One Book, One School, One Great Impact!

Illus. by W.W. Denslow; Courtesy of Project Gutenberg

Looking for creative ways to engage your entire school—across grades and content areas—in learning? Cathy Evans, director of libraries at St. Mary’s Episcopal School in Memphis, created a project that did just that. Even if you’re not lucky enough, like Evans was, to have extra money available, you’re sure to be inspired by this project. So sit back, give this a read, get inspired, and start thinking now how to adapt it for your own school!


What started as a gift grew into an idea and blossomed across the school community. In 2011, our school received a generous gift, in honor of a longtime friend of the school, to create an ongoing speakers series. The mission of this series is to bring to our campus thinkers and doers whose ideas challenge conventional wisdom and spark new thinking.

As the director of libraries and one of the people on campus with the most experience in bringing speakers to campus (mainly authors), I was put on the speakers series committee. At our first meeting we tossed around topic ideas and possible speakers, and finally settled on the topic of global hunger, food, and sustainability. Since we wanted to have speakers come to school in the fall, we had about six months to find dynamic speakers and build an exciting curriculum around the topic.

Linking Speakers with the Theme

The result was a unique pairing of internationally known activists in the field. Ido Leffler, the founder of the Yes To line of beauty products, Ellen Gustafson, co-founder of Feed Projects and founder of the 30 Project, and Dr. Cary Fowler, founder of the Global Crop Diversity Trust. Leffler’s Yes To seed fund helps create gardens at schools located in impoverished areas across the country. Gustafson’s Feed Project takes simple burlap grain bags and turns them into chic accessories, funding school meals for children across the world. Dr. Fowler’s Svalbard Global Seed Vault deep inside a Norwegian mountain contains seed samples from crops around the world, more than 250 million seeds to date. Continue reading “One Book, One School, One Great Impact!”

Beyond Heroes, Holidays, and Special Events

Digital image courtesy of the Getty‘s Open content Program

The school library calendar is filled with events that are focused on both the library and literature: Banned Books Week, Banned Websites Awareness Day, Digital Learning Day, Read Across America, and School Library Month, to name a few. National organizations set the date these initiatives are to be held and library programs provide displays or sponsor programs to support the goals of these events. These efforts clearly fit into our responsibilities as program administrators who ensure that “all members of the learning community have access to resources that meet a variety of needs and interests” (AASL 2009, 18).

Getting beyond Months and Days

What may not be quite as clear is the school librarian and library program’s role in relationship to heroes, holidays, and special events that are not specific to the library. For example, “multicultural months,” such as African-American History Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, Native American Heritage Month, and Women’s History Month, are celebrated according to the calendar in many schools and communities around the country. Spotlighting religious holidays may also cause challenges for school libraries. Some librarians may even wonder about the wisdom of the library being known for other special events such as “Poetry Month” or “National History Day.” Should these genres in our collection receive little attention except during their month or on a particular day?

The American Library Association’s “Library Bill of Rights” is clear about our charge to “provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues” (http://www.ala.org/advocacy/intfreedom/librarybill). While heroes, holidays, and special events have a place in the academic program of the school, how can we help ensure that “diversity” is not simply something our school is checking off its list? What are some alternatives to these practices and how can school librarians take a leadership role in guiding our schools toward an integrated model rather than an additive model for diversity? Continue reading “Beyond Heroes, Holidays, and Special Events”

Power of Student Voice

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. We’ll be posting at least one article every work day between now and April 15. These articles were hand selected from our archives by an expert panel of librarians chaired by Susan Ballard, Dorcas Hand, and Sara Kelly Johns.

Competency 5: Community of Care and Support for Students

“Power of Student Voice” by Andy Plemmons. School Library Connection, August 2016.

flipgrid peace prize celebration (31)In  this article from the archives, Andy Plemmons shares how he makes sure his students have a voice in the library and beyond.
Subscribers can find more great articles like this here.

 

What does it mean to empower the voices of members of our library community? The library program does not belong to one person, and it is up to us as school librarians to look for ways to empower each voice in our school. By offering a variety of experiences and by taking risks to try new and innovative practices, we are more likely to find opportunities for students who may not have found their voice yet.

Student Voice in the Collection

When students come into the library to search for something to read, they should be able to find themselves and their interests. I, of course, have an obligation to diversify the collection and introduce readers to different perspectives and topics, but readers should also be able to find their own interests and passions. I cannot assume that I know what interests kids. Therefore, I’ve found value in turning the process of developing the collection over to students. Each year, I reserve a portion of our library budget for students. This student book budget project is led by third through fifth graders who are selected by an application process. Basically, if you apply to be in the group and have a genuine interest, you are included.

I offer advice, but the decisions belong to them. Using Google Forms, the book budget team develops a reading interest survey that is emailed to all third through fifth graders. For our younger students, the team individually surveys students in classrooms, at lunch, and at recess. All data populates a Google spreadsheet. Continue reading “Power of Student Voice”

Simple Advocacy: Maintaining Perspective

NYC Book Campaign
Library of Congress. https://www.loc.gov/item/2016646295/

It’s always a good time to advocate for your school library program. In that spirit, we’re sharing this gem from our archives by Allison Burrell.

Subscribers can find advocacy video workshops by Dorcas Hand and Susan Ballard, as well as many more articles on advocacy at School Library Connection.

As I write this, I am marking the one-year anniversary of when I moved from being a high school librarian to being the only librarian for my entire school district. I write this column not as an expert in advocacy, but as a librarian who realizes that being an advocate is a necessary part of my job. I also realize that being an advocate can be easily overlooked or forgotten in the chaos of everyday life.

Advocacy is a work in progress; it is also something that involves a wide scope, because every one of us should participate in some form or another. The ideas I am sharing here are ones that I want to improve as I implement them both now and in the future. I am hoping that by the time this article is published, I will have established an even stronger practice in these ideals. Continue reading “Simple Advocacy: Maintaining Perspective”

Joy Tips in the Library

Library of Congress
Library of Congress

Take a moment to think about how to maintain your sense of joy in the library with this article from Jim McMillan and Barbara Pedersen.

Subscribers can find more great articles like this here.

Life in the library can include many situations that try to steal your joy. We all know if we lose our joy, we lose our peace, and we don’t want that to happen. You may believe that when things go wrong you can’t control how you feel, but you can. Each of us can control how we respond to things through the use of our will power. Make your will power your library power and use it when you need it. Students will learn from watching you. The way you live your life in the library is what you teach others. They will learn by your example. So how do we use our will power, you ask? There are five Joy Tips that have always helped guide me and are guaranteed to help you too in holding onto your joy wherever you go. Continue reading “Joy Tips in the Library”

Planning a Free Book Night

Here’s a great idea from the archives. Subscribers to SLC can read more articles like this by visiting School Library Connection.

giftsMost librarians realize that families are at the heart of providing support for developing lifelong readers. Involving families in reading fun, activities, and training is integral to creating a strong network of readers. Families (along with other significant adults in the reader’s life) can support and promote reading at home by making reading an everyday, even casual, activity. School librarians can play an important role in helping families in the school’s efforts to support and develop readers at home as well as at school. Free Book Night is a great way to offer a special event that focuses on reading.

Communication
School librarians can play a central role in communicating information on reading to families. They can let families know what’s new in reading, how to support and build a reader, and what social reading activities are available in the school or community. School librarians can also lead the effort to host special reading events like a Free Book Night for families. This event helps readers become interested, motivated, and efficient by developing a home support network and home reading habits. It is an opportunity to remind parents of the importance of being reading role models, providing reading time at home, maintaining a home bookshelf of reading materials, participating in reading conversations, and providing moral support for reading. It is also a way for the school to promote opportunities in the community for participation in reading-related activities with connections to the library.

Free Book Night
Pre-planning: Work with administrators to set a date on the school calendar for an evening family reading event. Once the date is set, establish a committee to help and to ensure there are others on the staff with a vested interest in the project. Begin by collaboratively developing a promotion plan in order to get the word out to the community and families. Create a plan for the evening. Consider spaces needed, supplies, donations, training, and entertainment. Plan for the important components, but also think outside the box. For example, would attendees enjoy having a local sports mascot or book character in costume to greet them as they enter? Continue reading “Planning a Free Book Night”

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”

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?”

Deep Learning Experiences within a Fixed Schedule

Fixed schedule got you feeling trapped? This week, we’re featuring a few favorites from our archive, after Sue Kowalski put in a request from #ALAAC16 for some resources to support our many colleagues on fixed schedules. Today’s article from Julie Green and Laurie Olmsted  focuses on creating deep learning experiences for second graders within a fixed schedule. Subscribers will find dozens more relevant resources at our online home and can also look forward to a great new article on this topic by Ernie Cox in the August/September 2016 issue of the magazine.

Two and a half years ago, elementary school librarians in the Birmingham Public School district had to change to a fixed schedule for half the day with kindergarten through second grade students. This change was due to cutbacks and the need for common planning time among classroom teachers. School librarians found themselves scheduled for 45-minute class periods in a four-day rotation.

As a result of this change, school librarians at the lower elementary level typically saw one kindergarten, one first grade, and one second grade class each day. After the first year, school librarians realized that they needed to develop more meaningful learning experiences for students to meet curriculum objectives and the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) Standards. Because they saw these students often and consistently, it became a rare opportunity to go beyond the basics and develop deeper concepts.

Continue reading “Deep Learning Experiences within a Fixed Schedule”

“I Can’t Do Inquiry! I’m on a Fixed Schedule!”

Sue Kowalski, one of our favorite partners in crime here at School Library Connection, put out the APB over Twitter this weekend at #ALAAC16, mentioning how much our colleagues in Orlando have been discussing the need for great resources on making the most of a fixed schedule. So this week on the blog, we’re highlighting a couple of our faves from our online archives, starting with these quick ideas from the fabulous Kristin Fontichiaro. Enjoy!

THE REALITY IN MANY SCHOOLSFontichiaro

It’s true that doing inquiry on a flexible schedule offers opportunities that a fixed schedule does not. At the same time, the budgetary pressures make flexible schedules a difficult reality.

Fixed schedule solves two problems for administrators: it facilitates release time and ensures consistent information literacy instruction. Additionally, flexible schedule only thrives in buildings with a generous and robust collaborative culture. A solo-practitioner mindset won’t take advantage of a collaborative librarian. Consider, too, that many states’ new teacher evaluation programs pose new pressures for teachers to cocoon themselves in their rooms. If a teacher’s professional future will be based, to any degree, on student test scores, then relinquishing personal control of those students poses a credible hazard. In some states, teacher evaluation scores determine class assignments; pitting colleague against colleague can further diminish reasons for collaborative work. So, let’s brainstorm alternate possibilities for those librarians wanting to achieve inquiry within their fixed schedule routines.

Continue reading ““I Can’t Do Inquiry! I’m on a Fixed Schedule!””