The Horn Book » Lolly’s Classroom http://www.hbook.com Publications about books for children and young adults Wed, 26 Aug 2015 21:40:23 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.4 How to find free and cheap books http://www.hbook.com/2015/08/blogs/lollys-classroom/how-to-find-free-and-cheap-books/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/08/blogs/lollys-classroom/how-to-find-free-and-cheap-books/#comments Tue, 25 Aug 2015 17:44:36 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=51706 I just had an email from Samantha Song, a former student now teaching first grade in Somerville, MA, with a universal question that that I want to pass along to all of you. Here’s what she said: I’d like to pick your brain on an issue I’m having. I was a last minute hire and […]

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I just had an email from Samantha Song, a former student now teaching first grade in Somerville, MA, with a universal question that that I want to pass along to all of you. Here’s what she said:

I’d like to pick your brain on an issue I’m having. I was a last minute hire and was left with a pretty messy classroom with a sparse library and very few enriching texts. I’m not familiar with the Boston area as well as you and would love your advice on where I can find cheap books for my classroom. In NYC, there is Project Cicero where teachers can pick up donated books for free. Do you know of any organizations that donate books to classrooms in this area? 

I’d like to extend this question to you, wherever you live. In addition to free books for teachers, what about really inexpensive? In the Boston area, the go-to place for heavily discounted children’s books is New England Mobile Book Fair (not mobile and not a book fair, but it IS a teacher’s dream come true). If you are a publisher or organization who has free or cheap books, tell us about yourself.

Here at the Horn Book we donate books to worthy non-profits, but at the moment we are maxed out with our existing recipients and can’t handle any more requests. But there ARE programs out there, like the recently-launched Boston KidLit Exchange which helps match up donors with libraries. I don’t know if that includes classroom libraries, but it’s worth a try.

I’m hoping we can use the comments section to make some of these well-kept secrets a little LESS secret. Whether you know about free/cheap books or have some to donate, tell us!

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Trimming down a classroom library http://www.hbook.com/2015/08/blogs/lollys-classroom/trimming-down-a-classroom-library/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/08/blogs/lollys-classroom/trimming-down-a-classroom-library/#comments Wed, 19 Aug 2015 10:01:17 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=51327 I recently found myself facing the dreaded task of packing up my entire classroom. Trying to see this as an opportunity to reduce the number of boxes labeled only with question marks, I sorted through papers and miscellany, recycling and tossing with gusto. Math papers that I never used? Recycled without a second thought. A […]

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I recently found myself facing the dreaded task of packing up my entire classroom. Trying to see this as an opportunity to reduce the number of boxes labeled only with question marks, I sorted through papers and miscellany, recycling and tossing with gusto. Math papers that I never used? Recycled without a second thought. A plastic bag filled with a mixture of sequins? Donated to the art closet. I was slimming down my classroom materials without remorse…until I came to the last section: my classroom library.

My classroom library is, as I believe nearly all libraries are, a thing of beauty. Eighteen categorized sections and counting, displayed in neat baskets or arranged in an orderly fashion on the shelves. But now, as I pictured having to lift and carry all of these boxes out of my classroom, the sheer quantity of books daunted me. Surely, there were some books that I could leave behind or donate.

Nicole_Hewes_ Classroom_Library_5

For some people, the task of sifting through those books may have been as simple as I found paring down my papers to be. But for me, a lifelong saver and hoarder of books, this was a challenge of near-mythic proportions. Almost since I learned how to read, I’ve been a rescuer of books discarded from libraries, a purchaser of those books on the “last chance” shelves. I simply cannot stand the thought of a book floating around unread, unloved, and without a shelf to call home.

In the past, as I’ve tried to pare down my own collection of books, I’ve struggled to discard titles unless I vehemently hate them (a feeling I rarely experience). But I was determined to make a good-faith effort to look through each of my classroom bins with a critical eye.

I sat down on the hard, scratched tile floor in my nearly-bare classroom and started going through my books, bin by bin, looking for outcasts that I could discard. As I sifted through the books in each category, I found books in need of repair, which I set aside to add to my “book hospital” bin, but the “consider discarding” pile remained especially lean a couple hours into the project.

As I sorted, I tried to consider what criteria might help me determine if it was time to toss a book. I was vaguely operating with the assumption that I would consider discarding books that were older and featured dated information, centered around very obscure topics, or were lackluster or unlikely to spark student engagement. But soon I found myself making exceptions to these rules — for classics and especially for books about weird topics, since you never know what book is going to pique the interest of a reluctant reader.

I’m sure you can see where this going. By the end of the day, I had several books to repair with packing tape and a small pile of eleven to discard — mostly books that contained false information (though I kept some of those, too, to show students that knowledge evolves.) I couldn’t bear the thought of a future student saying to me, “Do we have any books in our library about…?” and then thinking of a book that I’d left behind at one point in time.

So when it came time to move everything, I happily heaved all of those boxes of books and transported them across the state line, still contemplating when, if ever, it would feel okay to get rid of books.

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Tales as old as time http://www.hbook.com/2015/08/blogs/lollys-classroom/tales-as-old-as-time/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/08/blogs/lollys-classroom/tales-as-old-as-time/#respond Thu, 13 Aug 2015 14:32:03 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=46642 It should hardly come as a surprise to anyone that when it comes to the Disney princesses, I find myself identifying most with Belle, the brunette bookworm from Beauty and the Beast. The notion of a girl longing to escape her world through the pages of a story presented a strong parallel to my own […]

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It should hardly come as a surprise to anyone that when it comes to the Disney princesses, I find myself identifying most with Belle, the brunette bookworm from Beauty and the Beast. The notion of a girl longing to escape her world through the pages of a story presented a strong parallel to my own adolescent years. I watched that movie until the tape in the VCR (remember those?) shredded from overuse.

You can only imagine the delight I had in going to see the “stage adaptation” on my thirteenth birthday. Settling into my seat, I couldn’t wait to observe how the tiny French village would come alive and hear the swish of that red rose petal as it drops onto the glass table. I was eager to hum along with the jaunty tune of “Be Our Guest.” Two hours later, I walked out of the theater in a bit of shock — this play had been set in modern day New York, our “Belle” was the daughter of a computer technician, and the rose that signals the end of the Beast’s life was now a clock tower connected to the library.

Yet what had actually shocked me was that I loved this play just as much as I had loved Disney’s classic! It was my first look into the wide world of adaptations, a critical layer of storytelling that allows students to both compare and contrast works of literature.

I mention this story because our class has now moved on from Ancient Egypt to Ancient Greece in our concept-based units. On the first day of our Greek reading groups, I held up Homer’s The Odyssey, the one translated by Robert Fagles and a staple in the syllabus of literature classes. The pages of my thick copy are a bit frayed and marked up with annotations. I watched ten pairs of eyes peer at the book, and I knew their thoughts were racing, “Is she really going to make us read that?” I let them sweat it out for a couple more minutes before I finally handed out their version — The Odyssey, courtesy of Wishbone classics. We laughed, but it served as an excellent backbone for what would become the key concept of this unit — that myths are told by different people in different ways, yet the heart or theme of the story resides in each one.

book of greek mythsThe third grade teaching team has utilized an abundance of mentor texts that allow students to make comparisons of mythological tales. We have used The Book of Greek Myths by Ingri D’Aulaire, as a core Read Aloud text — just long enough to maintain their interests, yet concise enough to keep students engaged in the tales of Persephone swallowing the pomegranate seeds, or Hera’s revenge on the women who sway the heart of Zeus.

wingsStudents have gained a lot of practice using Venn diagrams to compare the D’Aulaires text with that of picture books like Wings by Jane Yolen, graphic novels like The Olympians series by George O’Connor, and of course, Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series that never sits on the bookshelf for even a night.

lightening thiefNot studying the ancient civilizations in your classroom? No worries! As the unit continues, students have gained more independence in making the connections amongst versions of stories outside of the Greek mythology realm. In fact, over the holidays, two of our students brought in different versions of The Gingerbread Man. We made the same comparisons that we had with the Greek stories, and had just as much fun!

What are some other adaptations you can bring into your classroom?

Editor’s note: for more on adaptations and transformations, check out the March/April 2015 Horn Book Magazine.

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Moving time! http://www.hbook.com/2015/08/blogs/lollys-classroom/moving-time/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/08/blogs/lollys-classroom/moving-time/#respond Tue, 04 Aug 2015 10:01:10 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=44328 As a teacher, August is always one of my favorite months. There is so much promise & potential that comes with developing hopes and dreams for a new group of students (without yet having to contend with the mountain of phone calls, paper work, and logistics of the first month of school!). Although I’m thrilled […]

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As a teacher, August is always one of my favorite months. There is so much promise & potential that comes with developing hopes and dreams for a new group of students (without yet having to contend with the mountain of phone calls, paper work, and logistics of the first month of school!). Although I’m thrilled to be returning to the same school this month (after 3 straight years of moving!), this post honors the teachers and students who will be transitioning in the fall. The books below are some of my favorites to read as a recently-moved teacher — or to students who may have just moved themselves.

Moving DayMoving Day by Ralph Fletcher, illustrated by Jennifer Emery
Ralph Fletcher is one of my favorite children’s authors (his Fig Pudding is an excellent longer read aloud!), and Moving Day is one of his best. The book tells the story of a boy who learns he is moving and has to deal with all of the emotions surrounding leaving his home. What makes the text unique, however, is that it’s told entirely in poems, each one building on the one before. Moving Day provides an excellent study of figurative language, and can be broken up into smaller parts (individual poems) or examined as a whole. It’s also a great text to use for exploring word choice, author’s intent, and the whole Craft & Structure band of the Common Core Standards.

Alexander Not MoveAlexander Who’s Not (Do You Hear Me? I Mean It!) Going to Move by Judith Viorst, illustrated by Ray Cruz
The Alexander books always make for great read alouds, and Alexander’s refusal to move and account of all he will miss is no exception. In addition to being great when read aloud, I’ve always loved using Alexander to help my students practice their own fluency and response to punctuation and emotion when writing. A paired reading of this book (students reading aloud, alternating pages) followed by a writing exercise examining Alexander’s motivations could be an excellent way for students to have some (fun!) fluency practice and then work on their writing & comprehension.

I Hate EnglishI Hate English! by Ellen Levine, illustrated by Steve Björkman
I was in Lolly’s Children’s Literature class when I was first introduced to this book, and I’ve loved using it with English language learners in reading groups. In I Hate English!, Mei Mei comes to America from Hong Kong and struggles with the idea of losing her Chinese identity in order to adopt an American one. One of the initial things I liked about this book is the way it portrays the language learning process – Mei Mei is incredibly quiet at first, even though we can see thoughts racing through her mind. With the help of a thoughtful teacher, she begins to use the English words she’s been taking in and starts feeling much better about being in New York.

AAre you there Margaretre You There God, It’s Me Margaret by Judy Blume (for 6th grade & middle-school)
I have used this book in the past with 6th graders as they prepare to transition into middle school. It’s also one of my top 5 favorite books of all time, so I had to mention it. What I absolutely love about Are You There God is that it is such a good jumping off point for writing. Margaret, who is starting junior high and has just moved to a new town, grapples with some very heavy issues in this book, including friendship, personal identity, and the existence of God. As a former creative writing teacher, I loved using sections of this book to inspire my students to do their own reflective writing. I also have found that this book really transcends time — despite many of the more dated references, my 6th through 9th grade girls have always loved this book. And sometimes, that’s all we as teachers really want.

 

 

 

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Top 5 meta books to teach print concepts http://www.hbook.com/2015/07/blogs/lollys-classroom/top-5-meta-books-to-teach-print-concepts/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/07/blogs/lollys-classroom/top-5-meta-books-to-teach-print-concepts/#respond Wed, 15 Jul 2015 10:01:47 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=50330 As a Pre-K teacher, one of the things I am focused on is helping children learn concepts of print. These concepts include that books are read from left to right and top to bottom (in English at least); the role of punctuation; that print has meaning; the relationship between print and speech; that books have […]

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As a Pre-K teacher, one of the things I am focused on is helping children learn concepts of print. These concepts include that books are read from left to right and top to bottom (in English at least); the role of punctuation; that print has meaning; the relationship between print and speech; that books have a beginning, middle, and end; and more. One of the fun ways to teach these concepts is using a meta book. Essentially, these are self-referential books that teach children concepts of print and how books work through their plot line and design. Below are my top 5 favorite meta books:

It's a BookIt’s a Book by Lane Smith
I have seen children not old enough to crawl who know how to operate an iPad. This fact has inspired countless think pieces and studies regarding the benefits and drawbacks of both traditional books and books on tablets and computers. Lane Smith’s It’s A Book plays off of this divide between traditionalists and digital book readers in a way that will amuse both children and adults. In the story, we get one character pestering the other with persistent questions about the book he is reading such as “Can it text? Tweet? Blog?” Since many five year olds are already familiar with tablets and smart phones, this book can inspire discussions regarding the differences between digital books and traditional print books, and how those books work. (Note to educators and parents: the end of the book refers to the Donkey as a “Jackass.”)

We Are in a Book!We Are In a Book! by Mo Willems
Most readers of Lolly’s Classroom are most likely already familiar with Mo Willems Elephant and Piggie series. One of my class’s favorites in the series is the meta book We Are In A Book! In this book, Elephant and Piggie discover that they are in fact in a book and go on to explain how books work in a myriad of funny scenes. For example, Piggie informs Elephant that “a reader is reading us” which leads to the two characters trying to get the reader to say random silly words like “banana.” Concepts like page numbers and that all books end are also learned via the plot line.

novak_bookwithnopixThe Book With No Pictures by B. J. Novak
Most got to know Newton native B. J. Novak when he played Ryan Howard on the TV show The Office. Since the completion of the show, Novak has expanded his artistic oeuvre to include writing a children’s book called The Book With No Pictures. As you probably guessed from the title, this book contains no pictures. Instead, the book forces the adult who is reading the story to say ridiculous things like “blork,” “Bluurf,” and “I am a monkey who taught myself to read.” This is a great book to teach children that text can have meaning without pictures and can inspire a fun lesson plan for emerging writers by having the children try to author their own book with no pictures.

Grover_MonsterThe Monster At The End Of This Book by Jon Stone
In this book staring the iconic Sesame Street character, Grover sees the title and is fearful of the monster at the end of the book. As the reader turns the book, Grover gets increasingly scared and angry at the reader who, by turning the pages, is bringing him ever closer to the monster at the end of the book. (I won’t spoil the ending, but you can probably guess who the monster turns out to be.)

! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld
Punctuation can be confusing to young children; fortunately, Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld teamed up to create this great book simply titled !. In the story, the characters themselves are punctuation marks. At the beginning, we find the exclamation mark upset because he does not fit in with the periods. Eventually, the exclamation marks sets off and meets a question mark who can’t stop asking him questions, which leads to the exclamation mark finding his voice and purpose. This is a great book to read to set up a lesson plan about how different punctuation can change the tone and meaning of a sentence.

Finally, I will leave you with a simple lesson plan to create a “meta book” called “I Am In a Book” Get some small pieces of poster board and onto each piece of poster board attached a self-adhesive mirror tile (they are pretty cheap to buy). Use a hole-punch and book ring to turn it into a book. On the cover write “I am in a book”. On each subsequent page write phrases like “this is my happy face,” “this is my mad face,” “this is my sad face,” “this is my silly face,” and so on. As the children read the book they will make the face that goes along whatever is written underneath the mirror on that page.

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Using technology to mix up read-alouds http://www.hbook.com/2015/07/blogs/lollys-classroom/using-technology-to-mix-up-read-alouds/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/07/blogs/lollys-classroom/using-technology-to-mix-up-read-alouds/#respond Wed, 08 Jul 2015 10:01:39 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=50324 At a recent literacy conference, I was introduced to an online resource called Storyline Online. Created by the Screen Actors Guild Foundation, Storyline Online provides animated videos of picture books that are read by actresses, actors, and other well-known individuals. In addition to the videos, there are also activity guides to accompany each book, which […]

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At a recent literacy conference, I was introduced to an online resource called Storyline Online. Created by the Screen Actors Guild Foundation, Storyline Online provides animated videos of picture books that are read by actresses, actors, and other well-known individuals. In addition to the videos, there are also activity guides to accompany each book, which include discussion questions and ideas for follow-up activities.

While I am sometimes skeptical about the online read-alouds that are available on YouTube and other video sites, Storyline Online impressed me for several reasons.

First and foremost, the animations that are created to accompany the stories remain true to the illustrator’s artwork. No liberties are taken to interpret the illustrator’s work; rather, the images look nearly identical to the ones that you encounter when holding the physical copy of the book. I appreciate that such an effort is made to retain the original artwork, as illustrations are an essential aspect of the experience of reading a picture book.

Second, the range of notable people reading the books on Storyline Online is quite extensive. On the site, you can access read-alouds by Al Gore, Betty White, James Earl Jones, and Jane Kaczmarek — to name just a few. During their read-alouds, these famous individuals remain focused on the book and discuss their personal connections to the story. In other words, the read-alouds doesn’t feel like shameless acts of self-promotion, but rather, like book conversations.

Finally, and most significantly, the caliber of the books included on the site is impressive. The titles included on the site are substantive and many tackle real-world issues such as racism and classism. A few of my favorite picture books appear on the site, including Brave Irene; Wilfred Gordon MacDonald Partridge; Thank You, Mr. Falker; and Chester’s Way (the video for which incorporates American Sign Language). In sum, the titles selected lend themselves well to stimulating class discussions and to raising critical questions about the world in which we live.

In an effort to mix up my own read-alouds a bit, I’ve been using some of these videos in my classroom. My second graders love them and we have had some great follow-up discussions after listening to and watching the videos of these thought-provoking books. I highly recommend this site to elementary teachers who want to add a little variety to the typical read-aloud routine.

storylinewebsite

 

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Brain-bending books http://www.hbook.com/2015/07/blogs/lollys-classroom/brain-bending-books/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/07/blogs/lollys-classroom/brain-bending-books/#respond Wed, 01 Jul 2015 10:01:33 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=50318 Lately, I’ve read several books that blew me away with their beautiful and sometimes anarchic originality. I’ve written before about the creepy dreaminess of the almost-song We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, and I was equally bowled over by the lyrical oddity of The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton, which […]

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Lately, I’ve read several books that blew me away with their beautiful and sometimes anarchic originality. I’ve written before about the creepy dreaminess of the almost-song We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, and I was equally bowled over by the lyrical oddity of The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton, which seems to be part magical realism, part historical fiction, and part myth.

I sank into Boxers and Saints by Gene Luen Yang (who always overwhelms me with his creativity), as I went over the beautiful panels showing Little Bao and Four-Girl on either side of the Boxer Rebellion in China. And I still have no idea what to think about the coming-of-age meets praying mantis science cautionary comedy Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith, except that it was unlike anything I’ve ever read before.

I loved the experience of each of these, but I was dismayed to find myself having the same knee-jerk reaction, thinking I had no idea how I’d teach with these texts. I found myself thinking that I wouldn’t know where to put them in terms of genre because they don’t totally conform. Or that it could be tricky to figure out how to handle a two-volume piece like Yang’s. Or that I wasn’t sure where a science-like tale might fit in my typical ELA classroom.

After some thought though, I’ve decided it was totally uncreative of me to react that way. Maybe it is these books’ originality that makes them exactly the ones I should find places for, either with full classes, small groups, or individuals. If I’m teaching genre conventions, an example that pushes the boundaries could be just as useful as one that meets all of the typical criteria. Or maybe a topic we don’t usually cover could give us a new insight into literary analysis or I could use two volumes to contrast different perspectives in some fun way I haven’t tried before.

Maybe my typical teacher categories have caused me to react too narrowly to these very cool and interesting books. So I’m on a mission to be more creative myself — I’m going to stop reacting that way and see what opportunities books like these offer to teach new and interesting ways of thinking about text. So, I’m wondering how other folks have thought about this. What genre-benders and other tough-to-classify books have people found to use in classrooms, and how did students react?

 

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The value of the graphic novel http://www.hbook.com/2015/06/blogs/lollys-classroom/the-value-of-the-graphic-novel/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/06/blogs/lollys-classroom/the-value-of-the-graphic-novel/#comments Wed, 24 Jun 2015 10:01:12 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=50310 This year, I’ve really pushed my students to embrace graphic novels. It’s helped my low readers to access the same information as their peers, and although some students read it because it’s “easier,” they’re reading. What I find myself conflicted with now is that my school is part of the Accelerated Reader (AR) program, where […]

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This year, I’ve really pushed my students to embrace graphic novels. It’s helped my low readers to access the same information as their peers, and although some students read it because it’s “easier,” they’re reading. What I find myself conflicted with now is that my school is part of the Accelerated Reader (AR) program, where students are awarded points for taking quizzes about books they read. I think it’s a great incentive for strong readers, and I like the concept of the program.

What’s difficult for me is that the graphic novels I’m offering and encouraging are worth no more than 3 points on AR. Online, the program says it determines points based on the difficulty and length of the book. Text based books like Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (12 points), Holes (7 points), and The Lightning Thief (13 points) fare well. Popular graphic novels for children like Diary of a Wimpy Kid (3 points), El Deafo (2 points), and Smile (1 point) are valued less. However, books like Maus (2 points) and Persepolis (2 points) cover complex topics…so shouldn’t that be worth more than 2-3 points?

AR tries to address in this in their FAQ’s, saying some books are “longer and provide more reading practice time.” I’m not sure if I’m convinced by this statement. Their goal is to have kids read for long stretches of time and be rewarded for their comprehension. Yes, that’s all good but what about the depth of content?

I’m pressured to have all my students meet a certain goal for AR points, and I see my low readers struggling to meet this expectation. I want to give more quality graphic novels but it will not help them much in AR. I’m certainly not saying AR is a bad program; I think it has many merits. I’m feeling conflicted with this small part of how they grade graphic novels.

I wish graphic novels were valued more in this case.

(Information for parents: http://doc.renlearn.com/KMNet/R003985016GG79F2.pdf)

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Why schools still need libraries (and librarians) http://www.hbook.com/2015/06/blogs/lollys-classroom/why-schools-still-need-libraries-and-librarians/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/06/blogs/lollys-classroom/why-schools-still-need-libraries-and-librarians/#comments Thu, 18 Jun 2015 10:01:21 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=50303 I felt like a scavenger. There I was, in a prestigious private school’s library, picking through books they were getting rid of in order to make space for a new tech area. The staff was extremely kind, but I still resented what their students had and mine didn’t. As I’ve explained in previous posts, the […]

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I felt like a scavenger. There I was, in a prestigious private school’s library, picking through books they were getting rid of in order to make space for a new tech area. The staff was extremely kind, but I still resented what their students had and mine didn’t.

As I’ve explained in previous posts, the high school where I teach does not have a library. Since we’re housed in a renovated church from the 19th century in West Philadelphia, we literally do not have the space. Our solution is to create small classroom libraries within each teacher’s room to make books available for students to borrow.

Meanwhile, that private school’s library is vast, filled with natural light spilling through expansive windows. It is overflowing with books. It is staffed with four librarians. It will soon have a new technology area.

ribay_whyneedlibraries

Photo: Randy Ribay

While we’re making do with what we have, I think it’s to the detriment of our school and our students’ education not to have a library or a single librarian. Even in the Age of the Internet, I have no doubt in my mind all schools still need libraries. Here are some simple reasons why:

  1. It is difficult to track and maintain books. To someone who’s never done it before, it sounds simple enough: students take books and put them back when they’re done. In practice, it’s insanely hard to keep track of who’s checked out what, to track down missing books, to repair them when they become ragged, to organize and shelve and re-shelve, and to order new ones. Trying to do this on top of your teaching duties is insane. It’s almost like it should be a full time job — oh, wait…
  2. Students need a quiet, safe space. While the image of the surly librarian with a shushing finger pressed to her lips has become a cliché, the fierce defense of a silent space is important. Students need a shared quiet space where they can go in order to read, study, research, collaborate, decompress, or just find sanctuary from the noisy world.
  3. We need book experts. Every time I’m faced with a reluctant reader, I feel like my challenge is to find THE BOOK that will turn that kid into a reader. This requires a vast knowledge of what’s out there, and certainly this varies from teacher to teacher. I believe I’m more well-read in YA than your average English teacher, but I’m limited mostly to my own tastes. So an in-house expert would simply increase the probability that a reader would end up with the right books in his hands.

For now, we’ll keep doing our best with our little classroom libraries. But if you’re a super-wealthy philanthropist who wants to build my school a library, let me know. To revise Cicero’s famous quote, a school without a library is like a body without a soul.

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A sense of place http://www.hbook.com/2015/06/blogs/lollys-classroom/a-sense-of-place/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/06/blogs/lollys-classroom/a-sense-of-place/#respond Tue, 16 Jun 2015 10:01:14 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=49626 “Doesn’t this book make you think of Rockport, of being down at the beach and feeling the waves?” one of my students asks me, holding up our classroom’s copy of Andre by Fran Hodgkins. “It does remind me of that,” I tell my student. “Why don’t you read what is says on the seal’s collar […]

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“Doesn’t this book make you think of Rockport, of being down at the beach and feeling the waves?” one of my students asks me, holding up our classroom’s copy of Andre by Fran Hodgkins.

“It does remind me of that,” I tell my student. “Why don’t you read what is says on the seal’s collar on the cover?”

“Rockport Harbor Master” my student reads. “Wait, did this really happen? Is this the same Rockport that I was talking about?” he exclaims, his enthusiasm palpable.

“You’ll have to read it to find out,” I say, as he settles into our book nook to explore this new title about a familiar place.

In my classroom practice, I definitely lean toward using books to expose my students to ideas and places that they may never encounter otherwise. Books about far-off places and diverse people appeal to me and never fail to lead to rich discussions with my students. However, exchanges like the one above remind me that while it is important to use books as an opportunity to introduce students to content and places that they can’t experience firsthand, it is equally important to have kids read about places they know and to discover someone else’s perspective on the familiar.

I teach in Maine and while the town I work in doesn’t feature prominently in any picture books, I have found that there are a number of books that revolve around places with which my students have at least tangential familiarity. Seeing these places in books excites them and validates their experiences. Additionally, they have the opportunity to make the connection that while they spend time reading about people in far-off places, other people may be reading about them and where they live.

For those Maine teachers who may be reading this post, here are some books about Maine that my students have particularly enjoyed:

Blueberries_for_Sal  Andre Harbor Seal  Miss Rumphius  Charlotte's Web

Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey (many of McCloskey’s other works also take place in  Maine including One Morning in Maine and Time of Wonder)

Andre: The Famous Harbor Seal by Fran Hodgkins

Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney (Island Boy is also set in Maine)

Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White is rumored to based in part on Maine’s Blue Hill Fair and White’s experiences living in rural Maine

While searching for books set in Maine, I was impressed by the lists of books sorted according to geographic setting that I could find with a simple Internet search. Search for yourself and you might be surprised by what you discover. If you already have favorite books set in your area, please share them in the comments below!

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