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…

Up and running for 2015

When I walked into our LRC on January 6th it very much felt like I had returned home after a long holiday! The smells were the same and the layout of the library was pretty much as I had left it. However, as I sat at our Borrowing Desk I wondered if it was time to make some changes. A week later I returned and to my horror everything had been moved to clean the carpets and nothing had been put back, including the three heavy Fiction shelves on wheels that had been “strategically placed”!

It was however, an opportunity to sit and contemplate various ways the space could be changed, but I decided in the end we had a space that worked well where sections of the LRC were clearly defined, students had choices of where they wanted to be and I had a clear line of sight to be able to observe students in the space. It then meant a “teacher librarian workout” (when you’re a TL you don’t need a gym membership!) putting everything back.  There was lots of running backwards and forwards to move the Fiction shelves into the “just right” position and angle to ensure I could see the popular beanbag reading area when doing borrowing. Tables and chairs were colour matched and positioned along with moveable furniture and displays. Finally all was right with the world…

Next came cleaning and wiping down walls, the Borrowing Desk and the tops of benches in the workroom. I removed posters from the Borrowing Desk and LRC front doors so there was a clean slate ready for a new year.

Before I continued getting the LRC ready, my next focus was organising Bulk Loans for 21 classrooms. These loans consist mostly of Picture Books for Year P-3 and some Non Fiction books are added for Year 4-6.  This is quite a long process as I choose books carefully based on the year level; time of the year; authors/illustrators I’ve shared with the level as well as noting each level’s Inquiry and Wellbeing topics. The Bulk Loans are changed at the end of each term and teachers are welcome to change or add to them throughout the term. The Inquiry Loans for the seven year levels that I need to do can wait until I meet with teachers later this week.

With Bulk loans done and piles of Picture Books removed from the tops of shelves, I could now organise the Picture Book area to create an inviting space.  I have bought quite a few book character toys and these are now happily sitting on the top of the shelves with their matching book. Lots of Picture Books are displayed on the front facing shelves to tempt readers.

The Story Chair and Story Keeper are ready for a captive audience and the bean bags and cushions are waiting for students to snuggle up with their book…

Junior Fiction is a popular and busy area and I noticed quite a few series were added last year. I may have to do some re-thinking about it this year, but for now it’s ready for borrowers.

Now it was time to focus on some displays for the LRC.  I no longer have my wonderful Library Assistant, Marg who was so artistic and created all of our fabulous LRC displays (and there are more throughout our LRC Blog). Slightly terrified, I have been collecting library display ideas on Pinterest for a while and one that caught my eye is now on our LRC front door with a few modifications. I hope it sets the welcoming and inspiring tone I’m hoping for…

We have three display boards in our LRC. I’ve left the small one with it’s current display and the large one is ominously empty for now, but I want it to feature student work over the coming weeks. That left me with the middle landscape board that I decided to use for our theme of “Connect” in the LRC this year.  An illustration from Peter Reynolds on Twitter was my inspiration and with the help of a trusty overhead projector (worth it’s weight in gold to non-artistic people) I created our KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) display.

I have some words I want to add to the display and students will add pictures, but it’s still a bit “open-ended” at the moment.  However, after posting a thank you on Twitter to Peter Reynolds for his inspiration for our display I now feel under a tad under pressure after his response!!

The front reading area at the entrance is ready with Picture Books about Australia and is waiting for it’s turn to shine for “Library Lover’s Day” and the Non Fiction area is armed with popular books on display.

Everything is not as completely ready as I would like, but this year I’m saying “That’s okay”.  As with classroom teachers, teacher librarians have a lot to organise and get ready at the beginning of the year. However, it’s not one class that we focus on, but the whole school. Our library spaces are our classrooms, that are highly visible and need to welcome, inspire and cater for the needs of the whole school community. As a teacher librarian, my beginning of the year involves juggling the organisation of the library, managing resources to ensure classroom teachers are prepared to start their year, as well as doing my own preparation and planning. It’s such a hectic time and I feel like a swan – trying to look as though I’m calmly gliding across the water, but my feet are paddling like mad under the water to keep me afloat (and not always successfully)!

We have two staff Professional Learning days and our students start back on Friday, January 30th before library classes begin Monday, February 2nd at 9.10am…bring on 2015!

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