Monday, January 30, 2017

It's Monday! What are you reading?

I apologize for not posting a library update last Wednesday; I was busy preparing for a long road trip to Iowa for a college visit with my son!

What did I do on that road trip?  Read!

Michael Morpurgo's An Elephant in the Garden was one of my fifth grade Book Lunch Bunch picks, and did not disappoint.  Yes, there is an elephant--a young one named Marlene, who is saved from certain death in a zoo during the bombing of Dresden in World War II.  The story is told by an aged woman in a nursing home, eager to pass on the tale from her teenage years to her nurse and the nurse's son.  Based on a real news article, it is less about the elephant, and more about the courage to survive horrific circumstances, crossing the artificial boundaries of "we" and "them" that can mean life and death during wartime.

Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin is a first person narrative about living with ASD, or autism spectrum disorder.  My background is in special education, and I have worked with many students with autism; this book gave me a deeper appreciation for their daily struggles with sensory and information processing.  I was exhausted on the character's behalf by the fiftieth page, and would love to have students with similar diagnoses read this book and give me their feedback as well.

At our district's monthly librarians' meeting, we are asked to pick books sent by publishers to read and review.  I had just seen this cover on Facebook, so I knew I had to scoop it up:
Lost and Found Cat: The True Story of Kunkush's Incredible Journey by Doug Kuntz and Amy Shrodes, illustrated by Sue Cornelison, is THE timeliest book I've ever chosen. Sura and her five children fled Iraq in 2015 to escape the war.  Their cat, Kunkush, accompanied them as smugglers took the family to the Turkish coast, where they joined other refugees for the dangerous boat trip to Greece.  Kunkush was lost at the landing, and it took an international effort to reunite him with Sura and her children.

Lost and Found Cat is a true story.  Doug Kuntz is a journalist who photographs the plight of refugees, and Amy Shrodes is a volunteer helping the refugees as they arrive on safe ground. Kunkush's journey is merely the backdrop for explaining what refugees endure to find a safe home, recounted in a manner that children can easily understand. The timing could not be any more relevant, given the national U.S. headlines this week. It will be a must-share for the students on my campus.

It's Monday! Have you read any books with headline connections this week? 

Monday, January 23, 2017

It's Monday! What are you reading?

We've been hearing a lot about creativity in educational circles; it seems to be the evolution of the emphasis on critical thinking/ problem solving, coupled with the rediscovery that students--really, all of us--have a need to play.  Problem solving + play = creativity, if one thinks of creativity as the expression of a solution.

Creativity is being discussed on our campus since our school won a grant to create a makerspace for our students, a place where they can explore and come up with answers to fun challenges.  There have been several books written on the topic: A.J. Juliani's Launch, which discusses design thinking to encourage creativity, and A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change by Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown.
Both are great books with ideas to mull over and integrate with our teaching.

But...there are times I tire of educational jargon.  I want to think outside the confines of curriculum and state standards and critical thinking.  I want to have fun with my reading!  Two books, one from my to-read-pile and one rediscovered-in-my-collection, may be just the ticket to spur some creative thinking.

Creative is a Verb:  If You're Alive, You're Creative by Patti Digh has been sitting on my to-read pile for two years.
I have started and stopped one of Digh's other books, Life is a Verb: 37 Days to Wake Up, Be Mindful, and Live Intentionally, three times already.  What stops me is that these are interactive books, and I need to set aside daily time to complete them.  They will be at the top of my summer to-read list.

The other book was a happy rediscovery in a bedside drawer:
There are newer additions of A Whack on the Side of the Head, as late as 2008.  The exercises give you ways to look at situations and problems from different perspectives, puzzles to solve, quotes to ponder.  von Oech also published a Creative Whack Pack--cards to stimulate creative thinking--and a sequel, A Kick in the Seat of the Pants.  They are humorous, fun to use, and definitely stimulating.

It's Monday!  What do you read to get your creative juices flowing?

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

It's Wednesday! What's happening in the Sommer Library?

Our library was turned into a Science Fair today!
Third, fourth, and fifth graders presented their projects to volunteer judges, who scored them with rubrics.
Kindergarten, first, and second graders entered projects, too!  All of the displays were moved to the cafeteria this afternoon for tonight's viewing and awarding of ribbons.

Since the library was closed for presentations, Mrs. Woodul had time to process some new additions to our library collection.  Be sure to check out what's new on display!  Also highlighted this month:  realistic fiction, books about sports, and winter books.

In the Book Nook, first and second graders are drumming to Drum Dream Girl by Margarita Engle, an Armadillo Readers Choice story.  Kindergarteners are listening to We Forgot Brock!, a Texas 2x2 book by Carter Goodrich.

Bluebonnet Voting is going on right now in the library!  Third, fourth, and fifth graders who read at least five Bluebonnet Award nominees will receive voter cards and choose their favorite book online.  Thousands of students all across the state are participating in this process; the winning author (and illustrator!) will be invited to speak at our annual state librarians' conference in April.

Author Nathan Hale is coming to visit third and fifth graders in February!  
Nathan Hale
Nathan Hale wrote One Dead Spy, a 14-15 Bluebonnet Nominee.  Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales is now a full-fledged series!
Image result for author nathan hale website   
Please turn your book orders in by THIS FRIDAY!

Monday, January 16, 2017

It's Monday! What are you reading?

I love sharing stories with our kindergarten, first, and second grade classes in the Book Nook of our library!

Our first graders have been listening to First Grade Dropout by Audrey Vernick, illustrated by Matthew Cordell.
First we talk about the meaning of "dropout"--a timely topic, since this coming week is "Education-Go Get It" week in our school district.  Then we put our thinking caps on and list reasons why a first grader would want to drop out of school.  After reading the book, we make personal connections with times we've been so embarrassed at school that we might not want to return.

I want to give a shout-out to Mrs. Mury's students!  Her book clubs have been coming to the library to make book trailers using our Next Gen iPads.  One of her book clubs was so excited after reading Bad Unicorn by Platte F. Clark that they just had to come down to the library to talk with me about it--and convinced me to buy a club set of the next two books in the trilogy to add to our Literacy Library.

On a personal note, I'm now juggling two books!  I'm still reading The Book of Joy by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, but now I've added a YA fantasy to my daily reading:

Every generation, triplet girls are born in Fennbirn.  They are separated at an early age and raised to enhance their natural powers--one to withstand poisons, one to control the elements, and one to commune with and command flora and fauna.  But only one can be queen...and the other two must perish.  Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake has got my attention for the long weekend!

It's a Martin Luther King, Jr holiday weekend!  What are you reading today?

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

It's Wednesday! What's happening in the Sommer Library?

Happy New Year!  We've been getting back in the swing of things here in the library since winter break.

We had a bit of excitement last Thursday, when our midday read-aloud time ended with a delivery:
We received the furniture purchased with funds from our RRISD-awarded Innovative Learning Spaces grant!  The hardworking representatives from Worthington Contract Furniture spent many hours unpacking and putting the pieces together that day and this past Monday.  Mrs. Woodul and Mrs. Margocs spent some time rearranging afterwards, and here are the results:

Our learning area has been transformed!  Mrs. Daniel's fifth grade class was the first to use our new furnishings as they completed their mid-year library skills review with iPads.

There are twenty-four pie-shaped tables and fifty-six chairs.  The new tables have castors and can be rearranged easily; they even fit between our book shelves when we need room for presentations!  The chairs are really comfortable, and stack for storage.

On the other side of the library, in the Book Nook, we are getting musical as students listen to Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl's Courage Changed Music by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Rafael L√≥pez.  
Drum Dream Girl tells the story of a Chinese-African-Cuban girl who dreams of being a drummer, but girls are not allowed to drum in 1930's Havana, Cuba.  Her father finally relents and sends her to a music teacher, who recognizes her passion and talent and gives her a venue to play her music.

We couldn't read a book about drums with a few of our own in the Book Nook, thanks to Ms. Nelson's and Mrs. Blazek's loans from the music rooms!
Mrs. Margocs added percussion sticks and blocks from her own collection, so every student had something to play and keep the beat while she read the book aloud.

One of our first graders pops into the library once a week to check out books for independent study.  He then makes a project to teach us what he's learned!  This week's project had to do with satellites:

Second graders are learning how to use our online catalog more efficiently, while first grade is enjoying a "check-out" week with more time to browse for books.  Third, fourth, and fifth grades are doing their mid-year library skills review, using a Nearpod lesson on the iPads.

Mrs. Margocs is busy planning the spring semester author visits!  We have Nathan Hale visiting with our third and fifth graders on February 22nd--be sure to get those book orders in by next Friday.

Attention third, fourth, and fifth graders: Bluebonnet signature pages are due THIS FRIDAY, January 13th, by 4PM!!  Students must read at least five Bluebonnet books to participate in statewide voting; if they read all twenty, they receive one of next year's Bluebonnet books to keep, and qualify to try out for our Battle of the Bluebonnets Team!

Our Spring Book Fair is coming up in February--stay tuned for details!

Monday, January 9, 2017

It's Monday! What are you reading?

Do you ever get a new book that you feel you must read right away, even if you are in the middle of another book?  That happened to me this past weekend, when this arrived on my doorstep:
In this after-Christmas-before-Valentine's Day-time, I feel the need for joy.  Our Christmas tree is still standing, barely a needle dropped, so it will be a bit sad to lose such a splendid display of greenery (and that wonderful piney scent!) this week.  Reading The Book of Joy brings a lightness to my thoughts as I listen in to the conversations between His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.  The narrative by Douglas Abrams, who is both observer and director of these conversations, rounds out the story by filling in the sensory details and offering his own perspective.  I can see and hear the two spiritual giants playfully bantering on the nature of joy and happiness while acknowledging the pain and suffering that coincides with our humanity.

The Book of Joy is a wonderful read before bedtime, soothing to the soul.  What are you reading before bed these post-holiday evenings?

Monday, January 2, 2017

It's Monday! What are you reading?

Welcome to 2017!  The staff in our district started back today; students return tomorrow.  I was tempted to skip today's blog post, but after a two week holiday, I need to get back in the habit of writing!

I have started off my year by incorporating page-a-day books into my morning routine.  This one was a gift from a friend years ago, and I keep moving it to the top of my to-read pile each year--so 2017 will be the year it gets read!

McColman's book of Celtic myths, traditions, and spirituality speaks to the Irish half of my blood.  I'm looking forward to learning a bit more about my heritage each day.

The other book is a gift to myself:
The Petras siblings have a series of quotation books on various topics.  I'm using this collection to spur my daily meditation and put myself in a good frame of mind before heading off to work and household chores.

Both of these books have numbered entries, making it easy to stay on track.  I'm a bit too blurry-eyed before coffee to tackle anything too deep; these page-a-day formats are the perfect fit to my quiet morning.

It's Monday; did you read before you went to work or school today?  What's your preferred morning text?