Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Recent Reads

I am trying to keep up on Twitter.  I really am.  But it is so overwhelming.  I did click on The Nerdy Book Club’s post, though. It was a post written by DorothySuskind, and in it, she talked about her metaphorical reading bookshelves.  I loved how she spoke of what was on these shelves, but I could listen to people talk about what they are reading for a long time.

I recently finished Fuzzy Mud, Crenshaw, and Nimona (YA).

Fuzzy Mud is written by Louis Sachar.  I feel kind of bad for the guy that he has to live up to Holes, one of my all-time favorite books.  In this story, Tamaya and Marshall go to the Woodridge Academy, with Marshall being responsible for Tamaya on the walk to and from school.  Marshall is being bullied by Chad and decides to take a short cut home through the woods, despite Tamaya’s wishes to just go the normal way.  Things take a turn for the worse as Chad follows the pair looking for a fight. Tamaya flings “fuzzy mud” at Chad, setting off a science fiction plot line.  I am always amazed that anyone can write a book, but I didn’t love this story.  It seemed flat with a forced bully and rule-following-girl character thrown in.

Crenshaw iswritten by Katherine Applegate, the author of The One and Only Ivan, a book I have not read.  In this story, we meet Jackson and his family.  They’ve fallen on some hard times and Jackson is a bit nervous that they will be homeless, a spot the family has been in before.  During that time of living in their van, an imaginary friend, a cat, named Crenshaw made his appearance to Jackson.  Crenshaw, however, hasn’t been sighted in years - until now.  He’s bigger and as cat-like in his personality as ever, but Jackson wonders what he’s doing back in his life.  Aren’t imaginary friends only for little kids?  I very much enjoyed this tale Applegate created.  She deals with a serious subject of homelessness, and how for lots of people, the looming possibility is very real.  Yet the story is easy without being cheesy or sappy or too scary.  This would make a fantastic read-aloud in grades 3-6. 

And now…a young adult graphic novel.  Friends, I have this love/hate relationship with graphic novels.  For some kids, including my third grade daughter, it is ALL they will read.  I asked a few fifth grade boys about their love for this format:
“You know how your mom makes you read for 30 minutes every night?  These are FUN to read.  They aren’t like a chapter book where the words just go on.”  (My silent response, “But I LIKE when the words go on and on.  Don’t you?”)
“I like the pictures and trying to figure out the story.”
“These Calvin and Hobbes books are way funnier than chapter books.”

I know reading graphic novels requires the use of many comprehension strategies, and some might argue they require more thinking than chapter books.  I won’t argue.  I get nervous, though, that kids are missing some beautiful writing by reading just graphic novels.  But, yes, they are also gaining exposure to some beautiful art work!  Normally, I would say to a parent, “Don’t worry.  They won’t be reading (insert book series) when they are older.”  But have you seen the shelves of graphic novels for adults?  This genre is not losing its popularity with kids or adults!

Nimona is a graphic novel written by Noelle Stevenson, co-writer of Lumberjanes.  It is a finalist for the National Book Award in the Young People’s category and is based on Stevenson’s web comic.  Here is my review taken from my Goodreads account: I don't think I will ever understand the appeal of graphic novels for kids, but I do appreciate their format and artistic style. I feel like the stories and characters lack depth, but for some reason the books stick with me so maybe I am wrong. This is a fantasy story for young adults (7th grade +) told in GN format. It tells the tale of Nimona and Lord Ballister Blackheart as sidekick and villain. Their friendship strengthens and we see the previous story of Blackheart's tenuous relationship with Goldenloin and the Institution. A battle ensues, and we are made aware the Nimona may not have been entirely honest about who she is. 
I loved the illustrator's explanations at the end of the story. They showed drafts and possible prequel information.

Did you love Sachar’s Holes like I did?  Did you have an imaginary friend when you were little?  Are you a reader of graphic novels? 

*images taken from TitlePeek


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Using Destiny Quest to Support Authentic Writing

The Destiny library management system allows students--and any school patron--to create an account. Once logged in, users can access Destiny Quest, which allows users to search the catalog, manage virtual bookshelves, place books on hold and view their accounts, send friend requests, make book recommendations, and review books.

We begin using Destiny Quest with our students in third grade. During scheduled library classes, we talk with students about the QuestHome page, which site administrators can customize to include books lists that are meaningful to their students. We also talk about the friend request feature, and we encourage students to accept friend requests to build a community of readers and students who talk about reading and books. In fourth and fifth grade, we teach students how to make thoughtful book recommendations to friends, and we also take time to write short book reviews.

As students move into the middle school, their recommendations and book reviews take on more meaning. We work with our language arts teachers to create lessons related to book review writing so students begin to see how their writing builds authenticity into our catalog and relates directly to every-day kinds of tasks.

Destiny Quest offers a safe, monitored online opportunity for students to write for real and immediate audiences, as well as to write for authenticity. As the TL in your building, why not suggest Destiny Quest as an alternative to traditional book review writing or book reports? Your teachers and students may be pleasantly surprised by the level of engagement and excitement that Destiny Quest brings!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

New UNI advocacy publications for Teacher Librarians

Check out some new publications (here and here) shared by Dr. Karla Krueger from the UNI School Library Studies program that you can use to help advocate for your students and your program.  The first two are geared toward administrators and other stakeholders, about what a certified teacher librarian can do for a school, and the second describes qualitative research Dr. Krueger and Dr. Jean Donham conducted to investigate the connection between students' research skills and the presence of a full-time certified teacher librarian.  You can find their published study here.

Thanks, Dr. Krueger!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Book Review--Adrift by Paul Griffin

Last year, S.A. Bodeen's book The Raft, an Iowa Teen Award nominee, was one of the hottest titles in my library. Helped along with teacher read-alouds and student word-of-mouth, The Raft became a must-read in my library. For students who loved that book, now there is Paul Griffin's Adrift.

Friends Matt and John work the summertime crowds on the beaches at Montauk, NY, to earn extra money. As they work the crowds, the boys meet Driana, a local, wealthy girl, and her Brazilian cousin Estefania, and Estefania's boyfriend Joao. When Driana invites the boys to a house party, John is eager to attend; Matt, however, is less excited but agrees to go. At the end of the evening, Estefania heads out to sea to night surf. Disaster strikes, which brings the remaining four teens out onto the ocean in a less-than-ideal boat to help. Now, all five are adrift in the Atlantic Ocean without anyone else's knowledge and only their cumulative knowledge to keep them alive.

Author Griffin keeps the suspense high as injuries prove fatal, plans turn sour, and tensions swell. Readers learn that Matt and John share a violent secret that shapes more and more the interactions between them. The unlikely romance between Driana and John causes strain in the boat, and as their days at sea leave all of the teens hungry and thirsty, difficult decisions must be made. To compound the problems they already face, a tropical storm is bearing down on them.

Adrift is a story filled with uncertainties, friction, and secrecy. Fans of Bodeen's The Raft will find the scenes at sea reminiscent of Robie's days lost on the Pacific Ocean. But Adrift readers will get much more as they read to learn who will survive--both the time at sea and the secrets they all keep.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Cross-posting: Inadequate staffing in school libraries harms student achievement

I created this Pecha Kucha for a class in my doctoral program.  My problem statement is the title.  I'm thinking of changing my research focus from that exactly, because as I say below, the research has been done.  This is a settled question.  The problem now becomes how to get that message to stakeholders?  That feels a little squishy to me to be my research because I'm so close to it, as IASL Past President and Advocacy Chair, and the chair of ILA's Governmental Affairs Committee.  So who knows.  But here it is, and at the bottom as a video:
This work, "School bus" is a derivative of "2007 International Corbeil School Bus" by dflirecop, licensed under CC BY 2.0.
People have argued for centuries about the purpose of school.  Is it to guide students to be good citizens and future leaders?  Or to help them gain job skills so they can support a family?  Is it to give students a true liberal arts education?
This work,“MNW Elementary Library,”is by Christine Sturgeon and is licensed under CC BY 4.0.
Whatever the case, it seems the central role of school is to educate young minds.  So it’s only fitting that the school library - a repository of information, after all - should be the metaphorical if not physical center of the school.

"Day 174: Amazing Push-Button Shushing Action!" by Laura Taylor, used under CC BY 2.0.
Now, when I say “school library” you may have an outdated vision in your mind.  Let me assure you, today’s school libraries - and the  teacher librarians who lead them -  belie that stereotype.  School libraries can, should, and must be “safe, vibrant, energized information-rich environments" (Lewis & Loertscher, 2014, p. 48), led by professionals specially trained in information literacy.
Vision Statement Postcard
This work,“IASL Vision Postcard" created by Chelsea Sims, is used with permission.
And the state Department of Education knows it.  Their Vision for Iowa’s School Libraries reads, “Iowa’s best schools have library programs that engage the entire school community to elevate the learning experience for all.” It describes how teacher librarians teach students critical thinking and research skills, and how they “nurture curiosity to develop in students a passion for learning for life (Iowa DE, 2013, para. 8).
States with impact studies, 2000 – 2009, even more since This map was made at
In order to have that sort of impact, school library programs must be lead by full time certified teacher librarians.  Impact studies in many states, including Iowa, have demonstrated an increase in students’ standardized test scores and pleasure found in reading when a school has a full time teacher librarian (Lance, Schwartz, & Rodney, 2014; Lance & Hofschire, 2012; Lance & Hofschire, 2011; Lance, Rodney & Schwartz, 2010; Lance & Schwarz, 2012; Rodney, Lance, & Hamilton-Pennell, 2002). Many of these studies show these increases cannot be explained away by other school or community conditions.

Many of these impact studies were conducted by library consultant Keith Lance.  In 2009 he looked at data from the National Center for Education Statistics, “to document the impact of librarian layoffs on fourth-grade reading scores between 2004 to 2009 . . . Fewer librarians translated to lower performance - or a slower rise in scores - on standardized tests” (Lance & Hofschire, 2011, p. 29).
This work,“MNW Elementary Makerspace Marble Challenge”was created by Justin Daggett and used with permission.
Denice Adkins from the University of Missouri combed through PISA data and found that school libraries can positively impact poor students at such as degree as to help level the playing field.  But she states, “Merely having a dedicated library space is insufficient to serve the needs of students.  What is more important, especially for low performers, is having resources available and staff who can provide support” (Adkins, 2014, p. 17).
"Chained" by Kool Cats Photography, used under CC BY 2.0.
One review of the literature stated, “The existence of a positive link between school library services and academic achievement is a practically inescapable conclusion" (Chan, 2008, p. 7).
Feuerbach, S. (2014). TL building staffing in districts in Iowa. Des Moines, IA: Iowa Association of School Librarians.
In a study commissioned by the Iowa Association of School Librarians, only 8 of the 331 responding districts - 2% - had at least one full-time teacher librarian per attendance center, which is considered best practice.  Five percent of the respondents - 158 schools - had no teacher librarian whatsoever (Feuerbach, 2014).
Stressed Schoolgirl Studying In Classroom
Vital Imagery Limited. (2015). Stressed schoolgirl studying in classroom [stock photo]. Retrieved from iClipart for Schools. Used with permission.
This is a problem for Iowa’s schools, teachers, and most importantly, Iowa’s students.  Academic achievement is harmed when school libraries are inadequately staffed.

Adkins, D. (2014).  U.S. students, poverty, and school libraries:  What results of the 2009 Programme for International Student Assessment tell us.  School Library Research. Retrieved from ERIC database.  (EJ1043360)
Chan, C. (2008).  The impact of school library services on student achievement and the implications for advocacy: A review of the literature.  Access 22(4): 15-20.
Feuerbach, S. (2014).  Ratio of teacher librarians to school buildings in Iowa.  Des Moines, IA: Iowa Association of School Librarians.
Iowa Department of Education (2013).  Vision for Iowa’s school libraries.  Retrieved from
Lance, K.C., Schwartz, B., & Rodney, M.J. (2014). How libraries transform schools by contributing to student success: evidence linking South Carolina school libraries and PASS & HSAP results. Retrieved from
Lance, K.C., & Hofschire, L. (2012).  School librarian staffing linked with gains in student achievement, 2005 to 2011.  Teacher Librarian, 39(6), 15-19.
Lance, K.C., & Hofschire, L. (2011). Something to shout about: new research shows that more librarians means higher reading scores.  School Library Journal, 57(9), 28-33.
Lance, K.C., Rodney, M.J., & Schwartz, B. (2010).  Idaho school library impact study - 2009: How Idaho school librarians, teachers, and administrators collaborate for student success. Retrieved from
Lance, K.C., & Schwartz, B. (2012).  How Pennsylvania school libraries pay off:  Investments in student achievements and academic standards.  Pennsylvania School Library Project. Retrieved from ERIC database.  (ED543418)
Lewis, K. R., & Loertscher, D. V. (2014). The possible Is now. Teacher Librarian41(3), 48.
Rodney, M.J., Lance, K.C., & Hamilton-Pennell, C. (2002).  Make the connection:  Quality school library media programs impact academic achievement in Iowa.  Bettendorf, IA: Iowa Area Education Agencies. Retrieved from

Friday, October 9, 2015

IASL officer election biographies

By position, then alphabetical.

Vice President/President-Elect

Kate Kauffman

Katy Kauffman is currently a teacher librarian at Ankeny Southview Middle School; prior to that, she was a National Board certified high school English teacher. Katy holds a BA in English and an MA in School Library Studies; in addition, she has extensive graduate coursework in educational technology, administration, and English Language Learning. Her research areas include the role of the teacher librarian in the implementation of MTSS, online learning and teaching, technology/multimedia in the classroom, and information literacy.

As a librarian, Katy enjoys working with both teachers and students, reading and talking about books, and supporting learning in the classroom while advocating the safe use of emerging technologies. She is a strong advocate for a 24/7 school library program, developing online outreaches and summertime programming. She works with her building PLCs and Instructional Leadership Team; participates on various district technology and curriculum committees; has presented at various conferences, including IASL and ITEC; and promotes the IASL Conference 2016 in her role as publicity chair.

Having gleaned many benefits from what IASL offers, Katy is seeking the office of vice president to enhance the organization. Her goals are to 1) strengthen active membership by promoting the IASL conference and involving more voices from across Iowa; 2) build on the strong voice of advocacy established with the Iowa Legislature in recent years and promote the integral nature of school librarians in education; 3) develop a mentor network and foster a PLC mentality within our IASL member Professional Learning Network; 4) create a repository of tools, resources, and experts to be developed by and shared with all members of IASL. Katy Kauffman sees herself as a “serving leader” in the role of teacher librarian and envisions serving in this manner as IASL Vice President.

Sarah Staudt

Sarah Staudt is in her eighth year as the K-12 teacher-librarian at Mason City Community Schools after having taught for four years in other literacy-related classrooms. During Sarah’s time there, she has shown flexibility, a willingness for change, and a desire for challenges as her position has evolved over time. In addition to her teaching responsibilities, Sarah is an active presenter and participant at a variety of librarian, education, and technology conferences, both at the local and state level. Sarah’s passions and priorities as a teacher-librarian are to learn, to stay on top of, and to share current and innovative topics, trends, and initiatives in education. In her libraries, students celebrate and connect with quality literature, support their learning with technology, and learn and collaborate with students across Iowa and the country. As the IASL VP/President Elect, Sarah hopes to increase IASL membership, to inspire and lead IASL to become a model state TL association, and to continue to work with teacher librarians across the state to build a strong team of collaborative teacher librarians.


Micki Hartwig

Micki Hartwig is the Teacher Librarian at Central Middle School in Waterloo, where she has been for 10 years. She has a 7-12 certification in School Library Media Studies and a MA from UNI, BS from ISU. She is an obsessive reader, compulsive writer, passionate techie, mother,  and wife. Twitter: iowabookchick

Jen Keltner

Jen is in her second year as the teacher librarian at Muscatine High School. In addition, this year she is a building model teacher, a mentor, and a member of the Building Leadership Team and the Site-Based Review Council. She previously taught 6th and 8th grade English at ADM Middle School in Adel and Tipton Middle School. She graduated with a BA in English Education from Iowa State University in 2006 and a Masters in School Library Studies from the University of Northern Iowa in 2014. After being a classroom teacher for seven years, Jen decided to become a teacher librarian after seeing the amazing impact a successful library program has on school culture and student learning - and because her teacher librarian mom, Cindy Kunde, raised her with a true love of libraries and reading.  Jen currently lives in Columbus Junction, where her husband, Kasey, is a teacher and coach. Their daughter, Eloise (named after the author S.E. Hinton), was born this past July.

At-large member

Miranda Kral

Miranda Kral is in her fifth year of education and as a Teacher Librarian.  Currently, she is the District Teacher Librarian at Solon Community Schools in Solon.  She received her BA in Elementary Education, as well as her MA in School Library Studies, both from UNI.  Miranda works collaboratively with staff and students to infuse information and technology literacy into curriculum.  She also has served as Exhibitor Contact for the IASL conference for the past two years.

Marci Titera

Marcia Titera is the Media Specialist for Dunkerton Schools, Wapsie Valley Schools, and Tripoli Schools. She has an undergraduate degree in Elementary Education from Iowa Wesleyan College in Mt. Pleasant, and a Master’s in School Library Media Studies from UNI.  She has been in the library field for six years, and before that, taught second grade in Phoenix, AZ for one year. Marci would like the chance to work on the IASL board to be a voice for all of you who are being shared with more than one district.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Reading Ladders & Independent Reading

This year I am partnering with one of our Language Arts teachers to help with the Independent Reading for her class. Part of their Independent Reading component for the 7th grade Advanced English class includes students building their own reading ladders. This idea comes from the book “Reading Ladders” by Teri Lesesne. The concept of reading ladders is to use different books to help move students from one book to a higher and more challenging book. In working toward the “goal book” we discussed what things would be considered as part of a book that makes up each rung.  For example, with a goal book like “Book Thief” I might consider having other historical fiction about the holocaust as well as nonfiction about the holocaust or World War II.

After introducing this concept to the class, students had a week to think of potential “goal” books that they wanted to work toward. Students then worked to build their reading ladder. It was up to each student (with the help and support of myself and their English teacher) to determine what needed to be included in their reading ladder. When the day came for students to build their book ladder I was impressed by the books that our students chose as well as the thought and care they took in selecting the other books that would be part of their ladder.

These students are only one month into their IR & reading for their reading ladder. I will be eager to talk to students as they complete their ladder how they feel that it helped them to grow as readers and to think about what they are reading and why they are reading it.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Building Empathy through Books

October is National Bullying Prevention Month. With campaigns like STOMP Out Bullying drawing attention to the issue on the national level, school libraries can help on the forefronts throughout the school year by not only modeling that the library is a place of acceptance, but also by helping students connect with books that raise awareness of issues that demand understanding, tolerance, and acceptance.

I don’t know about you, but I’m a firm believer in the power of bibliotherapy. I’m a firm believer that books help us not only find ourselves, but also allow us to understand others. Books allow us to a glimpse of life through someone else’s perspective and allow us to begin to embrace experiences beyond our own. Books help us gain respect for those who are different from us. 

Books build empathy.

Although there a numerous books that could make the list, listed below are some of my go-to books (some old, some new) that promote understanding and empathy:

Picture Books:

When the other kids in her class bully the new kid, Ellie takes a risk and reaches out

Although others judge her size, Molly makes a big impact.

Chloe and her friends won’t play with Maya, but after Maya quits coming to school Chloe regrets her actions.

Chapter Books:

Albie has a whole list of things he’s not good at, but with the help of his babysitter, Albie learns to take pride in himself and celebrate his successes.

When Capricorn (Cap) is forced to attend school for the first time, he realizes he is very different from his middle school classmates.

Auggie’s facial disfigurement makes attending public school for the first time even more difficult.

And my current favorite . . .

Ally hides behind her behavior until Mr. Daniels helps her discover that she’s more than the labels she’s been given.

Like many librarians, my list could go on forever, but these are my top books (for now) for building empathy amongst my students.

What books are on your list?

Thursday, October 1, 2015

SLJ Leadership Summit Takeaways

I was one of four IASL Board members to attend this year's School Library Journal Leadership Summit in Seattle.  

In addition to meeting Neal Shusterman, Jack Prelutsky and Susin Neilsen, I also learned a great deal from my colleagues and the vendors and other professionals in attendance.  Here are a few of my takeaways.

Getting Admin on YOUR Side
No one likes a whiner, and no one likes to have to do their job AND someone else's. Instead of approaching an administrator with the question "how can I help," approach them and listen.  We learned a lot about the practice of Extreme Listening. Basically, you have to listen to what people actually say, not what you want or expect them to say. Listen to your admin/school board/legislator/whoever. Find out what keeps them up at night and offer them a solution to their problems through what you already do - it's all about how you frame it. They will see you as empathetic, trustworthy, and as a key player in their problem solving.

Being Prepared for Change - Extreme Listening
Extreme Listening can/should be a key part of making big changes. Overly simplified from the work of the amazing Marnie Webb, Extreme Listening involves first identifying the themes you need to listen for (i.e. bullying) and everyone who has any stake it the situation at hand (bullies, victims, authority figures, bystanders). Then, list everything that makes a situation hard - all of the "why not's" and reason something "won't work" (cultural differences, time constraints, lack of support). Then, put that list away. Be prepared to listen, and hear, without your expectations, biases, and roadblocks. From that extreme listening, you can then brainstorm solutions - imagine the impossible (best example: Traffic Mimes).  Accept that this will take time to implement. Set yourself goals, milestones, signs of making progress. Most importantly, "be hungry to know what happens next." Your motives can't be to be prove someone wrong, or to get glory. You have to see where the process takes you. Lastly, share "wildly!"

Advocate from all sides
Of course we have to be prepared to tell our own stories - ALL THE TIME. We are the only ones we can rely on to make sure people know who we are and what we do for kids. But I also learned that our vendors have more to offer than just a book order. All of the representatives at the Summit stressed that they want to help us. They know what we do, and how important we are for kids.  They all offered to set up meetings with our administrators to chat about libraries and what we can do. Your consultant can be another voice spreading our message.

Teach more, Librarian less.
This message was repeated.  Last year at IASL Conference, Jennifer LeGarde reminded us that Librarians should love kids more than they love books.  That it's more important to get back the readers than it is to get back the books.  This year, an additional mindshift was introduced to me: Leadership, not Service. Think of it this way: your school can survive without a service, but it can't survive without educational leaders. Be the one who leads your students and your staff. They called this the "Joyce Valenza effect" -  become a person so valuable, no school could ever imagine cutting what she offers.