Every December, code.org encourages millions of students around the world to participate in Hour of Code. Their goal is to introduce coding and computer science to as many students as possible. This year, all of our students participated in two days of Hour of Code by coming to the library during their math class. On the first day, students played games found on the code.org website. On the second day, students participated in hands-on programming with robots such as Ozobots, Ollies, and Spheros. They also had the chance to code a program in Scratch and use the Makey Makeys to play the program. The campus digital learning coach and I created activities that would challenge students at each station. See the Station Instructions below.
When an 8th grade Algebra class came to the library Friday morning, two girls sat down at the Makey Makey station. The instructions told them to record a song a Scratch and then play it with the Makey Makey. Since both girls are theater fans, they decided to record themselves singing a song from the Broadway musical Hamilton.
My principal, Amanda Ziaer, strongly encourages all of the staff to share their students' stories via Twitter. She wonders, "If we don't share our story, who will?" Deciding that this would be a great story to tell and amazed by these two 8th graders, I asked them if I could video their performance and post it to Twitter. I decided to tag the creator of Hamilton, Lin Manuel Miranda, hoping he would see the video and "like" or retweet the post. To our surprise, he retweeted the video with a quote. Over 5000 of his followers liked his Tweet and over 500 shared it.
After all of this happened, our district invited the students and I to share this at a school board meeting. The girls were able to share their knowledge of Scratch and the Makey Makey and how they adapted an activity to fit their interests. Because they made their learning relevant to their lives and because we shared their passion via social media, people around the world got to experience the amazing things happening in our school. As educators, we have a story to tell. We do outstanding things everyday with our students, and if we don't share that with the world, how will they know what we do? How will they know what our students do?
I wasn't a reader when I was a kid. I wasn't encouraged by my parents or teachers to read, so I didn't. I rarely enjoyed books that I had to read for my English classes in high school (but for some reason I still became an English teacher) and, as I reflect back on my younger years, reading for personal enjoyment never seemed to be a suggested option. Sure, I have cherished memories of favorite literary characters like Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox and Mrs. Piggle Wiggle. But, I don't remember actually reading a book. I think I liked the idea of it more than the reality of it. It wasn't until I was in college in the early 1990s that I started to enjoy reading. John Grisham's novel The Firm had just been released and was quickly becoming a must-read around the country. As I devoured the book, I remember thinking to myself, "Why don't I read more often?" I continued to read more of Grisham's bestsellers like The Client and The Pelican Brief and quickly found an author who inspired me to be a reader.
For the rest of college and into my adult life, I was a spotty reader. I would read books by well-known authors such as Nicholas Sparks and J.K. Rowling, and while I immersed myself in their stories and characters, I still didn't consider myself an avid reader. At least not until The Hunger Games was released. My sister, and fellow librarian, introduced me to this life-changing trilogy. She was a middle school librarian at the time, and I was going back to work as a teacher after having taken a six year hiatus after my twins were born. Looking for a book to capture my attention, I turned to her for advice. Like so many other people, I couldn't put the first book down. I shared it with my husband and eagerly anticipated the second book in the series. The Hunger Games trilogy jump-started my love of young adult fiction.
Now I read every day without fail, even if it's just for ten minutes before bed. The majority of what I read is YA lit since my library is packed full of it! I love to read what the kids read, and my hope is to create readers at a young age. If you're frustrated because your child or student isn't reading, consider trying some of my suggestions below. However, remember that you can't force someone to be a reader. You can encourage and you can model. They will have to find their love of reading themselves, and hopefully some of these tips will help them do that.
1. Read about what interests you.
Consider your hobbies and interests. If you love sports, read a novel about sports. Authors such as John Feinstein, Tim Green, and Carl Deuker are favorites among my middle school students. Consider your favorite genre. If you love fantasy, stick with it! Who says you have to read a variety of genres? While I believe it's important for some readers to explore different genre styles, if you're not an avid reader, just stick with what you love. You can always branch out later.
2. Don't judge a book by its cover.
I watch SO MANY students pull a book off a shelf, look at the cover, then proceed to the circulation desk to check out the book. What?!?! How can you possibly know if you'll like a book based on the cover? While publishers spend lots of money on the cover artwork, it's the pages of the book you'll be reading, not the cover. Take a minute to read the blurb on the book jacket flap to see if the plot interests you. If it doesn't, put the book back on the shelf. Even if you love the cover, PUT IT BACK!
3. Find a favorite author.
This one is easy. If you've read a book that you've loved, read another one by the same author.
4. Get a recommendation.
Ask a friend for a suggestion. You usually have similar interests as your friends, so your reading preferences might be similar too. You can always ask your librarian for a suggestion! She is your literacy expert and can always steer you in the right direction. Finally, open up a Goodreads account. As you start tracking your books, the website will provide you with book recommendations based on what you've previously read.
5. Take the pressure off!
Reading for enjoyment should be enjoying! Remind yourself that you won't be taking a test on the book, so you won't be analyzing the characters or identifying types of figurative language. While there is value in doing those things when you're studying a book for a class, if you're trying to become a reader, those things aren't going to get you there. Just relax with the book and let it immerse you in another world!
6. Give the book a chance.
I firmly believe that a reader has every right to give up on a book if it's not a fit. However, you have to give the book a chance. For middle grade books, I suggest that you read at least the first 50 pages before giving up on it. For YA books, I suggest about 60-70 pages. For adults, I suggest reading at least 100 pages since adult novels usually have a longer exposition and start the conflict a little later in the book than most YA reads. Once you've given the book a chance, then you may choose to either keep reading or ditch the book for another option.
7. Give the book some time.
When I start a new book, I make sure that I have at least 20-30 minutes of time to focus on only that. I don't start a new book right before bed or just when I have 5 minutes to spare. I believe that in order to really get into a book, you have to devote ample, uninterrupted time in the beginning so that you can start to immerse yourself in the characters and setting. If you just read a few minutes sporadically over time, you'll find that you haven't connected with the characters and haven't felt absorbed in the story. Give the book some time in the beginning and you'll be more likely to continue reading it.
8. Establish a reading routine.
Set aside reading time everyday. Write it on your calendar. If you're a student, set a goal to read every day for 30 minutes when you get home from school. I always read every night before bed. Sometimes it's only for 10-20 minutes, but even reading that small amount every night will help you finish that book sooner than you think! When something becomes a habit, you're more likely to start enjoying it.
9. Create a reading environment.
Find a place in your house that can be your special reading place. Get comfortable! Adjust the lighting and temperature to suite your taste. Snuggle up with a soft blanket or prop yourself up with some oversized pillows. Find a place where other members of your family won't be interrupting you. I like to read in bed with a white noise machine turned low. This drowns out the other noises in the house and outside in the neighborhood. Finally, minimize distractions by turning off your phone, the TV, or the Internet.
I hope these tips help you or someone you know become a reader! If you have any more suggestions, please put them in the comments below.
In education, there are always new trends that capture the attention of educators. Some of these trends don't necessarily benefit students, so I'm careful to jump on the bandwagon too quickly when trends start making the social media rounds. In the library world, the newest trend is to genrefy the library. Books are grouped together on the shelf by genre rather than being arranged alphabetically by the first three letters of the author's last name. I like to think of this as the Barnes & Noble method because it's like shopping at a bookstore.
With this educational trend, I had to balance the pros and cons before attempting to completely rearrange my fiction section.
Pros: easier to find a book in a favorite genre, don't have to rely on the online catalog as much
Cons: time-consuming for me
The bottom line is that genrefication makes using the library easier on the students, and that's enough of a reason for me to take on this massive project.
How I Started:
One of the most time-consuming parts of this process is moving all of the books that aren't a part of the genre collection to make space on the shelves. This took a long time! I suggest that you compact the books as much as possible to free up as many shelves as possible so that you don't have to keep doing this every time you want to create a new genre collection.
I was so excited for school to start so that I could share these new collections with the students. The shelves are not nearly as full now as they were in this picture because students have been rushing to these collections. Throughout the year I'll complete the rest of the fiction section, so the library will be a work-in-progress all year long. But in the end it will be worth it for sure!
I love to have creative and different activities for students to do in the library throughout the year. I believe these activities bring students into the library and allow them to see the library as more than just a place to check out books.
For National Poetry Month this April, I decided to set-up three poetry stations that would allow students to create their own poetry. Although I am a former English teacher, I don't really enjoy reading poetry, so keeping that in mind, I wanted to make our celebration of poetry something fun and interactive. Searching on Pinterest, I found three great ideas: blackout poetry, magnetic poetry, and found poetry.
Students were able to create their poetry whenever they were in the library. The students loved the activities and created some awesome poetry to display on the library windows!