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

 

 

 

Building Community: An Avid Bookshop Storytime with Philip and Erin Stead

Philip & Erin Stead (37)

We have an amazing independent bookshop in our community called Avid Bookshop. Our library has been collaborating with Janet Geddis before the storefront of Avid existed, and it has been so much fun to watch how this community-focused bookshop has changed over the years. They have been hosting some dynamic authors and illustrators for children over the past few months. When I saw that Caldecott medal-winning duo Philip and Erin Stead were coming to the shop, I was over the moon excited and didn’t want to miss the chance to see them. Then, I got an email from Rachel Watkins asking if our school might be the site of the pajama storytime. We’ve never hosted an event specifically for Avid that wasn’t an author visit for school, but I didn’t hesitate in exploring how to make it happen.

The opportunity aligned perfectly with my goal of supporting the reading interests and curiosities of students, teachers, and families. I’ve been thinking a lot about the family part. What do I do to support families and reading? It’s something I need to work on, but offering a nighttime event for the community with Philip and Erin Stead was the perfect opportunity to show families at our school and in the community an amazing author/illustrator team they may not have heard of, exploring some new books together, and taking a look at the illustration process. Our students have benefited from many author and illustrator visits thanks to Avid, but I loved that this gave families a chance to have the same experience alongside their child and ask questions and learn together.

Avid and I advertised the event heavily. Students did book talks of one Stead book each day on our morning broadcast along with a reminder about the pajama storytime. An electronic flyer went home to all families. I posted the flyer on the doors of our library. Numerous tweets, Facebook posts, and Instagram pictures were shared. We had no way of knowing how many people would actually show up, and by 6:20PM we were pretty nervous that no one was coming. Suddenly at 6:25PM people started pouring in and they just kept coming. We even delayed until 6:35 and they still kept coming in.

If you’ve never met Philip and Erin Stead in person, they are just a delight. Both are soft spoken, which has a naturally calming effect on the wiggly small ones. Phil did most of the talking, but I loved that at the beginning he started by telling about how Erin is shy and had all the kids say their names aloud to introduce themselves all at once. Erin replied, “It’s nice to meet you”, which just felt right. It showed the kids that it’s ok to be quiet and that you can do amazing things to put your voice into the world without actually speaking the words out loud.

Phil read A Sick Day for Amos McGee and had the kids participating along the way with movements and chants. He knew just how to keep their attention.  At the close of the book, they paused for questions. I loved that several parents chimed in with their own questions which were peppered with comments and questions from the kids too. We had questions about the red balloon in Amos McGee and whether it was an homage to Good Night Gorilla.  There were questions about the process of creating a book together as husband and wife and whether or not the illustrations or the writing came first.

Next, Phil introduced us to his new book Ideas Are All Around and we found out we were the first group that he had actually read part of the book to. He teased us with just a few of the pages and gave us a taste of how the book takes us into the head of a writer and illustrator on a walk and that ideas are really hiding all around us.  Then came probably the most special moment of the night: an art demo.

Phil invited all of the little kids to come up and gather around a table where he had his art supplies. Then adults gathered around behind the kids.  It was a large group and yet somehow most people found a spot they could see.  Kids seemed to be literally on top of the workspace, but Phil worked his magic and made the art come to life. He talked through each step of his art for Ideas Are All Around and modeled it as he went. Some kids even got to help a bit during the process.  In the end, he created 3 illustrations of a bear: two he was happy with and one not so great.

We love these bears from Philip Stead's art demo. #avidevents #avidinschools #illustrator #authorvisit #event

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I loved this! It connected so well with the book that an artist goes through many pieces of art until the right one is created. Lots of versions go in the trash or at least to a “fail” box.

We love these bears from Philip Stead's art demo. #avidevents #avidinschools #illustrator #authorvisit #event

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To close the night, Phil read aloud Special Delivery and we learned that the idea was really something that he dreamed about. Once again, he had the audience participating along the way even while they were bouncing on cushions around the library.

The crowd lingered for a long time looking through the books from Avid, making purchases, and getting autographs. So many families left with new books to take home and share together along with the personal experience of meeting the author and illustrator that created the book.

Philip & Erin Stead (30)

I’ve often encouraged families to attend Avid events or to go to author events in nearby Decatur such as the Decatur Book Festival, but I don’t really see that encouragement pay off as much. There was something about the familiarity of the school community, a place where we have connections to one another, to host an event like this. I think we’ve tapped into something we need to explore even more in the future.

Thank you so much to Avid for trying something new for an author event. Thank you for bringing the Steads to our community. Thank you to Philip and Erin for your long travels to reach our community and for sharing your inspiring work with us all. Thank you to the Publisher who makes these kinds of book tours and events happen for independent bookshops, schools, and communities. Finally, thank you to our families.  Whether you were a Barrow family or a visitor from another school or county, thank you for spending a night with us in the library connecting with one another through art and story.

Voices of Reading: Our Contribution to the GA Children’s Literature Conference

Meeting Patricia Polacco several years ago at the Children’s Literature Conference

This weekend is an exciting weekend in Athens, GA.  It’s the annual GA Children’s Literature Conference.  This conference always offers an amazing lineup of authors who share their craft with educators as well as spend lots of time autographing books.

I’m excited that the conference is really thinking about how to bring student voice to the attendees.  Giving students this authentic space to share their voice is not only empowering, it also centers all attendees (including the authors) on why we all do this work.

My students along with Anne McLeod’s students at Burney Harris Lyons Middle School collaborated on a video that we called “Voices of Reading”.  This video was played at the opening of the conference.

It’s fun to see colleagues already talking about the video at the conference.

We also worked together on a Flipgrid sharing our favorite books.  Many voices came together for this Flipgrid, and these voices will be played on a screen on the exhibit floor.

Click on the picture to hear lots of favorite books!

I hope that this conference continues to find ways to empower student voices.  This is definitely a step in the right direction.