Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Awesome Author Visits in 4 easy steps!

I can still vividly remember the day the Lynne Cherry, the author/illustrator of The Great Kapok Tree came to visit my elementary school. It has always been my dream to bring an author/illustrator to my school for my students to meet, so when I finally had the chance to host Judy Schachner thanks to a partnership with our amazing local & independent bookstore Parnassus Books, I knew I needed to make the event meaningful and unforgettable.  Unfortunately, due to the winter weather Judy’s flight was cancelled and we ended up having a snow day – however we were able to host Bruce Hale a few weeks later. Even though we weren’t able to have Judy visit, I still want to share some of the things I did leading up to the scheduled visit.

1. Build excitement!!
Don’t assume that just because YOU are excited, everyone else will be, too. You must build the excitement. To do this, I enlisted the help of a witty teacher to write five clues about Judy Schachner, one to be read on the morning announcements each morning for a week. Each day, every class had the opportunity to submit one guess as to who the special visitor was. The first three classes to guess correctly won an autographed copy of one of her books. This not only built excitement in the students but it also got the teachers talking & excited, too. Even our cafeteria staff wanted to know who the author was!

2. Create contests
I ran two contests. One was a bookmark decorating contest. I gave the students blank bookmarks (just cut paper into a rectangle) & had them decorate it with the theme of Judy Shachner’s books. The art teacher helped judge the bookmarks and the winner received an autographed copy of one of her books and I also made color copies of the bookmark and gave them out to students as they visited our library. The second contest connected to Common Core writing and research standards: I gave students the opportunity to write a short biography and introduction of Judy Schachner. The author of the winning introduction was going to read his introduction in front of the school before Judy came out on stage. He was also going to get an autographed copy of one of her books.

3. Promote the books
Of course our library has every copy of SkippyJon Jones but I wanted everyone to be reading her books like crazy! So I requested every single one of her books from our public library. I made these available for teachers to borrow and read to their class. This helped free up our copies of books for the students. Teachers simply used a sign out sheet to borrow the books so I made sure none were lost.

4. Publicize the event
If I weren’t a school librarian I could probably work in PR. I love sharing the love of the library with everyone I meet and that includes making sure school officials and the local community understand the value in our school libraries. I made sure to invite our Director of Schools, Director of Communications, my bosses and other VIP’s in our district. Hey, if they don’t know what we’re doing – how can we expect them to value us?

Guest Blogger-
H. West
MNPS Teacher-Librarian

Loved this post? Read more of Heather's posts at KidsintheStacks

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Little Readers, Big Books: Engaging Families through Pre-K Check-Out

During a faculty meeting we were discussing parent involvement and my mind started to wander like it always does during a faculty meeting.  How does this apply to me in the library?  How can I help?  Well, honestly sometimes it wanders far far away and has nothing to do with what we are talking about.

This time however I did come up with something!  How about inviting parents to come check out with their children?  Not only will this get them in the school but it will also let them see what a friendly library we have and all the resources we have to offer!

So I started small by asking pre-K teachers if they were interested in trying it this year.  Of course they were happy not to be forgotten and were thrilled.  Logistically it worked out perfect due to them dismissing at 2:00 and parents having to come in already to sign them out.

As we told the staff a few people asked if we could “hold” the parents for a quick meeting on another topic. My response was no with polite reasoning behind it.  If we want the parents to feel welcomed, especially our EL parents, we shouldn’t sit them down and show PowerPoints, use education jargon, or discuss behavior.  I truly wanted this to be a fun, nonthreatening experience for everyone.

Before the event the pre-k teachers sent the invite home as well as put the event on their class calendar with all of the dates listed.  We greeted them at pick up one day the week of for a reminder and personal invitation.

On the day of the event we had copies of a short and simple hand out in all three languages sharing ideas of how to read at home together.  We did not review it or read it to them.  I gathered the parents on our caterpillar reading rug with their children, instead of sitting down at tables, and I welcomed them and thanked them for coming.  We handed them their children’s library card and made a BIG deal about this being their first one!  I shared how I used to read to my stuffed animals at home and showed a few favorite books of mine.  In the end I said the BEST part of them being here was they could help pick out books they wanted to read too!  They shared favorites from their childhood and I was able to show them where they were in our library.  The smiles were huge and the turnout was amazing!  The whole event took 25 minutes from my day and was short and SWEET for our working parents to be able to attend.  


Guest Blogger-
J. Claybrooks
MNPS Teacher-Librarian

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

All About the...Books!

Our friends at the public library are so talented and All the Trouble...

Monday, October 6, 2014

So, you want to get a library sub?


Well, first of all, I would ask a former teacher and/or sub who frequently works in your building.  Sit down and have a little meeting while she (or he!) has a planning period on a day when she (or he!) is already subbing in your building. Done.

What’s that you say? It’s not that simple?  You don’t know any subs who fit that description? Or maybe it’s 12:30 am on Sunday night and your child just broke out in chicken pox and now you’re going to have to use a sick day and there’s no time to have that neat little meeting?

Well, in that case, here are some tips for preparing for a library sub!

First of all (or is this second of all? who cares?) make sure that you email the appropriate person at the sub office and include off the information that you’re supposed to include. Don’t email both of those nice people.  Just pick one.  They’re both great!  Or if you’re reading this in the distant future and librarians are now capable of requesting their own subs, make sure you request a sub! Don’t wait until 5:00 am. Put in that request as soon as you know you’re going to be out of your building. 

If you are able to plan for your absence before 12:30 am on Sunday night, go ahead and make a sub folder filled with important information like usernames, passwords, logins, check out rules, your daily schedule, helpful phone numbers, etc. Give the sub your own phone number, too! A quick call or text could save you a lot of trouble when you return to school! Or maybe you’re uncomfortable handing out your phone number to strangers.  If so, never ever google your address.  You will totally freak out.  And definitely don’t create a social media account of any sort.  But I digress!  Aren’t we supposed to be talking about library subs and not your fear of identify theft?

If you’re in the related arts rotation (and I’m guessing you are, or else why would you get a sub? Just so that the students can check out? What a fabulous librarian you must be!), make sure to leave a detailed lesson plan for each class that your sub will teach.  It’s a good idea to go ahead and lay out books, videos, and other materials that the sub will need.  Don’t count on the fact that someone can riffle through your desk and storage area and come up with an engaging, fun, higher-order-thinking-skills library lesson.  They probably can’t.  If you know someone who CAN, please send me their name and sub number ASAP.

You’ll also want to leave instructions for how to shelve books. Not everyone has used the DDC before! And not everyone alphabetizes spine labels to the first three letters of an author’s last name every day, so…just keep in mind that common sense isn’t necessarily common. If you have special collections that don’t follow general shelving rules, be sure to make note of those! My graphic novels keep ending up in the regular non-fiction section and then the kids can’t find them and then it’s a whole thing.  You don’t want that to happen to you.

If you’ve taught your students how to use the OPAC (and you really should! It’s pretty great!), be sure to clue the sub in on that.  The little darlings are bound to have questions and need help with searching the catalog, and you’ll want your sub to feel empowered to help them!

Here’s a final pearl of wisdom on lesson plans for subs: Unless you’re certain that your sub is at least moderately tech-savvy, leave some lower-tech lesson plans and materials. (GASP!)  I know we’re all technological mavens and #futureready, but some subs aren’t.  Really set the sub (and the kids!) up for success by leaving plans that are relevant and purposeful, but fun and simple too! You sub might be the most magnificent sub of all time, but if she (or he!) isn’t “a computer person,” check out and OPAC will be enough for one day.

In summation:


Follow the procedures for requesting a sub.

Have a face to face meeting with your sub if possible.


Make a sub folder.

Explain your check out procedures and rules.

Leave instructions on how to shelve the books.

Explain how to use the OPAC (if necessary)

Think “classic” versus “cutting-edge” when it comes to technology in sub plans.


Enjoy your day away from your library knowing that you are prepared for a sub! 

Guest Blogger-
Keeli Price
MNPS Teacher-Librarian