Monday, November 10, 2008

Building Libraries

It's not long time that I came to know through the surprising "world wide web" Amy Bodden Bowllan and I'm very happy about that because she inspires people like me and many other mothers and educators that what is really needed to build up an ambitious project, are small constant continuous actions, actions that everyone of us caould do. Amy is mother teacher and builds libraries for low-income people. She is one of those active eclectic person who never rejects new challanges and share her 24 hours between family and work, building libraries and teaching technology, reading and blogging. Maybe we can think she is a "superwoman" and in a way she is, but Amy is also a humble person who recognize in her own family the source and insipration of her socio educational committment in favour of disadvantaged people. A family who gave her strenght and encouraged her to pursue the value of sharing and respect for the others.

KABILIANA - Amy would you like to tell us something about your childhood and background ? Where is your family originally from?
AMY - In my immediate family – my father’s side - we have ancestry from Jamaica, Portugal and Belize and on my mother’s side from Savannah, Georgia and the Bahamas. But I was born and raised in Hollis, Queens, which is a suburb of New York. My parents are also both native New Yorkers, had seven children and adopted 3 additional children from my mother’s sister who was unable – at the time – to raise them, so all together – growing up – there were ten kids in my home. As you can imagine, the quarters were tight but we grew up in a disciplined and a Catholic environment. My father knew that our neighborhood, while family oriented, had some bad elements happening during the 1980s: drugs, crime, crack epidemic, etc. Therefore, my parents made sure we were out of the community and playing tennis every day. We really couldn’t afford it, so we played during off-peak times and truly mastered the game. Hence, I received a full tennis scholarship to college. I am also grateful my parents were so vested in our upbringing.

KABILIANA - How did your background influence your commitment in socio-educational projects?
AMY - As a kid, I remember my older sister, Joanne, she use to call me the civic-minded social worker because I always crying for the world’s people. Those who were suffering in the newspapers touched me at an early age. So crying for them was my way of helping. But that’s a good question and one I never connected with my background and now that you ask there are certainly definite correlations. As far as my commitment to projects, well, that started once I entered high school. You see, my Catholic school was one that fostered good behavior; meaning if you were “good” you did well academically. Unfortunately, there were really no expectations for academic excellence. Then when I went on to high school, I was overwhelmed by how much more the other students knew and how little I knew. I could tell right away I was out of my league, so I decided to approach college with a vengeance. I wanted to learn as much as I could as fast as I could. I will never forget what it was like to feel “stupid” and I always believed that the foundation wasn’t strong, academically. My parents did their best and I had to do the rest. But as far as resources, there wasn’t much. And back then I didn’t know they were important. It was only when I got older that I realized how important it was to be informed. It’s funny how people see America as this land of opportunity, and don’t get me wrong, it is. However, there are varied levels of the basics and needs that are not balanced in schools. If you come from wealth, you have the SmartBoards, whiteboards, technology, books, travel, language options, sports options, etc., in schools. If you are like me and did not come from wealth, then you’ll have the chalkboards, sitting in the same seat all day, and hope to have, maybe, one field trip a year. So my goal as an educator, blogger, and former journalist is to change that paradigm and help the world’s people. We have to be able to equip all students with the same tools. It’s only right!

KABILIANA - From your resume I see you are a very eclectic person with lots of activities on your board. One of your main activities is building libraries for low income families. Can you tell us more about this? How does the project works in details?
AMY -About ten years ago, and after working as a journalist, I decided to get my start as an educator. I wanted to take my news experience and infuse into the students who needed it most, so I set out to work at a small Catholic school on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. It’s important to point out that with the exception of the principal, no one knew that I had just left a very successful career as a journalist - I wanted to be a part of the norm. What I found was that, again, these students in this school did not have resources – no library – no technology – no yard to play, “truly the concrete jungle.” And I was again catapulted to my past and saw, “my gosh this is not right.” It was almost as though time was standing still for these kids. I noticed there was no library or technology at the school, so I decided to work with the principal to bring in the right people who could make it happen. There are so many good people in this world who care and who are very giving. I’ve been trying my best to help schools ever since. I certainly don’t do enough, since I work full-time and am a mother but every little bit helps. One book at a time.

KABILIANA - Can you share some experiences you did concerning this activity?
AMY - Over the past several years I’ve worked with a woman named Verne Oliver who is truly the maverick behind this endeavor. She is well into her 80s and visits underpriviledged schools in an effort to build libraries for them. It’s amazing what she’s been able to accomplish…over 100 Building Libraries initiatives! I am on my fifth so there’s way more to go for me. I do, however, feel that she has taken me on for the ride. Not to mention, I’ve learned so much from Verne. Barcoding, spine lables, Dewey, she teaches it all! But the best part is, when we finish a job, those students will have a place they can call THEIRS – a place where they can explore the world – a place to read. That’s the reward.

KABILIANA -You are also Promoting and Fostering Diversity Through Media and Information Literacy, can you explain us more about this activity?
AMY - Having worked in a newsroom, I was able to interview people from all walks. By the way, diversity is more than just color. It’s so broad and needs to be inclusive, so that everyone is welcomed in this world. Reporters know that they have to be the eyes and ears and break through the stereotypes in order to get the story. That’s why now, as an educator I use the same skills – TEACH LIKE A REPORTER – to infuse diversity related materials and train teachers on how to be inclusive throughout their curriculums. It’s basically looking through different lenses.

KABILIANA - You are directly involved in promoting educational technology program. How much important is to prepare the young generation to become part of the world wide web?
AMY - That to me goes hand-in-hand with promoting the need to have libraries in schools. Technology opens up the gates of information. We did not grow up with the internet but our children will/are. Students having access to a wealth of resources on the Web will broaden them to new heights! Can you imagine what the world would look like if all children, all over the world had access to the same information? We would learn so much more from our world’s children. Educational technology is the framework to build on this and it encompases so many areas: teacher training; Web site evalaution; safety; digital presentation tools; etc.

KABILIANA - Do you think that also in third world countries access to technology will allow them to achieve a new perspective on their problems?
AMY - I believe it’s crucial for third world countries to join hands with the world through the Web. I am not sure it will provide a new perspective but I do think it will open their perspectives to solve some of the problems they endure. But that’s probably another issue.

KABILIANA - Don’t you see any risk of losing identity for the “poorest” countries? How will technology in the next future wil let preservation of cultural heritages coop together with an eye on the world?
AMY - People preserve their heritage in more ways than we give them credit for. The fear is always the unknown. But technology is the tool, it’s not the oracle or the bad guy, so to speak. Technology can enhance cultures by being able to find information that wasn’t accessible before. The only way of not being able to preserve ones culture is through genocide. And that is a huge fear of mine, not the technology. Although I do understand your point.

KABILIANA - How can literacy change disadvantaged people’s life?
AMY - Literacy can take a socio-economically, deprived child and put him in Harvard.
Literacy can take a single mom, raising five kids alone and place her in the right job for her family, once her application is complete. Literacy can take a gang member who’s married to his gang and transform his life, by understanding just one word, PEACE. Literacy can take an aged person who may never have had the opportunity to write a letter and send the stamp of LOVE. Literacy is the key to unlock any door! I truly believe that.

KABILIANA - Amy you have a blog at School Library Journal . Who are the main followers of it? Teachers, Readers, students?
AMY - My blog readers are from all over the world. I have met the most inspiring people. I have librarians, authors, teachers, speakers, students, and my mom.

KABILIANA - Can you tell us three children‘s books you recently read and loved?
AMY - Oh gosh – Not fair!!! I read so many children’s books it’s hard to name just three. Here you go:
Snow Falling in Spring By Moying Li
The Mzungu Boy by Meja Mwangi
Hip Hop Speaks to Children by Nikki Giovanni

KABILIANA - You are mother of two children. How do you transmit them the love for reading ? Do they love reading? What are their current favourite authors or titles?
AMY - Honestly, I would love for my children to love reading, so what I try to do is to have them review the books I receive from authors. Some they like, and some they don’t, but getting them to love reading is a work in progress. One that, ironically, I struggle with. As my children grow older, I’ll know if I succeeded. My daughter loves the Junie B Jones series and I am trying to move her to more age appropriate books, while my son enjoys a variety of sports and Goosebump books.

KABILIANA - Do you have any suggestions for parents, teachers and librarians on how to encourage reading among their children/students/readers?
AMY - Yes – I would say for students – they should be encouraged to read everything that comes into their hands, from newspapers, to press releases, sports, EVERYTHING. I teach students that reading is like tasting food. Eat it all – Read it All! Teachers and librarians should continue to be creative with their displays and they should get the books off the shelves – spread them out. Have an all day Book-a-Thon! Make it a party! Bring the librarians into the classrooms on a regular basis. Write to the authors. Recognize the illustrators. Invite the authors in. There’s so much to do to make reading fun and a lifelong habit. But first, the books on the shelves make it hard to see the beauty inside. I use that analogy with my students, get yourself off the shelf and live.


Katia said...

Very interesting interview, Valentina.

cbmom said...

my beloved!!Inspiring & special!mom

Kabiliana said...

Thank you Katia and... yes Amy's Mom, your daughter looks very special! It was a great pleasure to know her better. Thank's for passing by. Valentina

C said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
C said...

I enjoyed reading this interview. Amy Bodden Bollen is a outstanding educator and could inspire the most illiterate to want to pick up a book and learn how to read.

Chuck Byrd

Kabiliana said...

Hi Chuck, yes who is able to transmit the love for books is a gifted person. Thank's for visiting by.

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