2017 Student Book Budgets: Surveys and Vendors

capstone-7

Our 2017 student book budget group is hard at work making purchasing decisions for the 2016-17 school year.  This year’s group is made up of 4th & 5th graders who applied to be in the group, and they meet during lunch and/or recess time a few times per week to spend a budget on books requested by students.  This money sometimes comes from grants, but this year’s budget is from profits at our fall book fair.

capstone-16

The money is completely under the control of students, but they must base their decisions on what the rest of the school wants to read.  To determine this, the students work together to create a Google form survey.  This year, they added pictures of all of the new genre sections in our library.  We emailed the form to upper grades, but for lower grades, each book budget student chose a class to go and survey with an iPad.

Once we surveyed almost half the school, students analyzed their results to see what the top categories were.

They also looked at text responses from students to look for commonly requested specific books or series.

After some analysis, they decided to focus on the following categories in their purchases:

Genres

  • Humor
  • Animals
  • Scary
  • Sports
  • Graphic novels
  • Adventure/fantasy
  • Historical fiction (high interest)

I sent these categories to a couple of vendors: Avid Bookshop and Capstone Press.  We’ve worked with both of these vendors for years, and it’s great to continue this project with them.  Jim Boon from Capstone brought in a selection of books and catalogs for students to look at.  He broke the book samples into fiction and nonfiction to help students sort through a variety of books.  If they found a book of interest, he helped them find the book in the catalog by using the index.

We setup a scanning station for students to scan the barcode in the catalog and add the specific titles they wanted into a consideration list.  For this first step, we don’t worry about price.  We simply add every book that looks good to our consideration list.  Later, we’ll look at our budget and start to narrow our decisions.

capstone-8 capstone-9

Jim also talked to the kids about incentives from Capstone such as Capstone rewards.  These incentives help students stretch their budget even more, so we have some great life-skill discussions about saving money and stretching budgets.

capstone-15

Before he left, Jim gave every student a Capstone pen and a poster.  There are always special moments in these sessions and one of those was when one of  our students asked if Capstone has a World War II poster.  Jim told her that if she composed an email, we could send it to Amy Cox at Capstone for consideration.

capstone-1

This student wasted no time and went straight to her room to compose a professional email.

Amy wasted no time in responding, and I can’t wait to see where this conversation takes us.

I love that Capstone truly does listen to their customers.  Even if it doesn’t happen, just taking time to respond to a request in a genuine way means so much to our students.

Our next steps will be to continue looking at Capstone catalogs and take a walking field trip to Avid Bookshop before narrowing our lists for ordering.

Exploring Advance Reader Copies with 1st Grade

img_9201

I love getting Advance Reader Copies (ARC) of books.  I selfishly enjoy having them for myself to read, but the real joy comes when I get to share them with readers well in advance of the book being released. It’s like sharing a secret with them and creates an extra level of engagement for the story. It also gives me a chance to get reader input on books that might become a part of our library collection.  In the past, I’ve returned from conferences with a suitcase full of books and distributed them to readers to enjoy and offer opinions.

Most of the time ARCs come from publishers in the mail or at conferences.  However, yesterday, I received 2 ARCs direct from author Hannah Barnaby with a special note tucked inside.

img_9202

Today, Ms. Skinner’s 1st grade class visited the library for a story time, so it was the perfect opportunity to share the books for the first time. Since it’s world kindness week, we discussed what a kind gesture it was for the author to send us a sneak peek of her two new books. We also discussed how we could in turn offer some kindness back by reading the books, discussing them, and sharing a bit of feedback with the world.

img_9197

The first Hannah Barnaby book we took a look at was Bad Guy illustrated by Mike Yamada. The book uses short sentences on each page to highlight the daily sinister deeds of one bad boy.  Many of these deeds are against his sister.  Without giving too much away, he learns that being a bad guy can have its consequences too.

img_9198

After we read, I asked the students to think about what they loved, what they wondered, and who they would recommend the book to.  Here are a few of their thoughts about Bad Guy.

What we loved:

  • bad guys
  • bad guys can be good
  • it went back and forth between the characters like a brother & sister.
  • his sister played a trick on him, too..
  • it was like playing a game.

What we wondered:

  • if they had made a trap for each other
  • how his sister made the trap
  • if he was really doing all the bad stuff or if it was pretend.

Who should read this book:

  • people who like stories about bad guys.
  • people who like stories where characters play tricks on each other
  • people who like traps

img_9196

The second book we read was Garcia & Colette Go Exploring illustrated by Andrew Joyner.  This book follows two characters who both want to go exploring but can’t seem to agree with one another on where to explore. This results in them taking two different journeys alone. As they explore, they make observations about their world and without knowing it, make many of the same observations.

img_9200

I again asked students to think about what they loved and wondered as well as who they would recommend the book to.

Book Title: Garcia & Colette Go Exploring

Author: Hannah Barnaby

What we loved:

  • they said the same things when they were apart
  • the packed the same things to eat
  • both couldn’t do the things they wanted to do.

What we wondered:

  • how did they make their rocket and submarine?
  • did they eat all their sandwiches?

Who should read this book:

  • people who like exploring
  • people who like space & sea
  • people who like the desert
  • people who like to explore alone

Finally, we had some discussion about both books together.  First, should we have these books in our library when they are released.  It was an overwhelming, unanimous “YES!”.  Both books are different, so I didn’t want to pit the books against each other.  However, students did offer some feedback about which book hooked their attention the most depending on the reader.  It was really split between the two books.  The students who preferred Bad Guys liked the trickery and brother/sister relationship.  Many students felt a connection to how the brother and sister picked on each other.  The students who preferred Garcia & Colette Go Exploring liked the adventure and the setting as well as the illustrations of the two inventions the characters made.

img_9199

I want to explore more ways to use ARCs with students. Thank you Hannah Barnaby for thinking of us and allowing us a sneak peek at your new books. We can’t wait to add them to our library.  We’ll continue to enjoy them with more classes over the next few weeks.

Bad Guy will be released in May 2017.

Garcia & Colette Go Exploring will be released in June 2017.

 

Storybook Celebration 2016

storybook-parade-48

Traditions. We have many. The annual storybook parade is one that has been around for a long time. Each year we try a few new things, but the hear of the storybook parade is celebrating books by dressing as our favorite characters, carrying the book, and showing off our costume and book to the community.

Trying to document the day. (Photo Credit: Paul Lee)

Trying to document the day. (Photo Credit: Paul Lee)

Storybook family #barrowbuddies #storybook #parade

A post shared by Andy Plemmons (@andy.plemmons) on

The day begins with guest readers in every classroom. Janice Flory, our volunteer coordinator, sets up a Signup Genius to recruit 2 readers for each classroom. They gather in the library, select a book, take a group picture, and then get escorted to a classroom by a 5th grade BTV crew member.

I was really excited about the selection of books they had to choose from this year.

Can't wait to see what guest readers choose to read to students tomorrow. #storytime #guestreader #community #athensga

A post shared by Barrow Media Center (@barrowmediacenter) on

Next, the whole school gathered in the lunchroom for an assembly.  Since October 27 was Jumpstart’s Read for the Record, I read aloud The Bear Ate Your Sandwich and recorded approximately 675 listeners to the story.

read-for-the-record

When we were a smaller school, we took time to walk across the stage and show off our costumes, but it is a challenge as we have grown. Now, we simply stand by row, do a little twirl, and then sit down facing the back of the cafeteria.  The costumes this year were amazing. I really pushed for students to think about characters they connected with and dress as that character.

At this point, we head out on our parade. Our route this year was the entire block of our school.

Storybook parade #barrowbuddies #parade #storybook #librariesofinstagram

A post shared by Barrow Media Center (@barrowmediacenter) on

Students chant “read more books” as they walk down the sidewalk and parents and community members watch and blow their horns as they pass by.

Our Prek-4th grade classes return to school and begin literacy activities in their classrooms. Our 5th grade walks to the nearby Georgia Center to have hot chocolate and spend some time together.

Upon returning to school, our specials teachers, resource teachers, and media center offer special 30-minute sessions that classrooms can sign up to attend.

In the library, I offered a couple of experiences. Lower grades designed their own Halloween pumpkins using the Quiver augmented reality app.

Pumpkin carving #ar #librariesofinstagram

A post shared by Barrow Media Center (@barrowmediacenter) on

Augmented reality pumpkins. #ar #librariesofinstagram #barrowbuddies

A post shared by Barrow Media Center (@barrowmediacenter) on

Upper grades used littlebits to make something spooky.  Both of these activities were connected to spooky stories we have in the library.

Spooky effects @littlebits #storybook #barrowbuddies #librariesofinstagram

A post shared by Barrow Media Center (@barrowmediacenter) on

 

What is within these haunted houses. #spooky #librariesofinstagram #barrowbuddies

A post shared by Barrow Media Center (@barrowmediacenter) on

Are you afraid of this @littlebits ghost? #librariesofinstagram #barrowbuddies #storybook

A post shared by Barrow Media Center (@barrowmediacenter) on

I loved seeing the designs that students came up with in both experiences.  It was a fast-paced session that pushed students to be creative, work together, problem solve, and innovate.  I hope that many will continue to explore littlebits beyond this fast session.

#barrowbuddies #storybookparade Love seeing our buddies showing their love for reading! #readmorebooks

A post shared by Barrow Elementary School (@barrowelementary) on

 

As always, this day was tons of fun but exhausting. It takes the whole community to make the event successful. Thank you to every student, teacher, family member, and community member who helped us make this day a success.

Reader’s Advisory: Quirky Questions and Crowdsourcing Ideas

readers-advisory-4This year, I’m really trying to think of ways to support students’ reading lives.  Recently, Ms. Hicks, 3rd grade collaborator, came to me with an idea. She wondered if I would meet with small groups of students in 3rd grade who needed some suggestions of books to read.  These students are all readers but some might be stuck in their reading, abandon many of the books they choose, need a nudge to try something new, etc.

readers-advisory-5

When I recommend books in the library, it’s always a very informal process.  I ask what students like, what they’ve read, what they are hoping to find, etc, but I’ve never formally made a list of questions to pull from.  I started thinking about Will Walton at Avid Bookshop and how he manages the Avid book subscription program.  In this program, someone buys a 6 or 12-month subscription and the recipient gets a new book in the mail specifically tailored to the recipient’s interests. I sent Will a message to see if he had a formal process and learned that he just loves to talk and chats with the person all about things they love. His questions aren’t always specific to reading, so it really got me thinking about quirky questions that I might ask to students that would help me connect them to a book.

readers-advisory-3

I initially started making a list on my own, but then I sent the Google doc to all of the media specialists in our district as well as posted to Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Share yours in the comments. #teachersfollowteachers #librariesofinstagram #bookshop #readersofinstagram

A post shared by Barrow Media Center (@barrowmediacenter) on

There were many suggestions about book related questions but some interesting thoughts started to emerge.  Our list started to grow.  (Feel free to add to this document!)

  • What do you like to do after school?
  • What are some of your favorite movies or television shows?
  • What are some of your hobbies?
  • What is a book that you couldn’t stand to read?  What was it about that book that you didn’t like?
  • What kind of music do you listen to?
  • Where do you like to eat?
  • What kind of games do you enjoy playing?
  • Would you rather fly a kite (sit by a river, etc.) on a nice day or go to a big party?
  • Who is your favorite superhero?
  • Do you have a favorite series?  Genre?
  • Do you like “just the facts” or “a far out story”?
  • What are 3 books you’ve read that you loved?
  • Do you like realistic stuff or imaginary stuff?
  • Why do you read (to escape, entertainment, learn new things)?
  • What is your preferred length of book? (short & sweet, long & detailed, depends on the book)
  • If you could visit any place or time in history, where would you go?
  • Is there anything you would avoid when choosing a book? (bad language, violence, ghosts, death, etc)
  • When you come to the library, where you usually go first when looking for your next book?
  • If you could be someone else for a day, who would it be and why?
  • Who are some of your favorite celebrities?
  • What is your favorite subject in school?

Then, I took those questions and turned them into a Google form to use with students.

I decided that if 6-8 students came at a time, I could have them start filling out the form while I started having 1-on-1 conversations with them.  We settled on a 30 minute session for this survey process.  I took over the typing as I talked with them and added to what they had already written or finished the questions they hadn’t gotten to.

readers-advisory-2

I was actually amazed by some of the responses that I got from students and the insight it gave me into ways I might connect them to a book.  Some snippets of responses included:

If you could be someone else for a day, who would it be and why?

  • Mal from Descendants because she’s pretty and has purple hair. I like what she wears.
  • a wolf to howl at the moon
  • a cheetah because I want to run fast

Is there anything you would avoid when choosing a book? (bad language, violence, ghosts, death, etc)

  • kissing….love story
  • princesses
  • main character dies

 

I looked at all of the results for each student and wrote key words from the answers onto a post-it note for each student.

This helped me walk around the library and pull books into stacks for each student for a second trip to the library.  The purpose of the second 30-minute segment was to look at the stack of books that were chosen specifically for each student and really spend some time with them. Students were so eager to get their hands on their stacks that they started asking me for a sneak peek before it was even time.  My fear was that students wouldn’t connect with any book, but once again the miraculous happened.

Each student had a strategy.  Some spread all the books out and looked at the covers.  Some started reading one book and didn’t want to move to another book in the stack.  Some flipped over and read the back of each book.  Some read the beginning page of each book. What happened is that every student found more than one book in their stack of 7-8 books that they wanted to read and they were genuinely excited about their choices.

readers-advisory-1

We decided that each student would choose the “first read” from the pile and we would create a list of all of the other titles so that we didn’t forget about the “future reads”.  For all of the books that weren’t chosen, we just pushed them aside in a big stack. Something else miraculous happened.  Students who were coming into the library to check out books saw all of my small group looking at that pile of books and they wanted to check something out from the pile. Several students who always have trouble finding something actually picked something from the pile of leftover books from the small group.

This gave me a lot to think about in terms of how to support various readers.  This was a very personalized experience.  It was time consuming on my part, but it was a way that I connected with students that’s hard to do when they are rushing in and out to get a book while I’m teaching a class.  I won’t to continue to explore this and see how it can be fine tuned.

Our next step is for students to read their books during “read to self” time in the classroom and we will meet again to chat about the books.  It will be like a book club. We won’t focus on naming the characters, setting, problem, solution, etc.  Instead we’ll talk about connections we had to the characters, what surprised us, what made us laugh, what we think will happen next. It will be “real talk” about books rather than just academic talk.  I can’t wait to see how this evolves.

If you have a favorite reader’s advisory question, add it to our doc or leave it in the comments.

Happy Book Birthday to Gertie’s Leap to Greatness

Today is a very special book birthday. Kate Beasley’s Gertie’s Leap to Greatness is now on bookstore shelves. This is Kate’s debut novel and we are so excited to have her coming to our school on the book’s birthday thanks to MacMillan and Avid Bookshop.

kate-beasley_author-photo

 

About the Book

How would you feel if your mom lived just a few streets away yet had no interest in seeing you or talking to you? That’s Gertie Reece Foy’s situation. It doesn’t matter, though, because she has a plan, and Gertie never gives up on a plan. 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. She thinks that if she gives the best summer speech and become the best 5th grader in the universe, her mom will realize that Gertie is so awesome that she doesn’t need a mother anyway or possibly even come back into her life. 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.   This is a book filled with friendship, school and family challenges, and summer adventures.  You’ll be laughing out loud, cheering Gertie on, and crying along with her too.

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’ve been reading the first two chapters of Gertie to our 3rd-5th graders, and it is pure magic to read aloud. Reading aloud is a sure way to see how a book connects with multiple readers.  It only took a few sentences into the book to have readers hanging on every word, laughing at the opening scenes in Aunt Rae’s kitchen, and begging to go on to the next chapter.  I know this book will become a favorite of many of our students.

 

Going Above and Beyond

gertie-3

This book made all of my students think about people from their lives that are always giving their all.  Together, we thought about the many “great” people in our lives.  Students in 3rd-5th grade were able to write down their great person on a Gertie’s Leap to Greatness card and we displayed them in our library windows.

gertie-2

I have so many great people in my life: family who are always there for me, volunteers who give their all to keep our library program running smoothly, and librarians who push me to be a better librarian.

One of those many librarians that I look up to is Nikki Robertson. She is the picture of perseverance, determination, and never giving up.  She is 100% awesome, not from concentrate just like Gertie Reece Foy.  I can’t really comprehensively name all of the things that Nikki does, but here are a few:

  • Co-founder of EdCamp Atlanta
  • Member of the EdSpeakers Group http://www.edspeakers.com/nikkidrobertson.html
  • Champion and producer TL News Night, a monthly internet program highlighting libraries
  • Moderator of #tlchat on Twitter
  • Nominee for numerous awards including Edublogs and Bammy Awards
  • Presenter at national and international conferences including ISTE and AASL

What stands out to me about Nikki is her willingness to go above and beyond for the good of all educators and students, not just herself.  Here’s an example.

Recently, Google Hangouts on Air transitioned to Youtube Live.  Many people in education use this tool and were really worried about how the changes would affect them. Nikki jumped right in to figure out the new tool.  She shared her frustrations, reached out to other people for ideas, and ultimately figured out how to easily use Youtube Live just like Hangouts on Air. She could have kept all of this new knowledge to herself, but instead she made a step by step visual tutorial on how to easily setup Youtube Live, and it saved me from agonizing over it another second.  I immediately used it to teach my BTV crew how to setup the new way of doing our morning broadcasts as well as assisted a fellow friend in a Youtube Live event we were doing for Dot Day.

Nikki also goes above and beyond for her students. Her high school library is buzzing with activity and it’s all about giving the students a voice. Nikki designed custom Snapchat filters for her library and had students and herself immediately having fun in the library and embracing the power of social media.  Her makerspace is a bustling place where she empowers her students to deeply explore specialized topics in making. She engages her students with creative interactive displays such as inviting students to spell out the word “hope” and share what hope means to them.  She does a personal shopper program to put the right books in the right readers’ hands.  All of these things are in addition to the fully packed schedule of classes that she teaches.  The list just goes on and on.  The bottom line is that Nikki Robertson never gives up on any mission she starts for her students, teachers, and network just like Gerite Reece Foy.

Get the Book

Who do you know that goes above and beyond?  I invite you to leave a comment, share on social media, or do your own blog post.  Be sure to get yourself a copy of Gertie’s Leap to Greatness at your local indie bookshop.  You can always order a copy from our local store, Avid Bookshop.

Leap with Gertie

While you’re at it, when you get your copy of Gertie, take a picture of yourself leaping with the book and post it to social media with the tag #leapwithgertie  Take a look at Kate & Cassie Beasley leaping along with students from our school.

kate-and-cassies-leap-to-greatness

Kate & Cassie Beasley leaping with Gertie. Photo courtesy of Macmillan.

Journeying Into Genrefication: Process, Roadblocks, and Community

IMG_8761

Toward the end of last year, I made up my mind that the 2016-17 school year was going to have a big focus on literacy. I of course do a lot with literacy already, but I want to do more. At the close of the year, I talked with my principal about genrefication and the possibility of delaying the opening of our library at the start of the year so that we could get everything organized. To my relief, she was completely on board and even offered ways to support the project.

IMG_8766

I’ve wanted to sort the library by genre for a very long time but just wasn’t sure how to make it happen. I started the process at the end of last year by sorting the fiction section.  Over the summer, I looked at many other libraries who have done this process as well as attended a webinar with Tiffany Whitehead.  During the summer I started listing out my possible genres in nonfiction and everybody.

I also started making a list of materials I would need to get going with the project as soon as we got back to school.  This included blank spine label sheets and ultra aggressive label protectors.  I debated about ordering genre stickers, but there were categories I wanted to make that weren’t available as stickers. I’m terrible at graphic design, but my wife is super talented at it. She agreed to make all of my stickers.  She used Publisher, Open Clip Art, and her own imagination to draw out new labels.

Also during the summer, I met with Courtney Tobin, last year’s library volunteer coordinator, and Janice Flory, this year’s volunteer coordinator, to talk about the genrefication project and the help I would need during preplanning and the first weeks of school.

IMG_8765

Volunteer jobs would be to:

  • Scan books into subcategories in Destiny after I sorted them into stacks
  • Label each book with a new genre sticker above or below the call number depending on space
  • Put the books back into stacks for moving into their new areas

Janice made a Signup Genius for volunteers, and I had between 2-5 volunteers each day during pre-planning and the first week of school.

Since Fiction was already sorted, volunteers started there with scanning and labeling while I continued to sort the Everybody section during pre-planning. Most people know how busy pre-planning is, so the meetings, questions from teachers, and to-do list kept me from keeping ahead of the volunteers. A few of the volunteers felt comfortable assisting me with sorting books, so I released a bit of control to keep moving forward.

IMG_8763

Categories changed throughout the process as we saw needs in the collection. The final categories for Fiction included: humor, scary, sports, realistic, historical, fantasy, science fiction, mystery, and adventure. Picture books included: humor, sports, scary, celebrations & seasons, superhero, princess, animals, favorite authors & characters, school, once upon a time, historical, realistic, and transportation. Nonfiction included: animals, makerspace, biography, careers, cooking & food, all about me, language, native americans, dinosaurs, georgia, math, music, folk & fairy tales, transportation, jokes, space, around the world, poetry, religion, sports, ghosts & mysteries, graphic novel, war & military, fun facts, nature, science, mindset, and history.

The process was pretty much the same every day: sort, scan, label, move.  Miraculous things happened along the way like 4 district support staff showed up and asked how they could help.  While I attended meetings, they scanned most of the Everybody section into categories.

Unnamed image (14)

 

Families dropped by to see how they could help. Parents and kids worked side by side making decisions and taking ownership of their library.

I learned a lot about the collection and just how disorganized the nonfiction section really was. Each time books of similar topics came together it felt good.

I also suddenly felt free of a sequential order of the books and could really think more about where it made sense to place books in the library. For example, our books related to makerspace were able to move right outside the makerspace door.

We faced some road blocks along the way too.  Some books were scanned into the wrong sublocations. I caught the mistake when a teacher asked for a book and I couldn’t find it in the section it said it was in. Some sections of the Everybody section had to be rescanned. Some volunteers tried to save the library some resources by cutting the label protectors to smaller sizes on the spines. The label immediately started falling off and getting stuck to the books next to them, so we had to go back through, find them, and add an additional label protector on top.

Just a little road bump in quality control. Backing up to relabel some sections. #librariesofinstagram #genrefication

A post shared by Barrow Media Center (@barrowmediacenter) on

About every 5 minutes, I went back and forth from thinking this was the best idea ever to asking myself what have I done.

My current road block is where to put all of the books.  When every book is here, they don’t fit on the shelves. I know it won’t take long to free up some space, but for now, I’m at least trying to estimate how much shelf space to dedicate to newly established sections with new numbers of books.  Thankfully, the mobile shelves allow me to move things around pretty easily to new spaces, but I still have to move books from one shelf to another trying to figure out the best configuration.  The library looks pretty disorganized because of this.

IMG_8764

Students are getting really excited as they look into the library and see the work going on. Classes are asking how they can come and help. The ultimate question is: “When will the library open?”  I’m hopeful to be done within the next week and we’ll host a grand re-opening orientation for each class.

IMG_8760

I love our community and how they have come together to support this project. Returning volunteers have stepped up, but we’ve seen new families and new volunteers get involved in the project too. A project of this size takes a village. What I thought would take until almost Labor Day has been done is about 3 weeks.  That’s miraculous!

 

Wishes and Plans: Exploring Life Challenges Through Books

FullSizeRender

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.

IMG_2431

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

A post shared by Andy Plemmons (@andy.plemmons) on

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.