Let’s Talk About Abandonment…

It seems like there’s an unspoken rule in the library world about abandoning books, that even if you truly dislike a book, you finish it.  After all, that’s what we tell our students, our own children — once you commit to something, you finish…if you stick with it, you might end up enjoying it at the end…we persevere, we don’t quit.

So here’s the thing, in the last few months, I’ve abandoned a couple of books that everyone (professional reviews, book bloggers, friends, etc.) said that I “must read”.  I have abandoned them with dramatic THUNKS…like, literally, I have flung them on my floor in front of my impressionable kids and declared, “Oh, honey, that’s IT!  I am DONE with this!”  And so far, not only have the Library Gods not come and stripped me of my MLIS title, but precious time has been freed for me to take on other books.

Listen, I am not saying we should make abandoning books into a habit, and I am open to the idea of re-reading these books in the future — I might love them in a different time, a different mood.  But I realized it’s okay to give myself — and my kids — the permission to say “No, maybe later…or maybe not ever” to a book once in a while, even if they happened to be award-winners or classics or on someone’s best-sellers list.  Because at the end of the day, reading shouldn’t seem like a chore or something you dread.  It should bring you lots of joy and anticipation instead.

Without further ado, here are a couple of books I bravely left behind this year…don’t judge me.




Punch Card Reading Challenge Underway!

This week I kicked off the Punch Card Reading Challenge with the 3rd through 5th graders.  The students were excited about the program and the prizes that they will get to earn.  I have gotten some fantastic prizes from community partners, and these will be used to encourage students to:

  1. Return their books on time and check out something new;
  2. Display appropriate classroom behavior; and
  3. Read outside their comfort zone

For returning their books on time and checking out something new (a sneaky way to improve circulation!), students will “earn” small prizes such as ice cream/free kids meal coupons, gift certificates for free games of laser tag, and Rainforest Cafe temporary tattoos and slap bands.

For displaying appropriate classroom behavior, students will earn raffle tickets towards the weekly drawings.  I don’t tell students when raffle tickets will be handed out, or for what specific behavior, so hopefully students will try to stay on good behavior at all times!  Today, for example, I gave out raffle tickets while 3rd graders worked on their Powtoon presentations…but only to those who stayed on task.  The kids who didn’t get any during my first walk-around quickly wised up and got to work, in hopes that I’d be generous and give them a raffle ticket during my second walk-through (I was).

The main way students earn raffle tickets is for reading outside their comfort zone, i.e. for reading a genre that is on the punch card.  For accountability and assessment purposes, before I punch anyone’s card, they have to fill out a reading response card.  On the front of the card, they simply write their name, their teacher’s name, the title and author of the book, and the genre.  On the back of the card, they are asked to write at least 3 complete sentences about their book.  To help students figure out what to write, I’ve included writing prompts for both fiction and non-fiction that they can use.

Here’s a quick look at what prizes will be given out and when:


WEEK 1 – Intro to Punch Card Challenge (3-5th grades)

WEEK 2 – Review directions!  Rainforest Cafe tattoos

WEEK 3 – Zap Zone Laser Tag coupons; Drawing: Coldstone ice cream cakes (x 2)

WEEK 4 – Drawing: Coldstone $5 gift certs (x 4)


WEEK 1 – Rainforest Cafe slap bands; Drawing: Coldstone $5 gift certs (x 4) 

WEEK 2 – Drawing: Coldstone ice cream cakes (x 2) 

WEEK 3 – Rainforest Cafe free kids meal coupons; Drawing: Rainforest Cafe prize pack  

WEEK 4 – Drawing: Coldstone ice cream cakes (x 2); Coldstone free cone coupons

WEEK 5 – Grand Prize Drawing: Classic Lanes Bowling Parties for 10 (x2)

Hopefully this program will be fun for the kids and motivate them to add more diversity to their reading.  And hopefully it won’t take too much extra time to run in addition to everything else that is going on in the media center in February and March!

Multicultural Display at Hampton

One of the projects I took on during my first couple of weeks at Hampton was to create a multicultural display for the media center. I thought this would be a relevant project given the diverse population at the school.  It also gives me an opportunity to run an analysis of the current multicultural collection and create a consideration file for Jenny.

Here are some pictures of the display and a link to the consideration file I created:

CAM01261 multicultural display1

CAM01251 CAM01252 CAM01253

CAM01254 CAM01257


What’s in the News: Using Newspapers in Your Library

One of the ways teachers, parents, and caregiver can facilitate a child’s love of reading is by modeling reading themselves.  Though it’s not always easy to compete with iPads and other electronics, books still take up the majority of our space at home, and play a significant part in our daily routines.  That said, “reading” needn’t be limited to books — nearly everything counts, whether it’s an online article (though again I try to shy away from this since there are so many distractions online!), a magazine, a comic book or graphic novel (yes, those count!), a recipe, a poem, a play, or a devotional.  The newspaper, for example, can provide many opportunities to practice reading comprehension skills, as well as other language arts skills such as figuring out the topic sentence and important facts or events, inferring/drawing conclusions, etc.  At home, with my 4th grade daughter, I will pre-read articles (to make sure it doesn’t contain anything age-inappropriate or too “scary”), and come up with some questions and new vocabulary or concepts that we can talk about (these can be written on an index card or post-it note and taped to the article).  I encourage her to use the highlighter as much as she wants — to make note of new words or sentences she might not understand.  After she reads the article, we talk about what’s on the index card, and If she seems particularly interested, we can do further research on the topic or have a more extensive discussion.

This “lesson” can be easily adapted to the school library.  Students can be given copies of the article to read on their own, or the article can be projected on the screen and read together.

Here’s one example from today’s Times Free Press (Chattanooga’s local newspaper):

Read “Aquarium adding otters in bigger space” by Barry Courtier (Times Free Press, 9/18/13, B1)

newspaper 091813 otterRemember: Highlight new vocabulary or anything you don’t understand.

As you read, think about:

  • Why is the aquarium renovating and adding space to their existing otter exhibit?
  • Why will the otters be separated by a wall at first?
  • What will the new exhibit allow visitors to do?
  • What sense will otters use to get to know each other?
  • Other interesting facts you might have picked up from the article.
  • How would you find out more information about otters or the Tennessee Aquarium?

Beyond the Bookends: Making Lasting Connections

One of the most frequently used comprehension strategies is that of making connections.  As they read, students are asked to make text-to-self connections (between the text and the reader’s personal experience), text-to-text connections (between the text and another text that was read previously), and text-to-world connections (between the text and something that occurs in the world).  When attempting to draw these types of links, the readers are actively thinking about the text, what it might mean or how it might relate to his/her life and environment.  In this way, reading becomes less of a passive activity but something that is alive and engaging.

One of the ways our family tries to take this into the next step is to see out events or activities that could really drive the text-to-world connections.  Two years ago, we planned our week-long summer vacation around a non-fiction book that my then-7-year-old had written and published for her second-grade class.  Every homeroom was assigned a continent, then students got to choose from a list of animals from that continent to research, then write about.  Because my daughter was shy, by the time she got brave enough to speak up, all the popular animals were taken, and she ended up with something called the elephant shrew.

Have you never heard of the elephant shrew?  Well, we hadn’t either.  There was very little information on this small African creature that, in my daughter’s own words, “has the body of a hamster, the legs of an antelope, and the trunk of an elephant”.  In fact, it is so unique that it belongs to a family (the macroscelididae) ALL BY ITSELF.  I know this (and more), because my daughter researched the heck out of this elephant shrew.  I mean, to this day, she’s probably still the only person outside of our family who knows about the animal and can tell you all the wonderful things it does.

The summer after her book was published, we were scratching our heads about where to go for vacation.  My daughter, quite innocently, said that she wished she could see an elephant shrew in real life — an animal from Africa that no one knows about, mind ya! — and because it was late and we were such fabulous parents we decided to humor her and Google where you can see an elephant shrew in America.  Turned out, there were only a handful of zoos in the US that housed this animal, BUT, the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., “only” ten hours away by car, was one of them!

Since my husband and I both loved Washington, D.C. growing up, we decided to turn this into the Field Trip of All Field Trips.  A few minutes on Priceline later, we had a hotel (a mile or so from the zoo), and a sketchy itinerary that centered around a visit to the elephant shrew.

I cannot describe the excitement that built up around The Day We Went to See the Elephant Shrew — I am getting goosebumps just recalling it.  We had custom-made a shirt for her that said, “Got Elephant Shrew?” and she even got to bring her book.  We triple-circled the small-mammals house on the zoo map where we would find our special friend, and planned our route so it would be one of the last things we saw.  The anticipation throughout the day was unbelievable; just like on long car trips, all we heard was, “Are we almost there?  Are we almost there?”

Here are some pictures of when she finally got to meet her elephant shrews…they say pictures are worth a thousand words — I think these show just how awesome she felt.

Ella showing the book to "her" elephant shrew

Ella showing the book to “her” elephant shrew

Ella explaining to passersby why she thinks the elephant shrew is so amazing!

Ella explaining to passersby why she thinks the elephant shrew is so amazing!

Ella, her book, and the elephant shrew

Ella, her book, and the elephant shrew

The Amazing Elephant Shrew!

The Amazing Elephant Shrew!

All this to say that this is a perfect example of a reader/writer who has made lasting, meaningful connection between the text, herself, and her world.  Of all the things she’s read and written in 2nd grade, it’s safe to bet that this is THE ONE she’s going to remember for a long, long time.  (And this wasn’t the only connections we were able to draw on this trip.  Washington, D.C. was full of sights and sounds that the kids had learned about at school.  Our favorites included the Ford Theater — Lincoln was assassinated — the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial — where, again, the words that our daughters had read came alive — the Space Museum, the Botanical Gardens, the Capitol Building/meeting the TN senators, and so many more.)

We have two upcoming vacations planned thanks to our now-4th-grader: a trip to the Panther Creek State Park in Morristown, TN (a recent research paper), and a visit to Zoo Atlanta to see where Ivan the gorilla (on whom the book The One and Only Ivan was based) used to play and live (I just found out today that he died about a year ago around this time of the year).  Maybe they still have one of his paintings for her to buy and remember him by.

So, where are you heading for your next vacation?  Maybe you can draw inspiration from a book you or your children have just read, or something they’d had to research at school.  It might involve a bit of planning, and the trip might be a bit out of the ordinary, but I promise you, you’ll be making memories and connections that reach well beyond the bookends.

Read Across the Library Challenge

Recently I posted some scavenger hunt ideas for the elementary school library.  I got to test them out with some 4th and 5th graders and most really enjoyed being able to roam the shelves and discover authors and books they have never seen before.  Yes, the “hunt” led to many messy shelves, but some kids ended up checking out cookbooks, books on science experiments, and other serendipitous finds.

I thought it’d be good to pair this kind of game with a reading challenge, to encourage kids to explore genres that they normally wouldn’t read or think they like.  Librarians could offer up different incentives each week, or book-talk various genres during the school year.  The “checklist” could be made into bookmarks or bingo cards (each month of the year could feature a specific pattern for extra challenge), or the entire class could take on the challenge.  Kids could do their own book-talks — in front of the class?  short video trailer?  Book posters?  The possibilities are endless.

Here’s the checklist in its simplest, bookmark form.  Of course, it can be changed to adapt to your library holdings.

My Read Across the Library Challenge

Name: _____________________________

Teacher: ____________________________


  • Modern realism
  • Animal fiction

  • Mystery

  • Fantasy or science fiction

  • Historical

  • Classic

  • Multicultural

  • Picture books for older readers

  • Audiobook

  • Reader’s Choice


  • A president

  • An artist

  • An athlete

  • An entertainer/celebrity

  • An important historical figure

  • Reader’s Choice

Informational, or Non-Fiction

  • Mythology

  • Holidays and traditions

  • Folktales, fairy tales, fables

  • Science; science experiments

  • Geology

  • Plants

  • Animals

  • A book about technology

  • A book about the human body

  • Architecture

  • Graphic novel; graphic histories

  • Poetry

  • Countries/states

  • World history

  • American history

Graphic Novels – Reading List

Here are some of the graphic novels I’ve read in the last few months, along with an average rating from Goodreads.com and my own rating.

author: Kazu Kibuishi
average rating: 4.01
book published: 2008
rating: 4 for drawings, 3 for content
author: Gene Luen Yang
average rating: 3.87
book published: 2006
rating: 4 for drawings, 3 for content
author: Shannon Hale
average rating: 3.75
book published: 2008
rating: 3
author: Jennifer L. Holm
average rating: 3.86
book published: 2005
rating: 3
Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood
author: Marjane Satrapi
average rating: 4.19
book published: 2000
rating: 4
note: I wouldn’t recommend this book for students younger than 5th grade, due to mature/difficult subject matters such as torture, terrorism, rape, violence depicted, and curse words.