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.


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.


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

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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.


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.


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.



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


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.


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

Journeying Into Genrefication: Process, Roadblocks, and Community


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.


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.


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.


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

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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.


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.


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


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.


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.


Starting the Genrefication Process: Ditching Dewey


I have a confession to make. I’ve wanted to organize our library by genre for a really long time, but I honestly had no idea how I would find the time to do it. I don’t have an assistant in the library and I have about 1-2 volunteers for an hour each day. I teach tons of classes, collaborate with teachers, lead professional learning….the list goes on and on. However, because I’m doing all of these things, I watch students come into the library, find a book on the computer, and then have no idea where to get it because they don’t know how to use the Dewey system.  Sure, I could spend hours teaching them how the secret code of the Dewey decimal system works, but when I’m trying to also teach the standards of every grade level, it’s hard to figure out how learning the Dewey Decimal system fits in. I’ve watched numerous of my inspiring professional learning network genrefy their collections: Tiffany Whitehead, Shannon Thompson, Sherry Gick, Donna MacDonald, Nikki Robertson,…  I’ve sat in Jennifer LaGarde’s Zombie Librarian keynote numerous times and slouched down in my seat when she got to the part about how kids shouldn’t have to have a secret code to use the library. Every time I heard her, I knew reorganizing was what was best for students but I just didn’t know how to pull it off.


At the end of this school year, I decided that next year, I’m going to put a bigger emphasis on reading than I have the past few years. A big part of this is to get kids reading the kinds of books they want to read and helping them find those books quickly in the library. Most students come to the library and ask for sports books, scary books, princess books, superhero books, graphic novels,…..all genres. I’m at the point where I’ve attended enough sessions, read enough blogs, and listened to enough podcasts that I just have to jump in and start.


During my end of year evaluation, I told my principal what I was thinking about reorganizing the library, and I was so relieved to hear her say that it was exciting and she was all for it. She even told me she would support me in figuring out how to make it happen whether it’s delaying the opening of checkout at the beginning of the year or even having some workers help me in the evenings, weekends, or summer. I originally thought I would wait until the new school year, but every moment I had some time during post-planning, I couldn’t help myself. I jumped in.


First, I decided to begin in the fiction section, which I’ve heard is the easiest section to start in. Based on my own observations and what I’ve read on other blogs, I decided on the categories of:

  • mystery
  • fantasy
  • historical fiction
  • sports
  • humor
  • realistic fiction
  • scary
  • adventure
  • science fiction


I put a sign on the top of each bookshelf for these genres and started pulling off a book at a time. I used multiple sources to help me decide on which genre to put them in:

  • The book summary
  • My own knowledge of the book
  • The Library of Congress subjects in the front of the book
  • Novelist K-8 in our Galileo database

Novelist k-8 is awesome for choosing genres. #organization #ditchdewey #librariesofinstagram

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Of course, there were books that fit into more than one category, so for those, I just picked a category. I believe it was Tiffany Whitehead who said that you should just think about what kind of reader would most likely choose that kind of book and let that guide the final category.

Only 4 carts left to sort before summer begins. #ditchdewey #reorganizing #librariesofinstagram #tlchat

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When I was stuck on a book and had no idea where to put it, I put it aside in a separate stack to come back to later.  Those books might become another genre or they might vaguely fit into one of the genres I already had.

Fiction is sorted by genre and ready for the next step. #librariesofinstagram #reorganizing #ditchdewey

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I worked on the fiction section just a little bit on day 1 and 2 of post planning, but day 3 was completely devoted to this project.  I worked for about 5 hours on the final day to sort the books and push myself to get to the end.


There were moments where I thought that I had made a big mistake, but the more I pushed on, the more I felt like I was doing the right thing.

Once all the books were sorted, I put them back onto the shelves by genre and labeled the carts because there are a few more steps to go. This will include scanning books into sublocations and adding a genre sticker to the spines.

Sorted and put away #reorganizing #librariesofinstagram #ditchdewey #tired

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I did weed the collection before I started, but touching every single book made me realize a few more needed to be weeded. Once books were sorted, I also could easily see which genres we had lots of books in and which we needed more. One of the obvious ones was sports. We have so many students who ask for sports books. We have a lot of nonfiction, but this made me realize how few sports fiction books we have.

If you are thinking about doing a project like this, definitely do your homework, but at some point, you just have to dive in. I’m thankful to all of the librarians who have done this before and left behind such careful instructions of what they did!

Home Libraries and Summer Reading

home library 7

We are quickly approaching summer at our school, so we have been winding down activities in the library and looking ahead to what we might read this summer. There are many pieces that go into encouraging students to read over the summer, and I love that we are always trying new ideas to encourage our students to read.

Our family engagement specialist, some teachers, and the Junior League of Athens went into the community center of one of the communities we serve to host a family literacy workshop. Families decorated book boxes, learned some reading strategies, and talked about the importance of a home library. The Junior League will be putting 6 books in each of those boxes to go to families who participated.

Our Athens Clarke County Public Library came into the school and met with Kindergarten, 1st grade, and 2nd grade to talk about the summer reading program. Evan Bush, head children’s librarian, sang songs, told stories, and highlighted the numerous events happening at the public library this summer.

library summer reading

Those include puppet shows, Minecraft crafts, live animals, a real life mermaid and pirate, and more. For the summer reading incentive, students earn a button for every 10 books or 5 hours that they read. Each button corresponds with a different land that students imagine traveling to over the summer such as the Hundred Acre Wood, Wonderland, and Hogwarts.

Love the button incentive for the @athens_regional_libraries summer reading. #summerreading #literacy #prizes

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Those buttons will go onto a lanyard as students earn them.  Also, the elementary school with the most students to complete the summer reading challenge will earn a trophy to keep at the school for the year.

Another project I’ve been working on is proving books to an additional community within our school to build up home libraries. This project was funded through a grant from First Book UGA and donations from a GoFundMe campaign I created.  Approximately 78 students are a part of this project, I surveyed the students to learn more about their reading interests and then ordered books through First Book to give them for summer reading.

home library 1

The students came to the library in small groups to decorate a box to put their books in. The boxes were reused boxes that I found at our local recycling facility and spray painted. Students chose from a variety of stickers to personalize their boxes.

home library 5

It was great to see that students of every age got excited about using stickers to personalize their box. My hope is that a personal touch will create a connection to the box and encourage them to use it to store books.

home library 2


When the books arrived, Camilla Bracewell, volunteer extraordinaire, came and helped me unbox them all onto tables. I printed out the spreadsheets I had created with each student’s personal order.

home library 3

Since I was more familiar with what the books looked liked, Camilla helped read off names of students and filled the boxes as I pointed out the books or handed them to her. Because of the wonderful prices through First Book, I was able to give each student 7 books for summer reading. I even have a few books left over that teachers will use to give to additional students who might need some books for the summer.

home library 6 home library 7


Next week, I’m hosting two sessions for families to stop by and pick up the book boxes, but any remaining boxes will go home with students throughout the week.

home library 8

Thanks to Get Georgia Reading, all students in Georgia also have access to MyOn from Capstone for the summer. I’m taking time to show this to families, individual students, small groups, and whole classes. This is a great way to have unlimited access to thousands of books for summer reading and they are never checked out.

Summer reading is a special time because it’s a chance for students to read things that really interest them. It’s a chance to take a break from the “requirements” of school and just read for the fun of it. I hope that we have shown students and families enough options as well as provided some tangible materials that all readers in our school have an idea of the reading they will do over the summer.

Happy reading!


The Power of Words: Personal Connections to Kate DiCamillo’s Raymie Nightingale


When I was in high school, my great grandmother was placed into a nursing home. Almost weekly, my mom and I went to visit her.  She had Alzheimer’s so our visits weren’t filled with conversations. I paced the halls of the LifeCare Center holding my great grandmother’s hand, even though she seemed to have no idea who I was or why I was walking with her. Over those many visits, I came to know many of the residents at LifeCare and their many quirks. It was strange how even as an introvert I was drawn to certain people who maybe were some of the most risky of residents. One of those residents was Florence.  She was from New York, and you heard her before you ever saw her. She shouted out, “Hey!” over and over.  The workers at LifeCare seemed to have reached a point where her repeated shouting of the same word was tuned out, but I always heard it. While it scared me, I was also intrigued by her, and I remember many instances where despite my fear of being hit, grabbed, or pushed, I chatted with Florence. I think more than anything she just wanted someone to listen to her, to acknowledge that she existed in the world.

As I read Raymie Nightengale, I came to the scene in the Golden Glen retirement home where Raymie encounters a resident who repeatedly says, “Take my hand”, and I was thrust back in time to my own fears, curiosities, and empathy from my many days in the LifeCare Center. I don’t know how she does it, but Kate DiCamillo seems to always write words that speak to my soul. Her words are powerful and link to personal connections or goals in my own life.  As I read Raymie, I closed the book at the end of every chapter, hugged the book to my chest, and said, “How does she do it?”.


I know what we hold in our hands is the final version of a story that has grown and morphed many times. I know there are probably many moments of intense thought, hair pulling, tears, joy, and time spent in the writing chair. Many eyes have looked at these words before they reach the reader, but the final words on the page are powerful. They are concise, yet they bring out the complexities of 3 girls and many unforgettable characters who are very different yet are connected to one another at the same time.

I love Ida Nee and her tell-it-like-it is attitude of not putting up with any nonsense

I love Beverly who is rough around the edges but has a kind heart inside.

I love Louisiana who is innocent and naive as she wrestles with the challenges of poverty.

I love Mrs. Borkowski and her ability to brush off just about anything with a “Phhhhtttt.”

I love Raymie and her strength in making a plan to bring her family back together yet recognizing when she needs to help others along the way.

Kate DiCamillo's words are powerful and honest. #Raymie #bookstagram #book #bookreview #bookrelease

A photo posted by Andy Plemmons (@andy.plemmons) on

As I read Raymie, I took a pen and underlined words that spoke to my heart. It seems that no matter which Kate DiCamillo book I read, there’s a line that resonates with me that I tend to carry with me wherever I go. In Flora and Ulysses, it ended up being a line that inspired our library motto and blog title of expecting the miraculous.

There are many lines in Raymie.  I’ll leave them here without any interpretation for now.  These lines are still sitting with me, speaking to me, and finding their place in my life.

“She herself often felt to terrified to go on, but she had never admitted it out loud.” p. 2

“…this made everything she said seem ridiculous, but also possible–both things at the same time.” p. 10

“The sun is nothing but a dying star. Someday it will go out. Phhhhtttt.” p. 22

“Fear is a big waste of time. I’m not afraid of anything.” p. 79

“…stand as if you value yourself and your place in the world.” p. 82

“And I wanted to tell you that no matter what, I’m here and you’re here and we’re here together.” p. 154

I invite you to find your own lines that speak to your heart by picking up a copy of Raymie Nightingale starting Tuesday April 12th at your local bookstore.  My copy will be waiting for me at Avid Bookshop, and I can’t wait to hold it in my hands.  Even if this book isn’t the one that creates a personal connection for you, I hope you’ll keep searching for an author and a book that has lines that speak to your soul.