Sunday, December 4, 2011

Brother Reader

After seeing this article on Read Kiddo Read, I was inspired. The article describes the Brother Reader project. Brother Reader is a community service project started by Conor Davidson and Will McCord to "instill the love of reading in young boys". It is genius in its simplicity. The high school boys visit local elementary schools and read "boy" books to the boys in the class. Our boys are in dire need of more male reader role models and this is an easy, free, and effective way to meet that need.
I shared the article with our Gifted and Talented teacher and we talked about the logistics for starting something similar with our 8th graders. Luckily we have an elementary school right across the street. I contacted the librarian and principal and they gave us a time slot that worked well with our lunch schedule. I introduced the project to the 6 boys in the class and they were very excited about it.
I looked up lists of boy-friendly books, asked for suggestions from my trusted library buds, and looked at the Brother Reader blog posts for ideas. I checked out a big stack for the boys to look through for their first visit. I used my 3 year old as a book tester, which he thoroughly enjoyed.

My six boys includes one actor (he's an extra in The Hunger Games, super cool!) and at least one amazingly talented musical performer, but I wanted to prepare them for the performance aspect of story time. I found this list of excellent tips and ideas for wrangling youngsters on the Elementary Library Routines wiki. We looked through the books together, read the advice, and practiced for the first visit.

Our visit was so much fun. You can see what we read on this Goodreads list I created to help me keep up with our books. My students couldn't stop talking about how much fun they had and how cute the kids were. It was very sweet to watch them in action. The students would inch closer and closer as they turned the pages and they were truly happy to have us there. We are currently planning visits with two other feeder elementary schools nearby and will visit our closest school once a month. I'll continue to post about our project.

If you would like to start your own Brother Reader, check out Conor's suggestions and shoot him a quick email. If you have any boy-approved picture book recommendations we would love to hear them.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Wiki Work

I've looked on as others have created very attractive, helpful wikis that allow them to share resources with librarians everywhere, but never had one of my own. I'm very jealous of the Daring Librarian's wiki and the Mighty Little Librarian's newly updated presentation wiki. There is great potential for sharing on a wiki so I wanted to give it a try. I have two wikis that we use for professional development programs, 21 Things and our (so new it isn't finished) Gadget Virtual Tour. These two wikis have been a learning experience, yet we have kept the layout very simple. I claimed the Eliterate Librarian name on Wikispaces a while ago, but finally spent some time working on it today. You can view it here. It is nowhere close to the amazing wikis that I am inspired by, but it is a start. I have a lot to learn when it comes to graphic design and the ins and outs of working with code. To be honest, I'm hesitant to even share it because it isn't to the level I want it to be yet. I'm constantly urging other teachers and librarians to dive into new technology so it was time for me to practice what I preach. Promise not to laugh?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Edublog Nominations

I am very excited to see that the Edublog nominations are open again. I have found out about so many great educators by looking at the nomination and winner list.
Choosing just one person to highlight for these categories is very difficult, but here goes.
  • Best individual tweeter-@SNewco aka Scott Newcomb. I always get the latest and greatest in mobile learning from him.
  • Best ed tech / resource sharing blog- Richard Byrne's Free Technology for Teachers. I know he has won this before, but he is amazing. When I introduce other teachers to reading blogs this is the first one I share with everyone.
  • Best twitter hashtag- #tlchat, This is the hashtag that I always check to keep a pulse on library trends and news.
  • Best librarian / library blog- This is the toughest one for me because there are so many wonderful librarian bloggers, but this year my nomination goes to Jennifer LaGarde's Adventures of Library Girl. She has consistently inspired me with her creative ideas and passion.
  • Best educational use of audio / video / visual / podcast- The Mighty Little Librarian's Tech Tuesdays. I love this series because it helps her teachers learn more about technology, improve their teaching, and advocates for her role as a tech leader in her school. All around a wonderful project.
  • Best educational wiki- Daring Tech Wiki by Gwyneth Jones. Gwyneth is so generous with her materials and the graphics alone are a reason to visit this wonderland of visual stimulation.
  • Best open PD / unconference / webinar series- TL Virtual Cafe- my source for all the latest and greatest in the library world

Good luck to everyone. I can't wait to see the nomination list and start adding to my reader.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

A "Smart" Booktalk

I think every librarian can appreciate the power of booktalks. Student booktalks can be even more powerful. Thanks to inspiration from Daring Librarian, Gwyneth Jones, our library now has Livescribe Pencast booktalks in several books. I was lucky enough (ok, there was strategy and quick fingers involved as well) to win an Echo Smartpen from Livescribe on Twitter at the end of the last school year. Since then I have wanted to use it to create booktalks with the students. Finally I found a willing teacher. Hooray!
I purchased some of the Livescribe sticky notes for the project, but you can use a piece of the notebook paper and cut it out. I made a quick visit to each class and showed them a few examples I created and told them about the project. I created a booktalk handout for the students and teachers to use to prepare. The students were very excited. The teacher offered this as an alternative to a book report type project that they used in the first nine weeks. There were many students that signed up to record a booktalk immediately. They were all very interested in the Smartpen and I know of at least one that went home and asked for a pen for Christmas. That same student described the pen to his Math teacher and asked her to record her lessons so that he could go home and watch them whenever he needed from home. She promptly went out and ordered one. For some reason the pen has been a hard sell to my teachers. I plan to continue to use the pen with library activities and lessons so that the teachers can see it in action.

Yes. This picture is blurry. That's because they are jumping up and down after trying the pen for the first time. Luckily I had my camera nearby when I witnessed this spontaneous outburst of teen enthusiasm. I just love working with middle schoolers.

To date I have 8 boooktalks created by students. I plan to put them on display soon and invite the sixth graders to come in and listen to the booktalks. I know they will love it.

Friday, November 4, 2011

PD With a Twist Update

I was lucky enough to present with Tiff Whitehead about our efforts at professional development for the October edition of the TL Virtual Cafe. You can access the webinar recording, chat and links here. It was a wonderful experience and I have received tweets and emails from librarians thanking me for the ideas and telling me about programs they are trying with their staff. This is so exciting!
The major professional development program I have been focusing on this year is 21 Things. Three librarians, including me, and one teacher worked together to create a wiki that would lead our staff through 21 technology tasks. We chose the tasks based on needs we saw in our staff and tools we have learned about through conferences and online resources. It is geared toward a classroom teacher, but we have alternate assignments so that administrators and staff can also participate. We have already received a great response and we are 5 things into the 21. We have had almost 200 teachers and staff register for the course. There is a group from each school in our district and the best part, almost every group is being facilitated by a librarian. I am so proud of our librarians for stepping up to do this even when some of them are not very comfortable with technology. I believe this has gone a long way in illustrating our value and putting all of us in the position of being a go to person for technology.
You can view our wiki here. Feel free to take this idea and adapt it for your own staff. If you do please let me know how it goes.
Next year we are already thinking about a program specifically for administrators. Learning new things can be intimidating for this group because it is hard to show this weakness in front of your staff. We think a program created just for them might be the answer.
What types of professional development programs are you a part of? Do you think this is a responsibility of the librarian?
Don't forget to come to our next TL Virtual Cafe session with the wonderful, Jennifer LaGarde.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Reaching Those Female Reluctant Readers

Much has been written and discussed regarding male reluctant readers. I do believe it is warranted and necessary, but I also have a group of female reluctant readers at school that I am trying to target this year. I found this short article that offers advice for any reluctant reader and another article with advice for parents. This SLJ Webinar, Reaching More Readers, is worth your time. I am still on the hunt for more information about reluctant female readers.

There are many strategies suggested in these articles and webinars, but the easiest strategy for librarians to employ is finding high interest reading material for our students. I often refer to ALA's Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers list. Story Snoops also has reluctant readers as an option in their search feature.
When classes come in for check out I can usually spot the students wandering around aimlessly and I try to help them find something that they will enjoy. Sometimes the teacher will ask for my help if they know of a struggling student and occasionally the student will tell me they hate reading and ask for my help. I usually start by asking what type of book they have enjoyed in the past. If they say, "Nothing", I ask about movies or hobbies. Then I walk around with them and point out lots of books and give little summaries. I also give them permission to quit a book and come back if they do not get hooked right away. If they come back we try again with no guilt. There is nothing better than matching a challenging student with a book they love. Often they become my most vocal supporters.
One major area of success that I have discovered for girls is novels written in verse. A few of the favorites (not all in verse) at my school right now are: Lisa Schroeder's Far From You, The Day Before, Chasing Brooklyn and I Heart You, You Haunt Me, Life on the Refrigerator Door by Alice Kuipers, Keesha's House by Helen Frost, Sonya Sones's One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies, Stop Pretending and What My Mother Doesn't Know, Cut by Patricia McCormick, Once Upon a Prom series by Jeanine Le Ny and The First Part Last by Angela Johnson. If you have read some of these you might recognize that they are packed with some major drama. I must also point out that most of these books are being read by my 8th graders and I wouldn't normally recommend these for my 6th graders, but they all have an recommended age range within the middle school years.
Some of my nonfiction titles popular with girls are the Would You Rather...BFF edition, Seventeen's 500 Beauty Tips, The Teen Vogue Handbook, Bobbi Brown's Beauty Rules, What's New Cupcake?, The Good, the Bad and the Barbie and Nestle TollHouse Best Loved Cookies.

I can't keep any of these books on the shelf. As soon as they finish one they come in with their friend that wants it next. I love when this happens. I recently tweeted how much my girls loved Lisa Schroeder and she replied to my tweet and even mailed lots of signed bookmarks and promotional postcards about her new release. The girls actually squealed when I brought them to the classroom.

Any advice for helping reluctant female readers? What are your go-to books for girls that say that they don't like to read?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Student Locker Tags

I found this cute locker tag for students on the Scholastic website. It is fun to walk down the hall and see what my students are reading.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

This Way to Reading Bliss

After seeing this idea on one of my library bud's Pinterest page, I decided I had to create my own version. My super sweet maintenance man for our district actually brought wood scraps from his workshop at home to create this for me. I took the arrows and used Mod Podge to adhere pages from an old Harry Potter book as a background. Don't worry. The book was missing 80 pages for some weird reason so I really couldn't do anything else with it. Then I used alphabet stickers that I found in the scrapbook section of the craft store to spell out the locations. I spray painted the plain wood base with stone textured paint. The locations I chose were Hogwart's, Narnia, Forks, District 13, Camp Halfblood and Lorien. Can you name all the books for those locations?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Flashlight Friday

I first heard about the idea for Flashlight Friday on a Twitter chat. I think it was #titletalk, which is held the last Sunday of each month at 8 pm Eastern and hosted by Donalyn Miller and Paul Hankins. It is also mentioned on the Daily Cafe site. I emailed the idea to all of my ELA teachers and one of the teachers tried it. Mrs. Foster tried it with her Honors English class and it went so well that she plans to try it with her other classes soon. She told the students to bring flashlights and they brought flashlights of all shapes and sizes. After a short lesson they brought out their books and flashlights and cut the lights.
A fun idea for kids of all ages.

Friday, September 30, 2011

My Middle School Guys Read

Today was a fun and encouraging day. Two weeks ago meetings started for my all boy book club. Students were chosen to be in the club based on reading scores and teacher recommendations. I wanted this club to target those reluctant readers that are not served with resource classes or other special education accommodations, yet they still found reading to be a challenge. I also wanted it to be gender specific. Unfortunately boys are usually our most reluctant readers so I decided to go with boys this year. I may expand in the future and have a girl club too. I explained the club to the boys in a delicate way. I wanted them to be excited to be chosen and not feel punished in any way. I let them know that they were hand picked by me and the club was invitation only (major bonus points in middle school society) and that based on their reading scores they were just on the edge of making some major leaps in reading progress (which I truly believe). Most of them were happy to be chosen. Two from each grade decided that they did not want to participate. I was disappointed, but I didn't want to coerce them. I may go back and add a few more in those slots after we finish our next book. I have had several other students come begging to be in the group, but I want to keep a consistent core group so that I can monitor their academics as the year goes on.
These students come to the library after lunch during SSR and read with me. We usually read in my back office because of our lunch time visitors and classes. I purchased ten copies of the following books: Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to Not Reading by Tommy Greenwald, Storm Runners by Roland Smith, Genius Files: Mission Impossible by Dan Gutman and The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger. Three of the four have sequels. Sneaky, I know.

The 8th graders are currently reading Storm Runners. I have a recording of the book on our iPods so they read along with the recording each day. This title was one of the free titles provided this summer through SYNC YA. We will read the sequel, Storm Runners: Storm Surge next and then The Cay (another free title from this summer). We have copies of The Cay in our ELA book closets gathering dust so I've grabbed a few copies and plan to use them with my boys.
The 6th graders finished reading The Strange Case of Origami Yoda yesterday. I have been reading this to them aloud. We threw a little party today to celebrate finishing our first book. I drew inspiration from Jennifer LaGarde's amazing book release party. We watched a Youtube video I found of Tom Angleberger folding an origami Yoda and we created our own finger puppets. We drank Yoda soda (lime sherbet and 7Up) and snacked on Cheetos. If you've read the book you know why I chose that as our snack. We had so much fun and they were so proud that they finished the book. They can't wait to start reading Darth Paper Strikes Back on Monday.
I'm still waiting on a few students to finish testing in the 7th grade and then I'll get started with that group.
I'm still going to have our school-wide, open membership book club starting in November after our book fair. The four books we've selected for that club is Skeleton Creek by Patrick Carman (one of our state's junior book award nominees), The Roar by Emma Clayton, Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater (one of our state's YA book award nominees) and The Heist Society by Ally Carter. Again, four books with sequels.
I'm not sure how I'm going to juggle all this yet, but I'm sure I'll think of something. I believe book clubs are so important that I'm willing to make some sacrifices to make it happen even if that means eating lunch while I sit with a group. I already eat in the library so it will not be much of a change. If you're still not sure if you should have a book club read the ideas of Jim Trelease. He makes many excellent points about book clubs in chapter 8 of The Read Aloud Handbook.
Do you have a book club at your school? How is it organized? Do you have a club targeted for a specific group or is it open to anyone?
What books do you recommend to reluctant readers? Boys and girls?
I would love to hear your ideas.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Spending Those Precious $$

I've been thinking about the collection development instructions I learned in grad school compared to making those decisions in my own library. I was very prepared to follow policy manuals, but I am not referring to those guidelines on purchasing. I am thinking about choosing the best books with a limited budget. I want every dollar to count. During these tough budget times I know many other librarians that have a $0 budget for books. Book fair profits or other fundraisers are the only sources for purchasing books. This article in Library Media Connections provides several excellent suggestions for managing during tough times. Luckily I do receive a fair book budget, but I want to spend it wisely. I have been spending the majority of my book funds on fiction. When I started last year I knew I really needed to update our collection. Fiction circulates the most and few teachers use our nonfiction books for class projects or activities. Have you noticed this in your own library?
There are nonfiction areas that I have allotted funds to beef up including Cars, Supernatural, Cooking and Sports. I have also purchased high interest titles like record books, "Would you rather" books, and books on survival. For some reason my kids are really into gross food so I purchased a few titles like "100 Most Disgusting" and "Yuck: The Things People Eat".

Students and teachers often ask me how I know what to buy. Here are a few places I get ideas:
How do you decide what to buy? Where do you get ideas? Is there a blog you trust? or someone you follow on Twitter or Goodreads that recommends great books? I would love to hear what other librarians use to make decisions about spending those precious $$.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

PD With a Twist

I am very excited to announce that I will be co-presenting a TL Virtual Cafe webinar with the fantabulous Tiffany Whitehead. She made the adorable graphic to advertise our program. We will be sharing lots of ideas for creating engaging, interesting professional development sessions for your teachers. The session will be October 3rd at 8pm Eastern. We hope that you will attend. Tweet it, link it, post it. Tell your friends!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Eliterate Librarian App

After reading this post from the Wikiman, I had to give this a try. The process is outlined in his post and it was very simple. It took me a few minutes to verify my website because I just didn't notice the Edit Html tab when I looked at the design page of my blog. As soon as I noticed that I pasted in the Bloapp's code and finished personalizing the app.
I've made an effort to create a mobile friendly site and felt like this was another part of that process. Give it a try with your blog so I can add you to my new iPhone.
Thanks to Gwyneth Jones for the heads up tweet about the Bloapp site.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Graphic Novels for Middle School

I was very happy to see this post about graphic novels on The Book Whisperer's Blog. I have read research about the positive effects of reading graphic novels and this supports that idea. I have significantly increased my collection of graphic novels and manga this year. Last year when I moved to the library the only manga series was Naruto. They were VERY popular so I knew I wanted to increase the collection. This summer I added many more series including Tsubasa, Shaman King, Hikaru No Go, Dragon Ball Z, Kitchen Princess, Maximum Ride, Zelda, One Piece, Full Metal Alchemist, Cross Game, Library Wars, Chibi Vampire, Choco Mimi, Bleach, Bakuman, My Boyfriend is a Monster, Claymore, Kamichama Karin Chu, Tegami Bachi, Yu-Gi-Oh Gx, Yuyu Hakusho, Whistle and more.

While some are not technically manga or graphic novel, I have purchased many titles that will appeal to the Wimpy Kid reader including Totally Lame Vampire, Smile, HappyFace, Milo, Doodlebug, The Popularity Papers, The Strange Case of the Origami Yoda, The Accidental Genius of Weasel High, Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to Not Reading, The Defense of Thaddeus A. Ledbetter, Harry Potter and the Deathly Boring, Kill Shakespeare, Max Quigley: Technically Not a Bully, Meanwhile, Page by Paige, Splurch Academy series, and My Sister the Vampire.
Many of these I heard about in this article in School Library Journal.

There are even a few fun nonfiction graphic books I purchased including the Monster Science Graphic Library (Vampires & Cells, Bigfoot & Adaptation) and Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty.

The new manga section is always teaming with students. The books have stayed high on our top ten lists. I even had students hugging me the first week of school when they saw our new area. I have had several requests for other series that I'm considering. A few I think might be too mature, but I will check it out.

School Library Journal has an archived webinar on graphic novels here if you would like more information.

I am always open to more suggestions so I would love to hear about manga series you have in your schools.

Library Brag Board

This one is for you, Library Girl! You must check out this post from the inspiring, Jennifer LaGarde. This is my first attempt at creating a library brag board. It is probably difficult to see here, but the categories that I have on display are Library Events, Top Ten Titles, Circulation, Students of the Month, Hot Titles. Right now the Library Events area has information about due dates for our summer reading logs and a few pictures of the first few lessons we have had in the library. I have more lessons next week so I left room for more pictures. We put up the top ten titles for fiction and nonfiction. For the month of August Soul Surfer and The Hunger Games are topping the charts. I created a bar graph comparing circulation by grade. Instead of the typical Excel bar graph I overlapped the bars with clip art of a stack of books and stretched it to fit the size of the bars. I was going for a more infographic style. I took pictures of the students of the month for each grade. These are the students with the most check outs in August. Finally I created a Hot New Titles area that includes little printed book covers of new or popular books.
There is still too much blank space on there, but I will definitely be adding to it and improving as the year goes on, but I think this will be a fun way to show off the library and the programs we plan.
What would you put on your library brag board?

Creating a Culture of Reading

One of my goals at school is to create a culture of reading. There are many ways that I try to accomplish this. A few things I am doing this year is "Currently Reading" signs, education about SSR, book talks on the morning news, and Edmodo discussion groups.
I created "Currently Reading" signs for every teacher and staff member. They are on display outside each classroom or office. Studies show teachers are notorious for being non-readers. I know for some teachers at our school this is the case because they have told me. I just hope they do not tell our students the same thing. It is vital for our school population that our teachers be a reading role model so the intention of the signs is to show that adults continue to read and the signs may inspire conversations about books with teachers other than me and the ELA teachers.
We have a school-wide SSR program in place. I am so grateful for administrative support for this program. I hear from students that not every teacher participates in the program; therefore, I added SSR to a professional development class we are putting together. There are resources about SSR, research findings to support the program and tips on having a successful program. One of the main reasons for the failure of a SSR program is when the teacher supervises instead of reading with the students. I am hoping for 100% participation after sharing this information with our faculty.
Last year a few of my book club members presented book talks on the morning news. We plan to continue this and even increase how often the students share books on the news.
This summer I led a book discussion group for our ELA teachers about the book, Readicide. The two other middle school librarians in the district and I used Edmodo for summer reading discussion as well. It worked so well that I plan to use the site with the book club this year.

How do you create a culture of reading in your school?

Cute, Easy Way to Highlight Books

I first saw this idea on the amazing Sharon Matney's Pinterest page of library decorations. As soon as I saw the picture I remembered an old lamp I had sitting in the garage. I grabbed it and cleaned it up. Right now the display spotlights hurricanes so I pulled a few nonfiction weather books and a few novels with hurricanes in the plot. I have the bonus of a few windows to the hallway so I put this in one of the windows and students can see it on the way to class. I plan to change the display often depending on holidays, current events and library programs.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Thanks for the Spotlight

'6 Spotlights' photo (c) 2010, Anthony Easton - license: thanks to the Library Games website for highlighting the work of librarians. Here is a link to my interview for this week's Spotlight. While you are there take a look at the library activities, free things including some funky signs and book markers, and all of the fabulous "Funbrarians" the site has interviewed. You will be sure to find a new idea or two for your own library on the Easy Ideas page. If you have an idea you would like to add go to the Share page. This is definitely a site you will want to add to your arsenal.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

That's What's Up in the Library

letter L letter I B letter R letter A letter R letter Y

Check out this post from the creative and amazing Library Girl, Jennifer LaGarde. I am definitely going to create a board so that I can highlight programs and data about the library. I want to put up pictures of our lessons and activities, the top ten fiction and nonfiction books, top students, new titles, book club updates and class visits. I create a monthly report for my principals, but I have been struggling to think of a creative way of sharing our activities with the rest of the school. I am hoping this board will help others understand what goes on in the library. How do you communicate your events to the rest of the school?

The Librarian's Role in Overcoming Poverty

'First day of school' photo (c) 2010, Dave & Margie Hill / Kleerup - license: loss, recession, foreclosures, and poverty are highlighted in the news every night. The number of American children living in poverty now is surpassed only by those that lived through the Great Depression. Residents of my district are no exception. Check out this poverty infographic that shows where America's poor are most concentrated. We're a dark red county. The families in my area are facing these realities every day, which means my students must deal with obstacles that I can only imagine. In my school we have a 68% poverty rate. That translates to almost 7 out of 10 of our students living at or below the poverty line. What does that mean for me? How does the services of the library need to change to meet their needs? What can our school do to help the students rise above these challenges?
This is our focus as a faculty this year and I've been thinking and researching ways that librarians and libraries can help students in poverty. Research supports the following goals:
  1. Increase access to books
  2. Wide variety including magazines, comics & anime
  3. Build support for Silent Sustained Reading
  4. Build relationships
  5. Eating and reading in the library
  6. Plan a summer outreach
1. Children in poverty have limited or no access to books at home. Access to books increases reading which positively influences writing, grammar, spelling, and vocabulary. This connection makes access a huge priority. Our community and many others have no book store; therefore, the public and school library provide the only access to books. Unfortunately some of the same areas of high poverty are also on the map of library closures. Luckily, our district has been very supportive of our school libraries by maintaining our budgets and keeping a certified school librarian in each school. A few practical steps I take to increase student access to books is opening early before school and staying open after school. The library stays open during lunch unless I have scheduled classes. Yes, that means I do not get a "lunch break" because I do not have a library assistant, but I feel like remaining open is more important. This gives students opportunities to visit the library often. Our ELA teachers have all agreed to biweekly visits for check out and I have already planned "book cart" visits. Last year we had two book swaps which were very successful in getting books into our students' hands. I hope to repeat that event this year. The library hosted two book fairs and plan more this year. Other than the limited selection at the pharmacy or grocery store this is the only time our students can purchase books without traveling at least 20 minutes to a larger town. Classroom libraries are also important and I have shared suggestions with our teachers (4 of whom are 1st year ELA teachers) on how to build a classroom library on limited funds.
2. Stephen Krashen discusses the impact of reading comics and the concept of "home run" books in his articles. When students were asked about their favorite books the answers are widely varied. This means that I need to have a collection that appeals to many interests and levels. I have increased our selection of anime by purchasing 10 additional series, added to our popular supernatural and cars sections, and I buy popular titles, not just the award winners. I completely changed our magazine subscriptions. I dumped the "educational" magazines that collected dust and ordered titles that the students requested. Maintaining a collection that appeals to my students will help all readers find something that interests them. As is often the case, our boys usually score lower on reading assessments, especially low income boys. This year I am organizing a book club just for this population. I selected four low level, high interest books for the group to read. I will write more when all the details are decided.
3. I am so grateful to have administrators that allow for 15 minutes of Silent Sustained Reading (SSR) each day in our schedule. Carving out time for students to read for pleasure at school is so important and supported by the research. I understand the important of SSR, but I do not feel that everyone on our faculty feels the same way. For SSR to have the highest impact it must be supported by all of the teachers and students must see the teacher reading during this time. I am afraid that this time has become a time for reading emails, grading papers or catching up on other work. I need to do a better job of communicating the importance of the program to our teachers and making them aware of the influence they have on students in regards to reading. Unfortunately there are teachers that do not like to read and some even share this opinion with our students both in speech and action. I hope to share research at faculty meetings about SSR and possibly change their minds. I created signs for each classroom and office that read "Mr/Mrs. ____ is currently reading ____". I hope these signs will spark conversations about reading and give our students reading role models.
4. Building relationships is vital for students living in poverty. They need role models and mentors that can show them an alternative to their current situation. It is often recommended that teachers loop with their students in order to deepen relationships. We do not currently loop at my school, but having a relationship with the librarian is a long lasting one. It is important for me to learn names as quickly as I can, make students feel welcome and safe in the library, and be as involved in their learning as much as possible. Collaborating with teachers and teaching in the library and in the classroom furthers this connection. Showing up for performances and games and expressing interest in the students' lives is another component of connecting. Librarians have a unique opportunity to create relationships that last more than one academic year.
5. Children of poverty are often food insecure. Either they are undernourished and hungry or they have a fear that they may be hungry in the near future. You may wonder how this is related to libraries, but there is a connection. I allow students to eat in the library. As long as they clean up any crumbs or paper I do not mind food and drink in the library. In the cooler months I sell hot chocolate. The cost is $.50 and I basically break even, but the students enjoy the cafe atmosphere. In an interview of Stephen Krashen he mentions the benefits of oatmeal cookies and apple juice. This has me thinking about bringing these items into the library. I believe I could find them packaged individually at our local wholesale store and offer them in the library.
6. Summer slide is another concern of mine. Children of poverty suffer the most because they lack access to books. This summer we organized a summer reading program. It ends this month so I am not sure of the participation yet, but I feel that there is more I can do to reach out to our low income students. I know some schools have summer hours and allow students to check out books during summer months. This is a possibility for next year. I have even heard of some schools operating a summer book mobile program. I am going to contact the elementary librarians in my district and find out if they would be interested in working together to do something like that next year. Our school already has a Meals on Wheels route so possibly we could combine efforts to bring books to those same neighborhoods.

Some of our school wide initiatives, both new and continuing, include a school food pantry, a school-run market for clothes, school supplies and toiletries, tutoring before and after school, lunch time learning, breakfast in the classroom, neighborhood bus tours for teachers and a poverty simulation professional development. I would love to hear from other librarians and educators on how they reach out to students in poverty. What does your school or library do for these students?

Almost anything by Stephen Krashen:
Interview with expert, Stephen Krashen:
Children's Access to Print Materials and Education-Related Outcomes:
Jim Trelease on Summer Setback:
Trelease on Teachers that do not read:
Ruby Payne's lecture on poverty:

Friday, August 19, 2011

Librarians Represent as Teachers of the Year

'trophy 1 | the both and | shorts and longs | julie rybarczyk' photo (c) 2010, Julie Rybarczyk - license: I was very excited and honored to be selected by my school as the Teacher of the Year. Each year our faculty votes on the award and we represent our schools during district teacher forum meetings with our superintendent. I was thrilled to be chosen, especially since it was my first year as librarian. The District Teacher of the Year was named at our opening assembly. This year it is my fellow middle school librarian, Kristen Hearne. I am so proud of her. I was lucky enough to intern with her as part of my Masters program and we collaborate and share ideas often. Just a few years ago my other middle school librarian colleague, Monique German, was named District Teacher of the Year. I am happy to be in a district that values librarians. Now I'm keeping my fingers crossed for Kristen as she competes for the South Carolina Teacher of the Year.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Dewey Free Update

This summer I decided to change my nonfiction from Dewey to Subject category. You can read why here. I wanted to update you on student reaction. We have been in school for just over a week and I've seen most of the students in the school for orientation and first check out. Student reaction has been difficult to measure. I asked each 6th grade class if they remembered the Dewey Decimal system from elementary school and most of them raised their hands. I asked how many did not like that system or found it confusing and almost all of them would keep their hands up. I explained our subject category system and pointed out the different areas and signs. No one leapt out of the chair to celebrate, but I did notice that more browsed the nonfiction area and they seemed to navigate easily and independently. Usually I have to show them how to search the catalog for the subject they want. No more. Now they walk around and look at the signs and help themselves. I was able to spend time helping students choose books instead of showing them where to find their favorite topics. Several of my female students noticed and complimented the Wordfoto signs. The boys thought it was "cool" that War books have their own area. My library helpers have been able to shelve books with less help from me. The most vocal supporters of the change have been teachers. One negative that I have encountered is when completing our annual library survey for our state department of education it asked for average age of the collection by Dewey 100. Luckily I had last year's collection analysis to use for now, but in the future these numbers will not be accurate. I am looking forward to seeing if there is any change in the frequency of nonfiction check outs and any long term effects of the switch.

Series Are Under Control, Maybe

A few posts ago I mentioned that I will be using to keep up with new releases in our series books and that I wanted to label my series. I am happy to report that I finished that project. Woohoo!! Well, I can't really say finished because as we get more books I will need to keep the labels updated and I'm sure there are a few that I overlooked. We had almost 100 series in our pretty humble collection so there are yellow labels everywhere. Between the Fictfact site and Fantastic Fiction I was able to find almost every series online. I ordered a bright yellow spine label and typed the series name and number for each book. This was a great opportunity for me to make note of books that I am missing in a series so that I can add those to my first order. A few teachers have asked about the yellow labels and the students are excited about it.
My first official classes come tomorrow and for the next week I'll see every student in the school so I will let you know what they think of our new nonfiction arrangement.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Not So Extreme Makeover

Last year was my first year as librarian and my focus was on cleaning and organizing. Decorations were not high on my priority list. I did make some serious changes including rearranging shelves and adding some soft, comfy chairs; however, I feel like I can focus more on decorating and atmosphere this year. This is difficult for me because I am a minimalist decorator in my own home. I prefer clean and uncluttered spaces. Some might say my style is pretty boring and beige. I watch Hoarders and Clean House like some watch horror movies. I am fighting my minimalist tendencies and trying to spice up the library this year. I reread The Mighty Little Librarians' decorating post to inspire me and watched lots of HGTV. I want the library to be more cafe than classroom. The entire school was recently painted so I can't change that and they refinished the furniture last year so no changes there either. I can't bring myself to put up random, mismatched posters and I don't want to invest a lot of precious budget dollars on decorating so I brainstormed ideas with my color-loving BFF and came up with a plan.
I combed the clearance aisle and found some really cute striped flat King sheets that are going to be made into curtains and pillows. The only open wall space is above the shelves so I purchased poster frames that will fit in those areas. In the frames will be pictures from our school building and grounds. I have the first four ready. I have six more frames to fill and I am trying to decide if I want to take the pictures myself or have a contest during Teen Read Week for the students. The theme this year is "Picture It @ Your Library" so a photo contest would fit nicely. Maybe our art teacher would help me out and allow his Advanced Art students to participate.
I used Picnik to add frames and effects to these pictures to make them more artsy and interesting. I used ShortRun Posters to print the 18" by 24" size and will use Snapfish to print the 16" by 20" size.
I am looking forward to putting up the new Nonfiction subject signs and I hope that with these new pictures and curtains the library will be more inviting and cozy for the students. I will take more pics when everything is up and ready.
How is your library decorated? Is it inviting and welcoming for the students? How do you achieve that atmosphere?

Friday, July 8, 2011

Wordfoto Shelf Signs

You probably already know that I changed my nonfiction to subject categories instead of Dewey. Part of this transition was creating new signs for each area. I have been trying to decide how I wanted to create the signs. I wanted something creative, fun, yet still functional. I considered a ComicLife style like The Daring Librarian, Spell with Flickr, and even plain Power Point with lots of clip art. Yesterday, after reading The Library Girl's post about Wordfoto, I knew this would be great.
I created the signs using the Wordfoto app on my iPad. The app was $1.99 and well worth it, even if I never use it again (although I think I'm addicted now). I found clip art for each subject category, added a new word group for each area and voila. I tried to find clip art that was similar to the genre labels on the spine of the books.
What do you think?
You can find all of the signs on my Flickr photostream, where they are available for you to download and use if you like. I'm going to print them and frame in a plain, black picture frame.

One of our school-wide projects next year is to create a Palmetto tree shaped collage (We're Palmetto Middle) that tells all about us. Each teacher will have the tree outside the classroom door. I made a Wordfoto of my face with the word "librarian" that I plan to put on my tree. I will probably be making lots more for our teachers when they see it. I may even purchase this app for our school iPods because I see potential for simple, student projects.
What kind of signs do you have in your library?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Getting a Grip on Series

It seems that there are more series than stand along books these days and it is difficult to keep up with all of them. I have discovered a new tool to help me keep them under control.

The site is FictFact.

I created a free account and have started "Following" the series that we have in the library. I am looking forward to being notified when a new book is released in these series and I plan to use this site to label all of my series books. There is a social networking aspect of the site that lets you connect with friends and see what they are reading, but I do not know that I will use that part of the site. The strength in the site for me is helping me keep my series orders current and labeling them in the correct order.

Thanks to Fran Bullington's post for inspiring me to label my series books. I hoped to begin the project before school ended, but I focused my time and energy on changing the nonfiction. If all goes well, I can start on this project during staff development time when students will be around to earn community service hours and help me tackle the job.

Maybe one day soon I can post an update that I am finished labeling them:) Fingers crossed.

Monday, June 27, 2011

How Do Others See You? Evaluating My Personal Brand

Mirrorsphoto © 2010 Ross Tucknott | more info (via: Wylio)

Our third task in the 23 Things program is to consider our personal brand. My brand is mainly compromised of my blog, Twitter account, LinkedIn account and memberships in groups such as the Teacher Librarian Ning and Classroom 2.0. When I googled myself I was not surprised by the results. If I google just my name I have two results on the first page that are mine, my LinkedIn profile and my blog. I make an appearance on the second page of images. When I add SC to my name the entire first page of results is me. If I google Eliterate Librarian it is all me on the first page. I'm satisfied with that.
When I first started my blog I wanted to chose a name that combined my love of reading and technology. I remembered hearing the term "e-literate" during my graduate studies and liked the way it sounded with librarian. I wish I could remember where I heard the term so that I could give credit, but I don't. I never even wrote it down. It just got in my brain and stuck there at some point. This is the urban dictionary definition of "eliterate".
One weakness of my personal brand is that I do not use the same name identifier on every site. I try but sometimes it is taken. On most sites I am coxtl.
After reading some of the recommended posts and articles I feel like I have a decent understanding of my brand and how to monitor it; however, I do probably need to update my pictures to a close up shot. I have different pictures on Twitter, my blog, and several other sites. I should chose one nice picture to use in all of those places for uniformity.

One of the optional tasks was to ask others to post their thoughts on our blog. What do you think my blog says about my personal brand?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Mr. Dewey, I Bid you Adieu

In the past I have written posts regarding arrangement of my collection and my constant attempt to make the library as user friendly and accessible as possible. This is a goal that I believe all librarians can understand. For months I looked into various ways to organize a library's collection. After much consideration I decided to take the plunge and arrange non fiction by subject rather than Dewey. I have read several articles both for and against this arrangement. I have talked to my library friends both locally and members of my PLN in other states. Most expressed no interest in doing this in their library, but encouraged me to do what I thought was best for the students I serve. We know our students or patrons better than anyone else. Reading the experiences of others helped me to decide if this was something I wanted to do. I knew it would be a big project so I wanted to take my time in making this decision.

Here are my main motivations:
1. My middle school students don't understand Dewey.
Maybe this is my fault because I don't spend much time teaching Dewey. Maybe they don't completely understand decimals at all. Either way I do not have time to shelf and find every non fiction book that circulates. I do not have an assistant and even some of my student helpers never grasped Dewey even after I attempted to train them.
2. Pulling out fiction and biography was good for circulation.
Some people are surprised to hear that Dewey includes fiction. I think so many people are accustomed to fiction being a separate section that they think that Dewey did not originally include it. Having a separate section for fiction and biography increased circulation for these sections so it seems that arranging by subject may do the same for the rest of my non fiction.
3. I believe it will make the library more user friendly.
After polling my students, even my helpers and frequent library posse, they all were excited about the possibility of the change. I have had teachers and administrators (educated professionals) come in during the switch to see what I was up to and when they heard about it they were excited.
4. I want to appeal to the groups that check out non fiction the most.
My special education and reluctant readers are the groups I find browsing non fiction the most. I believe this change will make browsing easier for them (and everyone else).

As soon as I made up my mind I began the switch. The first step for me was getting the collection organized, weeded and inventoried. Looking back I would not have spent much time getting my Dewey in perfect order, but at the time I wasn't 100% committed yet. Then I ran a collection analysis. Using the collection analysis I looked at what subjects I had the most books in so that I could choose categories. Dewey is basically subject grouped anyway so I used these categories to determine what type of labels I would need. The report that helped me the most was the Collection Analysis (by 10s). Many of the groups were easy to group by subject. For example, all the 200s became Religion and the 700s became Art. I grouped some things together and wrote lots of little notes down. After reviewing the report and looking at the Book Industry Standards (BISAC) categories these are the categories I decided on: Animals, Arts & Crafts, Biography, Cars, Cooking, Crime, Family, Folktales, Health, History, Literature, Math, Multicultural, Music, Mythology, Nature, Poetry, Religion, Science, Space, Sports, Supernatural, and War.
I ordered genre labels for each of these categories. A few categories I had to rename so that it would fit with the labels available. There were no labels for Geography so I decided to group though with customs and holidays and create a Multicultural group. At this time I do not have subcategories because the size of my collection doesn't warrant this additional step; however, this is something I will consider for the future. History is my largest section and if I feel the need to further divide them I may do that. I may also subdivide Science if the need arises.

This decision did have its challenges. Deciding the category for some books was difficult. Should a dinosaur book be in science, history or animals? I looked at the Dewey number for guidance, asked my student helpers, and sometimes just made an executive decision.
I created an area in the library for each category and started sorting books into groups. I took one section at a time and changed the record in the computer, added the genre label and typed and added the new spine label. The spine labels changed from 940.53 WIL to NON WIL and then the History label. Then they were ready to be alphabetized and put back on the shelf. It sounds so simple when I write it but it took lots of time and several student helpers. In addition, I changed my label preferences with Follett so that I will only have to add the genre label for my new books. Another challenge will be collection analysis. Without Dewey it will be more time consuming to create a report; however, I can walk around the library and look at the shelves and see weaknesses much easier than before.

While I was making all of these changes I also decided to create a section for the anime/manga series, make new spine labels for the professional books (remove Dewey and replace with PROF SUBJECT Authors first 3 letters, EX. PROF SCIENCE WIL), move any remaining Story Collection to Fiction, remove the PB (Paperback) and E (Easy) labels from the collection by changing the record and replacing the spine label. My Cars, Cooking and Supernatural books are very popular and it wasn't until this change that I realized just how small these groups were. I will definitely order more for these areas.

I'm looking forward to seeing student reaction and looking at circulation for differences in non fiction numbers. I still need to finish up a small stack of War and put up the signs for each area. I have shelf markers from Demco that I plan to use, but I'm also looking at other options for making each category easy to find and see. I ordered lots of book stands so that I can display as many books face out as possible. I will post an update after the school year begins to share any positive reactions and any difficulties that may arise.

A few resources for your consideration:
Dewey Free Project Presentation: One public libraries journey as they converted their collection. Lots of great links inside the presentation.
An article about the library mentioned in the previous presentation from a catalogers view.
"It's Not About Dewey" from the Library Journal
"To Dewey or Not to Dewey" peer reviewed article
"It's Fine to Drop Dewey" from Library Journal
"The Dewey Dilemma" from Library Journal

We eRead: Impact On Our Students

Kindle 3photo © 2010 Zhao ! | more info (via: Wylio)

I've written previous posts on buying, setting up, and using Kindles with our students. Now I can report some of the data regarding using these devices.

Overview of the Program

This year we used six Kindles in a reading resource classroom. We have two 1st generation Kindles, one purchased by the previous librarian and one donated by our principal, one 2nd generation that I acquired through a Black Friday Lightning Deal on Amazon and three 3rd generation Kindles that we purchased using student council fundraiser proceeds. We loaded them with loads of free books and 15 purchased titles. These titles were chosen based on student requests and Lexile levels. Mini lessons on using the Kindles were given on an as needed basis by the reading resource teacher. Features such as the text to speech, dictionary and note/highlight option were the most used features of the device. Students read after completing their lessons in the resource classroom and every Wednesday in class. Reading logs were maintained by the students and a survey on reading motivation was administered before and after using the Kindles. The Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test was administered before and after using the Kindles. This test also provides Lexile ranges.

Summary of the Results
  • Students read an average of 22 books (both print and Kindle books)
  • 50% of the students rated their reading ability as not as well as their friends before using Kindles and after using the Kindles 83% rated themselves as about the same or better than their friends.
  • Prior to using Kindles, 31% stated that they understand almost everything they read. This percentage jumped to 58% after using Kindles in class.
  • Prior to using Kindles, 25% of the students rated themselves as a good reader, but after 58% rated themselves as good or very good readers.
  • Students had an average increase of 12.6 points on the MAP test in English/Language Arts. One student had an increase of 27 points!
  • Every student showed an increase in Lexile range after using the Kindles

We were very excited about the positive changes we saw in these students, both in standardized testing scores and in their perception of themselves as readers. Of course, not all of this can be attributed to the Kindles, because they did receive special education assistance in the reading resource classroom, but we do feel that some of these gains can be attributed to the introduction of the Kindle. We did not see these same gains in the other reading resource classrooms without Kindles nor did we see these changes in the small number of students from this class that chose not to use the device. Larger scientific studies would yield more reliable results, but for our own purposes this is enough to encourage us to continue using the devices and exploring the ways that they can help our students succeed.
Next year we hope to build on the program by using Kindles with the other reading resource classrooms and offering Kindles for check out to the regular education students through the library.
Does anyone else have data or anecdotal evidence to share about using ereaders with their students? I would love to hear about it.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Creating My Own PD This Summer

This summer I am participating in two self directed professional development series:
1. CPD 23 Things
2. Teacher Challenge
First I'll share a little about 23 Things for Professional Development. A team, including heavy hitters like Bobbi Newman, created "a self-directed course aimed at introducing you to a range of tools that could help your personal and professional development as a librarian, information professional or something else." To look at the entire list of 23 Things go here. If you would like to participate go here. I am familiar with many of the tools, but I hope to make more librarian connections, build my PLN, and get reenergized over the summer.
I have been visiting several of the other school librarians participating in the challenge. You can see the list of school librarians here and the entire list here. There are several creative blog names that caught my eye including Bookletting and Info Glut.
The Teacher Challenge is a free 30 day professional development challenge broken up into weekly challenges. I follow this blog throughout the year and they have great ideas and clear instructions for getting started. Even if you are a tech expert this site is a resource for sharing tools with other teachers that might be less experienced. On the left tool bar you will see a long list of previous posts that include tools like, Wallwisher, Photofilter and Toondoo. I am particularly interested in the Student Blogging challenge because a few of our teachers have expressed interest in creating student blogs next year.
Anyone else participating in these two PD courses? What summer PD will you be participating in this year?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Upstate Technology Conference Rewind and Review

The last two days I have been having a wonderful tech-filled time at the Upstate Technology Conference. This annual conference is completely free and full of wonderful presentations. This year I presented two sessions:
I had a great time presenting and continue to learn and improve. Unfortunately the session on improving presentations was at the same time as mine, but I will definitely be watching for those materials on the conference page.
I had the pleasure of seeing my librarian buddies strut their stuff. Fran Bullington led a session on using technology to "Ramp Up Reading". Lots of fun ideas like using digital frames to show off books, book apps, and Livescribe pencasts of book reviews. Kelly Knight, the Knight Reader, shared her strategies and successes on using blogs with her students. Check out her YA book blog and her school blog. She has really inspired me to do more with my school blog such as sharing reading lists for holidays and school events. This would especially be good for promoting non fiction titles. Cathy Jo Nelson had a packed house for her tech tip session. She really draws a crowd with her long list of ideas and suggestions. Heather Loy shared her expertise in Evernote and a session called "Web 2.0 Speed Dating". What a great way to share lots of tools in a fun, unexpected way.
I was very excited to see so many librarians presenting and many, many more in attendance.
I enjoy the time at conferences to catch up with my friends that I normally only see virtually. It was also fun to meet some of my PLN in person and continue to build those connections.
A few things that really stood out for me:
  • the popularity of QR codes, both in sessions and on materials
  • focus on mobile devices like phones, iPods and tablets
  • lots of buzz about favorite apps
I had a good time and learned a few more tricks. I am a conference and webinar junkie so I am looking forward to a few virtual conferences this summer like the Reform Symposium. Maybe I will "see" some of you there.