Authors Unite in Decatur

This labor day weekend consider spending your time celebrating outstanding authors at the AJC Decatur Book Festival in Decatur, GA. Hundreds of authors for both adults and children will speak at multiple venues in downtown Decatur. There are also book-related vendors and many kid-friendly activities. There will be a parade for kids on both days: one parade for the author of Llama, Llama Red Pajama and one parade for the author of Ladybug Girl. There aren’t many opportunities like this to see so many award-winning authors in one place and it’s right in our backyard.

I’ve attended this event for the past 3 years, and it only gets better each year.  This year at the Target Children’s Stage you can meet National Book Award winner Jeanne Birdsall, National Book Award finalist Deborah Wiles, Newbery Honor winner Ingrid Law, popular graphic novel artist/author DJ Steinberg, the author of Sisters Grimm and NERDS Michael Buckley, the author of Peter and the Starcatchers Ridley Pearson, and the list goes on and on.

There will even be an interactive scavenger hunt where festival goers can “check-in” using a mobile phone app.  The hunt will take players through many festival events and downtown Decatur landmarks.  You can learn more about the festival by visiting the festival website.  For a little taste of what the children’s stage is like you can view clips from past festivals here and here and here.

Library on Wheels

Each year, just as I get the library up and running, classes in the routine of coming to the library for lessons & checkout, and kids excited about books, the library has to “close” for two weeks. For two weeks, our students are involved in Scantron testing. This testing provides valuable information to teachers about student strengths and weaknesses as they begin the year, but testing takes place in the media center. During testing, we are only open for checkout before school and from 2-2:30 at the end of the day. It always saddens me to see kids unable to come checkout books, so this year, I’m taking the library to them. Today I filled my rolling cart with books, got my laptop and scanner, and set off to classrooms. I did an impromptu lesson using the book My Librarian is a Camel and showed how children around the world get their library books in many unique ways. Then, I spread the books out on the floor.  Students looked at the books and decided if they wanted to keep their current library books or if they wanted to exchange for a new one.  The kids were so excited, and they didn’t even seem to mind the limited selection of books that I had to offer. Since today was a success, I think my next step is to see if there are genres of books that teachers would like me to focus on in my cart when I visit their room. My time to visit classrooms is limited because I have to help with the Scantron testing, but I was overjoyed to see books leaving our library and getting into student hands. It was a mini access enabler project, and what fun it was!

Checking the Stars

We are now two weeks into the school year, so it’s time for me to check the stars and see how we are doing with new initiatives.  This year we started something new:  star reviews (an idea inspired by School Library Journal).  When students read a book they love, they get to put a star sticker inside the book, display the book at the front of the media center, and share a book review in a variety of formats.

So far, six students have put stars in books, 5 students have put stars and written reviews, 3 students have shared their reviews on BTV, 1 student has audio-recorded a review, and an uncountable number of students said that they will be doing a star review soon.  I’ve tried getting students to write book reviews on their own in the past with little success.  I feel like we may have captured something here with this idea.  I see a willingness and an excitement for telling about books, especially from students who want to be on our morning broadcast.  It’s there chance to shine like a star on TV.

One student chose to record her voice for her star review, so you can listen to my conversation with her here.

We’re off to a steady start, and I hope that we can keep reaching for the stars with student involvement in the media center.

Stars are Aligning!

It’s the start of a new year in the Barrow Media Center, and even with our leaky roof and broken air conditioner, the stars are aligning for a great year.  One of our goals for this year is to be a more participatory library.  Two exciting components of this are our star reviews and our leader librarians project.

For star reviews, students will be making recommendations of great books that they have read from the Barrow Media Center to other students in the school.  When students discover a fantastic book, they will place a foil star sticker on the inside cover of the book, and the book will be displayed in a special section at the front of the media center.  This section is decked out with star lights and a star poster.  Students will then have the option to do more with their favorite book.  They can share the book on our morning broadcast.  They can type a review for our Destiny card catalog and blog.  They can record a podcast book review to feature on our blog, website, and card catalog.  The seed for this idea came from a comic strip in the July 2010 issue of School Library Journal.  We hope that this new feature will get students excited about sharing great books in a variety of forums.

In leader librarians, a cross-section of students in grades 3-5 will be involved in a two 8-week projects funded partially by a Foundation for Excellence grant and book fair profits.  These students will survey reading interests from students in preK-5th grade.  They will use these reading interests to seek out vendors to purchase new books for the library and even meet with some vendor reps.  They will be given a budget.  They will examine selection criteria and carefully choose new books for the media center.  They will craft a marketing plan to publicize the new books to the whole school.  After doing a smaller scale project last year with a group of students who purchased books for the library, I’ve seen the power of student choice in the media center.  I’m committed to finding ways for the students of Barrow to be involved in making decisions about purchases for the media center.

In my 3 years in the media center, I have not had an overarching theme for the year, but this year we decided to give it a try.  Our theme is Reading Heroes.  Each mon

th we will feature different kinds of heroes from superheroes to animal heroes to everyday heroes to sports heroes and more.  We’ll have a hero day where students get to dress as their favorite hero.  We currently have a poll posted in the media center asking students who their favorite hero is.  We’re even going to tie heroes into our orientation lessons to the media center and see how heroes can be found in practically every section of the library.

These are just a few of the ideas that are coming together for this year, but I know many more are on their way, including several technology inquiry projects.  Stay tuned for more exciting things from the Barrow Media Center.