ALA / Vegas update!

I’m in the Vegas airport waiting for my flight to Atlanta…there is actually FREE wireless in the Vegas airport (FREE is not so often the case in airports, I’m learning), so I’m taking advantage and blogging. Where to start?

First day of ALA (Friday, June 27)

Went to Doug Johnson’s pre-conference, which I have blogged about already.

After the pre-conference, we had dinner at a very good mexican restaurant and then went to the AASL Affiliate Assembly meeting. These meetings are a time when leaders in state associations all over the nation get together and discuss what is going on at the state level. The meeting is actually pretty interesting, because you meet people who are doing the same things you are (in terms of conference planning and such). After this meeting, it was off to bed.

Saturday, June 28

Saturday was a day to walk around the exhibit hall (which is MASSIVE). Many people collect freebies (advanced copies of books, pens, bags, you name it) and mail them home. The post office in the exhibit hall always has a long line. I have never mailed anything home, because I just can’t pick up bunches and bunches of things that I cannot be sure I will ever use, but I can see how it is tempting to do so. I’ve never been a packrat (imagine!) and I think that just stops me from picking things up. It is fun to see what the publishers are giving away. Some of my favorite finds include a galley of a new Mo Willems books (something about a mole….it’s in my suitcase), a stressball in the shape of a chicken, and pens that change colors – I am very easy to please. In addition to walking around the exhibit hall, I attended a session about extending read alouds with “cute” stuff. This session could have been very good and one that should have sent me home with a bunch of new ideas for my storytimes, but instead, it was actually a little boring. A typical “sit and get” where the speakers showed us what they had done, but did not really involve the audience. They tried, I will say that. The session was late afternoon, after lunch and I think a lot of folks were just worn out by then. After that session, Kitt and I took a tour of Hollywood at night. It was neat to see the strip and all of the interesting people who live in Hollywood! However, our driver was a little scary and I am convinced that California has no laws about driving. You can go as fast as you want and cut off as many people as you want and no one will care.

Sunday, June 29

Busy day! Started with exhibits (again). On Sunday, I visited the ASPCA booth where they were having (what I thought would be) an informational session and Paws-and-Books, a program that brings dogs to schools and hospitals so that children can read to them. I’ve heard about this program before. Children who are reluctant and struggling readers tend to do really well reading to dogs because the dogs can’t correct them or try to get them to read faster…basically, much better listeners than adults or other children. When I went to the booth, I was the only person there. I was there and a dog was there along with someone with ASPCA. I got to read to the dog and I LOVED it. It actually made me cry, because I am really missing my own dogs. But, this is a wonderful idea for children and I really hope that I will be able to do something like this in my own school or perhaps SCASL can partner with the SC ASPCA to promote it in South Carolina…I know that at my new school, there is a kindergarten assistant who volunteers with dogs who may be able to do something like this. I can’t wait to find out! On Sunday, we had another AASL Affliate Assemby meeting. This was a voting meeting where we passed different commendations and concerns brought to AASL by the different regions. I also got to go to the Newbery / Caldecott banquet, where I sat next to Kathleen Krull! Best $89 I ever spent. Selznick’s speech was amazing. Dinner was amazing. Awesome experience.

Monday,  June 30

On Monday, things were slowing down. Exhibit hall time, another session to help read alouds be more fun and this one was WONDERFUL! The speaker was dynamic, she had fantastic ideas and I do have lots of new fingerplays, string stories, cut and tells, etc. that I can bring to my storytimes. Exactly what I was looking for the first time around. I also helped stuff bags for the Coretta Scott King Breakfast, which was the next morning. I ended up coming back to the bag stuffing room later in the day to help set up the room for the breakfast with the rest of the SCASL folks (and Valerie Rowe Jackson from RCPL). This was actually really fun. After setting up the room, it was time for dinner and rest – we had to get up at 4am the next morning.

Tuesday, July 1

Coretta Scott King breakfast, which is always wonderful. Kitt and I took tickets and Amanda, Valerie Rowe Jackson, and Ida showed publishers to their tables. It is always so exciting to see authors and illustrators like Ashley Bryan, Christopher Paul Curtis, etc. I’m such a nerd when they are around. After the breakfast, it was time to visit Disney Land. We were only 5 minutes away, after all. Disney Land was fun (like you’d expect it to be). Much smaller than Disney World, but still magical. Rode rides, ate a really expensive plate of fruit and had a great time. After Kitt and I returned from Disney Land, the SCASL folks had a conference planning meeting over dinner. There are lots of wonderful ideas floating around…can’t wait to start announcing all the good stuff! Marty flew in late and then it was vacation time!

Wednesday, July 2 – Sunday, July 6

Marty and I had a GREAT time. I’ll spare the day by day details, as it was a typical Vegas vacation. Went to many hotels to see the fab themes they all have, tried our hands at a little bit of Blackjack and slots, but did not win anything. Marty’s theory is that the casinos are trying to save money just like everyone else. We’ve been there a number of times before (this was my 3rd trip; Marty’s 6th) and the casinos just seemed really tight this time compared to other times. Oh well. Marty is very good at budgeting his spending day by day, so all’s well at the Fort home! There were two big highlights of the trip – Marty surprised me by asking me to marry him again. I got some new bling and everything. Elvis married us at the Graceland Chapel. It was the best thing ever, because Elvis was awesome. We also saw LOVE at the Mirage and it was fantastic. Brought tears to my eyes, even.

That’s my trip out west! As I finish this blog, I am no longer in the Vegas airport, but at home. I’ve done laundry all day long and am happy, happy to be home with my dogs.

Hope your summer / conference experiences / etc. have been as wonderful as mine! If not, there’s still time 🙂



About Valerie Byrd Fort

I live in South Carolina. I am passionate about libraries, books, and reading. I am also a mom. This is my blog about those things.
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