Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Book Mobile

The mornings are a crazy time at my library. Crazy in a good way. Busy. Busy with students using their library in ways they choose. I wish we could accommodate more students. With MAP testing and classes, and oh my! here comes the book fair next week, sometimes students don't get an opportunity to come check out a book. I thought I would try sending a book cart full of books down the hallways during that oh-so boring time in the morning before homeroom starts.

I heard another librarian mention this on Twitter, Facebook or a list-serve somewhere, so it is not an original idea. This is how our new "book mobile" was born. We have a two sided, six shelf book cart and library helpers push the cart down the halls in the mornings. They also have a wheeled crate-style basket that we are using as a mobile book return bin. Check outs are recorded by hand and transferred into the computer by me, later. The students and teachers like this.

Might I lose a book or two in this process? Yes. Might I gain more readers and keep my students supplied with books? Yes. Getting books into students hands is always going to trump the possibility of loss.

The library helpers love running the book mobile and have even decorated it with duct tape. When the newly remodeled book mobile debuted, the library helpers told me some of the students applauded them! Wow! How awesome is that?

The book mobile also helps divert some of the books that are waiting to be shelved to another "purpose".

The Daisy Chapter

Here is an update on our school-wide read aloud of Wonder.

A student said, "Wouldn't it be neat if there were a chapter from Daisy's point of view?"

Of course! What a wonderful idea?  And who would be the perfect people to write that chapter?
Our students!

And so, "The Daisy Chapter" Writing Contest was born. We have already received one entry!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


This year is off to a great start. Showing the laminator who's boss certainly helped get things going in the right direction. But, I have to say the one thing that has truly made a difference to me this year is our school-wide reading of the book Wonder. I simply cannot say enough about it, and it is all good. Deep down good, warm fuzzy good, jump up and holler good, macaroni and cheese good.

I start off every school day with pure, wide-spread goodness. It is so awesome.

You think I am over-reacting don't you? That's okay, because you don't know the details. Why am I so happy about a school-wide read aloud?

I think it is because I work in a middle school. Do you know how hard it is to impress middle schoolers? With anything? And unfortunately, for the most part, the magic of read-aloud fades away at this level.
There are many reasons for this.

The Wonder Girls 
But, at my school, every morning for twenty minutes, it is story time. And I am a kid again.

And it's magic.

Because so is everyone else.

The story, of course, is great and perfect and powerful. But, I think much of the credit for the success of our particular project goes to the two teachers who are reading to us each morning.

It just so happens that two of the most amazing read-out-loud teachers on the planet work at my school. (pictured)
I begged them to read Wonder for us because I know how incredibly important delivery is when someone is reading aloud. They are doing a phenomenal job. I don't think a day has gone by since we began reading four weeks ago, that someone hasn't said something positive about the read-aloud. It makes my heart sing to hear people say these things. We cry and we laugh. We talk about it at lunch and in the halls.

I am not forgetting the teachers who dutifully follow along with their books in the classrooms. The whole idea would go kaput if they didn't do their part.  ELA teachers are using the book in their lessons. The students are listening and following along. It's all so yummy good.

But wait, there's more! There has been almost no complaining. (Again, unprecedented at the middle school level.) The only down side is that it will end soon. Will we go back to normal SSR?  How can we? We're all  spoiled brats now. I picture teachers and students reading their own books for a minute or two and slamming their book down in disappointment, shaking their heads, wishing for the "storytellers" to re-emerge.

This is probably one of the coolest things I have ever done at school. Ma would be so proud. She would cry if I told her about this. Happy tears. We used to watch Oprah! together and just boo-hoo over all kinds of stuff. Ma would know that Mr. Browne's first precept about choosing kind is from Wayne Dyer whom she loved.

If you've read Wonder you may know the song that August and his dad sing together in the car. "I'm the luckiest guy on the lower east side."

Well, I'm the luckiest girl in the upstate, cause  I've got a story and you want to read for a while.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Stay Thirsty!

Thought of this while I was pulling weeds today in my back yard. I couldn't get it out of my head, so I had to make it.

Monday, September 3, 2012


I read the book  Wonder by R.J. Palacio  after hearing Donalyn Miller book talk it at the SCASL conference.  I enjoyed the book and especially loved the quotes at the beginning of each section. Of course, I passed the book on to my students and teachers, urging them to read it. Not long after I finished reading Wonder, our school began forming and training an anti-bullying committee. I knew this awesome book would  perfectly compliment our school's anti-bullying efforts.

I recommended it to the principal for a school wide read, and he thought it was a fantastic idea. We pitched the idea to the faculty at our beginning of the year anti-bullying training. The faculty liked the idea of doing a school wide read-aloud too. We purchased a copy of Wonder for every homeroom teacher.

Every morning at 8:00, teachers fire up their document cameras and LCD projectors and display the book on their whiteboards so students can follow along as the book is read to them over the school's PA system. The whole school listens and reads the book together. It's magical on a level that is usually lost in middle schools.

The principal read the introduction. 

I read the first chapter.

Mrs. Sommer-Gough and Ms. Sommer, two teachers, who were hand-picked for their excellent talents in reading books aloud, have been taking turns reading the rest of the book. They read for 15 minutes each morning, stopping five minutes short of the end of the period to give time for discussion. 

We have been doing this for a seven days now, and already this has been an amazing experience. It feels powerful and good. The students and the teachers love the book. They love reading it together, and now we all have one more thing in common with each other, which strengthens our school community. It is an excellent way to begin a school day.

Teachers tell me how much they love the book, how much the students love the book, they tell me how much they enjoy the way Mrs. Sommer-Gough and Ms. Sommer read, and they share insightful student comments and connections their students are making. Students tell me how much they love the book. Do they know how happy it makes me to hear this?

I am creating a blog to serve as a place for more discussion. This school wide read-aloud  is Wonder-ful on many levels.  It makes me feel the impact that books can have on people. I want more of this.

I think everyone else does too.