The Forgotten Girl: A Visit with India Hill Brown

Thanks to Scholastic Book Fairs our fourth and fifth graders were introduced to debut author India Hill Brown.  Her new book The Forgotten Girl releases in November, but it is a featured book on Scholastic’s fall book fair allowing readers to enjoy it well in advance of release day.

The Forgotten Girl is about 2 friends, Iris and Daniel, who leave their home one night to play in the first snowfall of the year. They sneak away into the woods to get to some fresh snow and to be out of sight. Iris decides to make a snow angel, and when she gets up, she realizes she has just made a snow angel on top of a forgotten grave. This action awakens a ghost named Avery, who needs help being remembered. Iris and Daniel launch into a research project to remember the deceased members of the segregated African American cemetery and to have the area cleaned up. However, Iris is put in some dangerous situations due to her new ghostly friend.

Our local Athens history has some interesting connections with this book. We invited local expert, Fred Smith Sr, to speak to students ahead of our visit with India. He shared the history of segregated cemeteries in Athens, including the slave burial grounds at the University of Georgia. He also shared how UGA moved some of the remains as well as built on top of the burial sites. Fred Smith Sr has been active in the process of acknowledging and honoring the forgotten graves.

He then shared about our 2 black cemeteries in Athens that were created after slavery ended. The Gospel Pilgrim Cemetery is where Harriet Powers is buried. She is well known for her Bible story quilts which now hang in the Smithsonian and the Boston Museum of Art. I brought in my replica of her quilt for students to see.

Scholastic sent books for pre-ordering ahead of the event, so we were also able to read the first chapter before the visit.

Our library windows transformed into the cover of the book with a the title sign, trees, and tombstones representing some of our Athens graveyard residents.

India Hill Brown spoke for about 30 minutes to our 4th and 5th graders. She shared some of her favorite books as a child as well as her love of writing from an early age.  She also surprised us by sharing that she really doesn’t like scary stories. However, she said one way to get over your fear of something is by doing it or by turning it into art.

 

India showed us pictures of the cemetery in her own community that inspired her to write the book. She wanted to weave in the history of forgotten cemeteries with a ghost story. We always love it when authors share the creative process of a story, and India showed us how the story went through multiple revisions and edits to reach the final version. I loved how she explained the different kinds of changes she made from the content of the story to spelling mistakes. Students are always surprised how long the entire process takes. Even though the first draft was done in about a month, the entire process of creating the finished book took over a year.

Students had a chance to ask India lots of questions about writing and her favorite things in life.  I even got to ask a questions about any ghostly happenings she has encountered in her own life.  After her talk, India took time to greet students as they exited. I loved seeing students making connections with her and even doing chants and hand clapping games with her.

Many times when we host and author, they are in a hurry to get to their next event. We usually do signing without students and then deliver books. India wanted to greet her readers, so we had students wait in the library and get in line for greeting and signing. I loved watching students glow as they met her and shared their excitement about her book.

Now that the visit is over, we have 5 copies of the book in the library and all 5 have already been checked out. Every classroom also has a copy in the classroom thanks to our PTA. I have a feeling many students who missed out on pre-orders will want to purchase the book at our fall book fair.

Thank you Scholastic Book Fairs for bringing India to our school.  Thank you India Hill Brown for sharing your historically important story with our readers. I can’t wait to hear the conversations that take place as students read this book.

Sharing Books Through Google Slides, Shelf Talkers, and Book Talks

I’ve been working with Ms. Hicks and a group of 3rd graders to think about our reading lives, how we talk about books, and how we share our reading with our local and global community. Over the past few weeks, we’ve been thinking more about our school community and what we can do to share new book ideas with them.

We started our journey by creating a rolling slideshow that could be displayed on a hallway monitor that most students pass at some point during the day.

Each student created one slide about their book.  Their goal was to write a short blurb about the book to inform passersby about the book they had read. They were also supposed to include an image of themselves with the book or the book by itself.  I published this slideshow to the web and set it to rotate slides every 15 seconds and repeat the show when it reached the end.

It continuously plays in the hallway until we update it with new slides.  Then, I’ll need to publish it to the web again.

Next, we talked about other ways we could share our books with the readers in our school. We brainstormed a list, and rather than asking everyone to do the same thing, students chose from the list what they wanted to create. They could create a shelf talker like you might find in Avid Bookshop, a poster to hang in a strategic spot in the school, or a book talk that could be shared on our morning broadcast, BTV.

To get ready, we looked at some mentor examples. A few years back, we Skyped with Will Walton at Avid Bookshop, and he shared tips from writing shelf talkers. We took a look at his video clip and a few examples from the shop. I made an example of a book poster on a Google slide and had students point out things they noticed. For book talks on BTV, we revisited our 30-second book talk Flipgrid videos and reminded ourselves about a good hook, a tease of information, and a recommendation.

Students made their selections and got to work creating. Ms. Hicks and I conferenced students but also encouraged students to share their work with one another for feedback.

For posters, I created a blank set of Google Slides, which Ms. Hicks shared with the students. Each claimed a slide, chose a background color, added a short book talk, and chose images from Google Explore that represented their book.

As students finished, I saved each slide as a JPEG and printed them in color.

Students met together to brainstorm strategic spots in school to place their posters. They decided to pick spots where people would have time to stop as well as spots that were visible. This was spots like the water fountain, the hand dryer, and columns in the rotunda.

For shelf talkers, students displayed the book that they wrote about near its genre section and taped the index card shelf talker underneath.

For BTV book talks, students wrote out their script and practiced. Then, they scheduled a day to come to our morning broadcast to share their book.

As a part of the book talk, each student shared which section the book could be found in in our library.

Our hope is that giving student these authentic ways to share their reading lives within and beyond our school will get them thinking about even more ways they might share the books they are reading. We hope that it raises the awareness of other readers in our school to want to also share their reading lives within their classroom and around our school. We are hoping that are small group explorations will put a spark back into grade levels to incorporate this more into the classroom culture.  I know that I want to be more intentional about getting student voice out into our school in regards to sharing our reading lives.

 

 

 

 

Our 2018 Picture Book Smackdown was a Success!

The 2018 Picture Book Smackdown was held on November 29, 2018.  This has been a yearly tradition since November became Picture Book Month.  During a smackdown, we hold a Youtube Live event where students and authors in multiple states book talk as many picture books as possible across 45-60 minutes.

This year’s smackdown featured students in 4 different grades in 3 different states, which included:

Andy Plemmons and students at David C. Barrow Elementary in Athens, GA

Donna MacDonald and students at Orchard School in South Burlington, VT

Julee Murphy and students at Early Childhood Development Center in Corpus Christi, TX

Ahead of the event, students selected a picture book to share, read the book, prepared a script, and practiced.  I also communicated with all the librarians at each site to make sure we all knew our roles during the hangout.

I made a Smore for us to advertise our event, and it’s really fun to see where people are viewing the smackdown from.

Donna MacDonald reached out to author Saadia Faruqi who agreed to kickoff our smackdown. She shared her Yasmin books as well as 3 favorite picture books featuring Muslim characters and stories.  We can’t thank her enough for speaking to our students. I know many of my students want to read all of the Yasmin books now.

During the smackdown, we had 5 students from each school step to the microphone, share their name, and tell about their book. We kept this rotation going until we ran out of students or time.

It was amazing to see that every student chose a different book, even though we didn’t plan that. We kept a list of all of our books so we could remember them for our own libraries and to share with all of you.

Saadia Faruqi closed out our hangout by encouraging students to continue to read picture books and create their own stories. She found it so encouraging to see so many students reading and also enjoying the books that she created herself.

You can watch the full smackdown here.

I encourage you to host your own, even if it’s just in your own school.  We are even thinking about doing a smackdown with other formats of books like graphic novels or chapter books.  Thank you to everyone who participated and watched.  We’ll see you next year for the 2019 Picture Book Smackdown.

Join Us for the 5th Annual Picture Book Smackdown

We are nearing the end of November, which means the close of Picture Book Month. In 2013, I started brainstorming with several dynamic librarians across the country a way for us to celebrate the close of the month.  Jenny Lussier, Cathy Potter, Shawna Ford, Kathy Kaldenberg, and I created the very first Picture Book Smackdown which was held via Google Hangout on November 21, 2013.  Authors Laurel Snyder and Ame Dyckman joined us as well.  For one hour, we all shared as many picture book talks as possible.  This was the beginning of an annual event that is now in its 5th iteration.

This year, our event will take place on November 30th from 1:30PM-2:30PM EST.  We will feature students from:

  • David C. Barrow Elementary in Athens, GA (facilitated by Andy Plemmons)
  • Orchard School in South Burlington, VT (facilitated by Donna MacDonald)
  • Early Childhood Development Center in Corpus Christi, TX (facilitate by Julee Murphy)

We are also very excited to announce that we will be joined by author/illustrator Deborah Freedman. Her books include This House Once, Shy, The Story of Fish & Snail, and many more!  You can learn more about her books here.

I’ve put together a Smore that puts everything you need in one place

Click the image to visit our Smore

What to expect:

  • A live broadcast via Youtube Live or archived to watch at a later time
  • Numerous student voices book talking their favorite picture books in 3 states
  • A short talk from Deborah Freedman about why picture books matter in the world
  • A list of the books we reference

What you can do:

  • Watch live with your class!
  • Host your own picture book smackdown in your classroom, library, or district
  • Share your favorite picture books on social media using the hashtags #pbsmkdwn and #picturebookmonth
  • Send students a shout out on Twitter using #pbsmkdwn

In Loving Memory of Dianne de Las Casas

We will of course continue reading and sharing picture books all year long, but we want to end November with this special event.  This year’s Picture Book Smackdown is dedicated in loving memory of Dianne de Las Casas, founder of Picture Book Month.  We lost Dianne this year in a tragic fire, but her legacy of advocating for the importance of picture books in our world lives on.

Family Book Club: The Seventh Most Important Thing by Shelley Pearsall

Over the summer, a group of librarians in Clarke County began brainstorming a quarterly book club at our schools using some of the Georgia Book Award nominees.  Our hope was to have in-person book clubs at our schools but also to connect our elementary schools virtually through Flipgrid and Google Hangouts/Skype.  We selected 4 of the 20 books on the book award list based on a variety of themes and interests.

We also invited other elementary schools to join us and we now have at least 10 of the CCSD elementary schools reading and connecting about the same books.

At school, I have a group of 10 fourth graders who meet during lunch to read the first quarter selection: The Seventh Most Important Thing by Shelley Pearsall.  During lunch, I read aloud while they eat and follow along.  We pause along the way to chat and also make an agreement about what page we will all read to before the next meeting.  I also made a Flipgrid where we can chat about collections of chapters during the times we aren’t meeting as well as hear thoughts from other schools reading the book too.

Because there’s so much interest in the book, I wanted to extend the opportunity to read the book to our families.  Through a Donors Choose project, I secured additional copies of each quarter’s book.  I’m sending home a form to invite families to sign up to read The Seventh Most Important Thing.  By signing up, they agree to read the book, add to our Flipgrid, and attend an in-person book club on October 19th after school where families can sit together and chat about the book as well as read aloud favorite parts.

I can’t wait to see the discussions we have around this book and future book club selections.  I can’t wait to see how families come together around the same book.  This is a new piece of building our reading community, and we’re expecting the miraculous as we go.

If you are a Barrow family who wants to participate, download the form above or look in your Monday folder.

If you are someone also reading The Seventh Most Important Thing, please feel free to add to our conversation on Flipgrid.  https://flipgrid.com/sevenththing

 

 

 

The Winner of Our Global Book Talk Challenge

For several weeks, people around the world have been contributing to our 30-second book talk Flipgrid.  In March, we narrowed the videos to 16 and have been inviting a global audience to listen to the videos and vote on the brackets each week.

After many, many votes, we have a winner!  Congratulations to Evin for her book talk of It Came in the Mail by Ben Clanton.  Adaline’s book talk of I Dissent by Debbie Levy was a very close 2nd place.  Both of these students will receive a special recognition on our morning broadcast as well as gift certificates to our local bookshop, Avid Bookshop.  Please help me in congratulating our winners, but more importantly, continue to share great books with one another!

March Madness Global Book Talk Challenge (Final)

Many votes have been cast in our global book talk challenge and we are down to our final 2 students.  Will it be Evin?  Will it be Adaline?

Take a moment to watch (or rewatch) their videos and vote on your favorite.  Share with friends, family, and your own networks.  Voting will end on April 2.

 

Vote Here!

Be sure to take time to visit the full grid of videos to watch many other incredible book talks from around the world.  The competition is fun, but the real reward is hearing from so many student voices sharing their love of books.