Let the spotlight shine on the Spectrum scholars! Join Spectrum Scholarship Sponsor ProQuest in congratulating the amazing students and professionals who have shaped the library profession for 15 years.
By Melody Tsz-Way Leung
Information behavior, community engagement, and under-served populations. What do all of these have in common?
They are all topics that weave together into my research interests - how public libraries have been evolving and how public libraries can create better futures.
My name is Melody Leung and I am honored to be the 2016-2017 ProQuest Spectrum Scholar. I am deeply thankful for ProQuest and the American Library Association Spectrum Scholarship Program for helping me pursue my dreams. I am entering into my second and last year at the University of Washington Information School with dreams of becoming a Children’s Librarian focused on multicultural storytimes. In the long term, I am also interested in becoming a Public Business Librarian focused on entrepreneurial support. My professional goals are deeply driven by my upbringing.
- I’m a child of Chinese immigrant parents who owned a Chinese restaurant in a small rural town. Living upstairs, I watched my parents work 10+ hour days with little to show for it besides the hopes they had for their children.
- The only Chinese people I knew growing up were my family and Michelle Kwan on TV. I honored my culture through my parents and doing wushu (Chinese Martial Arts) since I was a teenager.
- Throughout my adolescence, I struggled helping my parents with paperwork, babysitting, and learning how to succeed as an American-born Chinese daughter.
- Identity is something that I have a huge interest in. There are digital identities, cultural identities, gender identities, and environmental identities. All these makeup who we are.
Thankfully, I had the best childhood caregiver, Suzanne, who helped me become who I am today. During a time when my parents couldn’t read English and were struggling to make ends meet, Suzanne taught me to dream through books. She was like a gardener, watering the tree of my life through reading, teaching me skills to start school, and most importantly, opening my eyes to all the possibilities I had in life.
I want to mirror the warmth and encouragement that I felt by passing it on to future generations as a Children’s Librarian.
During my first storytime series, I was working with bilingual children of immigrant parents. This opportunity was given to me by a great bilingual Children’s Librarian that I look up to — Shannon Dye. With her guidance, I learned simple Spanish phrases and presented an array of diverse books and activities for their age group. For example, I read Drum Dream Girl by Margarita Engle. It is a beautifully illustrated story about a girl who dreamed of playing drums. However, her father and the rest of society wouldn’t allow her to do so.
To practice critical thinking and dialectic reading, I asked questions throughout the story. For example, “Do you think it’s true that girls shouldn’t be allowed to play drums?” At the end of the story, I explained to the children that it was based on a true story from the 1930s. The Chinese-African-Cuban girl in the story is named Millo Castro Zaldarriaga. These facts made the kids excited and surprised. It was like I was sharing a secret treasure with them.
To connect the book to each individual child, I had the children create dream drums that reflected their own dreams. The children drew everything from a cat to an astronaut. All these wishes can be a small puzzle piece for building their future. I hope that they will remember these heart-warming drums as they grow up and actually pursue their dreams.
In addition to giving me more experience with children’s services, this storytime actually became the platform for my first research project. Stay tuned for a second blog post on my research project.
I strongly believe that it is crucial for children to see themselves as well as other people in stories. Seeing themselves can help build confidence and help them find their own identity. As I was growing up, I read many books with Chinese or Asian characters. However, they were almost never completely like me. I didn’t feel completely Chinese or completely American. In retrospect, books helped me find my own unique identity. That concept was also solidified by reading about people from different cultures or different situations. I started to realize the differences but also the similarities each setting brings. By introducing an array of characters to children early, it can help develop empathy and an open mind to anything they may encounter as different.
Interested in Identity too? Here’s a blog post I wrote for the iYouth UW blog focused on identities: Being an ABC but Also a Superhero
Find me on LinkedIn.