Snow Days!

As you might imagine, snow days are a huge treat for us students and teachers in South Carolina, and the timing of our wintry weather this month gave us an extended Christmas break.  I spent part of that time researching some snowy read-aloud books, and here’s what I came up with:

  The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
This is the classic story of a young boy’s day in the snow, and it’s just been made even more relevant by the new book…..

  A Poem For Peter by Andrea Davis Pinkney
The story behind the book The Snowy Day, and a tribute to Ezra Jack Keats and his groundbreaking picture books.

  Little Penguins by Cynthia Rylant
Who doesn’t love penguins, and this simple story is illustrated with cut-paper collages, which always (as regular readers of this blog know) hold a special place in my heart.  A great choice to inspire a torn-paper art project.

  Snow! by Cynthia Rylant
Not only are the snowy illustrations somehow almost cozy, but Rylant has filled this text with figurative language to discuss with your listeners.

  Blizzard by John Rocco
This Caldecott honor book is not only the author’s account of his own experience during the Blizzard of 1978 (if you’re looking for memoirs for an ELA unit), but also a tale of courage as John is sent to the store wearing tennis rackets strapped to his feet to buy groceries for his family.

And these new choices are in addition to two of my old favorites:

  Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin
The true – yet lyrical – story of the first man to take magnified photos of snowflakes to share their beauty with the world.  Informative and inspiring, reminding listeners to follow their passion in life.

  Snowflakes Fall by Patricia MacLachlan
A beautiful story about how snow fits into the cycle of the seasons, with an underlying message of hope following the tragic school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Which “snow” books will you be sharing with your students?  Leave a comment and tell us about them!

 

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Donors Choose Makerspace STEAM Book Grant Funded!

 *Update on my Reading + Doing = Learning project:  It’s been fully funded!  (Thanks in part to our eligibility for matching funds from Craig Newmark Philanthropies, an organization that supports schools serving military communities.)  If you were one of my donors, thank you very much!!!

Do you need more books for your library?  (Don’t we all?!?)  Donors Choose is helping us fill our shelves by matching all donations made Oct 18-19 to book projects.  Get the details from this Donors Choose blog post.

I’m creating a project to get more STEAM books for my collection.  Many of the activities we have going on the the makerspaces each week elicit requests for library books on those same topics, and currently I can’t keep up with the demand.  Click to view (and donate to!) my project: Reading + Doing = Learning

Have you had a Donors Choose book project funded?  Tell us about it in the comments or tweet me @LibraryLoriJune!

 

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Living Literature Day Book Character Costumes

There’s nothing more heartwarming for a librarian than to see students dressed as their favorite book characters!  Living Literature Day gives students, teachers, staff, and administrators a chance to use their imagination and creativity as they show their reading pride.  I was shocked that several students asked me who I was dressed as today.  I thought it was quite obvious that I was dressed as Hermione Granger, the girl who practically lived in the Hogwarts Library!  (Although I will admit my hair was a little frizzier when I left home this morning; it must have flattened during the day.)

Who are your favorite book characters to dress up as?  Leave us a comment and let us know!

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Our Librarian Won’t Tell Us Anything!

I’m putting my 5th graders on notice this week that it’s time to start thinking about being prepared to move on to middle school next year, so they need to step up their game when it comes to library skills.  I want them to be able to walk into their new library next year and know how to use the OPAC, how to use call numbers and library signage to find what they’re looking for, how to choose appropriate sources for research assignments, and how to choose books for pleasure reading.

  Toni Buzzeo has written a great picture book on this very topic that makes a great read-aloud for older students.  Our Librarian Won’t Tell Us Anything tells the story of Robert, the new kid in Mr. Dickinson’s class, Carmen, the disgruntled classmate assigned to accompany him to the library for the first time who warns Robert that their librarian is NOT helpful, and Mrs. Skorupski, who wants all of her patrons to become Library Success Stories.  She makes the most of every “teachable moment” to meet her students at their point of need and show them how to find the answers themselves, whether it’s selecting a useful online article, choosing a project idea, or locating snake books in the nonfiction section.

The ongoing feud between Robert and Carmen (who are assigned to the same research team) adds humor to the story, and things come full circle at the end of the book when Robert is asked to escort the next new student to the library.

After reading the story aloud, I introduce the students to Toni Buzzeo and the real Mrs. Skorupski.  Finally I have my students complete an exit slip so I can see whether they understand what it means to be a Library Success Story.  Isn’t that what we all want for our students?

Helpful Resources

Our Librarian Won’t Tell Us Anything Exit Slip 

Our Librarian Won’t Tell Us Anything Reader’s Theater Script

 

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The Magic of the 2017 Solar Eclipse

I was so blessed to be able to enjoy the 2017 solar eclipse with my family.  We spent the weekend camping at Santee State Park and watched Monday’s eclipse from our pontoon boat on Lake Marion.  The weather cooperated beautifully with us, and we couldn’t have asked for a better view.  It honestly was an awesome once-in-a-lifetime experience, and it was over much too quickly.

In spite of being warned that it was more important to remain in the moment rather than trying to get pictures — which wouldn’t turn out well anyway — we did take a few photos.  This one doesn’t come close to doing the eclipse justice, but it’s special to me because it’s my unique personal memento of an event I’ll never forget.

Being a librarian whose thoughts are never far from books, I couldn’t help but compare my eclipse experience with the one described in Every Soul a Star by Wendy Mass.  This book has been a favorite of mine since it was nominated for the South Carolina Children’s Book Award in 2011, and I’ve both read it and listened to the audio version which is performed by three different narrators representing the book’s three main characters, and is extremely well-done.

To quote the book’s summary: “At Moon Shadow, an isolated campground, thousands have gathered to catch a glimpse of a rare and extraordinary total eclipse of the sun. Three lives are about to be changed forever:..Told from three distinct voices and perspectives, Wendy Mass weaves an intricate and compelling story about strangers coming together, unlikely friendships, and finding one’s place in the universe.”

From the professional reviews:

“The astronomical details are fascinating and lyrically incorporated into the narrative. Readers who like quietly self-reflective novels like Lynne Rae Perkin’s Criss Cross or Jerry Spinelli’s “Stargirl” books will also enjoy this compelling and thought-provoking story.”
School Library Journal  *starred review*

“Ally, Bree and Jack, three very different souls, converge at the Moon Shadow Campground to witness a solar eclipse. Mass has crafted a beautiful tale of preteen angst and growth under a glorious sky. The planetary research into our universe and the world of eclipse chasers is not only impressive but woven together in a way that makes this book hard to put down.”
Modesto Bee

“Mass succeeds in making the eclipse a truly moving experience for her protagonists and her readers.”
Horn Book

Wendy Mass

 

I’ve blogged about Wendy Mass before, as she’s quite a favorite at my house and you really can’t go wrong with any of her books.  But as of this week I truly owe her my gratitude for preparing me six years ahead of time for one of the most amazing events of my life!  THANK YOU WENDY!

 

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A Perfectly Messed Up Story to Teach Book Care

It’s that time of year when school librarians start to think about resources we can use for teaching book care to our students.  Here’s a great read-aloud that gets the message across in a humorous way, and it’s sure to leave kids feeling a bit more empathetic toward those of us who fret about smudged, wrinkled, stained, and torn books!

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 book loverI 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 good care of a 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!

What book(s) do you use to emphasize book care with your students?  Tell us about them in the comments or tweet me @LibraryLoriJune

Helpful Resources:

 

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Testing Week Read-Alouds

  Testing getting you down?  Just the thought of testing getting you down?

I recently read a blog post entitled Uplifting Read-Alouds for Tough Testing Days, and I thought it was interesting (and timely) to think about new ways of using books during testing. From the blog:

Testing season can be stressful for students and their teachers! We asked teachers for their favorite positive, motivational, stress-reducing, hard-work-encouraging and just plain fun read-alouds for those bubble-test kind of days.

The author (Hannah Hudson) goes on to list 6 titles that teachers recommended, with an explanation of why each book was chosen.  It got me thinking about which books I would want to hear if I had taken one bubble test too many.  Here’s what I came up with:

  Dex: The Heart of a Hero by Caralyn Buehner  (Because no one epitomizes the importance of hard work and dedication to a goal than Dex!)

Dexter the dog is little but he has dreams — big dreams. He wants to be a superhero! So he reads all the comic books he can, works out to build his muscles, and even orders a hero suit. Dexter has determination, spirit, and heart. He proves that no matter how little you are, you can still do very big things.

Instructions for using this book:

    1. Brainstorm ways that students can prepare themselves for standardized testing (getting a good night’s sleep, eating a nutritious breakfast, etc).
    2. Allow students to design a Testing Hero Suit.  Features might include a cape in case the testing room is chilly, pockets for mints and #2 pencils, a belt buckle with a built-in pencil sharpener, and a logo to represent some sort of testing motto.  (A large question mark, for example, with the big red NO symbol over it.)

  Grandpa’s Teeth by Rod Clement  (Because I LOVE the visual twist at the end!)

Grandpa’s teeth, which were handmade by the finest Swiss craftsmen, have been stolen! Officer Rate arrives on the crime scene to investigate. He puts up WANTED posters for the missing teeth and rounds up the usual subjects. Grandpa even goes on the famous TV show Unsolved Crimes. But the crime remains unsolved. What is Grandpa going to do? And why does everyone in town keep smiling all the time?

Instructions for using this book:

    1. Athk all thtudenth to thpeak with a lithp ath though they were mithing thome teeth.
    2. Have students smile continuously throughout the day, the way the townspeople in the book do.
    3. Face the standardized tests with the same bright smile the townspeople in the book use.

  Skippyjon Jones: Class Action by Judy Schachner  (Because any school story that can pack in Mo Willems’ pigeon, a woolly bully, The Mona Fleasa, a word of praise for the delicious scent of books waiting to be read, a jump rope rhyme, slipping on a banana peel, three different Mexican Hat Dance songs, and a sprinkling of Spanish vocabulary words is worth sharing!!)

Skippyjon Jones, the little Siamese cat, really wants to go to school, but Mama Junebug Jones tells him school is where dogs go to get trained.  So he goes inside his closet instead, where he finds himself in the school of his imagination, surrounded by dogs of all kinds enjoying reading, art, and music!  It’s fun until a bully threatens total lunchroom destruction; then it’s up to Skippyjon to save the day.

Instructions for using this book:

    1. Read it aloud to your students.  Even better, play the audio version of the story (my book came with a CD) while you show the pictures.
    2. Visit the Skippyjon Jones website for videos, activities, games, and curriculum guides.
    3. Write your own set of class lyrics for a Mexican Hat Dance with a testing theme.  (“Oh we are the testing banditos Clap Clap, We bubble like lively mosquitos Clap Clap, We all do our best on the standardized test, We hope that our snack will be Fritos Clap Clap!)  Use the song and dance during your testing breaks.

Let’s Do Nothing! by Tony Fucile  (Because students may need to practice doing nothing, since once they finish the day’s testing they aren’t allowed to read or draw or move until everyone else has also finished the day’s testing.)

Instructions for Using This Book:

    1. Use the “Doing Nothing” challenges and games from the Non-Activity Kit.
    2. Practice doing nothing every time the kids get on your last nerve.  These are high-stakes tests after all, so your students really can’t over-prepare for the strict testing environment they will encounter.

  Big Bad Wolves at School by Stephen Krensky  (Because ya gotta love a book whose cover shows a wolf sitting in class with two pencils stuck up his nose!  Thank you Brad Sneed, illustrator!)

Rufus is not like the other wolves.  He spends his time rolling in the grass, running like the wind, and howling at the moon.  His parents, feeling he needs a more structured existence, send him off to the Big Bad Wolf Academy. The curriculum is tough: learning to huff and puff, determining the best way to enter a henhouse, and coming up with disguises to fool little boys and girls. When it’s time for exams, Rufus is unprepared. Then hunters interrupt the testing, and it’s Rufus who has the necessary skills to successfully fend off the danger.

Instructions for Using This Book:

    1. Discuss with your students how everyone has a unique set of talents and abilities, and that rather than trying to force everyone into the same mold and measure success through a single limited type of assessment, we should….we should….well…
    2. Maybe you’d better just save this book until after the testing is over!

  All kidding aside, are there any read-alouds you like to use during testing season?  Please share your favorite titles in the comments!

 

Image #1: 'NJ Hot Air Balloon Festival - Great+Colors' Found on flickrcc.netImage 
Image #2: 'Wink ;)' Found on flickrcc.net
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