“What Am I Reading” Sign

I want to be sure my students know that I read.  A LOT.  So I’ve started creating a reading poster to hang outside of the library door each month.  I use a sheet of 14″ x 22″ poster board.  (I found some that come with a different color on each side in a 3-pack at my local Staples.)

Here’s the “before” picture for January; by the end of the month it will be filled with book covers.

reading sign

My monthly reading poster. Click to enlarge.

I’ve been toying with the idea of adding a QR code for each title with a link to a book trailer, author website, etc.  I’m not sure how useful it will be, since most students at the elem level do not have devices with QR code readers, and even if they did they wouldn’t be bringing them to school.  But maybe some parents will try them out.

Do you share what you’re reading with your students?  Do you use QR codes with students at the elementary level?  Please share your ideas in the comments!


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A Perfectly Messed Up Story

To celebrate my day off from school today, I visited a big bookstore to spend a few happy hours in the picture book section.  (You did that too, right?)  Among the many delightful titles I examined was one that immediately stood out as a great read-aloud for my library classes:

perfectly messed up story   A Perfectly Messed-Up Story by Patrick McDonnell

Little Louie is so excited about the story he wants to tell, but when first a jelly blob and then a peanut butter glob land on his beautiful pages, he is outraged that someone is being so careless with his book.

Page from A PERFECTLY MESSSED UP STORY by Patrick McDonnell

Page from A PERFECTLY MESSSED UP STORY by Patrick McDonnell

Orange juice stains, fingerprints,scribbles — keep calm, Librarians! — will no one respect Louie’s story?  He eventually comes to realize that we can enjoy books (and life in general) in spite of any imperfections that intrude.

McDonnell (winner of a Caldecott Honor medal for Me . . . Jane) has created a thoroughly charming character in Louie, and there’s no doubt that as a librarian I have found a soul mate in him!  In Louie’s own words: “We need to show some respect here. Books are important. They teach us stuff and they inspire us.”

And I love that I can use this book to share three different messages with my students: 1) Please take care of your library books!, 2) Even if someone else didn’t take such good care of a library book, you can still enjoy the story, and 3) Don’t let a little “jelly” spoil your good times.  (In that respect it reminds me of Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes by Eric Litwin!)

No wonder this book received a starred review from both Kirkus and Publisher’s Weekly!  And right now you can purchase it from Amazon at 30% off the cover price.

What book(s) do you use to emphasize book care with your students?  Tell us about them in the comments!


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What is STEAM and How Can You Support It In Your Library?

I had the opportunity to participate in a great twitter chat Monday night dedicated to discussing ways librarians can support STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) in our schools.

Working at ComputersSome of the ideas that were shared include:

  • facilitating computer coding sessions for students
  • stocking library learning centers and Makerspace areas with building materials (Legos, K-nex, Little Bits, etc)
  • displaying student art in the library
  • providing “maker” books for students (Lego idea books, duct tape projects, Minecraft manuals, origami instructions, etc)
  • donating weeded library books for project components
  • hosting themed maker sessions that are tied to the curriculum
  • sharing creative writing tools like Storybird for non-fiction writing
  • designing 3-D printing projects tied to the curriculum (i.e., math students printing geometric shapes such cylinder, cone, etc)
  • using rap, hip hop, and other types of music to memorize facts
  • sponsoring a Minecraft club
  • offering creative writing workshops for students
  • creating a collection of nonfiction graphic novels
  • leading a themed Genius Hour project tied to the curriculum
  • using Skype or Google Hangouts to connect students with other classes or field experts

You can find an archive of the entire STEAM in the Library chat here.  Please follow #tlchat (TeacherLibrarianChat) and #tlelem (TeacherLibrarianElementary level) on Twitter for new inspiration every day, and tweet those hashtags to share your own library successes!

Are you doing something different to support STEAM in your school?  Please share it in the comments!



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Creating Weather Poetry

My 4th grade teachers were looking for some new poetry ideas for their students this month, so I suggested introducing them to Found Poetry.  I was introduced to found poetry by author/poet Kami Kinnard at my state school librarians conference last spring.  It basically involves reading nonfiction text on a topic, pulling out the important words and facts to create a word bank, and then using one of the elements of poetry (repetition, alliteration) or forms of poetry (free verse, haiku) to create a poem.

Teachers are bringing their classes to the library next week to research weather using books, magazine articles, online encyclopedias, and websites.  Then some classes will create weather “shape poems” (their idea, which I love!) while another will use a “free verse” approach.

I recommended the following books as good examples of shape poems:

Flicker Flash by Joan Bransfield Graham explores light in all its forms, from reading lamps to moonlight to flashlights to campfires. (Hover over the image above to see clickable links for additional resources for this book.)


Doodle Dandies: Poems That Take Shape by J. Patrick Lewis (former U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate) takes a more eclectic approach to the subject matter – with poems ranging from sports to seasons to animals – as well as with the mixed-media illustrations.  (Hover over the image above to see clickable links for additional resources for this book.)

And I just discovered a book that explains Found Poetry in a kid-friendly way:

found all around Found All Around: A Show-and-Tell of Found Poetry by Krishna Dalal gives instructions and examples of choosing words from newspaper and magazine articles, books, etc to create and using them to write poems.

Do you have other book recommendations, or poetry-writing ideas?  Please share them in the comments!

You can find more books and resources on my Thinglink Poetry page!


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After Christmas Read-Aloud: My Penguin Osbert

For my first story time with Kindergarten after the winter break, I decided to share a perfect “after Christmas” book:

my penguin osbert My Penguin Osbert by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel

In this amusing book, Joe asks Santa — very specifically — for a real, live penguin.  (There have been some misunderstandings with Santa in the past!)  He is delighted to find exactly what he asked for under the tree on Christmas morning.  But as the days wear on, he realizes that there’s a lot to taking care of a penguin that he hadn’t really considered.

my penguin osbert page

So he writes Santa another letter, and fortunately the solution is easily arranged.

Before sharing the book, I asked the kindergarteners if they had asked for and received something for Christmas this year that wasn’t quite as much fun as they expected it to be.  Sure enough, several raised their hands to shares tales of Transformers that were too difficult to transform (I could totally relate to that one!), electric scooters that were too hard to ride, and a remote control car with a mind of its own.

As we read about Joe’s struggles to do what was best for Osbert, rather than what Joe wanted to do, the kids shared some tidbits of information that they knew about penguins, which is nice preparation for the penguin unit they will begin in class later this month.

I should probably mention that there’s a sequel, too, although we didn’t read it this week.  Maybe for Valentine’s Day!

my penguin osbert in love My Penguin Osbert in Love

What books are you using with students this week?  Please leave a comment and share them!


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Holiday Book Countdown – Christmas Day in the Morning

Counting down to Christmas with a new holiday book each day!

christmas day in the morning Christmas Day in the Morning by Pearl S. Buck, illustrated by Mark Buehner

No holly jolly frills today; just a sweet story of lasting family love.  I bought this book for my husband and son ten years ago, and the story still touches me today.

It’s December, and Rob overhears a conversation between his parents that makes him realize — for the first time in all his 15 years — that his father loves him.  Life on the farm is busy and no one has time for expressing sentimental thoughts, but now that Rob is aware of his father’s true feelings, he’s determined to show his love in return.  And what better place to acknowledge a Father’s love than in the stable?



You can read the text of Christmas Day in the Morning online, but you don’t want to miss the illustrations!  I mentioned Mark Buehner’s Snowmen at Christmas book in an earlier post, and while his trademark bright colors have been toned down for this story, his magical way with light still shines here.  The book includes a forward by Buehner explaining how Buck’s tender story, originally published in 1955, influenced his own family forty years later.

Wishing you all love and joy this season!


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Holiday Book Countdown – Olivia Helps With Christmas

Counting down to Christmas with a new holiday book each day!

olivia helps with christmas Olivia Helps with Christmas by Ian Falconer

This was the first Olivia book I ever read, and I was thoroughly charmed by it!  Olivia is excited about Christmas and wants to help with the preparations but (as with most children) the skill and good judgement just isn’t there.  For instance, she tries so hard to untangle the tree lights, but the result is…



She also feeds her baby brother (LOVE that page!) sets the table, sings Christmas carols, puts out milk and cookies, and tries to go to sleep so Santa can come.  It’s the illustrations that really shine in this amusing book, so if you’re sharing it with a group make sure everyone has a good view.

Olivia has her own webpage complete with activities, information about all the Olivia books, and more information about the author/illustrator.  You can also join the Olivia Fan Club!

You may want to download the Olivia Event Kit, although it’s not related to this particular book.


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Holiday Book Countdown – Little Santa

Counting down to Christmas with a new holiday book each day!

little santa Little Santa by Jon Agee

You can always count on Jon Agee to see the world from a different perspective, and this Santa origin story is a perfect example of that!

In this version, Santa is the youngest member of the Claus family, and the only one who enjoys the cold snowy winters at the North Pole.  When the family decides to move to Florida, only Santa is sad.  But when their plans are foiled by a roof-high blizzard on the eve of moving day, Santa comes to the rescue by shimmying up the chimney and bringing back reinforcements to dig the family out.

Two-page spread from LITTLE SANTA.

Two-page spread from LITTLE SANTA.

You can probably guess who his little helpers are, and what happens afterwards!

Use this video to get your students thinking about what Santa was like as a child before you share the book with them:

Enjoy this Horn Book interview with Jon Agee and this Kirkus interview with Jon Agee to learn more about how this book came to be.


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Holiday Book Countdown – Skippyjon Jones Snow What

Counting down to Christmas with a new holiday book each day!

Skippyjon Jones Snow What Skippyjon Jones Snow What by Judy Schachner

I debated whether or not to include this one in the countdown, because it’s not technically a holiday book; it’s more of a re-imagined fairy tale with a winter setting.  But who can resist a new Skippyjon Jones book?

In this newest adventure, little Kitten Britches is not interested in listening to any old girly fairy tale about Snow White.  He’d rather set out with his chihuahua friends on a search for Snow What, even if it means tangling with a dragon!



Things you don’t want to miss in this book:

  • Skippyjon’s “disagreeable face”
  • Skippyjon wearing his long-johns on his head
  • Skippyjon wearing his long-johns as Prince tights
  • Skippyjon with an ice cube stuck on his nose
  • the CD of Judy Schachner reading the story, included with the book

You also don’t want to miss these Skippyjon extras from Schachner’s website.

And you absolutely, positively don’t want to miss this video intro to the book:

And if you’re like me, you’re probably going to want to read all the other Skippyjon Jones books too!


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Holiday Book Countdown – Here Comes Santa Cat

Counting down to Christmas with a new holiday book each day!

here comes santa cat Here Comes Santa Cat by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Claudia Rueda

I just got this book Tuesday, and it’s already a favorite! The text and the illustrations of Cat (who communicates by holding up signs) work together perfectly.  I don’t know when I’ve ever seen a more expressive cat in a picture book — Rueda just nails it on every page!  (I know, I’m gushing again.)

In this sequel to Here Comes the Easter Cat, Cat is worried that he’s been too naughty to get a present from Santa.



After being convinced that dressing as Santa and giving himself a gift is not the solution, Cat tries a few last-minute efforts at being nice.  Unfortunately, gift-giving doesn’t come naturally to Cat, and it isn’t until Santa himself steps in that Cat discovers the true meaning of the season.

There aren’t a lot of activities for this book floating around on the internet yet, but two ideas that come to mind are:

  • having children make their own pie charts to show where they stand on the “naughty or nice” issue
  • using the book as a basis for a Reader’s Theater activity, with the kids making the signs that Cat uses in the story

For Twitter users, take note of this tweet from Penguin publishers:


Enjoy the book trailer!


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