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!