You didn’t read us a story…

I teach 21 classes from Prep-Year 6 in the LRC each week. All classes have 45 minutes in which students borrow and I endeavour, depending on the year level, to share a story or teach a skill or teach an ongoing unit in that time…using every available minute!

A few years ago I made a decision that literature would be the focus of library for the P-2 classes. Library time would be about sharing stories and most importantly reading would be fun. Each year when I speak to the new Prep parents I explain that we learn to read with our head and our heart and that a love of story is vital in learning to read. To a large extent classroom teachers focus on teaching the mechanics of reading (head). A big part of my role as a teacher librarian is to build on the love of story (heart) that students have hopefully brought from home. I try to do this by exposing them to a variety of authors, illustrators and book characters and encouraging students to express their feelings, thoughts and ideas in various creative ways about the books we share. 

Last Friday, with the three Prep classes I had decided to dedicate the lesson to an art activity based on the books I’m a Dirty Dinosaur and I’m a Hungry Dinosaur that we had enjoyed reading in a previous lesson. We quickly borrowed and there was lots of excitement as the students happily drew their dinosaurs and finger painted with chocolate icing. In one of one of the classes we had a spare moment at the end and I asked what they enjoyed about the activity and one boy asked “Can we say something we didn’t like?” My reply was “Of course” as I wondered if he was going to say the icing was too sticky or messy. Instead he said quite indignantly, “You didn’t read us a story!” I was surprised by his comment, but quickly responded “Don’t worry, I will definitely be reading a story next week!”  

A lovely affirmation that stories are valued and enjoyed in our library and we are reading with our hearts…

Our library is open before school every day for children to come and read with their hearts and their heads.

Connecting with authors via Twitter

I have attended quite a few of our Melbourne TeachMeets where I enjoy meeting and talking with other like-minded educators and I always come away inspired by the presenters. Until today I have never presented as I didn’t think I had anything really interesting to share. However, Celia Coffa (@ccoffa) encouraged me to simply ‘share my story’. So today I finally did…

As a teacher librarian, one of my favourite things about Twitter is that it has allowed me to connect with authors. I love reading about their latest books, following their book tours or what they might be writing about through #amwriting or simply enjoy reading their tweets. Some authors I follow and glean bits of information from their tweets and admire them from afar, but over the past couple of years I have connected with a few authors and even enjoy regular comments or chats with them. This naturally flows into my library classes and to our LRC Blog where I share tidbits of information with my students that in turn allows them to connect further with their favourite authors.

After connecting with Felice Arena (@fleech) on Twitter and hearing him talk at a Professional Development evening earlier this year I was inspired to use my Twitter account to tweet comments from each of our Year One classes to him about his new Sporty Kids series. The students loved the fact that Felice tweeted back almost immediately and I think Felice was thrilled to hear from his readers! We have continued to tweet with Felice as he has released new books in this series and the students feel as though they know him and love borrowing his books. 

Little did I know that this Twitter connection with Felice (and my love of AFL football) would also lead to connecting with authors Michael Wagner (@wagstheauthor) and Adrian Beck (@adrianjbeck) and being asked if they could trial their brand new show ‘Kicking Goals For Readers’  at our school! This fabulous performance in our hall filled with 530 excited students from P-6 was a highlight of our year with footy, books and reading sharing the limelight!

Just when I thought things couldn’t get any better, Adrian Beck returned the last week of term two to present me with a 2015 Indigenous football and suggested I might like to use it for a reading challenge. Before I knew it, Adrian had whipped out his phone to film a promo video for the “Yeo-low Medal”. This was to be our equivalent of the Brownlow Medal, but for the Best and Fairest Reader. I designed a Reading Scavenger Hunt based on a football field and the Yeo-low Medal was off and running with 205 students signing up. Adrian supported, encouraged and entertained us with videos along the way. Yesterday he came to school to draw the name of the winner and present our Yeo-low Medal. There were 57 students who had shown wonderful reading stamina over the term, hoping their name would be selected. Once again reading was the winner!

I am extremely grateful for the totally unexpected and amazing experiences that Twitter has brought our way and how it is a conduit that enables me as a teacher librarian to bring students, books and authors together…

This is my presentation for the TeachMeet with links to blog posts about ways we have connected with authors via Twitter…

Finding the Enthusiastic Reader in Your Reluctant Reader

After fellow teacher librarian @SJbetteridge shared on Twitter today that she has started blogging at The Bookmarking Librarian, I came back to re-visit my neglected blog here. I found this blog post in Drafts that I had written back on May 4th!!  My excuse – it was a busy Term 2 and I tend to put my blogging energy into our school library blog.  I’ll try to be more consistent this term….

Might I say that something very exciting for our school happened after attending this event, but I can’t blog about that until August 12…

What a treat to attend the Finding the Enthusiastic Reader in Your Reluctant Reader evening offered by The Kids’ Bookshop last Thursday evening. It was such a valuable opportunity to listen to three highly respected and popular children’s authors – Sally Rippin, Felice Arena (@Fleech) and Michael Wagner (@wagstheauthor).

The Kids’ Bookshop began with some great tips for reluctant readers…

  • Let reluctant readers choose their books – encourage and empower them to read all types of material not just books
  • Tap into a reluctant reader’s interests – sport, music, lego, art, etc
  • Book tie-in to films are a great lure for reluctant readers
  • Graphic novels are great for visual readers, especially older reluctant readers
  • Series based books make it easier to choose books – just choose the next one! Series also keep the momentum going for a reader
  • The bind up strategy is a great idea for reluctant readers – all books together in a BIG book. Sense of achievement
  • Develop readers beyond the reading experience – websites, blogs, author visits

The authors then shared valuable thoughts about reading and how they go about writing for reluctant readers in their books…

Felice Arena

  • Use an authentic voice and don’t talk down to the reader
  • The importance of the reader ‘connecting’ with the book e. Garry Lyon helped “footy-ise” Specky Magee by providing the footy facts kids like to read
  • Take the story off the page and bring books to life for you students using drama, book trailers, hashtags in Twitter about the book your class is reading etc
  • Make the reluctant reader a participant reader – involve them in dramatising the text
  • It’s not just the reluctant reader but what about the ‘distracted’ reader? Multi-tasking while reading and not in the moment

Michael Wagner

  • As a writer you need to know what age you are inside – Michael is 10, Felice is 12 and Sally is 6. Their books reflect these ages
  • When writing for boys be gritty not pretty, be witty, use sharp economical prose, write with intensity eg humour
  • Maxx Rumble is his unconscious homage to Asterix that he loved as a kid – the puns and plays on words (Felice is the same in Farticus Maximus)
  • The importance of screen-free time for kids to nurture creativity

Sally Rippin

  • Billie B Brown is her rambunctious side and Jack is her quieter side. The ‘Hey Jack!’ books allow boys to explore their emotions
  • Sally uses Dr Suess and Richard Scarry as models for her books – how to draw the child in and connect with them
  • The importance of reading with your child and the bond you share
  • Reading to your child is a gift you can give to them
  • Don’t lose the oral tradition of storytelling – so powerful! See Sally’s “Story Peddlers” initiative bringing back the art of the roving storyteller with pop-up performances on a bike!

The new insights I have gained into these particular authors and their books are invaluable. They empower me in my role as a teacher librarian to help connect our readers to books that are the ‘right’ book for them to help them on their journey to become lifelong readers.

It was also a delight to meet both Felice and Michael face to face and not be limited to the 140 characters we often converse in on Twitter. 

Books to begin the year in our LRC

I’m cheating a little by copying this blog post from our LRC Blog, but thought it was also valuable to share here.  I have begun each year reading the same books to the Preps for a quite some time now.  These books help set the tone for our library, the importance and joy of reading and allow us to have fun with books. What is really lovely though is that they also provide a shared whole school experience that I witnessed last week when I overheard one of our Preps asking their Year 6 Buddy if they “eat words with their eyes’? Their Buddy replied “Has Miss Y read you Winston the Book Wolf?….

Each year I have some favourite stories I love to share with the Preps in the LRC at the beginning of the year. This year I’ve also shared them with the Year Ones because I wasn’t at school last year. What is lovely about this is that all of the students at our school know these stories…

I call this story an “oldie but a goodie” which means it’s an old book, but it is a great story and is lots of fun to read. It is called Walter’s Wand. Everyone enjoys waving their wands and saying Walter’s magic words as we read the story and see the tigers, pirates and oceans come to life in the library.  The best part is after people scan their books they use one of Miss Y’s wands to tap their book and say their magic word… and wait to see if their magic has worked when they read their book at home!

When everyone looks at the cover of Winston the Book Wolf they are surprised to see a wolf eating a book with his sharp teeth! Winston LOVES words but he thinks he has to eat books with his mouth to taste them. Luckily Rosie teaches Winston that he can still taste his words if he eats them with his eyes because “when you read you eat words with your eyes!”  Thank goodness our students do this or we would have lots of books in our library with big bites taken our of them!  

Everyone loves Charlie and Lola, especially Lola who is very funny! In this story But Excuse Me That Is My Book Lola has a favourite book called “Beetles, Bugs and Butterflies” that she loves and keeps borrowing from the library. However, this time she can’t find her book on the shelf and poor Charlie tries to help her find another book to borrow. Disaster happens when Lola sees somebody else borrowing her book and she has a bit of a tantrum in the beanbag (I am SO glad nobody has ever done this in our library!) Lola finally finds a new book to enjoy and reminds us that we borrow books from our library but we can’t keep them! You might like to watch it here

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We have two Library Lions in our library and the little one has a VERY big roar! In Library Lion everyone is surprised when a lion walks into the library one day.  Lion has come to listen to stories and he is allowed to stay as long as he is quiet.  Lion becomes a big help to Miss Merriweather, but when she gets hurt the only way he can get help is by roaring. Sadly Lion broke the rule and has to leave the library. There is always a hush when everyone sees how sad Lion looks standing outside the library in the rain and big smiles when the rules are changed for him to return. This is a great book to talk about rules in the library and to do some serious roaring in the LRC too!  You might like to watch it being read here

Which one of these stories is your favourite?

A school library without a librarian…is a room

As a teacher librarian, this quote resonated strongly with me when I saw it on Twitter. It comes from the article “Why We Need School Libraries” by Alan Gibbons an English author of children’s books and an educational consultant.  Alan is a passionate advocate for reading and the vital role of libraries and teacher librarians. 

I am incredibly fortunate to work in a brand new school library that was built with the BER funding. We moved from a 28 year old, tired, double portable classroom into a large, bright, open and modern space. Even though the two library spaces are in total contrast physically, their essence is the same. Both libraries have been much more than a room; they have both maintained a strong relationship with students, staff and parents and each library has encouraged, nurtured and valued a culture of reading at our school. The vital link between the two libraries is that there has always been a teacher librarian.

My principal values reading highly and as a result our primary school has a library and even rarer, a full-time teacher librarian. However, in the current climate I often find myself wondering what would become of our library if in the near future we have a principal who decides the school doesn’t need a teacher librarian. Instead, the classroom teacher takes the class to the library for borrowing once a week. Will our library still be a vibrant and welcoming space that is a celebration of books and reading and a place of creativity, inquiry and learning or simply a room full of books? Will the culture of reading we have developed be maintained? What impact would this have on learning at our school?

If there is no longer a teacher librarian who will…

  • Greet students with a smile and welcome them by name as they enter the library
  • Create a warm, vibrant and welcoming space that is open to all and a haven for many
  • Provide spaces where reading can be shared and social or done alone snuggled in a bean bag
  •  Purchase books that will inspire; fuel imaginations; enable walking in others’ shoes; foster an understanding of self; and move readers to laugh, cry and ponder
  • Expose students to a variety of illustrators and explore the power of visual images
  • Read and skilfully bring books to life with genuine love, appreciation and knowledge
  • Enthusiastically talk about and recommend books 
  • Make reading fun and positive
  • Take time to match students to the ‘right book’ to meet their needs and interests 
  • Organise books to make them appealing and easy to browse and access
  • Design activities where literature can be explored, discussed and brought to life in various ways
  • Encourage and celebrate reading with Book Fairs, Book Week, Author visits, Premiers Reading Challenge and other fun reading events
  • Teach students skills needed to access, use and present information ethically
  • Plan with teachers and provide resources for classroom reading and inquiry
  • Believe in and promote the power of reading for enjoyment and learning

“It is not enough to have a school library, however clean and airy and stuffed with books, e-readers, computers and tablets. A library without a librarian …is a room” Alan Gibbons