Bulletin Board Update-Winter Edition!

It’s time to say goodbye to our turkey and hello to my clerk’s winter-themed bulletin board! I love how she made it 3-dimensional. I also love that once again, she’s made it a participatory bulletin board. This time, she cut out a bunch of snowflakes and is asking people to write their favorite book on the snowflake. Pretty soon, our snowmen are going to be in a blizzard of book suggestions!


Halloween Campfire Time

Halloween wasn’t my favorite holiday as a kid but as a school librarian I kind of love it! One of the reasons it’s crept to the top of my holiday list now that I work in a school? Three words: Halloween Costume Parade. I mean, that’s just the best and cutest thing that happens all year! The other reason I love it as a teacher-I get to tell all my stories by our Halloween campfire!

Every year, I go down to the the library’s basement storage unit and I come back up with the makings for a little campfire:

  • three real wood logs I stole from our woodshed several years ago
  • three battery operated flickering flame candles
  • several sheets of orange, yellow and red tissue paper
  • An old tray to assemble everything on (Tray is optional. You could leave your fire out all day but I don’t want it to get messed with in between classes so I pick it up and carry it out before we start book exchange time.)

To assemble my little campfire, I wrap each of the candles in a sheet or two of the tissue paper. Don’t wrap them too tightly or perfectly, you’ll be taking them in and out all day to flip the switch on the bottom (at least I do to help preserve the batteries). I usually just lay the tissue paper flat, put the candle in the middle and bring up the tissue paper around it leaving the top open. Once all three candles are smooshed together and held in place by the logs the tissue paper usually stands up on its own just fine. I cut the ends of the tissue paper to be wispy and more flame like and I also cut some random flame like pieces that I stick in between the candles. I put the candles in the center of the tray and then put the wood logs around them and voila! Traveling campfire. Bonus points if you pretend the tray is hot while carrying it to a safe, out of the way place like behind the circulation desk.

To make the whole campfire experience extra realistic, I use a background noise app on my phone (called Noisli) to play the sound of a crackling campfire. I wedge my phone into the fire, under the log closest to me so the kids can’t see it. The crackling sounds combined with the lifelike flickering of hte battery operated candles have convinced several kids over the years that our fire is real!

Pro Tip: Put your phone on Do Not Disturb or Airplane Mode before turning on the app and adding it to your campfire. That way, if you get a call or any notifications during your story, it won’t disrupt you and/or clue the kids in to the fact that there’s a phone in the fire. One year, I got a phone call from my doctor’s office reminding me about an upcoming appointment during a story time. Luckily, I always keep my phone on vibrate so I just casually used my foot to muffle the phones vibrating sounds. However, the crackling campfire sound not only suddenly died when the call came in, IT DIDN’T RESTART WHEN THE CALL ENDED-ugh! Several children noticed the sudden lack of sounds and I had to be all “guess I fire’s getting low, I’ll be sure to add some more wood before the next class comes in” about it.

As far as what we usually read around our Halloween campfire, I’m a big fan of the following options:

And that’s how we do read alouds during Halloween week! Bet you can understand why it’s one of my favorite times of the year in the library now.

I Wonder…If You’d Like a Closer Look at our Snapshot Wall?

I mentioned the Snapshot wall when I gave a tour of changes in the library this year but didn’t really breakdown the sections of our Snapshot wall. Since we’re covering the topic of wondering the week and introduced Our Wonder Wall to the kids this week, it seemed like a great time to take a closer look at this part of the library.

The top portion of the Snapshot wall is focused on me, specifically, me as a reading role model. As I mentioned before, I was inspired by Pernille Ripp’s book, Passionate Readers to really push myself beyond just showcasing what book I’m currently reading and how many books I’ve read. I decided to come up with reading goals for myself and display them on the Snapshot wall. I think I’ll have the kids come up with their own reading goals at some point this year as well.

Since reading 30 minutes a night is one of my goals, I decided to also make a reading log and display it on the Snapshot wall as well.

One of my colleagues was like, “I don’t know if I could show my log, I’d make that goal so rarely” but as you can see, I don’t exactly crush it every night either. And that’s okay! I think it’s great for kids to see adults make goals and struggle to reach them. Modeling persistence and perseverance in the face of difficulty is a great thing to do for our students!

On the far right of the upper side I’ve also included my “reading wishlist”, a compilation of books I’d like to read next. I think that in addition to showcasing what I’ve read, and what I’m currently reading, showing kids that I’m always thinking about what I’d like to read next emphasize how much I enjoy reading.

On the bottom left-hand side, I’m displaying the book covers of all the books we read together this year during class. I keep a running tally of how many books I’ve read this school year along with their covers, on another wall of the library so I thought it would be fun to do the same for our students this year. Plus, I think many of our students have very black and white ideas of what can count as reading but I want them to see that just like listening to an audiobook while I drive can count as reading for me, so can listening to a story during library count for them. There are so many ways to be a reader and enjoy reading and I want my students to know that and start to see themselves as readers! Finally, on the bottom right side, we have Our Wonder Wall. The Wonder Wall was inspired by my reading of Inquiry Mindset: Nurturing the Dreams, Wonders, and Curiosities of Our Youngest Learners by Trevor MacKenzie and Rebecca Bathurst-Hunt. This is a place for our students to share things they are curious about, things they wonder. I plan on using it as a way to keep tabs on things I need to cover better during our next class or topic ideas for when we do research.

We introduced Our Wonder Wall this past week and will spend the next several classes teaching and modeling how to use it. To introduce it this week, I called their attention to it when they came in to the library and reviewed what it means to wonder. Then, on the story rug, we read a book on friendship (books varied depending on grade level). After the story, I wondered out loud how we can be a good friend and students took turns offering suggestions. Then, we wrote some of their wonders on sticky notes and I collected them to add to Our Wonder Wall.

Next week, we’ll read different books on animal facts and this time, students will share things they still wonder about animals after reading the books. However, I plan on transitioning them to their assigned table seats and letting them write their wonders on their own before collecting them and adding them to Our Wonder Wall.

Finally, I’ll leave sticky pads in the supply caddies at each table and show students where to find them when they want to add a wonder to Our Wonder Wall. We’ll practice that by wondering what we should name the new library fish and letting the kids each suggest and add a name to Our Wonder Wall.

My goal from that point on will be for students to have access to the pencils and sticky notes as a free choice activity during book exchange time. I’m not sure how that will go exactly but I got a TON of sticky notes on clearance at Target so I’m prepared to take a chance that some of them get misused and hope that in the end, with some prompting and occasionally re-teaching of expectations, we’ll have a way for students to embrace their curiosity and share it with the world!

Creating a Shared Culture of Literacy

Today we’re talking about reading and how we can move beyond just telling kids reading is important to creating a culture of literacy in our schools.

Recently, I watched a video of a presentation on creating a culture of shared literacy in schools for one of my classes. At the end of the video the presenter, Patrick Higgins, asks his audience the following questions,

“If you say you are an advocate of reading, how are you building culture around this in the work you do? How are you showing students that you value this?”

Good question Patrick (and not one I can answer in less than 500 words as you’ll soon see). When we talk about culture we’re talking about the behaviors and beliefs that characterize a particular group. We’re talking about something that is ingrained into our lives and who we are to the point it is almost inseparable from us. That is no small feat and it is certainly not one that will happen overnight. But I absolutely believe it can happen and it is a goal that is worth the effort to make happen. So, without further ado, here are some of my thoughts and ideas on creating that culture of literacy:

To begin with, you need to honestly in what you are championing. As librarians and future librarians, it probably goes without saying that you believe reading is valuable and important. I’m talking about your selection of reading materials to be championed. Yyou should make sure you start off your efforts by championing types of reading and genres of reading you love and believe to be important. If you truly believe the classics are some of the greatest reads and still have things to offer today’s youth, then tell them all about it, every chance you get, every way you can imagine.

But, if you found the classics boring as a kid and you still haven’t kissed and made up with them, DON’T use them in your early efforts to get kids interested in reading just because “they’re the classics”. Kids will sense your lack of sincerity and not only will you turn them off from the classics with your disingenuousness, you risk turning them off reading all together.

On the other hand, if you talk to them about reading things you actually like to read, your passion and enthusiasm will leap out at them. It wont matter as much if they also like the classics (or mysteries/science fiction/graphic novels etc), the enthusiasm and the idea that reading can be fun and exciting is what will stick with them. Not to mention the fact that they can come to you with questions about what to read because you clearly enjoy it so much you obviously wont mind talking to them about books and helping them find something they are interested in reading too.

Please note, I’m not saying you should only talk about books and genres you like. I am just cautioning that, especially when starting out trying to establish a culture that supports and promotes reading, it will be best to stick with what you truly find exciting and inspiring. As you get more comfortable promoting reading and have established a rapport with your students, you can move on to discussing other genres with them. And remember, if this is truly a culture of literacy, then other teachers and adults in the school community should also be spreading the word that reading is great as well. Between all of you, you should have the genres pretty well covered with your students. 

Okay great, we’ve talked about the importance of believing in what you’re promoting and having enthusiasm for the cause when creating a literacy culture in your school but through what venues are you letting this genuine enthusiasm shine?

I suggest a two pronged approached. First, you want to build a foundation where reading and literacy are everywhere in the school, but no one draws special attention to it. You want the students constantly exposed to the idea of books and reading for fun but you want it to seem like a normal part of their day/life and not something that is out of the ordinary. Some ideas for exposing them to reading and books at every turn:

  • Staff and student book picks. Have staff and students submit their new favorite book titles to you and each month do a display in the library, or better yet, in one of the school display cases, put the list on the library web page, etc. Put on the announcements when the new picks are out each month.
  • Staff and student book reviews. Highlight a book review in the school newspaper, on the website, tape it and make a video review for the website or have it available as a podcast on the website. Try to put them up monthly as well.
  • Come up with foods that relate to books and work with the cafeteria to have book themed meals weekly, every other week, monthly, what ever you can manage. (“Cheese Touch Free” grilled cheese sandwiches anyone? Older crowd, maybe you can special “District breads” served with the meals during the month of March) You can make a poster promoting the book and encouraging kids who don’t get the connection to check out the book in the library
  • Booktalks-if you’re in a school where you still read aloud to kids, finish up the session with a few quick book talks promoting similar stories. Did someone’s class just start reading about the Civil War? Find some books about the topic, create some book talks and pop by the class to deliver some book talks. Like the book reviews and pick lists, get the book talks up on the library website as videos and podcasts. Feeling creative, make a book trailer instead. You can make trailers or record book talks for new arrivals at the library as well for the website.
  • Talk about reading with the students. Have conversations with students, formally and informally, where you ask them what they’ve read recently and tell them what you’ve read. Don’t feel like you have to stick with discussing books either. If you read an interesting article in a magazine, or online, share that with them. Let them know that reading has many forms and encourage them to explore and share their adventures with those varied forms by going first.

The second prong in this approach is the opposite of the first: every now and then, reward students with books/reading opportunities and make a big deal about it. By treating books as rewards or prizes, you’re reinforcing the idea that books and reading are something to be enjoyed and to get excited about it. Two great ideas for treating reading and books like rewards came from my classmates in my Information Management in School class last week:

  • Idea #1: On their birthdays, have students go down to the library and select a brand new book for their present. Maybe have a stamp made that says “This book belongs to” and write their name inside.
  • Idea#2: When students reach academic milestones, recognize the accomplishment with another trip to the library to choose a brand new book of their own. This time maybe write the accomplishment as well as their name inside (“This book belongs to: Joe Smith. Awarded for receiving perfect scores on all his spelling tests the first quarter”).

So there you have it: some ideas for promoting reading at every turn and hopefully, turning students into willing, eager readers. (A librarian can dream can’t she? :-))

Linear vs Non-linear Reading


Are both linear and non-linear reading skills equally important for students to learn? How can we as librarians and future librarian ensure students are learning how to use both skills?

Before we dive in and start answering those questions, let’s start with some quick definitions, shall we?

Linear reading is the traditional mode of reading we’re all taught early on; reading left to right, from start to finish.

Non-linear reading therefore, is the opposite; reading that jumps from section to section and often without ever finishing any particular reading selection.

Great. Now that we’re all on the same page, let’s talk about that first question: “Are both linear and non-linear reading skills equally important for students to learn?”

Because linear reading is the traditional method we were all taught as children, I think there is a tendency to think of it as “real reading” and to think of non-linear reading as lazy, disorganized, subpar reading. However, we need to remember that non-linear reading is, in fact, a very useful skill. Non-linear reading is what we use to skim and find information quickly. If you were looking for a number in a phone book (I know, I know, what an antiquated example :-)) you could certainly use linear reading to find that number. However, non-linear reading will allow you to find it much more quickly and efficiently.

So, to be successful finders of information, both forms are reading are necessary and important skills that are students should be learning and practicing.

Which brings us to question number two for this post, “How can we as librarians and future librarian ensure students are learning how to use both skills?”

I’m not sure I have a good answer for this one. I think the best way to tackle this is the way we tackle any skill: practice, practice, practice. We need to provide our students with lessons on the differences between linear and non-linear reading, when each method is appropriate, and give them ample guided practice in using both methods to locate information. Maybe we could create a world wide web scavenger hunt where students start at one website and using a combination of linear and non-linear reading, and page/link following they could locate information and answer questions that require them to absorb and synthesize the information they find? That’s the best idea I have at this time but I’ll keep looking and post any new ideas I find here. I’d also love to hear anyone else’s ideas on how we can provide students with practice with these different reading skills.

Getting to Know Bookshare.org

I had not heard of Bookshare.org until earlier this week. Now that I’ve had the opportunity to check it out, I’m extremely impressed. Not only is Bookshare’s mission of “ensuring that all individuals with print disabilities have equal and timely access to print materials” amazing, their website was chock full of information and easy to navigate. I had three main questions arise while I was exploring the site, and Bookshare quickly answered them with minimal searching around on my part.

My first question wasn’t really a question. It was an observation I had after reading the home page and noting that Bookshare “is free for all U.S. students with qualifying disabilities” (Bookshare, 2012) and supported by the Department of Education: “what a shame this is only available to school children, there are so many more people that could benefit from this”. Well, while exploring the membership opportunities I quickly discovered that in fact, Bookshare makes memberships possible for many organization besides school such as, “libraries, rehabilitation agencies, resource centers, retirement communities and group homes” (Bookshare, 2012). Schools are the only organizations that qualify for free memberships but, other organizations have the ability to join and access Bookshare for a fee dependent on the number of books being accessed. There is even an individual membership option for those that qualify.

The next question that I had occurred while reading the “How Bookshare Works” page under “About Us”. I noticed that Bookshare is actually making digital books available (I had assumed when I first heard about it that this was a program that loaned out physical books in a variety of formats) and wondered, “how is that suppose to help people who are blind?”. Silly me, Bookshare has that covered as well. In addition to making hard copy Braille books available, Bookshare also makes it’s digital books available as something called “BRF (Braille Refreshable Format), a digital Braille for use with Braille embossers and refreshable Braille devices” (Bookshare, 2012). I had never heard of this until I read about it on the Bookshare website and I was once again, impressed with how many people Bookshare seems to be able to reach with its program. (And for anyone else who hadn’t heard of this and isn’t sure what it’s all about, I found this YouTube video that gives you a demonstration: http://youtu.be/G8HnmItcNkE.)

The final question I had occurred when I was examining the chart on qualifications for the program and noted that people with Autism, emotional disabilities, ADHD, and ESL/ELL learners do not qualify for the program unless they have an additionally disability that is covered by the program. My question simply being, “well why not? certainly people with these disabilities could benefit from this program, couldn’t they?” Once again, the Bookshare website (2012) gave me an answer almost immediately, and it was an easy to understand, well explained one at that:

It is very important to remember that eligibility requirements are defined by copyright law, not education law…the requirements come from the law, and it is the law that allows Bookshare to function legally….The Bookshare team believes strongly in the value of accessible media for students beyond those who qualify under the copyright exemptions. Bookshare is working with publishers to see if there’s a solution for these students that provides publishers and authors with compensation. But, for now, Bookshare needs to operate in careful compliance with copyright law to ensure that Bookshare can serve students with severe disabilities today.

Bookshare’s explanation also reassured me that they are taking their tagline of “Books without Barriers” (Bookshare, 2012) seriously and they will continue to work on making that a reality for as many people with disabilities as possible, one step at a time.

Of course, before I could run off to tell everyone how great Bookshare is, I first had to test out its book selection. After all, the idea may be great, the website may be uber informative and easy to use, but if there aren’t any books available people want to read well, what good is it? While highly unscientific, I tested the site out for a few minutes by entering the names of author and books I liked, or were on my reading wish list. I did the same thing using my husband and my niece and nephew as book suggesters. Every author and book we came up with was available on the Bookshare website. I can’t say the same for my local public library :-).

So there you have it, my first day with Bookshare. I wonder what other amazing resources are out there I haven’t heard of yet?

(For even more information about Bookshare, check them out on Facebook, Twitter, or on their blog.)

Feed Me


Full disclosure: I created this blog and loaded up a Google Reader as assignments for my intro class this summer and haven’t touched them since so, I am by no means an expert on RSS feeds and blog readers (on the bright side, my houseplants now know my neglect isn’t personal).

Now, let’s talk get to the assignment discussion points:

  1. Is RSS here to stay?

The Internet, like the universe, is constantly expanding. Unfortunately, the hours in the day are not. RSS gives people the chance to simplify how they stay up to date on information online. So, the short answer for me is yes, until something even easier comes along, RSS is here to stay.

  1. How can RSS be used in schools?

One way librarians can introduce RSS feeds to their students is by putting some RSS feeds directly on the library website (like the one I put on my right side toolbar for the School Library Journal Web 2.0 Tools blog). They can also show teachers how to put them on their class web pages or, the librarian can put collections of teacher chosen, subject specific, RSS feeds on the library website. This will allow students to get exposure to RSS feeds and what they can offer in information organization and delivery without having to have their own blogs. Feeds can even be created based on special projects or student interests. Librarians can point out the RSS feed, explain how it works, and why it can be a useful tool for students early each school year.

Last but not least, exposing students to RSS feeds through the library website will help accomplish the following Standards for the 21st Century Learner:

4.1.2  Read widely and fluently to make
connections with self, the world, and previous reading.

4.1.7  Use social networks and information tools
to gather and share information.

(P.S. Wish I could take credit for the clever “Feed Me” title, but I found it here when noodling around for information on RSS feeds.)