Monday, June 30, 2014

Why do we read?

Russell Lee [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
My Facebook feed includes a lot of professional pages, so I get to mix business with pleasure each morning with my coffee (there go those blurred lines).  This morning's feed included an article from The Horn Book, one of my favorite book-related websites.  The post was from a guest author on the use of extrinsic rewards to motivate students to read.

You can read Nicole Hewes' post here.  The summarizing paragraph, if you just want the gist of it, follows:

I am convinced that we must rescue our students from contests of these sorts. If we don’t, we may end up with students who refuse to read a book without the promise of getting something. Surely there must be better ways to engage community partners in joining us on our journey to create lifelong readers who are intrinsically motivated to explore the wonderful world of books without resorting to contests that leave students reflecting that they read but “got nothing.”--Nicole Hewes

Her post echoes a discussion I had with teachers this past school year regarding how we approach reading. One teacher in particular bemoaned the fact that we don't have AR in our school, because she really liked using it in her previous placement. I tried to explain that while AR in and of itself isn't necessarily "bad", and does get some students to read more in the short term, it does not necessarily get kids hooked on reading--and isn't that what we ultimately want?
Photo by Vestergaard Frandsen

We had a lower number of students participate in a local reading program offered by an amusement park this year. Didn't bother me a bit, because I was hearing stories from teachers about how including more book choices for their students in the classroom had everyone excited about reading again. Excited about reading and sharing books.

I've always been a firm believer in answering students' questions of "Why do we have to learn/do/practice this?" with a real-life answer (because if you can't offer one, then really, why ARE you teaching it?). My teaching years outside of the library were spent in special education resource rooms. The majority of my students struggled with reading, so if any kids had reason to hate books, they did. Here are the reasons I gave them for learning how to read, and to keep on reading:

  • It helps you navigate the world around you.  We read street signs, job applications, driver's license tests to reinforce this.  Yes, I did this with third and fourth graders!
  • Love notes.  How else are you going to understand that text message from that cute boy/girl?  (Elicited an "ewww" from some students....usually accompanied by a smile.)
  • Learning.  There is a LOT of cool stuff out there to explore through books.  Help with performing the perfect ollie on a skateboard (or at least knowing how to read the search entry for it on Google).  How far rattlesnakes can jump (important here in Texas).  
  • Escape and fun.  Where else can a boy talk with a ghost from a mine explosion?  Who knew popular children's figures' stories could be rewritten as adventures?  That a princess could choose her own path?  That illustrations can lend so much to a book about a kitten and the moon?
And the reason that seemed to make the most sense to them:
  • Because Ms. Margocs loves to read, and will read with you, to you, and beside you to prove it.  
Once I started putting that "walk to my talk" (thank you, Donalyn Miller), I saw the spark light up in my students' faces.  I had never seen such a lasting spark result from a sticker, a tick mark, or the promise of a trip to an amusement park.  

Yes, I will support reading programs that my school, district, and learning community want me to promote.  They can be fun, and motivating, and be a gateway for some who might otherwise not want to enter the readers' den.  But I will also continue to promote reading as a lifelong pleasure and skill--not just a means to a short-term reward.  Feeling good about reading should last longer than a ride on a roller-coaster. 

By Halonen, Pekka (1865 - 1933) (Finnish) (Details of artist on Google Art Project) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Oops! I did it again...

Yes, this pile really does exist in my house.  Right now.
Right now, I'm picturing one of my alter egos, the one who is organized and tidy and does things the way they should be done.  She is standing in front of me, leaning ever so slightly forward, index finger waving back and forth in the air, saying, "Tsk, tsk, tsk."

Do you see this stack of books to the right?  Lots of good books there, cool titles, great reads.  Kid books and grown up books.  Fantasy, mystery, history, memoir, nonfiction, self-help.  All with one thing in common.

I've started them all, and haven't finished a single one of them...yet.  And I can't exactly tell you why.  The bookmarks on the top two books are less than sixty pages from the end.  I'm only a few pages or chapters into most of these.  I've gotten half-way through Outliers, but it's been awhile since I put it down, so I'll probably have to scan what I read before just to catch up.

I'm a notorious book-jumper.  I wrote about it briefly in my post "Confessions of a slow scanner".  If a book hasn't completely sucked me in (or if I don't have the time to slip into a book coma), I am prone to pick up another one that looks interesting.  I could probably add a lot more to this pile, since I tend to start reading books when I purchase them, despite what's already in-process at home.  I blame Amazon; they make it way too easy for that to happen.  I thought those deliveries would slow down once I became a bonafide librarian, but noooooo.  My living room, and several flat surfaces around the house, are starting to resemble those musty old bookstores, with piles of books stacked willy-nilly, gathering dust, waiting to be rescued and read.

Can't you just smell the intoxicating musty dustiness of old paper?
(This isn't really my living room...yet.)
Why am I posting this, you may ask?  Because this, too, is what reading can be.  Reading can be hard; it can be boring.  Sometimes, there IS other stuff that's more interesting to do than reading.  Really.  And it's okay to go ahead and do that stuff!  The great thing about books is that they will still be there waiting for you to get back to them.  (That's also why bookmarks are great, too!)  So I'm going to listen to my alter ego this week and finish a few of them...well, I have to finish The Book of Flying super fast, otherwise I'll have real-life librarian at the public library tsk-tsking at me.  It's due Wednesday.

And since I stole a line from Brittany to title this blog, here's a musical blast from the past.

Monday, June 23, 2014

One week into summer break

At the last school assembly of the year, I performed a short skit on what I do as a librarian during summer break.  Using props, I talked about sleeping, exercising, listening to music, cooking, swimming, and of course, reading.

So if any members of my learning community are reading this, here's what I've accomplished since the students left the building:

  • Exercised for ten straight days, and participated in a 5K
  • Turned up the tunes on the home stereo on several occasions, and practiced my singing with the car radio
  • Soaked in the pool half a dozen times
  • Slept at least six hours EVERY night!  Whoohoo!
  • Planned meal menus through August, cooked and baked a few times
  • Planned our family vacation and my daughter's September birthday event
  • Attempted to clean my desk and will be a summer-long project
  • Reading!  I've read four Bluebonnet books, and I'm working on the fifth one.  I've also read two books from my grown-up reading list, working on the third, and I'm dabbling in some professional reading at the same time.  
I gave myself a week "off" without worrying too much about library-related tasks and major home projects, but as of today, I'm hitting the to-do list with a bit more focus and effort.  The picture is a small start--finally got around to framing a tea towel from the Bodleian Library to display at school.

Reports on books to follow soon...after I tackle the remaining piles on my desk, in my bedroom, on the coffee table....

Monday, June 16, 2014

A difference of Wordles

This was from February 2013, made from my blog posts:Wordle: More Books Than Time
And this is the current Wordle from my blog posts:
What a difference a year makes!  

Friday, June 13, 2014

I am a librarian. I AM a librarian. I am a LIBRARIAN!

Yesterday, I finished barcoding what seemed to be a kajillion cameras and headphones, covered a couple more books, and completely cleared off the top of my desk.  Emails were exchanged, last-minute staff checkouts were made, papers filed.

Then I turned off the last two plugged-in computers, locked all the doors inside the library, turned off the lights, and locked the outside door behind me.

My first year as a librarian is "in the can", as movie makers say.  It is also the end of my twenty-first year in the education biz.  I've worn many hats during that time, but I don't think any have fit me so well as this librarian's chapeau.

Several times over the course of the year, I've turned to my library assistant and asked, "I did work today, right?"  To which she adamantly replied, "Yes, you've been running all day!  Let me reintroduce you to your chair!"  I think this quote best fits what I've finally found:

"A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play; his labor and his leisure; his mind and his body; his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing, and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself, he always appears to be doing both."

-Francois Auguste Rene Chateaubriand (1800′s French Writer & Diplomat)  

Here's to finding work that seems like play.  Right now, I'm thinking I'll retire as a a couple of decades.  Happy summer, friends!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Getting into the groove

The school was eerily quieter today, minus the sounds of even the teachers.  They finished their work calendars yesterday, unlike the skeleton support crew of office and library and custodial employees who get paid the big bucks to come in earlier and stay later on the calendar.

My tech support roommate deserted me midday for a meeting, so I was left to my own devices for lunch and beyond.  One of our wonderful paraprofessionals, filling in the last few hours of her obligations, came in to help cover the remaining computers with trash bags and pick up the professional books left after the last staff meeting.  We chatted a bit as I ate my to-go lunch and searched for data to include on a mandatory report, and then she left to go clock out.

It's the duties of these days, the ones before and after school, that really define the library as a program.  Taking inventory of the collection; writing reports on library usage, collaborative efforts, supporting lessons.  Tabulating funds and turning them in; placing orders for magazines and budgeting donations.  Talking about survey results, changes to be made, projects to get done, planning to meet the needs of the learning community of students, teachers, and parents.  Worrying about how to fit all those needs into this one space and limited time.

The library is a classroom, but it is so much more.  And I've only just begun to learn to manage it all.  In one of my professional development classes, it was said that it takes a librarian three years to really settle into the groove of a library program.  I'm enjoying the dance, and look forward to many more years to "get my boogie down" among the stacks!