Friday, May 25, 2007

Summer is here!

well at least for me. So in honor of MY summer vacation and the opening today of our neighborhood pool, I give you the poetry of Mr. Summer himself, Jimmy Buffett:

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


Well it is official, it is SUMMER VACATION - and I am done at my old school. It is really bittersweet, I am going to miss alot of things about my old school, namely the people and the students and the religious environment. I certainly missed my kids being in uniforms this year when we had to switch them to public school. But I am excited about my new position. The media center I am going to is HUGE and BEAUTIFUL. I know a few of the families in my new school and they are wonderful. I will have lots of resources at my fingertips and hopefully lots of teachers who want my help. My youngest son is coming to school with me, which is a first for him and me, so that will be nice, but my other 2 kids will be in different schools, one in middle school, the other is staying at the elementary school she was in this year in our neighborhood. With gas at over $3 a gallon here, I will be looking forward to my 6 mile commute, right now my commute is 27 miles. But for the next 2 months I only want my daily commute to be to the pool!

I have 2 books on hold right now at the library which I am picking up tonight and I hope to be doing a lot of reading this summer!

Let the summer begin!!!

Friday, May 18, 2007

Poetry in Song

I've never posted for Poetry Friday, but a week or so ago I posted a Bon Jovi video and thought that maybe that would "count" for Poetry Friday - Songs are poems set to music, right?

So today I give you another music video. This one from a band I had never heard of before until listening to a story this week on NPR - Pink Martini. I liked their music and then I checked out their website and I think their new album cover is FABULOUS!

So here is a video of them performing the title track to their new album on a PBS special, Hey Eugene.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Required Summer Reading

As I said in yesterday's post about Summer Reading, I am not a big fan of required summer reading. YES it does get kids to read, but it becomes a chore and especially if the books they have to read hold no interest to them what so ever. As an example, at the school I am at now, incoming 7th & 8th graders have to read 3 books. The books for 7th grade are :
The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Speare
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Holes by Louis Sachar

and the books for 8th grade are:
The Giver by Lowry
Tuesday’s With Morrie by Mitch Albom
The Outsiders by SE Hinton

While I like many of the books on the list, I can see that for many of our students they would rather have their fingernails torn off one by one than read these books. Liz over at A Chair, a Fireplace and a Tea Cozy has a post about Required Summer Reading, where she compares required reading to her having to play baseball all summer and report back at the beginning of the school year, what a GREAT analogy!

One of the media specialists at the Catholic High School in this area came up with a program a few years ago that she calls Aspire (she has spoken at AASL and other conferences about the program). Basically in addition to their other required summer reading, the students can choose a book from the Aspire list. A teacher (or coach, the principal, etc..) sponsors the book and at the beginning of the school year they have discussion groups with the teacher who is sponsoring the book. There are a HUGE representation of genres on the list, and many of the books are popular best sellers. I know in past years many of the students would choose a book not for the book itself but for who the sponsor was (their favorite teacher/coach etc..) and I noticed this year that they do not list the sponsors name next to the book, but I don't know why. I think a program like this might even work in lower grades (certainly for middle school) and I know it has been a very successful alternative to the boring summer reading that is usually given in Catholic high schools (see my post from yesterday on my reading TRAUMA in a Catholic high school).

I don't think there are any answers to this debate, but I do think that reading in the summer should be FUN for kids. My oldest son has never liked to read. Not for lack of books in our house, or for lack of seeing his parents constantly reading, or for lack of his parents and grandparents reading to him from the time he was a baby, at the age of 11, he just doesn't like to read. It breaks my heart! But yesterday, we were going to his brothers baseball game and he took the book Johnny Tremain with him in the car and was reading it. When asked, he told me he picked it up and it was really good and he wanted to finish it before school got out - WOW - I almost cried. This is what summer reading is all about, just getting kids to read something they LIKE, even if it is Sports Illustrated, the newspaper or a favorite book from long ago.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Summer Reading Part 2

As I said last month in my Summer Reading part 1 post, I knew there would be more summer reading ideas popping up after May 1st. Here are a few places you can go to find some ideas to help you and your kids have fun READING this summer!!

The Family Education website has some great reading lists and activities to do this summer. The quiz section is a challenge for adults (I didn't do so well on the fiction into movies quiz!)

Reading Rockets has some great articles and reading lists on fun things to do this summer that involve reading. My favorite article is the Day trips for book lovers.

Many public libraries have announced their summer reading programs. My local library system, Gwinnett County, GA has announced theirs. Check out your local library website to see what they are doing this summer.

NEA had teamed up with Major League Soccer for Get A Kick Out of Reading a site full of reading lists and fun stuff. Click on the resources page for reading lists of soccer related books.

Franki Sibberson of the blog A Year of Reading has a great article up at Choice Literacy about things to get kids jump started on their summer reading. I love her idea of having the kids write down books they want to read throughout the year. I do this on my libraries website, where you can create a book list and then when summer comes and the time is right for devouring lots of books, I have a list right there to choose from.

Monica at Educating Alice has a great poem on the subject of required summer reading (something my Catholic school has and the public school I am moving to does not). But while on the subject of required summer reading, the only time in my life I can honestly say I HATED to read, was reading those required summer reading books during my years at a Catholic high school. I still have nightmares about reading Watership Down (HATED that book!)

Not so much a reading activity, but something fun for your kids that are into video, check out the Postcards From Buster website. This is a PBS series that is looking for one minute video postcards that kids film and edit themselves.

As for what I am planning to do with my own kids (ages 6,9 and 11), I am planning on making some trips to the public library. I am planning on attending a Harry Potter party (but not sure where, since I might be in Georgia or I might be in Massachusetts), I am still planning on getting a few kids together in the neighborhood to read Hoot and then screen the movie some hot summer night and I am going to try and have tv/computer free zones this summer. Times (maybe in the late afternoon before dinner but after spending the day at the neighborhood pool) when there will be no tv/computer and they have to spend some time reading whatever they want, could be the newspaper or Sports Illustrated, but reading something.

I would love to hear if you have anymore reading ideas or know of any activities going on this summer!

Kevin Henkes

I LOVE Kevin Henkes - I must admit that he has got to be one of my all time favorite picture book author/illustrators and it is all because of a little mouse named Lilly. Lilly is one of those strong, precocious "girl" characters that everyone loves, me included. I love her red cowgirl boots (in fact I have some myself!) I love her movie star sunglasses and of course, any girl who can pull off a purple plastic purse, well she is tops in my book! Lilly is one of the first picture books I bought for my daughter when I found out I was having a girl. My daughter could recite the book by the time she was 2 1/2 and for her 3rd birthday I ran all over town to find a small pair of red cowgirl boots (which I finally special ordered at Nordstrom!)

This weekend the NYT Book review had a "review" of Kevin Henkes new book "A Good Day". The funny part about the review was, the author, Bruce Handy, doesn't even mention the book until the last 2 paragraphs of the review. While I think his other works outside of his "mouse" books are ok, nothing will ever top for me the mouse books, with their interesting characters and the great dialogue between the characters. I think that Mr,. Handy agrees with me on that one, which might be why his review is more praise for all Mr. Henkes has done rather than a great review of his new book (but he DOES give the book a good review eventually.)

The online version of the article has a link to an audio clip from one of his books (the clip SAYS it is from the book Lilly's Big Day, but it is actually from Weekend with Wendell) and there is also a slide show of drawings from his latest book.

Check out Kevin's website, he has lots of coloring pages and games to use if you are using his books in the media center or classroom. Now if only he would do a blog!!!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

On Pointe

Last night I finished On Pointe, a book by Lorie Ann Grover (and the April choice of ReaderGirlz). What a FABULOUS book. I am not a huge fan of books written in verse, I just feel like when I read a book, I want all the details there, written out for me. I want full sentences! But since the book was about dance (a passion of mine) and it was a ReaderGirlz selection, I wanted to check it out.
It is also one of those books, where it is tagged as a YA/TEEN book, but after reading it, I would feel comfortable suggesting it to students 5th grade and up.
You can find reviews of the book at Lectitans and SLJ. And make sure to check out the play list to go along with it at the ReaderGirlz site.
Little Willow has a great I am a Dancer book list for more dance related books!


Everyday Mommy is giving away a blog design for Mother's day - and BOY do I need it! SO click on the icon to the left to see what the contest is all about and to see her FABULOUS website. Although this has nothing to do with libraries, books or technology, it might mean Mama Stew has a brand new look - and wouldn't that be nice for Mother's Day!

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

10 things

Over at the SLJ blog Practically Paradise, Diane Chen talks about 13 things that a school librarian can do in 15 minutes a day to change their program. Since I am off on a new adventure next year (new job) I thought this might warrant some thought. She came up with 5 things (in red) and I have added a few more (in green), although some of my ideas would take more than 15 minutes and I still didn't get to 13!

1. Read your RSS feeder (like bloglines). Limit yourself to 10 blogs in the beginning so you can keep your 15 minute time-limit. This will help you prioritize. If you don't know whose blogs to read, choose one and look at who they are reading.

2. Read your favorite journal's top articles. If you truly read something everyday, you could actually read far more journals than you anticipated.

3. Read new picture books as they arrive. Sit beside a child and ask them to look with you while you think to whom to match the title.

4. Make a short list of new titles or 3-5 books that thematically go together. Then type these in a pre-formatted bookmark template and print off a few copies. Simple bookmarks like these disappear and quickly become checklists for your methodical readers. I find that I can jot down the ideas while someone else volunteers to type these and add artwork.

5. Jot a thank you note or email to a teacher and ask them to stop by to plan with you. If you could write one thank you a day, could you sincerely reach your entire faculty several times that year?

6. Send out an e-mail a few times a week to the faculty or to certain teachers alerting them to an interesting blog or article you have found.

7. Write a newsletter to the faculty once a month introducing new books/materials in the media center, highlighting websites they can use with the students or professionally and maybe add an article about a web 2.0 tool (blogs, podcasting etc..)

8. Read a book review everyday and keep a list of the books you might consider for purchase (paste the book review into the list or at least paste the URL if it is an online review)

9. ASK some of the students at least once a week what they are reading and write it down.

10. Have fun!! Ok, this might not change your whole program, but I think that when I am having fun doing something in the media center (dressing up as a pirate, for example) I think the kids have fun and think the media center is a pretty cool place, and *hopefully* it makes them want to come in and check out books or it helps them to not feel intimidated in asking us for help when they are doing some research.

I have lots of goals that I am working on for next year. Since I am entering this new job as a "seasoned" media specialist and not a brand spanking new one I do know that everything I want to do won't get done, but at least it gives me a place to start. I'll write about some of those goals this summer.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Friday Smiles

As the school year comes to a close, the only interesting things I am doing in the media center are cleaning, inventory (ugh!) and packing up my stuff. SO today I give you something non-kid lit or library related, but it sure did put a smile on my face this gloomy Friday morning.

The new Bon Jovi video - now if Jon Bon Jovi would only write a children's book - ah, one can dream!


Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Getting Ready for the Beach - storytime this week

To get my students in a beachy kind of mood and ready for Summer Vacation (17 days!) I browsed my stacks for something beachy to read to them this week. I stumbled across a book I never knew we had, titled Night of the Moonjellies by Mark Shasha. It is a cute book about a boy who takes a morning stroll on the beach on his way to his family's hot dog stand and he finds a piece of sea glass and "something that looks like jelly". When he gets to the hot dog stand he shows the finds to his "Gram" and she tucks them away for later as they show the hustle and bustle of a day at the hot dog stand that serves "the best lobster rolls in New England". At the end of the night, after the hot dog stand is closed down, Gram takes the boy on a special journey to take the "jelly" he found on the beach back to its' home in the sea. After I picked up the book and started reading, I knew I had to read it to my students because it reminds me of many of the hot dog stands on Cape Cod and also reminds me of the hot dog stand I worked in for 3 summers when I was a teenager. To go along with this book I found in my collection a non-fiction book about jelly fish titled Sea Jellies by Elizabeth Taynor Gowell (the book is out of print) and after I read the moonjellies book I introduced the students to some pictures of real jelly fish. Following these two books, I saw the perfect tie in to bring in the book Flotsam by David Wiesner. I just bought this book off the book fair and I love the illustrations, but I always have a hard time introducing wordless picture books to a whole class. This worked! We talked about finding things on the beach (moonjellies) and then talked about undersea worlds (Sea Jellies) and then we looked through Flotsam and started a discussion about the pictures in the book and what the story could have been. I am actually doing this story time with grades K-3 this week and so far everyone has really enjoyed it. It is the kind of story time that I can do with different grades and each grade gets something different out of it.

On another note, as I picked up Night of the Moonjellies I noticed the author's last name - Shasha. At my first internship in college, I worked for a woman named Danuta Shasha, always thought that her last name was quite unusual. When I read the author's note, I noticed he lived in Boston, which is where I did my internship with Mrs. Shasha. Thanks to the wonders of the web, I found out that my old internship boss is the authors wife. Kind of that six degrees of separation thing, but I thought it was pretty cool!