You are currently browsing the archives for October 2009.
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Please invent booktalkapedia

  • Posted on October 30, 2009 at 2:50 PM

I need someone to invent/create/organize this – BookTalkApedia. I would have said bookapedia but I think it may already be taken. I need a database of books that we librarians and educators create that includes ideas for booktalks, links to lessons, link to enrichment activities, author links and more. 

Just as we go to wikipedia for popular culture, I need a wiki that we can all contribute to that can easily be turned into printable pages. On this wiki I need the one-minute booktalk, the 5 minute booktalk, the booktalk targeting girls, the booktalk targeting guys, and the booktalk targeting teachers & parents. 

ReadKiddoRead contains review information and my favorite feature "If you love this book, then try:  " but that is a site owned by James Patterson and written by Judy Freeman and friends. We need something down and dirty that librarians can contribute to which is indexed, tagged, and searchable. GoodReads and LibraryThing have different purposes. I mainly want booktalks. Don’t you want a quick source to help when you are trying to remember how to booktalk a book 6 years after you initially read it? Maybe I’m the only one whose memory fails?

Is this already out there? Has someone created a place for many people to contribute booktalks? Tell us your favorite individual booktalk sites and let’s compare.

Calling all James Patterson Fans

  • Posted on October 28, 2009 at 1:33 PM

Okay, that must mean I’m calling all of you because you must be a fan of an author who has done so much for our students and our profession. I’m always looking for something free for my students and you need to read to the bottom of this "buzz release" for the AASL conference to see what you can get. See you in Charlotte and I’d better be one of the first 1,000!

Witch & WizardInternational bestselling author JAMES PATTERSON opens the AASL 2009 conference Friday, November 6, at 8:00 AM. Mr. Patterson has thrilled, chilled and romanced readers of all ages for over two decades. His MAXIMUM RIDE and DANIEL X books are teen favorites around the country and have been nominated for state awards from coast to coast. Mr. Patterson is a champion of reading and his new readers’ advisory website, www.ReadKiddoRead.com is a great resource for librarians, parents, and teachers alike in helping kids find the perfect book. As a special gift, the first one thousand attendees at Mr. Patterson’s address will receive an advance readers copy of his next great action adventure for teens, WITCH & WIZARD. Don’t miss out on this wonderful chance to hear one of America’s favorite authors. 

Why a picture matters?

  • Posted on October 27, 2009 at 10:35 PM

Sometimes what a good story time needs is a good picture. I’m not talking about the concept of storytime as a cute little story the librarian reads to children without doing any planning, hooks, collaboration, or interactivity. Don’t misunderstand me. I absolutely love story time and think we are doing the youth of America an injustice not to read aloud to them any longer in storytime. 

Don’t try to confuse the issue with lessons. I believe we should have lessons, too. We have just gotten too busy to enjoy a good story with students. Librarians feel put down or looked down upon if they’re caught just reading a story to students. 

A good librarian interweaves lots of skills/standards into any story and manages to do it in a way that does not interfere with the enjoyment of the book as the author and illustrator originally planned it. Some librarians like me, choose nonfiction titles to incorporate in almost every story time. Don’t you? If not, here are 3 titles from Capstone Press’ Pebble Plus line that I think you should begin incorporating into K-1 storytime whether its in the library or a classroom. 

Big Predators by Catherine Ipcizade 
ISBN 9781429633161 
24 pages $15.99
Geckos by Joanne Mattern ISBN 9781429633222
24 pages $15.99
Koalas by Sara Louise Kras ISBN 9781429633109
24 pages $15.99
 

The illustrations make these titles stand out to me. Unlike some books where they blow up photographs to a larger book format but the resolution is blurry, these books seem very well matched for their size. The illustrations of the koala are so clear, you can see the individual hairs forming whiskers and eyelashes. Since I kept pulling these 3 titles out of my large stack, I’m sure students will, also. 

Koalas is part of the Australian Animals set. You’ll want all four titles including Koalas, Kangaroos, Platypuses, and Wombats. The words are so incredibly simply written that anyone can pick these up and share to young audiences. Read Alexander and the Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Day then discuss why Alexander wanted to move to Australia. What if he had done so? What animals would he have seen? Discuss the concept that some parts of the world have different animals than where your students live. The simplicity of this title makes it a winner while the pictures will inspire students to pour over the images.

The Geckos book stands out as an awesome example of a good media researcher choosing the best photographs. Thanks Jo Miller. Some of the photographs were so detailed that I had to touch the pages as if I could feel the textures of those geckos. You’ll definitely have some "Ew! Yuck!" reactions to help sell the book. I like the page where we see the gecko licking his eyeball to cleanse it. Oh, yes, then the page where you see the underside of this reptile and his sticky toes. Definitely a page that will be covered with fingerprints. You won’t be able to resist sharing the photographs of the Reptile series with your youngest students.

While I’m not a huge reptile fan and prefer my animals furry, I’m sure the titles in the series will be standouts:

Bearded Dragons
Chameleons
Gila Monsters
Horned Lizards Komodo Dragons
Geckos

The photographs in Big Predators contain many scenes of big animals seeking prey. The photographs appealed to me because I couldn’t help wondering how the photographers were able to capture these. Were they right there and was the predator hunting them? How did they get the shot? 

Since all the big animals were used in the Big Predators book, where did the rest of the series go? Well, since the series name is BIG, these titles seem appropriate:
Big Bugs
Big Roller Coasters
Big Trucks
Big Predators

Looking for a way to capture the students who just can’t sit still. Give them a good story – even narrative nonfiction, let them touch these pages, and they’ll be hooked on the idea of reading. Go inspire some wonder and some Ew’ing.

Mentoring – what do you want?

  • Posted on October 27, 2009 at 10:24 PM

Advantage of being on a board is learning about new stuff and how it’s intended to work. Try as I might, new areas appear and I’m just as surprised as you are about them. Let’s take the new section on ALA Connect called MENTOR CONNECT. How did I miss that? It’s been up since September. Have you signed up yet?

You can be a mentor or a mentee, perhaps even both. You can fill out your profile, indicate how many mentors/mentees at a time you can juggle (or some fancy term that I’ve forgotten) and then you can either seek or wait for a match.

I hope this is a very successful program. In many ways I consider my participation on LM_NET as a form of professional mentoring/menteeing. It’s definitely a two-way street for everyone involved. This leads me to my next question. What do mentees really want from a mentor?

Do you want information, guidance, a listening ear, a kick in the pants, a reality check? Just let me know how we can best help. I’m still learning every day. Hope you will go check it out and fill out your own app.

Egypt today and ABDO's fiction series on Tommy Bomani

  • Posted on October 21, 2009 at 8:00 AM

While pulling materials for 6th grade teachers on Ancient Egypt, I was adding a few modern day Egypt books to the cart when I realized I had a student intently studying these titles. He is an Egyptian citizen studying at my school while his father works at a local university and he is one of our many Arabic speaking students. Arabic has now passed Spanish as the next most-spoken language at my school (after English). 

He sadly shook his head and said, "Why is everything old? Why don’t people learn about Egypt now? Egypt is a beautiful country. None of these books make anyone want to see my country today."

I explained that this was a history lesson, but it did make me take a second look at my country books. How many of those books inspire readers to travel there, to seek more information, or to understand some of the culture? Not very many. I pulled most of the titles and asked this student to scan through and find the best parts of the books on Egypt. He was happy to show me photographs of places where he had been and to talk about the feeling of living in Egypt as compared to Nashville, Tennessee. 

I cannot wait to show him the Tommy Bomani Teen Warrior books from Abdo that I just received during fall break.  Part of Abdo’s Magic Wagon and the Calico Chapter Books, this set involves an Egyptian teen that has inherited powers from an ancient Egyptian God. 

Will my student embrace this series? Will he believe it incorporates too much history from the past? We shall see. I’ll let you know his opinion.

"get out of my profession"

  • Posted on October 19, 2009 at 10:36 AM

I admit it. I said it. Very passionately, too. Where? At the SLJ Library Leadership Summit. Why? Because I was reading lips of people in the audience who were saying things like, "I’m not going to try that stuff. I don’t have time. It’s just a waste to try. It won’t do any good."

The context: we were on a panel discussing the idea of breaking out of the box and roadblocks. I posted several of my points and commentary on this blog. I mentioned that complacency is our worst enemy and that we do it do ourselves. My part of the panel centered around discussing dispositions and attitudes. I strongly believe we have to model being life-long learners.

This does not mean I think every librarian has to twitter, set up facebook pages for her students, and throw out their books. I am not an ivory tower library theologian. I am a practicing librarian who doesn’t have enough electricity or ethernet connections to meet the demands of our program. I have one microphone and 15 headseats and 2 speakers for 19 computers. I am a practicing librarian with 940 students and a clerk who has been there 2 days out of 5 for the past 3 weeks due to illness. I don’t meet my own standards of success. I’m not doing enough to make me happy. I don’t teach enough, have enough circulation, or plan enough lessons with my faculty. I don’t have enough unfiltered computers, time in the day, or a beautiful library. Mine is actually an ugly box room that needs updating. My budget is woefully inadequate and I need new carpet and furniture. My AV setup is ridiculous with me running around with 7 remotes in and out of a closet for presentations. I have 2 digital projectors on carts to circulate to teachers with 940 students. 2. Inadequate.

What I do have is a desire to change and a commitment to keep learning new approaches to providing the best library program and materials to enable the students before me to succeed. That’s all I want others to have – a willing attitude to try new things and never be complacent that their program is good enough. My program is not good enough. I want to improve it. I’m willing to try something new. 

If you aren’t willing to try something new, you are just a placeholder and are endangered. You may even be endangering the rest of us in our profession. These are harsh words, but I want to help you. I’m here to listen to you. 

Most of you are silent in comments because, as one passed to me in a note "if I disagree, they might attack me". ARGH! Don’t be silent. You can be anonymous. Leave your comments on this blog. Use a pseudonym like roadblock1 or your#1hater or overwhelmed or simplytired. Wait, don’t use simplytired as your alias, because I may have to start using that one.

We must continue to explore, embrace, create, and collaborate with each other in our profession. If you aren’t moving and curious about what’s happening, you are a roadblock. That’s why I was suddenly overcome and the words slipped out that "if you aren’t willing to learn and try new things for the benefit of your students, get out of my profession." 

Begin the lambasting.  Some of my friends in the audience already did, but we deserve to have this conversation. 

It’s interesting that it comes at a time when Joyce Valenza, Doug Johnson, Beth Friese, Kathy Kleigman, Cathy Nelson, Buffy Holland, Sharron McElmeel, Nancy Everhart, and many other librarians that I respect are discussing these issues and attitudes. It’s a discussion that needs to occur.

Maybe if wild things like me make controversial statements once in a while, you will feel impelled to respond. Don’t be a scaredy cat!

Parent advocacy toolkit

  • Posted on October 18, 2009 at 2:47 PM

Have any of you checked out the Parent Advocacy Toolkit on the AASL website?  How about the website I Love Libraries (http://www.ilovelibraries.org)? I am very interested in what you think.

Oops! Almost forgot the new site for everyone @ Your Library e-magazine http://www.atyourlibrary.org/? Be sure to check these out and comment.

Round-to-it with The Hollow

  • Posted on October 18, 2009 at 3:11 AM

What’s on your list to get around to? Those lists are tormenting me. Stacks of books pleading to be written about. Websites popping into my mind that need sharing. Student faces seeking something new are haunting me. Teachers pleas are echoing in my head. It’s no wonder that I needed to just get away from the pressure. 

I chose The Hollow by Jessica Verday to escape. It had been lying beside my bed, The Hollowtraveling with me on the plane, then finally jumping out and landing on my foot while browsing Books-A-Million. Was it a sign? I take no chances when the paranormal decides I must read so I went home to read.

Instead of escaping and soothing the spirits of story, I have been captured and confused by this tale. I read all 528 pages of the ARC (544 in the hardcover) in one night because it hooked me with the constant promise of something more to come. So am I gushing and in love? No, and yet I am very intrigued. 

I think this title could have been edited a great deal more.  It has such potential and there are so many subplots throughout. The story is there in the author’s head, but the reader may be confused by the author’s attempts to share bits and pieces of a rather complicated tale. Don’t be fooled into thinking this is a title that solves the mysterious death of Abbey’s best friend. It is a romance. It is a teen novel. There is just something elusive about the story that keeps you reading trying to put the pieces together.

The story weaving through those pages trapped me into imagining what could happen next. I was despairing of the approaching end of this story as I realized I was running out of pages. How could it possible end like that?

Then, I read the note about the author…. "She is currently hand-writing her second novel, the continuation of…" 

AHA! There is hope after all. The story is continuing. All is not lost. I will find answers.

But, hand-writing? It took the author 13 spiral-bound notebooks and 18 months to write the first draft of The Hollow. 

Can I wait that long to find out what happens next?

A-Hah! It tells me the author lives near me in Tennessee. I wonder if she is doing anything this week while I’m on break? 

Maybe I could call her up and offer to drop by and type her story for her. She could talk and I could type at about that same speed. Then I’d know what’s happening next. 

Or maybe, we could just meet for peppermint tea. I do so like peppermint tea. We could just chat so I could have something happy to dream about. 

Drat these authors toying with my imagination. Capturing me with their twisted plots and entangling me in their emotions. Even when I plead "pretty please with sugar on top", Michael Dahl won’t tell me what happened to Finnegan Zwake’s parents. I wonder how many cookies I’ll have to bake to sweet talk Jessica Verday?

If your young adult students have finished Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side, offer them The Hollow.  Be warned that while Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side has a definite ending, the Hollow will leave the reader frustrated, dangling, shocked and dying for more. Also, be prepared for some serious research on Sleepy Hollow to follow. 

Here is the author/publisher’s long synopsis:

When Abbey’s best friend, Kristen, vanishes at the bridge near Sleepy Hollow Cemetery,
everyone else is all too quick to accept that Kristen is dead and rumors fly that her death
was no accident. Abbey goes through the motions of mourning her best friend, but
privately, she refuses to believe that Kristen is really gone. Then she meets Caspian, the
gorgeous and mysterious boy who shows up out of nowhere at Kristen’s funeral, and
keeps reappearing in Abbey’s life. Caspian clearly has secrets of his own, but he’s the
only person who makes Abbey feel normal again…but also special. 

Just when Abbey starts to feel that she might survive all this, she learns a secret that
makes her question everything she thought she knew about her best friend. How could
Kristen have kept silent about so much? And could this secret have led to her death? As
Abbey struggles to understand Kristen’s betrayal, she uncovers a frightening truth that
nearly unravels her — one that will challenge her emerging love for Caspian, as well as
her own sanity.

Check out the book’s trailer, too:

Depressed? You are not alone

  • Posted on October 17, 2009 at 1:25 PM

Every fall we begin a cycle in schools. The teachers of the youngest students in our buildings come to us telling us they have never had students at such low levels before. The upper grade teachers come to us wondering why their new students won’t behave and asking why the lower grade teachers didn’t get them "under control." About mid-way through fall teachers are stressed, students are jumpy, and administrators are slapping down new rules and regulations. 

Every year at this time, teachers stagger in to talk about how tired they are, how stressed, how ill (with colds, flu, allergies, high blood pressure), and how much they need a break. It happens every year so we should be able to just ride out this cycle. How do you cope?

Since I fell ill right after the book fair (also a yearly event), I wanted to spend my first weekend of fall break sleeping with no communication with anyone outside my house. I wanted to turn off the telephone, facebook, email, and the tv. That was my intention. Instead, my friend Shirley called to let me know my son was on facebook, so I crawled out of bed and connected with the world. 

This began a chain of many connections including the Joyce Valenza and Buffy Holland presentation on Classroom 2.0 using Elluminate and many other tools. I was connected and learning, revitalized and excited about the profession plus…. I didn’t have to crawl out of my cocoon of tissues, tea, and tunnelling blankets. 

From there I conferenced with friends, IM’d, left facebook messages, texted, and took a couple cell calls. While I was tired and just wanted to be alone, what I needed most was other people’s enthusiasum for life and our profession. 

Are you feeling the fall blues? Instead of tunnelling under your blankets as if you were hibernating by yourself, consider getting more connected. Plan to attend the AASL National Conference in Charlotte. Can’t make the conference? Try a local event. Tennessee will have their Tenn-Share Fall Conference and Datafest Sharing. Or, join one of the online conferences like I did and enjoy people from a distance where you can be part of something fantastic – our profession – all without crawling out from under your covers. Take care and if I don’t see you soon, I’ll be knocking on your cave doors waking you up.

Thoughts on change and achieving dreams

  • Posted on October 15, 2009 at 12:00 AM

Thanks to Mary Ellen Davis, Executive Director of ACRL, for sharing the article "Rethinking Tenure for the Next Generation" by Cathy A. Trower that was published in the Chronicle. While the article is focused on higher education reform, I found it applicable to bringing about change in school libraries, also. 

In the article, Gary Hamel is quoted from a Harvard Business Review article published in 1996 

"He cautions that people at the top of an organizational pyramid (in academe, full professors) have the "least diversity of experience, the largest investment in the past, and the greatest reverence for the industry’s dogma."

So in my thinking the people at the top probably have the least desire for radical change, yet they are usually the ones sitting around tables planning for those changes. Wow! I found that so applicable because I am more of a rule-breaker than a rule taker or a rule maker. Someone suggested that I was toward the top and I violently protested that I was a rebel and didn’t really belong at the table. I am convinced someone will realize I’m just a practical passionate working librarian and not a dogma loving cherisher of the past. (But don’t tell anyone yet because the seats at the table are where we rule breakers need to be even if we have to sneak in there)

Is your organization meeting your needs, living up to your dreams, and helping you achieve? If not, are you part of the solution or part of the problem? What are you personally doing to help achieve? And no, "sitting around chatting about how bad an organization is or how it doesn’t read your mind and do what you want" does not count as doing anything.

Last weekend I was at a Mary Kay retreat in the mountains where Charlene Grubbs shared the Top 5 Obstacles for Achieving our Goals and Dreams. I think these can be useful to you, especially if you feel you are not achieving.

  1. Procrastination
  2. Distractions
  3. Disappointment
  4. Pettiness
  5. The six inches between our ears (emotional self-sabotage)

What will you do about bringing about change? Will you be part of the solution? Get involved. Attend a conference. Volunteer for a committee. Establish new standards of participation and take a look at how you can break into an organization to create radical change.