students to Read & Write about STEM Topics - (true confessions of an engineer who hated writing, now turned children's author who LOVES writing!)
  • Natasha Tarpley: What We Talk About When We Talk About Diversity
  • Laurie Lawlor: Teaching Writing to Students (Common Core Curriculum Focus Workshop)

Institute: Teaching Through Informational Texts

On Saturday, April 12, 2014, the Center for Teaching through Children’s Books, in partnership with the ESL STEM Success Grant and the Suburban Council of IRA (SCIRA), hosted an exciting full-day nonfiction institute entitled “Teaching Through informational Texts.” The event was made possible by a generous grant from the Pajeau Foundation. 

Teachers, librarians, administrators and reading specialists alike gathered for an engaging and interactive day to learn from featured academic, Dr. Marc Aronson (historian, author, editor), as well as other keynote speakers from various backgrounds: Laura Beltchenko (Literacy and Common Core Consultant), Judith Fradin (author), Nick Glass (founder of, Susan Dove Lempke (Booklist, Hornbook reviewer of children’s nonfiction), and Toby Rajput (CTCB librarian, 2012 Sibert Committee Member). 

The Center for Teaching through Children’s Books achieved its proposal to the Pajeau Foundation: to offer an institute that focuses on Informational Books and Common Core – relevant topics that have become more integrated into today’s youth education. From discovering new ways to build Common Core connections, to tutorials about innovative online text analysis tools, the day was undeniably insightful and inspiring. One attendee commented, “I couldn't have improved [the institute]. I don't think anyone will walk out of here the same person they were when they walked in today.” Indeed, the support, knowledge and enthusiasm from our attendees, speakers, and staff made the day a true success. 

The institute likewise gave us the opportunity to hand out evaluative surveys: to explore ways that we can attract a more diversified audience and to dig deeper into areas of interest for future events. Of those surveyed, our needs assessment revealed that a majority of people would like to see more coursework offered on interpreting the Common Core State Standards, topical nonfiction, and Children’s Literature (specifically Picture Books). Other noteworthy discoveries included a strong desire towards sessions that focus on utilizing international books in the classroom, and digital diversity with children’s books. 

The institute and its survey results made CTCB’s collaborative mission, which is our dedication to excellence in teaching with quality literature for children and adolescents, even clearer, as well as its relevance with children’s literacy today.