Saturday, April 15, 2017

Anti-bullying book bashes Girl Scouts

I don't often write book reviews, and as a rule, I only share about books I like, but I just finished one that made me angry for Girl Scouts.

Save me a Seat by Sarah Weeks is about a boy, Ravi, who just arrived in America from India.  It is his story of trying to fit into a new culture, while overcoming obstacles and assumptions.  All in all a good story with a solid message.... until it included a little unchallenged Girl Scout bashing. 

I thought, toward the end, Sarah Weeks would redeem herself by having Dillon, the bully, apologize or having Selena, the Girl Scout, speak up for herself.  But no, it leaves the reader hearing Dillon shout that only dorks stay in Girl Scouts after 5th grade and seeing Selena blush when she admits she is a Girl Scout. No self-confidence, just blushing. 

I was never a Girl Scout, but I've been a Girl Scout mom for five years and a leader for two. I've learned through my daughters how much there is to this organization. And the girls who continue after 5th grade are rock stars! This is when the girls really develop as leaders, impact their communities, and share their skills with others.

I find it unbelievable that a book about assumptions usually being wrong and there being more to people than meets the eye would include a character like Selena and treat her so poorly. Why bother to identify her as a Girl Scout if only to bully her? 

Looking for a book that promotes empathy and discourages stereotypes? Choose something else.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The Book Bus

Statistics state that about 60% of the students at my school are English Language Learners. I would argue that 100% of students in primary grades are English Language Learners; they are all building vocabulary and learning grammar. And what better way to learn than by being read to?

To ensure our students are being exposed to as much literature as possible, I talked to my EL 3-4-5 teachers about bringing the library to their students on a daily basis. Surprisingly, I got a lot of pushback.

"We want the parents to bring their children up to the library." (Me, too! But not many do.)

"We can't spare any more time in the week." (I'm not asking for more time.)

"We want them to learn to use the library." (Me, too.  This is in addition to library visit, not instead of.)

My original idea was to bring a cart of books down either first thing in the morning or at morning recess so students could exchange their books. It has morphed into something different and perhaps even more beneficial.

Meet our Book Bus:

When I purchased this shiny red cart equipped with bins, I never dreamt my librarian partner would convert it to a double-decker bus. She even lined two of the upper bins with shiny gold paper to distinguish them as the "return" bins, and she designed coordinating London-Tube-style bus stop signs that hang in the primary hallway, indicating where students can trade in their library books. It even has headlights and a bell! We often hear excited calls of "Here comes the bookbus!" as we approach the Early Learning hallway.
Students each receive a book bag on which we write their name and patron number. (They can decorate the other side if they wish.) When students want new books, they simply hang their bag outside the classroom on a hook by their Bus Stop sign. Once a day a library staff member drives the Book Bus along its route. If students are not busy with direct instruction, they are excused from class (2 or 3 at a time) to change their books. They LOVE it. If they are busy, they receive what we call "Librarian Surprise" and the staff member selects the books. Using our ipads with the DestinyQuest app, we check out books right there in the hallway. (To expedite the process, we bring most returns back to the desktop computer in the library.)

It has proven to be a fun way to give students access to more books and a wider variety of genres. We have a number of preschool and kindergarten boys who regularly limit their selections to sharks, dinosaurs, Star Wars, and Superman.  When they are in the library, they are allowed to choose what they want - even if it is the same thing every week. But those books rarely make it on board the book bus.  In the hallway, those same students choose from Caldecott medal books, books that support classroom curriculum, and books from a wide variety of Dewey sections.  There was some whining in the first weeks until they realized that they can still come to the library and choose their favorites. Parents have thanked us for providing variety in their reading diets.

There have been other benefits as well. We run reports that tell us which books have had 0 circs; those books are put on board the bus and are taken for a spin. Our quick and dirty solution for drowning in books to re-shelve is to place a number of those books on the Book Bus. And, finally, circulation statistics jumped an additional average of 12 books per student per year. (Not as high as I'd like to see it but trending favorably.)

Most importantly, perhaps, students in the early grades are learning that if you don't have to wait a whole week for new books.... because Every Day is Library Day!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Oh, Tannenbuch... Or the Evolution of a Book Tree

Making a book tree is not a new thing.  We saw it on a twitter or or instagram posting somewhere and decided to give it a try in 2012.  It has now become a tradition to which the students anticipate; they begin asking us about it in mid-November.

Here in Germany, the Christmas tree is called a Tannenbaum.  Since ours is made of books, it has affectionately become our Tannenbuch.  

The first year we built it on a pallet and added a helium balloon star.  It wasn't very tall, very stable, nor very pretty. But it was a hit. And those are actual library book gifts around the base.  (See this post for the details.)

After studying photos of other book trees online, we were more purposefully in our construction and decided to build a "green" tree the next year.  It was quite fun to pull all the green books - far more fun to pull than to reshelve them later.

Year three saw the addition of a little red and a base made of old encyclopedias.

This year we added a little blue for our school colors and built it a little taller.  We have begun housing unused textbooks in the library, and our anti-lumberjack (the name we have for the assistant who builds the tree each year) found that having a surplus of thick, uniform books made construction simpler and more stable. 

No one remembers why, but our tree has become an exercise in estimation.  Students of all grades, as well as staff, are each allowed one educated guess at the number of books used. Prizes have varied from books to movie cards to book fair vouchers. We have done this since year one - but that year we could not give the prizes until we returned from vacation, dismantled the tree, and counted the books.  The next year we grew wiser.  

We now have a patron named Christmas Tree, and every book used in construction is scanned out to Tree.  This method provides an accurate count of books (without actually counting, and marks all of Tree's books as unavailable so we no longer scour the room looking for a book that turns out to be the cornerstone.

Our tree started at one end of the library in 2012 and has moved its way, a little each year, across our space to its present location, right next to the front door.  

So I have to wonder, where will we put it next year?

Monday, August 17, 2015

Sailing into a New School Year

Back to school week for staff….  I have found that whether or not I address teachers during this first week has a dramatic impact on how the rest of my year goes.  The years I do not have the opportunity to introduce myself and speak about my role in supporting theirs, I have fewer teacher requests.

I recognize that the minutes in the work week are precious, and there are many requirements that directors and principals must pack into a limited amount of time.  When I am allotted time, it typically is the slot that follows several must-be-presented bits of information, and it is slowly whittled down as each speaker before me runs over his/her time limit.  And, I usually present just before a break or lunch.

This year was no different.  The library’s slice of the week came on Day Two, following the German lawyer who shared data protection laws and was asked numerous what-if scenario questions as well as the Operations Manager who shared the changes in our fire drill procedures. The library presentation was left with the final five minutes before mid-morning break.  Teachers had been sitting for over a day, absorbing information.  To be heard, we had to be different.  So we were. And we finished at the top of the hour, right on time for break!

The idea for this presentation started with a bit of a vent to my fellow librarian, followed with a comment that telling her my woes was like preaching to the choir.  She said she gets it.  She’s on the same page.  She’s in my boat. And that’s when the little lightbulb over my head began to glow.  This little skit began as some scribbled notes last spring that I ruminated on over the summer.  Last week my kids helped me build the boat, and then we recruited two teachers. It's not flawless. We had only one shot.  But people are still talking about it. Both my own kids and several staff have suggested we tailor an encore performance for the first student assembly.  I guess that means we'll just keep paddling until everyone's on board!