Books for Keeps: It’s Time for Summer Reading!

I am so excited to share that this was the very first year our school was served by an amazing program called Books for Keeps. This non-profit group was founded by Melaney Smith and gives 12 new books to every student in 12 of our 14 elementary schools in Clarke County. They also serve schools outside of Athens as well. It takes a massive effort in fundraising, grant writing, and volunteer hours to make this happen in each school.

I’ve had several questions on social media about this program and how it works, so I’ll try to explain it here.

Before the event:

  • Year-round Books for Keeps is fundraising, grant writing, and ordering books to deliver to their warehouse. Volunteers spend many hours sorting and boxing books grouped by grade levels and themes and sorted into stacks for delivery to schools in April & May.
  • I send a master schedule to Books for Keeps which includes the number of kids in each class. They create a draft schedule that I send to teachers for feedback.
  • During the year, Books for Keeps checks in to see if numbers need to be adjusted in each class and the schedule is finalized.
  • Boxes of books are delivered to the school and sorted into areas for quick distribution to tables.
  • Bags and tags arrive for every student. Bags & tags have to be counted out and delivered to each class. Teachers/students write student names on tags.
  • Since this was the first year, I did an introduction to Books for Keeps via Youtube Live.

  • I did a presentation to our whole faculty at a staff meeting so they were comfortable with the process and understood the purpose of BFK. The biggest things to go over were the importance of student choice and the importance of making sure every child got to participate.
  • I also sent home info to families in the my monthly newsletter.
  • A volunteer signup went out from Books for Keeps to help with distribution.
  • Right before distribution day, I arranged tables in the middle of the library.

Distribution Days May 14 & 15

  • Volunteers arrived for a morning shift and an afternoon shift

  • Leslie Hale & Justin Bray from Books for Keeps handed out aprons, clipboards and questionnaires as well as gave volunteers and overview of what to expect during each visit from classes.

  •  Leslie and Justin also unboxed books for each class session and volunteers stocked the tables.
  • As classes arrived, Leslie or Justin gave an intro to each class on choosing 12 books, the importance of summer reading, and the process for checking out with a volunteer.
  • Students carried their bags to the tables and self selected 12 new books. Volunteers were encouraged to hold back and let students look. We wanted students to self select books because that’s a huge predictor of whether kids will actually read during the summer.  If a student was having trouble making selections, then volunteers would step in to have conversations and make suggestions.

  • When students had 12 books, they visited a volunteer to count their books. Some students had too many and needed to make decisions. Others didn’t have enough and went back for more. Volunteers also asked students about which book they were most excited about as well as what was missing from the selections. This helps Books for Keeps make purchases for next year.
  • When a class left, new books came out of boxes and onto tables and the process repeated again.
  • Each class had 20-30 minutes depending on the number of students.

I’ve been hoping Books for Keeps would come to our school for several years.  There have been many initiatives where I’ve tried to get some extra books in student hands for the summer, but none as large as this one. A few things I’ve tried include:

  • Giving Middle School the Worst Years of My Life to all of our 5th graders for World Book Night. https://expectmiraculous.com/2013/04/23/world-book-night-2013/
  • Giving all 3rd and 4th graders a copy of Pie. https://expectmiraculous.com/2015/03/26/give-our-students-some-pie-by-sarah-weeks/
  • Creating summer reading buckets (home libraries) for 100 students in multiple grades. https://expectmiraculous.com/2016/05/04/home-libraries-and-summer-reading/ and https://expectmiraculous.com/2016/04/12/building-home-libraries-a-community-collaboration/

Books for Keeps takes approximately $15,000 per school which means about $30 per child. They rely heavily on donations, so if this program speaks you to, check out their site and make a donation. http://booksforkeeps.org/ 

These 2 days were amazing and filled with smiles, squeals, and students jumping straight into a book to read.  I’ve gotten messages from families who said that their child got such a great mix of books that were truly of interest. I’ve also gotten thank you notes to send to Books for Keeps with lots of great feedback from students. I can’t wait to see how this grows across the years and how students’ excitement and expectations develop.

Seeing every student in the school right before summer began also surfaced some dilemmas and questions for me. A handful of students didn’t want books to take home and weren’t afraid to say that they had no plans to read during the summer because it was their time off. Those comments bothered me, but they also gave me information about work that needs to be done ahead.  Just handing books to them isn’t going to resolve that dilemma. I’m diving into some professional reading to help me begin to think more about this.

Next professional read #currentlyreading #professionallearning

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I can’t thank Books for Keeps enough for continuing to work tirelessly to get books into kids’ hands. Even with some bumps in the road, it’s an amazing program that was overwhelmingly welcomed by teachers, families, and students. Thank you to every donor who made the funding available to purchase books and thank you to the many volunteers who put in countless hours to prepare for these 2 days.

Happy summer reading!

 

Izzy Gizmo: The Perfect Book for Library Makerspaces (and a giveaway)

I’m so excited to be part of the blog tour for the new book Izzy Gizmo written by Pip Jones, illustrated by Sara Ogilvie, and published by Peachtree Publishers.  The very first time I read this book, I knew it was a perfect match for makerspaces.

Izzy Gizmo tells the story of a young inventor whose wheels are always turning to create the next great contraption. From her hair-taming Beard-Tastic to her hostess Tea-Mendous, Izzy is always looking for ways to make life a little bit more convenient.  Of course, her inventions don’t always go as planned and she must work through the frustration and thoughts of giving up.  When she discovers a hurt crow, Izzy must use her creative energy to tackle a real-world problem.  Will the injured crow ever be able to fly again? Read this colorful, thought-provoking book to find out.

In library makerspace, we talk a lot about the mindset it takes to be a maker.  Creativity, problem-solving, perseverance, growth mindset, and risk-taking are just a few of the pieces of the maker mindset puzzle.  Izzy Gizmo features all of those mindsets. Every page is filled with illustrations showing Izzy’s many complex inventions, and I could imagine readers staring at the pages and sparking their own creative ideas.

I love that as Izzy invents things don’t always go the way she planned them.  That’s the realistic world of being a maker.  Things rarely go right, and I really appreciate that she is a character who is honest about her feelings.  She lets her emotions out and shows us that making can be frustrating. There are moments that you want to quit, but even though she may come close to quitting, Izzy is not one to give up.  It’s important for our readers to see her persevere and that it’s ok to get frustrated.

We have a lot of fun in our library makerspace, but I always encourage students to think about purpose. All around us there are real problems and issues that we could possibly tackle during makerspace time. I love that Izzy finds the crow and goes through a whole range of inventions to make the crow’s life better.  It reminds our readers and makers that even kids can find solutions to real world problems.

As we study the invention cycle, we explore the idea of remixing. You may have parts of an invention that work and parts that don’t, but the learning that you took from that experience can be remixed into something new. Izzy does this often. She pulls parts of other inventions in order to create her next solution.  This of course leads to a bit of a surprise ending in the book, but I think Izzy is a character who will be up to the new challenge she faces.

I’ve shared this book with elementary students and I’ve also read it to a class of college students at the University of Georgia who work with my young makers. It’s a great read for all ages.

Congratulations to our winner: Lisa Seymour!

I’m giving away one copy of the book. Click the Google form below or follow this link to enter.  Please read all the rules and enter by 12PM EST on March 9th. Good luck!


 

The 2018 Barrow Storybook Celebration

This year, I shook things up by moving our annual storybook parade and celebration to the week of Read Across America.  Traditions are hard to change, but it’s fun to try something new every now and then to see what we can learn from it.

The storybook parade has always been a favorite activity at our school.  It’s a day to dress up as a favorite book character and celebrate that book for all to see.

We begin our day with 2 guest readers in every classroom.  These are organized by amazing parent volunteer, Kim Ness.  I pull a variety of books for them to choose from or they are welcome to bring their own. Students escort the readers to classrooms.  We love having these community readers in our school.  Many are parents, athletes, and leaders in our community.

Next, we have our storybook assembly. I try to keep this brief but meaningful.  Sometimes we have a storyteller, skit, or shared reading. This year, I was listening to Matthew Winner’s Children’s Book Podcast, and heard the authors of the book Festival of Colors talk about the Indian celebration of Holi.

I loved the themes of this celebration where hate goes out and love comes in. This year Holi was on the same day as our storybook celebration, so I knew it was the perfect fit for our assembly.  Our ESOL teacher, Ms. Childs, helped me reach out to families in our school who celebrate Holi to see if they would be part of our celebration.  Two families agreed to help.

One family read the book and shared examples of the powders used in Holi. Another family, including a Barrow student, spoke about how they celebrate Holi here in Athens and the many meanings behind the festival.

I loved that we were able to learn from families right here in our school and discover a festival that many of us don’t celebrate or know about.

Following this, we formed into a line and marched down the sidewalk, around the school, and around the UGA practice facilities chanting “Read more books” while we showed off our costumes and books. Our 5th graders enjoyed some lemonade in the Dooley Garden across the street.

Many teachers in the school including gifted, early intervention, and specials all offered literacy-focused sessions for teachers to sign up.

I can’t wait to hear feedback from students, teachers, and families about the new time of year for storybook celebration. We’ll use this feedback to make decisions about next year.

What remained the same was that it was a day filled with celebrating stories in their many forms.  Hooray for books.

Love Projects: 5th grade Symbols of Love

After 5th grade spent time, reading the book Love by Matt de la Pena & Loren Long, I silently turned back through each image in the book.  We had spent time talking about some of the images as well as listening to Matt’s powerful words, but Ms. Foretich (art teacher) and I wanted them to have one more slow look at the images. Their goal in looking at the images for a 2nd time was to pick out an image that spoke to them in some way.

At tables, each 5th grader took a brainstorming sheet to reflect on some questions through writing or through sketching.  The purpose of this sheet was to help them think more about an image from the book and to imagine a new symbol of love. We wanted students to think beyond just a universal symbol of love like a heart, but we didn’t exclude hearts if that was what students were most connected with.

At the end of the brainstorm, students had to think of what materials they might need in order to make a 3D sculpture of their symbol. Ms. Foretich went through these and helped group students with the materials that they might need.

During the 2nd class, some students worked in the art classroom and others came to the library.  Students in the library worked on 3D design in tinkercad to prepare for 3d printing or they used materials from our makerspace such as duct tape and other crafting supplies.

5th graders make #Love sculptures. #thisislove #studentwork #artsed

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In the art room, students used clay, paint, and other materials from Ms. Foretich’s supplies.

I took student Tinkercad files and put them into Makerware software for 3d printing. Over the course of a week, all files were printed.

All of the sculptures will be displayed in the collaborative space just outside the library.

We hope they will inspire people to think about the many forms that love takes and the many symbols of love that exist in the world.

Love Projects: 2nd Grade Tweets & Instagrams

Every class in our school has read the book Love by Matt de la Pena & Loren Long. In preparation for their visit later this month, every class has also created a piece of art in response to the book.  These projects began in the library and continued in the art classroom with Ms. Foretich.  I have loved the inspiration that the book has given her and the pieces of art that students have created with her.  I’ll be sharing much of this student work in the next few blog posts.

Today, I want to focus on 2nd grade.  Every 2nd grade class came to the library to hear Love before the holidays.  When we read the book, I invited students to listen to Matt’s words and look closely at Loren’s illustrations for as many examples of love as they could find. Similar noticings emerged in each class, but there were also unique observations made that other students didn’t catch. We always paused on the 2nd spread that shows a park image with a cab, a hot dog stand, and a man on a bench. Students always talked about the boy in the wheel chair giving the man a hot dog. Sometimes they noticed the people making eye contact and talking in the cab. Sometimes they talked about the color of the balloon being a symbol of love.  The important thing is that they always talked. Students were never silent on a page. They always found love even on pages that were hard like the one with the boy hiding under the piano. Even with all of the bad things happening in the picture, love was still there.

In the art room, we took apart the F&G version of Love and Ms. Foretich gave groups of students an image from the book to study more closely. Students were asked to think about what the image said about love. They had a brainstorming page to get some of their ideas down.  They used this process to reimagine the version of love into a new image that connected with them personally.

Over the next class, students turned this into a watercolor image.  Each student made a statement about their art that could be posted in a tweet or Instagram caption and wrote it onto their art.  What message of love could students send out into the world? I loved the student voice that Ms. Foretich was giving students as she asked them about a short message of love that they could actually send out to the world via social media. She has been taking time to post these images and captions to her Instagram & Twitter account.  If you don’t follow her, please take a moment to.  You will be inspired by the many examples of student work that she posts.

For now, I’ll let the student work speak for itself through this series of Instagrams.  Take a moment to leave students comments here on the blog or on Ms. Foretich’s Instagram posts.  The students would love to hear how their messages have connected with you.

"Love is when you share." Audrey #thisislove

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"When someone is being teased, say 'Stop'." Tanner #thisislove

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"They are all being nice to each other." Jaiona

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"If someone is being mean, say 'Stop, that's not nice.'" Oskar #thisislove

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" Love is helping others when they get hurt." Bram #thisislove

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"Care about your siblings." Aaden #thisislove

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"Sharing with other people is love." Bess #thisislove

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"Love is caring for someone who needs to be cared for." Evie #thisislove

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"To love, you need to share." Patrick #thisislove

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"Love is families eating together and having fun." Shanti #thisislove. #artsed

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"This is how I show love." Baylen #thisislove

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"Someone will be by your side." Deiondre

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"I love you guys." Dalilah #thisislove

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"Helping is Love." Asia #thisislove #studentwork #artsed

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"Kindness comes in many forms but love comes from the heart." #thisislove

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"Love is playing music" Ruby, 2nd grade #thisislove #artsed #studentwork

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"Friends spend time together" Nehemiah #thisislove

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"Giving is love" Martha 2nd Grade sends Love out into the world #thisislove #arted

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Happy Book Birthday to Love by Matt de la Pena & Loren Long

When I first saw the cover of Love by Matt de la Pena and Loren Long, I knew it was going to be something special. I couldn’t wait to peer inside the pages and hear Matt’s words and see Loren’s vivid illustrations. The first time I got to actually hear about what was inside the book was with the amazing John Schu while we presented at the Tennessee School Librarian Association Conference. In his masterful way of book talking, he made me want to read the book even more by gushing over the illustrations and how Matt brought the idea of “love” to life in many different ways.

I finally got to see a copy of the book in Phoenix at the American Association of School Librarians Conference, and I read the book multiple times in the Penguin Young Readers booth. Every single illustration from Loren Long is breathtaking. You can see something different each time you look at the pages. He takes Matt’s words and extends them into a visual masterpiece of how love lives in our world. Matt’s words take you well beyond the idea of love being a hug, a kiss, or an “I love you”. Love lives in music, in time spent with family, in the colors of the sky, in good deeds to those in need, and more. We’re in a time where it sometimes feels like love has been lost in our world.  This book reminds us that love is everywhere, but we do have to take a moment to look closely in order to remind ourselves where it is.

I’m so happy that this book is finally out in the world. It’s the perfect book to start the new year as people consider their goals for the year. If you’ve found yourself in a hard place over the past year, pick up this book and reconnect yourself with the love in our world.

I knew that this book was one that I wanted to share with my entire school as soon as I saw it. Miraculously, while I was in Phoenix looking at the book for the first time, I got an email from Hannah DeCamp at Avid Bookshop.  The email subject was “Pssst, we’re hosting Matt de la Pena and Loren Long in January”.  My fingers couldn’t open the email and respond fast enough.  As part of the extensive Love tour, Matt & Loren are stopping by our school in January.  Also while in Phoenix, I scored an ARC of Love after standing in a long giveaway line.

Many times for these tour events, I don’t have a lot of time to prepare. This time we had almost 2 months notice. As soon as I got back to school from Phoenix, I started showing the book to teachers.  One of the first was our art teacher, Ms. Rita Foretich. I love collaborating with her because so often we take a seed of an idea that blossoms into something grand. The book immediately got her creative wheels turning and she wanted to do something with every class in the school.

Over December and January, we have been reading the book to every class and creating an art piece that is inspired by the book.  Every grade is doing something different.  I’ll be sharing many of those projects in some posts over the next few weeks leading up to our author and illustrator visit.

For now, go out and get this book at your local bookstore.  Even better, order a copy from Avid Bookshop to have signed when Matt and Loren visit on January 30th.  They will ship the book to you.  See the beautiful in the world and give love.

Follow the Bookstagram Choice Awards Nov 27-Dec 17

Instagram has become one of my favorite places. I’ll admit that I was late to the Instagram craze, but now it is probably my favorite place to be. I love the visuals of classrooms, libraries, bookstores, and books. I get so many ideas for new projects in the library as well as new books to add to the collection.

There are numerous bookstagrammers who post pictures and reviews of new and upcoming books. A personal goal of mine has been to be critical of our library collection and be constantly aware of the voices represented in the books on our shelves. Instagram has helped me see many more books than I could ever find alone.

One of the people I started following is Charnaie Gordon @hereweeread  Her posts about the diverse books that she reads with her son and daughter always keep me up to date on books that need to be added to our library.  The great thing is that she isn’t the only one. As I follow one person, I discover someone else and suddenly I’m surrounded by people who are passionate about books and diverse voices.

I was so excited when I learned that Charnaie was brainstorming a new Instagram book award list selected by many of the “bookstagrammers” that I admired.  I was in disbelief that she wanted to include me as one of the members of the first award selection group.  I was honored, intimidated, but mostly inspired.  This group of people has poured their hearts into what has become the Bookstagram Choice Awards.  Each person chose one winner along with honorable mentions in a variety of categories.  The hope is that these categories will represent a diverse collection of voices and communities that serve a wide age range of readers.

Starting on November 27th, there will be one category announced each day. This will include the winner and any honorable mentions.  You can follow along on the newly created Bookstagram Choice Awards Instagram account as well as by following all of the contributors who will post on their individual pages on their assigned day.

Be sure to follow:

 

I hope you will take time to follow all these wonderful people, celebrate the books that were chosen, and suggest books you would have selected.  It’s all in the name of amplifying the wonderful books that exist in the world. Through books, we can better understand and connect with one another in the world. Through books, we can have conversations about what matters and help our world be a better place.

Let the Bookstagram Choice Awards begin!

P.S. Stay tuned on December 17th for some special giveaways where you’ll have a chance to enter to win some of the books featured in the awards.