Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Reading and things...

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


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

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

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

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Another Year of Reading Wildly!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, January 2, 2015

Resolve to Rock in 2015: Goals, Goals, Goals

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

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

True confession time:

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

And I had no idea how we were doing! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are your professional goals this year?