2019-20 Student Book Budget First Steps

It’s that time of year again when I hand over the profits from our book fair to a group of 3rd-5th graders. These students work together through a process to purchase new books for our library that are based on the interests and requests of students in our school. Each year, this project grows and changes and this year brought some of the biggest changes we’ve had in a while.

Application

To apply to be in the group, students watch a short introductory video in class and then fill out a Google form that asks for their name, why they want to be in the group, and whether or not they are willing to make the commitment to finishing the project if they start it. I keep the application open for one week and then have responses automatically turn off.

Here’s a look at the application.

This year over 60 students applied to be in the group. This is the most I’ve ever had, and I truly try each year to include every student who applies as long as they are willing to make the commitment to being in the group. Even if I met with groups separately by grade level, there would be moments where I might have 40 students trying to make decisions about books.

I really stressed over what to do because I really didn’t want to choose some students and turn others away. I decided to put the dilemma back to the students by giving them a list of all the tasks that needed to be done across the entire project. I asked them to select which ones they were most interested in. They could certainly check every box but they could also just choose 1 or 2 that interested them.  This decision really helped because it dropped the number of students I would have at one time to a more manageable amount.

Here’s a look at the follow-up application.

The tricky part for me was organizing the students so that I could easily let them know what days to come as well as remind their teachers.  I made a spreadsheet with each task and copied student email addresses and teachers into the sheet. As we approach each task, I can just copy of paste the emails to send a message to students and teachers to remind them when to come to the library. Students come during their recess time on these select days which means 10:45-11:15 for 3rd grade, 11:00-11:30 for 4th grade, and 11:45-12:15 for 5th grade. The overlap of grades 3 & 4 is another tricky piece this year but we are going to do our best to make it work.

Meeting 1: Creating a Survey

Our 1st group of students agreed to work on a survey to ask students in our school what kinds of books they want to see more of in the library. To begin, students spent some time walking around our library to see what they noticed about the sections.  For example, which sections were packed with books? Which shelves looked empty?

Next, I made a copy of last year’s student interest survey and quickly went through all of the questions asked last year.  In pairs or small groups, students talked about what they liked and didn’t like about the survey as well as what new ideas they had. I tried to listen in to their discussions and then we had a discussion as a whole group.

I was really impressed with their conversations and ideas. They talked about the length of the survey and how they could make it more concise. They asked me questions about how last year’s survey worked out. One of my noticings from previous years was how some of our younger students tend to say that they like every section of the library. The book budget students had a long discussion of how they might limit the responses to get students to focus more on what they really wanted to add to the library. After much debate, they finally agreed to break the survey into our picture book, chapter book, and information sections and select 2 genres in each section that needs more books.  This was a very different take on the survey from what we’ve done in the past and I look forward to seeing how it impacts our final results. The students also wanted better pictures of each genre section so the younger students could see the genre sign and some example books from each section rather than a picture of the whole section from far away.

I took all of the student ideas and modified our Google Form survey. I emailed the survey to 3rd-5th grade teachers to share with students in Google Classroom. Then, I created a QR code for our book budget team to scan in order to survey our younger grades with iPads.

Here’s a look at this year’s survey.

Meeting 2 & 3: Surveying

About 30 students signed up to help survey younger students in our school. They came to the library and scanned the QR code using the camera app. Students went to the lunchroom and surveyed K-2 students while they ate lunch. The book budget students asked the questions, showed the genre pictures on the iPad, and typed out any short answers students had for questions. Each survey was submitted and then students pulled up a fresh survey to ask the next student.

On our first day, we had already surpassed 200 students surveyed through email and iPads. We continued this same process on day 2 by making a BTV announcement to remind grades 3-5 to complete the survey and again visiting lunch to survey the lower grades.

I loved watching the professionalism of our book budget students. They asked permission to survey students, focused on listening to and inputting all of their answers, and thanked them for their thoughts. The lunchroom monitors even commented on how much more peaceful the lunchroom was having something for the students to do while they ate.  I was worried we would add a layer of chaos to lunch, so it was great to hear that it actually helped.

It was also fun to see the book budget students interact with our younger learners. Some of our younger students had trouble verbalizing what they wanted more of in the library, and the book budget students naturally altered the questions to try to make them easier to understand. This surprised me. I was worried that I didn’t spend enough time talking about how to be professional and flexible, but students naturally adjusted and rolled with any challenges they faced in surveying.

As survey results roll in, we can check our Google charts to see how many of each grade level we have surveyed.  This helps us know if we need to focus more on a specific grade so that there is a relatively equal number of data from each grade level.

Next Week:

Our next steps will involve analyzing the data we have and setting some goals for the kinds of books we want to purchase.  So far we are off to a busy but great start and many more students are adding their voices to the project.

The King of Kindergarten: A Visit with Derrick Barnes & Vanessa Brantley Newton

We are 3 weeks into the new school year and we are so thankful that we were able to host an author and illustrator for students in PreK-1st grade. Derrick Barnes, author of the award-winning Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut, and Vanessa Brantley Newton, illustrator of numerous, stunning books such as The Youngest Marcher, Mary Had a Little Glam, and Grandma’s Purse came to our school thanks to our local bookshop Avid Bookshop and their publisher Penguin Random House.  They came to celebrate their newest picture book together called The King of Kindergarten, which has received numerous starred reviews.

Getting the students ready for an author visit so early in the year was a challenge, but most K-1 students heard 2-3 stories by Derrick and Vanessa including The King of Kindergarten, Crown: Ode to the Fresh Cut, Mama’s Work Shoes, Early Sunday Morning, and Mary Had a Little Glam. 

 

We also took pictures of every student in K-1 and put their pictures on the windows of the library with clip art crowns to welcome Derrick and Vanessa to our school.

Families had an opportunity to pre-order a copy of The King of Kindergarten for autographing, and thanks to our pre-sales and a generous donation from an anonymous donor, every student in Kindergarten received a copy of the book.

When Derrick and Vanessa arrived at our school, they were greeted by two of our 5th grade Barrow ambassadors. These students welcome visitors to our school, give tours of our school, and make sure special guests are well taken care of.  They took their job very seriously and helped Derrick and Vanessa get settled in the library and helped deliver all of the signed books to classrooms.

As students entered to get seated, their excitement was palpable. Some of them saw Derrick and Vanessa waiting in my office and said, “Mr. Plemmons!  Look behind you! They are here. They’re really here in Georgia!”  It was a celebrity sighting for sure and one of the reasons it is so important to read books and talk about authors and illustrators before a visit.  The kids felt like they knew them and they were able to connect the books we’ve experienced with a real, live person who created them.

Derrick shared a little about himself and his family. He also shared that his own children are the faces of characters on the covers of his books. We looked at Crown and The King of Kindergarten covers to see his sons. During this time, Derrick talked about the importance of every person being able to see themselves on the cover of a book and that he felt his job was to fill in some of the gaps that exist in the publishing world.

Vanessa also shared about herself. We learned that she is dyslexic and she talked with the kids about working with that challenge in her life. She also stutters, so she talked with the kids about how that has impacted her and asked for their help in staying peaceful while she talked so that she could formulate her words. It was so important for kids to hear about these challenges she faced in her life but was still able to do something that she loved.  Vanessa also showed us some of her art books and shared that she loves to leave pieces of art everywhere she goes so that people can find her work and add some art to their lives.

Before Derrick read The King of Kindergarten, he offered our young learners some advice. 1.  Always greet your teachers and classmates each day with a good morning (which they all turned and did right away!) 2.  Be kind.  3. Represent your family name. Make them proud.

As Derrick read the book, Vanessa drew the king of Kindergarten.  I loved hearing students filling in the parts of the text they remembered as Derrick read. They also noticed that Derrick and his wife are in the book too. Vanessa also included a couple of students from our audience in her drawing. She shared that she has a photographic memory and uses people she sees as characters.

As Derrick and Vanessa said goodbye, so many students came up to smile, wave, point out parts of the book, touch Derrick and Vanessa, or give them a hug. I was so thankful that all of our young learners got to hear their message, see their faces in person, and be inspired by their work and stories.

What happens after an author visit is always special. Kids recognize the books in the library and immediately check them all out. Kids get inspired to create their own art and stories.

This time because so many kids received a copy of the book, we saw kids excitedly putting books into their backpacks to go home and read with their family and many brought the books back to school to read here too.

Thank you so much Derrick Barnes and Vanessa Brantley Newton for sharing your talents with our students. Thank you Avid Bookshop for bring author and illustrators to our school.  Thank you Penguin Random House & Nancy Paulsen Books for choosing our community and our school as a stop on the tour.  The impact will last well beyond this 30-minute visit.  Thank you.

 

 

 

Poem In Your Pocket Days 2019

We just wrapped up 2 days filled with poetry readings. For many years, we have been celebrating poetry month and national poem in your pocket day by hosting a poetry cafe in the library. During this 2-day event, every class in the school comes to the library for a 20-minute session. Students sit in a specially decorated area of the library filled with soft cushions, lighting, flowers, and a fancy microphone.

Every student has a chance to come up and share an original or favorite poem into the microphone and we celebrate each poet with snaps and quiet claps. This even is broadcast via Youtube Live so that family and friends can enjoy our poetry from afar. Ahead of the even, I setup each Youtube event and put the links to every class on a Smore page for easy access and sharing. As we broadcast each event, it immediately archives to Youtube and the Smore page.

One of my favorite parts of these days is that it is one time where every single student in our school has an opportunity to be seen and heard. While not every students chooses to get in front of the microphone, they all have the opportunity.

There’s always magical things that happen: kids who are shy have a friend who encourages them and stand with them, a poem is tucked away in a special place like a shoe, a student creates an unexpected poem that stands out in a beautiful way, a student reads a poem in a different language, a parent or teacher shares a favorite or original poem.

I invite you to listen to some of the student poetry by visiting the Youtube links on our Smore page. You can continue to leave comments for the students on Youtube or on Twitter by using the hashtag #barrowpoems

Happy poetry month!

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.

A Walk to Avid Bookshop with the Student Book Budget Team

Our student book budget team has made quite a long list of books to consider for this year’s student book budget purchase. So far, they have met with Capstone and Gumdrop Books. Our local independent bookstore is within a mile of our school, so we also take a walking field trip to Avid Bookshop.

I split the group into two days. Third and Fourth grades went one day and Fifth grade went another day. Before we walked, we reminded ourselves about the types of books we were looking for. We also reminded ourselves that we were in a place of business so we needed to be respectful of the space and the other customers.

When we arrived, we snapped a quick photo in front of the shop.

Kate Lorraine, bookseller, met us at the back of the bookshop and gave us some book talks on picture books, informational books, graphic novels, and middle grade books that met our purchasing goals. We also showed students where these areas were located in the store so that they didn’t venture into adult sections for our list of books.

We took some shelf markers with us so students could remember where books went on the shelf. Each time a book was found to be of interest, students checked with me to see if we already had it in the library. If we didn’t, they scanned the ISBN into a spreadsheet on my computer and added the title and price. Again, we weren’t worried about cost at this point, we were just adding books of interest.

I loved that students could check with the Avid booksellers for information on prices, age ranges of books, series sequence, and more. They are so used to asking me questions, that sometimes I had to remind them that the Avid booksellers were there to help us and were happy to answer questions.

As usual, it was a challenge to stay focused in a bookshop with so many interesting books and gifts to look at. Students had a chance to look all around, but did need reminders to stay focused on our most important task of finding books. I also noticed that our oldest readers also needed reminders to visit the picture book sections in addition to the areas that they were most attracted to.

I have some more thinking to do around these walking visits. Avid has such a great selection of titles to look at and I feel like students could have spent more time really looking at what was there. Maybe I need to assign certain students to certain sections. Maybe there needs to be more guidance on how many books they should try to evaluate.  I don’t want to take power away from the students, but I do want to equip them with some tools to help them get the most out of their visit to this useful resource in our community.

Now, we are at our most challenging task, which is cutting down our lists to fit our budget. Wish us luck.

One-Page Comic Contest: Prepping for a Visit with Lincoln Peirce

We are still in shock that next week we will be visited by Lincoln Peirce, the author of the bestselling Big Nate series. Lincoln is touring the country to promote his newest illustrated novel, Max and the Midknights. I can’t wait for students to be introduced to this new book. It has a little bit of everything: surprises, humor, medieval fights, mystery, magic, zombies, and more.

When an author/illustrator visits, I love to fill our windows and/or hallways with student work inspired by the author/illustrator. Sometimes there’s just not enough prep time, but luckily for Lincoln we knew a couple of months in advance.

When I read the Advance Reading Copy of Max and the Midknights, I saw that it opens with a one-page comic to setup the story. I thought this would be a great concept to invite students to try out. Instead of hosting class after class in the library, I made this a choice contest. In the contest, I invited students in any grade level to create a one-page comic on any topic. That’s pretty much the rules. They could create the comic on their own paper or use a pre-printed page of comic boxes that I provided in the library.

I introduced the contest on our morning broadcast and also made a video that teachers could share.

Students had a little less than 2 weeks to enter the contest and it didn’t take long to see that this was a high-interest topic. By the deadline date, we had over 100 entries in our contest from almost every grade level. It was impossible to pick winners by myself, so I had the help of Allie Melancon, SST, and my high school intern, Andrea Aramburo. I also had a few students, teachers, and my wife read a some comics too.

In the end, we picked 12 students to receive an autographed copy of Max and the Midknights. Thanks to a local organization called Books for Keeps, I had some other items I could hand out as prizes for about 50 honorable mention students.

These students received their choice of several doodling books, coloring books, magnetic storytelling kits, and comics.

Every student who entered a comic also has his/her work displayed on the windows of the library. As soon as the display went up, students, teachers, and families were stopping in the hall to read comics. We can’t wait for Lincoln Peirce to see them next week too.

I loved having this choice contest. It’s something I would like to try again with other author visits. It gives students one more way to interact with their library, one more way to make their voice heard, and one more way to be creative regardless of grade level, language, or background. I met some students in a new way through their art or writing. I saw some hidden talents that I didn’t realize were there.

We never know what opportunity is going to be the spark that students need in order to connect.

Matching Readers to Books: A Reader’s Advisory Exploration

In the library, we see all kinds of readers: those who still haven’t found a book they have fallen in love with, those who read everything in sight, those who need a nudge to try something outside their comfort zone, those who wander around and just can’t choose, and more. Even though one of my favorite things to do is talk individually with students about their interests and connections with reading, the busy library program that we have sometimes gets in the way. My time is pulled between numerous classes I’m teaching and collaborating on projects with, collaborative planning with teachers, keeping our collection up to date and organized, exploring new tech with students, and the list goes on.

This quarter I’m working with 2 different groups of 3rd and 5th graders to explore our reading lives. Some of the students I’m working with have not found a book they connect with enough to finish. Others need a nudge to try something maybe a little more challenging or stretch the breadth of their genre choices.

Prior to meeting with both groups, I tweaked a reading interest survey in Google forms. The questions included:

  • What are you reading now?
  • Would you rather……have fun with friends at recess or go on adventure in the jungle?
  • Who are some of your favorite celebrities (yes Youtubers count)?
  • Would you rather…..cast a spell on an evil creature or battle an army in a war?
  • Who is your favorite superhero?
  • Would you rather…..be scared by a ghost of a girl who drowned in a lake or play a prank on friends?
  • Do you like……just the facts, a far out story, or something in between?
  • What book did you NOT enjoy?
  • What are some of your hobbies?
  • What are some of your favorite movies, shows, or Youtube channels?
  • What are 3 books that you loved?
  • Why do you read? to escape, to be entertained, to learn something new, because you have to, something else
  • What is your preferred length of book? short and sweet, long and detailed, in between short and long, depends on the book
  • If you could visit any time or place, where would you go?
  • What is your favorite series or genre?
  • What else would help me match you with a book?

When students arrived, we had a quick conversation about how you make a decision on whether a book is right for you. Conversations were mixed. Some groups had lots to say. In other groups, I had to share some things that I do for myself to match to a book. We talked about looking at covers, reading the description, using Novelist for reviews, and reading a few pages. One interesting thing that came up was that several students did not like someone telling them what to read. Can you blame them? I want to pick my books too.

This part put me in a bit of a dilemma. I told them that I wanted them to give me some information through a survey so that I could pull a possible stack of books that matched their answers. However, I also let them know that I wasn’t forcing them to read any of the books. If none of the books matched, I would work with them to explore other books until we found something they were actually interested in reading in class.

Next, students answered the survey. Once students left, I went through their answers and pulled out key words from student responses and wrote them onto post-it notes. I used these notes to walk through our chapter book genres and pull stacks of books for each student.  I tried to match the book length that students suggested, but I also mixed in some varying lengths of books too.  Several students mentioned that they wanted at least some illustrations in their chapter books or even that they wanted an illustration on every page. This also gave me a challenge because most chapter books aren’t going to fit this description unless I’m pulling from graphic novels. Again, I tried to meet their requests but also throw in some surprises too.

In general, each student had between 6-8 books to choose from. On day 2, students returned to the library and we reviewed what readers do when they are deciding on a book. Each student took the personalized stack of books and found a private spot in the library to go through the stack. Most started by looking at all of the covers. Most students then picked a few of the books to start reading a few of the first pages. In a few instances, students dismissed most of their stack based on the covers alone. For these students, I sat with them and actually walked through some extra steps with them so they could at least give some of the books a chance. Most of the time, having me read the description or the first page for them was enough to get them started back into their stack.

By the end of the 2nd session, every student found at least one book they were going to read in class during “read to self” time and also outside of school too. Most students had 2-3 books. For those students, I took their post-it and left it on the books they were interested in so they could check them out next time.

Ms. Hicks, 3rd grade teacher, shared with me that one of her students said “This is just like heaven” as she was referring to the opportunity to just sit with a stack of books curated just for her and spend time reading. It’s such a simple concept, but it’s so powerful for students to show them that their interests matter. Reading books they have selected matters. We can’t just put kids in guided reading groups all day long and never give them a chance to select books they want to read. Some students get to 5th grade and despise reading. I can’t blame them when their main experience with reading is sitting in a group reading a book they aren’t interested in that they had no hand in choosing.

Reading skills and strategy groups are important, but they can’t replace the power of hearing a great story read aloud and discussing it or finding a book that connects with your soul and having time just to read it.

This was very time consuming, but every time I do it, I’m reminded and how much interest and choice matter in reading.  My next steps are to check back in with these students in a week to see how the books are going.

Student Book Budget: Meeting with Vendors

Our 2018-19 student book budget team is hard at work creating consideration lists of books for purchase. So far, they have created an interest survey, surveyed numerous students in our school, and set purchasing goals. I sent their goals to vendors and setup some appointments for vendors to meet with the team.

Our first vendor was Gret from Gumdrop Books. Gret brought in fiction and nonfiction and split them into separate groups on tables. She gave each student a pad of paper to write down item numbers for books or series they were interested in. They gave Gret each of their papers at the end of their time and then she put them into a consideration list in Excel. One of the things I love about what Gret does is that she has a printed list inside each book that shows other books in the series. Students can easily see if there are other books they are interested in.

Since Gret only had a sample of books to peruse, we had the Gumdrop website pulled up on the big screen so that Gret or students could search for books that weren’t represented on the tables. At the close of Gret’s time students in the 3 groups had made a list that totaled over $6,000! That’s not unusual for this group. It will become a good lesson later into how you get critical and purchase the very best of what you’ve found with the money you actually have.

Our second vendor was Jim Boon from Capstone. Jim has worked with us since the very beginning of this project. He’s great at bringing in a variety of books in fiction and nonfiction and splitting them into 2 displays that students can easily access. He also has catalogs and pens shipped to the school prior to his visit so that students can look through catalogs for books that aren’t found in his displays. Jim does a quick overview of what he has brought, how to use the catalogs, and any promotions Capstone currently has. Then, he spends time assisting students in looking at books and finding specifics in the catalogs.

My favorite feature in the Capstone catalog is the barcode listed on each series. Students can scan the barcode and it pulls up the entire series on the screen. Then, students can check the books they want to add to the list.  It’s so much faster than having to write things down or bookmark pages in a catalog. Then, we can easily go into the list later to delete the books we don’t want.

Jim gets right in with the students and helps them find whatever they are looking for. He’s so fun and keeps them laughing and shopping. He even brought them a special treat bag to go with their Capstone pen and bookmarks.

Now, students have a lot of work to do after the break looking through their Capstone catalogs and cutting books from their Gumdrop list. Then, we’ll meet with one more vendor before making final decisions.

I love watching this group work and seeing what stands out to them.

 

Magazine Ornament Makerspace

Our open makerspace is taking a short break while our student book budget team works on new books for the library. We wrapped up our final makerspace session by hosting an ornament makerspace. Students signed up for this time with their teachers via a Google doc.

I have lots of old magazines that used to be in circulation but aren’t used anymore. I decided to pull them out and use them for our ornament materials as a way to promote reusing materials rather than throwing them out or putting them in recycling.

I wanted students to have a mixture of structure and freedom, so I selected 3 options for structured ornaments with a 4th option of designing your own.

Instructions for these 3 ornaments are found below.

Ornament 1 (top center):

  1. Cut 2 pages from a magazine and fan fold each page.
  2. Stack the 2 fan folds on top of one another and tie in the middle.
  3. If you want, trim the ends of the fan into a fancy design with craft scissors or regular scissors.
  4. Fan out each side and connect together to make a circle. Staple if low on time. Glue if you have time for drying.
  5. Use a hole punch to make a hole and tie a string.

Ornament 2 (bottom left):

  1. Cut multiple strips of the same length from a magazine page.
  2. Bring the ends of each strip together to form a loop.
  3. Repeat the process of bringing ends of strips together and begin adding the loops together.
  4. You might want to use a gem clip to hold the loops together if you have trouble holding them in your hand and folding paper at the same time.
  5. Staple the loops together at the top.
  6. Use a hole punch to create a hole and tie a string. (If you have added a lot of strips, it may be difficult to punch a hole)

Ornament 3 (bottom right):

  1. Cut 5 strips from a magazine page. 2 long, 2 medium, 1 short.
  2. Arrange the strips in this order: long, medium, short, medium, long.
  3. At one end of your stack, make sure the ends of the strips are even and staple them together.
  4. Starting in the center with the short strip, connect the two medium strips to the top of the short strip.
  5. Next, connect the two long strips to the short strip. Staple together.
  6. Use a hole punch to create a hole and tie a string.

When students came to the makerspace session, I quickly showed them the 3 options which were all at their own table.  Then, I showed them a 4th table where they could design their own. Since a UGA class collaborates with us in makerspace, there was a UGA student at each table to assist students as needed with the directions. I also had a UGA student help with hole punching and string tying.

Students were welcome to make as many ornaments as they wanted. They could take them all with them, but they were also welcome to add them to our holiday area of the library. At the front of the library, I have pulled out all of our November/December holiday books and created displays to highlight those holidays such as Diwali, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, and New Year.

As with every makerspace time, I loved seeing how students took structured ideas and put their own creative spins on them. I also loved seeing what unique ideas students came up with on their own too. It’s always hard to decide how to balance structure with open-ended projects, but I think it’s important to offer both. We all learn in different ways. I’ve seen that some learners have high anxiety when given no structure and others have high anxiety when they have structure and think that their creation has to look exactly like the picture.

Several students did decide to add at least one of their creations to our tree in the library. It’s one more way that we can share ownership of our library.

 

2018-19 Student Book Budget First Steps

One of my favorite projects of the year has started. Our student book budget group is a group of 3rd-5th grade students who volunteer their time to decide on new books for the library.  This project has been a part of our library for several years. Each year, we make some adjustments to improve the process and make sure student voice is heard. Over the course of December and January, students in this group will survey the school on reading interests, develop goals, meet with vendors, develop consideration lists, place a book order that meets a budget, process new books, market new books, and enjoy reading the books they have selected.  It’s quite an undertaking, but something I cherish every year.

Step One

I created a Google form application that was emailed to all 3rd-5th grade students. In the application, I linked to a video that explained the project to students. Some teachers played this video for the whole class. Other teachers simply reminded students that applications were open. We made announcement reminders on our morning broadcast for students to apply.  Applications were only open for one week.

This year, I wanted students to make a commitment up front to stick with the project from beginning to end. I made this one of questions to help me decide who to accept into the group. I generally accept every student who applies, but if students weren’t willing to commit to the time the project takes, then I knew they might not be the best choice for the group. I knew I could at least talk in person with students who said no/maybe so that we could clear up expectations and requirements.

Step Two

Once students were chosen, I announced our team on the morning broadcast and communicated with them and their teachers via email. We have 25 students on this year’s team. Our routine schedule is to meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 11:00 for 3rd grade, 11:30 for 4th grade, and 12:00 for 5th grade. This time is taking the place of our open makerspace time during December and January.

During our first meeting, students thought about what they might put on a survey about reading interests. They started by doing a walk around the library and seeing what they noticed about the shelves. For example, they saw how empty the dinosaur, fun facts, and ghost section was. They noticed that we have a lot more humor chapter books than they realized.  We used these noticings and last year’s survey to create a new survey.

In the end, they mostly kept the survey the same with a few small changes.

Step Three

I emailed the survey to all 3rd-5th graders who have their own computer and let teachers know the survey was available. At our 2nd book budget meeting, each grade of students took iPads to the lunchroom and surveyed as many PreK-2nd grade students as possible.  Each time the survey was submitted, it sent the data to a spreadsheet and summary so that we could see which grade levels weren’t as heavily represented and we could begin to set goals for our purchasing.

Step Four

At our 3rd meeting, we checked in on our data to see what else we needed to do.  We noticed that we needed more 4th and 5th grader voices, so we surveyed some of them at recess and made a final plea to teachers to give them time to take the survey in class.

We also used the 3rd meeting to go ahead and notice what the data was telling us so far.  Each group noticed that in picture books the top requests were humor, jokes, graphic novels, and sports.  In chapter books, the top requests were humor, sports, and mystery. In informational, the top requests were fun facts, cooking, ghosts, and animals/dinosaurs.

Students compared these results with what they noticed in their walk around the library. They saw that things mostly matched, but the biggest difference was the humor chapter books.  People are asking for more, but we have so many that aren’t getting checked out. This is a point they are considering so that they really focus on what they think people will actually read.

Moving Forward

Now, we are wrapping up our survey and firming up our purchasing goals so that we can start meeting with booksellers.  We already have appointments with Jim Boon at Capstone and Gret Hechenbleikner at Gumdrop to look at their products. We’ll continue to update our progress along the way.