The Many Formats of Book Club

For the first quarter of the year, I’ve been exploring how to start book clubs in our school in a variety of ways.  I hoped that by offering a variety of ways to engage with a book, that we would support many different interests, availabilities, and format preferences.  Our book for quarter 1 was The Seventh Most Important Thing by Shelley Pearsall.  I offered 2 main ways of participating in our quarter 1 book club: 1 was reading the book during a lunch book club with me and another was a family book club where students and families read the book together.

For both book clubs, I created a shared Flipgrid where readers could leave thoughts, questions, favorite parts, etc for various segments of the book.

My lunch book club met every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday to chat about the book as well as listen to me read aloud.  Then, they would continue a set number of pages before we met again.  The students enjoyed this time out of the noisy lunchroom.  We got to know one another better through our discussion of the hard topics of the book, and we had many laughs and sad moments as read aloud.  Many students read way ahead in the book because they were so excited and eager to know what happened, but they continued to come and listen to me re-read the parts they had already read and continued to contribute to the conversations.

Nine other elementary schools in our district also read the book.  We decided that at the end of our school-level book clubs, we would use Skype and Google Hangouts to connect our schools together across the district so that our students could talk to one another.  My students connected with Angie Pendley’s students at Gaines Elementary.  We used Google Hangouts and a set of slides to guide our conversations.  Students took turns at each school stepping up to the camera and sharing their thoughts about the questions. It was fun to hear from students in another school and see a different perspective on the book as well as many connections to what we experienced when we read.

All ready for family book club at 5pm. #barrowreads #barrowbuddies #bookclub #reading #librariesofinstagram

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The family book club read at home on their own and we held one face-to-face meeting at the end of the book.  We had about 21 families reading the book, so I hoped to have a large group discussion.

However, due to many schedule conflicts, we had a very small group.  Even though it was a small group, it was a mighty discussion.  We chatted as we gathered and shared some snacks. The author, Shelley Pearsall, offered to connect with us for a few minutes over Skype, so we took time to connect with her and ask some questions about the book.  We learned how the title of the book started out as “Metallic”, but the publisher changed it to the title we see today.  We learned about the research that Shelley Pearsall put into the book to match the 60’s time period as well as learn some facts about the life of James Hampton and his art piece.

Some of our families asked about the other characters in the book and how their stories came about.  We even got to see a brainstorming page that Shelley Pearsall used to map out the 7 things and their connections to Arthur and the story.

After our Skype, we used the same questions that our lunch book club used to have a rich discussion.  I loved hearing parents and children talking together on equal ground and sharing their wonderings, excitement, and sadness from the book.  I definitely want to build upon what we experienced because it was a wonderful first experience that I would love to see more people be a part of.

Fourth grade lunch book club continues with What Elephants Know. #bookclub #reading #barrowreads

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For quarter 2, I’m trying to build upon our book clubs.  With the help of 2 UGA students, I am continuing the 4th grade lunch book club and adding on a 5th grade group.  I’m also expanding he family book club to included more grade levels in the hope that more people will be able to attend our in-person event.  This time we are using 3 different books instead of the same one.  As always, it’s a work in progress, but our reading community is growing.  One of the things I loved hearing from some of the parents is how excited they were to read together as a family. I also had family members tell me they had never been a part of a book club and they were excited to finally try one out.

Onward we go.

Letters for Justice: Empowering Young Voices on Topics that Matter

There’s a lot going on in the world right now and it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the many current issues being debated and decided on in our country and around the world.  As a teacher librarian, it’s challenging because I want to support all students and families knowing that I might not personally agree with their perspectives.  I make sure that I step back and listen to the students, support their research and perspectives, and check my own beliefs.

Recently, Ms. Olin, 5th grade social studies teacher, came to me with an idea. She wanted to get students thinking about current US & World issues and considering what their own perspectives were based on the facts of the issues. She also wanted them to know that their voices mattered in the world and that they could get their thoughts out to local, state, and national representatives as well as the general public to have an influence on decisions being made.

Ms. Olin started this project in her classroom by sharing the book I Have  a Right to Be a Child by Alain Serres. This sparked discussion about basic human rights and current issues in the world. She also shared news sites with them so that they could start reading current articles about various trending topics, especially if they weren’t familiar with the current topics being debated. Through these sites, students began to choose a topic that they were interested in, curious about, or passionate for. Sites included Newsela, CNN Student News, PBS News Hour, and Time for Kids.

After two days of exploring, students selected their topic.

In the library, we focused on the importance of raising our voices when we have concerns. I read excerpts from Be A Changemaker by Laurie Ann Thompson.

“Don’t wait. Don’t wait to be powerful, to change the lives and communities around you significantly.”

I also read excerpts from It’s Your World by Chelsea Clinton.

“We can–and should–respectfully disagree with others who have reached different answers from ours” and “Even if we disagree with one another, it’s important to recognize what the facts are”.

Ms. Olin and I both encouraged students to look at issues from all sides and to gather as many facts as possible. With those facts, they could form their own opinions on the issues and brainstorm some possible actions they hope are taken.

We took some time to look at the Letters to the Next President project to see letters that were written by students from many location about a variety of topics. Students could sort the letters by their own topic and see what other students were saying.

As students looked at example opinions and continued to gather facts, they started filling out organizers to get their own thoughts together.  In class, they began writing letters, protest signs, and editorial cartoons to express the facts and their own views.

5th grader's editorial cartoon #editorialcartoon #cartoon #politicalcartoon #studentvoice

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5th grader's editorial cartoon. #studentvoice #politicalcartoon #cartoon #editorialcartoon

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Finally, students came to the library to begin sharing their voice.  We spent some time talking about how we can make our voice visible. We could of course mail the letters and artwork to their intended recipients, but how else could we share our voice? I was able to talk to the students about my recent recognition as an AASL Social Media Superstar for Sensational Student Voice and how social media and collaborative tools like Flipgrid allow us to spread our voices to an even larger audience.

We hope our voices are heard by our local, state, and national representatives, but even if they aren’t, we can share our voices with others and offer perspectives and actions that might encourage them to support our cause or make the world a better place.  As students finished their work, they recorded their voices in a Flipgrid so that others can consider their perspectives and possibly join their collective voice.

We hope you will take time to listen to each student. If one of the voices speaks to you, give them a response.  Better yet, if they inspire you, consider writing your own letter and adding your voice to our grid.  We invite your students to join our voices as well.

As we were closing our time in the library, some of the students spoke up and said, “I bet Mr. Trump won’t even read our letters.” This was a great opportunity for Ms Olin and I to repeatedly say to the students, “Your voice matters”. We talked about collective voice, and how sometimes a single voice isn’t heard by someone like the president. However, that single voice can inspire other voices who come together collectively around a common cause. This was a great closing because even as an adult I sometimes wonder why I should even take time to call or write my representatives. However, I was reminded that our individual voices do matter and collectively they make impact.

 

March Madness Global Book Talk Challenge (Final)

Many votes have been cast in our global book talk challenge and we are down to our final 2 students.  Will it be Evin?  Will it be Adaline?

Take a moment to watch (or rewatch) their videos and vote on your favorite.  Share with friends, family, and your own networks.  Voting will end on April 2.

 

Vote Here!

Be sure to take time to visit the full grid of videos to watch many other incredible book talks from around the world.  The competition is fun, but the real reward is hearing from so many student voices sharing their love of books.

 

AASL Social Media Superstars

Social media has connected me with so many amazing educators since I started using it many years ago.  I had no idea when I started using Twitter at a conference that it would connect me with so many people who I consider to be great friends as well as colleagues.  Today, I can’t imagine what it would be like to not share on social media. Showing our work on social media allows us to define for the world what happens in school libraries. Through social media we inspire one another, push one another’s thinking, and connect the voices of our students.  Social media has developed strong relationships with authors, developers, and vendors as well, and each connection means more opportunities to empower student voices around the globe.

I was surprised to learn on Sunday that I was nominated for the American Association of School Librarians Social Media Superstar Award in the category of Sensational Student Voice. Not only was I nominated, I was one of the three finalists.  The other two superstars are Stony Evans and Beth Redford, who both doing amazing work with their students.  Student voice is a main foundation of our library program.  I want students to have opportunities in our library to know that their ideas and creations matter in the world.  I want them to see that their work can have an impact within our school but far beyond as well.  To be nominated in this particular category is a huge honor to me.

One of the most exciting things about this particular award is that it showcases to the world many individual leaders in the world of school libraries.  These are people who share out of the goodness of their hearts to show their work, inspire others, collaborate beyond walls, advocate for libraries, and get student work out to an authentic audience.

If you are looking for some people to follow on various platforms of social media, this is one great place to start.  Many of you will probably find people on this list who are already inspiring you.  AASL is asking that people give public testimonies for the nominees on this list.  This is a great opportunity for you to share stories about these individuals that they might not even know about. Many times I’m inspired by someone’s work, but I forget to tell them in detail about what their social media post caused me to do.

There are many names that are missing from this list, but I’m hopeful to see many of those names as this tradition continues in future years.  Thank you AASL for this highlight of some of the important work happening in libraries.

I’m slowly making my way through the list to leave comments, and I invite you to do the same.  You have until April 14th.  The final “winners” in each category will be announced in a webinar on April 27 for School Library Month.

 

You can visit all of the superstars at this link.

When Vendors Listen to Students

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Student voice is important to me. I love to find opportunities where students’ voices are listened to, and even more than that, acted upon.  Recently, during a student book budget meeting, we met with Jim Boon from Capstone.  Jim always listens to students and makes sure they have what they need in order to purchase books for the library.  He lets them guide the conversation and answers any questions they have rather than pushing certain titles that they aren’t interested in.

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During his recent visit, he gave students posters at the end as a thank you, and Adaline, a 5th grade student book budget member, asked if there were ever any World War I posters.  Rather than just saying “no”, Jim listened to her reasoning that war and military books are popular in our school and that she had a personal interest in them herself. He suggested that she send an email to Amy Cox, Capstone Library Marketing Manager.

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Adaline immediately crafted an email to Amy, and the conversation began.  Not only did Amy respond to Adaline, she also asked her follow-up questions and genuinely wanted to know the answers.  In the busy world of businesses, this kind of personal interaction says a lot to me about the vision and mission of a company.  Capstone isn’t just about selling books. They are community and customer focused and want to listen to the very people who they are trying to support.

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Here’s how the conversation started:

Dear Amy Cox,
When Jim Boone came to my schools “Book Budget” we got posters with hedgehogs on them. While I was looking at the poster I had an idea! Since I like to read about World War 2 maybe you could make a World War 2 poster! If you take this into consideration please email Mr.Plemmons  so he can tell me! Thank You!
From,
    Adaline
Then Amy responded:

Dear Adaline,

We would be very happy to consider a poster with a World War II theme. When we make a poster, we try to have it do one of two things:

1)      They feature a specific series of books that we think students would like to know about so that they can read them, or

2)      Like the hedgehog posters, they don’t talk about a specific book but rather try to show how much fun it is to find something you like to read

Do you have any thoughts about which direction we should take for a World War II poster? I’m always happy to hear ideas from other people. When everyone shares ideas, the final project always turns out so much better.

I was so proud of Adaline continuing the conversation in addition to all of her other school responsibilities.

Dear Amy Cox,
I  think the books that the poster could be about could be the series Heroes of World War 2 !  I think that the poster should have something related to the Nazis or maybe even Anne Frank! And yes I have seen the new graphic novels! They look amazing!
                        Adaline
Amy moved the conversation to the Capstone team.

Dear Adaline,

Thank you for your response. I’m so happy that you like the Heroes of World War II books. I think those stories are fascinating.

The idea of World War II heroes got us thinking here at  Capstone—perhaps in a different direction than you would expect, but that is the fun of brainstorming, right? Give us several days and we’ll see if we can come up with something interesting. Can you search your library catalog and see if you already have this book? It has a tiny clue about our idea!

Finally, Amy let us know to expect something in the mail.  When the box arrived, I couldn’t wait to see what was inside.  To my surprise, Amy had sent 3 custom signs that incorporated history as well as the mission of the student book budget group to get the right books in student hands.

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I immediately sent a note down to Adaline so that she could come up and see how Capstone had listened to her ideas and given us something completely based upon her request.  She was all smiles.  I also loved that her grandmother was here to celebrate the moment with her.  Even though she might not want the attention, I think it’s important to celebrate this moment.  Now her efforts will be on display as our student book budget books arrive.  These signs will be a part of our student book budget display.

This is not the first time that Capstone has reached out and supported a specific student.  Last year, Amy supported Ajacea in her marketing interests.

I hope other students will see this as an opportunity to speak up and make their voices heard when they have an idea, and I hope educators and companies will see this as an opportunity to amplify student voice and make a difference in our world no matter how small.

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Thank you Amy Cox and Capstone for always supporting the student book budget project and always listening to (and acting upon) the voices of students.

Let’s Show Our Work with the #PowerOfPublicSchools

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Created by Kristina Holzweiss

When I speak at conferences or lead workshops, one of the ideas that I try to stress to educators is the importance of showing our work.  It’s something I’ve always believed in but my belief has strengthened each year.

One of the books that I got a lot of encouragement from is Austin Kleon’s Show Your Work.

So many of his ideas resonate with me. As educators, we truly have an opportunity to show the world what is happening within the walls of our schools.  I share at least one thing every single day on Twitter, Instagram, and/or Facebook about the work that is going on in our public school library.

Kazoo parade #librariesofinstagram #steam #makerspace #ccsdmaker

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I do this for many reasons.  The biggest reason is that it amplifies the work of my students, teachers, and families.  It shows that the work that they are doing matters and deserves to be seen and heard by a global audience.

Another reason I share is to inspire other educators to take risks and try something new.  I’ve gained so much from reading the tweets, pictures, and blog posts of fellow educators around the world. People like Jennifer LaGarde, Tiffany Whitehead, Matthew Winner, Sherry Gick, Kathy Burnette, Nikki Robertson, George Couros, Todd Nesloney (and many more than I can list) inspire my thinking.  They push me to innovate, to try something new, and to offer more opportunities to my community.  By sharing my work, someone else out there will see something we are doing and twist that idea into something new.  Someone out there will try something they weren’t even thinking about.

Finally, I share my work because it defines for the world what is happening in a public school library.  Without sharing, many assumptions are made about what happens in public schools.  It shouldn’t be a mystery to the public.  You can look through my blog posts, Instagram pictures, and Tweets and see that our library and school are filled with miraculous things.  Everything isn’t perfect, but it has value.

Usually, when I share my work, I add hashtags like #edchat, #edtech, #studentvoice, #tlchat, #istelib, #makered, and more.  This sends our work to specific audiences.  This week, a new Secretary of Education was sworn in. There has been a lot of controversy around Betsy DeVos and her views of public education.  There has been a lot of controversy about her lack of experience with what actually happens within public schools. So…I decided to occasionally share with her on social media some of the things happening in our public school library.

When I did this, several people in my professional learning network started having a conversation around showing the great work of public schools. Sherry Gick, Rebecca Flowers, and more started brainstorming a hashtag.  Many suggestions were offered but the brilliant author/illustrator Matthew Cordell offered this one #PowerOfPublicSchools

 

Kristina Holzweiss created a graphic, and we all started sharing it along with our posts of the great work of public schools.

 

I hope that you will join us.  Show the powerful things that are happening in your school and use the hashtag #PowerOfPublicSchools

 

Use our graphic within your networks to encourage others to share.

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Also, consider tagging people who need to see the power of public schools.  Perhaps it’s local, state, and federal government.  Perhaps it’s businesses in your community.  Perhaps it’s someone else.

Regardless of who you might tag, show your work.  You never know who it might inspire, influence, or change.

 

 

Wishes and Plans: Exploring Life Challenges Through Books

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Somehow, I’ve managed to read three books recently that all feature a main character grappling with the challenge of having an absent parent. I didn’t choose these books because of this fact, but reading about someone’s life challenges that are so different from my own has made me a better person. In his recent Newbery speech, Matt de la Pena referenced an encounter with a librarian where she said that she loved his books but didn’t stock them in her library because she didn’t have those kinds of kids at her school. Those kinds of thoughts make me cringe because books allow us to escape to magical worlds and do things we could only dream of doing and they can also allow us to step into someone else’s shoes for just a moment to get a brief perspective on the world through someone else’s eyes. While it can’t make you an expert on the struggle that the character is going through, it does allow you to see that we all face challenges and struggles and we don’t always wear those troubles on the outside for everyone to see.

One of these books is Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo, which I already mentioned on the blog. Two of these books that I read are upcoming releases from Farrar Straus Giroux. Barbara O’Connor’s Wish comes out in late August.   It features an 11-year old girl named Charlie whose mother is having trouble keeping her life in order and whose father is in jail. She goes to live with her aunt and uncle in a small town. Every day of her life since fourth grade she makes the exact same wish and wonders if it will ever come true. Charlie’s list of ways to make a wish is pretty impressive, and I can’t help but wonder how many ways there are to make a wish after reading this book. What did Barbara O’Connor discover that she didn’t even include in the book? While Charlie is with her aunt and uncle, she meets a stray dog who she names Wishbone. Along with her new friend Howard, they craft a plan to catch Wishbone so Charlie can have a pet of her own.

Woven into this tale of longing for a pet is Charlie’s struggle with finding a place she belongs and her desire to have a mother and father who care enough about her to give her a stable home filled with love. That struggle affects how Charlie interacts with those around her. She lashes out at anyone who ruffles her feathers, and I couldn’t help but wonder how I would act if faced with a similar situation. I can’t say that I blame her for writing mean things to her teacher, giving kids a shove, or insulting her aunt.  What I was struck with the most was how her Aunt Bertha handled every incident of acting out. She offered nothing but love and understanding. I must admit that my own reaction might be to jump at the negativity with a punishment, but Bertha just offered a heap of love.  One of the quotes that still stands out to me after reading wish is:

Sometimes we get so caught up in our own drama and challenges that we lose sight of what others are going through. Instead of being quick to judge or react, I want to slow down and remember that love is a powerful gift.  Barbara O’Connor has once again masterfully written a southern tale that can speak to us all.

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In Kate Beasley’s Gertie’s Leap to Greatness coming in October, Gertie deals with an absent parent as well. However, this parent lives in the same town and still doesn’t have any interaction with her.  How would that feel to know that your mom lived just a few streets away yet had no interest in seeing you or talking to you? It’s certainly very far away from my own experience of having a mom and dad who are always there for me, wanting to know where I am at every second, and still want to talk to me every single day on the phone. Gertie is a firecracker of a girl. She takes matters into her own hands and makes a plan to be the best 5th grader in the entire universe. Gertie wrestles with her absent parent in a different way than Charlie does. She thinks that if she does enough then her mom will notice and want to be a part of her life or realize that Gertie is so awesome that she doesn’t need a mother anyway. Gertie has something standing in her way: a new girl named Mary Sue. Both of them have what it takes to be standout students, but their battle for the top results in even more struggles for Gertie to deal with.

Gertie is a character that I just want to hang out with. She is full of wit and adventure and can take just about any situation and make the best out of it. She does all of this even with a gloomy situation hanging over her. I think about my role in education and how a student like Gertie might slide by unnoticed as having a challenge to deal with. She isn’t one to reach out for help because she thinks she has to handle it all herself. How do I recognize those students? What opportunities can I give to students that allows them to shine and be the star that they are?  I love how even the stern Mrs. Stebbins recognized the potential in Gertie and gave her a moment to shine.

I highly recommend all three of the books mentioned in this post. Check them out at your local independent bookshop or library and add them to your collection.

Morning message #summerreading #literacy #librarian #thatsmycar

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I love to read books that I connect to, but I also love to read books that challenge my thinking and open my eyes to new cultures, perspectives, or challenges that are different from my own experience. I hope that I’ll keep finding books in my path that enrich my life in this way. As I’m looking toward the new school year, I am thinking about goals and what I hope for the students and families in our library. Right now, I hope that we can all step into the shoes of characters that we connect with but more importantly step into the shoes of characters that give us new perspectives to learn from and enrich our lives. I want to work as hard as I can to offer a collection of books to our readers that gives the opportunity to do this.