Monday, December 23, 2013

Happy Holidays

Abby the Librarian is taking a little bit of a holiday break for the next couple of weeks! Happy holidays to you and yours. May they be warm and full of love and books.

When I come back in 2014, you may notice that posts are a little fewer and farther between. I'm serving on the 2015 Newbery Committee, which means that I will be reading nonstop! You can look forward to programming posts, Reading Wildly updates, and assorted other thoughts throughout the year, but I won't be reviewing any eligible books.

Thanks for reading! See you next year. ;)


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Reading Wildly Into the New Year

If you're regular reader of this blog, you may be familiar with the Reading Wildly program I run with my staff. Each month, my staff members are asked to read at least one book in our chosen genre and then we meet to booktalk these books to each other and talk about the genre. This program has really helped motivate my staff to start reading books from the Children's Room and to read widely outside the typical genres we may gravitate to. Everyone is reading more, practicing booktalks, finding readalikes, and becoming more confident in their readers' advisory skills.

As we've continued the program, I've tweaked it from what we started with. I lifted the requirement to add our books to the department Goodreads account because that was not a tool that was helpful to my staff in their readers' advisory transactions. I'm glad to have exposed them to it and some of my staff members continue to use it to keep a personal record of their reading, but if it's not a tool they're going to use at work, I didn't want to create busywork for them.

In October, I introduced some professional articles as required reading for everyone and this is something I will continue. Having articles to discuss gets the conversation rolling and reading one or two short articles does not add drastically to staff workload.

As we approached the end of 2013, I asked my staff if they would like to continue doing our Reading Wildly meetings or do something different. I had overwhelming support for continuing our current program, so we sat down and talked about what genres we'd like to explore or revisit in 2014. The first year, I assigned all the genres, but now I wanted staff to take some ownership, so we all brainstormed and decided together.

This will be our schedule of genres for 2014:

January: Readers' Choice (I know that finding time to read over the holidays may be difficult!)
February: Realistic Fiction
March: Books in a popular series
April: Sports
May: Multicultural
June: Readers' Choice (summer!!!!)
July: Readers' Choice (summer!!!!!)
August: Graphic novels (this is something they can choose to read for other genres, but since many of them shy away from this format, we elected to make it a monthly genre)
September: Animal Fantasy (chapter books with animals as main characters)
October: Fantasy
November: Historical Fiction
December: Nonfiction

Please feel free to read along with us or use any of the information I've shared to create your own staff reading program. It's truly done wonders for my staff and it's been a lot of fun, too! If you have any questions about our program or any suggestions from running your own program, I'd love to hear them!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Reading Wildly: Award Winners

For our last Reading Wildly meeting of the year (as we head into award season), our topic was Award Winners. Staff could choose from any chapter book or nonfiction award winners or honor books, and I asked them to provide a little information about the award(s) their chosen book had won. We started by discussing the following articles:

We had an interesting discussion about the criteria for the Newbery Award and the popularity of Newbery-winning books. One of my staff members recently had a patron who was specifically looking for award-winning books for his child, but didn't want "dark" subjects. We talked about how we might handle this, suggesting particular titles that would fit his criteria and suggesting that he also look at the honor-winners, since that gives you a very large pool to choose from. We also talked about the importance of the Newbery Award to recognize truly distinguished literature, even if the books may not be the most popular. 

On to our booktalks! My staff and I booktalked the following award-winning books to each other this month: 

This month, after our booktalks, we had a conversation about readers' advisory in general and the readers' advisory interview in particular. One of the BINGO squares for our new Winter Reading Club is "A Librarian's Suggestion", so we talked about how we might proceed when we have children asking us for a suggestion. I confessed that my mind usually goes blank at first and it helps me to have a strategy of how to start the conversation. 

We talked about questions we could ask to find out what kind of books the patron enjoys. Kids (or patrons of any age) may not be able to answer the question, "What kind of books are you looking for?", but if you start with "What was the last book you really loved?" and "What did you love about it?", you may get some concrete answers. If a child can't think of any books he or she has enjoyed, ask about movies, TV, or hobbies. 

Even if you're not familiar with a particular title or show, if a kid can tell you what they like about it, it gives you a starting place. Maybe she loved the adventure in 39 Clues. Maybe he loved the spunky main character in Three Times Lucky. Maybe she loved learning about real events in the I Survived... books. 

Use whatever you can to get that conversation started and encourage the child to check out a selection of books in case they start one and don't like it. Although we're participating in this program to read widely and improve our readers' advisory skills, using tools like Novelist, Goodreads, and Amazon is not cheating! We also keep lists of our past Reading Wildly lists that may help job our memory as we start these transactions. 

January's books will be Reader's Choice since I know how busy things get around the holidays. To facilitate our discussion about reader's advisory, I passed out this basic guide to reader's advisory from the Ohio Library Council, which we'll discuss at our next meeting. 

And stay tuned because tomorrow I'll be talking about our Reading Wildly plans for 2014!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Call of the Klondike

This post is cross-posted at the Nonfiction Monday group blog. Please check it out to see what nonfiction bloggers are reading this week!

Call of the Klondike: A True Gold Rush Adventure by David Meissner and Kim Richardson. Grades 6 and up. Calkins Creek Books, October 2013. 167 pages. Review copy provided by my local library.

Looking for an adventure? Pack your bags, bundle up, say goodbye to your loved ones (just in case) and join Stanley Pearce and Marshall Bond on their journey to the Klondike region of Alaska in search of riches beyond your imagination.

In 1897, miners arrived back in Seattle with millions in gold, mined in the Klondike. Thousands of people then rushed to this remote area in hopes of making their fortune. It would NOT be easy. Using primary sources (letters, journals, and newspaper articles passed down within Stanley Pearce's family), David Meissner illuminates the hardships and risks of this fantastic adventure.  Pearce and Bond spent thousands outfitting themselves for their journey and it took them months to even reach the Klondike. Before planes, before train tracks reached the area, adventurers had to travel by steamship to Alaska, on foot up the hazardous mountain passes, and by boat down rocky rivers to reach Dawson City.

This is a fantastic adventure story and the author makes great use of the primary documents at his disposal. Excerpts from Marshall Bond's diary and letters from Stanley Pearce to his family give readers a play-by-play account of this dangerous adventure. Although Pearce and Bond are well-outfitted and maintain positive attitudes, many men and animals died in pursuit of Klondike gold. With temperatures dropping to 50 degrees below zero and food stores running low, not everyone who reached Dawson city returned. And less than one half of one percent of those who started the journey ever found enough gold to make them rich.

This nonfiction book reads like fiction, including plenty of archival photos to give faces to the many who ventured to the north. Back matter includes an author's note, source notes, and resources for further information. The excellent use of primary sources provides exciting material that fulfills Common Core requirements for analyzing primary sources. Although it definitely has classroom applications, there's plenty of appeal in this story for thrill seekers and history buffs.


Chasing Lincoln's Killer by James Swanson. The action-packed style of James Swanson's writing will please readers who enjoy true adventure stories that read like fiction, even though the subject matter and time period are different.

The Call of the Wild by Jack London. Set in the wilds of the Klondike, Jack London's story is based on some of his experiences during the Klondike gold rush. In fact, Jack London met and spent time with Stanley Pearce and Marshall Bond and the fictional dog Buck was actually based on Pearce and Bond's dog Jack.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Preschool Lab: Animals in Winter

This post is cross-posted at the Nonfiction Monday group blog. Head over there to see what nonfiction bloggers have been reading this week!

Preschool Lab is a new program we're offering for preschoolers at my library. In the past, we've done Changing Leaves and Magnets, and in November, we talked about what animals do in winter. I stole most of my activities and ideas from Christina Jones's wonderful animals in winter program at Knowledge Matters (see part 1 and part 2).

We started by talking about three new words: adapt, hibernate, and migrate. These three words came up over and over as we read our books and talked about what animals do to survive the winter. I also included these words on their take-home packet with simple definitions (provided by one of our children's dictionaries).

Opening Song: My Hands Say Hello - this is our standard opener and signals to everyone that it's time to start listening.

New words: We talked about adapt, hibernate, and migrate.

Book: When Winter Comes by Nancy Van Laan. I love the rhyming text and the wintry illustrations in this picture book. Each stanza features a different animal and my kids already knew (or could guess) what a lot of the animals did in winter. This provided us a great opportunity to talk about all these different animals, and of course it's great for them to hear those rhyming words.

Rhyme: Five Red Apples. I talked about what bears do in the winter: hibernate (one of our new words!). Before they hibernate, bears eat lots and lots and lots to build up fat to keep them warm. I used my bear puppet to eat each felt apple off the board as we counted down. At the end, I had bear fall asleep and told the kids that if they wanted to hear the rhyme again they'd need to wake him up!

Book: Snow Rabbit, Spring Rabbit by Il Sung Na. Before we started this book, we talked about the picture of the rabbit on the front and back of the book. On the back cover he's brown for spring and on the front cover he's white for winter. We practiced our new words again as we went through this book that shows many different animals preparing for winter.

I had planned another book here, Animals in Winter by Martha E.H. Rustad, which talks in more detail about some of our new words and shows real photos of animals. My kids were getting a little antsy, though, so I skipped right to our last activity.

Felt Activity: I passed out the animals from our woodland creature felt set (made by laminating pictures of the animals and putting felt on the backs). I sang a little song ("If you have a fox, a fox, a fox. If you have a fox, bring him up right now!") and the kids brought their animals up and put them on the felt board. As each animal was placed on the board, we talked about what the animals do in the winter. I used bear, raccoon, squirrel, rabbit, fox, and deer.


Which insulation works better? This is straight from Christina's post. I made up bags with feathers, yarn, and fat (vegetable shortening) and put them in tubs of ice. Children could predict which insulator would keep their hand the warmest, experiment, and then write down their conclusion.

Animal tracks in the snow. My wonderful Miss T made me some stencils of animal tracks that you might see here in Indiana. I put out paper and markers and let the kids trace animal tracks and label them. They loved this station and spent quite a bit of time here. This activity is great for fine motor control (using the markers and writing) and vocabulary (learning names of animals).


Getting dressed for winter. Miss T also made me some animal silhouettes in brown paper (representing their spring fur) and I put out cotton balls and our glue sponges and let the kids get the animals dressed for winter. As I circled around to this station, I talked about how these animals adapt by changing the color of their fur. I was worried that the glue sponge might not provide enough glue, but IT DID and it was way less messy than any of the other glue ideas I had.


Felt station. I put out the felt pieces we had used and let the kids play with them. I printed the words to our Five Red Apples rhyme so the kids could say that with their grownup. I also put out the forest animals set, which is great for sorting, counting, and vocabulary.

Dramatic play. I put out all the woodland creature puppets we had and just let the kids play with them. They were very into this station and came up with some creative (and science-based) ideas! We have a screen with a forest scene painted on it (to hide a small storage area) and many of the kids used that as a backdrop for their play. They also played predator and prey with the fox eating mice. And yes, I had one little guy singing "What does the fox say?" at the end of our program. :)


Of course I had displayed some books about winter animals, many of which were taken home. I also put out flyers for our other upcoming programs and a take-home packet with some additional activities. I included our three new words short directions (and web addresses) for: 

We had a blast this month and the stations were all very well-liked. This was our last Preschool Lab of the year; we'll take a storytime break from mid-December to mid-January to give us some time to plan for the spring. I'm looking forward to continuing our science learning this spring! 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Winter Reading at the @ALSCBlog

Today, I've over at the ALSC Blog, talking about our first-ever Winter Reading Club for kids and teens! 

Hop on over there and check it out! 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Reading Wildly: Nonfiction

Parts of this post are cross-posted at the brand new Nonfiction Monday group blog! Please stop by to see what great nonfiction bloggers are reading this week!

In November, we talked about Nonfiction at our monthly Reading Wildly discussion and it was a really great topic. Nonfiction is a genre that some of my staff thought they had no interest in and I think it can definitely be a weak area for many librarians. We started our discussion by talking about the article I had passed out last month:

"Making Nonfiction Accessible for Young Readers" by Sue Christian Parsons (Reading Today, October/November 2012).

While this article is definitely geared towards teachers, we found lots to discuss. We talked about why teachers and librarians may not be as familiar with nonfiction as with fiction - because when we were kids nonfiction may not have been prioritized and a lot of what was being published was textbook-y and dry. Within the past 5-10 years, narrative nonfiction has exploded and there is a lot more available today then there was when we were growing up. Our job as librarians is to stay on top of what's being published and be ready to recommend engaging nonfiction to teachers and to kids. 

Outside of the classroom, some readers naturally gravitate towards nonfiction and we owe it to them to include nonfiction in our readers' advisory arsenal. We talked about other uses for nonfiction, too. Adults may be looking for a brief overview of a topic, something they might find in a children's book. And so much great narrative nonfiction is being published for young people that adults may be missing out if they skip over the children's section altogether. 

And, of course, as more and more of our schools are moving to adopt Common Core standards, reading narrative nonfiction is going to become more and more prevalent in classrooms. Nonfiction picture books can be great tools, even in upper grades, to give students an overview of a topic. Keeping on top of nonfiction is essential! And my staff discovered that there are great, readable titles available if we look! 

Here's what we read this month: 

I'm really please by the breadth of what everyone read and everyone found at least one book that she truly enjoyed, so I'm hoping this will encourage my staff members to keep picking up nonfiction. 

For next month, our topic is Award Winners, which will springboard us nicely into the Youth Media Awards presentation in January. I passed out two articles for everyone to read: 

I told my staff that they are welcome to read winners and honor books and they're certainly not limited to the Newbery Award. ALSC gives out many, many awards!

We also spent some time at the end of our meeting deciding on genres and topics for next year's Reading Wildly (and I will post about that soon). My staff is getting a lot out of the program and we'll continue meeting monthly and discussing books and genres. They have really enjoyed having the articles the past couple of months and the articles have given us a good starting point for talking about genre. I'm really excited about the year to come!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

2014 Mock Caldecott Contenders

Last year, we had a ton of fun at our Mock Caldecott party and I'm really hoping to make this an annual tradition. In January, I'll once again be inviting my staff and our neighboring youth librarians over for food and picture books! Taking into account what I learned last year, my staff and I have been looking over picture books for the past couple of weeks to decide what our Mock Caldecott nominees will be for this year's party.

To get started, I pulled a ton of picture books - checking out other Mock Caldecott lists and scouring our New Book shelves for eligible titles. Here are some of the sources I used:

Staff had time to look through all the books I pulled (and add additional books to the shelf) and each of us was allowed to nominate up to 10 titles. Some were voted for by two or three people, someone only nominated by one. I ended up included every book that was nominated by at least one of my staff members, giving us a list of 21 books - maybe a tiny bit more than I had originally wanted, but I think it's still a manageable number.

Here are the books we'll be looking at in January:

I'm really excited for an excuse to get everyone together again and to discuss these great picture books. This year, I will be attending the Midwinter Meeting and the awards ceremony is scheduled to start before our typical work shift begins. I still plan to arrange for any staff members who want to come in early to watch the webcast to do so. We had a lot of fun with it last year and I think it generated a lot of interest in the awards process and in the books that won medals or honors. 

Anyone else doing a Mock Caldecott (for staff or the public or kids/students)? What's on your list? Any favorites this year? 

Monday, November 25, 2013

On a Beam of Light

On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne, illustrated by Vladimir Radunsky. Grades 2 and up. Chronicle Books, April 2013. Unpaged. Review copy provided by my local library.

"[His teachers] said he would never amount to anything unless he learned to behave like all the other students. But Albert didn't want to be like the other students. He wanted to discover the hidden mysteries in the world."

If you're looking for a basic biography of Albert Einstein with names and dates and places and accomplishments, you may want to look elsewhere. BUT if you are looking for a book that illuminates exactly why Albert Einstein was so important and why his way of thinking was revolutionary, do not miss this book.

It starts with Albert's childhood and the fact that he was late to talk and he got into trouble at school. Albert didn't think like other people, so many people thought he was strange. He wanted to teach after he graduated from college, but he couldn't find a job as a teacher. Eventually, the very qualities that disturbed people - questioning the universe, thinking deeply about many things - would lead to some of the most important scientific discoveries in our history.

The more I think about this book, the more I love it. The picture book format obviously limits the number of words the author could use to get this big, huge concept across and she does it beautifully. Vladimir Radunsky's illustrations pair perfectly to the text. I didn't like them at first! I thought they were strange and a little disturbing....... much like Albert Einstein himself (light bulb!). I especially like the spreads that illustrate some of the theories that Einstein proved (everything is made up of atoms and wonky time if you traveled at the speed of light).

An author's note makes up the back matter, providing some additional facts and anecdotes about Einstein's life. Berne also provides a short list of recommended further reading. I do miss a timeline, but okay this really is more about a big idea and less about dates. Okay.

This would make a perfect pairing with any Einstein biography and has a place in every science classroom.

Happy Nonfiction Monday! This week's roundup is hosted at Jean Little Library, so make sure to stop by and check out what the bloggers are reading this week.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Afterschool: November

Here's what I shared with my Afterschool groups this month:

Animals Should Definitely NOT Wear Clothing by Judi Barrett, illustrated by Ron Barrett (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 1970). This story is short and extremely silly; it's great for a broad range of ages. The Barretts examine many different reasons animals should not wear clothing - it would be disastrous for a porcupine, a mouse would get lost in it, it would be messy for a pig. Each spread features an amusing illustration - my kids are particular fans of the hen. The illustrations definitely make this book, so it'll work best if everyone has a good view. 

Carnivores by Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Dan Santat (Chronicle Books, 2013). I totally flubbed this book when I read it to my first group because I didn't practice it beforehand. I had read it, thought it was really funny, and stuck it on the Afterschool shelf. When I picked it up a couple of weeks later, I made a big mistake by bringing it along without practicing the readaloud! When I did it for my second group (after practicing!), it went a lot better and the kids enjoyed it. This is a good choice if you have older kids; I think a lot of the humor went over the heads of the younger kids in my groups. I introduced the story by asking if someone could tell me what a carnivore is and we talked a little bit about that before I read the story. 

'Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving by Dav Pilkey (Scholastic, 1990). This rhyming story is a little silly with a lot of heart and it's perfect for the school-age crowd around this time of year. In the cadence of "Twas the Night Before Christmas", Pilkey spins the story of a class visiting a turkey farm on a field trip, realizing what's going to happen to their new turkey friends, and smuggling the turkeys out under their jackets to enjoy a veggie Thanksgiving dinner at their houses. 

This month's craft was a paper mosaic leaf and we debuted our new glue sponges! These have been all over Pinterest for elementary school classrooms and they're great for libraries, too. We've replaced the glue sticks at our make-and-take craft table and we've started bringing the glue sponges along to our Afterschool outreach. They last way longer and are way less messy than glue sticks (or glue bottles) and the kids got the hang of them quite quickly. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Dolphins of Shark Bay

The Dolphins of Shark Bay by Pamela S. Turner, with photographs by Scott Tuason. Grades 4-8. HMH Books for Young Readers, November 2013. 76 pages. Review copy provided by author.

All Scientists in the Field books are not created equal. Yes, this is a series we've come to depend on for solid scientific information and stellar back matter. Yes, it's a series that I collect at my library without question. But in terms of readability and kid-appeal, titles vary. And this, my friends, is a surefire hit.

Pamela S. Turner, author of The Frog Scientist (another SITF hit for me), accompanies scientists in Australia who are studying a group of dolphins who are really doing something cool. Some of these dolphins have been spotted using tools - collecting sponges from the ocean floor and using them to protect their snouts while rustling up dinner at the sandy, rocky bottom of the bay. Now, maybe it's a little easier to bring the kid-appeal when you're talking about dolphins, animals already well-known and well-loved by children. But author Pamela Turner treats these dolphins as characters in a story, allowing readers to get to know them and their distinct personalities and family structures.

While the scientists and their work is certainly central to the book, readers will also come to care about the dolphins of Shark Bay. Outstanding photos give us a closer look at these extraordinary animals using tools, hanging out with their families, frolicking, and so forth. Readers also get a strong conservation message and we learn how tourists feeding the dolphins was actually very harmful to them. This is important information, especially because Shark Bay is a real place with a a dolphinside resort.

Of course, this being a Scientists in the Field title, the standard extensive back matter is provided, including additional information about dolphins and further research about dolphins, resources for further study, an update on the dolphin clan, and an index.

This is one not to miss, folks! I'd press it into the hands of middle-graders interested in marine biology or who have enjoyed the following Scientist in the Field titles:

Happy Nonfiction Monday! You can find this week's roundup at NC Teacher Stuff, so please click through to see what the blogosphere is reading this week!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

My Haunted Reading List

Horror's not normally my thing. While I enjoyed it as a young adult*, it's not a genre to which I gravitate anymore. Which is why I was a little surprised to look up and realize that the past four books I've read have been ghost stories. What's been in that stack?

Ghost Hawk by Susan Cooper. Grades 5-8. Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2013. 328 pages. Review copy provided by publisher. 

Too much plot summary is going to get all spoilery, so I'll just say that Ghost Hawk is the story of a Native American boy in Massachusetts around the time of the first white settlements (think Plymouth and Puritans). There's a good deal of adventure and historic detail (which may or may not be accurate, unfortunately).

First of all, I have to say that I enjoyed reading Ghost Hawk. I knew it was coming under some controversy on the Heavy Medal blog, so I avoided reviews and reading through the comments until I had read it. Even though I enjoyed the read, I take Debbie Reese's comments about the portrayal of Native Americans seriously and even if you play the fantasy genre card, a book that's based on real people needs to be accurate. End of story. In her author's note Susan Cooper claims that this is not a historical novel but a fantasy in a historical setting. If you're using real people (and Susan Cooper is), you owe it to readers to be as accurate as possible. I honestly don't even see why this is a debate. 

I read Ghost Hawk and then my next book finally came in at the library: 

The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co. #1) by Jonathan Stroud. Grades 5-8. Disney-Hyperion, 2013. 400 pages. Review copy provided by my local library. 

Oh my, this one was a blast! Set in an alternate England where hauntings are viciously real and children are the ones who can sense the Visitors, this is the story of Lucy Carlyle and the ghost busters who hire her. Lockwood & Co. is fairly unique among ghost disposal agencies because they don't have any supervising adults. They don't need them! Lockwood and his staff have everything taken care of. And if a house gets burned down once in a while, well, at least it's not haunted anymore, eh? But Lucy and her colleagues will face the biggest challenge of their career when they're approached by an eccentric millionaire with the most haunted house in all of England. 

This is a believably creepy mystery story that puts kids logically into the center of the action. There are enough scares to please your horror fans (especially that climax!) and a solid mystery that will keep readers guessing. Lucy is a likeably imperfect heroine; her gifts give her an edge, but she doesn't always make sensible choices (much to the chagrin of her colleague and boss). This is the first in a trilogy and it wraps up enough while still definitely paving the way for following books. 

On audio, I'm working through: 

Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz, narrated by David Aaron Baker. Adult (teen crossover). Bantam/Random House Audio, 2003. Review copy provided by my local library. (I'm an Audible affiliate and if you purchase items after clicking links in this post, I get a small commission!)

This one is a recommendation from The Boyfriend who recently read and enjoyed it. I'm enjoying it well enough, though it feels like it's overwritten. (Sigh. I often feel that way about adult novels after reading so much slim and tight youth lit.) Odd Thomas is a 20-year-old short order cook who sees ghosts in his small California desert town. When he spies a strange, repulsive man being followed by masses of shades (a good indicator that this man will be committing a very violent crime soon), Odd must figure out what's going to happen and how to protect his friends. 

The narration is solid and fits with the character, though there are pronunciations I don't agree with every now and then. 

And I just now picked up: 

Far Far Away by Tom McNeal. Grades 7 and up? Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2013. 384 pages. Review copy from my local library. 

This one is for the Bill Morris Seminar, which I'll be attending in January**. We have a list of books to read, which we'll discuss at the seminar. The ghost of Jacob Grimm (yes, that Jacob Grimm) is following a teenage boy in the town of Never Better. Jeremy is the only person Jacob has met who can hear ghosts and Jacob is charged with protecting him from an evil that will befall him at some point.

I'm only halfway through at this point, but I'm having some trouble figuring out who the audience is meant to be. Really, the main character is a 150-year-old ghost and Jeremy's story is told with a distance that keeps the reader from connecting to him. I do like the modern fairy tale tone, but I also have some other issues that I won't get into quite yet since I haven't finished it yet. 

So that's the state of my haunted reading pile! Have you ever unintentionally found yourself reading a bunch of books in a row that had a running theme? 


** Oh yeah, I was selected for the 2014 Morris Seminar! I'm super excited!!!! Wheee!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Reading in the Wild: Ideas for Your Library

Reading in the Wild: The Book Whisperer's Keys to Cultivating Lifelong Reading Habits by Donalyn Miller with Susan Kelley. Adult (professional development). Jossey-Bass, November 2013. 273 pages. Review copy purchased.

I just finished the amazing professional book Reading in the Wild by Donalyn Miller, a.k.a. The Book Whisperer, and Susan Kelley. Having read and loved The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child a few years ago, I was very excited when I saw that Donalyn Miller had another book about reading coming out. You may know Donalyn from her monthly #TitleTalk Twitter chats or her fabulous blog. She is a reading teacher in Texas and reads voraciously in order to advise her students and create lifelong readers. This book examines five habits of lifelong readers and what teachers can do to instill these habits in their students.

Lifelong reading habits include:

  1. Dedicating time to read: making reading a priority and finding spare minutes in our busy days to dedicate to reading. 
  2. Self-selecting reading material: not relying on a teacher or boss to dictate reading, but knowing what we like and how to find our next read. 
  3. Sharing books and reading with other readers: whether it's a monthly book club, casual conversations with friends, or contributing to social media like GoodReads or Twitter. 
  4. Having reading plans: knowing what we're going to read next and/or setting reading goals. 
  5. Showing preferences: being aware of what we like in a book so that we can find other books that we might like. 
Each section is a mix of explaining the habit, suggesting activities to do with students, and showing supporting evidence from her classroom. Yes, the main audience for this book may be teachers, but librarians have a lot to gain from this book, too! Here are some ideas: 

Readers' Advisory Training

Miller's introduction is a smorgasbord of research-based information about why reading matters. Part of the librarian's job is to match readers to the right book at the right time. If you're making a case for starting a readers' advisory training program (possibly like the Reading Wildly program I'm doing with my staff) or bringing in a trainer or attending a conference or webinar to develop your readers' advisory skills, you definitely need to check out this book. I highlighted many sections to share with my staff about the importance of reading teachers (and anyone in a readers' advisory capacity, definitely including librarians) reading widely themselves. Over and over again, Miller emphasizes the importance of reading widely, of valuing students' choices, of the readers' advisory interview (what she calls conferring and providing preview stacks). 

Books to Read List

One of the five habits that Miller discusses is making a reading plan, and she includes the "Books to Read List" that she uses with her students. This is something we could easily provide in the public library, leaving blank copies for patrons to take or distributing them when we visit for booktalks. The Books to Read List enables patrons to keep track of the titles that have piqued their interest so that they have a reading plan, somewhere to start when they finish their current read. 

Summer Reading Goals

Miller emphasizes the importance of student choice in reading over and over again. She also asserts that students who have a reading goal over school breaks tend to read more. Some public libraries allow patrons to set their own reading goals for the Summer Reading Club. Even if you don't want to take that plunge, maybe encouraging families to set their own informal goals for the summer before school ends might encourage them to follow through and join the Summer Reading Club. A child might want to finish a series he's started, read a certain number of pages, or try a genre outside his comfort zone. If kids have thought about where they might start, it makes those trips to the library more manageable.

Reading Resolutions

One very cool idea Miller suggests is talking about and writing down "reading resolutions" for the new year. This could make an easy and fun interactive display or self-directed program. Provide large post-it notes for patrons to jot down their own reading resolutions for the year and post them up on a bulletin board or designated space. Writing down a goal and posting it for the world to see may help patrons reach their goals, too! And patrons' reading resolutions might give you a better idea of your community's favorite genres and series or recommend programming ideas to you. 

Help Struggling/Reluctant Readers

Of course, Miller has seen struggling readers come through her classroom, and she suggests techniques and resources for helping these kids develop a love of reading. Kids who struggle to finish books might enjoy collections of short stories because finishing a story can give them a goal they can meet and a feeling of satisfaction at completing something. Miller also recounts her journey towards acceptance of graphic novels as legitimate literature (not just a gateway to "better" novels). 

These are some of the ideas and inspirations I got from Reading in the Wild. I'm sure every reader will glean something different from this wonderful book. If you serve school-age kids, don't let yourself miss it!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Thanks for Thanksgiving at the @ALSCBlog

Today I'm over at the ALSC Blog sharing some ideas for Thanksgiving storytimes! Please click through and check it out; I'd love to know your favorites, too!


Thursday, October 31, 2013

Afterschool: October

This month was a little crazy with a 2-week Fall Break in the middle of the month and then our community's annual Lights On Afterschool program taking the place of one of my Afterschool visits. Here are the books I shared with my group this month:

Creepy Carrots! by Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Peter Brown (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2012). I wanted to share something slightly scary, but not really Halloween-y and this fit the bill nicely. The ending is a funny twist and the color scheme really adds to the creepy atmosphere of the story. 

Shark in the Park! by Nick Sharratt (Corgi Childrens, 2000). Timothy Pope goes to the park with his telescope and keeps thinking he sees a shark at the park... but does he? While reading this one, I have the kids make telescopes with their hands and look up, down, and all around with me.

The Three Ninja Pigs by Corey Rosen Schwartz, illustrated by Dan Santat (Putnam Juvenile, 2012). This martial arts twist on The Three Little Pigs is definitely a crowd-pleaser. The rhyming text makes it a fun read and the martial arts details hold the interest of the kids. They asked me to read this one again, which NEVER happens with this group! 

For this month's craft, we did leaf rubbings, which I love because it is so cheap and easy. And if the kids enjoy it (which all of our kids did), they can very easily do it again at home or with their Afterschool group. 

We also visited the YMCA Fall Break camps twice this month and read to very large groups of kids (70-80 each visit). Their camp theme was superheroes, and here's what Miss A and I brought: 

Any new favorites for the school-age set? 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Preschool Lab: Changing Leaves

Last week we had our second Preschool Lab program and we talked about changing leaves. This was a fun program that can be done on a shoestring budget as long as you have a park or yard or somewhere to pick up some leaves.

Here's what I did:

Opening Song: My Hands Say Hello. This is our standard opener for all preschool programs.

Welcome: I told everyone that today we're talking about changing leaves and I asked if anyone had seen some colorful leaves on the trees. Some had, some hadn't and for those who hadn't I suggested that maybe they would spot some on their way home today.

Felt: Fall is Not Easy (adapted from the book by Marty Kelley). We started with a silly story about changing leaves.

Book/Activity: We're Going on a Leaf Hunt by Steve Metzger, illustrated by Miki Sakamoto. This story goes along the lines of "We're Going on a Bear Hunt". After each obstacle, the children find a tree with different colored leaves. I passed out felt leaves in different colors and as we reached each tree, I asked the kids to bring up the appropriate color leaf for our leaf collection on the board.

Book: Leaves Fall Down: Learning About Autumn Leaves by Lisa Marie Bullard, illustrated by Nadine Takvorian. This book gives a very simple explanation to why leaves change color and why trees lose their leaves. I didn't read the entire book; we stopped right after the leaves fall off the trees and the branches are bare. I also didn't read any of the speech parts in the pictures, only the simple text of the story.

Demonstration: Changing leaves. I had picked some leaves from an oak tree by my apartment 5 days prior to the program and left them out. Then I picked some on the day before the program so we could compare. I let everyone come up and touch the leaves and we talked about how they felt. The fresh leaves were soft and tender. The older leaves were dry and crunchy. I got the idea from Busy Mommy Media, although I think doing the activity the way she describes might have worked better. This wasn't a program that would last 5 days, though, so I adjusted it. ;)


Felt Board: I put out the felt materials we had used in storytime and let the kids play with them. They could retell the stories we heard or make up their own. They also had fun manipulating the felt pieces (great for fine motor control) and sorting the leaves by color.

Leaf Sorting: I put out leaves in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes and asked kids and parents to sort them. Everyone sorted by color, but I didn't see anyone sorting by other qualities. Some kids did notice that some leaves are more than one color or are one color on one side and a different color on the other side.

Leaf Rubbings: I put out paper and crayons and a selection of leaves and kids could create leaf rubbings. To make a leaf rubbing, put a leaf under your paper and then color lightly with the crayon on the paper where the leaf is. You'll see the shape of the leaf coming through! I figured this one would be popular and take the longest, so I put up two tables for this one.

Leaf Observation: I put out magnifying glasses and a selection of leaves and encouraged kids to look at and talk about the leaves. This one seemed to work best when I was there asking kids questions and helping to identify leave parts. If I did it again, I might include some clipboards and paper and encourage parents to write down their child's observations.

As before, I let everyone spend as much or as little time as they wanted at the stations and I had a selection of books for them to take home, as well as a handout with some activities they can do at home. Leaves is a great one to continue the learning at home because everyone has access to them somewhere! Again, I had a small but enthusiastic group. The entire program lasted about 45 minutes.

Next month we'll be talking about animals in winter, inspired by Christina Jones at the Monroe County (IN) Public Library!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Reading Wildly: Scary

With Halloween coming up, we dedicated this month to scary stories for our Reading Wildly program. Knowing that my staff members have different thresholds for horror (and our library kids do, too!), slightly scary books were a-okay this month, as well.

And I added a dimension to our discussion this month by asking my staff members to read an article in addition to a novel. This is something that really added to our genre discussion and it's something I'm going to continue doing each month.

There has been a lot written about scary stories and children, so I passed out three articles and made one required reading. I found these articles on Inspire, our state library database search, and printed out or ran off copies for each of my staff members.

Required reading:

  • "Don't Let a Good Scare Frighten You: Choosing and Using Quality Chillers to Promote Reading" by Patricia O. Richards, Debra H. Thatcher, Michelle Shreeves, Peggy Timmons, and Sallie Barker (The Reading Teacher, Vol. 52, No. 8, May 1999). 

Optional articles:
  • "The Alluring Darkness: Finding Belonging in Fangs and Wands" by Chase M. Will (YALS, Summer 2008). 
  • "Scary Stories, Mixed Feelings" by Pat Miller (LibrarySparks, October 2011). 
We had a great discussion about the appeal of the horror genre for kids (something we saw first-hand when we brought creepy stories to booktalk to a local fourth grade class earlier this month). Sometimes, things that are very scary to adults are actually not that scary to kids (Richards et al., 1999) and changing stories to make them less violent and frightening can actually make them scarier. Richards et. al give the example of Little Red Riding Hood being scarier when the wolf runs away at the end (instead of being killed) because the wolf is still out there! 

Reading scary stories can help children work through their fears, experiencing capable characters that solve the mystery and/or defeat the bad guys. Horror is also a socially acceptable medium for reading about and exploring deeper issues, such as coming of age (Will, 2008). 

Reading and discussing these articles helped my staff see horror in a new light and gives us some ammo to defend this genre, which is super popular with kids and not always so popular with adults. 

Again, we shared our booktalks for the following books (I'm designating the slightly scary titles, as reported by my staff): 

I'm pleased that we had a wide variety of books talked about at our meeting this month. We definitely had a range of scary to not-scary that came about organically, and even some nonfiction. Huzzah!

Our topic for next month is nonfiction, which I'm limiting to narrative nonfiction. I explained that narrative nonfiction is nonfiction that tells a story, rather than a textbook that contains lists of facts. I passed out a list of the Sibert Medal Winners and Honor Books and encouraged staff to choose a book from this list if they have any doubts. I'm emphasizing narrative nonfiction because that's where I see kids needing readers' advisory. If they're looking to learn information about snakes, we can answer that reference question. If they're interested in reading true stories for fun, narrative nonfiction may fit the bill. Teachers, also, may be looking for more narrative nonfiction as our school corporation continues to move to the Common Core Standards. 

I also assigned an article to read that we'll discuss next month: "Making Nonfiction Accessible for Young Readers" by Sue Christian Parsons (Reading Today, October/November 2012). I'm really excited about the direction our Reading Wildly program is taking and looking forward to our next discussion!

What are you reading? Any favorite narrative nonfiction titles to share? 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Nonfiction Monday!

Woohoo! It's that time again: I'm so pleased to host Nonfiction Monday this week! I'm really excited to see what everyone's been reading and reviewing, so please leave a link in comments and I will update our roundup throughout the day.

Tomorrow, I will be presenting with my librarian partner in crime Kate Conklin at the Indiana Library Federation Conference about teen nonfiction. We'll be talking about how to develop a great teen nonfiction collection and how to put it to use by promoting it and using it in readers' advisory.

You can find handouts from our session here: Resources for Evaluating and Selecting Teen Nonfiction and the printable list of books we'll be booktalking from. If you're attending the conference, I hope you'll stop by our session! You can find us Tuesday at 11am in Room 206.

Now, what nonfiction has everyone been reading around the interwebs? Leave a link in the comments!

Myra of Gathering Books shares a review of Nevermore: A Photobiography of Edgar Allen Poe by Karen E. Lang. She says, "This book provides a perfect overview for young readers who would like to know more about the Master of Macabre and his tortured life."

Sue of Sally's Bookshelf is writing about Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library by Barb Rosenstock, illustrated by John O'Brien. She says, "From the title page illustration (TJ constructing a library using books) to the end notes, this book is chock-full of fun information."

Over at Archimedes Notebook, Sue speaks with the author of Bedtime Math: A Fun Excuse to Stay Up Late by Laura Overdeck, illustrated by Jim Paillot.

Loree of A Life in Books examines Can We Save the Tiger? by Martin Jenkins and Vicky White.

Jennifer of Jean Little Library reviews The Nazi Hunters by Neal Bascomb. She says, "...this is an historical account that will definitely grab the attention of kids who are aficionados of World War II."

Alex of The Children's War reviews World War II Spies: An Interactive History Adventure by Michael Burgan. She says, "Like the other interactive history books, World War II Spies, will have lots of appeal to any reader interested in the war."

Jeanne of True Tales & A Cherry On Top features Martin & Mahalia: His Words, Her Song by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney.

Roberta of Wrapped in Foil reviews Parrots Over Puerto Rico by Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore. She says, "Parrots Over Puerto Rico is one of those books that you need to have on hand because it can be used in so many ways."

Tammy of Apples with Many Seeds reviews 13 Art Illusions Children Should Know by Silke Vry. She says the book "takes us on an historical journey that explores and explains how the use of light, shadow and colour by artists can trick us into thinking that we are seeing something that is not really ‘real’ or ‘true’."

Janet Squires of All About Books features A is for Autumn by Robert Maas. She says, "Overall... the book is a visual pleasure and offers many opportunities for conversations about the season."

Anastasia of Booktalking features The How-To Handbook: Shortcuts and Solutions for the Problems of Everyday Life by Martin Oliver and Alexandra Johnson.

Sondy of Sonderbooks reviews The Tapir Scientists by Sy Montgomery and Nic Bishop. She says, "This series shows that the life of a scientist can be adventurous and exciting."