2021-22 Student Book Budget Part 2

Our student book budget team has been hard at work preparing their order for this school year. To read more about their first steps, check out this post.

Once the book budget team had surveyed students in grades K-5, they took time to analyze their data in Google forms. Students made a list of their noticings and reached consensus on what book categories we would focus our budget on. It was hard to reach consensus with 70 kids, but each grade made a list of noticings and we looked for commonalities between those lists.

This year, students decided to focus on these categories.

  • Picture books: scary, humor, graphic novels, & SOME princess/transportation/sports
  • Chapter books: scary, mystery
  • Information: fun facts, ghosts, space
  • Other focus: jokes

With our categories ready, students started looking for books to add to our consideration list. In our Google Classroom, I added several resources for students to use. I linked books that were publishing in October, November, and December according to Publisher’s Weekly. I linked Here Wee Read‘s Bookshop site which has many highly reviewed books sorted into several categories. Our state Galileo database has Novelist K-8, so students also used this to search for books based on their goals.

As students found books for consideration, they searched for them at Avid Bookshop’s website and then filled out this Google form. The Google form populated a spreadsheet that made it easy for us to see all of our books for consideration so we could easily cut books from the list if needed. It took a lot of time to add a book to the list, but we were glad we did it when we got to our next steps.

We also asked Jim Boon, our rep with Capstone Press, to meet with us in person. Jim brought sample books that matched student goals. Students always enjoy getting to hold the actual books in their hands. He also brought catalogs for students to look through and scan books into our Capstone consideration list. Jim is really great about sitting with kids and showing them how to use the catalog index or how to look for books from the same series. We are thankful he continues to support this project.

The hardest part of the project is taking our consideration lists and cutting them down until we meet our budget. I originally had a budget of $2,000 for us this year, but our fall book fair did better than usual, so I raised our budget to $3,000. Between our Capstone list and Avid list, students had about $7,000 worth of books to look at. Each grade level took a look at both lists on their own computers and we also looked at the lists on the projector screen. The easiest books to cut were the ones that didn’t match our goals at all. Other times there might be a full set of a series and students made a decision to only purchase part of the set. As always, this is a time where I see students speak up on behalf of students that they had conversations with. Book budget students became advocates for the voices of our younger readers and made sure that some books remained on the list even if it was a book they didn’t personally want to read.

After lots of passes through our lists by each grade level group, our budget was finally met. I sent the lists to Capstone and Avid, and the books are currently being ordered. The book budget team is taking a well-deserved break while the books arrive. We started this year with a large group, but as the weeks went on, our numbers dropped a bit. I really wanted to see all students follow through with their commitments, but it’s still a tough time in a pandemic. It’s hard to follow through sometimes, especially now. I am proud of each student and what they were able to contribute. I am proud of the students who stuck with it and look forward to seeing them unpack and enjoy the books when they arrive.

2021-22 Student Book Budget Team Begins!

It’s a new year in the Barrow Media Center. We are fully in-person and trying to get checkout, lessons, collaborations, and special projects rolling. Our makerspace collaboration with UGA is on hold, but that gives us a new opportunity to begin our student book budget project early.

The student book budget team is a group of 3rd-5th graders who use our book fair profits to purchase new books for the library. Their purchases are based on survey feedback from students throughout the school. This project has been a yearly project since 2008 and each year it changes a bit. Last year brought our biggest change since most of our work had to be done virtually. This year, we have almost 70 students in 3rd-5th grade participating and I’m having to structure our project in new ways to keep everyone engaged and safe.

To begin our project, I created a Google form application and students had one week to apply. The survey asked them if they were willing to work during portions of recess time, whether they could think beyond just themselves when selecting books, and why they wanted to be on the team. I was pleasantly surprised to see so many new students interested in the project this year and I once again contemplated being selective since over 70 students applied. Every student agreed to all the terms and gave a genuine reason for being in the group, so I chose to keep everyone. Since we meet during recess, the biggest group I have at a time is 25. We meet on Tuesdays & Thursdays as needed from 11:45-1:20, switching groups every 30 minutes.

With a larger group, I had to think of new ways to make sure all voices were heard. Our first meeting was an overview of the project and to allow students to walk around the library and make observations about the sections of the library. I asked them to notice sections that seemed empty, sections that were overflowing, sections that were missing completely, or anything else. They wrote these noticings down on paper and we saved them for our next meeting.

Before meeting 2, I made a Google Classroom and added all the students. Under classwork, I added a list of resources that we would need. The purpose of our 2nd meeting was to create the survey that we would use with all students in the school to get thoughts on what new books were needed in the library. Rather than try to write the survey together during the meeting, I had them look at last year’s survey to see the types of questions. I also had them look at the noticings that we had all written on paper. Using Padlet, student answered 3 questions: 1. What do you like about last year’s survey? 2. What should be changed about last year’s survey? 3. Based on what you learned from walking around the library, what new questions should be added?

I took all of the feedback from our discussions and Padlet and edited our survey. During meeting 3, students learned how to scan a QR code to pull up the survey on an iPad and answered the survey themselves. Book budget students survey students in grade K-2 with iPads and grades 3-5 answer the survey in Google Classroom. Normally, we just go to lunch and recess and ask the survey, but I didn’t want students to have to survey maskless students at lunch. Instead, book budget students filled out a form to select which classes they wanted to survey. I also asked teachers when the best survey times were, and I tried to match teachers and students. I scheduled email reminders to teachers and students and also posted the schedule in our Google classroom and crossed my fingers that everyone showed up to survey at the right time. For the most part, they did.

Across 5 days, the book budget team surveyed students in grade K-2 while teachers shared the survey with grades 3-5. The data poured into Google forms so that we can analyze the data and set goals at our next meeting.

This project is one of my favorite student voice projects each year because I believe that the library collection is “our collection”. We develop it together. I can’t wait to see what decisions are made this year.

Student Voice & Student Choice in Our Annual Student Book Budget Project

Since 2010, Barrow students have been a part of a project called our “student book budget”. It’s had a few different names over the years but the idea has remained the same: students having total control over how a portion of the budget is spent to buy books for the library.

This school year provided us with extra challenges. We have been virtual for most of this year with just a few weeks in person in November, December, and March-May. I had to figure out how we would take so many of the pieces that we do in person in the library and throughout the school and transition them to online. Here’s a look at how our project went this year.

In January, students in grades 3-5 had the opportunity to apply to be in the book budget group by filling out a simple Google form. They had to include their name & teacher plus answer some questions about their commitment to meeting online and making decisions for the whole school rather than just for themselves. Finally, students wrote a short explanation about why they wanted to be in the group. As usual, I took every student who answered all the questions and had a genuine interest in the group. This year’s group had 15 students.

I created a Google Classroom where I could share links to our resources and Zoom as well as communicate with families. We met each Monday on Zoom to talk about our ideas for each step of the project. One of the first parts of the project is always to survey the whole school about reading interests. In our first Zoom, we looked at past Google form surveys to see what we wanted to keep, change, or add. Based on their discussion, I made a copy of the previous year’s Google form and made edits. The book budget team wanted students to pick 2 genre categories in picture books, chapter books, and informational books that they thought needed more books. They also gave space for specific suggestions.

Normally, students in grades 3-5 answer the survey via email. The book budget students go into the lunchroom, classrooms, and recess to survey PreK-2nd grade on iPads. This year, we still sent the survey to 3rd-5th graders in email. Then, we assigned each student in book budget to follow up with a Prek-2nd grade teacher via email to ask if they could share the survey with their students or if a book budget student could come to their class Zoom to talk about the survey. Overall, our number of completed surveys went way down this year but we still had a good representation of voices at each grade level.

Once the survey results came in, the book budget students set some purchasing goals. This year, they decided to focus on graphic novels, humor, ghosts, fun facts, gaming, and a few transportation books. Normally our budget comes from our fall book fair. However, this year our fall book fair was online and only made about $400 in Scholastic Dollars. Luckily, I was conservative in my spending last year with book fair profits so we still were able to have a budget of $2,000.

One vendor we always work with is Jim Boon at Capstone. Jim has always taken the student goals and curated a selection of books to bring in for students to look through. He also gives each student a catalog and shows them how to scan into a list. This year, Jim met with students on Zoom. Amy Cox at Capstone also helped us think through how we might easily put together a list. We decided to create a new account on the Capstone site that students could login to and collaborate on a list without messing with any of my regular Capstone account. I shared Capstone’s online catalogs with students in Google Classroom and they quickly discovered that they could click on a book in the catalog to get to the book on the website and add it to the list. Jim showed students how to navigate the catalog and also pointed out books that matched the student goals.

Another vendor we use is our local bookstore, Avid Bookshop. We usually walk to Avid and select books in person. This year Avid is closed to in-person shopping, so instead, I linked the website in our Google Classroom and created a Google form where students could submit the title, author, price, ISBN number, and link of the book. We took a Zoom session to go over all this and then students added books on their own. This book list went into a spreadsheet that I could easily share with Ian McCord at Avid Bookshop for ordering.

We took about 2 weeks to add books to the list and then we were able to have one in-person meeting just as in-person school started back up.

We used this meeting to look over our lists together and see what was missing. Normally, we have to cut lots of books from the list, but this time we were actually able to add more because students hadn’t spent all the money yet. It was more difficult for us to add books to our lists during virtual. Once the budget was met, I placed our orders.

When the books come in, we usually meet to unpack, add genre labels, and scan books into Destiny subcategories. With state testing, safety precautions, and the end of the year looming, I had to do some of this myself and use only a few of the book budget team to help.

We met one final time in person to take the books out of the boxes, double check that everything was here, and display the books on tables in the library. The book budget students got to pick 3 books to checkout and then the rest were available for anyone to checkout. Each class that visited the library immediately went to look at the new books and it didn’t take long for them to disappear into the hands of readers.

We do our best to expect the miraculous, and it definitely took the miraculous to pull this project off this year. Overall, I think it was still a great experience that still gave students a voice in the decision making of the library. While I love technology and virtual connections, I can’t wait to get this project back to in-person soon.

Presenting Our 2019-20 Student Book Budget Purchases

book budget final (9)

Since December our student book budget team has been working to make selections for our library.  They have used profits from our fall book fair along with Capstone Rewards to order books from both Avid Bookshop and Capstone.  With rewards and dollars, their budget was about $3500.  When you consider that our list of possible books totaled over $7,000, you know that they had to make some tough decisions about which books to include and which ones to cut.

We are still awaiting just a few books from Avid, but most books are here.  The students have spent 2 days unpacking the boxes.  As books were unpacked, they were checked off on the packing slip. Then, students sorted the books onto tables by genre. Once stacks were created, students put the genre stickers on the spines and then a label protector was put over the sticker. Finally, the books had to be scanned into the genre categories in Destiny.

Once all the books were processed, they were ready to be put out on display. Students came one final time to display the books on tables in the windows of the library and anywhere else they could find a spot. Another bonus was that book budget students get to be the first to checkout a book. Capstone Publishers lets each student choose a bonus title that is their personal pick and the choice does not have to follow our purchasing goals. Students were able to checkout their personal pick along with a couple of other titles.

The remaining books were up for grabs just before our busy checkout time of 12:15-1:30. It’s always fun to see which books get checked out first and how fast all of the books disappear.

book budget display (25)

This project is a core part of our library each year. The library collection belongs to everyone and I love that students have a voice in adding titles to our library each year. As always, we thank Capstone and Avid Bookshop for their collaboration in this important work.

2019-20 Student Book Budget: The Final Order

This year’s student book budget group has worked super hard. It was our largest group ever, which brought us some challenges we haven’t faced. I’ve learned a lot about how I might organize the group better next year. Even with our new challenges, we finally reached our goal of narrowing our consideration lists to match our budget.

As students sat down with our lists we had about $6000 worth of books picked out, but a budget of only $2500.  I usually surprise them with some bonus money if they have done a good job. This bonus money comes from our Capstone Rewards dollars. Students had a hard time narrowing down our Capstone list because there were so many high interest topics in Capstone’s catalog. The bonus dollars really helped them not have to cut so much from the list.

The process for narrowing the lists was that we split into 2 groups. At one library screen, we pulled up our Capstone list. At the other screen, we pulled up Avid. Each group chose one person to stand at the computer and click books to consider for deletion from the list.  They took turns with this role.

To decide on a book, students thought about many factors. They pulled the book up on the screen and read what it was about. They thought about how many of that type of book we already have in the library and how many of that type were already on the list. They considered if the book actually matched the goals from our student survey and whether students would really read it. Students took a vote and majority ruled. Sometimes the vote was close and the students would have a discussion about why the book should stay or go. Then, students would vote again.

It wasn’t the most fun part of our project, but the group that work on narrowing our list was committed and got it finished. It certainly was an important life skill to develop in our group.

I took over at the this point because I needed to make sure our lists were all ready to send to our 2 vendors. Both Avid and Capstone turned our list into a quote for our accounting system. I got them put in and approved and now both lists of books have officially been ordered.

Now, we wait. When the books arrive, a whole new fun process will begin to get the books ready for readers. We can’t wait!

Major Impossible: An Author Visit with Nathan Hale

It has been a rainy week in Georgia, which means kids haven’t had recess in a while. Pair that with the full moon, and you have a group of high energy kids. We were already excited about our upcoming author visit with Nathan Hale, but this added an extra layer. If I had known what students were about to experience during the visit, I wouldn’t have worried at all. Nathan Hale is a top-notch author & illustrator and his school presentation is a sight to behold. I don’t want to give too much away about the content, but I will say that he had almost 300 high energy 3rd-5th graders laughing, gasping, and hanging on every word.

We’ve known about our visit since November, which gave us a bit of time to build some excitement. When Nathan Hale arrived at our school, two of our 5th grade ambassadors welcomed him and walked him to the library to get setup.

Once we got him setup, he worked on a drawing of Hangman. He continued working on this as kids arrived and then moved over to draw on his iPad.

I loved that this immediately hooked kids in as they sat down. There was a buzz of excitement as kids chatted and watched Nathan draw.

All Nathan uses for his presentation is an iPad connected to the projector, but don’t let that simple setup fool you. After my quick intro, which included a huge thank you to Abrams Books and Avid Bookshop, Nathan launched right in to his presentation which is a combination of storytelling and drawing on his projected iPad. He introduced the Hazardous Tales books and then crossed them all out.

Since kids can just read those on their own, Nathan told us a new Hazardous Tale about Lewis & Clark. Since some people say that this story is too weird, too gross, and too dumb to be published, it can only be heard in school presentations. And, of course, the students were dying to hear it.

Nathan proceeded to tell us the story of Lewis & Clark and the corps of discovery. His story introduced an evil doctor, York-an African American explorer, and Sacagawea. His story was filled with  sarcasm, danger, gruesome details, and of course laugh-out-loud humor.

As Nathan told the story, he drew everything out on the iPad. He would zoom in at just the right moment, just like we were zooming in to a panel of a comic.

The storytelling introduced students to parts of the Lewis and Clark expedition that they most likely hadn’t heard before. It explained the “Lewis and Clark” is really referring to a whole group of people, and Nathan was sure to give credit to the individuals who played big roles in the expedition.

The story built up to a huge comedic finish that I can’t give away. What I will say about it is that it was so much fun to look around the room and see so many students and adults laughing to the point of tears. No matter what we were carrying with us as we came to the visit, we had 45 minutes of storytelling and laughter.  You couldn’t help but feel good after laughing that much.

One of the things I loved about Nathan’s presentation was that he went around the library before the presentation and pulled books about Thomas Jefferson, Lewis & Clark, York, and Sacajawea. He repeatedly reminded students that the story he was telling them was true and that he learned about the facts by reading books from the library.

He showed each one with his iPad and even turned this book presentation into a comedic event by always zooming in to show Baby Pomp on Sacajawea’s back.

Nathan chatted with students as they left, and then signed a huge stack of books. Every student who bought a book got a signature and a drawing of Hangman.

Before he left, Nathan took time to look at all of the comics that kids had made for the library windows. I loved that he took a moment to see how each one was different and what kids did with a blank piece of paper.

After an author/illustrator leaves our school, they don’t always get to see the miraculous things that happen back in classrooms and home. Kids returned to class buzzing with ideas and retelling the Hazardous Tale they heard. I had reports back from parents that their child couldn’t stop talking about the visit. Some students made their parents take them to hear Nathan again at the public library. Several parents reported back to me that their kids couldn’t put Major Impossible down and some finished it that night.

The next day, I put out a new set of Hazardous Tales and 5 copies of Major Impossible along with the other books Nathan showed at his visit.  All were immediately checked out and there’s already a list of holds on each book. Before Nathan’s visit, we already had some Hazardous Tales fans, but now that students know him, he has developed a much bigger fan base at our school.

Thank you again to Abrams Books for sending Nathan Hale on a tour of bookshops and schools. Thank you Avid Bookshop for supporting our schools with author visits and allowing us to have this opportunity. Thank you Nathan Hale for sharing your talents with us all.

Preparing for An Author Visit with Nathan Hale

One of the biggest blessings of having an award-winning independent bookshop in your community is having authors and illustrators visit our school as they tour to promote new books. Avid Bookshop is our local indie bookstore and even before they opened as a store, they supported the author visits that I arranged at our school. Now, Avid Bookshop pitches to publishers to have authors and illustrators visit their bookshop. Sometimes those visits happen in store and sometimes they happen at our public library. In addition to visiting the store, authors & illustrators usually visit a couple of schools, too.

The Setup

These visits are for one presentation and sometimes have requirements for the minimum or maximum number of students in attendance or are sometimes targeted at specific age groups. We also have a minimum number of books that we need to sell for each visit. Typically this is 40-60 books.  Ahead of the visit, I send home a pre-order form for students to purchase the new book. I have also worked with our PTA to include a line item in the budget for buying books for classroom libraries and students. I use this budget to supplement the number of books to ensure that we meet the minimum number.

We normally have the visits in our library, which requires me to move our shelves, tables, and chairs to accommodate 250ish students on the carpet. I book time on our library calendar to make sure there’s time to setup and clean up.

Introducing the Author

When we know about the visit in enough time, I make sure that all students have been introduced to the author. On January 14th, we will host author Nathan Hale for his new book, Major Impossible. We learned about the visit in November, so that gave me time to work on introductions before winter break. The visit will be for grades 3-5.

Our 5th grade was studying WWII at the time, so I worked with the art teacher and 5th grade teachers to put together a project around their Social Studies curriculum and Nathan Hale.

For day 1 of our project, we looked at all of Nathan Hale’s books and read the first chapter of One Dead Spy in order to meet the characters and learn the setup of the Hazardous Tales series.  Next, students had time to browse all of the Hazardous Tales, Rapunzel’s Revenge, Apocalypse Taco, and One Trick Pony. Their job was to enjoy the books but also to notice the style of illustrations, the dialogue, the humor, and anything else that caught their eye. They shared these noticings with partners and the whole group in our closing.

For day 2, students selected a topic from WWII to research. Examples included D-Day, Pearl Harbor, the Holocaust, Rosie the Riveter, VE Day, Iwo Jima, and more. They used resources from our state Galileo database. Students gathered facts onto Google docs in Google Classroom to use in art with Ms. Foretich.

In art, students used their research to create Nathan Hale-inspired one-page comics. These comics would be used to display at the front of our library for Nathan’s visit.

For grades 3-4, I offered an opportunity to come to the library for the same intro that 5th grade had. I also knew that they were overwhelmed with assessments and finishing up units before winter break, so I made a short intro video and uploaded to Youtube for them to watch at their convenience in class.

Contests

Ahead of Nathan’s visit, we held a big reveal on our morning broadcast. I gave one clue each day about the author/illustrator visiting our school and students could make a guess and drop it in a box in the library. I pulled out all the correct answers and held a drawing the give away copies of Major Impossible.

We also held a one-page comic contest for anyone in the school.  5th grade was automatically working on this, but I wanted to extend the opportunity to any students.  The rules were to create a one-page comic in the style of Nathan Hale. Students had to incorporate some event from history.  I provided various blank comic strip pages or students could create their own. Once the deadline came, Ms. Allie, our student support technician, and I went through the entries to select some winners. Again, these students received a copy of Major Impossible.  Every entry was used to add to our window display at the front of the library.

The Visit

Now, we are awaiting the big visit. I made a banner to put above the library door. The window display is created.  Books have been ordered. I’ve created post-it notes to put inside each book for autographing and delivery to students.  Students have been checking out all the Nathan Hale books, so hopefully we will get a few back to have signed at the visit. I love the excitement that an author visit brings. They are a lot of work, but they are so rewarding.

2019-20 Student Book Budget: Visiting Avid Bookshop

Now that winter break is over, our book budget students are back at work.  This week we took 2 separate trips to our local independent bookstore, Avid Bookshop.  I had almost 40 kids split across the 2 days. Avid Bookshop is located within 1 mile of our school so we can easily take a walking field trip to the store, and most of our students already have a permission slip on file.

The purpose of this trip was to continue to create a consideration list of books that met our purchasing goals.  We already did this with Jim Boon from Capstone Publishers before the break.  When we arrived at Avid, we met with Hannah DeCamp, who manages the Children’s Department. Students sat on the book boat and in the floor while Hannah book talked several recent books that fit our goals.  She even made a personalized book budget handout with books broken down into our goal categories. Wow!

Next, Hannah gave students an overview of the different sections that they might browse for this project: board books, picture books, early readers, juvenile nonfiction, kids graphic novels, and middle grade. Since Avid Bookshop serves all readers, we had to remind students that some books might fit our goals but not elementary-age readers.

Next, students browsed the store.  As they discovered books that fit our goals or books that were of high interest to Barrow readers, they came to my computer where we scanned the ISBN into a spreadsheet and typed the title/price of the book. Again, students didn’t worry about cost at this point. They simply captured all the titles we were interested in.

We also reminded students that Avid can order pretty much any book we would want so students added some books to our list that were requested by students and we couldn’t get from Capstone Publishers.

Some students also brought money to shop so for the last step students made their purchases. Hannah gave all students an Avid bookmark and she sent us away with several Advance Reader Copies to browse back at school.

Before we returned to school, we met together outside and debriefed our experience. One of the things that I shared with students is how important Avid Bookshop is in our community. I reminded students about all of the authors & illustrators who visit our school. Each time those authors/illustrators visit, it is because of Avid Bookshop and every book that students purchase for those visits comes right from this store. We talked about how Avid gives us a small discount as a school, but they give us so much more because they are part of our community and support our school and community by bringing authors and illustrators for us to learn from.

Back at school, students took time to review the Advance Reader Copies of books and we added a few more books to our list.

Next Steps

We’ve reached a very hard part of our project.  Next week, students will meet to comb through our lists and make difficult decisions about what we purchase and what we cut from our lists. I can’t wait to hear their conversations and see their decisions.

Everything Awesome About Dinosaurs: A Visit with Mike Lowery

Our students are always crazy about dinosaurs. If you visit the dinosaur section of the library, you usually see a pretty empty shelf. We were so excited that we had the chance to welcome author/illustrator, Mike Lowery, to our school to share his newest book Everything Awesome About Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Beasts with our 2nd-4th grades.  Mike’s visit was thanks to his publisher, Scholastic, and our local independent bookstore, Avid Bookshop.

Ahead of his visit, I shared his book on our morning broadcast and sent home pre-order forms.  We also held a design-a-dinosaur contest for all grades. Students could design any type of dinosaur (real or made up).  Little did I know how well this would connect with the actual content of Mike’s visit.  My student support technician, Ms. Allie, and I sorted through the entries and had a very hard time narrowing down to 10 final winners.  Students were so creative and funny. Each of these winners received a copy of Mike’s book.  All entries were displayed in the windows of our library along with a dino welcome sign.

Our 3rd graders also studied Mike Lowery’s books in art and created projects that were inspired by his art style.  These pieces of art were displayed at the entrance to our school.

Mike is a super funny guy and he hooked the kids’ attention with lots of random facts. One of his favorite things is to collect weird facts and illustrate them, which developed into his Random Illustrated Facts book.  He of course connected this to where authors & illustrators get their ideas (their brains). Even though it was humorous, it was a good reminder to all of us that we are perfectly capable of coming up with great ideas when we put our minds to it.

Mike launched us into his dinosaur book with lots of super cool facts about dinosaurs along with his humorous illustrations. He introduced some dinosaurs along with some dinosaur awards.  I loved how he engaged the audience by having them predict what dino might be coming up next, and how he wove in his humor along the way.  (I won’t give away any of his punch lines).

The final part of Mike’s presentation was extremely fun and a direct connection to our design-a-dino contest. Mike had the students name several pieces of clothing that a dinosaur might be wearing. Then, on his projected iPad, he drew the dino wearing all of the clothes.  Students saw their ideas magically come to life on the screen with a dino wearing pants that said “short arms rule”, a dress, rain boots that were also elf shoes, and a fez.  They could also see a bit of Mike’s drawing process and how he could edit or manipulate the image on his iPad to fix or fine tune details.

Next, Mike had students name some careers and he drew a dino with one of those careers. In this case, it was a scientist, and Mike made it a female scientist with a scrunchy (of course).

Mike took lots of questions from the audience, so we got to learn about his educational path, what he would does when he isn’t drawing (eat tacos), and whether raptors can actually open doors like in Jurassic Park.

Mike signed lots of books for students.  Thanks to our PTA every class got a copy of the book for their classroom library too.  Immediately after Mike’s visit, every one of his books was checked out from the library.  More evidence of the power of an author visit.

Thank you, Mike Lowery, for sharing your talents with all of us. As I delivered signed books, I already saw students hard at work creating writing and illustrations inspired by your work.

 

The King of Kindergarten: A Visit with Derrick Barnes & Vanessa Brantley Newton

We are 3 weeks into the new school year and we are so thankful that we were able to host an author and illustrator for students in PreK-1st grade. Derrick Barnes, author of the award-winning Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut, and Vanessa Brantley Newton, illustrator of numerous, stunning books such as The Youngest Marcher, Mary Had a Little Glam, and Grandma’s Purse came to our school thanks to our local bookshop Avid Bookshop and their publisher Penguin Random House.  They came to celebrate their newest picture book together called The King of Kindergarten, which has received numerous starred reviews.

Getting the students ready for an author visit so early in the year was a challenge, but most K-1 students heard 2-3 stories by Derrick and Vanessa including The King of Kindergarten, Crown: Ode to the Fresh Cut, Mama’s Work Shoes, Early Sunday Morning, and Mary Had a Little Glam. 

 

We also took pictures of every student in K-1 and put their pictures on the windows of the library with clip art crowns to welcome Derrick and Vanessa to our school.

Families had an opportunity to pre-order a copy of The King of Kindergarten for autographing, and thanks to our pre-sales and a generous donation from an anonymous donor, every student in Kindergarten received a copy of the book.

When Derrick and Vanessa arrived at our school, they were greeted by two of our 5th grade Barrow ambassadors. These students welcome visitors to our school, give tours of our school, and make sure special guests are well taken care of.  They took their job very seriously and helped Derrick and Vanessa get settled in the library and helped deliver all of the signed books to classrooms.

As students entered to get seated, their excitement was palpable. Some of them saw Derrick and Vanessa waiting in my office and said, “Mr. Plemmons!  Look behind you! They are here. They’re really here in Georgia!”  It was a celebrity sighting for sure and one of the reasons it is so important to read books and talk about authors and illustrators before a visit.  The kids felt like they knew them and they were able to connect the books we’ve experienced with a real, live person who created them.

Derrick shared a little about himself and his family. He also shared that his own children are the faces of characters on the covers of his books. We looked at Crown and The King of Kindergarten covers to see his sons. During this time, Derrick talked about the importance of every person being able to see themselves on the cover of a book and that he felt his job was to fill in some of the gaps that exist in the publishing world.

Vanessa also shared about herself. We learned that she is dyslexic and she talked with the kids about working with that challenge in her life. She also stutters, so she talked with the kids about how that has impacted her and asked for their help in staying peaceful while she talked so that she could formulate her words. It was so important for kids to hear about these challenges she faced in her life but was still able to do something that she loved.  Vanessa also showed us some of her art books and shared that she loves to leave pieces of art everywhere she goes so that people can find her work and add some art to their lives.

Before Derrick read The King of Kindergarten, he offered our young learners some advice. 1.  Always greet your teachers and classmates each day with a good morning (which they all turned and did right away!) 2.  Be kind.  3. Represent your family name. Make them proud.

As Derrick read the book, Vanessa drew the king of Kindergarten.  I loved hearing students filling in the parts of the text they remembered as Derrick read. They also noticed that Derrick and his wife are in the book too. Vanessa also included a couple of students from our audience in her drawing. She shared that she has a photographic memory and uses people she sees as characters.

As Derrick and Vanessa said goodbye, so many students came up to smile, wave, point out parts of the book, touch Derrick and Vanessa, or give them a hug. I was so thankful that all of our young learners got to hear their message, see their faces in person, and be inspired by their work and stories.

What happens after an author visit is always special. Kids recognize the books in the library and immediately check them all out. Kids get inspired to create their own art and stories.

This time because so many kids received a copy of the book, we saw kids excitedly putting books into their backpacks to go home and read with their family and many brought the books back to school to read here too.

Thank you so much Derrick Barnes and Vanessa Brantley Newton for sharing your talents with our students. Thank you Avid Bookshop for bring author and illustrators to our school.  Thank you Penguin Random House & Nancy Paulsen Books for choosing our community and our school as a stop on the tour.  The impact will last well beyond this 30-minute visit.  Thank you.