To all of my friends who have started school, WELCOME BACK!

We are back in action in my district in South Carolina. I shared this “pep talk” from my favorite guy, Kid President, on our school social media…LOVE HIM!

Last week, we were busy getting our teachers ready. This week, students are back and we are checking out and acting like we never left! I am doing orientation all week to 1st – 5th grade – I’m really just reviewing and making it quick and simple. One thing I added this year (and I am embarrassed that it wasn’t in there in other years) was our “reading life.” I talked about how each person in the Learning Commons is a reader and what we are into. It’s good, because we all have a wide range of things we like to read. We admit that we don’t read as much as we would like and some of our reading might be Facebook and blogs and not even books! I am able to share that that’s okay! A reader is a reader is a reader.

Something new I am doing this year is reading a book aloud (or doing a book talk) to our faculty at our monthly meetings. For the first one, I chose Teachers Rock! by Todd Parr. I love his bright and colorful illustrations! The purpose of doing this is not to make the meetings longer (ha!), but to introduce books and authors to our teachers and hopefully get them excited about reading. I feel like we have many teachers who have a true love of reading, but that they can’t find time to express it, if that makes sense? I want to share new books and authors with them and encourage them to do the same in their classroom. We cannot encourage our students to become readers if we are not readers. But, I can soapbox this forever. I hope it will workūüôā

First newsletter went out this week – check it out! I love using Smore for our monthly newsletters. I pay $59 a year for an educator account and I love it.

Happy New Year!



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Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal – Book Review!

A couple of months ago, I read on Facebook that Amy Krouse Rosenthal had a new book coming out and that she was looking for “awesome people” to help promote it. You had to answer a few questions and then wait to see if you were awesome. Guess what?! I was chosen as an awesome person! This made me happy. Awesome people got an ARC (advance reader copy) of her new book, Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal, and the promise of a signed, hardcover copy when the book is actually released (August 9, 2016). This makes me even more happy! I read my ARC and here’s what I think…

I loved it.

First off, it’s a quick read. Now that I have a toddler, I’m still reading a bunch…but, it’s a bunch of board books and picture books (considering I am a children’s librarian, that’s not terrible, but I do love to read a book not for kids from time to time). This book is for grown ups and I was able to read a good bit of it even with the toddler around. It’s not a novel and it’s not exactly a memoir or anything like that. It’s just little snippets of thoughts, ideas, and creative sharing. Split into school subjects like Social Studies, Romance Language, and Math (because it’s a textbook…get it?). What I loved most about it was that it is interactive (but doesn’t have to be) – there is a phone number that you text throughout the book (when Amy tells you to). You can share pictures of rainbows, a piece of art (self-portrait), a tattoo idea and other things. You can listen to her daughter read spelling words and hear wine glass music…just cool stuff that makes you feel like you are not only reading a great book, but you are somehow a part of it. If you aren’t into texting or don’t want to do that, you don’t have to do that to enjoy the book. You can visit the website that goes along with the book to see what others have shared, or you can just ignore that part all together and still enjoy reading the book (however, you’ll get so much more out of it if you do get to texting…just sayin’).

It’s a must for those who are already fans of Amy Krouse Rosenthal…you’ll love the wit and the creativity. If you’ve never read a book by AKR, this is a good one to start with!

Comes out August 9! You can pre-order here.

Maybe you even live nearby one of these events?! You should go!


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What I’m Thinking About – Part 3 – Bubbles

So, first I wrote about leveling the library and then I wrote about the purpose of games and the Makerspace in the library. Now, I want to write about bubbles. Specifically, keeping children in them. But, before I do that…let’s talk about my mom.

Tuesday (June 14) was my mom’s birthday. She would have been 62 years old. She died from lung cancer 4 years ago and I miss her every single day. The reason I bring her up is because she never let me live in a bubble (although some would disagree…yes, she was overprotective and barely let me out of her sight, but that doesn’t mean she didn’t teach me things – I knew about the world). Let me explain. First and foremost, my mom had friends of many colors, sizes, orientations, etc. I have known people who are different from me all of my life. And, my mom talked about EVERYTHING with me (or tried to). She was always very open about the world…boys, friendships, relationships, body stuff, etc. Not that I really wanted to listen most of the time (lots of eye rolling and zoning out…LOTS), but she would have those important conversations with me and when I really wasn’t into listening, she would give me a book. I remember learning about the birds and the bees by reading Where Did I Come From?¬†(which I totally just purchased on Amazon, by the way) and I learned about my period and changes in my body by reading Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret?¬†There are numerous OTHER books that I read and learned from, as well. My dad took me to the public library once a week and I checked out stacks of books about whatever I was interested in…neither he nor my mom EVER looked through those books and told me I could not read something. My parents let me read and learn. ¬†I feel certain that many of those books I read were likely censored or banned at some point…which brings me to what I’m thinking about.

One of the BEST author visits I ever had was Phil Bildner. He’s awesome for so many reasons = he writes and illustrates many books about sports, so that hits my reluctant reader boys. He LOOKS cool – he’s young, he’s got tattoos, all kids love that! During his presentations, he not only talks about his own books, but he gives LOTS of suggestions about books that kids might like to read and he talks about the importance of reading throughout his presentation, I really love that! Apparently, at some point during his author visits during the 2015 – 2016 school year at Round Rock Independent School District in Texas, he told a couple of audiences about the book George by Alex Gino. In George, the¬†young main character is transgender. Since those visits, Phil has been UNINVITED from his future author visits to this school district for the 2016 – 2017 school year, (Phil visits this school district each year, so what makes this even worse, is kids and teachers KNOW what they are missing out on!). They have uninvited him, it seems, because he recommended a book about a transgender kid?! A book, that is WONDERFUL, by the way, and an excellent read. I would say it is for middle school and it is great for kiddos who may have questions about what it means to be transgender (there is a lot about transgender folks in the media anymore, so I am sure kids are asking questions) or for kids who may feel they are transgender. In library school, we were always taught to have books in your library that represent all of your children. You have to know your population and your community, if a certain book fits your population or meets a need, buy it (keeping your selection policy in mind, of course)! That goes for kids who have families who are different (two moms, two dads, grandparents, foster parents, adopted kids, divorced parents) and for kids who are just different (in appearance, ability, etc.) – we need to show diversity in the materials we have in our libraries because we have diversity in the world. Kids need to see themselves in the books they read and they need to see others who are different from them in the books they read. They need to learn how to show empathy, sympathy, and compassion. Some adults, it seems, want kids in a bubble. They only want kids to know about certain things and they want to “protect” (I guess??) kids from what they deem is wrong or different. I guess this school district feels like Phil is just going to introduce students to more books that will help them learn about the world and the people in it and that makes them nervous? It’s wrong. I’ve been thinking a lot about it and I don’t like it.

Read more about it (including updates) at these links:

Phil Bildner’s statement:¬†http://www.oif.ala.org/oif/?p=6781

National Coalition Against Censorship: http://ncac.org/blog/author-who-talks-about-transgender-themes-disinvited-from-schools-in-texas

More from the Office of Intellectual Freedom РAmerican Library Association: http://www.oif.ala.org/oif/?p=6813

Then, just a couple of days after learning about Phil’s trouble, I saw that another one of my favorite authors (not one who has visited my school – YET – but, still a favorite to recommend to students) was uninvited to a school based on the content of one of her books.¬†Kate Messner is a FANTASTIC author who has written books for all ages. One of her books is a current South Carolina Children’s Book Award nominee and her books have been on our state list several times in the past. This book, The Seventh Wish, (her most recent novel), I have not read, but it is about a young girl and a magical fish who can help her solve her problems. One of her problems, it seems, is that her sister is addicted to heroin. Here is another scenario that many kids face everyday – family members who are suffering from addiction. And again, here is a book where a kid can see themselves and relate to the characters. It helps to learn you are not alone when you have a problem – no matter how serious that problem is. I know this first hand (mommy groups on Facebook and books about babies have been SO helpful to me this first year as a mom – my “problems” are common new mom problems and I don’t hear a lot of fuss about parenting books, usually – but, I think you see my point).¬†You can read more about what happened between Messner and this school at this link.

And, here are a couple of other links to check out about this situation:

*An interview with Kate Messner about censorship –¬†http://bookriot.com/2016/06/16/stories-will-help-understand-interview-censorship-kate-messner/¬†

*Article (with an UPDATE) from the National Coalition Against Censorship –¬†http://ncac.org/blog/vermont-school-disinvites-childrens-author-because-of-book-about-heroin-addiction

So, I don’t really have a solution…but, I don’t think keeping kids in a bubble and telling folks who have important things to say to stay home is the answer. I don’t think keeping books that tell kids important (and sometimes scary) things off of our shelves is the answer. Yes, you have to know your community and buy books that meet the needs of that community and no, you cannot have EVERY book on your shelf, but there is a kind of quiet censorship that can happen when you just don’t talk about stuff or just quietly take books away that may cause “problems” or just don’t order the books to begin with, simply because there is a transgender main character or a mention of drugs and alcohol, for example. I’m not going to lie, I don’t have either one of these books on my shelf in the library at the moment. BUT, that doesn’t mean I don’t have other books with “different” characters and that doesn’t mean I would be nervous to recommend one of these books to my students or hesitate inviting these authors to my school. I am always sharing books from my personal collection and encouraging students to visit the public library for a book we do not have.

There are silver linings. A conversation has been started – lots of folks are thinking and talking. So, even though what happened stinks – I think parents, teachers, librarians, school administrators and kids have learned a lot about censorship and are having open discussions. Some have probably discovered a couple of new favorite authors in the process…at least, I hope so!

You can keep up with both of these situations by following the authors on their social media…both are very active and I love them.

Phil Bildner

Website https://philbildner.com/

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Phil-Bildner-Author-Teacher-School-Visits-51391027331/

Twitter https://twitter.com/PhilBildner

Kate Messner

Website http://www.katemessner.com/

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/KateMessner

Twitter https://twitter.com/KateMessner


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What I am thinking about – Part 2 ‚Äď Why the Games and MakerSpace in the Library?

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about my thoughts in regards to leveling the library.¬†¬†That was Part 1 in my little series called “What I am thinking about.”¬†Here’s Part 2…what’s the point of the games and the Makerspace in the library?

So, I have a lot of “fun” things in my elementary school library. Here’s a short list:


*Magnetic board at the entrance with letter magnets

*Marble run on a magnetic board at the circulation desk

*Geoboard near my story time area

*A stack of World Record and Ripley’s Believe It or Not books


*A dry erase board that is mobile and magnetic. Currently, there are magnetic words on it that students can move around to create poems and funny phrases

*Boxes of things like Legos, Bananagrams, Whisper phones, etc.

*A whole room that is our Makerspace with so much fun stuff, it deserves its own blog post, but so that you have an idea – there are craft supplies, 3D printer, Legos, etc.

I feel like I’ve always had some fun stuff in my library (board games, puzzles, etc), but I was inspired to add more after our school district moved to a Learning Commons model for the Library Media Center/School Library and after I spent a summer working at our local Children’s Museum (EdVenture) as part of Maker Corps.

“Fun stuff” is important in a library, because you see, PLAY = LEARNING and ANY REASON to get students into the library is a GOOD REASON. Sure, they may be goofing off and not doing any reading or even checking out a book, but because of the games and what not, they are having a positive experience in the LIBRARY. I feel like that’s a GOOD thing. In a Learning Commons, students do not just come in to check out a book or do research. They create things, they work together. To encourage students to come in, many of my fellow librarians and I put out games, created interesting “centers” and flexible collaborative spaces. All of this serving a meaningful purpose of staying relevant and interesting to our customers (students, parents, administration, teachers). So, the REASON I have these games and interesting spaces is to encourage my people to come in the door. Once they are in the door, they can have a good time in my space. SURE, I know that to some folks, the “purpose” of the school library is to check out a book, learn how to use the library, find information for various projects, etc. And I realize that sometimes it is difficult to get students to focus and some kids either just check out whatever books they can get their hands on quickly to then go and “play,” or they don’t bring their books back at all so that they can “play” the entire time, but I think that’s okay sometimes. I also feel like if it is not okay with you that your students are “playing,” then they can follow your directions. If you want them to sit and read after checking out, that is okay with me. Your class. But, those materials are there for you and for them, when you want them. I know that the games make it loud in the library, but often it is a good kind of loud. For example, at the Marble Run, students are working together to create a ramp or some sort of contraption that marbles use to make it from one end of the design to the other. Students get very excited when their plan works. To me, that is a good collaborative experience and how awesome is it that it happened in the library?! It wasn’t related to books or reading, but it’s still related to the space itself. When students are in the library “playing,” they may just end up talking to a friend about a good book or perhaps the cover of a book will catch their eye. I know so many adults who do not have a good feeling about the library and who do not use it. Some are big readers and they would rather get books from a book store or order online because they have such negative feelings towards the library. These feelings had to have started when they were children – I want the children in my life to be life long users of the library and if having something fun and allowing them to play does that, GOOD! I’m not planning to remove the fun stuff from my space. Have you been to a public library lately? My local public libraries are starting to introduce fun learning spaces too (for adults! They have always had fun spaces for kids)…for the same purpose, to get new customers in and to keep the regulars coming in. Plus, the “fun stuff” in my Learning Commons and at the public library is EDUCATIONAL stuff. All of it uses critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and communication. I don’t have it all labeled as such (maybe I should), but kids are learning when they play…there is no doubt about that!

Here’s some research to back me up:

A whole list of links supporting play from the National Association for the Education of Young Children http://www.naeyc.org/play

An article about the importance of play and maintaining parent/child bonds…lots of application for a school setting too. From the journal, Pediatrics ¬†http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/119/1/182

A link to the website for Invent to Learn (one of the BEST BOOKS about play and making. A MUST read for teachers and librarians, IMO) http://inventtolearn.com/

Next up in my series? Part 3 – why kids can’t live in a bubble – coming soon!


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What I am thinking about – Part 1 – Leveling the Library

Hello readers!

The school year is winding down (or actually, it feels like it is busier than ever…so really we are winding up, but that’s school life for you) and I’ve started thinking a lot about next school year. ¬†Thinking about next school year means learning more about a reading “program” my teachers will be using and thinking about how to implement a Reading Plan that our state has mandated all schools develop. All of this learning and thinking has me feeling some anxiety and I feel like I need to get a few things off my chest! So, here we go!

Part 1 – Leveling the Library…my teachers are going to start using Lucy Calkins Reading in their classroom for their ELA instruction. I am going to a professional development session about this over the summer and will be the first to say that I currently don’t know a whole lot about it. From what I hear and know, it sounds like an excellent method of teaching reading and writing in the classroom. It encourages teachers to have a large classroom library, which I love (the more print material that surrounds a child, the better!) and it encourages teachers to use guided reading and leveled texts in their reading instruction. That sounds good too. To teach a child to read, they must have text that they CAN read and comprehend. Got it. Awesome. BUT, here is where I feel nervous or have little flutters of anxiety in my stomach…I have heard whispers of “if my classroom library is leveled, then the school library should be too” (and I should say these whispers could totally be coming from my head. I tend to over think and get worked up when I am passionate about something). I get that line of thinking. I do. If we are going to make things “easier” by having a leveled classroom library where students will know exactly where they can go to pick out books that they should be able to read on their own independently, then why not have that “easier” method everywhere in the school? Well, the reason is, in my opinion, because a school library is not a place where the mechanics of reading are taught. The school library/public library/any library is a place where a baby, a child, an adult, an elderly person goes to pursue a¬†love reading. To start enjoying books for pleasure. To find favorite authors. To read books they loved as a kid. To share books and stories with others. When a student comes to my library, they should be able to check out whatever they want (within reason. Some books, because of content, just aren’t appropriate for right now). Maybe the book is too hard for them, but if they take that book home, chances are a parent or a grandparent or a big brother or sister will sit down and read it with them. Or, maybe they will just sit down with that book by themselves and flip through the pages. Or maybe that book will just sit in their bookbag until the next school day when they ask to go back to the library for a new book. So what?! At least they’ve had a positive experience in the library and want to return! I don’t feel like you can create a life long reader by forcing them to sit down and read what YOU want them to read just based on a level ALL THE TIME. There is a time and a place for that. Never mind the fact that if the school library and any other books they come in contact with are leveled and that’s how they learn to choose what to read, what the heck are they going to do when they get to go to a book store or the public library and want to find a book? Those places aren’t leveled, nor will they ever be leveled. That’s just going to lead to lots of frustration and create someone who doesn’t want to read because it’s too stressful.

I feel that the purpose of the school library is to be a place where students learn how to make good choices based on what they WANT to read. Maybe they get a book that is too easy for them. Maybe they get a book that is too hard for them. No matter what, they have a book they are interested in and they will go home and share that book. Think about this – how many times have you checked the level of a book you are reading? I NEVER do! And, I read all sorts of things (not just because I am a librarian. I am a READER. If I were a mailman, I’d still be a reader of all the things I read now, including audio books, graphic novels, picture books, etc.)…many of them would not be deemed to be within my reading level. I choose books based on what my friends are reading, book reviews, THE COVER, etc. I learned how to choose books by trail and error. I don’t remember what my classroom teachers and school librarians told me about choosing books or about reading levels or anything like that, but I do know that my dad took me to the public library and did not care at all what I checked out. Just as long as I had a stack of books with me when we left and that I spent time reading them when we got home. OH, and here’s something important to think about too – my dad read books in front of me all the time. My mom loved magazines. There was always plenty of print material around my house. That’s how you become a reader…you are allowed to explore books and libraries and talk with folks about good books. You are given choice. I probably didn’t read one novel during my middle school years, but I read TONS of Archie comic books and magazines…reading is reading, guys. Have an area in your classroom where students can find good examples of “just right” books, but then take them to the library and help them find those “just right” books that THEY choose on the shelves so that they can LOVE reading and know how to find good books when they aren’t at school! That’s the point. Students have to have free choice on what they read somewhere in school and the school library is just the place for that.

And, you don’t have to take my word for itūüėČ Here are a couple of other places to go to find more information on why choice is so important for growing readers:

Scholastic Parents “Give Kids Their Reading Choice” (geared towards parents) –¬†http://www.scholastic.com/parents/resources/article/book-selection-tips/give-kids-their-reading-choice

Donalyn Miller “I’ve Got Research. Yes, I do. I’ve Got Research. How About You?” (this post has links to so much reading research…read up!) –¬†https://bookwhisperer.com/2015/02/08/ive-got-research-yes-i-do-ive-got-research-how-about-you/

Part 2 – The point of the games and Makerspace in the library – coming soon!

Happy Saturday, friends!



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May Newsletter!

Check out the NPES Learning Commons MAY newsletter! https://www.smore.com/g5wxu-npes-learningcommons

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#imwayr It’s Monday! What are you reading? 4.18.16

What Are You Reading? was first hosted by Sheila at Book Journeys. If you’d rather follow folks who are reading books for grown ups, you should follow her Monday meme. I am  participating in the kidlit version of this meme (although sometimes I actually read books for grown ups).

In print:¬†Finished another Baby Sitter’s Club graphic novel last night…I just love them! I’m excited to start Kate DiCamillo’s new book, Raymie Nightingale, tonight!

Listening to:¬†Most Wanted by Lisa Scottoline. This couple really wants a baby, but the husband is unable to produce. Because of science, they are able to get pregnant by a donor, but it turns out that donor may be a serial killer…say what? So good. Cannot stop listening to it.

What are you reading?


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