Reading Plans for the New School Year!

It’s that time again when I begin to feel a tingly excitement about the all the possibilities of a brand new school year!

Last year, with the support of my principal and a new flexible library schedule, I focused heavily on collaborating with teachers and supporting them in implementing the Common Core curriculum.  I will certainly continue that this year, but I also want to spend devote more time and effort to building a school-wide culture of reading.  One of my most important roles as a school librarian is to be a “reading cheerleader” and I have several new ideas for doing that.

I have already noted a variety of local, national, and international reading events on my school library calendar (you will see them in red), and I will spend the next two weeks rounding up teacher and parent volunteers to help with planning and execution of these programs.  Ideas that aren’t scheduled yet but that I’m working on creating include:cocky reading express

 

  • a visit from Cocky’s Reading Express (“Cocky” is the University of South Carolina mascot.  He travels around the state with USC students who read to school kids and share the importance of reading.)
  • a Teacher Book Club that involves reading and discussing chapter books that would make good classroom readalouds
  • a Family Reading Night that allows children and parents to enjoy reading activities together
  • a Reading Partnership program between our students and students from the middle school next door
  • Bedtime Stories at the Library for our Kindergarten students (and possibly a separate night for 1st graders)
  • Wee Bee Reading – a monthly story time for the 2-3 year-old siblings of our students (the name comes from the fact that our school mascot is the Busy Bee)
  • mandatory “sustained silent reading” time in the classroom each day to provide students with the opportunity to immerse themselves in pleasure reading

book buzz new logoI also want to encourage students to participate more in online book discussions via my Book Buzz blog.  I’m thinking about asking students to write guest posts for the blog to talk about their favorite books and authors.  I’d also like to see more teacher participation in the blog, so maybe I’ll ask for some guest posts from them too.

What innovative ideas are you using to build excitement for reading at your school?  I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

 

 

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Be a Smartie!

April is School Library Month, and this year I’m celebrating by tooting my own horn!  Today I placed one of these 4×5 cards in each teacher’s box:

 

If you want to do something similar, here’s a link to the printable document  I made. 

Feel free to download it, modify it, and use it any way you wish.  All I ask is that you please replace the word picture with your own graphic.  (This one belongs to Janelle Kelly.)

Oh, and I’d love to see your finished product, or hear what PR projects you have planned,  if you’d like to leave a comment and share!

 

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TL Cafe Tonight: The Connected Concierge

I went off the grid last week during Spring Break, and what better way to return than with the TL Cafe session for April!  Tonight’s topic is The Connected Concierge in Your School and Classroom, hosted by Tiffany Whitehead (aka The Mighty Little Librarian) and Nick Provenzano (aka The Nerdy Teacher) at 8:00 pm EST.

Last time I tried to participate, I had technical difficulties with my computer.  I’m crossing my fingers that I won’t have any problems accessing Blackboard tonight.  See you there!

 

Updated 9:45 pm:  No technical difficulties tonight!  If you missed the chat, catch the archive here!
 
 
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Blocked Websites Part Three

Happy Banned Websites Awareness Day!

For the final post in my three-part series on my experience this year with blocked websites and the laws regarding Internet use in schools, I’d like to look at how these laws are affecting school Internet policy, and whether they’re being interpreted correctly.

My own reading of the Children’s Internet Protection Act  (CIPA) indicates that the law is primarily concerned with protecting minors – defined in the document as “any individual who has not attained the age of 17 years” – against “access through [school] computers to visual depictions that are obscene or child pornography.”

Computers used by adults are also required to be protected, but “An administrator, supervisor, or other person authorized by the certifying authority under subparagraph A(i) may disable the technology protecting measure concerned, during use by an adult, to enable access for bona fide research or other lawful purpose.”  This seems to leave it up to individual districts to decide whether or not they will restrict teacher use of the sites the filtering software is blocking.  Certainly there is nothing unlawful about the sites I’ve been denied access to so far this year, and there is no content at any of them that is remotely obscene or pornographic!

It’s also important to note that in the newly-released CIPA rule revisions, the FCC has determined that social network sites do not fall into one of the categories that must be blocked.  So if districts choose to block them, that is a local decision, not a CIPA mandate.

So what does the U.S. Department of Education have to say about all of this?  Let’s consult an interview with their Director of Education Technology, Karen Cator.  She says:

  • Providing access to YouTube is not a violation of CIPA rules
  • There is nothing that says websites have to be blocked for adults
  • Broad filters aren’t actually helpful; we need more nuanced filtering
  • She doesn’t know of any districts who have lost funding by allowing access to appropriate sites
  • If sites are found that are deemed appropriate they can be unblocked
  • Having the process in place for unblocking sites is definitely important
  • Teachers need to impose their professional judgement on the materials that are [made] available to their students

So, what’s the takeaway?

  1. Knowledge is power.  I need to stay informed about the laws and requirements for school internet use.
  2. The best way to sound like you know what you’re talking about is to know what you’re talking about.  My voice can be stronger now because I can speak with confidence about what is and is not required by law.
  3. The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.  If I want unrestricted access to valuable web resources I must be prepared to speak up, for myself and my students.

What’s your takeaway?

 

 

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Blocked Websites Part One

I have been wrestling with the issue of blocked websites in my district lately, partly because of my own frustrations with blocked content and partly because teachers are funneling their requests to have sites unblocked through me, which is proper procedure since I am the Technology Coach as well as the librarian at my school.

So far this year I have tried to use: Continue reading

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Library Advocacy – Research Studies

My principal asked me this week to supply her with current research demonstrating the positive impact that flexible library schedules can have on student performance.  Some of our parents and teachers are asking why we have adopted an open library policy this year, so we are putting some information together to show that this is a data-driven decision.  Here are the resources I’ve shared with her:

School Libraries Work! (2008)

Idaho School Library Impact Study (2009)

Study of Wisconsin School Library Media Programs (2006)

Delaware School Library Study (2006)

AASL Advocacy Brochures (for administrators, teachers, parents, and policymakers)

If you know of any other studies that make the case for flexible library schedules, please share them in the comments!

 

 

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A New Chapter

Originally this post title was to have referred to the fact that I was leaving my job at Alice Drive Elementary School and doing something else.  I had become so disheartened at my failure over the years to institute any real changes in the library media schedule or program that I was ready to just give up and move on.

Enter my new principal, Mrs. Boozer.  In May I shared a heartfelt letter with her and broke the news to her that I would not be returning.  She responded to my concerns by letting me know that she had some of the same concerns herself, and that she wanted to begin making some changes that would set our Library Media program on the path to becoming a model program.  Did you hear that?  A Model Program!!!

Her first act was to take Library out of the related arts rotation, replacing it with a Math Lab.  It took blood, sweat, and prayers on her part to work out a way to staff the Math Lab, but she persisted in the face of district red tape and budget constraints until she received final approval for her plans.  Now our students are getting extra help and practice with math concepts, and our library is operating under a fully flexible schedule.

So, I want to publicly thank Mrs. Boozer for her faith in me, and to say that I’m grateful for this opportunity to serve our students, teachers, parents, and community in a new and more effective way.  I’ve rediscovered my passion for my job, and I appreciate the fresh start that this year has brought.

Let the learning begin!

 
 
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SKILLS Act Update

Please take a moment (okay, a few minutes – it’s long) to read this post from the AASL blog.  More action is needed to get school libraries into the ESEA (Elementary and Secondary Education Act) bill.  SKILLS only has 5 co-sponsors (none from S.C., for those who were wondering) which means it is vulnearable to being cut from the final bill.

Basically, we need to continue calling, writing, faxing, and emailing our senators to let them know this is important.

It only takes a few moments to call the senate switchboard, ask for your Senators’ offices, and leave the message:  SUPPORT SCHOOL LIBRARIES IN ESEA!  OUR COUNTRY’S STUDENTS PERFORM BETTER IN SCHOOLS WITH SOLID SCHOOL LIBRARY PROGRAMS.

Click here to look up the contact information for your elected officials.

Update:  I forgot to include this quote from the article, which really surprised me when I read it:

Unfortunately, we have not had great support from the education unions and from other K-12 organizations.  We are competing with everything from literacy coaches to classroom teachers – even though we know that school librarians are both of these.  In the present political environment and the challenging budget climate, we have to cling to survival for our school libraries and, more importantly, the students they serve. 

Somehow I guess I expected that other professional education organizations “get” how important our school libraries are, and were fighting hard for us teacher librarians as well as for classroom teachers.  They aren’t.  It’s up to us to band together and speak out for our programs and our students.

 

 

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Act Now on the SKILLS Act

I know this post is long, but I hope you will read it through, and then take action!

Here is a copy of the email I sent to all of the school librarians in my district last week:

Fellow Librarians,

 Please see the messages below regarding the importance of advocacy in general, and a specific piece of legislation you can influence.  We need our senators to co-sponsor the SKILLS (Strengthening Kids Interest in Learning and Libraries) Act, which is part of S1328.  Click here for more info: http://capwiz.com/ala/callalert/index.tt?alertid=51784501

 I have already called Senators DeMint (http://sc–ala.capwiz.com/bio/id/532&lvl=C&chamber=S) and Graham (http://sc–ala.capwiz.com/bio/id/531&lvl=C&chamber=S) at both their Washington and Greenville offices, to ask that they support the SKILLS Act.  (I was a little nervous, but the people I spoke with at all four offices were very polite and friendly.)

 We have to speak up for ourselves and our students if we want the support of the decision-makers, in Washington or anywhere else.  Please add your voice to those who have already called or written to ask that our senators make school libraries a priority in the federal budget!

 Lori June

And here is the forwarded message I received from Fran Bullington, our SCASL Advocacy Committee Chair,  that prompted my actions:

Continue reading

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