Thursday, October 27, 2016

Video Booktalks!

In previous years, we've been able to visit our local schools frequently for booktalks, but since our staffing level was cut we've had to rethink our approach. For the past several months, my staff members have been hard at work on creating video booktalks and we were able to send out links to our first batch this week!

Here's the full playlist if you want to check them out:

We decided to make separate videos for each age group that we would typically booktalk to. So for this first round, we have videos for 2nd grade, 3rd grade, 4th grade, 5th/6th grade, and 7th/8th grade. We made five videos total, each under 15 minutes long. Each video features five great books that kids and teachers can check out from our library. This is patterned after our monthly class visits where we would spend about 15 minutes per group and feature 5-6 titles each time.

We started getting organized several weeks before we planned to send them out. I asked my staff to sign up with titles that they would like to booktalk for whichever grades. Once everyone had a chance to submit titles, I went through and narrowed each list down to five titles, making sure to keep a balance between formats, genres, and to include diverse titles.

Then we all recorded the videos for our assigned books. We used our flip camera propped up on a book truck and the microphone on the flip camera was sufficient. I asked everyone to record a brief intro, which we showed at the very beginning of each video, and I recorded a brief ending message to encourage kids to stop by and check out these books from the library.

We recorded each booktalk as a separate video and then two of my staff members edited them together, so we were able to repeat some of the books for multiple videos without a whole lot of extra work. For example, Funny Bones appears in both our second grade video and our third grade video. This is helpful, too, if we ever wanted to put together booktalk videos on a certain genre. We could edit all our our scary booktalks into one video, for example.

To edit the videos, my staff members used Filmora, a video editing software that we purchased. The music in the intro comes from Filmora's library of music. The software allowed us to insert images and the titles of the books. There's a lot more it can do; we're excited to play around with it more.

Once the videos were edited, we uploaded them to our library's YouTube channel and sent out the link to our teachers. I sent the videos to each of the teachers we had been visiting with regular booktalks and gave them first shot at sharing the videos and requesting the books. Then a couple of days later, I sent out the video links to staff at each of our elementary and middle schools and asked our Marketing person to put them on our website and Facebook page, as well.

We're still waiting to see what the overall response will be, but so far they've each been viewed a couple dozen times. The real test will be to see if the books get checked out!

We're planning on sending out another round of booktalk videos before Winter Break and there are a few things we'll do differently:

1. After speaking with our Marketing person, he volunteered to film the next round with the library's HD camera, which may provide a better and more consistent quality of video. We also may look at purchasing an external microphone for better and more consistent sound.

2. We recorded this round in our teen office with the blank wood wall background, but I'd love to look into recording videos in our teen and children's rooms so that kids can see the areas of the library they'd be using.

3. We talked about making our presentations a little more uniform - each starting the same way, maybe making our intros more consistent.

4. We talked about adding a title screen with the season and grade on it to differentiate once we have a more extensive library of videos.

I'm not sure if it will be possible to offer these videos monthly at some point. We're going to start out attempting them quarterly and see what the response is. Compared to the hours and hours we spent driving to and visiting schools, repeating booktalks over and over to reach all the classes at a school, this is MUCH less time-consuming. I think we'll get better at it (recording videos, editing, etc.) as we get more experience, so it's possible it will take even less time as we continue.

So the question will be: are the videos decently effective at reaching our teachers and students? And time will just have to tell on that one. We'll keep an eye on how many times the videos are viewed and how the books check out, plus consider any feedback we get from teachers. Ideally, I'd love to also be able to visit the schools in person at least once a year and that might give our videos more impact. We'll see!

Have you ever recorded video booktalks? What tips and tricks do you have to share? Or what questions do you have about how we did ours?

Monday, October 24, 2016

Audiobook Review: Ghost

Ghost by Jason Reynolds, narrated by Guy Lockard. Grades 5-7. Atheneum, 2016. 3 hours, 29 minutes. (192 pages.) Audiobook provided by my local library.


Castle Crenshaw calls himself Ghost and he knows he can run fast. Unfortunately, he knows this because of a terrible night when his dad got drunk and violent and running fast was the only way to get away. Life hasn't been super kind to Ghost - the kids at school make fun of him because he's poor, and he carries around the weight of his father's betrayal.
One day, Ghost stumbles onto a local track team practicing near his neighborhood and starts to watch. Those kids think they're so fast, but Ghost knows he can leave them in the dust. And when he shows off for those kids, Coach is watching him and invites him to join the track team.

Ghost has never done anything like that before. And he's never had a strong guy in his life to show him the ropes. Suddenly, Ghost is learning what it's like to be on a team, to have a Coach who really cares about him, to work at something and get better and feel proud. To stay on the track team, Ghost will have to steer clear of what his mom calls "altercations", which is not going to be easy. When kids start running their mouths and saying stuff about him, Ghost can't keep calm, he has to fight back. But he'll have to really watch it to keep doing what he loves. And then Ghost makes a decision. A bad decision. A decision that could cost him his track star dreams. Will Ghost lose the best thing that has ever happened to him?

If you like realistic stories, especially if you're into sports, pick up Ghost. 

My thoughts:

Oh man, you guys. THIS VOICE!!! Jason Reynolds is a master of voice and dialogue. His characters jump off the page with their realness. I could completely and totally believe that Ghost was a real kid who was sitting down and telling me the story of his life. If you have readers who enjoy strong, well-written voice (me, me, me!), push this book into their hands.

The narration of the audiobook absolutely heightens the story, too. Guy Lockard brings out every ounce of humor and tension in the story. His fully voiced performance did justice to the strong voices of the characters in the book. The words and voice of Coach, a taxi-driving curmudgeon with a heart of gold, are still stuck in my head, weeks after listening to this audiobook.

This book was a finalist for the National Book Award and I'm expecting to see some more shiny stickers on it, come awards season.


After I finished this audiobook, I immediately picked up Jason Reynolds's and Guy Lockard's other middle grade audiobook out this year, As Brave as You, which is also really good. Again, I think audio is the way to go with this title and Guy Lockard gives a masterful, fully-voiced performance.

For readers who love Ghost's strong voice, I would suggest other books with strongly-voiced characters: The Crossover by Kwame Alexander or Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage,

For readers who like the storyline of a kid dealing with Circumstances in the city, I would suggest Kinda Like Brothers by Coe Booth or Ghetto Cowboy by G. Neri.

For readers looking for more sports stories, I would suggest The Crossover by Kwame Alexander (yes, again, I love this book!), Sasquatch in the Paint by Kareem Abdul-Jabar, or Izzy Barr, Running Star by Claudia Mills.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Reading Wildly: Thriller/Suspense

Last year, I was working the Teen Desk when a girl who was CRAZY about the author April Henry came in looking for books. Of course, all of April Henry's books were checked out and she was asking if we had anything similar. And I was stumped. Nothing came to mind that I had read or even really heard of except The Face on the Milk Carton, which kids were reading when *I* was a kid.

That's a long story to say that I requested this genre for one of our Reading Wildly months this year. Of course, I helped my patron with the help of sources like Novelist, but it definitely identified a gap in my knowledge.

This month, we read "thrillers" and I learned after Becky Spratford's RA workshops at my library that what we were actually reading about would be considered suspense novels.

Here's what we read:
For the most part, this genre wasn't a huge favorite with my staff, although I had one who got really into it and found several books that she enjoyed. 

Next month, we're going the complete opposite way and we're going to be reading gentle books. I suggested three ways that staff could take this genre: 
  • Christian fiction - definitely something that gets requested in our fairly conservative community
  • Gentle teen reads - books from the teen area that don't contain mature language and content
  • Children's books for kids who are reading way above grade level (say, a first grader reading at a fourth or fifth grade level)
So, we'll see what we end up with next month! When I passed around the paper for staff suggestions for this genre, we were very lacking in gentle options for teens.

What are your favorite gentle reads for teens? 

Monday, October 17, 2016

Preschool Storytime: Dinosaurs

This morning we had dinosaur storytime! This one was a HUGE hit, of course. Dinosaurs are always a crowd-pleaser. One of my little guys even unknowingly wore an awesome dinosaur shirt. I had done a dinosaur Preschool Lab a few years ago, but this storytime was not specifically a STEM program (although we shared a lot of science information!). Here's what we did:

Opening Song: My Hands Say Hello

Book: Bones, Bones, Dinosaur Bones by Byron Barton. We talked about dinosaur bones and how scientists find them and put them in museums.

Song: Ten Big Dinosaurs
(Tune: Ten Little Indians)

1 big, 2 big, 3 big dinosaurs,
4 big, 5 big, 6 big dinosaurs,
7 big, 8 big, 9 big dinosaurs,
Ten big dinosaurs!

They all lived a long, long time ago.
They all lived a long, long time ago.
They all lived a long, long time ago.
Now there are no more.

I really like this song because it's catchy and easy for kids and parents to learn and it reinforces the knowledge that dinosaurs lived a long time ago and they don't live anymore. It's also good practice for counting. 

Source: KidSparkz

Book: Dinosaur Bones by Bob Barner. We talked about bones and felt some bones in our bodies (the front of your legs and your wrists are great places to demonstrate feeling your bones). Our bones help us move and the dinosaurs' bones helped them move, too. This book has a simple, rhyming text that teaches that dinosaurs were more than just dusty bones in a museum. They actually used their bones, just like we use our bones. Each page has additional info in smaller type that you can read if you have an older or more experienced group. 

Song: Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes. I could tell we needed a little wiggle break and this is my go-to. To stretch it out a little bit, I always ask kids to identify their body parts first: Where is your head? Where are your toes? etc. And then after we do the song, we repeat it fast and SUPERFAST (and you can do it slowly, as well, if you need more movement). 

Felt Song: Dino Laid an Egg
Tune: This Old Man

Di-no-saur, she laid one.
She laid one egg, then was done. 

Chorus: Oh-oh, dino eggs,
She lays them one by one.
She lays eggs until she’s done. 

Di-no-saur, she laid two.
She laid two eggs, that were blue. Chorus
Di-no-saur, she laid three.
She laid three eggs, by a tree.Chorus
Di-no-saur, she laid four
She laid four eggs, not one more. Chorus
Di-no-saur, She laid five,
She laid five that hatched ALIVE! Chorus

I like this song because it introduces the information that dinosaurs laid eggs that hatched into baby dinosaurs. I asked Ms. T to make me a felt set for this story so we had a visual to go with it. 

Book: Ten Terrible Dinosaurs by Paul Strickland. This one was just a silly story with dinosaurs in it, but it also introduces some great vocabulary ("elated", "weary"). Whenever I come to a word that kids probably don't know, I define it for them if I can do so easily. Reading books with preschoolers is a great way to expose them to new words and knowing lots of words makes it easier to learn to read when it's time. 

Felt Activity: Dinosaurs. I passed out the felt dinosaurs and asked kids to bring them up and put them on the board when I called the dinosaur they had. I did use the names for the dinosaurs, but also described them and showed an example, so the kids didn't need to know the names of the dinosaurs, but they were exposed to those words. 

Play Stations: 

I got out the blocks (we always use blocks) and our dinosaur toys from our Toddler Time toys. 

I discovered that we have this really cool felt set of dinosaurs, so I put that out on the felt board. It is so old that I have no idea where it came from, my apologies! 

And we practiced fine motor skills with clothespin stegosaurus. This article recently was shared around on Facebook: Losing Our Grip: More Students Entering School Without Fine Motor Skills. Using clothespins in play is a great way to improve hand strength and build fine motor skills. These cardboard dinosaurs are very simple and cheap, but I had a handful of kids working with me quite a bit, putting the clothespins on and taking them off. You can use these for a game using a die to tell how many spikes to put on. Or you can just free play with them like we did.