The Keeping Quilt: Patricia Polacco


The Keeping Quilt

Author/Illustrator: Patricia Polacco

Publisher: New York : Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Publication Year: 1988

Brief Summary: Patricia Polacco tells the story of her Jewish immigrant family and how four generations have been bound together by one homemade quilt. 

Awards, Honors and Prizes:

Sydney Taylor Book Award, 1988 Winner Younger Readers United States
Best of the Bunch, 1988 Association of Jewish Librarians
Not Just for Children Anymore!, 1999 Children’s Book Council
Recommended Literature: Kindergarten through Grade Twelve, 2002 California Department of Education
Teachers’ Choices, 1989 International Reading Association

Ideas for using this book in classroom or library; brief notes on curriculum connections/content learning standards/Common Core/etc.

  • Why do you think Polacco chose to keep only certain parts of the illustrations in color, while other parts remain in gray scale?  How did she use color in this book to highlight the theme of her story?
  • How has the quilt played a role in the characters’ lives? (Comprehension)
  • This story is a real story based on Polacco’s family.  Traci, Polacco’s daughter, was the last to get the quilt at the end of the book.  Can you make a prediction of who the quilt might be passed onto next?  How do you think the quilt will be used in this person’s life?  (Prediction)
  • What are some traditions Anna’s family keeps? (Comprehension)  What are some traditions your family keeps?  (Self-to-text connections)
  • Does your family have something that has been passed down from one generation to the next?  What is it and why is it important/special in your family?  Write a short story about it and illustrate. (Self-to-text connections)
  • Class Keeping Quilts: Have each student draw or write something that is important to him/her on a piece of square, colored paper. Connect all the squares into a “quilt”.  Have each student talk to the class about his/her square and its significance.  This could be done on actual quilting blocks that can be made into a quilt and given to the teacher/librarian as a gift.  (Art teacher)
  • Individual Keeping Quilts: Have each student make their own quilt (at least 9 squares).  What pictures/writings would they include?  Have students share about the significance of their drawings/writings.
  • Math connection: bring in some quilt samples or show the class pictures of various kinds of quilts.  What geometric shapes do students see in quilts?  Have students create their own quilting patterns using pre-cut shapes.

To Google or Not to Google

Last night I held a library workshop for a group of 10 students who are taking a team leadership course at the technical college I work at.  This is the same group I mentioned in a previous post, the one that struggled with their research assignment but weren’t exactly motivated to do something about it.  I had contacted their instructor and suggested a workshop, and was surprised that she was willing to collaborate.  We discussed briefly what she wanted her class to get out of the workshop, and there were a lot of concerns mentioned, but it basically boiled down to one thing.  The students are turning to Google for everything, including research papers that require citations and references to academic articles.  They don’t seem to know the difference between academic articles, and all the other kinds that Google finds (blogs, magazine/newspaper articles, etc.).  They don’t care.  How do I make them stop googling everything?!?

Here’s the thing…I like Google.  I google many, many, many times a day.  I love all the apps Google has, and how my Android phone recommends restaurants and area activities based on an address that I had google-mapped on my desktop.  (Seriously, how does it know?)

But as much as I love Google for everyday, quick-reference questions, I know it has its proper place, and that place is not in academic research.  I will say that sometimes it’s a great place to start if you were assigned a topic you are not familiar with.  In this case, you might want to do a quick Google search to see what kind of keywords or subject terms you might be able to use.  You might need to broaden or narrow your topic…again, googling might give you an idea of what directions you could go with your topic.

You might be tempted, now that you have the appropriate keywords, to just google it.  Sure, Google will return many results — too many, in fact.  In my demo, I selected the topic “Customer Service and Its Effects on Profitability”.  When I googled “customer service and profitability” (two pretty good keywords), I got 32 million hits.  Now, obviously, no one ever browses all the hits that Google returns…I don’t know about you, but if I can’t find my answer within the first two pages of Google search results, I start over.  So, let’s say most of us browse only up to two pages of results.  The good news is, when I typed in my query (“customer service and profitability”), the first results (out of the 32 million) seem like they might work, but a closer look shows that most of those articles are either short blurbs in marketing magazines/blogs, or editorial pieces on sites such as  I am sure they are interesting reads, but these are probably not the type of articles that the instructor is looking for.  There were two articles that look more “academic” (they are posted on .edu websites) and these are promising, but as you can see later, even those need to be further evaluated.

Here’s a good place to pause and talk about CRAAP.  This is a test designed by some cheeky librarians at the Meriam Library at California State University, Chico to help information seekers critically evaluate search results.  (By the way, if you are offended by the name of the test, rest assured that it has since then been renamed as the CAARP test.)  Basically, CRAAP is a list of questions you should ask about the information on hand (taken and revised from the Meriam Library website):


  • When was the information published or written?
  • When was the information updated or revised?
  • Does your topic require current information, or will older sources work as well?
  • Note that website that contains lots of outdated links probably haven’t been updated in a while.  You might want to consider an alternate source.


  • Does the information answer your research questions?
  • Is the information written at an appropriate level (not too advanced or elementary)?
  • Is this the best resource out of all the other resources you have found?
  • Could this resource be cited in your paper?


  • Who is the author or publisher for the article?
  • Does the author have the credentials or qualifications to write on the topic?
    • Think about the recent controversy over vaccinations.  One of the biggest and loudest opponents of vaccines is actress Jenny McCarthy, and she appears numerous times on the results list when someone googles “autism and vaccines”.  She might have an interesting point of view, but think about whether she has the credentials/qualifications to write on this particular topic.  What might be a better source for this kind of information?  (Doctors?  Medical Researchers?)
  • Is there a way to contact the author or publisher? (accountability)
  • Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source? (e.g. .com, .edu, .gov, .org, .net)
  • Note that even articles found at a .edu/.org need to be evaluated closely.  Schools will sometimes provide web space to students to post their papers or homework assignments, but unless it’s been published/reviewed or cited by other credible sources, consider an alternate source.  Similarly, while you might find some interesting articles on .org sites, many might present a biased/one-sided view on the topic, depending on their agendas and various affiliations.  Be critical of those sources as well.


  • Is the information truthful, reliable, and correct?
  • Is the information supported by evidence?
  • Has the information been reviewed or cited by others?
  • Can you verify the information using another source, or from prior knowledge?
  • Does the language or tone seem unbiased?
  • Are there spelling, grammar, or typographical errors?


  • What is the purpose for the information?  Is it to teach, inform, persuade, or entertain?
  • Is the information fact, opinion, or propaganda? Is the point of view objective or subjective?
  • Are there biases that you might need to be aware of (e.g. political, ideological, cultural, religious, personal, institutional)?

As you can guess, this evaluation process will take some time, but it is also a very necessary step in the research process.  Do Google search results pass the CRAAP test?  Some might, but some might not.  And this is where Google’s advantage (ease of access, speed, number of results) is often offset by the time you have to spend in evaluating the search results.  For many websites, it might be easy to find the author and determine his/her affiliations, point of view, and purpose for the article.  For many others, however, this information will be harder to figure out (another red flag to go another way!).

So truly, Google is great for many things, but when it comes to academic research, get into the habit of using your school’s recommended research options — be it a virtual library or professional/academic databases.  You will still have to run the CRAAP test on the information you come across, but you will find that much of the work has already been done for you, since articles found in these databases have been published, peer-reviewed, etc.  Some schools, like the one I work at, have also curated/organized the available resources by the various schools of study, so students don’t have to guess which database would be most useful to them.  It might take a few more clicks to get to the right search page, but once you are in, your chances of finding appropriate resources will be better.

You will also see that once you have some strong keywords, databases (e.g. ERIC, Ebisco, Proquest, etc.) offer many powerful search options.  For example, strategic use of Boolean operators can increase the precision and relevancy of your search, or broaden it as needed.  Some databases can generate additional subject terms or keywords for you to add, based on your initial search.  Similarly, when you have found a good article, you can usually see what subject terms it is associated with, and add those to your search.  I also love citation chasing — that is, looking through the author’s citations/references and “chasing” after ones that might also be of interest to your research.  Some databases will do the work for you, listing the cited references and providing direct links to the articles that you have access to in the database.

All these strategies will take practice, but as you get more comfortable with databases and what they can do, your searches will get better and the research process will seem a lot less intimidating.  I can still remember what it was like to do research for my first Masters, back in 1998…looking for articles in dark, stuffy stacks, having to copy 10, 20 of them not knowing whether any of them would work, but you had to because you couldn’t take them out of the library.  Most of the time, they didn’t work, or maybe you found more articles during your readings, so you’d have to go back to the stacks and repeat.  Even then, the geek (and maybe the masochist) in me enjoyed it, but I admit, I absolutely love it now.

So, I am not asking you to break up with Google (I wouldn’t), but when it comes to academic research, give databases a chance!  You might just fall in love with it yourself.

Practicum Week 3: Growing Lifelong Learners

My big question this week stems not just from my experience at Hampton, but what I have observed at my job as a part-time librarian at a nationally-known technical college.  As a librarian, one of my responsibilities include helping students with research and using the school’s virtual library.  Unfortunately, most of the time, I am helping people print, getting them textbooks from the school bookstore, and resetting forgotten passwords, etc.  Plenty of students struggle with research, but I was told by my supervisor when he hired me that I was to only help with research when my help is sought, since all of these students are adults and should be responsible for their own learning.

Last Friday night, I watched a group of adult students tackle a research project assigned by their teacher.  They were frustrated because the assignment was poorly worded and the last thing they wanted to do was stay at school on a Friday night trying to appease their instructor.  They complained loudly about how they a) didn’t know what the teacher wanted, and b) didn’t know what kind of articles they were supposed to get from the net.  After about a half an hour of listening to this, I broke the rule and went over to ask them if I could help.  I asked them about their research topic, but the ones that answered me were vague.  When I asked to look at their assignment closer, so I can point them in the right direction (something in addition to simply “googling”), no one took up my offer.  They said they “just want to get it over with”, and that they “didn’t care any more”.  The one student that attempted to use the virtual library and database during her research was mocked by her peers — “Why would you bother with that thing?” one classmate taunted.  I went back to my desk.  About an hour later, most students started writing their paper (due that night!), even though they were all still saying to each other they didn’t care, or had any clue as to what they were doing.  They joked about making the font size bigger, changing the margins, and double-spacing everything so they could meet the page requirement more easily.

This same week, I helped a group of 3rd graders do research at Hampton.  Their teacher let them choose any topic they liked, but after conferring with the librarian, added that they needed at least 3 print resources and one article they can access through the Michigan Electronic Library (similar to TEL).  Jenny and I taught the kids how to use the OPAC, as well as how to access kid-friendly databases through MEL.  For the most part, the students seemed to enjoy the research process, and were not afraid to ask for help when they couldn’t find something they needed at the library.

My question is — where did this huge discrepancy between 3rd graders and adult students come from, in terms of their attitude towards learning?  Both groups were given an assignment they had to do — but the adults’ poor attitude really surprised and discouraged me.  Why were these adult students so resistent to the type of 21st century learner skills, dispositions, and responsibilities that we have learned about?  When does this happen, and how do we prevent it from happening to our children?  Maybe some of these adult students never acquired, or were ever taught, these learning habits or attitudes?

It puts an urgency in my mind about incorporating these standards when the students are young and still moldable.  I would hate to see my own kids adopt the kind of attitude towards learning that these adult students have — that it’s better to take the easier way out, that it doesn’t matter what they turn in, as long as they pass or meet the minimum requirements.  It scares me to think that these same people are in the workforce.  How will their lack of effort/caring be reflected in what they do?  It further convinces me that our job as librarians, media/information specialists, information seeking professionals, etc. are more valuable than ever, because it is our responsibility to grow and shape students into the type of lifelong learners who CAN in fact be responsible for their own learning and personal growth.

Any thoughts?

Practicum Week 2: The Dreaded Budget Talk

Or, I should say, the “Lack of Budget” Talk.  The staff at Hampton attended a meeting this week on how the school has already depleted much of its budget for this school year, and everyone is now on a very restricted “resource” diet.  One of the first limitations to come to effect is the use of paper: everyone is limited to just TWO reams of paper from now ’til the end of the school year. Not two reams a month…just two reams from now ’til the end of the year (school ends in June in MI).

It’s bad enough that all teachers have to adhere to this, but what about the media center?  After all, the media center and the adjacent computer lab house three different printers that students and teachers print to, sometimes from their classrooms.  It seemed unfair that a space that’s open for everyone to use would have to adhere to the 2-ream limit like everyone else.

It’s kind of a wakeup call for me that this conversation even needed to take place!  After all, we are talking about PAPER.  When I mentioned this at the dinner table, my 10-year-old said, “But mom, I can go through a ream of paper all by myself in two weeks!” (She’s exaggerating, but not by much…she does a LOT of paper craft in her spare time.)  I know that many teachers/media specialists purchase supplies for their rooms throughout the year due to lack of funding, but it’s sad that something as fundamental as paper isn’t provided.  And if the media specialist uses her limited budget on those types of purchases, that has bound to affect her ability to develop the collection, as well.  At the end, the students are the ones to suffer.

P.S. In the couple of weeks since I’d first written this post, I have seen the school’s tech facilitator go around the school looking for the “culprit” who printed to another teacher’s classroom printer.  Another teacher talked about how she was encouraging kids to print out their research articles at home rather than at school.  I joked with my mentor that as a parting gift, when I leave her to go do my middle-school placement, I’d get her a Costco-sized case of printer paper instead of a gift card to Panera like I originally planned.  She laughed, but I have a feeling that she would totally take me up on it!

What are some of the budget woes you have encountered and what are some creative ways to stretch those budgets?

Practicum: Week 1

This week I started my practicum at Hampton Elementary School in Rochester Hills, MI, under media specialist Jenny Bachman.  I met with her right before break to discuss my goals for the practicum and what projects she might want me to take on, and just from that first meeting I knew I was going to love working with her.  I was also glad we had the initial meeting because I was able to jump right in when I got here.

Here are some thoughts from my first week…

  • Though I have had volunteered and subbed extensively in a couple different schools/school libraries, this is the first time I will be working in a Title I school, where much of the population is economically-disadvantaged and where a large percentage of students are ELL (in some classes, as much as 50% of the students are ELL).  During my first week, this meant I got to observe a set of behavioral/emotional/learning issues that I hadn’t experienced in previous settings (excluding the CDC classrooms I had worked in).  For example, on my first day, a student fell asleep during the read-aloud, and continued to sleep through the technology portion of the class’ visit to the library.  At my old school, this student would’ve been disciplined for being defiant and off-task.  But here, the child was sent to the office so he could lie down and sleep.  Jenny explained that because she (and the school staff) is aware of this student’s home life and living conditions (no adult supervision or involvement, lack of schedule — leading to the child staying up most weeknights to play video games and falling asleep during school), she feels it is more important that the child gets the much needed sleep (he is only in 3rd grade) rather than force him to stay awake or punish him for something that is outside his control.  The school, she adds, has repeated approached the parents with regards to this situation, but so far it hasn’t brought about any improvement.  I feel like I learned a lot from this incident — that as a teacher we need to be sensitive to the child’s home environment and the context in which he/she might be acting a certain way, and act accordingly.  In this case, I agree with Jenny that it was more important for the child to get the sleep he needed than forcing him to participate in the lesson.  However, the fact that there is no improvement despite frequent communication to the parents is a concern.  Have you guys experienced something similar?  How has your school handled this types of situations?
  • I also enjoyed working with the ELL population, since I used to be an ELL student myself, when we immigrated to Canada back in 1989.  I appreciated that Jenny is sensitive to the students’ langugage needs, and adapted their independent practice requirements accordingly.  She also utilizes Google Translator on her iPad when needed — using a simple tool like that (rather than forcing the child to understand her) decreases stress and frustration for both parties. The child was able to understand what she was supposed to do and was visibly relieved, and she was able to turn out something (albeit not at the same level as her English-speaking classmates) that satisfied a learning goal and one that Jenny can then assess.
  • Like another classmate mentioned — a media specialist attends to MANY tasks.  Jenny has very few volunteers, but I liked that she always appeared calm and cheerful in front of the students, rather than stressed or frazzled.  I believe the students can sense that she is truly enthusiastic about her role and that she truly enjoys seeing them succeed.  They respect and like her, and I think the same is true vice versa.  This is an important lesson for me because as somewhat of a perfectionist, I tend to get frustrated when I don’t have the time to get everything done, and done right, but students can sense what we project outward and be affected negatively.  I will try to maintain a positive attitude and smile on even the craziest days, because ultimately, the students don’t care whether you have a million things to do and no time to do it…they only want to feel that you value their presence, and not see them just another demand on your time.
  • I learned many classroom management strategies during my first week as well.  I will share them in another thread.

The New Year

I know most of us say this, “Can you believe it’s already [insert new year]?!?  Where did the time go?!?”  This year is no different; I can’t believe it’s already 2015!

But 2015 is different.  Two and a half years ago, in the summer of 2012, I set off to complete this daunting task of pursuing an MLIS degree in the name of following my dream and becoming a librarian.  Being a planner, I poured through the course catalogs and mapped out exactly what classes I was taking and when.  I took the max number of credits (as many as I could handle without losing it on my family — and even then, I still had a couple of breakdowns), in back-to-back semesters, sacrificing lazy summers in exchange for what would turn out to be some of the most amazing reading adventures I’d go on (my YA and picture book classes).  If everything went according to plan, I would finish with the program by Spring 2015, and despite some hiccups along the way (e.g. a move out of state, aforementioned breakdowns), I’ve made it!

I will begin 2015 with two Praxis exams and a 15-week practicum in 3 school libraries, the last components of the program I need to check off before they will hand me my diploma.  (There is the Comps, of course — the big exit exam at the end of the semester — but I am choosing to REPRESS that thought for now.)  The Praxis exams are not too difficult, but I am most looking forward to the practicum.  Though I feel like I already have experience working in the school library setting, every librarian is different and I know I will have plenty more to learn.  I am also looking forward to (albeit with slight trepidation) my time in middle- and high-schools — environments I have almost no experience with, save for my own personal experience as a middle/high-schooler.  The librarians I will be shadowing come highly recommended from those who know them in the district, so I can’t wait to start!

In the upcoming few weeks I will be writing more about my practicum experience.  Stay tuned!



Happy National Readathon Day!

The librarians at the ITT Troy LRC (Learning Resource Center) will be participating in the 2015 National Readathon Day on January 24, 2015!  We will be reading from 10 to 2, with Starbucks and other snacks in hand.  There’s still time to get reading!  Check out more event details here.

In my bookbag today:

jennafoxcameron postkeeping quilt


The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson

The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth

The Keeping Quilt by Patricia Polacco

The Bee Tree by Patricia Polacco

Drawing from Memory by Allen Say (drink!)