What Do You Do with Those Advance Reading Copies?: A Summer Reading Project

It never fails that I overload on Advance Reading Copies of books at conferences I attend, and then I just can’t manage to get to all of them to read.  I do in fact read many of them, but then I’m left with a stack of books sitting in my office. As we approach summer, I’m always wondering how to get more books in kids’ hands for summer reading. We promote our incredible public library summer reading programs, but I know that even with talking it up, some kids just won’t make it over there.

I decided to give our 4th graders (rising 5th graders) an opportunity for the summer.  I took all of those ARCs I had read as well as some that I hadn’t read and spread them out on tables.  Each class came to the library and I gave a quick spiel to them about how I really needed to hear their voices about some books that we might purchase for the library.  I encouraged students that even if they didn’t find a book that jumped out at them they should try something new and stretch themselves as readers.  This is something I’m wanting to do more of next year because I think it’s so important for students to help build the collection in the library.  By allowing them to read the ARCs and give their opinions, they are owning the collection and will also be more likely to recommend books to their friends if they have chosen them.

Each student had a chance to go to the tables and select a book. I book talked ones that I had read and listened in as students made their decisions. I loved that every student took a book. Then, they filled out a paper with their name, book title, and author so that I could keep up with who got which book.  Finally, students moved to another area where they put a label inside their book with a place for their name as well as a link to a Flipgrid where they can record their thoughts over the summer.

I’ve never tried this as a summer opportunity, so it’s a bit of an experiment. I’m curious to see how many students follow through with recording their Flipgrids. Even if they don’t, I have a record of their books so that I can at least check in with them in the fall to see if they read their book.

If they liked the experience, then perhaps these students will want to take this on as a project next year when I get ARCs in the mail or at conferences.

Surprise summer book giveaway for our @fourthgradebarrow #athensga #barrowbuddies #summerreading #arc #reading #librariesofinstagram

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Happy Summer Reading!

Home Libraries and Summer Reading

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We are quickly approaching summer at our school, so we have been winding down activities in the library and looking ahead to what we might read this summer. There are many pieces that go into encouraging students to read over the summer, and I love that we are always trying new ideas to encourage our students to read.

Our family engagement specialist, some teachers, and the Junior League of Athens went into the community center of one of the communities we serve to host a family literacy workshop. Families decorated book boxes, learned some reading strategies, and talked about the importance of a home library. The Junior League will be putting 6 books in each of those boxes to go to families who participated.

Our Athens Clarke County Public Library came into the school and met with Kindergarten, 1st grade, and 2nd grade to talk about the summer reading program. Evan Bush, head children’s librarian, sang songs, told stories, and highlighted the numerous events happening at the public library this summer.

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Those include puppet shows, Minecraft crafts, live animals, a real life mermaid and pirate, and more. For the summer reading incentive, students earn a button for every 10 books or 5 hours that they read. Each button corresponds with a different land that students imagine traveling to over the summer such as the Hundred Acre Wood, Wonderland, and Hogwarts.

Love the button incentive for the @athens_regional_libraries summer reading. #summerreading #literacy #prizes

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Those buttons will go onto a lanyard as students earn them.  Also, the elementary school with the most students to complete the summer reading challenge will earn a trophy to keep at the school for the year.

Another project I’ve been working on is proving books to an additional community within our school to build up home libraries. This project was funded through a grant from First Book UGA and donations from a GoFundMe campaign I created.  Approximately 78 students are a part of this project, I surveyed the students to learn more about their reading interests and then ordered books through First Book to give them for summer reading.

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The students came to the library in small groups to decorate a box to put their books in. The boxes were reused boxes that I found at our local recycling facility and spray painted. Students chose from a variety of stickers to personalize their boxes.

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It was great to see that students of every age got excited about using stickers to personalize their box. My hope is that a personal touch will create a connection to the box and encourage them to use it to store books.

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When the books arrived, Camilla Bracewell, volunteer extraordinaire, came and helped me unbox them all onto tables. I printed out the spreadsheets I had created with each student’s personal order.

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Since I was more familiar with what the books looked liked, Camilla helped read off names of students and filled the boxes as I pointed out the books or handed them to her. Because of the wonderful prices through First Book, I was able to give each student 7 books for summer reading. I even have a few books left over that teachers will use to give to additional students who might need some books for the summer.

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Next week, I’m hosting two sessions for families to stop by and pick up the book boxes, but any remaining boxes will go home with students throughout the week.

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Thanks to Get Georgia Reading, all students in Georgia also have access to MyOn from Capstone for the summer. I’m taking time to show this to families, individual students, small groups, and whole classes. This is a great way to have unlimited access to thousands of books for summer reading and they are never checked out.

Summer reading is a special time because it’s a chance for students to read things that really interest them. It’s a chance to take a break from the “requirements” of school and just read for the fun of it. I hope that we have shown students and families enough options as well as provided some tangible materials that all readers in our school have an idea of the reading they will do over the summer.

Happy reading!

 

Kicking Off Summer Reading with a Visit from Author Sarah Weeks

A few weeks ago our local independent bookshop, Avid Bookshop, emailed me with an opportunity.  Sarah Weeks, author of Pie and many other great books, was coming to Athens, and they wanted her to visit our school.  Hooray!  I try to jump at every author visit I can get.  For the visit, I needed to presale some books, which I always do, but this time we wanted to try something new and crazy. I’ve always wanted to do a school wide read, but I have never gotten the idea off the ground.  I saw this as a perfect chance to try it with a smaller number of students rather than the whole school. This author visit focused on upper grades. Our 5th graders would be gone to Skidaway on a field trip, so 3rd and 4th grade would be the classes coming to the visit. Rather than asking every student to buy a copy of the book, I decided to try a GoFundMe campaign to raise enough money to give every 3rd and 4th grader a copy of Pie as well as buy a few copies of Honey to give away to a few students.

Summer Reading w Author Sarah Weeks by Andy Plemmons   GoFundMe

In just under 1 month, 28 donors funded our project.  These donors included community members, grandparents, families, and friends from around the country.  Thank you to each one of these donors who made this crazy idea a reality.

When Sarah Weeks came to visit our school, I got to make the exciting announcement and tell them about the 28 people who took time to donate money to the project.  I also told them that the deal from me is that I want each one of them to read Pie.  I want them to share it with families and spend time talking about it.  I also want them to make things together like family recipes or even pies.  My hope is that they will document this over the summer on a Padlet.

Sarah Weeks was phenomenal in her visit and I highly recommend her to any schools looking for a great author visit. She built so many frequently asked questions into her talk such as “What was your first book?”, “What is your current book?”, “Do you get writer’s block?”, etc.  Each question was answered with slides filled with great photographs, personal stories, and lots of funny moments.  The students laughed so much at Sarah’s stories about boys painting their fingernails, kids doing puppets shows through the shirts, and dogs joining.

She talked about a story arc and had students moving their hands to show the flow of a story through beginning, middle, and end.  She also told them a story about a cowboy on a horse in the airport and paused along the way to point out what part of the arc she was in during the story. What a great connection to what they are learning in writing class!

She showed them the many revisions that her work goes through and how important it is to listen to her editor. She connected this to all of the notes that students see on their writing papers and stressed how they needed to listen to their teachers’ comments because it helps make the writing better.

Sarah has so many books that she couldn’t talk about them all.  She started with books like the Oggie Cooder books and how he charves cheese into the shapes of states.

We had one student who knew every state she showed a picture of!

Sarah’s two new books are Glamourpuss and Honey.  She treated the students to a full reading of Glamourpuss and the high-energy students were mesmerized.  I loved how she showed Honey to the students.  She showed several slides with single words that helped students know some things the books was about, but then she showed students several characters from the book along with text from the book that gave the students a taste of the character.

Then, she showed the students how she had to do research to learn about how nail polish is made.  This story connected with a great story about how some girls in a library were painting their nails and several boys were very curious.  The librarian at the school hosted a nails at noon session in the library and it was attended by mostly boys who painted their nails and posed for some fierce pictures.

I couldn’t believe how much Sarah packed into an hour long presentation.  There was even time for Q & A.  She was engaging, funny, and a pro at keeping the student’s attention.  I loved getting to hang out with Sarah Weeks even for a brief time.  She is a fun person and a talented writer.

Thank you Avid Bookshop and Scholastic for bringing her to our school. Thank you to all of the donors who got Pie into the hands of all of our kids.

As I went to car riders today, I saw several students in the hallway already reading their books while they waited.  That’s what it’s all about!

It was a really fun day!

 

 

Barrow Students are Banishing Boredom with Wandoo Planet

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Back in early February, a group of 5th graders became beta testers for a new tool from Evanced Kids called Wandoo Planet.  It is a kid-powered interest genome project similar to Spotify, Pandora, or Netflix.  Through a visually-stunning, game-like interface, students train the system to understand what their interests are and Wandoo Planet offers book and movie recommendations.

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Since our beta testing began, Evanced has released the beta version to anyone who wants to register for an account.  The polished version will be released in summer or early fall.  I thought this would be the perfect launch to summer reading.  In the past, I’ve tried to get students to think about their interests and begin making lists of possible reading topics, but I felt like it was difficult to carry those initial plans into the summer.  With Wandoo Planet, kids can start thinking about their interests and continue to grow and develop their interests throughout the summer and beyond.  They can take the books and movies that are recommended to the public library or bookstores and gather their summer reading materials.

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Lindsey Hill at Evanced began brainstorming with me on Twitter and email to plan a virtual visit right before we leave for the summer.  She mailed me bookmarks, username/password cards, and buttons to give to all of the students.

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We thought through which classes would come, a schedule that made sense, how to structure the virtual components, and how to best use student time in the library.  We decided on having 2 classes for 45 minute intervals with a 10 minute cushion of time in between sessions.  This allowed us to see all 2nd-5th grade classes.

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Lindsey agreed to Skype with each group and explain Wandoo.  She used this time to explain how Wandoo works as well as how to setup an account.

She also agreed to stay online all day so that students could give her feedback about Wandoo and ask questions.  I loved watching students walk up and have genuine conversations with her.

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The goal for students during the work session portion of the 45-minute segments was to view the “squirrel parade” on Wandoo planet and begin teaching Wandoo what they like, dislike, and love.  After about 5-10 minutes, they setup an account and begin building their Wandoo tree.  The tree gives students recommendations for books.  If they mark a book to keep, it puts a bud on their virtual tree.  After they read and rate the book, the bud turns into leaves on the tree.  Students can also add interest branches to their tree by revisiting the squirrel parade or typing a topic directly onto a branch.  Students had a small amount of time to do this today.  I put a sheet on every table to remind students about all of the steps.

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Students brought their classroom computers with them, but for 2nd grade we had to use the library laptop cart and other library computers.  It was interesting to look around and see all of the ways that students were accessing Wandoo.

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While students were working, we had quite an extensive team of helpers during the day. For the most part, students were independent.  We scheduled helpers to assist students with typing, following directions, and thinking of feedback to go to the camera and give to Lindsey at Evanced.

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During our 1st two session, we had Gretchen Thomas’s maymester EDIT2000 class.  These students were extremely helpful in getting extra computers setup for 2nd grade and having individual conversations with students.  Even if they didn’t feel like they “helped”, their conversations pushed students’ thinking about reading interests.  I loved that these students used Flipgrid to reflect on their visit to Barrow.

Flipgrid. Relax and discuss.

We also had fantastic parent volunteers during the day that helped us as well.  Having these parents seeing how kids are using technology and how we encourage continued connection over the summer was so valuable to our school and library program.

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Finally, we had a great team of student ambassadors to help throughout the day.  These students included my original beta testers as well as members of my student book budget group.  Each student had already created an account in Wandoo and tried it out for themselves.  I loved seeing their leadership as they setup computers, gently nudged peers to stay focused, and problem-solved technical difficulties.

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Hosting this many students in one day in the library was exhausting, but the help of all of these UGA students, parents, and student ambassadors made all the difference in the world.

We closed each session by connecting once again with Lindsey.  She encouraged students to use Wandoo all summer long and each group had a special visit from Winston, the Wandoo Planet mascot.  We all had fun watching Winston’s dance moves and joining in.

After saying goodbye to Lindsey, I showed students how they can continue to connect with our library all summer long by using our digital resources.  I also created a Padlet for them to post to throughout the summer.  Lindsey and Winston are going to add to the Padlet too!

Barrow Elementary Media Center Summer Reading

I also gave students a strongly worded statement that there’s not really an excuse to not access books and digital resources during the summer.  We have an incredible public library system that is within walking distance of most of our students. I hope they will take advantage of our public library’s many resources this summer.

Thank you Evanced Kids for creating a great tool for kids to think about their reading interests and for listening to kids in order to improve your system.  I can’t wait to see what our kids experience this summer!

El dia de los ninos: Connecting Libraries and Making Connections

IMG_0570Over the weekend, an opportunity popped up on Twitter.  Mrs. Crook, elementary librarian in Gastonia NC, tweeted that she wanted to connect with some class in honor of El dia de los ninos.  This day, celebrated on April 30, honors many cultures, children, and books.  It’s a day to celebrate reading, celebrate our uniqueness, and celebrate the joy of reading in many languages.  Mrs. Crook had many great ideas for celebrating the day.

Athens, GA to Gastonia, NC

Athens, GA to Gastonia, NC

 

IMG_0578We chose to celebrate with her by connecting 2 Kindergarten classes through Skype and doing a shared reading of Book Fiesta by Pat Mora.  Before our Skype, I showed Mrs. Li’s Kindergarten class a Google map of the distance from Athens, GA to Gastonia, NC.  We learned it was about 181 miles away and would take about 2 hours 50 minutes to drive there.  In our connection, I read the English pages of the book, and one of Mrs. Crook’s students read the Spanish pages.  It was so much fun to hear the pages spoken in 2 languages.  Mrs. Crook had several students who spoke Spanish and many of them began sharing their words in a chorus of voices.  Mrs. Li had 2 students who spoke Chinese.  I was so happy when Mrs. Li stepped up to the camera and said hello in Chinese to all of Mrs. Crook’s students.  She even taught them a few words and had them repeat them back.  We said “adios” to one another and disconnected.IMG_0569

After our Skype, we talked about several other books in our library collection that are bilingual.  We also listened to this Dia Day song.

IMG_0576Later in the day, Ms. Spurgeon’s 3rd grade class came to read the book Tomas and the Library Lady.  This book had a wonderful connection with Ms. Spurgeon’s work this year with diverse literature and literature that raises discussions about poverty and still achieving your dreams.  The book also connected with their discussions of Cesar Chavez and migrant workers.  I have my own connection to the book because I am friends with Tomas Rivera’s daughter.  As I read the story, I couldn’t help but think of Ileana on every page and how grateful I was to the library lady in Iowa that gave her dad access to books no matter what the circumstance.  I was also grateful to Tomas Rivera for persevering to bring new stories to his family and becoming such a leader in education.  This story gave many of our students a positive example of someone striving for their dreams in life no matter their background, living conditions, or social status.  We read the book to celebrate Dia and to talk about the importance of summer reading, but I think we left the lesson with many more conversations flowing in our minds that could not have been predicted in advance.

Tomas Rivera's daughter, Ileana Liberatore signed this copy of the book.

Tomas Rivera’s daughter, Ileana Liberatore signed this copy of the book.

 

Summer Reading: What’s “acceptable”?

This summer for the first time I helped compile suggested summer reading lists for each grade level.  This came at the request of parents and teachers.  I’ve always been a bit hesitant about narrowing down to one list per grade level because there are so many wonderful books out there to read and many that I haven’t even read myself.  How could I possibly make lists that would cover so many interests and reading levels?  However, I made the lists, and I’m sure they have been helpful to several people.

Now that summer draws to a close, I’m revisiting the need for summer reading lists and thinking about what is really acceptable when we think about summer reading lists.  Should we really expect students to read an extensive list of books over the summer and only focus on the book lists?  I raise this question because I wonder where do all of the other kinds of reading and writing experiences over the summer fit onto the reading logs that come back to school in August.

For example, I read multiple blogs and online articles that come to me through my Google reader, facebook, and twitter.  Last week, I saw a post on facebook about a recipe for butterbeer cupcakes in honor of the last Harry Potter movie.  I’ve eaten a few butterbeer cupcakes from 2 local cupcake shops and I was curious about how to go about making them.  I followed the link to the blog, read the article and recipe, and then proceeded to search for other butterbeer recipes.  Other than cupcakes, I became curious about how to make butterbeer, so I started comparing recipes until I found one that sounded just right.  I printed the cupcake and the butterbeer recipe, made my shopping list, and went shopping for ingredients.  Back at home, I reread the blog and the accompanying pictures of the cupcake process and got busy making my own rendition of butterbeer cupcakes.  I don’t consider myself to be much of a baker, but I felt like I was on an episode of cupcake wars.  After what seemed like hours of work, the cupcakes were ready and I savored every bite of my first one.  Then, I thought that I needed to document the final product, so I took pictures of the cupcakes.  I started asking myself…what did you learn from this?…..which is what lead me to sit down to write this post.

Where does this reading experience fit on a summer reading list?  It wasn’t a book, but I did a lot of reading, critical thinking, applying my learning, and reflecting.  In the future, I want to open up avenues for students to share these kinds of reading experiences when they get back to school from the summer.  I hope I’ll even hear some of them this year, even though they weren’t a part of the “suggested summer reading”.