National Library Card Sign-Up Month.
I saw it on a calendar, and my heart skipped a beat. It was my chance to finally really collaborate with my public library in a meaningful way! My students love free wi-fi and the new teen space at our public library is something to behold. Our students even painted the mural occupying the giant wall during the library's construction. If there was ever a time to invite the PL crew over, it was National Library Card Sign-Up Month!
Via email, we quickly drafted a plan: the public library would come during all lunches on every Wednesday in September. My library advertised it to the school starting during the beginning of the school year Open House and never let up. We lit up social media. We were plastered on the tvs throughout the school. We had posters! We were in the announcements.
And I don't think a single student signed up for a library card.
Why? Well, one reason is that the vast majority of our students couldn't sign up without their parents, and parents weren't taking off of work in the middle of the day to come sign up for library cards.
Another reason: the students felt the public library was invading the school library's turf. I was shocked! I said we'd planned it together and the school library had advertised it. But since I proctored classes during lunch time and I wasn't sitting WITH the PL crew, students assumed things.
I wish this could be a different story. A tale of reaching the masses of students and every one walking out with a plastic library card in hand. It's not true.
We did do some powerful things. We put the public library into the heads of the students. We showed a bridge between school and the real world. We demonstrated that different libraries co-exist without it becoming a war between the Greasers and Socs. So, we'll keep trying with new ideas in the future.
For the record, our PL crew was amazing to work with. I am so proud to have them serving our community.
Oh, back to school season!
It's a great jolt to the school library's summer laziness when all the students return and suddenly circulation is back in full swing. I love it! Everything is at its best.
Students are polite and kind.
Teachers are polite and kind.
LIBRARIANS are polite and kind.
Enthusiasm peeks around every corner. No one cares if you have a box of books that hasn't arrived yet or if the library shelves aren't just so. We're all on our best summer sun-kissed behavior.
This year marks a lot of "let's try it" initiatives for me and my school library. The first to demonstrate immediate positive results is introducing book walks/book passes/book speed dating.
No matter how you organize your book pass, don't lose sight of your purpose for doing it: to introduce students to a host of books they might read and to encourage conversations between and among students about books. (Miller, p.113)
What a great opportunity to have nearly every student in the school come through the library right away! Teachers were on board to try a book pass instead of the "regular" checkout experience of turning the children completely lose like a pack of feral wolves and hoping they made good choices. The library was excited to establish the library's three expectations - effort, listen, and no put downs - and get some new and old books in front of so many faces.
You know the scene: tables of carefully curated books. Ours were separated by interest and tailored to the teacher bringing students in and their purpose. Fortunately, our teachers are great at planning in advance so we were able to switch books on a period to period basis with our fully loaded waiting book carts.
Students saw books they may never have seen otherwise, tried new things, and honed their personal reading tastes. They also saw a library staffed with people who care and listen to them. They saw adults working together to support their success.
Was it perfect? No. In fact, we had a student loudly proclaim that he hates reading choose to fill out his log rating all books a 0, with no interest, no appropriate vocabulary, no stamina, and no fluency. But, he DID fill out the entire log, so he put his hands on many more books than the students actually studying each book to answer all of the questions. We're counting it a small victory. The log we had students use was from
Then, the book pass experience lead to other experiences: MLA citations, how to use our databases, showing classes how to renew their own books on their iPads, and planning ahead for Banned Books Week activities to span the classroom/library divide.
All in all: the book pass activity was a great way to begin our year. Will we repeat it on a regular basis? Probably not - but I do have an idea brewing for before Christmas break that looks a lot like a White Elephant gift exchange.
So what's the book I quoted above? It's called "Game Changer! Book Access for All Kids" by Donalyn Miller and Colby Sharp. It got my library fire roaring. I'll wind up sharing a lot from it this year, and I encourage you to grab a copy. I got mine from Amazon. It's all highlighted and written in because that's how I respond to learning. I hope you love it too!
Very few things cause a fluttering in my heart and paper cuts between my fingers like "Choose Your Own Adventure" books. I remember when I first discovered them in a local bookstore. My parents took us on a rare trip - it's dangerous to lead an addict straight to the object of their addictions - and they had given us a strict budget. Looking back, it was likely $5 because paperbacks have always been an affordable option. That would have gotten me 2 books back in the day! (It was the 80's for anyone curious.)
I perused the shelves, walked right past The Baby-sitter's Club (which would become a later obsession), selected a Girl Talk book called "The New You", and stood in front of the Choose Your Own Adventure display trying to make the impossible decision of which one would come home with me. I remember racking my brain to see if I could remember which ones were already available to me at the school and public libraries. I had to pick just. the. right. one.
So when an author contacted me with the subject line "Want to help revive a genre?" and it turned out to be a grown adult version of CYOA, I could not reply fast enough. "The Friar's Lantern" by Greg Hickey was everything I hoped it would be and more. He treats the readers like the adults we are but also takes great care to keep with the CYOA tropes we all know and love. I found myself going back, just as I did with the books as a child, to certain decisions and going the other direction to see what would have befallen my character. I was pleased with my fantastic original decision that lead to my character winning a million dollars. Within this fun format, some real issues are discussed: grief, power of the mind, murder, and ethics of psychological experiments to name a few.
I highly recommend this book for anyone missing the CYOA nostalgia in your life but finding the originals now a bit unsatisfying. Who knows? You may win a million dollars!
How long has it been since I was really, genuinely bursting with excitement over a YA book?
Let me tell you: it's been awhile.
I don't know what clicked SO MUCH with "A Danger to Herself and Others" by Alicia Sheinmel, but it did. Could it be that I was reading in the middle of the night when I couldn't sleep? Sure. But it comes down to the fact that it gave me a lot of thoughts and feelings as a reader. Isn't that the whole point of reading?
I love the unreliable narrator aspect - and I've rarely seen it executed this well. Hannah is very easy for me to connect and sympathize with. She has a lot of anxiety and coping mechanisms in place throughout the book that honestly seem pretty reasonable. Counting steps? Sure. Not hurting anyone by counting steps. I think that's why I was so blown away by the book. We see everything through Hannah's perspective and she's a worthy narrator.
The masterful storytelling is something that has me really excited to share "A Danger to Herself and Others" with my readers. April Henry fans will devour this book. Heck, I would read it again! (And I'm known for NOT re-reading books.) It's suspenseful, nothing comes out of left field without justification, and just...beautiful. Beautifully written.
Finally, that ending... I wanted to pull Hannah to me and hug her myself. Her parents were so distant and aloof that I could barely stand it. The author doesn't cave to my need to know Hannah is going to be alright. She lets it dangle in front of me without succumbing to the trend to put a pretty bow on every ending - especially when dealing with mental illness. I am thrilled that this book is in my library's collection and I cannot recommend it highly enough.
It's not about money. It's just that no matter what I do - how long I work or what I accomplish - I never hear anything positive. If I make a mistake, I hear about it immediately, but if I do my job well, the silence is overwhelming.
I don't know Dave, the man who said the text above, but I feel him. I know my colleagues feel him as well.
My knowledge of the five love languages is pretty normal. I read the original book for marriages plus the one for teens. I think the main challenge in the workplace one is isolation. It takes a lot to figure out your co-workers' love languages unless your whole workplace does the inventory and shares the results (which, honestly, my personality prefers BIG TIME). The authors do give you signs to start working out the love language of those around you, but I don't know. I prefer it directly from them.
While I found some nuggets that were worth the read, I didn't really LEARN all that much from this book. I loved the initial chapters where all of the data was. (Surprise!) Once speculation began, I didn't feel it was as valuable. I liked a few of the examples - even highlighted 2 of them to share with a specific co-worker. Framing compliments as "One of the things I admire about you is...", "I wish I were more... (like them)", and being detailed and specific were all great pieces of advice.
I would recommend this to any supervisor of any kind in any field. Appreciation only means so much coming from a coworker. It tends to mean more the higher up the ladder that it comes from. However, if you're like me and searching for ways to show your colleagues that you appreciate them, it's worth a flip through - even if you have to resist the urge to make all of them take the inventory so you just know their language.
Who knew Jane Austen would be the one to credit with one of my favorite library activities this school year? You see, her birthday was on Sunday, December 16. Ms. Austen's been around our school a lot this year - our One Act team did "Darcy & Elizabeth" as their show. When I found out that one of our classes was finishing up "Pride & Prejudice" and getting ready to take a final over the book during the last week of school before Christmas break, a light bulb went on above my head.
Fortunately, the teacher is quick to collaborate and tries new things all of the time. He loved the idea of having a tea party, and the date was quickly decided upon. I stalked Amazon, dollar stores, and begged for cups and saucers. I designed name cards on Canva using one of my favorite Jane Austen quotes:
My idea of good company is the company of clever, well-informed people who have a great deal of conversation.
All of the preparation was well worth it! Everything pulled through - from the linens arriving on time, to beautiful "silver" serving trays at the dollar store, and finally the cups and saucers being provided from a variety of folks.
However, nothing could have been better than when the students were physically here. I taught nineteen high schoolers how to brew a cup of tea. They experimented with three different kinds of tea: English Breakfast, Earl Grey, and Candy Cane. They added lemon and sugar. They snacked on dainty biscuits as conversation flowed about anything and everything - mostly just questions about tea and how their friends were preparing it. A student played harpsichord music on his phone to complete the atmosphere. Everyone was calm and enjoying each other's company. Snapchat was BUSY!
It was so nice to be able to give students the experience to sit and chat, try something new, and - dare I say - relax. Later, they went over the study guide for their test tomorrow. When students left, some asked if they could take their name tags with them. (Of course I said yes!)
What I hope they take with them from today is the value of just sitting and being with others. Present in the moment and being open to something new - even if it's something you think isn't your thing.
We've decided that we must find an author with a passion for coffee for next semester. Perhaps a modern author with different musical tastes. Let us know if you have any ideas!
"Born a Crime" had me laughing out loud, pausing to wonder, and voraciously listening - until I only had 90 minutes left. Then, I slowed down. I didn't want the book to end. I feel this is unique to the audiobook - this desire to savor what little storytelling is left. Some of the subject matter was really hard to listen to, not because it was graphic, but because I've never really experienced inequality. Trevor helped me understand a bit more what it's like to be "on the other side" of the issue by letting me hear about apartheid. These first hand accounts are irreplaceable. Soon enough, fiction will paint its magical dust over them. Readers will experience the events with a veil over their eyes.
The resounding message of perseverance - doing what it takes and not forgetting who you are - intermingled with a setting just similar enough to be relatable yet with intriguing differences make this a sure winner for people who enjoy autobiographies, Trevor Noah's performances, or are just interested in what it is like to grow up in another part of the world.
This week in a training, the group of teachers I was with were asked a simple question:
What is your purpose?
Then, a room of hard-working, still passionate folks went around the room telling their tales. P.E. teachers, weights trainers, Special Education teachers, classroom teachers, English as a Second Language teachers - a whole mix of wonderful and weary teachers whose eyes lit up as they explained their purpose.
When it got to me, the facilitator said,
I know your answer will be different from the classroom teachers. It might be a little harder. What's your purpose?
But...is it? Is it really? That different?
So I prepared to give my elevator speech.
Elevator speech = a 30 seconds or less explanation of why you do what you do. They vary in purpose, direction, etc, but they are passionate and educated responses. They are common in the library world. We have many versions prepared in our heads. When I told some friends about elevator speeches over dinner, they were shocked. None of them had ever had to have one. They weren't librarians.
We're asked to defend ourselves a lot. Prove our worth.
I took a deep breath. I explained that I echoed some of the sentiments of the teachers who had responded before me. Then I added:
I left classroom teaching because I found something special in the role of school librarian. I found the meaning behind talking to students about life. Their lives, fictional lives, world events, history, things they have experienced, things I hope they never have to. It doesn't matter. I get to talk to them about everything. I get to guide them in critical thinking. I get to be the one not shackled by a content area. When they come to the library, they get the world. They get an adult who has the time and desire to have conversations classroom teachers often don't get to have because they are restricted by time and content. I'm not sitting and checking out books. I'm giving students the opportunity to experience all life has to offer in the safest way possible.
I wish I could honestly say that the room cheered.
However, I do think that my colleagues - even those who have worked with me for the past five years - got to see something a little different in my response. I hope they saw pride, passion, and a pretty dang enticing career. I hope they were proud to have me as their librarian - at least as proud as I am to have them as teachers in my school - because we're united. We're building what we hope will become fully functional humans in our global society together. We have the same purpose, just dressed up a little differently.
My purpose is your purpose; yours is mine. We're a village because it takes one.
You know that feeling when you pick up a book that's about a truly underrepresented minority in YA (Young Adult) lit, and your hopes are SO HIGH but your expectations are SO LOW? That's how I went into listening to the audiobook of "A Very Large Expanse of Sea" by Tahereh Mafi.
From the get-go, I loved Shirin. She's a potty-mouth, withdrawn teenage girl who has BEEN THROUGH SOME STUFF. This survivor was assaulted in the wake of 9/11 for wearing a hijab, nearly killed. Dealing with the outside fear of her religion every day leads Shirin to the safety of solitude by the time high school hits.
Shirin is very interesting to me. As a high school teacher with a few Muslim students in my school, I sort of listened with the context of, "Is this what they go through?" Honestly, the book's events are very realistic without being over the top. Some crazy things happen, but they are not outside of the realm of possibility. For example, Shirin's love of breakdancing turns into a passion as she joins a breakdancing team. What an amazing catalyst for empowerment! (Side note: I remember the first time I saw women in hijabs playing roller derby. I cheered and may have shed a tear of intense pride.)
Conversations take place throughout AVLEOS that give the reader more information about what it's like to wear a hijab, why some girls wear them, and what the consequences are for not wearing one. Basically, any question you've secretly wanted to ask a woman wearing a hijab are addressed in the book in a natural way.
Overall, what I liked best about the book isn't the love story or the acceptance Shirin gains from her peers. It's simply an the authentic voice and experiences of Shirin. Anyone can read "A Very Large Expanse of Sea" and benefit from it. I have it in the high school library where I work and am committed to promoting it. My students have a lot of experience with Latino culture and Nebraska culture, but not with other cultures that are now being represented in our school. This book is a great way to acquire understanding both of what it's like to be a Muslim high school girl and to examine how the people around her react to her presence.
Mark my words:
YOU WILL SEE YOURSELF IN THIS BOOK.
Will you like what you see?