Books for Keeps: It’s Time for Summer Reading!

I am so excited to share that this was the very first year our school was served by an amazing program called Books for Keeps. This non-profit group was founded by Melaney Smith and gives 12 new books to every student in 12 of our 14 elementary schools in Clarke County. They also serve schools outside of Athens as well. It takes a massive effort in fundraising, grant writing, and volunteer hours to make this happen in each school.

I’ve had several questions on social media about this program and how it works, so I’ll try to explain it here.

Before the event:

  • Year-round Books for Keeps is fundraising, grant writing, and ordering books to deliver to their warehouse. Volunteers spend many hours sorting and boxing books grouped by grade levels and themes and sorted into stacks for delivery to schools in April & May.
  • I send a master schedule to Books for Keeps which includes the number of kids in each class. They create a draft schedule that I send to teachers for feedback.
  • During the year, Books for Keeps checks in to see if numbers need to be adjusted in each class and the schedule is finalized.
  • Boxes of books are delivered to the school and sorted into areas for quick distribution to tables.
  • Bags and tags arrive for every student. Bags & tags have to be counted out and delivered to each class. Teachers/students write student names on tags.
  • Since this was the first year, I did an introduction to Books for Keeps via Youtube Live.

  • I did a presentation to our whole faculty at a staff meeting so they were comfortable with the process and understood the purpose of BFK. The biggest things to go over were the importance of student choice and the importance of making sure every child got to participate.
  • I also sent home info to families in the my monthly newsletter.
  • A volunteer signup went out from Books for Keeps to help with distribution.
  • Right before distribution day, I arranged tables in the middle of the library.

Distribution Days May 14 & 15

  • Volunteers arrived for a morning shift and an afternoon shift

  • Leslie Hale & Justin Bray from Books for Keeps handed out aprons, clipboards and questionnaires as well as gave volunteers and overview of what to expect during each visit from classes.

  •  Leslie and Justin also unboxed books for each class session and volunteers stocked the tables.
  • As classes arrived, Leslie or Justin gave an intro to each class on choosing 12 books, the importance of summer reading, and the process for checking out with a volunteer.
  • Students carried their bags to the tables and self selected 12 new books. Volunteers were encouraged to hold back and let students look. We wanted students to self select books because that’s a huge predictor of whether kids will actually read during the summer.  If a student was having trouble making selections, then volunteers would step in to have conversations and make suggestions.

  • When students had 12 books, they visited a volunteer to count their books. Some students had too many and needed to make decisions. Others didn’t have enough and went back for more. Volunteers also asked students about which book they were most excited about as well as what was missing from the selections. This helps Books for Keeps make purchases for next year.
  • When a class left, new books came out of boxes and onto tables and the process repeated again.
  • Each class had 20-30 minutes depending on the number of students.

I’ve been hoping Books for Keeps would come to our school for several years.  There have been many initiatives where I’ve tried to get some extra books in student hands for the summer, but none as large as this one. A few things I’ve tried include:

  • Giving Middle School the Worst Years of My Life to all of our 5th graders for World Book Night. https://expectmiraculous.com/2013/04/23/world-book-night-2013/
  • Giving all 3rd and 4th graders a copy of Pie. https://expectmiraculous.com/2015/03/26/give-our-students-some-pie-by-sarah-weeks/
  • Creating summer reading buckets (home libraries) for 100 students in multiple grades. https://expectmiraculous.com/2016/05/04/home-libraries-and-summer-reading/ and https://expectmiraculous.com/2016/04/12/building-home-libraries-a-community-collaboration/

Books for Keeps takes approximately $15,000 per school which means about $30 per child. They rely heavily on donations, so if this program speaks you to, check out their site and make a donation. http://booksforkeeps.org/ 

These 2 days were amazing and filled with smiles, squeals, and students jumping straight into a book to read.  I’ve gotten messages from families who said that their child got such a great mix of books that were truly of interest. I’ve also gotten thank you notes to send to Books for Keeps with lots of great feedback from students. I can’t wait to see how this grows across the years and how students’ excitement and expectations develop.

Seeing every student in the school right before summer began also surfaced some dilemmas and questions for me. A handful of students didn’t want books to take home and weren’t afraid to say that they had no plans to read during the summer because it was their time off. Those comments bothered me, but they also gave me information about work that needs to be done ahead.  Just handing books to them isn’t going to resolve that dilemma. I’m diving into some professional reading to help me begin to think more about this.

Next professional read #currentlyreading #professionallearning

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I can’t thank Books for Keeps enough for continuing to work tirelessly to get books into kids’ hands. Even with some bumps in the road, it’s an amazing program that was overwhelmingly welcomed by teachers, families, and students. Thank you to every donor who made the funding available to purchase books and thank you to the many volunteers who put in countless hours to prepare for these 2 days.

Happy summer reading!

 

World Book Night 2013

In the bag:  A letter about World Book Night, discussion guide, Wimpy Kid bookmark, and Middle School the Worst Years of My Life

In the bag: A letter about World Book Night, discussion guide, Wimpy Kid bookmark, and Middle School the Worst Years of My Life

Today is World Book Night.  This year, our library was chosen to be “a giver” for this special annual celebration.  Our selected book was Middle School the Worst Years of My Life by James Patterson.  My original plan was to target a specific group of our 5th graders who will be transitioning to middle school very soon.  However, after reading the book, I really thought that it was a book that all of our 5th graders should get the chance to enjoy.  With support from PTA and some book fair profits, I was able to buy extra copies of the book to add to the 20 copies given to me by World Book Night.  Our local independent bookstore, Avid Bookshop, was incredibly fast in getting the books to us and they even had them shipped to our school.  Avid was also the pickup spot for our box of books from the World Book Night organization.  Our family engagement specialist, Mimi Elliott-Gower, helped me plan a special time for our 5th graders.  She even made them all a bookworm snack.

Today at 1:45, all 5th graders gathered in the library.  We skyped with Shawn Hinger, media specialist extraordinaire at Clarke Middle School.  She answered a lot of questions that students had about the middle school library.  She had several of her students join her, and many of them answered questions about the library too.  I loved the participatory feel of our Skype.

Next, Tad MacMillan, Clarke Middle School principal, spoke to our 5th graders in person.  He discussed the summer learning slide and how reading could help deter that slide.  He encouraged kids to think beyond reading 15 minutes per day and instead think about how many minutes they actually had in their summer.  Wouldn’t a goal of 45-60 minutes per day be even better?  He ended his time by reading from one of the other World Book Night selections, The House on Mango Street.

IMG_0526Then, it was time for the big reveal.  I told the kids about World Book Night.  Some of the kids had already asked me if I was going to be a giver, so I book talked my book to them and let them guess which book I was giving away.  Once they guessed the title, I told them about how I wanted to give more than just 20 copies of the book away and with the help of PTA and book fair that was exactly what I was going to do right now!  I went over the discussion guide with the kids and urged them to read the book with their families and begin to talk about their goals and worries about middle school.  Then, we passed out bags to all students in 5th grade.  Each bag contained a letter to families about World Book Night, a bookmark, a discussion guide, a bag of bookworms, and the book.  IMG_0504

Even though I deviated from my original plan for World Book Night and even though I didn’t really randomly pass out the books like WBN suggests doing, I feel like this was the right thing to do.  Fifty two copies of the book were distributed, and I feel like there will be at least 52 excited kids who will possibly have some great conversations with their families based in a humorous, yet gripping book.  So many of the kids came up and thanked me for the books, and when I went into their classrooms to check on them, I saw several of them already reading.  What an exciting day!IMG_0547

WHAT IS WORLD BOOK NIGHT?
World Book Night is an annual celebration dedicated to spreading the love of reading,
person to person. Each year on April 23, tens of thousands of people go out into their
communities and give half a million free World Book Night paperbacks to light and nonreaders. In 2013, World Book Night will be celebrated in the U.S., the UK, and Ireland.
World Book Night is about giving books and encouraging reading in those who don’t
regularly do so. But it is also about more than that: It’s about people, communities and
connections, about reaching out to others and touching lives in the simplest of ways—
through the sharing of stories.
World Book Night is a nonprofit organization. We exist because of the support of
thousands of book givers, booksellers, librarians, and financial supporters who believe in
our mission. Set for April 23 each year to honor Shakespeare’s birthday, World Book
Night was successfully launched in the U.K. in 2011, and World Book Night was first
celebrated in the U.S. in 2012. Thank you to our U.K. friends for such a wonderful idea!
WHY IS WORLD BOOK NIGHT IMPORTANT?
Why does World Book Night exist? Reading for pleasure improves literacy, actively
engaging emerging readers in their desire to read. Reading changes lives, improves
employability, social interaction, enfranchisement, and can have a positive effect on
mental health and happiness. Book readers of all ages are more likely to participate in
positive activities such as volunteering, attending cultural events, and even physical
exercise.
Or more simply put, books are fun—and they can be life-changing.