Critical thinking and the “filter bubble”

The recent U.S. elections in the United States have brought to light the need for all of us to be better critical thinkers and fact-check those Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and WeChat posts that enter our feeds and fuel our anxieties.

Here are some steps to take when you read something shared by a friend but not supported with reliable evidence:

  • Google it. Or Bing it or Yahoo! it or Baidu it or Naver it or do whatever you do to look up information quickly;
  • Look to see if a reliable news source (a news site that pays its reporters to do real, investigative journalism) has reported on the event in question;
  • If you can verify that the information is true, share it;
  • If you realize that the information is not true or you can’t be sure it’s true, challenge it. Comment on it and send a message to your friend to let them know that they need to question their sources.

Here are two sites that make it their business to verify information that we find online: Attempts to give accurate information about rumors and urban legends on a variety of topics, including war, business, events, toxins, science, military, popular… Monitors the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews, and news releases.

In 2011, Eli Pariser gave a TED Talk on the topic of the “filter bubble” and the ways in which Google, Facebook and other sites tailor what we see depending on our past web-browsing behaviors.  Parents and (pre-)teens (preferably together) can watch his TED talk (see below) and discuss what this type of invisible editing does to our world-view. Pariser warns that we need to balance our “information diet” and not just feed on the “junk food” diet fed to us by those who have decided what’s most “relevant” to us–not necessarily what’s important.

Pariser went on to co-found the good-news sight, Upworthy, and to write the book titled, The Filter Bubble: What the internet is hiding from you.

Do you have a resource that you use (perhaps in your mother tongue) for fact-checking or promoting critical thinking? Please let our librarians know so we can share it with our community. Email us at or

Library Updates

Scholastic book orders have arrived! The IST library staff were very excited to receive a large shipment of Scholastic books this morning. Library staff worked hard today to organize the orders, and most students who placed orders received their books this afternoon.

New furniture for the library! The library is getting a facelift with the addition of new, comfy furniture perfect for relaxing with a favorite book. Stop by the library to see our cozy, comfy new spaces!

International Schools Library Week is coming!

ISLW Oct 24 to 28

International Schools Library Week at IST–Monday, October 24th to Friday, October 28th.


You can begin to look forward to the week of October 24-28th when there will be lots of action in and around the library. We’ll be launching this year’s Panda Book Awards, offering Apple Store workshops, giving prizes, hosting the Beijing Book Fair and more. Watch this space for details and updates.

If you are interested in being a guest reader for an elementary class, please contact Ms. Simon at Linnea_Simon at istianjin dot net to let her know what you’d like to read and when.

Happy Birthday, Alice!

Today we were excited to celebrate Alice’s birthday with her Birthday Book Club donation. Alice, in grade 1, donated Elephants Cannot Dance! by Mo Willems. She is the first person to check out this new book from the library. Thank you Alice, and we hope you enjoy your book!


If you would like to celebrate your child’s birthday with the IST Library Birthday Book Club, please contact the librarians at or for more information on how to join.



IST Parent Book Club pick — “The Vegetarian” by Han Kang

IST Parents, join us on Friday, September 23rd at 9:15 to discuss this month’s book club choice, The Vegetarian by Han Kang. If you would like the library to order a copy for you from Book Depository, email before Wednesday, August 24th.

2016 Man Booker Prize Winner

The Vegetarian by Han Kang

Originally written in Korean and recently translated into English, The Vegetarian was awarded the 2016 Man Booker Prize—one of the world’s most prestigious literary awards. Here is the announcement from Man Booker chair of the judging panel, Boyd Tonkin:
The Vegetarian by Han Kang, translated from the Korean by Deborah Smith, is an unforgettably powerful and original novel that richly deserves to win the Man Booker International Prize 2016. After our selection of a diverse and distinguished longlist, and a shortlist of six truly outstanding novels in first-rate translations, the judges unanimously chose The Vegetarian as our winner. Told in three voices, from three different perspectives, this concise, unsettling and beautifully composed story traces an ordinary woman’s rejection of all the conventions and assumptions that bind her to her home, family and society. In a style both lyrical and lacerating, it reveals the impact of this great refusal both on the heroine herself and on those around her. This compact, exquisite and disturbing book will linger long in the minds, and maybe the dreams, of its readers. Deborah Smith’s perfectly judged translation matches its uncanny blend of beauty and horror at every turn.’

Welcome Back to School!

A warm welcome back to school from the IST Library staff! We are excited to welcome students, parents, and staff back to the library.

You will see some new faces in the library this year!

Lisa Fang, Linnea Simon, Eleanor Surridge, and Lisa Lee

Lisa Fang, Linnea Simon, Eleanor Surridge, and Lisa Lee

Ms. Fang is the Library Officer. She has been working in the IST library for seven years. She looks forward to seeing you and helping you in the library.

Ms. Simon is the Elementary Teacher-Librarian. She has been teaching at IST for the past four years, and is excited to join the library team this year. She is looking forward to a fantastic year of reading!

Ms. Surridge, the Secondary Teacher-Librarian, is returning to IST after a three-year absence. She’s thrilled to be back and looking forward to working closely with a wide range of IST community members.

Ms. Lee is the Library TA. This is her second year at IST, and first year working in the library. If you need anything in the library, she is happy to help you any way she can.

Parent Book Club: Friday, August 19 at 9:15 am

The Parent Book Club, open to parents of all nationalities, is having the first meeting of the year on Friday, 19 August at 9:15 to discuss The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo. At 384 pages, this will still be a manageable read in a week’s time! Please join us.

ghost bride

“With its gripping tangles of plot and engaging characters, this truly compelling read is sure to garner much well-deserved attention.” Julie Trevelyan for Booklist

Volunteers Welcome

We are very lucky to have several volunteers who assist us with everything from ordering to shelving, but we are always happy to have more community members coming in to assist.

Library Hours

Remember, the library is always open virtually. Go to and log in for database access. Check homework logs for login details.

Regular library hours are Monday to Thursday from 7:30 to 4:30 and Friday from 7:30 to 3:30.

Remember to return your summer reading books!

Summer Reading for the Adults

Thank you to all the community members who came to the IST Parent & Community Book Club meetings this past year. We had some in-depth discussions on a variety of themes including war, murder, love, friendship, intolerance and inclusion. The multicultural insights have broadened all our minds. Thanks so much.

The next meeting is tentatively set for Friday, 19 August at 9:15 am in the library. The book that was selected is The Ghost Bride by Yangtze Choo. It’s available on Kindle.

ghost bride


Happy reading from Jinx Morgan!

The IST Parent & Community Book Club is open to any reader who is interested. We have members from many different nationalities.  If you would like to join in our lively discussion, please come to our next meeting or email:

Library Parent Book Club – August 2013

Cover for Bad Karma

One of the highlights of the month for me is the IST Library Parent Book Club meeting. It’s a lovely time where members get together for coffee and gourmet teas, and lively discussion about our chosen book. Of course we don’t limit our conversation to the book, there’s lots of tips for life in Tianjin too!

Our first book for the 2013-2014 school is Bad Karma, by David Safier. From talking to our members as we catch up after the summer holidays, I find that most everyone found it very entertaining. The book centers around a workaholic TV producer who dies in the first chapter and is reincarnated as an ant. To be able to move up on the reincarnation wheel, she must perform good deeds to accumulate enough good karma to offset the bad karma she earned in her life as a heedless and arrogant human being.

For the IST Library Book Club, we all suggest titles for the next session at each session. We collectively choose one, making sure that it is easily available in China via Chinese online bookstores so that we can get the book in in a timely manner. Books are also often available as ebooks from Amazon or iBooks. Everyone is responsible for paying for their own copy. The library usually purchases a copy to have in our collection as well.

Our discussions are informal. We often use a discussion guide that I’ve downloaded from the Internet. My favorite site for discussion guides is, a site dedicated to book clubs. The publishing company for the book is also a good place to find discussion guides. Because I have not been able to find a discussion guide for Bad Karma, we’ll use a generic guide from LitLovers.

To join our book club, please register via the widget on the sidebar. This helps us help new members get the book, and it also helps track our success.

Don’t have time to read the book? Come anyway and help chose the next one.

See you on Wednesday!

Circulation Numbers for the 2012-2013 Year

The end of the school year (and the beginning of the summer vacation) is a great time to look back and reflect. One of the ways I do this is by looking at our statistics for the year. I’d like to share some circulation statistics with you. Circulation statistics count the number of times books are checked out.

I’ve already posted on the top 10 titles checked out in the year, with Squish No. 1: Super Amoeba in first place, which isn’t a surprise as it was the winner in its category for the 2012 Panda Book Awards and we had a Skype interview with the authors.


The top 3 homerooms in the elementary school for check outs this year were: (based on average checkouts per patron)

  1. 3W, with 83.62 average checkouts per patron and 1,087 total circulations
  2. 5D, with 69.94 average checkouts per patron and 1,189 total circulations
  3. 2H, with 64.23 average checkouts per patron and 835 total circulations

The top 3 homerooms in the secondary school for check outs this year were: (based on average checkouts per patron)

  1. 7S, with 84.5 average checkouts per patron and 1,521 total circulations
  2. 7T, with 77 average checkouts per patron and 1,386 total circulations
  3. 6R, with 52.14 average checkouts per patron and 1,095 total circulations

Congratulations to those homerooms. The more you read, the smarter you get!

For a complete list of the elementary homerooms and their checkout average this year, click here. This list of homerooms includes a grade 6 homeroom, and that because there is a parent who has children in grade 6 and in the elementary school.

For a complete list of the secondary homerooms and their checkout average this year, click here.


Thanks to all our IST teachers because they support the library in so many ways, not least by encouraging students to check out regularly.

I’m happy to report that the top five teachers will be at IST next year and are sure to continue promoting reading and inquiry in their classrooms and through the library.

  1. Ms. Ashton
  2. Ms. Simon
  3. Mr. Kimber
  4. Ms. Dingle
  5. Ms. Reston

Here’s a list of the top 20 teachers. They are listed by the homeroom name. Top Teachers by Circulation 2012-2013



The top 5 staff members for check outs this year are

  1. Jessica Yu (library circulation assistant), with 232 checkouts
  2. Jade Zhang (grade 4 assistant), with 190 checkouts
  3. Lan Qin (kindergarten assistant), with 129 checkouts
  4. Helen Gao (grade 2 assistant), with 125 checkouts
  5. Lisa Fang (library cataloging assistant), with 115 checkouts

Unfortunately, I cannot publish the report with the top 20 patrons as I have done with the other categories of patrons because the system includes personal information, but rest assured that our local staff checks out books frequently and in large amounts.


Last, but certainly not least, here’s the top 5 parents who have checked out this year. Thanks so much for being model library users!

  1. Hansa Thakwani, kindergarten parent, with 106 checkouts
  2. Ying Sun, grade 4 parent, with 61 checkouts
  3. Agnes Tassy, grade 5 parent, with 58 checkouts
  4. Preeti Shah, grade 1 parent, with 47 checkouts
  5. Aimin Zheng, grade 1 parent, with 46 checkouts

Looking forward to seeing you in the library even more next year!