You are currently browsing the archives for November 2007.
Displaying 1 - 10 of 10 entries.

Nonfiction is not Nerdy

  • Posted on November 30, 2007 at 9:30 AM

Dr. Kathleen Baxter is on my list of great speakers. Have you had the opportunity to hear her lately? She specializes in nonfiction titles and writes for SLJ monthly.  She is also co-author with Michael Dahl of Gotcha for Guys! Nonfiction Books to Get Boys Excited about Reading  in addition to many other titles.

According to her website:

Research indicates boys are interested in reading nonfiction materials, yet most children’s librarians prefer to booktalk fiction. Offering citations for more than 1,100 books, Gotcha for Guys! deals specifically with books to pique the interest of middle grade boys. A series of booktalks are grouped within chapters with like titles such as: "Creepy-Crawly Creatures," "Disasters and Unsolved Mysteries," "Action and Innovation," and "All Things Gross." Complete booktalks are presented in a beginning section of chapters 1-9. A second section in each of these chapters contains short annotations and talks for other books of interest, and a third section offers lists of well-reviewed titles to consider for boys. The book is enhanced with book cover art and reproducible lists for teachers and librarians.

In addition to being very professional and courteous, Kathleen is gracious and flexible. She understands the dynamics of speakers, scheduling, and trying to compensate when other speakers infringe on her time. She values other speakers and they value her. Everyone wanted to hear her speak, even the next speaker who was being forced to autograph books and insisted on sitting near enough to the door to hear Kathleen.

Her lists of books are SPOT-ON for what I need. I wanted to be able to just hand the bibliography to my district coordinator and say, "We need at least one of each of these." Wouldn’t it make ordering easier? 

Kathleen knows what appeals to boys and girls. She isn’t squeamish about talking about the things that REALLY interest our students. Face it, singing mice fantasy stories are a much harder sell that real information about gross stuff like real people who look like werewolves. Kathleen will complement any conference with her in-depth knowledge of the nonfiction industry.

Presenters – How do you find them?

  • Posted on November 30, 2007 at 9:06 AM

Every year I listen to different conference presenters and wonder "How did they find this speaker?" Of course there are the standard keynoters in the school library world, but when you are seeking new voices, HOW DO YOU FIND THEM?

In the past, I went to LM_NET and asked others. I traveled to national conferences and took note of dynamic speakers. I read the journals and asked for references on their speaking abilities. Then I prayed that the speakers were as good as their press when they were booked. We need a better resource for sharing about speakers, so I will try to spark the beginnings of a conversation.

 Toni Buzzeo is a great connector of people and led to me Dr. Steven Layne. If you haven’t invited Steve to your school library conference yet, quickly send him an email. He books quickly  for the big and small reading conferences, school visits, and teacher conferences but is relatively unknown to school librarians. Once you hear him speak, you’ll be hooked! All your colleagues will be saying, "How did you find him?" Even my reading specialist was impressed that I knew Steven Layne.

Steve talks about reading, libraries, books and students with the true passion of a practioner. He is real and relates well to those middle school LMS also. In the words of my son, "He has street cred." In 2006 Steve spoke at our TASL Libraries and Literacy Forum (modeled after the exciting SLJ Leadership Forums).  I raved about him then, but our audience was a mixture of educators and public librarians. This year Steve won over the library information specialists in Tennessee. 

A MS LIS had asked me on Friday night, "Who is this guy and is he worth getting up for on a Saturday morning?" I was glad to see she took my advice and came Saturday. She caught me in the hallway and raved about him between presentations. 

Steve has the same impact on students. My oldest son had hoped to get the weekend off from Ft Benning to come back and introduce Steve. He was text messaging me on my phone throughout the day to tell him how much he loved and admired Steven. He asked me to tell Steven to hurry up with his sequel to This Side of Paradise and Mergers. He needed to have some good books when he reports to Ft. Bragg and possibly Afghanistan.  Steve — you are on a deadline, get writing! It’s too bad Betsy isn’t doing her Hot Men in Children’s Lit any more because Steve would be on the list as one of the most wholesome, courageous men I know. 

I appreciate hearing about the writing process so I can share these stories with my students. P is for Princess is a title on the Scholastic Book Fair that instantly sells out, but it’s not just for girls – it’s about ROYALTY. It’s actually one of the Sleeping Bear Press titles interweaving nonfiction and poetry in an ABC format. Speaking of Sleeping Bear Press, when are they going to start sending their great authors like Michael Shoulders and Steve Layne to our library conferences ALA Annual, Midwinter, AASL? They have a booth, they should bring their authors so you can talk to them and book new speakers. Somebody pick up the phone and tell them we need to meet with their authors.  We’ll be sending TASL officers to look for new speakers in the exhibit halls and conference sessions at all the meetings. Let’s hope we as a profession can work together to link more of the truly unique speakers. 

For now, I’m off to the Arizona Biltmore and the SLJ Leadership Summit. Expect more news about evidence-based assessment to show up here, but know that I am constantly on the lookout for new speakers. Tell me who is WONDERFUL.

Can a PreK-1st grader be a good citizen?

  • Posted on November 30, 2007 at 4:35 AM

Aren’t good citizens part of the life-long goals we aim for? We try to model and instill values such as honesty, fairness, life-long learning, social responsibility, etc. Yet, being the practical person that I am, I have to wonder if most of the didactic series on values are worth purchasing. Have you ever seen a student pick up a book called "The trouble with temper tantrums"? 

Along comes this deceptively simple Acorn series by Heinemann called CitizenshipYou’ve all heard the students say "That’s not fair…." Do they really understand the concept? Not my first graders. They need serious help before the world is ready for them. The book Being Fair alone made me give this series a second look. Simple illustrations. Positive examples. Questions to spark students thinking abstractly and concretely.

The title Making Friends is also needed with my kindergarten and first graders. We have some lonely children coming into our elementary schools who haven’t grown up in large families, never attended day care/preschool/Mom’s Day Out/Sunday School/Nursery School, etc. They have no idea of the social skills needed to make friends. You might recognize some of them. They want everyone to be their friend and cry when the world doesn’t go their way, but they truly have no idea how to "give and take" in a relationship.

I ran these by the guidance counselor who immediately wanted to keep them for her small group work. I asked some kindergarten teachers to try them out with their classes and they were a hit. The students buddy read them so they couild "remind" each other what they should do to make friends and be fair. WOW! Students applying the concepts of citizenship. 

The other titles in the series are just as important:

Being a Leader
Being Helpful
Being Honest
Being Responsible
Following Rules

Wow! Think of the impact on society if we all started reading these titles with our little ones. I encourage you to go check them out and start telling others about simple titles for "engaging early readers in content area learning" (what Acorn books are designed to do). What treasures are we overlooking?

I also appreciate seeing who the content consultants and literacy consultants are in the series. I’m all about the practicality of these big ideas so I appreciated knowing experienced teachers were involved in the creation. There were authors involved, designers, illustrators, and the content/literacy consultants. It truly does take a village to raise a child and to publish a good book.

State conferences

  • Posted on November 16, 2007 at 4:46 AM

You cannot be a successful professional in total isolation for long periods of time. You can withdraw briefly, but you must stay connected to grow, stretch, and change.  Are you a member of your state school library association? Most state joining fees are very low. The state organization offers workshops geared to your specific needs. The state organization works with government officials, department of education personnel, and the people who provide the funding and make the rules within your state. Why not be involved?

I’m currently at the Tennessee Association of School Librarians TASL conference. Great conference organized by a slew of volunteers including Lynn Caruthers, Margaret Hausauer, Bruce Hester, Brenda Moriarty, Becky Jackman, Kaye Grant and many, many more! Our speakers are delightful. The topics for break out sessions are SPOT ON for what we need. Every LMS in Tennessee should be here. If your state offers a conference, get there. Be there. Participate.

Yesterday I listened to authors/illustrators Pam Flowers, Mike Wimmer, Ronda Friend, Cynthia Lord, and Anna Myers. Today I’ll hear Judy Sima, Kathleen Baxter and Steven Layne.

Pam Flowers moved me to tears with her courageous story of traveling alone along the 2500 miles of the Arctic circle with her sled dogs (especially Big-Enough Anna). Pam presents to schools and I wish I had her coming to my school on Monday morning. She is that moving and inspirational. I cannot wait until Douggie is out.

I heard Mike Wimmer 10 years ago and was delighted to learn he’d be back to TASL. His work remains unbelievable. Have you ever looked at the book Home Run? He shows images and provides the background information I love to learn about the process of illustrating and thinking about how to PAINT THE WORDS. I buy everything that Mike illustrates. It’s that simple. He can take the simplest story and add so much to his illustrations. I can’t wait until his newest on Jackie Robinson  called Stealing Home is out.

Anna Myers gave dramatic booktalks about her historical fiction books. I rushed out to purchase Tulsa Burning, but Stolen by the Sea was sold out. I will need to purchase all of her books. Who knew how interesting John Wilkes Booth was? Or about the yellow fever epidemic in Memphis that killed so many people. Our text books are so incomplete. Thank goodness I can provide quality historical fiction in the library to help my students learn what the government and textbook providers don’t consider important enough. 

I’ll have to blog more tomorrow because I don’t want to miss a moment of socialization with my colleagues.

Congratulations, Sherman Alexie!

  • Posted on November 15, 2007 at 10:34 AM

Hooray, Sherman Alexie! I was putting copies of your book The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian into my friends’ hands just this past week with my recommendations. July 17th I blogged about this title. This week he has won a National Book Award. It feels good to find something every once in a while that gets the credit and attention it deserves.

4 young readers bk 4

  • Posted on November 10, 2007 at 5:06 AM

My favorite title of these four is Three Little Robbers by Christine Graham with illustrations by Susan Boase (Henry Holt & Co, 2007). I carried this title in my purse for a week making every librarian I know read it. 

I believe Susan Boase was peeking in my library windows to find these children for models. The illustrations are perfect. Christine Graham’s writing reflects my population of Flo, Jo, and Mo’s with their "Yo’s!" While the writing is actually easier to read than Maybelle in the Soup, the ideas in this title lend themselves to more deep thinking and discussion with all levels of elementary students. I can’t wait until I put this title in the Language! teacher’s hand in fourth grade. 

Flo, Jo, and Mo are three robbers who decide one night when they are cold, hungry, bored (and it’s too dark to read) that they will go rob an old lady. They discover the poor lady has less than them, but still offers up what she has. They leave pondering her dilemna and how they can solve her problems without stealing since she wouldn’t like it. Excellent, excellent title and I will be purchasing multiple copies for groups. 

Author Christine Graham states on the book flap (which I always cover and leave on for my students to experience the entire publisher’s effect) that she began this book after hearing a radio news story about robbers that helped a poor woman they had tried to rob. If any of you can recall an ancient folktale similar to this, please let me know what it is. I searched D. L. Ashliman’s web site of  Folklore and Mythology Electronic Texts but still cannot recall where I may have heard this tale in an ancient format. Help me out, readers!

4 young readers bk 3

  • Posted on November 10, 2007 at 5:05 AM

No More Pumpkins by Peter Catalanotto and Pamela Schembri is book 2 of the 2nd-Grade Friends series. Peter Catalanotto has painted 23 books by other authors like Cynthia Rylant and Megan McDonald. While he has authored 10 picture books, this is his first chapter book series with Pamela Schembri. 

This was a timely title to share with my fall readers who are also TIRED of doing pumpkin activities. The voices of the characters lend themselves well to reader’s theatre adaptations. The school counselor needs to add this simple 4 chapter book to his/her repertoire to help deal with jealousy, fighting, and becoming friends again.

4 young readers bk 2

  • Posted on November 10, 2007 at 4:59 AM

Maybelle in the Soup written by Katie Speck and illustrated by Paul Ratz de Tagyos (Henry Holt & Company, 2007) is next on the degree of difficulty level. Having raised 4 boys, I am very partial to the YUCK and GROSS factors of our student body. Author Katie Speck interweaves subtle humor in such a simple way that our students can relate to Maybelle while I can appreciate the subtleties. 

Maybelle is a lovely, plump cockroach. Her best friend Henry is a flea. I love little Maybelle the sensible cockroach who obeys the three RULES: 

  • When it’s light, stay out of sight. 
  • If you’re spied, better hide. 
  • Never meet with human feet.

    How can you blame Maybelle forgetting in trouble when all she wanted was to "taste food before it hit the floor"?

The author nails it with this sentence near the beginning "Because a cockroach may not get exactly what a cockroach wants, but you can’t blame her for trying."

I think I’ll partner this title with my nonfiction highly magnified view of cockroaches and my beloved school poems about the cockroaches at school. (See Kalli Dakos and her book The Bug in Teacher’s Coffee) Since I have taught in Taiwan and in Tennessee with my share of roach friends, I can appreciate the nastiness of these friends who break the three rules.

4 young readers Bk 1

  • Posted on November 10, 2007 at 4:57 AM

There are many great librarians and children’s book readers out there recommending books for fall like Laura Berube with Salt Lake County Library Services. Let me add four of my favorite young reader titles this fall one blog post at a time.

First and the easiest on my list is  "Princess Bella’s Birthday Cake".  Part of Picture Window Books Read-It! Readers series. Princess Bella’s Birthday Cake is written by Trisha Speed Shaskan and illustrated by Aysin D. Eroglu. I appreciate the note in the front that all illustrations are pastels as I teach my students to view books artistically, also. 

Bella loves shapes. Bella views her world through a shape perspective. (Math brains of the world rejoice. There is someone out there like you with a  mathematical geometrical focus.) Bella watches the cook prepare her birthday cake using shapes – lovely sophisticated shapes – trapezoids, rectangles, rhombuses, and more. Bella sees her presents as shapes. 

Be sure to include this title in your collection. While many teachers and librarians are visual and oral learners, there are many children who see the world through different eyes. A discussion of this title may help you identify those students who are more spatially oriented. Seek them out and connect them.

Are you a Walking Computer?

  • Posted on November 6, 2007 at 6:28 AM

We teach our students to enable them to be independent, successful, and life-long learners. Librarians teach students to be creative, conscientious citizens. Teaching my students how to use the OPAC is one of many steps towards independent searching. So why do they still insist upon asking me first?

I asked my third and fourth graders this question recently. After the pretest at the beginning of the year when they couldn’t answer the question "Tell me how you use the computer to find books," I taught them how to use the OPAC to meet a variety of their needs. We instituted my standard rule "If one person doesn’t learn how to do this, you ALL fail." Cooperation, co-teaching was rampant. The students understand HOW to search. They know I will not tell them the call number for I Spy books any more.

The problem lies in their choice. When it comes down to it, they believe the person, the library information specialist is more reliable than the machine. Perhaps they are right. 

My laptop’s motherboard died last week leaving me stranded without passwords to write on this blog and connect with the world. I attempted to teach a lesson on how drop-down menus work yesterday using my district’s website when the server slowed to an unbearable crawl. Even the cataloguing records are not complete enough to locate the books they truly want. (see my rant on tags)

Perhaps it is the human aspect that is most needed in elementary schools anyway. I teach them beginning strategies to searching, but when they need troubleshooting, they need me – the teacher. The students interviewed talked about the way I suggest other terms to search, how I suggest special collections to check, how I know what they’ve already studied so I can suggest special indices. The computer hits a glitch and what does it do? It says "Please see the librarian."

I wish more parents and educators knew how essential we are. The human face of technology is the librarian in an elementary school.