Saturday, March 29, 2014

Making connections

Our professional organization, Palm Beach County EMA, held their annual breakfast for media specialists and principals yesterday. They invited John Schumaker, more commonly known as Mr. Schu, as the featured speaker. He was completely AMAZING!!! I've been reading his blog since I started in the media center because he reads EVERYTHING and he is a big user of social media so he's constantly sharing what he knows about books. He's a book evangelist... just what I want to be! One of the things he spoke about yesterday was how important is to read because books connect us to one another. Reading books is really terrific by sharing books is a powerful social experience that we can choose and that we can share with our kids and our students. The experiences created by authors are things we may not be able to experience on our own (like flying on a broomstick or finding a squirrel with super powers) but we can experience them vicariously and share them with our friends, family, even complete strangers who have also read the book! What a gift! Thanks Mr. Schu for reminding me how awesome it is to be one of the guides on people's reading journey!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Choosing the perfect book

I've been thinking a lot about how to help kids fall in love with books. I've read books like the Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller (complete genius) and read blogs Colby Sharp and Mr. Schu. All of these people are passionate about books and their passion leaks out and can't help getting lapped up by everyone around them. I hope I'm able to share some of that passion! One of the things most often talked about when thinking about kids and books is matching up with right book with the right kid (or adult for that matter). It's really a lot less about reading levels and a lot more about what you connect with as you're reading. So less about data and more about feeling and empathy and connection. So NOT what school ends up being about these days. Unless we stand up. Unless we stand up and put books in people's hands and say 'You are going to LOVE this." So here I am, standing up! I got some new books at school today and COULD NOT WAIT to put them into people's hands. It was a teacher workday so I didn't have too many to choose from, but both of the teachers I nagged into reading my new books loved these. Wait until you get a load of these!
The Tree lady by H. Joseph Hopkins is a biography about Kate Sessions who was a teacher and activist in San Diego in the late 1800s and early 1900s. She loved plants and trees and when she moved to San Diego it was barren and dry. She did a lot of research to find trees and plants that would grow there and then found people to send her seeds and seedlings. She kept pushing until San Diego was the beautiful green city it is today. What a great message! Most of the pages end with "Most people didn't, but Kate did." Keep going even if it isn't what everyone else is doing... Another one that I totally loved was called Xander's Panda Party. It's about a little panda in a zoo who wants to have a party, but he's the only panda around. So he decides to invite all the other bears, the polar hears, the grizzly bears, the brown bears, the koala bears. But the koala says, wait a minute, I'm not a bear, I'm a marsupial. You might be able to guess what happens next, but it would be a great story for making predictions as well as talking about all the different groups of vertebrates. The language is amazing (great rhythm). The illustrations are completely adorable. Here's a book trailer about it. One more that I got today is Escape from Mr.Lemoncello's library by Chris Grabenstein. It's an exciting adventure about a boy named Kyle who lives in a small town and loves video games. It turns out that the guy who develops THE BEST video games is from Kyle's home town (Mr. Lemoncello) and he has commission the town to build the coolest, most up to date, technologically advanced library every built. Mr. Lemoncello is inviting 12 kids to come and spend the night trying to get out of the library and the one who can get out of the library first will win amazing prizes. This book is so much fun to read, there are a TON of text references to great children's books, which might send you on a chase to the library.
Happy reading and I hope you find a book you are passionate about!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Books about behaving appropriately

We just finished up the book fair at school and I'm so relieved it's over with. It's SO much fun. The kids LOVE buying books and we get to see a lot of books that we wouldn't normally get to see. The kids love to look at the Guinness book of world records and the Ripley's Believe it or not books (although the guy with the snakes coming out of his nose and mouth seemed a little over the top to me) and since I refuse to buy those for the media center anymore, it's the book fair or Costco! But it is EXHAUSTING and busy and I'm so glad on Friday afternoon, I packed everything away so when I come in on Monday morning, we can go back to our regular routine. A teacher from the local university stopped in during the book fair (she supervises student teachers at our school) and she asked for books that could help with teaching behavior management. She's going to be teaching a class at our university this fall and she was looking for trade books to put on her reading list. I thought of a couple that might work. One was at the book fair. It was called Clark the Shark by Bruce Hale. This fantasy fiction story is about Clark who goes to school and he's big and loud and excited to be at school. Unfortunately, he's SO big and SO exuberant that he's pretty annoying. His teacher suggests to him that he should make up rhyming rules to help him through some of the trouble spots he's been having. It works and he's able to help teach the new octopus the same trick. What I liked about this was that even though the teacher gave him the idea, Clark was the one to identify the trouble spots (like eating everyone else's lunch) and create the rhymes to help him remember how to behave. I think this would be a great story to read at the beginning of the year (or maybe right now) to start a conversation on self-regulation. Here's a reading of the whole book! Another one that is also a book about self regulation is an older book by Molly Bang called When Sophie Gets Angry. In this realistic picture book, Sophie gets angry and then goes outside to calm herself down. When she comes back, she can solve the problem. I loved this idea about kids finding different strategies to calm themselves down (although in s school setting, running outside and climbing trees may not be a good option!) Here's a little book talk about it. Self regulation has been a big thing we've been teaching about in our school, so I hope these will help you too!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Book fair

The Scholastic book fair starts this week at our school.  I wish I could describe to you how excited the kids are by the book fair, but imagine a fifth grade boy (they tend to want to play things really cool) rushing up to you as a truck pulls into the parent up driveway, shouting "The book fair is here!"  Just saying, at our school, the book fair is a BIG DEAL.

Scholastic generally offers a good supply of books at reasonable prices and I'm SO happy that my students think that books are fun and exciting.  I read some research somewhere that kids who have books in their homes are more likely to be good readers (they had to do research about that?).  The magic number of books (according to this research) was 50.  50 books that kids selected themselves in their homes and that would help them down the path of being good readers.  Really?  So in my way of thinking, I need to do whatever I can to help them get books into their houses, not just into their hands.

Here are a couple of books that I'm going to be strongly recommending at the book fair.
That is not a good idea by Mo Willems
I've been reading this book to the pre-k and kindergarten kids this week as part of a lesson on fiction and non fiction.  It's really easy to see that this book is fiction because the characters are so hilarious.  What's also great though is that you are making predictions about what is going to happen (between a fox and a goose) based on factual knowledge (foxes eat geese).  So part of what makes this story so great is all the predictions you are making.  The other thing that makes this story so much fun is how dramatic it is.  I recommended it to a third grader last week who needed to work on fluency and her mom said it worked like a champ.  So this one is my new favorite book.
Here's a book trailer for it.
Another one I really liked is called Mr. Tiger goes wild by Peter Brown. I loved the graphic art in the book and it has a really great message (be true to yourself). I think it would also lend itself well to fiction/non-fiction lesson. It would also be good if you wanted to compare and contrast to "Where the Wild Things are" by Maurice Sendak, the themes of fitting and behaving appropriately would be a good match. Here's the book trailer for that one.