Celebrating Picture Book Month and Remembering Dianne de Las Casas

This marks the 5th year that our school has celebrated Picture Book Month. This wonderful event was founded by Dianne de Las Casas, author and storyteller extraordinaire.  The children’s book world sadly lost Dianne this year in a tragic fire, so it makes this year’s Picture Book Month bittersweet.

I came to know Dianne through Picture Book Month. Each year I host a Picture Book Smackdown at the close of November which brings together students in multiple states via a Google Hangout to share favorite picture books. We also invite authors to join us and share their favorite picture books too. For the past few years, Dianne has also joined us.

When we connected with Dianne, she was always full of stories and blinged out with her tiara, sparkly attire, bright nails, and bubbly personality. We always laughed because no matter how much we tried to keep the smackdown moving along, Dianne was always hard to contain.  She wanted to share so many picture books with students and read aloud her favorite texts. Dianne was such a sweet and giving soul.   She even sent us autographed copied of her book to thank us for celebrating picture books.

We will greatly miss her this year. Katie Davis, another member of the Picture Book Month Community, posted a nice video remembering Dianne and her picture book legacy.

Even though we are sad, we are remembering, celebrating, and honoring Dianne by continuing to carry on the Picture Book Month legacy.  One way we do this is by book talking picture books every day on BTV, our morning broadcast.

Happy Picture Book Month #celebration #picturebook #tlchat #reading #librariesofinstagram

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Another way is by hold a Picture Book Month Challenge. I encourage students to read as many picture books as possible during the month of November. During the challenge, they must read at least 10 picture books, which includes some picture books from specific genre sections of the library plus a couple of “student choice” sections.  Every picture book section is labeled with a Picture Book Month logo so students can easily see where picture books are located in the library.

This year, I’ve also made a picture book Flipgrid where I hope students, teachers, and families will share picture books during November and beyond.

I’m also planning this year’s Picture Book Smackdown where students from multiple grades will book talk picture books with students in other states.

I hope you’ll consider celebrating Picture Book Month in your own school.  There’s no right or wrong way to do it.  Just read picture books and celebrate their importance in the world. They are a powerful window and mirror into the world.

New Year’s Resolutions: The Barrow 2015 Reading Challenge

2015 Barrow Reading Challenge   Google Docs

One of the new traditions at our school is to hold a schoolwide assembly when we come back from winter break.  This assembly focuses on goal-setting.  The new year is often a time to make resolutions, but in the education world it is a time to check in with the progress made in the first half of the year and think about what we strive to accomplish in the second half of the year.  Last year, I invited all of our students, teachers, and families to join me in “expecting the miraculous”.  We created a Flipgrid where we shared our expectations for 2014 and “expect the miraculous” because a common mantra in our school.  My principal asked if I would once again share something at this assembly.  I wasn’t quite sure what to share at first, so I spent some time thinking about the goals for the library that I established over the summer.  One of those goals is to “support the reading habits and curiosities of students, teachers, and families.  I’ve done several things so far this year to support this goal.  We’ve held 2 author visits, a storybook celebration, Polar Express Day, a picture book month challenge, and a picture book smackdown.  However, I feel like I haven’t done something that really encourages reading a variety of texts for students, teachers, and families.

Barrow 2015 Reading Challenge

As I was pondering, I was reminded of something in my Facebook feed about Mark Zuckerberg’s new year’s resolution.  Each year he “takes on a challenge to broaden his perspective and learn something about the world beyond his work at Facebook.”  This year, a crowdsourced list helped him decide on his resolution.  He will choose a new book to read every other week and post about his learning on Facebook.  His selections will have “an emphasis on learning about different cultures, beliefs, histories, and technologies.”

I thought this idea would make an interesting challenge for our students, teachers, and families.  What if we invited students, teachers, and families to choose a reading goal for themselves?  Maybe it could be something they want to learn more about.  Maybe it could be about selecting books from a genre that they haven’t tried.  The goal would be completely up to them.

The second piece of Zuckerberg’s goal is a frequency of reading, so I wondered what it would be like to invite students, teachers, and families to choose a number of books to read across the next 3 months of school or a goal for how often they might finish a book.

The 2015 Barrow Reading Challenge was born.  I created a log that explained the challenge.  I made 2 versions.  One could be copied to hand out to our prek-2nd grade students who do not have 1 to 1 computers.  The second version could be digitally shared with students.

Since our 3rd-5th grade students are 1 to 1, I setup a Google Classroom and sent an email to all students inviting them to join the classroom if they wanted to participate in the challenge.  Once students join, I will assign the Google doc reading log to all of them so that they have their own copy to edit and turn in by April 1st.

2015 Barrow Reading Challenge   Google Docs challenge

In addition, our principal will email the digital copy of the reading log to all families on her listserv and I will copy additional paper copies to have on hand in the library.

Slideshow

I made a slideshow to show students, teachers, and families at our assembly.  It includes slides on the story of where this challenge came from as well as the details.  I hope the assembly will get the whole school excited about participating.

Along the way, I hope to spark some conversations about what we are reading within the Google Classroom as well as offer opportunities for all students, teachers, and families to talk about their reading through tools like Flipgrid, Padlet, and our library glass board.

Once the challenge ends, I hope people will consider continuing their challenge through the year.  There will of course be some rewards beyond accomplishing your goals.  Participants who turn in a log will receive a certificate, a bookmark, and be entered into a drawing for lots of new books and anything else I can round up over the next 3 months!

I can’t wait to see  what happens.  We will continue to expect the miraculous, and I hope to see lots of people join in the challenge and fun.