I Read Because: A Book Tasting Library Orientation

I’m always trying to maximize what happens during library orientation each year. This year, I asked myself what I really hoped students experienced on their very first visit. Yes, there are many expectations and rules I could go over, but what message do I send if that’s how I spend our time on day 1. Instead, I wanted to focus on the power of reading and give students time to explore the genres of the library.

As students entered, I played a video from Scholastic’s “Open a World of Possible” site. The video had students sharing reasons that they read.  Then, I asked students to think about why they read.

I shared a couple of reasons I read. One of those reasons was to be able to walk in someone else’s shoes. I shared books like Wonder and How to Steal a Dog, which gave me a chance to wrestle with something that is different from my own life.  I also talked about escaping to another land when I need a break from our world.

I also loved that I had teacher voices to share. At the beginning of the year, teachers recorded Flipgrid videos to introduce themselves. They shared their hopes for the year as well as books that inspire them. I pulled these books and showed them to students with the teacher names posted on the front of the book.  I wanted to establish at the very beginning that we are a community of readers and we read for many reasons.

Last year was our first year with a genrefied library. It went really well, but there were some things that I knew I needed to do to help students better understand how the library is now organized. I wanted students to realize that they could spend more time at the library shelves exploring actual books and less time on the computer searching in Destiny.

Genre tasting in progress #librariesofinstagram #reading

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I pulled a few books from some of our genre sections and put them in baskets or piles on tables. Students split into small groups and rotated from table to table every couple of minutes. The purpose was to sample the books in the basket to get a feel for that genre. It was also to show students that when they spent time with the books, they found things they weren’t even expecting to find.  Students could keep any books that they found in the baskets and I replenished them throughout the classes.

We ended our time by thinking about how the experience felt as well as taking a look at times when the computer is actually useful for finding a book.

Students then checked out the books they needed. My new rule about checking out books is to check out what you need and what you can keep up with. Some students checked out 2 books and others checked out 6. I never want readers to feel like they are limited by a number that I set.

I can’t wait to see how our year goes as we grow our community of readers.  On a side note, I set up a station in the library where students can listen to the teacher Flipgrids and respond to any teachers. I love seeing students interact with Flipgrid and share responses with our community.

 

Picture Book Smackdown 2015 is a Wrap!

smackdown (8)Wow!  We had the most students ever participate in our 3rd annual picture book smackdown.  Even sickness and technical difficulties didn’t stop our students in 5 states sharing favorite books along with author, Laurie Thompson.

Here are a few behind the scenes notes:

  • There were multiple emails and tweets sent between the participating schools in this smackdown. We established etiquette for the hangout such as keeping things moving, muting microphones when we weren’t speaking, and only having about 5 students at a time share
  • We all prepared our students in advance of the smackdown but we each did it in our own way.  My own students had a basic script that they filled out.

  • The amazing Cathy Potter helped organize Laurie Thompson to join us. Unfortunately, Picture Book Month founder, Dianne de Las Casas wasn’t feeling well and couldn’t join us.  She was with us in spirit, though!
  • I had a group of 50 students!  Luckily 2 volunteers and a teacher helped me keep them organized in chairs and a parent frantically wrote down as many titles of shared picture books as she could.

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  • We all came into the Google Hangout early to test our cameras and microphones.  We communicated with one another through the chat in Hangouts as well as through text messaging if needed.

All of our Picture Book Smackdown content can be found on our Smore.

I would like to thank all of the schools who participated, Laurie Thompson, our volunteers, and all of the people who viewed and sent out tweets.  Thanks for celebrating Picture Book Month with us!

We’ll see you next year for our 4th annual smackdown!

An Author Visit with Alan Gratz

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Once again, the amazing Avid Bookshop has brought an author to our school.  This time our visiting author was Alan Gratz.  He is currently touring in promotion of his newest book The League of Seven.   Gratz is also the author of books such as Prisoner B-3087 , Fantasy Baseball, and The Brooklyn Nine.

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All students in 3rd-5th grade attended, which was roughly 200+ kids.  They were mesmerized by his every word.  After showing a slide with all of his book covers, Alan Gratz focused the conversation on the cover of his new book.

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Instead of starting with a summary of his book, Gratz began with the story of how the book came to be.  He explained that he wanted to make a book “full of awesome”, so he made a big board to pin up awesome ideas for his book.

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He kept bringing students back to a slide with several of these ideas and having them vote on what they wanted to hear about by raising their hands.  For example, would you rather hear about heads in jars or mad scientists?  Would you rather hear about secret societies or machine men?  Would you rather hear about giant monsters or Native American cities?  As students chose a topic, he fleshed out the topics that appear in The League of Seven.

When it came time to talk about what the book was about, the students had context about what “steam punk” meant as well as example of secret societies, flying machines, and monsters.  Best of all, by the time Alan Gratz got to the part about giving a summary of the book, pretty much every student was hooked and wanted to read the book.  I ordered 2 additional copies of the book during the presentation because I knew demand would be high.

The Septemberist Society – About The League of Seven

Alan Gratz showed students how readers around the world are creating fan fiction and illustrations based on the book.  He has a website called the Septemberist Society, which has challenges, book news, and places for displaying fan fiction and illustrations.  He encouraged students to send any of their creations to him for the site.

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As soon as the talk was over, I hurried to catalog the books.  A parent came in to prep the books for checkout and within minutes of putting them out, they were gone.  Students came in and started putting holds on the books as well.

I love how hearing from an author sprinkles magic dust onto the library books.  The awesome cover of this book designed by Brett Helquist is enough to make you want to pick it up, but hearing from the author creates magic.

Thank you Alan Gratz, Avid Bookshop, and Starscape for this incredible visit with out students.

An Author Visit with Nancy Krulik

nancy krulik (23)I love our local independent bookstore, Avid Bookshop.  They work very hard to bring children’s, young adult, and adult authors to our community.  They also reach out to schools and connect us with these authors.  Today, Nancy Krulik visisted 3 Athens Clarke County schools:  Barrow, Oglethorpe, and Stroud.

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Nancy Krulik is the author of more than 200 books!  The books that the kids get the most excited about are her 3 series:

  • Katie Kazoo
  • George Brown
  • Magic Bone

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She started her talk with a game between 4 students who answered questions related to the Magic Bone series.  The questions were all based on inferences and point of view.  This gave kids context for the section of the book that she planned to read aloud to the students since the dog doesn’t necessarily know the human terms for the things he sees in the world.  I loved how she set the stage for them to understand this part of the story.

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She spent some time talking about her writing life, her first book, and her 3 series.  Finally, she took student questions.  She really wanted to answer every single question that students had.  I think they could ask questions all day.  They had a great time learning that she wrote some of a George Brown book while she was in her hotel in Athens.

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They also loved burping like George Brown.

Students who purchased books from Avid were able to stay after the visit and get their books signed.  They loved sitting down with an author, chatting, and watching their book get signed.

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Many thanks to Avid Bookshop, Penguin, and Nancy Krulik for a fantastic visit.  I’m sure there are many new Katie Kazoo, George Brown, and Magic Bone fans in Athens.  In-person as well as Skype author visits always inspire our students to read more but also to write down their stories and work hard to make them the best stories that they can be.

 

Student Book Budget 2012-2013 Finale

IMG_0331 IMG_0332 IMG_0333 IMG_0334 IMG_0335Today was an exciting day.  The 105 books purchased by the students in this year’s book budget groups went into circulation.  I announced on BTV that the books were ready.  Teachers played this video in class.

IMG_0337It didn’t take long until students began pouring into the library on their own and in classes to checkout the books.  Almost every student who visited the library got one of the new books, and by lunch, there were only 5 books left!

Only 5 books remained at Noon.

Only 5 books remained at Noon.

It was also an exciting day for the book budget students because they got to see their hard work pay off with students getting excited about reading their selections and they were surprised with superhero bags donated by Capstone Press.  As always, I was amazed by the customer service of Capstone and how they responded to the work of these students.  They featured the students’ on their blog, sent us 4 new princess books, and gave all of the students a Capstone bag.IMG_0336 IMG_0339 IMG_0338

Once again, this process has proved to be very effective in matching books to student interests.  I think the participatory aspect of this along with the student ownership is what drives this to be so successful each year.  It’s a great way to give back to the students what they put into the library program each year through lessons, reading, contests, and book fairs.  It will be interesting to see if student interests change through the coming years as our books on princesses, sports, superheroes, etc continue to grow.

 

Student Book Budgets (Part 3): The Books are Here!

IMG_0306After lots of surveying and ordering, the books that 27 third-fifth graders ordered for the library are finally here.  Today the students came to the library to unpack the boxes.  The process followed these steps:

  • Unpack the box
  • Highlight the books on the back slip
  • Inspect the books for damage or imperfections
  • Stamp the books with our library stamp
  • Take pictures of the books
  • Pack them back into the box until the records are downloaded into Destiny

IMG_0252The students formed an assembly line and worked through these steps.  The fourth grade group was a bit larger, so some of those students split off to create window displays and signs advertising the new books.  All of the pictures were put into an Animoto that will be played on BTV after spring break.

The students are eager to see the books get checked out.  I have a feeling that these books will fly off of the shelf just like in past years.  Great work students!IMG_0309

 

New Books

What an exciting day!  I watched out the window for the UPS truck to arrive every time I walked past a window.  Our first shipment of books was due to arrive at Barrow today and I couldn’t wait to rip open the boxes and see what was inside.  At about 3:00PM, they finally arrived.  I couldn’t get the boxes open fast enough.  The books were all tightly wrapped in plastic so I sliced through it with scissors and spread the books all out on the counter to see.  I wanted to read them all right then, but unfortunately I had other things to tend to, like our new BTV system.

Tomorrow, I will be getting the new books ready for display and checkout and trying not to sit down and read them all right away.  You should be able to see them at Taste of Barrow if all goes well.  In our new card catalog, there is a section called “Resource Lists”.  I created a list that shows all 75 books that just arrived in our media center.  I can’t wait to meet everyone tomorrow night and begin sharing my love of reading with you all.