Monday, September 28, 2015

A link to share - Books and Reading Strategies.

The excerpt below is taken from a Lightning Talk I did for the IASL Conference in 2014.  I am such a believer in using some current books with kids that I could kick myself for not having the site updated.  HOWEVER!  I have a big order coming in days, and I will look at the books knowing I need to find the perfect matches for individual reading strategies.  This is also a great opportunity for you to look through your most recent purchases and ask yourself, "Do any of these books lend themselves to teaching kids about predicting?  Questioning?  Inferring?  Visualizing?  Synthesizing?  Making connections?  Monitoring or clarifying?  Summarizing?  If so, leave the title in the comments, and I will add it to what could be a statewide collaborative site!  Read below for the hows and whys and to also find the link!  

Have you ever truly paid attention to what you do as a reader?  What you’re thinking as you read, how you’re understanding the text, or what you’re remembering or what’s difficult for you?   
Because I never paid any attention.  Why would I?  I was always labeled the good reader when I was in elementary school.  I flew through the SRA box so I could read my own books.  I scored well on the ITBS. I was always picked as the narrator.
It wasn’t until I was a graduate student in Developmental Reading that I was forced to look at my own reading strategies.  I had to slow down because my professors made me incorporate what I was reading into what I was doing in my classroom.
It was Keene and Zimmerman’s Mosaic of Thought that forced me to look at myself as a reader.  This book helped me understand the comprehension strategies used by proficient readers.  It helped me realize how I dealt with different texts, and how to model and teach these strategies to my third graders.
It was this book that spurred the creation of a Google Site called Books and Reading Strategies.  Very simply it gives up-to-date real literature that is especially perfect to explicitly teach and discuss comprehension strategies used by efficient readers.
You all know we have a place in the literacy learning of our students.  Anything we can do to motivate and engage students in reading is part of our job as educators.  And as librarians, we know the library is the most energizing room when it comes to literacy and learning.
“Yes, but reading right now is all broken down into skills and decoding and reading instruction is delivered to the teacher in the form of a manual coming in a box.  All of my novel units are gathering dust!”
However, I would argue that best practices are still being used by some teachers.  Pre-packaged curriculum does emphasize the reading comprehension strategies but they are taught in a formulaic fashion.  It’s the amazing educators that push students to think deeper and engage with the texts.

I can’t tell you the number of times a teacher has come to me and said, “Do you have a good book for visualizing?  Or how about helping kids think more about making inferences?  Is there a book that lends itself to this?”
This is where the Books and Reading Strategies website comes into play.  I can easily pass the link on to the teachers, and it’s simple to navigate.  Along the top are the different comprehension strategies used by readers.  Teachers can click on the tab they need, and they can find a list of books to teach this strategy.

The site is not flashy.  There are no images.  Under each tab is an extremely simplified definition of what the strategies mean, but I urge you, as adult readers, to pay attention to when you might use the different strategies.  Can you think of something you read recently that was visual for you?  

Underneath the definition of the strategy, you will find a list of books.  Titles from previous years have been grayed out and moved down, but they are there, too.  There are books that will help readers understand what inferences are, and books that will cause good readers to stop and say, “Wait!  I don’t understand.”   

Just the other day a student teacher in my building said, “I googled a good book for predicting, and some website said Pokey Little Puppy.  Do you have that book?”  I have no harsh feelings towards the little puppy or older books in general…

But we need to remember that kids today have immediate gratification through smartphones and iPads.  While students might say, “My grandma reads me Pokey Little Puppy!”  I propose they are going to be more excited about reading a fresh new book.

We have our own tried and true titles - ones that have worked since we were in elementary school ourselves, but as the book experts of the building, we need to share new books that will get kids excited about reading!  The Books and Reading Strategies site is a perfect resource.  

And I urge you, too:  notice what you do when you read different text.  Tax information will call for different reading strategies than furniture directions and fun and light novels will demand different actions than a historical nonfiction book.  

To use Keene and Zimmerman’s words, we are the CEOs in the library - the Chief Example to Others. Model your literate lives.  Don’t make comprehension strategies a mystery - talk about them aloud, to kids and to colleagues.  Use the Books and Reading Strategies website to help teachers connect to kids in 2015 - to help them find success in reading.    

Saturday, September 26, 2015

September Survey: Preparing for Banned Books Week, Celebrating the Freedom to Read

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I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with Banned Books Week, and last week, I wrote about my unease in a post for AASL’s Knowledge Quest blog. In fact, that’s why I chose it as this month’s topic: I always wrestle with these issues, and I need more resources. So, in addition to the Q&A about how to start conversations with librarian colleagues that's linked in my post, here are the results of our survey and some resources from our own Iowa colleagues.

The results--and some resources
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You can also register for a free webinar entitled “How to Protect the Freedom to Read in Your Library.” I’ll be one of three presenters sharing our experiences planning for and wrestling with the complex issues that Banned Books Week raises.  Join the webinar live on Tuesday, September 29 at 11AM central time, or register above and you’ll be send the links and materials afterwards!  Please join us! I would love to see familiar names on the attendees list, and I know it will be a great chance to hear others’ stories and join in an informal Q&A.

Thanks for all your ideas, and have a great Freedom to Read/Banned Books Week!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Banned Books Week - September 27-October 3rd

Banned Books Week is coming up September 27th-October 3rd. This event is an important time to shine a light on the issue of censorship. 

Librarians have become very creative in celebrating books that have been challenged or removed from schools and library collections - spurring great conversations and critical thinking about individual choices, freedom of speech, and the role of personal belief in education and society.

But is Banned Books Week the only time of year we discuss the idea of intellectual freedom?  How can we better inform our community about these issues year round, rather than wait for a scheduled event, or worse, a book challenge in the news?

How do you teach your students, teachers, and community members about intellectual freedom? Share examples in the comments.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Book Review: Trouble is a Friend of Mine

Zoe thought she had enough trouble with her dad getting caught after years of cheating, and her parents’ divorce, and moving to a new town.  But that’s nothing compared to the trouble that finds her once Digby decides that Zoe will be one of his sidekicks in his misguided (or perhaps not-so-misguided?) adventures.  From stealing passcodes to spying on the neighbors, Digby has a plan that could end with all of them them in jail...or save the day and find some answers for a lingering town mystery.

Trouble is a Friend of Mine, by Stephanie Tromley, is a hilarious, romping mystery that takes the reader on wild ride, with sides of romance and teen angst thrown in.  Zoe and Digby get into scrapes that at first seem like the sort of pranks normal teens play, but the situation quickly turn sinister when they stumble upon a national drug ring involving a town doctor, a neighborhood cult, and the local drug scene, with the overarching issue of two missing girls disappearing eight years apart.  Although some of the action seems far-fetched for two “average” teenagers, the book overall is an adventure-filled comedy that will also pull at your emotions. If you have fans of comedy mixed with another genre, like books by Carl Hiassen or John Green, they will love Trouble is a Friend of Mine, by Stephanie Tromley.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Social Media & Lesson Inspiration

Social media like Twitter and Pinterest can be valuable tools in helping to develop new lessons and plan instruction.

Like the recent Dot Day celebrations, other events throughout the school year can be searched on Pinterest or followed with a hashtag. The upcoming Banned Books Week is one such topic, as are Children's Book Week and Read Across America.

Sometimes a thread on Twitter will inspire an idea or lesson. Author Laurie Halse Anderson spoke about resilience literature at a conference in late fall 2013, and those tweets--along with retweets and replies--inspired a lesson about resilience literature in my own school library. Both sites are also great resources for information and suggestions on topics such as makerspaces and library centers.

Next time you're looking for a little inspiration, why not try one of these sites and see what piques your interest? And if you have already used social media to shape lesson planning or as a resource, please share!

Friday, September 11, 2015

Celebrate Dot Day September 15th!

Are you and your students celebrating International Dot Day this year?

September 15th-ish, join the world in celebrating creativity and having a can-do attitude with Peter Reynold's book, The Dot!

Looking for ideas?  
Check out the Official Dot Day website for sign-up, resources, inspiration and more! 

Share how your school celebrates in the comments!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

State Book Award Promotion

With the new school year upon us, we have new lists of state award books to promote. All four sets of titles can be found on this blog when you access the State Awards tab at the top; you can find book lists along with background information about the awards themselves.

But how do you go about promoting the books, creating excitement about reading them, and getting the word out about voting eligibility? As a K - 7 librarian, I promote the Goldfinch, Children's Choice, and Teen Award books in a variety of ways. With my K - 2 students, I read the Goldfinch books after we come back from the holiday break. My colleague and I work on pairing the books and finding trailers and other online support materials, as well as engaging activities to do after the read alouds. This is a great time to reach out to other state librarians or authors of the books to schedule Skype or Google Hangout sessions. Looking for other ideas? Try our very own IASL pop-up PD related to this very topic, and feel free to add to the presentation!

Promoting the Children's Choice Award is something my colleague and I do in the fall of the year. That gives our students time to read two or more of the titles, and often their classroom teachers choose a Children's Choice nominee to read aloud in their rooms. One activity that has been successful for us is a scavenger hunt-like activity; you can see last year's copy here. IASL also has a pop-up PD related to this group of nominees:

Promoting the Iowa Teen Award books often means some kind of online presentation tool to use with students in my middle school library. Sometimes an existing presentation is usable, like last year's list of nominees found on Prezi. This year, we used a ThingLink presentation related to the titles, and many TLs are using QR codes linked to book trailers to garner interest in the titles. Throughout the year, we revisit titles with bulletin board displays, Google surveys, or bookmarks.

It's still early in the year, so students have plenty of time to read nominees on the lists so they can vote later in the spring. How will you promote the state award books this year?

Making the leap to Genres

Our middle school, in Norwalk, Iowa, has made the leap to shelving our fiction section by genres. For the time being, we have left our nonfiction with Dewey, but we are leaving the door open to possibly genrefy our nonfiction later.

So first, why did we decided to genrefy?
The HS librarian in my district and myself finally decided to make the jump because we both believe that our purpose is to connect our students with books and to foster a love of reading. If this means a little rearranging, so what? If it helps a student find a book they love, isn’t that our goal?

Frequently Asked Questions & Concerns
  • Why Genrificaiton?
Prior to making the switch, students would ask, “Where are the mystery books?” My best answer was “All over. I could recommend a couple of authors or titles for you.” I feel that having our fiction books shelved by genre will empower students to find books independently that they can connect to or even have a whole section that they know will interest them.

  • Not all books fit in one genre.  
This was a concern that I had too. However, what I soon came to realize is that most (the majority) books have a “best” genre they fit into (even if there are other additional genres). The books that have truly have multiple genres where you really have to decide which genre to put it into are fewer than I imagined. The question that my associate and I asked was, “If a student is looking for this, what genre would they most likely be reading? If students are shelf browsing, where will this have the highest appeal?” I also have the mindset that nothing is permanent. If we determine that a book would fit better in another genre, all we have to do is change the genre sticker and rescan the book for the new location.

  • It takes so much time and effort.
Does it take time, yes. Was it worth it? YES! Both my HS counterpart & myself are very lucky to have full time associates. We could not have done it without them. We also did not try to make this change overnight. Much of the planning, determining genres for books, getting labels, labeling books and moving books took much of a school year. (I also know people who have spent a couple of days during the summer doing all of the work too). When other projects were not going on, this is a project that my associate spent a great deal of time working on.  

  • So, has it really made a difference? Do students like it?
So far, the response seems to be very positive. Students seem to enjoy browsing different genres and being independent in looking for the books. As the year goes on,I hope to see our circulation numbers increase. More importantly, I hope to see our students finding more books that they are interested in and falling in love with reading.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan

I have lots of old favorite kids’ books.  The Tale of Desperaux, Holes, and The Graveyard Book top the list, but it’s been a long time since I’ve had a new favorite.  Until now.

Have you read Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan?  If not, go to your library or bookstore now and buy it. Yes, it’s one you’ll want to have forever and ever.  

I went into the book with the following recommendation from my friend Jenny, “Different from but as powerful as Wonder.”  I knew nothing about the story, as I haven’t even read Wonder (I know, I know. I DO have my reasons for skipping this book that others love.)

Echo starts off as a fairy tale.  I told my mom, “It has witches, banished daughters, spells, and a prophecy tied in with a magic and beautifully harmonious harmonica, the perfect beginning of a story.” But the fairy tale only starts the story and wraps it up.  

In the middle, we meet three different characters who are not, at least at first glance, tied to the beginning magic.  However, eventually we see Friedrich in 1933 Germany, find a harmonica in an abandoned warehouse.  We see Mike, an orphan in 1935 Philadelphia pick out a harmonica from a music store, and we see Ivy, an American of Mexican descent in 1942 southern California, given a harmonica from her school.  

Each person feels the magic of the harmonica as they play it, and the music makes his/her current situation, often sad and unjust, feel a bit more manageable.  

Muñoz Ryan expertly ties the individuals and their different time periods together in an well-crafted story that is long but fast-paced and accessible to students from third grade on up.  

Lovers of music will appreciate many musically talented characters, along with mention of real composers and their pieces.  Lovers of history will appreciate true historical events such as Hoxie’s Harmonica Wizards, the Roberto Alvararez vs. the Lemon Grove School District desegregation case, and the housing of many Japanese Americans in internment camps in the 1940s.  Teachers could also read Separate is Never Equal by Tonatiuh and Barbed Wire Baseball by Moss for more information. Parents will appreciate the believable situations and kindnesses shown by some of the most unsuspecting people.  

And yes, like I said, the witches, banished daughters, spells and prophecies all come back in the end. Thank you, Pam Muñoz Ryan, for writing an amazing story that is now on my list of ever-after favorites.  

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Welcoming Parents Back to School . . . And the Library!

All across Iowa, the halls of schools have echoed with the chorus “Welcome back!” as teachers smile and eagerly greet their new students. The first few weeks of schools are full of procedures and answering questions, some from students, some from teachers, and many from parents who want nothing more than to ease their child’s (maybe even their own) transition back to school and to support their child’s academic endeavors throughout the year.

Everyone extols the importance of the home-to-school connection. It’s a connection that we all know makes a huge difference in our students’ success, not only academically, but also emotionally. As schools look to support that connection and answer those questions and support our students’ learning in their home environments, school libraries are uniquely posed to help strengthen this connection beyond individual classrooms.

School libraries can offer the resources and supports parents seek. Not only are school librarians themselves often a wealth of information, but, because we are all about access to information, we are often the “keeper” of the resources. Between resources provided by the state’s AEAs and the various services schools and libraries subscribe to, librarians can be the link and support teachers and parents often need.

We all know that the impact of the school’s library reaches far beyond the walls of the library themselves. This year, parent outreach is one of my biggest goals. It is my mission to ensure that not only do my teachers and students know about the wonderful resources we subscribe to, offer, and utilize, but I specifically want to ensure that our parents know that their students have access to most of these tremendous resources from home!

Last year, I put together a Parent Resources Page via my school website and sent a letter home outlining various resources offered by the AEA and our school, but this year I want to be much more intentional about sharing information with my parents. At my school’s “Meet the Teacher” night, I began this endeavor as I greeted many in the hall outside my library, inviting them into explore and shared a bookmark with the link to Parent Resource page (pun totally intended).


However, I’d love to go beyond just sharing the information, I’d love to actively support my parents with ideas like hosting special library hours for parents (possibly during Parent/Teacher conferences or during a Literacy Night) and PTA presentations and special events that promote literacy in general (perhaps a Books & Bingo Night hosted in the library).

I know all across the state of Iowa (and the nation, for that matter) there are teacher librarians who are actively engaging and supporting parents in hopes of strengthening the home-to-school connection. 

What do you do? How do you connect with parents and offer your support?

I hope you consider sharing your ideas and the incredible things you’ve done. We can learn so much from each other!