Monday, February 29, 2016

It's Monday! What are you reading?

Our library has been in Book Fair mode since last Thursday, so I thought I'd share what's been coming through the registers as students and parents shop.

Peppa's First Pet (Peppa Pig)Media-related items are very popular, as children are drawn to familiar characters from TV shows and favorite toys.  Peppa's First Pet sold out quickly, as did LEGO Ninjago Attack of the Sky Pirates.

LEGO® Awesome Ideas Both the LEGO and "Star Wars" tables have been popular.  A few copies of LEGO Awesome Ideas have come through my checkout.  Our dozen copies of Rey's Story, a short chapter book from the latest "Star Wars" movie installment, sold out on Friday!  

As for upper elementary purchases, students are scooping up books that are on the new Texas Bluebonnet Award nominees list, including Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan and Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson.  We have also sold out of the latest Newbery Medal winner, Last Stop on Market Street by  Matt de la Peña, a steal of a deal in paperback!
Book fairs are a big deal on our campus, something the students look forward to twice a year.  The proceeds from their generous purchases pay for several author visits each school year, as well as supplies and books for the library and professional development for this very grateful librarian.

We are open all day today (Monday, 2/29) and til noon on Tuesday, so if you're in the area, stop on by for some great books!

Monday, February 22, 2016

It's Monday! What are you reading?

I've been playing catch-up in the Book Nook in my library this week, reading Water Can Be by Laura Purdie Salas to some classes and Meet the Parents by Peter Bently to others.  

Water Can Be is a delightful nonfiction picture book about the many forms and tasks water can, well, be!  Each illustrated page is simply narrated by a two-word description of what the water is, or is doing, in the picture.  Examples are "downhill speeder", "salmon highway", and "kid-drencher".  

After a general discussion about nonfiction text--and how it can be illustrated by hand, as Violeta Dabija has done, not just by photographs--I had the students close their eyes and quietly think of all the ways they have interacted with water.  They were then instructed to give me a silent thumbs-up every time one of their musings connected with an image in the book.  I also gave my own thumbs-up on several pages!

Salas gives additional information at the end of the book about how water in involved in each scene (I learned something about "woodchuck warmer"), as well as a glossary and further reading resources.  This makes for a wonderful introduction to nonfiction text features for younger students, and I've already had teachers request the book to use next year with their water cycle units.  

Meet the Parents is a sweet story about the many roles moms and dads have, from "menders of trains" to dads acting as horses and mom's dresses as towels for grimy hands.  The pictures by Sara Ogilvie are bright and a bit chaotic, perfectly illustrating the messiness that seems inherent in raising children.   The scenes may be geared more for the preschool years, but my second-graders were engaged and had no problem connecting with handing over leftovers for a parent to finish and getting tucked in at night with a kiss.  I plan on making this book one of my go-to baby shower gifts. 

I have been doing well with my morning reading time, given my small goal of 6-12 pages in Thomas Moore's A Religion of One's Own as I drink my first cup of coffee.  I'm also halfway through Dogs of Winter and will report on that one next week, I think!  Spring break is right around the corner, and I'm planning on a reading binge or two during those days off.

What's in your reading queue this week?



Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Here we go again

The tension is building; it's been happening since we got back from Christmas break.

The anxiety brought on by a past semester of long hours, and the upcoming semester of student testing.

Often, there is little sleep and much stress due to juggling teaching prep and grading papers and getting dinner on the table and kids to sports practice.  I told my husband that education seems to be the one profession that you can't just "turn off" when you leave the building; there is always one more thing to do, one more lesson to tweak, one more email to read.  This isn't just thinking about the job after hours, it's continuing the job after hours.

And now we are in testing season--yes, it's referred to as a season, more and more.  Teachers who were confident in their teaching and pacing and differentiating and lesson planning in the fall are now falling prey to the doubts in their mind:  Will I get all the curriculum crammed in before The Tests?  Will the students understand the curriculum enough to pass The Tests?  Will my teaching evaluation scores go down because of student performance on The Tests?

Lest you think this just affects the after-third-grade crowd, I see the ripple effects in lower grades and us "fringe teachers" too.  The kindergarten, first, and second grade teachers are reminded that their work lays the foundation for those test scores.  The younger students are reminded to keep quiet in the halls during practice and real testing sessions.  Recess and specials (art, music, PE) schedules are changed to accommodate those who are testing, and library visits are missed while practice sessions are going on or we are closed to host small group testing.

This is my third year of librarianship, and you would have thought by now I would remember how testing impacts my teaching in the library.  But I forgot, until my lessons went untaught...maybe because I wanted to forget, don't want to believe that The Tests can still affect me.  There seems to be no way of escaping them, even in the stacks.

Monday, February 15, 2016

It's Monday! What are you reading?

We took a break from our usual Armadillo and 2x2 books in The Book Nook this week, and enjoyed I Love You, Mouse by John Graham, with pictures by our illustrator of the month, Tomie dePaola.  The story follows a young child as he walks through pastures and woods and professes his love for the animals he encounters. 

Truth be told, all of my usual go-to Valentine books had been checked out, so I chose this one by chance.  It is a simple book with a specific pattern, easy to read to kindergarteners.  But how could I extend it to suit second graders?

The answer was to have them recognize, then repeat the pattern with their own animal choices.  I did this with kindergarteners by giving them prompts, but with the second graders, I encouraged them to remember the five parts of each stanza, then make their own by verbally using their animal of choice.  A simple story about a love for animals turned into a review of baby animal names (if we knew them), man-made and natural habitats, and typical foods and activities of the students' chosen creatures.  I left a two-page spread open so they could refer to it as they recited their extension of the story.  Almost every student chose to participate in this activity!


I finished reading City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau and Trapped in Death Cave by Bill Wallace for one fifth grade book club, and now have to get started on The Dogs of Winter by Bobbie Pyron and Jim Murphy's nonfiction Newbery Honor Book, The Great Fire for the next group.  It has been great fun having four different Book Lunch Bunches this school year; I am getting great book recommendations from the independent reading groups, and stretching my own reading experience with the shared book readers.

My current personal book choice is A Religion of One's Own: A Guide to Creating a Personal Spirituality in a Secular World by Thomas Moore, chosen as my Lenten learning activity.  Moore discusses building one's religious practices from internal guidance, regardless of whether or not one is participating in organized institutional faith communities.  Giving up Facebook time for Lent has opened up some reading time before my workday begins! 

It's Monday; what are you reading this week?

Monday, February 8, 2016

It's Monday! What are you reading?

It's been great fun in The Book Nook in my library this past week, sharing Kevin Henkes' Waiting with my kindergarten and first grade classes.  This beautiful book gave me so much to talk about with my students!  
I started by talking about the Caldecott Honor Henkes earned for the illustrations (he also won a Geisel Honor).  We then went on to compare Henkes' other books with this new one.  Most of the students were familiar with Chrysanthemum and Wemberly Worried, and a few knew about Kitten's First Full Moon.  The colors in Waiting are much softer and more pastel than his previous books, so this led to a great discussion on how colors make us feel, and how they help us guess the tone of a book (adventurous?  lots of action?  quiet and thinking?).  
Moving on to reading aloud, the story fell quickly into an easy pace.  I made sure to point out the missing toy when it came up to focus the students on the pictures.  I also pointed out the gifts of rock, acorn, and seashell.  When we got to the wordless pages highlighting the "many wonderful" things the toys saw through the windows, it was the perfect opportunity to ask the students if time was standing still, or moving forward in this book.  
When finished, I went back and asked about the missing toy that returned, how the toys were positioned lying down, the new toy that broke, the gifts from nature.  How did that all happen?  We agreed that the toys, who never venture far from the windowsill, were not moving around on their own like the ones in the movie "Toy Story".  We used our inference skills, and concluded that there must be a person, likely a child, who does these things. There was an invisible character in this book!
I don't always pick so many details from a book to discuss, but this wonderfully written and illustrated story allowed me to do so without ruining the quiet, waiting tone of the book.  Perfect for a fifteen-minute read-aloud in the library! 

Monday, February 1, 2016

It's Monday! What are you reading?

Not much has changed since my last Monday post; I just started Trapped in Death Cave by Bill Wallace for one of my fifth grade Book Lunch Bunch choices.  It's a fun mystery story with an interesting setting and characters.

The kindergarteners have been studying motion and energy in class, so my Book Nook read-aloud last week was Motion:  Push and Pull, Fast and Slow by Darlene R. Stille, illustrated by Sheree Boyd.  It's an easy read with bright, simple pictures and just the right amount of science vocabulary to cover in a fifteen minute story time--motion, force, inertia, gravity, acceleration, speed, and direction (straight and curving) are included.

On a professional note, I am making my way through Simon Sinek's Leaders Eat Last:  Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don't.  I started it last summer, but I keep getting interrupted by other reading priorities.  I've purchased the Kindle version, and I find myself highlighting at least one passage every three or four pages.  I'll be going back to read the highlights when I'm done.

My goal this month is to establish a one-hour-a-day reading habit.  I'm a feast-or-famine type reader, so this will be a stretch. I'm usually eye-weary after a day in the stacks and at the computer, and tend to nod off over an open book if it's too close to my bedtime!

Happy reading!