August/September Author of the Month Donna Gephart

Those tween/teen years can be so difficult and scary—we can all remember feeling lost and alone and like we didn’t fit in. Donna Gephart remembers, and through her books that amuse, touch, and inspire, she helps to make those years just a little less scary.

When the team at School Library Connection and reVIEWS+ met her latest characters, Lily and Dunkin, we knew Gephart was someone we wanted to get to know.
Subscribers can view our complete archive of reviews at reVIEWS+.

gephartLike so many bibliophiles, Gephart’s love of books began at an early age. When her mother took her to the Northeast Regional Library, she “felt like the whole world had opened up for me. Throughout my childhood,” she tells us, “that library was a mecca to me.”

At age ten, Gephart decided to become a writer and, after “only thirty years of writing practice,” she sold her first children’s book to Random House.

When asked what inspires her to write, Gephart replied, “I write for the lonely girl I was, growing up in Philadelphia with my sister and single-parent mom. We didn’t have much money, and I didn’t have many friends back then. Books provided me companionship, wit and wisdom, and roadmaps for how I might navigate a rich, fulfilling, and creative life.” This inspiration is evident in her books. Don’t be fooled by the seemingly frivolous titles, these books deal with some weighty topics—tempered with humor and compassion. Tween/teen angst, broken families and friendships, death, financial difficulties, mental health, and sexual identity are just some of the subjects encountered within the pages where you will also find geeks, factoids (most toilets flush in the key of E-flat, a person must be at least thirty-five years old to become president of the United States, Mount Everest is on the border of Tibet and Nepal), trivia buffs, and a sweepstakes junkie. And no matter the emotional ups and downs throughout her books, you will always be left with hope when you’re done reading. Continue reading “August/September Author of the Month Donna Gephart”

Sneak Peek: Engaging the Learning Community

According to a national study on young people and volunteering, having friends that volunteer regularly is the primary factor influencing a young person’s own volunteering habits—in other words, more influential than the actual cause is the social context. Only 19% of those who volunteered came up with the idea to volunteer themselves. More than half, 57%, were invited by someone: a friend, family member, or other adult. So, what might be the roles for the school library here?

In her video series with School Library Connection, “Engaging the Learning Community,” Dr. Rebecca Morris explores the why and how of creating a social or collaborative context for learning, including involving adults from the school and from the broader community. In this sneak peek (below), Morris looks at how the school library can accomplish these goals through service learning and volunteering . The full workshop—with coverage including performing a needs assessment, engaging the learning community via makerspaces, and creating a community reading culture—is available to School Library Connection subscribers here.

SERVICE LEARNING & VOLUNTEERING

Happy 100th Birthday to the National Parks!

Image courtesy National Park Service/Tim Rains
Image courtesy National Park Service/Tim Rains

The National Park Service is celebrating the 100th birthday of our national parks. In case you missed it, BJ McCracken discusses a climate change unit taught at Great Falls (Montana) High School and how schools can—and should—play a central role in educating students to be well-informed and proactive citizens.

Subscribers to SLC can read more articles like this by visiting School Library Connection.

Glacier National Park had 125 recorded glaciers in the 1850s. Today there are 25 glaciers. It is predicted they will all disappear by 2030.

Citizenship and an individual’s responsibilities to society and global well-being should be a purposeful part of all curricula, not just social studies. There is a social contract within democracy that requires individuals to be informed citizens who seek quality information especially when determining what to believe in situations involving conflicting viewpoints. Basic citizenship skills should include knowing how to locate quality information, being able to apply that information to problem analysis or solutions, and using critical thinking skills. These are used in daily life.

Verb Citizens

This idea of personal responsibility for national or global issues and that an individual’s personal decisions can affect society, is often a foreign concept to freshman high school students. While they may have encountered concepts such as social contracts, citizenship, and stewardship in an abstract way, they often do not see what they personally can do to make a difference. In other words, these concepts are perceived as nouns, not verbs.  And unfortunately, education too often fails to clearly identify and emphasize that the choice to be a well-informed citizen is central to being an active citizen in a democratic society. Making the choice to be informed is just as proactive as choosing to recycle. Both actions require intent and effort. Education should be modeling the same intent and effort to proactively promote citizenship as an ongoing process of making informed choices.

Our Foundations of Science teacher at Great Falls (Montana) High School, Beth Thomas, wanted her climate change unit to move beyond the mechanics of science and into that awareness of personal citizenship responsibilities. To implement this unit she pulled together a collaborative planning and presentation team that included a literacy specialist, a classroom technology specialist, and what she calls an information specialist, the librarian. One of the team goals was to assist students in viewing themselves as “verb” citizens. Continue reading “Happy 100th Birthday to the National Parks!”

School Daze through Pictures and Stories

A quick peek in the SLC archives turned up this back-to-school gem from Carolyn S. Brodie highlighting picture books and related resources.

Subscribers to SLC can read find many more articles with book and activity recommendations at School Library Connection.

This assortment of fifteen school-related picture books, both classic and new, is meant to be enjoyed. These stories will foster connections for students as they are introduced to memorable characters, situations, and storylines in a variety of school settings.

BACK TO SCHOOL

No doubt this will prove to be a year filled with promise, new beginnings, and lots of learning! The following list of great books should get the school year off to a great start.

 

Allard, Harry. Miss Nelson Is Missing! Illus. by James Marshall. Houghton Mifflin, 1977.

When Miss Nelson disappears, her disruptive students in Room 207 are faced with a one-of-a-kind substitute teacher until Miss Nelson returns.

Print out a fun reader’s theater script (http://web.archive.org/web/19991118161638/www.qesn.meq.gouv.qc.ca/schools/bchs/rtheatre/pdffiles/missnelson.PDF). Another script can be found at: http://www.thebestclass.org/uploads/5/6/2/4/56249715/miss_nelson_is_missing.pdf.

A literature guide from the “Learning to Give” site provides before, during, and after questions in relation to the story (http://www.learningtogive.org/resources/miss-nelson-missing-literature-guide). Eight activity ideas are suggested for family involvement, but can be easily adapted for the classroom or library.

Continue reading “School Daze through Pictures and Stories”

How Do You Prepare for Challenges to Books and Other Resources?

Maria Cahill starts off the new year at School Library Connection with the results of her One-Question Survey asking about material challenges.

We encourage you to use these surveys to help you reflect on your own practices. Subscribers can view our archive of past surveys here. And don’t forget to take our latest One-Question Survey, open until 8/24/16, by clicking here.

OneQuestionResults_650

“Intellectual freedom is a core value of the library profession, and a basic right in our democratic society” (American Library Association (ALA), n.d.). In response to the latest One Question Survey, slightly more than 200 school librarians provided information about their practices in relation to intellectual freedom. As the chart demonstrates, the large majority of school librarians who select materials based on local policies have had no material challenges. The chart also illustrates that slightly more than 11% of school librarians engage in self-censorship by consciously selecting materials to avoid challenges, and approximately one-fifth have had a material challenge. Continue reading “How Do You Prepare for Challenges to Books and Other Resources?”

Linking Literature to the Classroom

School Library Connection is pleased to collaborate with ALA President Julie Todaro and her school library group Task Force to provide access to a selection of key professional development articles aligned with essential professional competencies for school librarians. These articles were hand selected from our archives by an expert panel of librarians chaired by Susan Ballard, Dorcas Hand, and Sara Kelly Johns. This article concludes our blog series on SL-PSEL Competencies.

Competency 11: Literacy and Reading
“Linking Literature to the Classroom” by Naomi Bates. School Library Connection, June 2016.


As school librarians, we know the impact the library can have on classrooms. The difficult part is that other decision makers on campus may not see how important this classroom connection can be. In our educational age of standardized testing and curriculum alignment to state and federal guidelines, the library and librarian can be pushed to the side. Instead of being bullied out of the classrooms, however, we need to fight to stay in them. How we do it is an age-old adage: actions speak louder than words. One very important and creative way to show our importance to classrooms and academic achievement is through linking literature to the classroom. While state standards are the ruler by which lessons and academics are measured, creating personal connections between students and the subject matter enriches learning and achievement. We can do this by using literature to link students to subjects they study. Here are a few ideas to ponder for increased linking. Continue reading “Linking Literature to the Classroom”

Going for the Gold: Transformative School Library Partners

Olympic Rings

Valarie Hunsinger challenges librarians to think creatively in order to transform their library, you never know where it will lead. For Hunsinger, it led directly to Olympic gold medalist Gabby Douglas.

Subscribers to SLC can read more articles like this at School Library Connection.

Icely, a sixth grader in the Bronx, New York, can’t stop reading! It is impossible to find her without a book in hand. In the first few months of school, she has already read over fifty-four books and one million words! When asked why her reading has become so ravenous compared to the previous year, she says that she never wants to miss a “Gabby Douglas opportunity” again.
Many fellow students feel the same way. In 2012, students at Hyde Leadership Charter School in the Bronx (Hyde-Bronx) celebrated the Olympics by striving to “Go for the Gold” in their academic pursuits. Students who completed their summer reading journal started the year by receiving a reading gold medal from Ben Bratton, who was the youngest member to win a gold medal for America at the 2012 World Championships in Fencing.

Millionaires’ Challenge
After Bratton’s visit, the library launched a millionaires’ challenge. Students were challenged to read a million words, and I promised to find an Olympian to celebrate their huge accomplishment. As more and more students joined the Millionaires Club, the harder it seemed to find an Olympian, until one day my friend and corporate partner, Debra Braganza from City National Bank, called me and said, “I found an Olympian for you.” Little did I know that she had found one of the biggest Olympians—two-time gold medalist of the summer games, Gabby Douglas.
On May 1, 2013, fifty millionaire readers not only met Gabby Douglas at Barnes & Noble, but also received a signed copy of her newest book, Raising the Bar, thanks to City National Bank and Barnes & Noble. (The story can be found at: http://bronx.news12.com/news/students-in-hunts-point-soundview-meet-olympic-gold-medal-winner-gabby-douglas-1.5177727). Maria, an eighth grade student who read over five million words, said it was a day she would never forget for the rest of her life. It was also the day that I realized that in my library I must dream BIG and, even more importantly, I realized that to change the lives of my students, I needed partners that believe in big dreams! Continue reading “Going for the Gold: Transformative School Library Partners”

From Wonder to Social Justice: How One Book Changed a Community

coverOver here at SLC we were touched by R.J. Palacio’s book Wonder about a boy coping with a craniofacial disorder. In her article, Angela Hartman describes how she shared  the message of Wonder with her school and the wider community. If you haven’t read the book, you need to go get it right now and see if it doesn’t inspire you to “choose kind.”

Subscribers to SLC can read more articles like this at School Library Connection.

A number one New York Times bestseller and still winning awards, the book Wonder by R.J. Palacio continues to be a favorite of people of all ages. For those not familiar with Wonder, it is a middle-grade novel about a boy named August Pullman who was born with severe craniofacial anomalies. As a baby and a child, Auggie underwent twenty-seven different surgeries. He is finally able to begin public school for the first time in fifth grade. Chapters are told from the perspective of different characters, illustrating how Auggie is treated because of the way he looks. Readers learn that Auggie just wants to be a normal kid and to be accepted for the person he is. This book transformed our community.

One Book/One Community
Inspired by Palacio’s book and by a session I attended at the annual Texas Library Association Conference in 2015, I began a One Book/One Community project in Hutto Independent School District (HISD) using Wonder. After explaining my ideas to and getting backing from the entire library staff in our district, I wrote a grant proposal. Thanks to a generous grant from the Hutto Education Foundation, we were able to purchase over 800 copies of the book, both in English and in Spanish, to share at our campuses and with our community. The books were purchased through an organization called First Book (https://www.firstbook.org) at a greatly discounted price. Our superintendent, Dr. Douglas Killian, encouraged me from the time I presented my grant proposal idea to him.

The success of the One Book/One Community initiative was due in great part to the library staff on each HISD campus and to the teachers who grabbed on to the idea and participated enthusiastically. The HISD library staff made sure the books got into the hands of teachers and kids?, endlessly promoted the book, and encouraged “choosing kind.” Teachers made time to share the book aloud. Teachers and library staff had discussions with kids about compassion, friendship, and tolerance. Parents, siblings, and grandparents talked about Auggie. It genuinely took a village of supporters.

Wonder was read at all campuses by most grade levels. Teachers were able to choose if and how they wanted to participate. Some classes read it together with a set of books. Some teachers read one copy aloud and some classes listened to the audio recording. We had copies available for checkout in each library and we had “floating” copies that students, staff, and others could read, sign their name in, and pass on to a friend or family member. Wonder provided a connection at campuses between students of all ages and all abilities. We all loved Auggie and loved to talk about the book.
Continue reading “From Wonder to Social Justice: How One Book Changed a Community”

Journey to Fantastic Worlds in these Magical Stories

With the return of Harry Potter to bookshelves everywhere, the world is starting to feel just a bit more magical again. However, the story of The Boy Who Lived is not the only one to be told! Check out these great titles recommended by SLC reviewers that take readers on journeys through worlds filled with magic and adventure.

We’re excited to include an exclusive sneak preview of this first title that will appear in our upcoming August/September issue. Subscribers can always find reviews of other great titles like this at reVIEWS+

Auxier, Jonathan
Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard
2016. 464pp. $18.95 hc. Amulet Books/Abrams. 9781419717475. Grades 4-8

The second Peter Nimble adventure introduces Sophie Quire, a feisty young bookmender who expertly and lovingly restores the pages, covers, and spines of many treasured tales. Storybooks are on the verge banishment in the city of Bustleburgh, and because she cannot imagine a world without stories, Sophie rescues a handful of books from their Pyre Day fate. Just as Sophie is apprehended by the nasty Inquisitor Prigg, Peter Nimble and his companion Sir Tode come to her rescue. Peter presents Sophie with the Book of Who, one of the Four Questions. When complete, this set of books protects stories and holds the world’s magic. Sophie learns she is the last storyguard, entrusted with finding the books of What, Where, and When, stopping Pyre Day, and saving her world. Magical obstacles like quickbramble and kettle bogs can’t stop Sophie from completing her quest, for she is supported by an odd yet impressive cast of characters and creatures—including a talking silver tigress and an old tattooed scrivener. Auxier has created an electrifying and extraordinary story. Middle grade readers will likely wish to reread to appreciate the wonder that is this book. Aimee Haslam, Graduate Student, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia
Highly Recommended

 

Black, Holly & Cassandra Clare
The Iron Trial
2014. 304pp. $17.99 hc. Scholastic, Inc. 9780545522250. Grade 3 & Up

If your students were fans of the Harry Potter and Percy Jackson books, they will like this first book in the Magisterium series. Callum has always known about magic and his family’s abilities. He is about to go to the Iron Trial to test and see if he will be chosen to train at the Magisterium. Because of a family tragedy, Callum’s dad does not want him to qualify and has taught Callum to fear for his life if required to attend. Callum does his best to fail, but he is still picked. As the novel progresses, Callum becomes a reluctant hero like Harry and Percy, especially with his male and female companions. Callum and the reader both begin to realize that something is just not right. Can he and his friends survive their first year? This book is perfect for fantasy and adventure lovers. Neely Swygert, Information Technology Specialist/Librarian, Gadsden (South Carolina) Elementary
Recommended

Continue reading “Journey to Fantastic Worlds in these Magical Stories”

School’s Open. Is Your Library?

Sorry-were-closed-sign

Schools across the country are getting ready to welcome students for a new year, but will your library be open the first day? In the following article Judi Moreillon explains why your library should be open and welcoming students from the first bell.

Subscribers can find more great articles like this on School Library Connection.

Policy Challenge: Why Is the Library Closed?

The bell rings on the first day of the new school year. Students and teachers are meeting and greeting each other in their classrooms after the summer break.

But wait, why isn’t the library open and library staff ready for the excitement of the new school year? Some school librarians may believe tasks in preparation for opening the library warrant keeping the library closed on the first day or first few days of school. While these tasks may be important from a librarian’s perspective, other library stakeholders may not see it that way.

What do students, classroom teachers, and principals think when the library is not open like every other classroom on the very first day of school?

CLOSED LIBRARY

Student’s Perceptions of the Library As a Learning Environment:

Students may surmise that a closed library means it is not an integral part of their education. Rather than the library as the hub of learning, they may see it as an add-on, something extra, not central to their academic success the way the classroom is. Although they will use the library the next week and later in the school year as an academic learning environment, students may not place a high value on using the library if it is closed when they need it—even on the first day of classes. Continue reading “School’s Open. Is Your Library?”