Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Reading and things...

Okay, so my Newbery term is drawing to a close and I will be back to regular blogging soon...


The American Library Association's Youth Media Award announcements are less than two weeks away (!!!!!!!). If you are so inclined, you can tune in to the LIVE WEBCAST to watch the announcements in real time (it is super fun, believe me!).

And if you still need some time to get caught up on the potential award-winners, why not set aside some time this Saturday during Penguin Random House's National Readathon Day?

The official readathon goes from 12pm - 4pm on Saturday, January 24. Make #timetoread and join in the fun! 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Another Year of Reading Wildly!

This afternoon, we had our first Reading Wildly meeting of 2015 and I'm really excited to start another year of this reader's advisory training with my staff! We added a TON of new booktalking programs to our schedule this fall, so our genre concentrations have been a little spotty as of late. I'm excited to get back to exploring different genres and I'm really encouraging my staff to use our Reading Wildly meetings to get prepared for their booktalking programs.

I have a couple of resolutions for this program this year. I really want to have some kind of article to discuss each month. I think having everyone read the same thing has been helpful to starting off our discussions and helping us have deeper discussions about whatever genre/topic we're discussing. To that end, I have spent the past couple of weeks researching and saving articles for us to use throughout the year. I fell out of doing articles in the fall because we got so busy and I'd forget until the day I needed it and then not bother with it. By picking out articles ahead of time, I know I'll have them. And if something else comes along in the meantime, I can always switch them out.

My other goal is to really get back to blogging about our discussions and our progress each month. I have enjoyed sharing our journey with you all, although I've been too busy to keep up with it for the past few months.

My staff and I sat down at the end of last year and determined our genres and topics for 2015. We all thought about where our personal "weak spots" are - those genres that we just don't gravitate toward. These are the genres/topics that we'll be exploring this year:

January: Reader's Choice*
February: Transitional Chapter Books (2nd/3rd grade level)
March: Mystery
April: Sports
May: Science Fiction (superheroes optional!)
June: Reader's Choice*
July: Reader's Choice*
August: Nonfiction
September: Realistic (Contemporary) Fiction
October: Scary
November: Horse Books
December: Fairy Tale Chapter Books

* I like to do Reader's Choice following and during busy months for us!

Some of these genres are repeats and some are new for us.

January was a Reader's Choice month for us since I know everyone is busy over the holidays (and one of my employees got married this December! Squee!). We started off by discussing our "article" for the month. We read the beginning of Chapter 7 of From Cover to Cover by Kathleen Horning. This selection gives an overview of children's fiction genres and a little history of children's publishing. I thought it'd be good to start off with a little refresher of what different genres are.

We talked about the difference between formula series and more literary series books and the appeals of both. We also thought it was interesting that the push for "boy books" has gone on for nearly 100 years due to fears that female librarians would not be able to select books that are interesting for boys. We talked about the difference between high fantasy (fantasy set in completely made-up worlds) and low fantasy (fantasy set in the real world).

And then we moved on to sharing booktalks. Here are most of the books that my staff and I shared this month:

For next month, we'll be reading and sharing transitional chapter books - chapter books aimed at 2nd/3rd graders. The "article" that we'll be starting with is A Missing Link in Closing Reading Achievement Gaps: Short Chapter Book Series with Primary Characters of Color by Sandy Carrillo & Jane Fleming. This is a Powerpoint presentation that was given at the NAEYC Annual Conference in 2011. We definitely try to include diverse books in our booktalks and reader's advisory, so this presentation provides some great ideas of series to check out. 

What do you do to prepare yourself and/or your staff for reader's advisory?

Friday, January 2, 2015

Resolve to Rock in 2015: Goals, Goals, Goals

It's a new year and time for goal-making! I am so delighted to participate in Storytime Underground's Resolve to Rock in 2015 initiative. They're encouraging librarians all over the blogosphere to post about our professional goals for 2015. When you're done here, please click over to their site to see everyone's awesome and inspiring resolutions for this year.

This year, my professional goals are all about... goals!

True confession time:

At our Staff Development Day in October, our director announced that due to our new evaluation and merit raise system, our employee evaluations would be due November 14. At that time, we'd be responsible for reporting about our strategic plan progress and evaluating our staff on how they've completed their goals this year.

And I had no idea how we were doing! 

I mean, we had done mid-year reports to the Board in July, but other than that I just had to hope that everyone had been working towards their goals because now we were out of time to look at them and get started on anything.

Luckily, everyone had been working hard and completing projects (and we also had a HUGE increase in our school-age outreach this fall, which took priority over some of our long-term goals). But it was definitely a wake-up call for me and my staff. We need to be better at keeping our goals in front of us year-round. As the department head, I need to be the one to spearhead this.

So, my goals about goals are twofold (both activities inspired by my awesome classmates in Marge Loch-Waters's invaluable youth services management class I took last fall):

1. I will be setting up brief individual meetings with each of my staff members once a month. (I supervise five currently and we're adding another part-timer this winter, so it'll be six.) The main purpose of these meetings will be to get everyone's goals in front of us regularly. We'll note progress and any stumbling blocks and we'll reevaluate any goals that become irrelevant or impossible.

These meetings will also give me one-on-one time with every staff member so they have a space where they can address any issues or questions they may have. We're a pretty close staff and I think we do a pretty good job at touching base with each other casually, but that might not be the most comfortable mode of communication for everyone. People communicate in different ways and setting up an official meeting time might foster communication better for some.

It'll also allow me to keep better track of how everyone's doing, what everyone's up to, etc. Again, I think we do a pretty good job, but maybe I don't know what I don't know!

2. I will be getting our goals out in front of us as a department by highlighting one department goal connected to our strategic plan each month. These monthly goals will be posted for all to see in our office and they'll be something everyone can work on. For example, a goal one month might be for every staff person to talk to ten families about our 1000 Books Before Kindergarten Challenge.

If I keep up with this throughout the year and make it part of our monthly routine, it's going to be super easy to write up evaluations and report on our goals at the end of the year.

What are your professional goals this year?

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Reading Resolutions

Photo by tourist_on_earth

To finish out the year, I'm over at the ASLC Blog talking about reading resolutions. Setting reading resolutions can be a great way to build and strengthen your arsenal when it comes to reader's advisory and professional knowledge!

Click on through and share your reading resolutions in the comments! Since I am just finishing up my Newbery year, my resolution is to be easy on myself about setting reading goals this year. I would love to know what YOUR reading resolutions are for this year!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas to Us!

I have some happy news to share.

The Boy and I got engaged last weekend!

Our first wedding-y gift from my sister-in-law!
No date's been set; I keep promising that planning won't start until after Newbery (but short, TIMED Pinterest sessions can make a nice reading break).

And other than that, my life has been reading, reading, reading, reading...

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Eating the Frog and Following Your Bliss: Tackling the To-Do List

Photo by Bev Sykes
As I have mentioned before, I recently had the pleasure of taking an online youth services management class through UW-SLIS, taught by the inimitable Marge Loch-Waters and one of the topics we discussed was finding your zen. By this I mean finding a balance between life and work, managing stress, and getting everything done. It's not always easy and it's something a lot of us struggle with throughout our careers.
This year has been an overwhelmingly busy one in the Children's Room at my library. It's awesome - we love what we're doing - but it's meant that figuring out a to-do list system has been a MUST for me. Stacy Dillon wrote a great post for the ALSC Blog about various organization systems and what she's trying out. (I am using Wunderlist at the moment.)
But once you have settled on an organizational system, how do you keep yourself productive? One of my classmates in my management class suggested "eating the frog". 
"Eating the frog" basically means doing the worst thing you have to do that day to get it out of the way. The "frog" is something you need to do, but don't want to do. Get that thing out of the way. The idea is that if the first thing you do is eat a frog, the rest of your day will seem easy by comparison.
[The term comes from a quote that is repeatedly credited to Mark Twain, but might not actually have been something he said.]
So, I think that's pretty good advice. Tackle something important on your to-do list that you just don't want to do. And it is true that it makes everything else on your to-do list seem much easier!
But sometimes that to-do list can just be overwhelming. Or sometimes you get to a point where you have a bunch of stuff you need to do and they're all of equal importance. When I reach that point, I follow my bliss. I start working on whatever seems the most fun, whether it's putting in a book order, planning a preschool storytime, or getting materials together for our monthly staff reader's advisory discussion. Something's getting done off the to-do list, which is going to make it a little less overwhelming soon.
And maybe tomorrow I'll eat another frog.
How do you keep yourself organized and productive?

Friday, December 5, 2014

Winter Reading Club at the ALSC Blog

Today, I'm over at the ALSC Blog talking about our Winter Reading Club and how we tweaked what we did last year to make this year's even better! We still keep this program really simple and aim for giving kids and families something fun to do together during these cold winter months.

Click on through to read the post, and please comment! I would love to know what you do for Winter Reading!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Preschool Lab: Kitchen Science

With a big American food holiday coming up this week, I thought kitchen science would be a fun topic for this month's preschool lab. I have some thoughts about this program, but first I'll tell you what we did: 


Opening Song: My Hands Say Hello

Book: The Cazuela That the Farm Maiden Stirred by Samantha Vamos, illustrated by Rafael Lopez (Charlesbridge, 2011). In this cumulative tale, a farm maiden and her barnyard friends are making arroz con leche - rice pudding - and each animal has something to add to the pot (cazuela!). If you're not familiar with the Spanish words included in this brightly-illustrated story (I was not!), there's a pronunciation guide in the back of the book and I'd recommend reading it out loud a couple of times before you read it to your group. My audience was not Spanish-speaking, so I would occasionally repeat a Spanish word in English. Cumulative books are great for helping children learn new vocabulary. 

Felt Rhyme: Five Red Apples 

Book: Soup Day by Melissa Iwai (Henry Holt, 2010). On a cold snowy day, a little girl and her mother make vegetable soup. This story takes them through all the steps, from buying ingredients at the market to chopping and cooking the vegetables to waiting for it to cook to serving it for dinner. This is another great book for introducing children to new vocabulary and I like that it clearly shows the steps you follow in cooking. 

Felt Activity: Healthy Foods. I put up the MyPlate and talked very briefly about the different kind of foods that we eat. I passed out the different felt pieces and went around the plate, calling up the vegetables, then the fruit, then the grains, then the protein, and the dairy. This is a good activity for learning new vocabulary words. Children also practice listening, following instructions, and approaching an adult who's not in their family. 

Book: Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Jane Chapman (Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2002). This fun rhyming story is perfect for this time of year. While Bear hibernates in his den, his animal friends take shelter from the storm, one by one contributing snacks and food for a wintry party. Sharing books with rhyming words helps children hear that words are made up of smaller sounds. 


Pasta Shapes: I put out small piles of pasta in different shapes and prompted kids to sort them and count them. Sorting and counting are both math skills and playing with shapes helps with the ability to recognize letters. 

Bean Measuring. I purchased two large bags of pinto beans and put them out with all kinds of measuring cups. Measuring is a math activity that young kids can help with in the kitchen. 

Play Food and Felt Board. I also put out a set of play food and dishes and I let the kids explore the food set on the felt board. Imaginative play helps develop vocabulary (you'd be amazed at what words you find yourself using as you go through imaginative play with a child!) and self-regulation skills like taking turns and sharing. 

My thoughts:

So, I had the best of intentions with this one and the kids did have fun. They mostly stayed at the beans station and the play food station. 

However, when I thought this one up I had wanted to include a lot more science-based stations and, due to a super-heavy programming schedule this month, that just didn't happen. My thinking was to give parents some ideas for fun things to keep their kiddos occupied while they potentially spent a lot of time in the kitchen this week. SO, if you want to include more explicitly STEM-based stations (using stuff you'll find in the kitchen!), here are ideas for you: 

You can search "preschool kitchen science" on Pinterest for TONS of additional activity ideas. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

I Didn't Check My Email (and Lived to Tell the Tale)

Vacation! No emails in sight...
This past October, I had the pleasure of taking Marge Loch-Waters's online youth services management class and I wanted to post about one small thing I'm trying to put into practice:

Your email does not have to own you. 

On last week's vacation, I made a pact to myself that I would not check my work email. I'm often so tempted to log in, even just to delete the hundreds of ads I know will be waiting in my inbox. But even if it's mostly ads, there's always something I need to respond to. Maybe it's something I can respond to or forward right away, maybe it's something I need to star and come back to later. But logging in when I'm supposed to be off work just lets it into my head. 

And, especially in a career when SO MANY OF US struggle to find a balance between life and work, it's important to know that you can draw a line. I still thought about checking it at least once a day while I was away, but I made a conscious decision not to log in, not to let that email encroach on my vacation time.

Guess what?

Everything was fine. My staff held down the fort. They knew that if something important came up, they could call me. And when I finally did log in to my email, out of over 100 emails, only about 20 of them had information I needed or items I needed to respond to.

Don't let your email run your life (or ruin your vacation)! Keep these things in mind:

  • It was pointed out in my management class that no one expects an instant response to an email. If something that urgent is happening, someone will call or text you.
  • You can set an auto-response so that anyone who does email you will know who to contact if they need a response more quickly. I always make sure to set mine up, particularly because I will sometimes get school collection requests emailed directly to me and those can be time-sensitive.
  • No one minds you taking a vacation. If someone does mind, she's probably not a nice person. You're probably being conscientious about scheduling your vacation time to create the least disturbance and to make sure everything is covered or breaks are well-advertised. You earn that time off as part of your salary. Take it!
  • And you need to take care of yourself so that you can take care of your patrons. The burned-out, no-rest librarian can all-too-easily turn into the bitter, resentful librarian and not the welcoming, flexible paragon of customer service that your patrons deserve. If you're checking in twice a day while you're on vacation, are you really getting the rest you need? 

Even now that I'm back to work, I'm trying to wean myself of the habit of checking my email first thing in the morning and constantly throughout the day. Yes, I like the idea of being available to teachers and patrons and colleagues so that working with me is super easy and awesome. But, as suggested by one of my management classmates, I'm making an effort to check off a couple things on my to-do list in the morning before I check my email. I'm trying to consciously close my inbox when I'm not actively working on email, which results in a lot fewer interruptions. 

So, take stock of your email habits. If you feel like your email is owning you, maybe it's time to rethink some things. 

(Super thank-you goes out to Marge Loch-Waters and all of my awesome YS Management classmates! I'm finding lots of ways to implement what I've learned in that class!)

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Booktalking Librarian

I've posted before about how our booktalking programs have exploded this year. We're now in the schools more than ever before and I'm LOVING it! Booktalking is truly one of my favorite things to do and I'm so glad to have the chance to do it more!

I have not been posting about my specific booktalking programs, in part because I've been super busy, but also because most of the books I'm sharing are Newbery-eligible and due to confidentiality guidelines, I don't feel right posting about them. But last week, I realized that almost all the titles I had brought to one school were not eligible, so I wanted to share with you how my booktalking program typically goes!

This particular visit was to 3 fourth grade classes at one of our local elementary schools. They combined all three classes in one room, so I only needed to do the presentation once. Some schools prefer to have us visit each classroom individually, which we are happy to do. Usually if we're doing multiple presentations, I try to send two people together so one person doesn't have to talk for 45+ minutes straight.

For this group, the teachers had asked me to bring nonfiction books, especially books that showed problem solving and cause & effect. This tied in with the unit they are doing in their class. Here's what I brought and a little about how I booktalk each one:

When Is a Planet Not a Planet?: The Story of Pluto by Elaine Scott (Clarion Books, 2007).

This is a book about Pluto, but it's also a book about how scientists find out information about space and the fact that scientists can be WRONG. In fact, scientists have been wrong lots of times, all throughout history! When I booktalk this book, I emphasize to kids that when I was their age, when their teacher was their age, Pluto was a planet! We were taught that there were nine planets in the solar system. We had never even heard of a dwarf planet! This gets lot of nods from teachers. At the end, I let them know that scientists are always finding out new information. Who knows what they'll discover next? And I bet there are some future scientists in this room, so who knows what one of YOU might discover next?

The Day-Glo Brothers: The True Story of Bob and Joe Switzer's Bright Ideas and Brand New Colors by Chris Barton (Charlesbridge, 2009).

This picture book biography features two brothers who invented new colors. I tell the kids that one of my favorite kind of books is a book that tells me about something I never even thought to wonder about - just like this book! I read the first two spreads and talk a little bit about what Day-Glo colors are - usually several kids are wearing Day-Glo colors, so I can point that out. And I show them one of my favorite things about this book - the illustrations start out black & white in the beginning and as Bob & Joe begin experimenting, more and more color is added in until they have their breakthrough and I show them the spread that's entirely in Day-Glo colors.

Stay: The True Story of Ten Dogs by Michaela Muntean (Scholastic, 2012).

Stay is the story of ten dogs, yes, but it starts with a human. I tell the kids Luciano's story, how he was hurt at his job performing in the circus and he was determined to be able to perform in some way. He had the idea to train dogs to be in a circus act, but Luciano didn't want just any dogs; he wanted the dogs that nobody else wanted. Then I share the story of Penny with them (you could choose any of the dogs to share). This is an easy sell to dog-lovers (many kids are dog lovers!)

Titanic: Voices from the Disaster by Deborah Hopkinson (Scholastic, 2012).

The Titanic is always a familiar subject to kids. It fascinates them! Some may have seen the movie, some may have read other books about The Titanic, but this book is different from any book I've ever read about The Titanic. Deborah Hopkinson uses real survivors' accounts to bring this story to life. Reading this book is like sailing on the ship alongside them. There are plenty of facts and anecdotes to share to entice kids to read this book, but I read a part from the beginning where Jenny, the ship's cat, decides to take her kittens off the ship, "one by one down the gangplank" before it sets sail from Southampton. It always gives me chills!

I Survived Five Epic Disasters by Lauren Tarshis (Scholastic, 2014). * The stories in this book had been previously published and are collected here for the first time. *

Here's another easy sell, particularly if you have fans of the I Survived series in your midst (chances are you do). While the I Survived books are fictional, here we get five true stories from actual survivors of disasters. When I booktalked this one, I mentioned the Children's Blizzard, the Boston Molasses Flood, and the Henryville tornado (which happened just a few miles from here in 2012!). This is a great pick for kids who love action and adventure stories or who are interested in learning about real disasters.

When my staff and I go booktalk, we always bring bookmarks with all the book covers, titles, and authors so that the kids can remember what book they heard about that sounded good. A lot of times, kids will bring these bookmarks in to the library. We keep extras at our desk, so if they didn't bring theirs with them, they can easily say "I have a bookmark like that!" and we'll know they're from a booktalking class.

We keep a record of what everyone's booktalking in our Evernote account, organized by school and grade, so it's really easy to look up what books a kid might have heard about at their school. If we're doing a longer program with more than 5-6 books, we'll make a book list handout for the kids. And we always give these to the teachers, too! I think our teachers enjoy and benefit from the booktalks just as much (sometimes more!) than the kids.