2016 – 2017 WEEK 6 – Global Cardboard Challenge

Last week (and this week), we are all about the Global Cardboard Challenge. Each year, our 5th graders get the chance to create arcade games for the rest of our school. Our school district hosts a Global Cardboard Challenge on a Saturday in October (in conjunction with all other Cardboard Challenges happening around the world that day) and because it can be hard to do things on a Saturday, we host our own event on the Friday before (we call it a Cardboard Carnival). This is the 4th year or so that we have done it and I think we now have a good plan in place. Here’s what we do:

*I introduce the project to students in their classroom. I show them the Caine’s Arcade video and talk about the project. After I am done and have answered all of their questions, they sit down (often with a partner) and sketch out what they are going to make. They make a list of materials needed and start a draft of the directions on how to play the game. I suggest that they look around at home and bring in their own boxes, tape, etc. I do collect my own boxes and tape and other items for them to use, but it’s good for them to have their own stuff. I have found that there is a balance of having too much cardboard (making your library feel like a garbage dump) and too little (so that kids don’t have anything to work with). This year has been the best with supplies, I think, and it’s because we’ve asked them to bring in what they can.

*The classroom teacher and I then schedule working times in the library for students to come in and build. They get to come in for 2 hours with their class (one hour for each week leading up to the Cardboard Carnival) and then they can come in for recess everyday leading up to the event. They can also work on it at home….in short, I feel like they get a lot of time to work.

*The day before the Cardboard Carnival, every student who created a game comes to the library to set up. They teach the people next to them how to play their game so that if something happens (they get sick, surprise trip to Disney, whatever), someone is available who knows how to play their game.

*We advertise mostly via email to teachers and ask them to sign up for a time to bring their class in to play. Each student gets a “passport” and as they play games, they get a stamp on their passport. As they leave the library, they show me their passport and they get one piece of candy as a prize. We do this because for the first couple of years, many of our students created games with prizes and students parents felt like they had to spend lots of money on candy or junk or whatever for prizes. So, now kids play the games for points or whatever (no physical prizes), but everyone gets a prize on the way out.

It’s a lot of work, but kids really love it and when they get to 5th grade, they are so excited that they finally have a chance to create something out of cardboard.

Are you participating in the Global Cardboard Challenge? Tell me about it!


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2016 – 2017 Weeks 3 – 5

Hello readers!

What a crazy few weeks it has been! So, RIGHT NOW, we are just about finished celebrating DOT WEEK! I love to celebrate International Dot Day each year with my Art Teacher. She is amazing and does Dot inspired art with our students to display in the Learning Commons every year during our festivities. In addition to displaying student art this week, I have a few activities set up in the Learning Commons for students to explore after they check out their library books. They can play Dots & Company on an iPad; they can scan Dots that 1st graders colored last week using the Quiver App on an iPad; and they can collaborate to create a classroom Dot picture with Bingo markers. I’ve been sharing pictures each day on our Learning Commons’ Facebook page…check it out!

Also this week I have been visiting 5th grade classrooms talking about the Global Cardboard Challenge. We have been participating in the challenge for a few years now and every year, I think we get a little bit better. This year, I am visiting classrooms and introducing the challenge to students and then giving them time to plan what they want to build. In the past, they had a little bit of planning time and would move right into building in the same lesson, but this year, they aren’t even starting to build until the NEXT lesson. That gives them time to sketch their game, write their directions, and gather materials. Next week, we will give them solid blocks of time to build in the Learning Commons (and some have already been coming in during recess). We are going to host a Cardboard Carnival on September 30 and then the next day is the actual Global Cardboard Challenge that they can participate in, if they want to. I look forward to this event each year. It’s crazy, noisy, and messy, but so fun.

Last week, we continued to talk about book care with Kindergarten students and reviewed the Self Checkout station with all other classes.

The week before THAT was supposed to be our first Lion Cub Story Time for this school year, but it was cancelled due to inclement weather (students were dismissed early that day), so the next story time will be in October.

Upcoming events include Star Wars READS Day and BOOK FAIR!

What’s been going on in your library???


PS – Along with all the FUN and ENGAGING stuff that has been going on in my library, talk of levels has come up again. So, sharing the link for a blog post I wrote this summer – just FYI. #bummer

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2016 – 2017 WEEK 2!

Week 2 is under our belts!

  • All of our 1st – 5th grade classes have now come in for library book checkout.
  • Kindergarten came to the library for an introduction lesson, but no check out…that comes this week. I read my favorite first read aloud, Wild About Books,  to them.
  • 2 – 5th graders reviewed how to search for a book using Destiny (check out a video I made).
  • K – 5th grade classes reviewed iPad safety (each classroom/grade level has iPads for student use…before we issue the iPads each year, we do a review for classrooms on how to take care of the iPad)
  • I spoke at our Kindergarten Parent Orientation. This is something new I tried this year and I would love to make it an annual event, if my Kindergarten teachers will let me! They went through the ABCs of Kindergarten (what the students learn, how “grades” are given, etc.). I shared a little presentation about what happens when their kiddos come to the library and some tips for making sure reading at home becomes a habit. I also brought my laptop and a basket of books so that they could checkout library books. I felt like it was successful! Our 1st – 5th grade curriculum night has not happened yet and since I obviously cannot attend all of their presentations, I’m thinking about sending a handout to my teachers that they can give to parents that night and maybe making a video of some sort to just have on our YouTube page that parents can watch. We’ll see…

Right now, we are in the middle of planning LOTS of upcoming events – National Library Card Sign Up Month, Dot Day, Global Read Aloud activities, Cardboard Challenge, Makerspace Moments, Star Wars READS Day, BOOK FAIR, and more! The next couple of months are going to be super busy! Whew!

What special events are you planning?


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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 work🙂

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 – American 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 – 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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