Books for Boys Webinar

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On September 15 I participated in a School Library Journal webinar titled Books for Boys, hosted by Jon Scieszka.  He began by giving a shout out for his Guys Read website, and the new Guys Read book series; then he turned it over to representatives from Simon & Schuster, Random House Audio, and Candlewick Press.

Books for Boys Webinar

While it was basically a 60-minute commercial for the sponsoring companies, I did find out about a few interesting titles that I was previously unaware of, and some audiobooks that sound as if they are high-quality recordings. 

Books I’d like to get for my library include The DunderheadsRobot ZotSuperhero Joe, the Scream Street series, the Guardians of Childhood series (featuring Nicholas St. North, aka Santa!),  and the Jack Blank series.  (Goodness, where have I been that I’m unfamiliar with all of these??)

Audiobooks I’d like to get for my library include Jeremy Bender vs the Cupcake Cadets, the Alvin Ho series, The Tanglewood Terror, the Five Ancestors series, the Nicholas Flamel series, and Okay for Now

I did think it was a bit ironic that, even though you hear constantly that boys tend to prefer non-fiction over fiction, literally every title mentioned in this webcast was either a picture book or a chapter book!  I can’t remember a single non-fiction book that was recommended!  I don’t think any of them were even graphic novels!

The archive is now available if you’d like to view and/or download the presentation.  (You will have to register to access the site.)  You can also visit Guys Listen to request a free sampler CD.  And please consider leaving a comment to share your favorite books for boys!

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Reading Groups – Ideas Needed

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Today I’m asking for advice.

First, some background:  I have a fixed library schedule and see every class (K-5) once a week for 40 minutes as part of the related arts schedule.  This year, we have 26 classes, which means that there are four time slots each week when there is no class in the library.  (The same is true for the other four related arts: Music, Art, P.E., and Computer.)  These open slots in the schedule serve as our planning periods for the week.

Rather than spreading the planning periods over four different days during the week, our principal this year put all four planning periods on the same day.  So on Monday I have four planning periods, on Tuesday the Art teacher has four planning periods, etc.  The reason she did this is so that on our “planning days” we can be pulled and used as substitutes for teachers who are absent, since there is a limited amount of funding to pay for subs this year.

Last week, all the related arts teachers were asked by our principal to begin using our planning periods (on the days we are not needed as subs) to assist classroom teachers with reading and math circles, to provide extra help for at-risk students.

We haven’t been told exactly how this will work, but my understanding is that we will have some input into which teachers we work with and how we will assist with helping the low-achieving students.  Therefore, I’d like to hear your ideas. 

What would be the best use of my time in working with elementary students in small groups to improve reading skills and achievement?  All suggestions are welcome!

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Summer Reading Celebration

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At the end of each school year I make a promise to my students:  Anyone who brings in a reading log (signed by a parent) or a reading certificate, showing that they participated in some sort of summer reading, will be invited to an Ice Cream Sundae Party when school starts back in August! 

Once students are back in school, we allow two to three weeks for students to bring in their “proof” of summer reading, and then we hold the party in the Library Media Center.  I provide reminders on the library web page, on the morning announcements, via emails to the teachers, and in person during Library classes.  And finally, the big day arrives!

This year’s party was held last Friday (Sept. 2) with 41 excited participants crowding around the check-out counter chattering loudly.  We had three flavors of ice cream, two flavors of syrup, whipped cream, and five different candy/cookie/nut toppings for students to choose from.  Two of our other related arts teachers helped me serve and my assistant took pictures. 

(Normally I would have a couple of faithful parents involved, but this year our newly unified school district is requiring SLED background checks on anyone wishing to volunteer in our schools.  To date only two of my regulars have filled out applications, and neither has received the results of the investigation yet.)

Now, maybe 41 students isn’t a large number, compared to our total enrollment of 762 students.  But I’m encouraged that since I started doing this in 2008, the number of participants has approximately doubled each year.  If this trend continues, we’ll have outgrown the library by next year, and we’ll need to move our celebration into the cafeteria!  Hooray!

Here’s the Animoto video I posted on my Library page:


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What Is Literacy?

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literacy dictionaryIn my last post I was examining what David Warlick has to say about integrating technology into the classroom in his book Redefining Literacy 2.0 and I quoted him as saying, “Educators should seek to integrate literacy, rather than integrate technology.”  So what does David mean when he uses the term literacy?  Well, his entire book is devoted to what he believes literacy looks like right now, but he boils it down to its simplest form by saying this: “Literacy comprises those skills involved in using information to accomplish goals.”  He also says “that perhaps the best thing we can be teaching our students today is how to teach themselves (how to learn what they need to know, to do what they need to do),” and “that the literacy habits we want them to develop are actually learning literacies.” 

Well, I must say, this is exactly what we school library media specialists have been doing for years!  Our speciality is categorizing, storing, searching, evaluating, synthesizing, organizing, and communicating information, whether online or in print!  And our primary goal is to equip students to do it, too!  From the American Association of School Librarians web page entitled Information Literacy:

AASL provides leadership for the development of dynamic, student-centered school library media programs. These programs help ensure that students master the information literacy skills needed to be discerning consumers and creative producers of information and ideas.

And how ironic that in a time when the world of Internet information is more bewildering to users than ever, when Google (see this NY Times article) and Wikipedia (see this Wikipedia article) are some of the most commonly used (and often least effective) research sources, and when President Obama himself proclaims that “teachers are the single most important resource to a child’s learning,” school librarians are being cut from many schools due to budget concerns.  Continue reading

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