Saturday, September 2, 2017

Northside Neighbors: When A School Library Becomes A Summer Hub of Creative Engagement for Kids

For the second year in a row, our school has received funding sponsored by the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Public School Foundation and generous community donor Mr. David Schmoock to keep our library doors open during the summer months.  The aim is to provide access and opportunities for kids within our neighborhood walk zone along with the local Boys and Girls Club housed in our building. This funding allows us to ensure adequate staffing, special performances, educational programs, and supplies necessary to create a host of engaging activities. A wonderful partnership with the Chapel Hill Public Library has also allowed us to use our school library as an extension of the public library's summer reading program, thereby ensuring that students who may not be able to visit the main branch over the summer have an experience similar to their peers.  This includes visits from Ms. Krystal, the local youth outreach librarian, who runs a biweekly program.  An overview of the summer program can be found here along with our calendar of events here

For six weeks we open our doors for four hours a day, four days a week, and our library quickly becomes more like a community center and less like a library.  At ten o'clock on the dot we watch our neighborhood friends walk up together to partake in everything from story times to gaming to creative art and science activities that incorporate the use of our library Makerspace. This year we even connected with our school garden and not only planted, but also harvested a bounty of fresh vegetables the students took home each visit. Our garden became a hub of activity and served as a community connection that allowed not just our students but their caregivers to get involved. Through many laughs, a lot of sweat and plenty of dirt under our nails, we planted, weeded, watered and enjoyed tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, melons and more all summer long.  We were also fortunate to have current students along with their older siblings (former students) partake in the program which allowed us to create community connections and make the summer learning a family affair.  

And while there is a lot going on in our country and beyond, we made it our mission to focus on building a better world one project or connection at a time.  Our students made dog toys for our local animal shelter, built birdhouses, designed stepping stones and painted signs to beautify our garden landscape, visited with and read to service dogs, and built our own Little Free Library for the larger Northside community.  I now smile every time I walk through our garden and see the signs that were made with love and care by our own kids.  It makes it all the more beautiful.



We connected every activity to literacy and filled the summer days with read-alouds of every kind. Every program began with a related story. Before making slime, students listened to Dr. Seuss's Bartholomew and the Oobleck.  Before building A Little Free Library, we looked at digital images of how libraries provide books to kids all over the world, and read Inside the Book: Readers and Libraries Around the World and Waiting for the Biblioburro by Monica Brown. Before the Rags to Riches theater troupe came to perform their Anansi tales, we read various versions of this traditional African tale and even performed our own skit (complete with up-cycled costumes). And before every visit with Libby the therapy dog we found stories that included dogs so Libby could relate to and enjoy the story time too!  We even learned about farmer Will Allen through the book, Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table.  We discovered the work he has done to build a better community by creating gardens in urban landscapes where food deserts once existed.

As the summer came to a close and our programming ended, I was encouraged to think and reflect on how we can continue to cultivate these relationships beyond the summer.  How can we involve more families from our neighborhood to take advantage of all our library has to offer the larger community?  More than anything, I recognize how our school library became more than just a library. It became a community hub - a safe place for kids in our community to feel welcome, to engage and to know there is always a place they can seek refuge even when they have moved on from our school. This library is not just our school library, it is a community space for all members of our school family, and for that I think we can all feel fortunate.

**Update: Checkout this news clip that aired featuring our summer scholars!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Election 2016: NES Library President

The Northside Library held it's first ever Book President election.  The race was between Pete the Cat and the Pigeon and it was a tight one.  The second grade students helped campaign for both candidates and worked hard over the past two weeks get students and staff registered and to keep them informed on the issues.  Posters were hung, commercials were made and polls were taken.  On Monday, November 7 students and staff came to the library with their classes to vote for the candidate of their choice.  There was also an option to write-in a candidate.  Students in grades 2-5 voted electronically, while K-1 students used paper ballots.  All students proudly collected an "I voted today" sticker on their way out of the voting booths.  

The library is pleased to announce that Pete the Cat lead the way with just over fifty percent of the votes.  We look forward to having Pete be our library spokesman this year and the voice of all things book related.  We know the library is in good hands with Pete and everything will be "Allllllll goooood...."

To view a video trailer of Pete's Dream: The Movie click below. 

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Moving Beyond SkippyJon Jones: Integrating Books with an Authentic Hispanic Lens

Hispanic Heritage Month runs each year from September 15-October 15.  This marks a wonderful opportunity each year to celebrate the contributions the Hispanic culture has sewn in the fabric of our country. And while we may explore hispanic culture through diving deep into an exploration of specific countries, individuals, or cultural elements we can also provide our students with a glimpse into a culture similar or different from their own through the use of story.  With so many wonderful stories out there (although we could always use even more) that feature hispanic characters written by hispanic authors, it makes for an accessible way to introduce our children to books and characters in which they can not only see themselves but to also learn from cultures that are different from their own. Stories allow us to connect with characters in ways that can open our cultural lens and broaden our world and our understanding of one another.  But we also have to be careful that we are introducing our students to an accurate portrayal of a specific culture or people when told through story and not perpetuating stereotypes even if those books are traditionally popular among readers.   Scholastic has published an article entitled, "How to Choose the Best Multicultural Books"that details how to spot books that transcend stereotypes and use them as part of your instruction that could serve as a helpful resource.

And while this month provides an opportunity to celebrate the Hispanic culture, I hope that we can begin to integrate stories that feature Hispanic and other diverse characters throughout the year as we work to build readers and writers across Northside.  If we begin to read more stories that feature diverse characters we can begin to build a bridge with our students that allow them to articulate not only what makes us each unique, but how we also share common hopes, dreams and daily experiences that sometimes don't make us so different from one another after all.

To learn more about locating quality childrens' books written about and by Latinos check out this link from the American Library Association:

Here is another great link to check out books that focus on Latino voices through a social justice lens.

Also, this blog post written by bilingual educators and activists from their blog De Colores: The Raza Experience in Books for Children discusses the SkippyJohn Jones series for children and how it misrepresents the latino culture.

Finally, Common Sense Media has published an article for parents entitled, "Help Your Kids Find Books with Diverse Characters".  This article provides a list of over 80 books that feature children of color in authentic contexts void of stereotypes.

Featured below are just a small selection of some of my recommendations for books that are noteworthy.  Each would be wonderful additions to your classroom collection of read alouds during this month and beyond.  From traditional folktales to narrative biographies and storybooks, each of these titles are sure to capture the attention of your students and spur rich discussions in class.  Come by and check one today!



Traditional Tales:


Chapter Books:

Nonfiction and Poetry:

**The original post was edited to include the addition of more recent titles.