Tuesday, August 27, 2013

This Song Will Save Your Life

This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales. Grades 7 and up. Farrar, Strauss, & Giroux, September 2013. 276 pages. Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher.

No one likes Elise Dembowski. Truly, she has no friends, and when an entire summer spent studying up on the coolest clothes, the hottest bands, the popular TV shows does nothing to help her make friends, Elise decides enough is enough. But her foiled suicide attempt doesn't get her the attention she was hoping it would, and still nothing changes for Elise until she stumbles on an underground dance party during one of her nightly walks. And suddenly Elise meets some people who might accept her for who she is. She's not Elise Dembowski anymore, but DJ Elise, and that changes everything.

With a darkly humorous tone, Leila Sales spins a story about finding your path and staying true to yourself. It's a theme that's not uncommon in YA lit, but it stands out because Elise felt so real. Elise is so awkward that it's painful at times, and she knows it. She's mercilessly bullied by the other kids at school and she really has no idea how to make friends. There were times I wanted to shake her, but at the same time I wanted to take her by the hand and find her a tribe to belong to.

The music element was nicely done and I felt like I was standing in the DJ booth with Elise as she was working the crowd. Song lyrics start each chapter and they'll make a heckuva playlist, for sure. This is an element that teens will identify strongly with - those songs that speak to you and your experience - and it rings true for Elise's teen experience, too.

I've loved Leila Sales's realistic teen characters in her other novels (Mostly Good Girls and Past Perfect) and I love TSWSYL, too.


For another tale of the importance of music (and DJing!), pick up Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kristin Cronn-Miller. This story of a transgender boy who comes to life at his weekly radio show is more intense than TSWSYL but sends the same message - it's okay to be who you are (and also music is awesome).

Another story with a somewhat unlikeable (but ultimately endearing) very unpopular protagonist is The Murder of Bindy Mackenzie by Jaclyn Moriarty. If Elise's awkwardness and friendlessness is something that strikes a chord with readers, this one might be a good choice.

This Song Will Save Your Life will be on shelves September 17!

Monday, August 26, 2013


So.... August is almost over and here's my confession: this blog has basically been on autopilot for this entire month. Almost every post this month was written way in advance and scheduled to post. Which is fine, I guess, except I've been pretty much completely disengaged. And the whole point of blogging is to engage with your library community.

Typically, August is our time to breathe and recoup and plan for the fall. We debrief Summer Reading Club, we get our shelves back in order, maybe we even do a little weeding. I look forward to August!!!

And this August we transitioned to a new ILS. And right before that happened, our servers crashed irreparably. Transitioning to a new system is never easy, between figuring out the bugs, rethinking workflows, and retraining patrons to the new system. And this is what the entire month of August has been about. Everything's in a bit of disarray, lots of things are still broken, and now fall programs are about to start.

In September, we'll be back to our normal programming schedule (including debuting some new programs: beginning readers' storytime and preschool science) and starting our afterschool visits. Although I'm looking forward to seeing the kids again (and hoping we'll get good turnout for our new offerings), I don't feel ready in any way!  There was so much more I wanted to get done this month!

But. I'm hoping, as we get back into our library routine, that I'll be able to re-engage with my blogging world. I'm hoping to feel a little more inspired to write about and share what's been going on. I have some great posts yet to write: presenting at the Children's & Young People's Division conference on STEM programming, our shoestring 1000 Books Before Kindergarten program which had a soft launch this month, the new storytime programs that we're debuting this fall...

So, be on the lookout for those items to come, and maybe not much else for awhile. This August has kicked my butt, but I think I'm ready to get back in gear. Soon. ;)

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Fantastic Friday: How's It Going?

CC: Tobyotter 
I posted earlier this year about our revamped homeschooler program, Fantastic Friday, and I thought it was high time that I checked in to let you know how the rest of our school year went.

As I compared the attendance number to the previous year's I noticed that we did have a drop in overall attendance. However, I had several families who attended every month (or close to every month) and at the end of the school year, I had several families who told me how much they loved the structure of the program and asked me to keep it the same way for this year.

One thing that went over so, so well was our End-of-the-Year Party. I held it on the second Friday in May, in lieu of presentations. One item my homeschooling consultant had brought up with me is that homeschoolers need recognition outside their homes and that homeschooling teachers need recognition, too! This is something that school children and school teachers get, so I wanted to create that experience for my homeschoolers, too.

I looked back over my attendance records and created a spreadsheet to show everyone's attendance over the year. I ordered participation ribbons for every child who had come at least once. I also had one child who had come every single month and three children who had only missed one month, so I ordered special perfect attendance awards for them. I also ordered little apple pins to give out to each homeschooling parent. The parents weren't expecting that and they were so thrilled. One mom told me it would probably be the only award she ever got for teaching (and to that I say: just wait 'til next year!).

There are many companies that sell these award products for schools and I ended up going with Jones School Supply and I was happy with their prices and the promptness of their shipping.

Towards the end of the spring, I started asking the families for suggestions for next year's topics and they had great ideas! I did insert a couple of my own ideas, but almost every theme we're doing is a suggestion from one of our families. I am always, always open to their feedback because I want these programs to fit as seamlessly as possible with what they're already planning for their homeschool.

Here's the brochure for our fall meetings that I put out last month. I wanted to get it out as soon as possible because I know people are planning their lessons for the fall. The sooner I get it out, the more likely homeschoolers will be to plan what they're doing around what I'm doing. We're doing the following topics this fall:

  • September: Biographies (patron suggestion)
  • October: Space (patron suggestion)
  • November: Native American Heritage (my suggestion!)
  • December: Cooking/Food (patron suggestion)
  • January: Music (patron suggestion)
  • February: Whatever You LOVE (patron suggestion was "Collections" but I tweaked it)
  • March: Science (patron suggestion)
  • April: Poetry (patron suggestion)
  • May: End of the Year Party!

I do have a couple of changes that I'm going to make this year, but really only to my own contributions to the program. Several of the moms asked me to incorporate some more public-speaking instruction throughout the months. I don't know exactly how I'm going to do this, but I agree that it's necessary. Although I have seen some of the kids really coming out of their shells, some of them still talk really softly and it's hard for everyone to hear them. Suggestions for coaching young children (early elementary) on presentation skills are appreciated!!

And I am going to incorporate booktalks into every session this year. Having something to present myself helps fill some of the time if everyone gets through quickly or if we have a small crowd. I'm wondering if it also might help retain some folks whose children are too shy to participate much. And I love booktalking and highlighting some of the awesome books we have in our collection. It'll be helpful to homeschoolers, too, who might find some resources they didn't know about. (And it will be helpful to me to develop booktalks every month, which I can then reuse if we're able to set up some booktalking programs at the schools this year.)

I'm looking forward to another great year having fun with our homeschoolers!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Golden Boy

Golden Boy by Tara Sullivan. Grades 7 and up. G.P. Putnam's Sons, June 2013. 354 pages. Review copy provided by my local library.


When Habo's mother can't come up with the rent for their farm in a tiny Tanzanian village, Habo and his siblings are forced to make their way across the Serengeti Park to Mwanza where Habo's aunt and cousins live. It's a dangerous journey and it turns out to be a dangerous destination for Habo.

Habo is a zeruzeru, an albino, someone with no pigment in his skin. He doesn't have the "good" brown skin that his brothers and sister have, but white skin that burns easily in the sun and yellow hair and weak, blue eyes. And in Mwanza, where many believe in luck magic, Habo has a price on his head. The word zeruzeru literally translates to "zero zero", which shows you just what some Tanzanians think about albinos. They're worse than nothing. And just as some people poach elephants for their ivory and for their feet and tails, poachers target albinos because local folklore says their hands, hair, skin, and legs are lucky. Habo can't stay in Mwanza, but with no money, no skills, and a poacher on his tail, where is he to go?

My thoughts:

I was intrigued by the subject matter of this book when I heard publishers talking about it at ALA and I think it's an important story that deserves to be widely read. I think it deserves at least as much attention as last year's Wonder, although it is aimed at an older audience and the subject matter is definitely more intense. It actually wasn't as dark as I thought it would be, though. There's a lot of hope in this story.

This is Tara Sullivan's debut novel and she's done her homework. The book includes an author's note that discusses the real situations on which events in the book are based. The author also includes a list of resources for learning more and suggestions for what kids can do to help. I hope that nonfiction authors will take note that this would be a great topic for teen nonfiction!

This is an accessible novel with a compelling plot that will interest kids and may inspire them to learn more about the plight of albinos in Tanzania and what they can do to help.


For more adventure stories based on real situations in Africa, I'd suggest A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park or Chanda's Secrets by Allan Stratton.

Golden Boy is on shelves now!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Lemonade War

The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies. Grades 2-5. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers, 2007. 192 pages. Review copy provided by my local library.


Incoming fourth grader Evan Krenski can't believe the news he's gotten. His egghead little sister (whom he's gotten along with until she ruined his life) will be skipping a grade and joining him in the fourth grade this year. Now everyone in the class will see how stupid Evan is, worse at math than his baby sister. Evan's. Life. Is. Over.

Jessie is overjoyed to be in Evan's class this year. Maybe he can help her make some friends. Maybe he can get the other kids to stop being mean to her. But first he has to stop being mean to her. Jessie's not sure why he's suddenly so mad... and it hurts that he won't even speak to her for these last few days of summer they have left.

And then an argument leads to The Lemonade War. Evan vs. Jessie in a contest to see who can earn the most money from their lemonade stands. Winner takes all. There will be underselling, yes. There will be betrayal, in fact. All's fair in love and war... and lemonade?

My thoughts:

For the past several years, one of our local banks has sponsored a financial literacy program which we run as part of our Summer Reading Club. Any child who reads a book about money, business, financial matters, etc. can enter a drawing for a prize donated by the bank (it's been a $50 savings bond, although this year it's a $25 gift card). It's always a scramble to find enough money books to satisfy demand, and The Lemonade War is one that I've always put on the list. It was time to read it.

What I found is a book that's not only a sweet and interesting sibling story, but a great, accessible way to introduce basic business principles. As Evan and Jessie work and rework their lemonade stands, they talk about principles like profit margin, value added, and underselling. It's all done in a kid-friendly way that doesn't detract from the story. This would make for a GREAT readaloud, especially as part of a unit on financial literacy, but it's also a book kids are likely to pick up on their own.


For more chapter books featuring kids and their money-making ideas, try Lunch Money by Andrew Clements or In Business with Mallory by Laurie Friedman.

For kids who liked the late-summer setting and the solid, realistic setting, I might suggest Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Stuart Little by Peggy Gifford. Moxy is just as creative as Evan or Jessie, even if she might be a little quirkier.

Readers looking for their next contemporary chapter book might also like other books by Andrew Clements, Sara Pennypacker, or Lenore Look. I might also suggest The Fabled Fourth Graders of Aesop Elementary by Candace Fleming.

The Lemonade War is on shelves now!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

What to Read at Baby Storytime #4

It's been WAY too long since I posted about my favorite books I've been using in baby storytime! One reason is that I've cultivated a group of favorites that I'm using repeatedly. My kids typically age out of my program within 12-18 months, so I'm really not afraid to repeat favorites. Check out how I run my baby storytimes. You can find links to my previous baby storytime book lists at the end of this post, but today I've got my most recent favorites:

The Babies on the Bus by Karen Katz (Henry Holt & Co, 2011). Any books featuring "The Wheels on the Bus" is a hit for us because our Toddler Time (the next step up from baby storytime) programs start with that song each week. Karen Katz is a favorite of many of our young readers. They just love those round-headed babies!

Baby Beluga by Raffi (Crown Books, 1983). Many Raffi songs have been made into books and parents may remember these songs from their own childhoods. I love sharing books I can sing to add extra appeal to our readaloud.

Baby Parade by Rebecca O'Connell (Albert Whitman & Co, 2013). We wave to each baby as he or she passes by, wearing a different color.

Brownie & Pearl Step Out by Cynthia Rylant (Beach Lane Books, 2009). This is a very simple, short story about Brownie and Pearl going to a birthday party. Some of my babies have experienced this and it's great to share stories that reflect things they're doing. This is a great simple book if you're looking for a story with a plot to it.

Fiesta Babies by Carmen Tafolla (Tricycle Press, 2010). Here's another book about babies! I especially love this one because it includes some Spanish words. This is a great book for reflecting your diverse community and/or for exposing your storytime crowd to different cultures.

The Itsy Bitsy Spider by Richard Egielski (Atheneum, 2012). We bought this pop-up book for our programming collection. It's a bit of a small trim size, but the pop-ups help generate interest in the book and it's a song that most everyone knows, so parents are happy to sing along.

Let's Get Dressed by Caroline Jayne Church (Scholastic, 2012). We talk about many different articles of clothing as we go through this book. I ask parents who's wearing a shirt, pants, shoes, etc. as we get to each part.

Nursery rhymes by Annie Kubler. Julie Jurgens of Hi Miss Julie turned me on to the wonderful nursery rhyme books illustrated by Annie Kubler. Each book is short and simple, containing one nursery rhyme. I encourage parents to sing or say the rhyme along with me as we go through the book.

Wiggle by Doreen Cronin (Atheneum, 2005). As we wiggle our way through this action book, I ask parents to wiggle each time we hear the word "wiggle", which is a lot!

You Are My Sunshine by Jimmie Davis (Cartwheel Books, 2011). I have just fallen in love with Caroline Jayne Church's cute illustrations this year and I've been sharing lots of her board books. This is another one that parents can sing along to and the bright, shiny illustrations will catch the little ones' eyes.

You might also be interested in:

What to Read at Baby Storytime #3
What to Read at Baby Storytime #2
What to Read at Baby Storytime #1

Amy Koester of The Show-Me Librarian compiled a list of popular baby storytime books on her blog.

What other awesome books do you share with families at your baby storytimes?

Monday, August 12, 2013

Stronger Than Steel

Stronger Than Steel: Spider Silk DNA and the Quest for Better Bulletproof Vests, Sutures, and Parachute Rope by Bridget Heos. Grades 6 and up. Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2013. 80 pages. Review copy provided by my local library.

It turns out that spider silk is amazing stuff and the golden orb weaver spiders make a ton of it. It's super strong and flexible and it might make a better material for lots of stuff we use all the time. The problem is that it's impossible to farm golden orb weaves (like we farm silkworms, for instance)... they eat each other! So scientists have been hard at work figuring out a way to produce spider silk. One possible answer? Inserting spider DNA into other animals or plants so that they begin to produce the same proteins that the spiders produce. Have you ever seen a spider-goat? Well, pick up this book and you will!

This book is definitely more than meets the eye. I guess I'm not sure what I was expecting, but spider-goats was not it! That said, it's an interesting look at something I really knew nothing about. This may be one for your die-hard science fans, but I think passages could easily be used in science classrooms to meet new Common Core standards.

The book begins with a basic explanation of DNA and then examines three studies scientists are working on to see how they can best produce spider silk. Scientists have inserted DNA from golden orb weavers into goats (who produce the protein in their milk), alfalfa, and silkworms. A brief section on the ethics of biological engineering is included at the end, an important addition since this is definitely a controversial topic. This book (or passages from it) might lead to some great classroom debates on the topic.

Back matter is excellent, which we've all come to expect from a Scientists in the Field book.


For more in-depth looks at intriguing science topics, definitely check out more of the Scientists in the Field series.

As far as topical readalikes, I'm stumped since this book was very unique! Any suggestions?

Happy Nonfiction Monday! Head over to proseandkahn for this week's roundup!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Professional Development Outside the Box

CC: quacktaculous
Last spring, I attended a free workshop for parents about kindergarten readiness. Nope, I don't have a child going into kindergarten, but I was planning on offering a Get Ready for Kindergarten program at the library this summer and starting up a beginning reader storytime this fall. When I saw that workshop being offered as one of our community's Success by 6 parenting programs, I immediately asked the coordinators if I might sit in.

It was absolutely wonderful! The presenters (a local kindergarten teacher and the coordinator for our public school literacy coaches) shared tons of ideas that I can incorporate into our library programs. They also talked about the Common Core standards and how that has changed what is expected of children in Kindergarten so we know what to teach them to give them a really good starting point.

I came home from that workshop energized and excited to start incorporating what I had learned into our library programs. And that's not the only non-library training that's had me feeling this way recently.

In January, a representative from our local Childcare Resource and Referral office gave a 2-hour training for my staff and other local librarians on child development. My staff and I are comfortable with early literacy concepts, but our trainer was able to teach us a lot about physical and social/emotional development. We left that training with many activity ideas for developing fine and gross motor skills and the social skills children will need when they start school.

This spring, I also sent one of our librarians to a nearby I am Moving, I am Learning conference. This librarian has started offering preschool music and dance programs at our library and attending this conference gave her ideas to incorporate into her programs. They also discussed the research behind childhood obesity and reasons to include movement in all parts of a child's day. This gave my librarian helpful statistics and facts to share with parents during her program to encourage them to keep their kids moving.

As the mad rush of summer starts to come to an end, a librarian's thoughts may roam to professional development. The kids are going back to school and the fall and winter months might be a good time for public librarians to partake in some learning, as well.

There are many great library conferences, webinars, and workshops available for librarians in the library world (did you know that ALSC and YALSA members have access to free archived webinars???). But you're missing some great information if you're not training outside the librarian box! Here are some places to look for valuable non-librarian trainings:

  • Does your community have a Success by 6 action team, United Way, or other group advocating for healthy early childhood development? Ask them about workshops for parents or childcare providers.
  • Does your YMCA, parks & rec department, or community center offer parenting classes? Register or ask the presenters if you can sit in when they're discussing a topic relevant to your work.
  • Seek out local or state early childhood associations. Find your local Childcare Resource & Referral region. Do they have trainers available or know of workshops in your area? The National Association for the Education of Young Children has a yearly conference that moves around the country and state AEYCs have conferences, too. Bonus tip: check out the NAEYC store for tons of professional resources you may want to purchase for yourself or your library.  
  • In Indiana, the Purdue Extension Offices in each county offer workshops on I am Moving, I am Learning, and other topics. 
  • In Indiana, the Indiana Institute on Disability and Community offers training to professional staff on early childhood topics and disabilities. Other states may have a University Center on Disabilities that may provide workshops and training opportunities. 
  • Check to see if your local colleges and universities offer an option to audit a class on early childhood, elementary, or higher education. 
  • Attend a local or nearby homeschooling convention or meeting to find out what the trends are in homeschooling and how you might be able to support your local homeschoolers. 
  • Consider teacher conferences like the National Council of Teachers of English conference or the National Science Teachers Association conference (STEM programming, anyone?!). 
If you're not sure what resources are available to you locally, ask your local Head Start or preschool teachers. Ask teachers at your public and private schools. They may be having workshops or trainers on inservice days or over the summer and they might allow local librarians to sit in (especially if you explain that you're trying to get a better idea of how the library can serve teachers and students!). 

Not every workshop or conference is going to be relevant to the work you're doing. Think about what you hope to learn, what programs you're developing, and where you want this information to take you. Then choose what's going to be a good use of your (or your library's) funds. Keep in mind that many national conferences are held at various places all over the country and it might be worth waiting until the conference is nearby and you won't have to shell out for a hotel room and plane tickets. 

I have never had anyone protest at having a librarian attending one of their workshops. On the contrary, people are happy to see their local librarians getting involved with some different kinds of professional development. We're all in this together for the good of our children and our community! 

What other suggestions do you have for professional development outside the librarian box? Anyone have good resources to share for finding workshops or conferences? Please add your two cents in the comments!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Daycare Summer Reading Club: How It Went

Today I'm over at the ALSC Blog with an update on how our new Daycare/Summer Camp SRC went this year. Please click on through and check it out!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

P.S. Be Eleven

P.S. Be Eleven by Rita Williams-Garcia. Grades 5-8. Amistad, May 2013. 288 pages. Review copy provided by my local library.

After spending the summer with their activist poet mother in Oakland, it's hard for Delphine and her sisters to adjust to their old lives. Especially when Papa brings a new lady-friend around, Delphine gets a surprise new teacher, and the Jackson Five are sweeping the nation. Everywhere she goes, Delphine feels in-between. Not an adult (or even a teenager), but no longer a child, either.

Now this is a tween story. Delphine is nothing if not "between". Used to being in charge of her sisters, Delphine is forced to give up some of her control when Vonetta is chosen to be in charge of the sisters' savings for the Jackson Five concert. Even though Delphine has to start dealing with some adult situations - namely her uncle's struggles after coming home from fighting in Vietnam - her mother insists that she "Be eleven" in every letter she sends. Delphine's figuring out how to fit the black power teachings of last summer into her life. Tall and gangly, Delphine is the tallest girl in her class (taller than most of the boys), but her grandma still insists on dressing her in childish outfits.

Rita Williams-Garcia gets the setting just right, placing readers in late 60s/early 70s New York City. The way Delphine and her family and friends talk gives the setting authenticity without being over the top or confusing. Williams-Garcia also deals with the effects of the Vietnam War in a child-friendly way without shying away from real situations. A character "gets sick from drugs", but there's no depiction of actual drug use.

You're going to want to read the award-winning One Crazy Summer first, but it's okay if you've read it several years ago (like I did). P.S. Be Eleven stands on its own to a certain extent.


For more books about the African-American experience around the Civil Rights era, try The Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon. This story deals with the conflict between nonviolent and violent protests during the struggle for Civil Rights. You also might try The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis. This is another family-centered story about African-Americans and Civil Rights.

For readers who like the strong urban setting, try Hold Fast by Blue Balliett (a contemporary mystery set in Chicago) or When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead (a historical mystery also set in New York City).

P.S. Be Eleven is on shelves now!

Monday, August 5, 2013

When Stravinsky Met Nijinsky

When Stravinsky Met Nijinsky: Two Artists, Their Ballet, and One Extraordinary Riot by Lauren Stringer. Grades 2-5. Harcourt Children's Books, March 2013. Unpaged. Review copy provided by my local library.

Igor Stravinsky was a famous composer. Vaslav Nijinsky was a famous dancer. Both of them longed to create something new, but it didn't happen until they started to work together. Together, both men dreamed of their Russian homeland and they inspired each other to create something the world had never seen. When their ballet, The Rite of Spring, debuted, it caused a riot on the Paris streets. Some people HATED IT and some people LOVED IT. But no matter what anyone thought, it certainly changed the world of music and dance forever.

This is my favorite kind of nonfiction book: one that takes an interesting story I knew nothing about and brings it to life. This would be an excellent introduction for any students studying ballet or music, especially kids going to see a performance of The Rite of Spring. But it definitely has value outside of fine arts classes, as well. This is a perfect example of collaboration and innovation. If you're doing STEAM programs, remember that the A stands for Art and encouraging creativity. The text is deceptively simple, illustrating a larger concept. I think this is one you could use with a wide range of ages, depending on what you want the kids to get out of it.

This book begs to be read aloud. The words are chosen very carefully so that the text reads like a dance or like a concerto.Stringer nails the descriptive passages about Stravinsky's music and Nijinsky's dancing and how both start to change once they collaborate. The text sometimes almost rhymes, it sometimes has a chorus, and lines sometimes have a very strong rhythm. I read it once and then went back to read it again more carefully, deciding that the style fits the story perfectly: not quite rhyming, not quite straight prose, but something new.

The illustration support the text nicely, with bright, bold colors and sweeping lines of music. The brushstrokes and color choices show the movement of the dances and I love the spreads showing the audience's reaction to the new ballet - some loving it, some hating it, but everyone feeling feelings.

An afterword includes biographical information about both Stravinsky and Ninjinsky, as well as about the ballet The Rite of Spring. Springer writes about her inspiration for writing the book and about some of the paintings from the turn of the century that influenced her art for this book. A list of sources is also included.


For more nonfiction picture books celebrating the world of dance, check out Ballet for Martha: Making Appalachian Spring by Jan Greenburg and Sandra Jordan, illustrated by Brian Floca or Dancing to Freedom: The True Story of Mao's Last Dancer by Cunxin Li, illustrated by Anne Spudvilas.

For more picture books about the orchestra, check out Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin by Lloyd Moss, illustrated by Marjorie Priceman or The Remarkable Farkle McBride by John Lithgow, illustrated by C.F. Payne.

For older readers interested in reading more about composers or dancers, check out Music Was It: Young Leonard Bernstein by Susan G. Rubin (composer) or A Girl Named Faithful Plum by Richard Bernstein (dancer).

When Stravinsky Met Nijinsky is on shelves now!

And hey, it's Nonfiction Monday! Head on over to Shelf-employed for this week's roundup.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Reading Wildly: How's It Going?

We're about halfway through the year and I wanted to check in and let you all know how our Reading Wildly staff readers' advisory program has been going. Of course, you can take a look at each genre we've discussed over the past couple of months, but how has it been going in general?

Well, awesome, actually.

Brief back story:

I started Reading Wildly, a monthly staff book discussion, to encourage my staff (and myself!) to read children's literature in a wide variety of genres. Each month, we feature a different genre and I ask staff to read one book from that genre and booktalk/discuss with the group. You can read more about our program here.

And what results have we seen?

My staff have reported to me that they really like the program that we're doing and that it's been useful in their jobs. Each month, I type up a list of the titles everyone has shared along with the readalikes they suggested. One of my staff members has printed out the lists and keeps them at the desk for an easy starting point when people are looking for genre fiction. It's easy to draw a blank when someone comes up and asks for suggestions, but having heard about some great books at our discussions and having a "cheat sheet"* in front of them has really helped give my staff more confidence.

Dedicating time each month to talk about books has been fun for staff and I often overhear them talking to each other about the books they're going to read for the next meeting, etc. This past month, my librarian who thought she would have the most trouble finding time to read (she has a toddler at home!) reported that she was surprised by how much she ended up reading this month. She said that it's become fun and she no longer sees it as a chore. Score! Everyone's been sharing books and practicing booktalks every month, often reading multiple books. I still only require everyone to read one book per month, but I encourage them to read as much as they want. It's only going to make their jobs easier!

I keep reminding them that I'm going to try to get us into the schools more this year, which may mean they're assigned to a booktalking program. Writing booktalks throughout the year as we're reading genre fiction will give them an arsenal for when these programs come up.

Next steps...

I've got our genres chosen through the end of the year. Once we get towards the end of the year, we'll decide together whether we want to keep doing Reading Wildly and how it will proceed. I will definitely require staff to do SOME kind of reading program, but I want to make changes as necessary if people think it could work better in a different way. If we do continue the program as-is, I will ask my staff to help me choose the genres we will read. I know we all have weak areas and I've already asked my staff to be thinking about where those weak areas are for them. (For example, one genre I will probably suggest is sports books, a definite weak area for me!)

I would also like to incorporate more RA interview practice into our meetings. We've done some role-playing before when gearing up for the Summer Reading Club rush and that might be what we need to do here. So far our meetings have been pretty packed and then summer hit and there was barely time to do anything, but this is something I'm going to try to add in the fall.

I'm thrilled to hear about librarians in other places who have started a program like this (either based on what I'm doing with my staff or on your own!). I would love to know how it's going. If you do a readers' advisory or genre book club with your staff, what has worked for you?