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 Update

Okay, so after a few hours of brainstorming different ways to make the reading challenge program enticing but easy on my substitute librarian wallet, I realized that I’ve already done this before!  Last year, during my internship at a local middle school, I helped the media specialists there put on their March is Reading Month “Reading Madness” program, where students earn prizes based on the number of minutes they’d read or the number of times they voted in the school-wide Battle of the Books (they had to have read the books in order to vote). The media specialists used a small amount of money out of their book fair earnings to get giveaways like Scholastic bookmarks, pencils, eraser puzzles, etc., but most of the prizes used to encourage students were donated by the PTA and community partners like restaurants, ice cream shops, bowling alleys, and arcades.  It took a lot of leg work — figuring out which businesses would be receptive to our calls, playing phone tag numerous times before speaking to the right person, driving out to businesses to get the prizes, writing out the guidelines to how students earn prizes (we handed out smaller prizes for any students who turned in a certain number of minutes in a given week, and a weekly drawing for bigger prizes using raffle tickets students had earned for other activities), and finally, communicating the program details to the staff and students.

Like I said, it takes a little more planning, but the good news is I don’t have to launch the program right away.  I might wait ’til March is Reading Month, but if I get everything lined up I might announce it in February, to give students time to get started!



The Graphic Novels My Reluctant/Struggling Reader Can’t Get Enough Of

About this time last year I made three discoveries:

  1. My younger daughter Charlotte (third grade at the time) was a reluctant/struggling reader.  She’d rather spend an hour on an iPad than read — unless she was asked to read on the iPad, in which case she’d happily hand over the iPad and feign a sudden need for fresh air and exercise outside.
  2. She did, however, love picture books, illustrated fiction, and graphic novels.
  3. Her love for those types of books often needed to be explained and defended, because, after all, “she was already a 3rd grader and should be reading ‘harder’ books.”*

(*I understand the concerns over the these books because in my pre-MLIS days, I was clueless about them too.  But really, picture books, illustrated fiction, and graphic novels not only make perfect sense for ELL, reluctant, and struggling readers, but can enrich the reading experience for the rest of us as well.)

Since I already have a good collection of picture books and illustrated fiction, I started focusing on buying/borrowing graphic novels for Charlotte.  This can be tricky at times because many GNs are above her maturity level, but we are always able to find stories that are age-appropriate.  When she finds one she likes, she tends to read them over and over.  At first I find myself asking her to switch to new books (mainly so Mommy can justify buying more), but then I remembered that as an ESL reader, I used to read the same books OVER and OVER, until the different sentence structures and speech patterns became familiar, until the comprehension and decoding got easier and easier.

So I let Charlotte read as many GNs as she wants, as often as she wants, until just this week, I made another accidental discovery.

We had just gotten Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm’s Sunny Side Up from a school book order, and she had done several “picture walks” (her older sister usually rolls her eyes at this phrase) and read the book cover to cover a couple of times.  As we were sitting in bed one night, she showed me the parts she really liked, and then asked me if she could read it to me.  As much as I liked GNs, I didn’t think it’d work very well being read aloud, but I played along.  A few pages later, I realized that she had become a very different reader than the one a year ago.  She read fluently/confidently, used voices and different intonations, and asked meaningful questions about what she read.  But mostly she just ENJOYED reading to me and the fact that she got to share a story that her bookworm mom hadn’t read yet.

Maybe some of these changes have to do with the fact that she’s one year older, but I know that GNs played a huge role too.  So here are some of her favorites that you can share with your students or children.

Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm

A thoughtful, semi-autobiographical story about it’s like for a child growing up around substance abuse and living with family secrets.

Charlotte and I talked about:

  • Substance abuse and addiction (alcohol, drugs, etc.)
  • What being “drunk” or “high” might look like, as depicted in the book
  • How a person’s words and actions might change because they are under the influence
  • Secrets — why some are not healthy to keep (e.g. Why did Sunny have a meltdown towards the end of the book?)
  • How there are things that could happen in a family that a kid might think it’s their fault, but it really isn’t

We also read the authors’ note together at the end of the book.

Drama by Raina Teigemeier

Callie challenges herself to create an eye-popping set for her middle-school theater production in spite of budget cutbacks, relationship troubles, and her waning confidence in her own designing and carpentry skills.  Will her efforts pay off, or will the play flop amid all the drama?

I debated for a while whether to let Charlotte read this book.  She loves Telgemeier’s other books (Smile and Sisters), but I wasn’t sure if she was ready to read about middle school crushes, kissing, dating — regardless if it’s between a boy and a girl or two boys…because as a parent, the thought of having to discuss ANY of it is kind of terrifying!  But in the end, I figured we were both big girls enough to handle any conversations that might come out of her reading this book, and not surprisingly, it’s now another one of her favorite books.

Charlotte and I talked about:

  • Crushes, kissing, dating, etc.  Honestly, the conversation wasn’t awkward at all.  As I learned from other parents — keep your answers brief, age-appropriate, and honest and you’ll do fine!
  • Same-sex relationships — I thought we’d have a more in-depth conversation about this but we didn’t.  The part where two boys kissed (during the play) brought forth the same reaction as when she sees a boy and girl kiss — that is, “Ewww, why would ANYONE want to kiss anyone else like that?!?”
  • How we are all made with different talents and capabilities.  Someone working backstage contributes just as much — just in different ways — as someone singing/acting onstage.

Sisters by Raina Teigemeier

Raina tells the story of what it’s like to grow up with a little sister.

Charlotte and I talked about:

  • How little sisters can be annoying at times (she doesn’t like this part)
  • How BIG sisters can be annoying at times (she has a lot to say here)
  • Why family relationships are hard but invaluable
  • The use of flashbacks in the book — what purposes do they serve?

El Deafo by Cece Bell

Cece Bells tells the story of growing up with hearing loss and the difficulty of navigating school and friends when you look a little different from everyone else.

Charlotte and I talked about:

  • What does it look like when someone has a hearing loss or another type of disability?
  • Why might someone with a disability feel less confident when they are in school or with friends?
  • What are some ways Cece deals with her difference?
  • What are some ways you are different than your friends?  How do you feel about these differences?  If your friends treat you differently because of these differences, what are some things you can do about it?
  • Superpowers — what are some superpowers you might like to have?  In addition to the ability to fly, disappear, run fast, etc., how about superpowers such as being kind, compassionate, helpful, a good listener, etc.

Other titles include:

Smile by Raina Teigemeier

Babysitters Club by Raina Teigemeier

Owly series by Andy Runton

Baby Mouse series by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm

Lunch Lady series by Jarrett J. Krosoczka

Evaluation Plan

As a requirement for the practicum, I am supposed to work with a supervising librarian to come up with a plan to meet one of the standards that she has to meet during her yearly evaluation.  Here’s something I developed based on Rochester Community School’s teacher evaluation guidelines.


The New Year

I know most of us say this, “Can you believe it’s already [insert new year]?!?  Where did the time go?!?”  This year is no different; I can’t believe it’s already 2015!

But 2015 is different.  Two and a half years ago, in the summer of 2012, I set off to complete this daunting task of pursuing an MLIS degree in the name of following my dream and becoming a librarian.  Being a planner, I poured through the course catalogs and mapped out exactly what classes I was taking and when.  I took the max number of credits (as many as I could handle without losing it on my family — and even then, I still had a couple of breakdowns), in back-to-back semesters, sacrificing lazy summers in exchange for what would turn out to be some of the most amazing reading adventures I’d go on (my YA and picture book classes).  If everything went according to plan, I would finish with the program by Spring 2015, and despite some hiccups along the way (e.g. a move out of state, aforementioned breakdowns), I’ve made it!

I will begin 2015 with two Praxis exams and a 15-week practicum in 3 school libraries, the last components of the program I need to check off before they will hand me my diploma.  (There is the Comps, of course — the big exit exam at the end of the semester — but I am choosing to REPRESS that thought for now.)  The Praxis exams are not too difficult, but I am most looking forward to the practicum.  Though I feel like I already have experience working in the school library setting, every librarian is different and I know I will have plenty more to learn.  I am also looking forward to (albeit with slight trepidation) my time in middle- and high-schools — environments I have almost no experience with, save for my own personal experience as a middle/high-schooler.  The librarians I will be shadowing come highly recommended from those who know them in the district, so I can’t wait to start!

In the upcoming few weeks I will be writing more about my practicum experience.  Stay tuned!



Happy National Readathon Day!

The librarians at the ITT Troy LRC (Learning Resource Center) will be participating in the 2015 National Readathon Day on January 24, 2015!  We will be reading from 10 to 2, with Starbucks and other snacks in hand.  There’s still time to get reading!  Check out more event details here.

In my bookbag today:

jennafoxcameron postkeeping quilt


The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson

The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth

The Keeping Quilt by Patricia Polacco

The Bee Tree by Patricia Polacco

Drawing from Memory by Allen Say (drink!)


STEM Collection for K-5: Non-Print Resources

Here’s an annotated bibliography for some great non-print resources that one can add to their school’s STEM collection, along with some seeds for teachers/media specialists.

set game sequence sumoku snap circuits minecraft legos equate game GoldieBlox 1 GoldieBlox 2

LEGO Education Brick Set (884 Pieces)

This set includes bricks in 9 colors and 11 sizes and supports a group of five students. Hands-on, curriculum-based resource that encourages creativity and real-life problem solving; engages learners through play. $55 (Amazon) UPC: 858160448466



  • School librarian can have LEGOs as a free play station – maybe as something that students have to “earn” in order to play. Otherwise, have a rotation system.
  • After-school LEGO club – librarian can provide instructions (see LEGO Ideas Book), have themed building days, or encourage free play. Display creations for a week or before the next club meeting.
  • Classroom teachers can check out the set to enrich lesson plans. Scholastics have many ideas and templates on how LEGOs can be used in math to teach part/whole concepts, arrays, fractions, etc. (See http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/top-teaching/2013/12/using-lego-build-math-concepts.) LEGOs can be used to supplement science lessons as well (e.g. students can use LEGOs to model human body system, animal life cycle, food chain, ecosystem, planets, etc.).
  • LEGO robotics (would require additional purchases – such as the Minestorms kits)


Snap Circuits Jr. SC-100 by Elenco

Students learn how to create 101 different working electronic circuits and devices. Each kit contains 30 color-coded, real circuit components that snap together easily, as well as an easy-to-follow instruction book. Encourages hands-on learning, critical thinking skills, and connection to real-life situations; fosters persistence/resilience. Grades 3-5. $80 for 4 sets (Amazon) ASIN: B00CIXVITO


  • School librarian can have Snap Circuits as a free play station – maybe as something that students have to “earn” in order to play. Otherwise, have a rotation system.
  • After-school science and tech club where students learn how to build circuits and various projects.
  • Classroom teachers can check out the sets to use in the classroom as a supplement to their lesson on circuits and electricity. Reinforce concepts such as parallel and series circuits, current, resistance, and various forms of electricity (e.g. in sound, in light, etc.). Discuss real life applications of circuits.
  • Have students design their own circuits on paper and hypothesis what it might do/how it might work. Once they built it on the board according to their design, test to see if it works accordingly or not. If not, try to figure out why not and make adjustments as necessary.



  • The National Parenting Center Seal of Approval
  • Toy 100 Best Children’s Products
  • Toy 100 Best Educational Products


MinecraftEdu by Mojang

The makers of Minecraft, with the help of educators, created a classroom version of the popular game that supports every subject area, from STEM to language, history, digital citizenship, music, and art. It has a growing collection of peer-reviewed “lesson worlds” and activities created by teachers to enrich their classroom teaching. Fosters creativity, spatial skills, collaboration/communication skills; builds a community of learners; teaches digital citizenship; reinforces curriculum and learned concepts in engaging way. Grades K-5. Educational Server, $41; Licenses for 25 workstations, $350 (Mojang.com)



  • Afterschool Minecraft Club – provide students with a safe, social environment in which they can engage in creative play, build/explore worlds, collaborate on projects, etc.
  • Due to open-ended nature of Minecraft environment, the game can be used to enrich lessons in almost any subject area. For example, for math, students can be asked to create pens to hold their animals. The pens must have a fixed area of, say, 36m2. How many different lengths and widths can the pens have and what are the different corresponding perimeters? The students must work out the solutions on paper before building them virtually in Minecraft. Similarly, students can practice basic multiplication or divisions in Minecraft. Task them to build 9 pens, each with 4 pigs in it. How many pigs will you have? What if I want only 3 pigs per pen. How many extra pens will I need? Are there other ways to arrange the pigs?
  • For science/social studies, students may be asked to build a community or world that have certain natural resources or commodities. Or, students may be asked to work on map skills by building a world that embodies a variety of elevations, landmarks, roads, rivers, etc. Students can show what they know about food nutrition by building a food pyramid, with labels.
  • More lesson plans/worlds and tutorials can be found at http://services.minecraftedu.com/worlds/ and http://services.minecraftedu.com/wiki/Main_Page.
  • YouTube also has many MinecraftEdu lessons/tutorials



  • Game of the Year, PC Gamer UK, 2010
  • Seumas McNally Grand Prize, Independent Games Festival, 2011
  • Multiple awards at the Game Developers Choice Awards, 2011

Goldie Blox Kits by Goldie Blox

Created by Debbie Sterling, a female engineer from Stanford University, these Goldie Blox sets (which come with construction pieces and accompanying books and templates) aim to grow spatial, critical thinking and problem-solving skills and teach basic engineering principles. Design and color schemes appeal to young girls, the company’s target audience. Grades K-3. $55 for 3 sets (Amazon) ASIN: varies


These math games can be used in the media center as a free time station, or be checked out by classroom teachers to provide fun ways for students to increase math fluency.


Equate: The Equation Thinking Game by Conceptual Math Media

Students practice creating equations crossword/Scrabble-style. Engaging way to practice using basic math operations, improve fluency, etc. Grades 2-5. $20 (Amazon) ASIN B00004U1RA

Sequence Numbers by Jax

Kids try to get 5 game chips in a row by matching their card – which has an addition or subtraction question – to an answer square on the board. Reinforce addition/subtraction facts and fluency in engaging/fun way. Grades 2-5. $18 (Amazon) ASIN: B001UEMQLQ


Set by SET Enterprises

Each card in Set contains one of three symbols, in varying numbers (up to three), colors, and degrees of shading. Players are dealt 12 cards each and quickly make sets of three cards that are connected in some way. Improves perception, pattern recognition, shapes/colors. Winner of over 20 “best game” awards. Grades 3-5. $10 (Amazon) ASIN B00000IV34


Sumoku by BlueOrangeGames

A cross between a numbers crossword and Sudoku, Sumoku is where players arrange their numbered tiles so they add up to be a multiple of a rolled “key” number. Students practice addition/multiplication and fluency; subtraction is also used in scorekeeping. Grades 3-5. $15 (Amazon) ASIN: B0037OQDYS


Classic Tangoes by Tangoes

Students are challenged to reproduce 1 of 54 tangram puzzles; package comes with two sets of Tangoes so two players can challenge each other. Encourages creative play and problem-solving; fosters persistence/resilience; increases familiarity with geometric shapes and geometry understanding; improves spatial skills. Grades K-5. $10 (Amazon) ASIN B00000K3BU