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.

The 2019 Student Book Budget Orders Have Arrived!

After surveying our entire school, analyzing data, setting goals, meeting with vendors, creating consideration lists, and narrowing down orders to meet their budget, the hard work of our student book budget team has paid off.  All books from our 3 vendors have arrived and it’s time to get these books out into the hands of readers.

The book budget team met to unpack the books. Across 90 minutes, all of our books from Capstone and Gumdrop were checked on the packing slip, sorted into genres, labeled with genre stickers, and scanned into subcategories in Destiny. Every student on the team took a role in the process and I walked around to assist with questions and tricky genre decisions. I also helped students make sure they were sorting books into the right categories such as chapter book, picture book, or informational book.

Our books from Avid had to be cataloged so I “volunteered” to do this step for the students and some of our library volunteers have helped with getting the barcodes and plastic wrap on the books.

The book budget team met one final time to display the books for readers to see. It was hard for us to find a time to meet to get the books displayed so we all came one morning right after morning broadcast before our school day started. Students worked efficiently to get all of the books displayed in the windows, counters, and tables in the library. It was amazing to see all of the books out together and see all of our hard work pay off.

The real payoff comes when the book budget students get to check out some of the books and then see the rest of the school pour in to the library to check out books. It doesn’t take long for the tables full of books to be reduced down to a couple of tables and then a single table. These books are always popular with readers and I love knowing that our library collection truly is “our collection”. We build it together.

The Story of Our Names: A Grandparent’s Day Experience

Last year, our PTA started hosting a Grandparent’s Day coffee hour at our school. Grandparents gather in the cafeteria for coffee and donuts, chat with their grandchildren, and listen to a short program. Following the program, there are opportunities for photos and school tours.

I love being a part of this special event. Both years, I’ve read a grandparent-related story during the program. Last year, it was Last Stop on Market Street. This year, I read Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal. It is a story of a girl who thinks her name is way too long, but then her dad tells her the story of each part of her name. Alma realizes that she has connections to every part of her name and no longer feels like it doesn’t fit. I loved that when I read this special story about where a name comes from that the cafeteria filled with hundreds of grandparents and grandchildren got silent and attentive.

At the close of the book, I shared the author note at the back which ends with a question: “What is the story of your name? What story would you like to tell?” With that question, I invited grandparents to stop by the library to chat with their grandchild about family names and where they came from. We tried to capture a few of these stories on video, but the more important thing was just having the conversation.

I also selected several books to place on tables for grandparents and grandchildren to read together. It was so special to look around and see families huddled together around books reading. Even though it was crowded an bustling in the library, families were having special moments all around the library.

So many people came up to me to tell me how special the book Alma was to them. I loved that we all made our own connections around this story and the importance of names. I hope this created a spark for many families and they will continue to talk about family traditions and names with even more members of the family.

Student Book Budget: Meeting with Vendors

Our student book budget team has been hard at work making consideration lists based on the data they have collected from Barrow readers.  Each year, we meet with several vendors to look at book samples, catalogs, and websites.  During this time, students don’t worry about our budget. Instead, they capture every book that looks interesting to our readers and meets our purchasing goals.

Goals

Goal setting was a bit different this year than in the past.  Students typically pick 5-6 categories of books to focus on, but this year they really looked within types of books such as picture books, chapter books, and informational books.  I thought this was an interesting development because in past years students have had a difficult time deciding whether or not they should buy chapter, picture, or informational books within the categories they decided.  This year’s survey construction helped make this more clear.

Within Picture books, students decided to focus on humor, sports, jokes, graphic novels, animals, and scary.

Within Chapter books, students decided to focus on scary, humor, adventure, and mystery.

Within Informational books, students decided to focus on fun facts, cooking, ghosts, animals, makerspace, and sports.

Vendor 1: Capstone

Every year, we meet with our Capstone sales rep, Jim Boon.  Jim brings in books divided into fiction and nonfiction and has catalogs for all students to look at.  He shows them how to use the index in the catalog and how to find the rest of a series from the book samples he has on display. One of the things I love most about working with Jim is that he sits down with students and actively helps them look for books in the catalogs. He engages in conversation about interests and uses his wealth of knowledge of the products to match what students are asking for. While he does this, students come to me with catalogs and we scan the catalog bar codes into the Capstone site to make a consideration list.

Amy Cox at Capstone also allowed each student to choose a personal pick from Capstone. These personal picks were not a part of our budget and also did not have to fit our purchasing goals. These were completely based on the interests of members of the student book budget team.

Vendor 2: Gumdrop

Some years, we bring in our Gumdrop sales rep, Gret Hechenbleikner. We like working with Gumdrop because they can offer us some titles that aren’t available through Capstone. Gret also brings in many book samples for students to get their hands on. She sets them up on multiple tables arranged by the categories that students named.

Gret pastes printed lists in the front cover of each book so that students can see the titles in the rest of the series or similar series. If students need to see the other covers of books or if they need to do a general search, I have the Gumdrop site pulled up on the projector. Gret sets up her computer and students take books to her to add to a consideration list. Before she leaves, Gret cleans up the list, prints a copy for us, and emails me a PDF.  I love how much help Gret gives us in making the list while I have a chance to talk with students about the books on the tables and what they are thinking.

Vendor 3: Avid Bookshop

Now that Avid Bookshop has a 2nd location within walking distance of our school, we take a field trip to the store.  This year’s books budget team has about 40 students, so we split the trip over 2 days: 3rd grade on one day and 4th/5th on another day.  Ahead of the visit, I once again shared the student purchasing goals.

Hannah DeCamp and Kate Lorraine worked together to pull books from the Avid collection to book talk for students. We all sat on the floor and listened to several book talks from each of our categories.

Then, students split up into the picture book, informational, and middle grades sections of the store to look for books. I wrote all of our books into a notebook which I typed up later.

I love going to Avid because it gives students a connection to a part of our community. Several of our book budget members knew about Avid but had never been inside. Before we left, Kate gave each student an ARC (Advance Reading Copy) of a book to keep and consider for our library.

Next Steps

Now that we’ve met with all vendors, it’s time to start narrowing down our lists.  This process has already started. For Gumdrop, each student is taking a page of our list and crossing through books we may want to delete. For Avid, students are looking at the digital list and highlight books we may delete. For Capstone, we are looking at our digital list and deleting books from the list if they don’t fit our goals or if we chose too many books from one series.  My hope was to have this done before winter break, but it looks like this process will continue into early January.  I’m so proud of the work students have accomplished in this large group.  It’s shaping up to be one of the best year’s so far.

 

The 2017 Student Book Budget Books Have Arrived!

Every year a volunteer group of students give their time to spend a budget on books for the library. This budget comes from grants, book fair profits, and rewards points and it is completely in their control. They create a survey, interview students throughout the school, analyze the results, set goals, meet with vendors, create consideration lists, narrow the lists to the final order, unpack the books, and display them for checkout.

This year’s book budget group purchased over 150 new books for our library from Capstone and Avid Bookshop.

When the books arrived, this year’s crew had a big additional step that previous crews didn’t have.

They had to sort the books into genre categories, label the books with their new genres, and scan them into those subcategories in Destiny.

Once the books were all ready, the students put them on display all over the tables of the library, and the excitement of check out began.

Because there were so many books, it was hard to put them all out at once. As books got checked out, we refilled the tables with new books.  Within the day that the books were put on display, almost all of them had been checked out.

Once again, the amazing Amy Cox at Capstone allowed our committee members to choose 1 book that was their personal choice for the library and these books were donated to us as a thank you.  Students got to put a personalized label on the inside cover to show that they were the selector of the book.

Student voice matters in the library, and every year I value this process of seeing students BE the process of collection development instead of just requesting books to be purchased.  When they take part in every step of the collection development process, they see the thought that goes into each book on our library shelves.

They see that their interests and requests matter because they immediately see those represented in the books on our shelves.  If the library is to be a true community, then I feel like one person can’t decide on all of the books in the collection. I certainly have a major role in collection development, but when my students work alongside me in this process, we all become members of our library rather than just a consumer.

Happy reading!

 

Building Home Libraries: A Community Collaboration

4reading

One of the goals of the Barrow Elementary Media Center is to support the reading habits and curiosities of students, teachers, and families.  During the school year, our library is a huge source of reading, but I often wonder what I can do to continue to support reading during the summer months when students are at home.  What do their home libraries look like? What can we do as a school to support the idea of building a home library?

Many schools in Clarke County are supported by an incredible program called Books for Keeps where every student in the school receives 12 books for summer reading. Our school will eventually be served by this organization, but at the moment, we are not. Since we can’t really raise enough money to buy books for every child in the school, I decided to start with 2 communities of students in our school.

This year, I am working with our community, writing grants, and raising funds to support families in building home libraries in their communities. The Junior League of Athens is purchasing 6 books for each student from the Bethel Homes community who attends our school.   These books are for the students to keep and share with their family. There will be a family day of learning about home libraries, creating a plan for a home library, and adding these 6 books to the home library.  We hope by taking this step, we are supporting a culture in each home of having a dedicated place to keep books that are purchased, borrowed, or donated.

Through First Book UGA, we have a $750 grant to replicate the Junior League’s program in the Parkview community. This will provide approximately 3 books per student through First Book.  In order to replicate the same program we are offering at Bethel, we needed to raise some additional funds.  After getting approval from our superintendent, I created a GoFundMe campaign to raise an additional $1,000. I began sharing the campaign through many avenues of social media as well as personal emails. Camilla Bracewell, a Barrow grandparent and huge library supporter, also shared the project through her own networks. In just over 24 hours, we raised the funds needed.

I’m notorious for jumping into a project before I really know exactly what it’s going to look like, but I always leap in with the faith of expecting the miraculous and knowing that things will work out. Now that the funds are in place, some logistics must be worked out.

Logistic 1:  If students are going to create home libraries, what will I actually use for the home library container?

I didn’t want to assume that every student had a home library at home or that they knew that a home library could be any place you keep books, so I wanted them to have a container to take home with their books. I started pricing containers at Walmart and Target and seeing what Dollar Tree had. Along the way, I posted Instagram pictures of my journey and invited people to chime in with suggestions.

People chimed in with ideas:

Then, my wife suggested that I contact Suki Janssen with the Athens Clarke County Recycling Division, so I did.  She invited me to come and check out the warehouse where the Teacher Reuse Store items are kept. This CHARM facility houses items that are difficult to recycle.  I met with Chris Griffin and he let me browse the building and see what I could find.

bins at recycling

Miraculously, I found  3 different stacks of trays in varying shapes, sizes, and conditions and was fortunate enough to take them all home with me.

Logistic #2: Getting all of these trays ready to become home libraries.

I took all of the trays home and started cleaning a few of them and brainstorming exactly what to do to the trays to decorate them.

Again, I reached out to the community for ideas. Gretchen Thomas, my collaborative partner from UGA, suggested lots and lots of spray paint.

I went out and bought some cans to do a paint test.

It was a time consuming process to clean and paint the trays and I quickly realized I couldn’t do it alone.

Logistic #3: Who can clean and paint all of these trays?

I brought all of the trays to school.

I called upon my wonderful volunteer coordinator Courtney Tobin as well as Gretchen Thomas to send out emails and ask for volunteers. Once again, the community didn’t disappoint. Camilla Bracewell came in along with Margaret Christ and her librarian mom came in to clean trays.

I also have volunteers scheduled to come in and start spray painting the trays outside.

Logistic #4: How will I order the right books for students?

Since we have a First Book account and grant, I can order books directly from First Book for a great price. I really wanted to go back to my student book budget model and give each student a certain amount of money to spend in the First Book marketplace.

However, I don’t think I have enough time to pull that off.  Instead, I created a short reading interest survey so that I can do interviews with each student and find out some of their interests in order to get the books they really want to read. Again, this isn’t something I can do alone since there’s 75 kids in this project, so volunteers are helping me interview students with printed copies of the survey.

Logistic #5: How will I get the order done?

As we interview students, I’m searching the First Book Marketplace for books that match what students are asking for. I’m adding these to a wish list that I can pull from when it’s time to order.  I’ve blocked off times on the library calendar next week to work on the actual order.  I plan to take each student survey sheet and personally search for books to meet the needs of the student request and age.  Then, I’ll use the donated funds and grant to pay the bill.

Logistic #6: How will students take ownership of the libraries?

Rather than just hand over the books and trays to students, I want them to have some investment in the project. In two weeks, we are going to hold some decorating sessions where students can come and decorate their libraries with personal touches. During that time, we’ll talk about what it means to have a home library as well as talk about sharing books between home libraries. Since these students are in the same community, there is an opportunity for students to be able to exchange books with one another if they want to.

I know that I have many more logistics to work out in this project, but it is amazing to look at where this seed of an idea has grown into a blossoming project.  I can’t wait to see where the project takes us, how it impacts students, and what we all learn about one another along the way. Having a community that pulls together around a common project makes such a difference.

 

 

 

Media Center Buzz November 18, 2011

As I’m thinking about redesigning the Barrow Media Center for our new school, I’m trying to periodically document through pictures and videos how the media center is currently being used.  I’m trying to think about what is working in our space, what’s not working, and what could be happening.  Here’s a look at the video that I captured today when approximately 100 students were in the media center at the same time.

Media Center Buzz November 18, 2011

Simultaneous Learning in an Elementary Library Media Center

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.schooltube.com/embed/29b463bcb37c4365ba49

 

After seeing a video posted by Buffy Hamilton showing the buzz of energy as multiple classes worked simultaneously in the library, I decided to take a moment to capture a snapshot of the Barrow Media Center.  In this video clip, you will see simultaneous classes doing very separate things.  Our space and collaboration allow for multiple lessons to happen at different times taught by the media specialist, teachers, and paraprofessionals.  While all of this learning is taking place, students are also still able to come to the library to checkout books by themselves.