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First Day of School Books

  • Posted on July 27, 2007 at 8:44 PM

We read books at my school. The first day of school we read. I have been known to wander in and out of classrooms on the first day with a book or poem in hand. When I enter and if it’s convenient, the teacher might pause and introduce me to the new students then I’ll take a second to read a silly poem or make a quick announcement. Often KINDERGARTEN teachers face students with extreme separation anxiety who have never-in-their-entire-five-years-on-this-planet-left-their-mothers and my wandering in with a book can give them 8 minutes of time to focus on an individual child who needs some help. Stop snickering High School Librarians until you spend an hour in a Kdg classroom on the first day of school!!!

Some of the titles we use for the "First Day of School" include these:
I Like Your Buttons by Sarah Marwil Lamstein
Wemberly worried  by Kevin Henkes
Chickens chickens go to school by Valeri Gorbachev
 Don’t eat the teacher by Nick Ward
First graders from Mars – Episode 1: Horus’ horrible day by Shana Corey
Get ready for second grade, Amber Brown by Paula Danziger
How did you grow so big, so soon?  by Anne Bowen
I am too absolutely small for school  by Lauren Child.
 Judy Moody by Megan McDonald
Look out kindergarten, here I come! by Nancy Carlson
Miss Bindergarten gets ready for kindergarten  by Joseph Slate
Moses goes to school by Isaac Millman
Mouse’s first day of school by Lauren Thompson
Murphy and Myrtle : the first day of school  by Martha Atwater
My name is Yoon by Helen Recorvits
The new kid at school by Kate McMullan
The night before first grade  by Natasha Wing
Not-So-Weird Emma  by Sally Warner
Off to school, Baby Duck! by Amy Hest
Pa Lia’s first day by Michelle Edwards
Sabina at school and the letter S by Cynthia Klingel and Robert B. Noyed
Sparky and Eddie : the first day of school by Tony Johnston
The Best School Year Ever by Barbara Robinson
The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn
Tom’s first day at school  by Beth Robbins

Anything super funny and short for grades three and four. Upbeat things for kindergarten. Weepy sentimental sobstuff for parents with silly poems at the end (but you WON’T catch me reading Love You Forever). Silly things that make the principal a pal for the administration. Titles to make second graders feel so superior to those little kids in K and 1. Books about worrying for first graders since they still have fears but aren’t sure how they are supposed to express them now that they are not "babies."

I started looking in my district-level OPAC to see what other titles other schools owned that I didn’t have. The list keeps growing and growing. Which books would you add to this list of your favorites?

Beginnings of school

  • Posted on July 27, 2007 at 8:12 PM

School’s are starting all over the country.  Two weeks left before students arive and there’s so much to do. It’s time to pull out my checklists of starting school activities. Here are a few sites that you definitely need to include:

Alice Yucht on her blog Alice in Infoland includes Y’s Tips for Starting a New School/Library/Job
NEA’s Tips for Starting the School Year
Kathy Schrock’s Guide for Educators Back to School Resources 
Enchanted Learning’s Back-to-School Activities
Refresh your memory of being a student teacher by looking at the Practicum Guide from UTexas

Keep in mind these very basic principles:
Familiarize yourself with everything you can while there are no people in the library (that’s where I’ll be this Sat.)
Connect with people immediately. The people are more important than the tasks. (includes custodians & sec.)
Take the time to set goals and vision the school year.

Everything else is just a step towards your vision.


  • Posted on July 23, 2007 at 5:00 PM

Two of my sons are in basic training with the U.S. army right now. #1 son (by age) asked me to send him a book or two on army cadences and the Ranger program. Since the Ranger Indoctrination Program is so intense and they take their secrecy seriously, I was worried. Where do you start and is there anything out there to mentally prepare someone for RIP? Amazon came through and I’ve been reading the books before sending them on tomorrow morning with a care package.

Cadences are an amazing invention. According to the editor Ryan Casey in Cadences of the U.S. Army, "the cadences serve to synchronize marching and running to life spirits, share humor and to impart the military lore of the U.S. Army. They help forge the individuals of the unit into a single team, born of demanding training and growing comraderie."

Wow! Where are the cadences of education? Perhaps we need to locate rhymes and calls to synchronize our message. We know about calling and having people repeat back after us. We do Nursery Rhymes. Why not try a new way of moving?

Some cadences are short like this one I found online:

Up in the morning with a whistle and a yell,
I know that voice, I know it well.
I like sleep, it feels so fine.
But all I do is double time.

Maybe I should picture that group of kindergartners from last year that caused me such headaches and rethink my movements in the library? Perhaps I need to add to my sweet repertoire of hand signals, quiet whispers, flipping lights on and off, and good examples and include some goofy marching rhymes to teach library skills.

I use Judy Freeman’s Hi-Ho-Librario with my young ones, perhaps it’s time to come up with some new drills for information skills. What do you think? Shall I try out this rhyme while helping the new kindergartners journey to the library?

Go to the library with my book,
Read something new like how to cook.
I like learning, it feels so fine.
But all I do is stand in line.

But don’t look too closely in my collection for army books because they are difficult to locate. The publishers gear their books very carefully towards the middle school audience. There appears to be a fear of glorifying violence, weapons, or military might in the publishing and in the library purchasing world. So explain the popularity of The Dangerous Book For Boys? (I’ll be blogging about that one really soon!!) In the meantime, branch out and try something new, people. That’s an order!

Refresh Yourself

  • Posted on July 19, 2007 at 9:12 AM

Summer Refreshers! One day workshops for the busy school library media specialist. Summer can be a time of limboland. Many school librarians I know sneak into their libraries to putter. I personally enjoy locking myself in my office and filing and reorganizing my vast files since I never take time from students to do it during the year. I spent time at the beginning of the summer cataloguing an entire cart of books so that I would have new and exciting titles for my teachers (and the brand new principal) during our first days of school inservice. I am reading several books a day. But what I really need to do each summer is engage in professional development activities with other school librarians.
Diane Chen, Darlah Carman, Nancy Dickinson at KSMA
Enter the Kentucky School Media Association’s Summer Refresher Readers Are Leaders. Nancy Dickinson and I journeyed to historic Bardstown, Kentucky for this one day workshop and it was a worthy trip. Nancy has blogged about this on the AASL Blog which everyone should be reading whether they are AASL members or not. I enjoyed every session and admired the expertise of each presenter who willingly shared with their colleagues. We met in a school so we didn’t have huge overhead costs and they fed us well without having to pay exorbitant conference center catering costs. (Do you KNOW how much that cookie or soda at a convention costs?!)

Diane Culbertson presented a session on the "Future of Technology and Continual Partial Attention Disorder". I was impressed with her ability to bring the big issues together to present understandably within her time slot. All of those are characteristics of great presenters.

Nancy Kelly Allen shared her presentation on "Weaving Words" giving us practical suggestions for integrating books into library lessons. I enjoyed learning the behind the scenes info on her books. My students hope that I have met every author and can tell them something unusual about each book in the library. Nancy had a simple handout "Why Have Author Nancy Kelly Allen visit my School?" which included the concept that "Authors have the ultimate literacy initiative.When a child meets an author, the child knows more about the book-the ideas behind the story, the inspiration for writing the story – than any book he/she has ever read." You can read more on her website

Becky Nelson ad Carolyn Lynch discussed the 2007 titles that impress them mid-year. I was excited to hear about Cynthia Kadohata’s book Cracker! the best dog in Vietnam. Having one son in training to be an animal care specialist for the army, I am very interested in military dogs. The dog on the cover looks so much like my own dog Marshall T. Rex. (T for teddybear) that I agonized about Cracker’s well-being throughout their booktalk. Fun list of new books.

I love the mix of practical and technical that occurs at a refresher course saving the great theoretic thinking for our conferences. Laura Smith Crafton presented "Let the Learning Begin" with library tips for the beginning of the school year. Melissa Gardner shared "Podcast, Wikis, and Blogs! Oh, My!" but unfortunately that school blocked nearly every site. This just fueled my belief that the librarians are the ones needing the override passwords to enable access. Here were a group of adults engaged in professional development activities but unable to access videos and blogs due to fear. (I’ll step down from my soap box now)

There were so many other sessions I would love to have attended. Terri Kirk presented her Great Reads for Teens. Christy Havens shared "What’s Involved with Having a Library Advisory Committee?" Peggy Phelan demonstrated the character P4 (P.P. Plagiarism Police) in uniform for her session "Plagiarism Police." There were booktalks on the new Kentucky Bluegrass Award nominees, sessions on using state resources with students, information on forming book clubs, a workshop on honoring our heroes, a session on Drama in the Elementary, I-Safe Internet Safety and much more.

I’d love to hear from other states that have similar summer programs. It is much easier to extract myself from feeding teenagers at home during the summer than it is to pry myself away from my classes during the school year. I love attending my TASL conference, AASL conference, and SLJ Vision Summit, but add in the days missed for ALA Midwinter, National Library Legislative Day, state legislative day, and local workshops as a partner with teachers and you’ll see why I am so concerned about choosing only the best, most necessary activities away from school. I know that each workshop I attend during the school year must have immediate benefit to my students, my school, and my profession. A summer refresher need only benefit me!  Thanks, Kentucky and thank you to Darlah Carman the KSMA president for inviting me. Kentucky has great things going on. Wonder just how much more will occur at the 2007 KLA/KSMA Joint Conference on September 19-22 in Louisville.

Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

  • Posted on July 17, 2007 at 12:00 AM

During ALA I was fortunate to receive an advance reading copy  from Little, Brown & Company of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie with art by Ellen Forney. Based upon experiences of his life, Sherman Alexie tells the story of cartoonist Junior who travels daily off reservation to attend a high school where he is  the only Indian. On first reading of this young adult book, I worried that the portrayal of reservation life was too bleak and would reinforce stereotypes some have about Native Americans. Fortunately I discovered Debbie Reese had already blogged about this title and linked to a review by Beverly Slapin. Debbie Reese posts frequently to her blog American Indians in Children’s Literature and currently teaches American Indian Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Frequent readers of LM_NET will recognize her name. We emailed briefly about this title and I’m looking forward to discussing this topic in more depth later this month.

There are several other reviews of this title already out even though the book isn’t being released until September. If you work with young adults, you need multiple copies of this book in your collection. I do not pretend to be an excellent book reviewer (so I’ll point you to some other blogs and reviews to read below) but I can tell you that this book contains humor and heartbreak with very clever illustrations throughout. I hesitated to read it initally because of the cover containing toy figures of a cowboy and an Indian. I’m glad I set aside my cover judgments to read this book.

La Bloga’s review
Richie’s Picks review by Richie Partington
Illustrator Ellen Forney’s blog
Robert Benziker’s interview of Sherman Alexie
On the nomination list of the PNBA (Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association)
Kirkus starred review July 15, 2007
Booklist August 1, 2007

Summertime is an excellent escape for me to read the young adult books that I am not able to use daily with my young elementary group. If you haven’t taken advantage of BookExpo, publisher parties, and ALA Exhibit halls to pick up some advance reading copies, you should consider going. Who knows what treasures you might discover!

Not Scary, Scare ME!

  • Posted on July 11, 2007 at 7:21 AM

Scare Me! "I want a book that’s SCARY" pleads the tenth child in a row. If your collection mirrors mine, you dread this question because you don’t have enough scary books to meet the demand of elementary students. Students aren’t looking for mysteries and adventures. They want scary books with a suspenseful atmosphere – horror without gore. What can you provide?

Stone Arch Books staff Joan Berge, Maryellen Gregoire, & Michael Dahl answered questions on a conference call today focusing on this topic. As they noted there are two universal themes kids recommend to each other: books that make them laugh and books that scare them. They want the thrill to be scared out of their wits and know in the end they survived. Stone Arch is rising to meet this need with new fiction sets of books for the striving (struggling and reluctant) reader. 

Stone Arch prides themselves on marketing safe books. Even in their graphic novels you won’t find vulgarities or inappropriate topics. As Joan said, "We market ourselves as safe. If we violate that message, we’ll no longer be trusted." So how can a safe company meet the needs of the readers for an edgy topic? 

Maryellen discussed how their development team considered what would a 3rd grader be okay with and not get nightmares from. They used focus groups in TX, MN, and CA to learn there are levels of violence educators and parents have that guide their determining suitability for students. For example, nature vs. human is acceptable as are robot to human, or human to a monster that doesn’t exist, or even animal to human, but human to human violence is not acceptable.

They took out human to human violence. If it has to be in a retelling of a historical story, it’s very minimal. They worked to keep murder out of books and to keep gore out so students won’t have nightmares. The atmosphere, the creepiness, the thought that something might happen is far scarier than resorting to violence. Michael Dahl quoted Oscar Wilde "This suspense is terrible. I hope it will last.

Michael Dahl is the author of over 100 different titles and a respected speaker on nonfiction books and books for boys. His recent title Attack of the Paper Bats is part of the Zone set which is written for the striving readers with a  first – third grade reading level. The design of the Zone series is very sophisticated, creepy with ambiguous endings that make you ask "What is going on here?" The summary of Attack of the Paper Bats indicates: A weird book left on an empty street flips its pages in the wind. The breeze vanishes, but the pages keep moving. They take on a horrible, and hungry, life of their own. Only the Librarian can prevent a young boy falling prey to the razor attack of the bats. Only the Librarian knows the one thing that could possibly defeat them. Adventure.

How can you argue with a Librarian as a defender against evil?  This series creates an atmosphere of suspense in 32 pages with spooky covers intended to draw your reluctant reader into opening the book. I predict these will become favorites among your students with "word of mouth" recommendations keeping the titles flying off the shelves. I found my struggling readers finish these quickly, seek others in the series, and go back to re-read them. Isn’t this the effect we want books to have on students? 

Fortunately, Stone Arch has created several more series to meet the needs of students as they advance through the grades. The Shade books offer the same reading level (2nd-3rd), but a higher interest level 5th-9th grades with about 5000 words. They include the familiar kind of scary where a family inherits a doll and the girl thinks the doll is alive and making her mother sick or the type where a boy goes skateboarding in a storm drain and hears the ghost of someone drowned in a flood. Deliciously scary.

The Vortex books are not strictly horror/suspense books. These include mystery, adventures and fantasy books with some scary elements. For those teachers demanding(!) books with one hundred pages, the Vortex books will satisfy everyone. The series description includes this statement "Less-proficient readers will take a giant step towards confidence as they rush through these cliff-hanging chapters and discover with surprise that they have finished a full-size suspense novel." One of SLJ’s January 2007 reviews of  Curse of the Wendigo states "While these elements [Lots of end matter (discussion questions, writing prompts, and instructions for using Facthound)] may put off more advanced readers, reluctant readers will find it hard to resist Wendigo." I have to suggest that the reviewer shouldn’t be worrying about the advanced reader for this book – it matches the needs of the intended reader – the reluctant, struggling reader. 

If you have other scary titles to add to my quest for collection development, please comment here and share with our readers. Let’s help students find books that enable them to do as Michael Dahl suggests that these books help the reader deal with the big questions of life. What just happened? What’s real? Are there creatures like that out there in the world? These books show how to abate your fear. You close the book with a sigh of relief. They did it. They survived. Readers can absorb the lesson without realizing it.

Seeking a job? Part two

  • Posted on July 9, 2007 at 12:06 AM

More helpful information from JaKay Greer:

17. Resume. Don’t worry about only having a one page resume. 1-2 pages is okay, just make sure that it includes YOU to the best that you can on paper. CREATE a webpage (free ones are available from hotmail, etc) that you can refer someone to. Have pictures (on website) of you with the students. Have pictures (on website) on there that show that you are special, and what you have to add to a school (I am still working on this one, I am not a person that likes to be photographed, so do not have any pictures). If you have volunteer experience add it. If you have a special hobby, add it. With your resume include at LEAST 3 letters of references. Make sure that they are letters that really show YOU in your best light. Include ALL work you have done with children/students. Include ALL work you have done with community service. Being TECHy is a GOOD thing in school districts now. Make sure that EVERYTHING is in PERFECT grammar and spelling (have at LEAST 3 eyes proofread it). I normally have a small picture printed on my resume, with a very small butterfly on the lower right corner to help me be remembered. It is the thing that makes me unique. I am known for my butterfly décor. DO NOT have colored BRIGHT resumes. But a small bit of color (pastel) will work. Do not LIE or elaborate on your resume. If the truth comes out, you are FIRED! 

Good luck. I have been on many interview teams. The ones that came in professional, clean, and ready to answer ANY and ALL questions right then with EXAMPLES were seriously considered. KNOW who you are. KNOW what you want. KNOW your goals. KNOW why YOU would be a valuable member to their school. 

Okay, you get the picture.  BE active. STAY positive. BE prepared.

Personal Information on JaKay Greer: I have been a Teacher-Librarian since 2000 in both Elementary and Middle schools, and a former classroom teacher in elementary schools from 1989-2000 in grades K-5. Always a person with an eye to the unique, I am also a civil war re-enactor, school demonstrator speaking on Oregon Trail and Civil War civilian life, I create beaded crochet purses, and sing in sign language at the local church. I am currently seeking my next place of employment.


I am on several listservs and boards. The topic of how to search for a position in a region where there are limited openings has been frequently discussed. Also, frequently discussed is how to become hired while waiting for a position. This information was originally posted on Sparkpeople’s teacher board, and then modified for the LM-NET listserv. The posts have been modified to fit being part of the SLJ blog. I thank Diane Chen for the opportunity to be included in her blog.

I am looking–AGAIN–for a position/library. But I have years of experience, so I understand that I will REALLY have to sell myself and abilities because of too much experience. I need to tell them EXACTLY why they need a very experienced person.   And, I will bring SEVERAL items with me that I have created to show what type of services I will/am capable of providing for this school.

JaKay Greer

Seeking a job? Keep this in mind

  • Posted on July 9, 2007 at 12:01 AM

What do you do when the job search seems impossible? If you follow Sparkpeople's teacher board or the LM_NET listserv, you may have seen a recent post by JaKay Greer on this topic. I asked JaKay to guest post additional information today. Thanks, Jakay, for helping us out!

JaKay Greer: 
1. When do School districts start hiring? School districts will start hiring between April-June, May-June, June-Aug, Aug-Sept, and Thanksgiving. It depends on the school district and when they are notified of an opening. Some districts want to have all interviewing done before school is out, some don't want to hire until after the first day back, this way they can hire on a temp contract.  Have patience. The hiring process has just started, and there are LOTS of people who are looking.  And you will have some competition.  Just know, when you are hired you will be considered the BEST for your position.

2. Age. We all know that age is not supposed to be a factor. But in real life it can. If the school already has an aging population, then they will be looking for younger applicants. BUT, REALLY play up your life experiences if you are older. That you ARE more patient now, that you have already raised your children, and understand the pressures that parents go through, etc.  Talk that you have the experience of other jobs and how it can translate the experience to this school.

3. Credentials.  Make sure that you have the BEST references that you can get. If you do not like how something is worded on a reference, ask the person to rewrite that section.   Even ask someone you might not think will write one.  You might be surprised.  Also, have a short list of items that you would like to have commented on if the person asks:  That you work well with others.  That you have been active in being a life-long learner. That you are knowledgeable in a certain area. How you helped that person with their students/units.

4. Subbing until employed. Subbing may be the way to get into a school district, BUT for some large districts, they will NOT hire their subs. Ask the Substitute Personnel about the percentage of subs that are hired on a yearly basis. This will tell you which type of school you are at.  Also, if you do not find work, SUB. Get your face out there.  Hand resumes to the building principal/administration to let them know that you are interested in permanent work. Don’t leave early, stay and help with grading or in the library shelf reading, or other projects that just might need an extra hand — it gets you favorably noticed.

5. Write letters to schools that you are interested in being employed. Let them know that you are available for interviews when it is convenient for them. If you know any staff within the district, ask them to let you know when a position is posted internally.

6. WATCH what you say online!!! Make sure that your comments are ALWAYS positive or neutral. It is amazing what can be learned about a person via GOOGLE. Yes, listservs are a great place to find others who understand the problems of the job, but make sure you don’t hurt your employment chances along the way.

7. Don't give up. But you may need to broaden your perimeters a bit. What else is in your profession? Can you move? Different grade level?

8. Volunteer. Be seen. Be known. And, this is another source of references of your cooperation and value to the community.

9. Write newspaper editorials. Write for the local newspaper about the WONDERFUL things you see happening in the school for the guest opinion editorials. Again, get your name KNOWN. Yes, administrators LOVE having people who are positive and active in promoting education in a positive light.  KEEP copies to include in your resume.

10. Attend board meetings. Again, get your FACE known. People like to hire whom they already know and are comfortable with. Know what is happening in your community. Yes, it will be another night per month, but is it worth it to be hired?

11. Write for the professional journals. This includes ANYTHING in education, not just librarianship.  Did you work with a new technology? then write about the pros/cons.  Read a book? then write a review.  Want to praise someone for doing a wonderful job? then write it up for the district/regional/state newspaper or journal.  Write for an administration/principal journal about how the administration can be help the library, or benefit from a librarian.

12.  Attend workshops/conferences. This is where you can receive some of the latest training.  Think you might need to know about Web 2.0? then attend a workshop and learn the basics. Need to know current children’s lit? then attend a workshop by your local public librarians or take a class at the college.

Google vs. everyone via Stephen's Lighthouse

  • Posted on July 7, 2007 at 8:05 PM

Stephen Abram posted today at Stephen’s Lighthouse on Mashup’s article "Google Vs. Everyone: 10 Markets Where Google Wants to Win" The short list is:

  1. Search
  2. Advertising
  3. Video
  4. Blogging
  5. Mobile
  6. Start Pages
  7. Communications
  8. Social Networking
  9. Photo Sharing
  10. Office Suite

I appreciate the concise way  Stephen’s blog gets to the heart of matters. He writes:
"This [google] is a key part of our library environment and the real world of our users. Can we play well with others, integrate into our users’ spaces? Are we competing here – maybe but not too much. Libraries are about learning, community, and interaction and personal service. That’s a long way from a focus on ads and developing a phone."

I encourage you to go check out both of the links above and contribute to the conversation. I explored the links listed in the mashup article and thought about my own reaction to google’s version and the competitors in each category. Perhaps you will agree with the mashup author or perhaps you can contribute to the conversation with additional tools.

During the AASL Vision Summit that stormy December day 2006 we watched a video on schools in the year 2020 and google featured heavily. The video is available from The Fischbowl (thanks, Karl). Many of you have seen this, some may be looking for something to discuss with back-to-school inservices later this month. 

Remember google is a tool, just like guns. People are what make tools good and bad. I like my google tools because I use advanced searching with students and teach them when not to use certain tools.

Not quite there yet

  • Posted on July 5, 2007 at 8:21 PM

From the Tech Savvy Educator I read about the Quintura for Kids project. At first glance the search tool seems to meet the web 2.0 needs for our younger crowd now that Yahooligans has lost it’s high esteem among some LM_NET users. I’m ready to embrace visual search engines because I am a dedicated Kidspiration and Inspiration user. Chris Harris keeps recommending new web 2.0 tools for me to play with online like, but I don’t think we are quite there yet with this tool. I have my hopes that this project will continue to evolve and just get better. In the meantime, I was frustrated with some of the ego-centric searches I performed using terms like "Nashville", "Civil War", and the "Parthenon." I want to be able to refine my searches better.  Perhaps if I were just browsing through TV, Movies, Music, Computers and Games, and "Around the World" I would be happy to settle. In the meantime, I hope yahoo continues to work on this to give it more depth. We need tools like this for our students.

I’m also hoping that  AquaBrowser  from MediaLab via TLC will be coming soon to our students and faculty because I can’t wait. If you haven’t tried it yet, take a look at the Queens Library site or at the Arlington Public Library’s version for kids. AquaBrowser Library is a search tool and interface that connects a visual search engine with the library’s resources, external sources, and even teaches the user visually while they search. It uses a visual word cloud to help the user zoom in. I’m excited for my students but more excitedly for the new librarians and older students who have grown accustomed to tagging and word clouds in other areas of their lives. The simple Search, Discover, and Refine modes make me giddy. 

What new tools for the younger crowd are ready for us to master this summer so we can teach in the fall?