Happy Picture Book Month 2018

It’s November 1, which means the beginning of picture book month. We’ve been celebrating this special month since it was created back in 2011 by Dianne de Las Casas. Today, we launched our annual picture book challenge. The challenge has been a bit different each year.  Some years, students have earned stamps for reading a certain number of picture books. Other years, students have set their own personal goals for what to read whether it was reading a certain number, all the books by a specific author, every book on a certain shelf, etc.

This year, I decided to focus on the genres of our picture book section.  I made a sheet that lists out each picture book genre/format in our library with a check box by each one. I also included a line. The goal is for students to read 12 picture books across the month of November, 1 book from each section. They simply write the title of the book on the line when they finish reading. At the bottom of the sheet, I asked students to list their favorite book they read for the challenge and tell why picture books matter in the world.

At the end of picture book month, we hold a picture book smackdown where we do a virtual hangout with authors and schools to book talk favorite picture books. I hope that the challenge will get some students prepped for the smackdown by already having a favorite book and a reason picture books matter.

Today, we launched the challenge on our morning broadcast by going over the instructions and showing the sheet.  I’m also highlighting a diverse selection of books in my read alouds and encouraging students to think about windows and mirrors as they read for the challenge.Every student who finishes the challenge will get a certificate and a special bookmark. We will also announce their name on our morning broadcast. Each finisher will also have their name entered into a drawing for an autographed picture book. I try to get an extra autographed picture book each time we have an author visit or I go somewhere to hear an author. This year I’ll give away signed copies of More-igami, King Alice, Love, Last Stop on Market Street, and Hansel and Gretel. I showed each of these books on the morning broadcast too.

If you go to our school or want to take a look at our challenge sheet, you can download it here.

The Power of First Lines: Another New Library Orientation

School is back in session in Georgia, and I’m once again reorganizing what happens in the first visit to the library. I’ve tried to steer away from a traditional orientation where students hear the do’s and don’ts in the library. It’s not that they aren’t important, but is that really the message I want to send about reading with the first words that come out of my mouth?

The message that I really want students to hear is about the joy of reading. I want them to hear about how readers talk about books to one another. I want them to hear how books can be windows into other worlds and other perspectives. I want them to hear how books can be mirrors that reflect a part of ourselves back to us.

I also wanted to tackle a problem that bothered me last year. I saw so many students continue to come to the library and spend their whole time standing at the computer typing out topics in the library catalog instead of actually looking at books in our various genre sections. I had hoped that genres would eliminate this, but it hasn’t. I decided to start with something that wasn’t intimidating to most readers: the first lines of a book.

So, here’s what a first library visit looked like for 3rd-5th grade this year.

What are you reading?

We started with a question, but instead of asking students to share their own reading, I showed them what I just finished and what I was reading now.

I promised them that all year long I would post what I’m reading on the door of the library so they can always see, even if I’m with a class.  I told them that my hope was that anyone in the school could ask anyone else in the school what they are reading and both of them would have an answer. One of the best ways to find a new book is to see what others are reading, so we are giving ourselves permission to freely ask each other throughout the year about books. I also hope that several teachers will begin to post their reading outside their classrooms too.  In most classes, a few students said what they were reading now, and I loved how it immediately felt like a connection between us.

Next, I showed students some of my summer reading. I did book talks of Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed, Front Desk by Kelly Yang, and the Track Series by Jason ReynoldsAs soon as I finished book talks, I showed students a picture of a window and a mirror and asked them about their purpose. Then, students brainstormed how a book could be like a window and a mirror. It was a conversation we’ve never had in such an public manner, but so many of them added amazing contributions to the conversation. One standout comment was how a window keeps you safe from things going on outside and a book lets you explore dangerous situations without getting hurt.  I let students know that I intentionally chose books this summer that would most likely be windows for me. I wanted to read about people whose lives were very different from my own.

Power of First Lines

This became our invitation to step into the books in the library and begin to look for windows and mirrors for each of us.  Ahead of time, I put chairs at each section of our chapter book section: scary, realistic fiction, historical fiction, humor, fantasy, sports, mystery, science fiction, and adventure.

I shared with students how one more great way to discover new books is to visit sections you love and try out the very first lines of several books. Some of my favorite books hooked me with the very first line. I shared Barbara O’Connor’s first line from How to Steal a Dog.

“The day I decided to steal a dog was the same day my best friend, Luanne Godfrey, found out I lived in a car.”

That line has so much story packed into it. Why did she steal a dog? What’s her situation that she lives in a car? What does Luanne think about all this?  You can’t help but read on to find out.

I placed students into random chairs in the chapter books and invited them to try as many first lines as possible in about 90 seconds.

Then, they moved to the right to the next chair and had 90 seconds in that section. We continued this process for as many rounds as we could squeeze in.

Students did not take any books with them, but I told them to make mental notes of what books caught their attention.  Some students thrived in this experience.  Others weren’t happy that they were in a section that they didn’t usually visit. Still others read first lines in one section but not in another.  The teacher and I circulated and gently encouraged students to keep giving the books a try. Sometimes that even meant jumping in with a student and reading some first lines for them.

Reminders

Back on the carpet, I asked if anyone found a book that grabbed their attention, and it was amazing to see how many people raised their hands. We used this brief moment to go over some reminders before exploring the whole library to checkout books.

  • Enjoy reading as much as you can while you’re here
  • Choose what you love, but push yourself too
  • Spend less time at the computers, and more time at the shelves
  • Respect other learners
  • Borrow what you need (limits are different for every reader)
  • Honor the line at check out

What happened next is what encouraged me the most. Students could hardly contain themselves as they rushed to the shelves to find their first check outs of the year. Almost none of the students went to the computers and instead went straight to shelves and started opening up books. As students have returned for their 2nd rounds of check outs, they have continued to visit the shelves more than the computers.  I can’t wait to see how our momentum builds during the year, and I want to immediately start asking “What are you reading?”

What about K-2?

For the younger grades I did something very similar, but I book talked several picture books including Drawn Together by Minh Li, The Very Last Castle by Travis Jonker, and Hansel & Gretel by Bethan Woolvin. After talking about windows and mirrors, we read aloud All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold. I wanted students to see and hear the message that all are welcome at our school and in our library. We used the book to talk about the windows and mirrors we saw within the book and our own school.

This group did the book sampling at the picture book section. Some classes rotated chairs and other classes just stayed in one seat to practice using shelf markers and sampling books.

The Pitfall

Overall, this new orientation experience did everything I hoped it would do, and only time will tell if it got us kicked off in the right way. The one big pitfall of this was that the shelves started to look like a tornado had gone through. Books were pushed back behind other books. Books were on the floor. Books were turned upside down and backwards. I had to pause and take some deep breaths every once in awhile, but when you look at the grand scheme of things, the messy shelves are evidence of excited readers, so it’s hard to complain too much about the mess.

Onward we go to search for the windows and mirrors in our library collection. Onward we go to becoming a school community that shares our reading lives with one another.

 

 

 

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.

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.

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.

View this post on Instagram

"Love is when you share." Audrey #thisislove

A post shared by Barrow Art (@barrowart) on

View this post on Instagram

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

A post shared by Barrow Art (@barrowart) on

View this post on Instagram

"Care about your siblings." Aaden #thisislove

A post shared by Barrow Art (@barrowart) on

View this post on Instagram

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

A post shared by Barrow Art (@barrowart) on

View this post on Instagram

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

A post shared by Barrow Art (@barrowart) on

View this post on Instagram

"Someone will be by your side." Deiondre

A post shared by Barrow Art (@barrowart) on

View this post on Instagram

"I love you guys." Dalilah #thisislove

A post shared by Barrow Art (@barrowart) on

 

View this post on Instagram

"Friends spend time together" Nehemiah #thisislove

A post shared by Barrow Art (@barrowart) on