Monday, October 14, 2013

Library In A Box....I Think Not!

I'm a little biased but I think I have one of the best jobs in all of Northside.  I get to work with all the staff and all the students as we navigate new technologies, create new meaning with things we learn, and place great books by amazing authors into the hands of our students.  Our library is like a giant bookstore at this point in time - everything is new, shiny and filled with books just begging to be picked off the shelf.  

It was quite fun developing the Northside library collection.  Many people have asked me since we opened if I was able to hand pick each book in our library and the answer is a resounding "yes!"  It is true that library book vendors offer Opening Day Collections that are basically "libraries in a box" that take very little thought or effort to order but that also means that you may get some things that aren't relevant to either your students or your standards and miss out on some really fantastic titles.  While they try really hard, at the end of the day they are still book sellers not librarians putting together those generic collections.  Librarians know the books, they know the kids, they know what flies off the shelf and what teachers will want and need to support their instruction.   I was able to hand pick each title that would be a part of our opening day collection and IT WAS FUN (hard work……but fun!)  

I used the following guidelines as I created my order lists: 
  • I wanted books that students could see themselves in as they read.  I wanted stories that reflected the diversity of our student body.  I purchased books with story lines that had relevant characters that students could relate to as they read.  It's so important for readers to be able to connect to the characters, events, and places they read.  I think many of our titles will allow our students to feel that connection.  I also wanted to ensure that students could learn about one another and cultures different from their own through the lens of story.  
  • I wanted award winning books (and not just the big ones).  Yes, it's true the first books I added to the booklist were the Newbery and Caldecott winners but I also made sure to add all the Coretta Scott King and Pura Belpre award winning titles.  These are awards given to noteworthy books with African American and Hispanic characters or storylines.  I also looked to the Sibert award, Theodor Seuss Giesel award, and National Book Award winners.  Starred reviews from leading library publications such as School Library Journal also were added to the booklist.  
  • I wanted high-Interest and popular series fiction.  Having worked as an elementary school librarian the past 6 years, I have a pretty good handle on what students like to read.    I worked hard to get the entire collection of any series rather than just one or two.  There is nothing worse than reading your way through a series only to be stopped dead in your reading tracks because your library doesn't have the next title.  Ugh!  This meant, of course, getting Diary of A Wimpy Kid, The Dork Diaries, Captain Underpants, Junie B. Jones and many more that some folks cringe at because "it's not quality literature".  I say - if it gets kids to pick up a book and read, read, read then it's quality literature in my mind.  Besides, who wouldn't want to read about the fantastic adventures of a superhero who flies around in his underpants to fight the bad guys?  Exactly!
  • I wanted books with connections to instructional standards.   It's so important that we have a collection that supports the work students and teachers are doing daily throughout the school.  It was critical that we have books that students can use to build the inquiry process while developing understanding as they think, learn and grow.  When it came to the nonfiction section we filled all the curriculum standards first and then moved on to all other areas.  We wanted to be sure we had the resources needed to support instruction both in digital and print formats.  Children's nonfiction has come a long way in the last ten years and so much of it is high-interest.  Take for example, the book we have in which you can learn all about the human body while also learning about zombies entitled, "The Zombies Guide to the Human Body"!  Too cool!   
  • I wanted books with a bibliotherapy focus.  Books are a great bridge to help with social and emotional needs that exist with students.  We were very deliberate in ordering titles that could support students or their teachers and caregivers on a variety of topics including the loss of a loved one to overcoming anxiety.  These topics are often hard for kids to talk about and these titles help facilitate an honest conversation with the adults in their lives.  To view our bibliotherapy booklist click here.  
  • I wanted books that could be used for multiple purposes in multiple formats.  I wanted to have a strong opening print collection while also providing a core collection of ebooks and other digital resources that could be used to support instruction.      

And while I feel we have an amazing Opening Collection with lots of things students want to read I still find myself saying, "Ooh, I should have ordered that!"  As students ask for things we don't have I continuously add it to a "future purchases" list.  We encourage those suggestions to keep on coming!  I look forward to adding more wonderful titles to our collection throughout the years to come as we work to grow our readers at Northside. 

Students like to ask, "Mrs. Cole, have you read every book in this library?" and while I would LOVE to be able to shout "Why, yes…..yes, I have!" I still have a looooong way to go to make that a reality.  I do however have some favorite fall picks.  These are just a few of my favorites from our Northside Library Collection and more will soon make this list. 


Sunday, October 6, 2013

A Day With Author Jarrett Krosoczka

Saturday, October 5, 2013 was an awesome day!  When I found out the author of the ever popular graphic novel series Lunch Lady was coming to UNC I knew I had to be there and I had to share the news with our school community.  The flier went up right away on the door to our library, the entryway to our school and blurbs were sent to classroom teachers.  I just knew this would be exciting news to more than just me!  After all, his books fly off our shelves and when a copy does manage to make it back to the shelf it's not there for long before it's swiped up by a student who feels an extreme sense of satisfaction they snagged it before the next kid.

After sharing my excitement for this upcoming author visit, I quickly learned that one of our third grade classes had this very author listed on their classroom "Inspiration Wall".  After receiving a Donor's Choose grant to purchase a classroom collection of Graphic Novels, Mrs. Symons' third grade class began to explore Jarrett a little more in-depth by listening to his NPR interview and were inspired by his life story.  

Knowing he was going to be making a visit to UNC, we reached out to him via Twitter and email to see if he would be willing to visit our school should he be arriving early to Chapel Hill.   Excitement filled Mrs. Symons room when he tweeted back to the Scholars of Room 330.   Unfortunately, his flight wasn't leaving until Friday night but he was very flattered that he had such adoring admirers from Northside Elementary School.   And so…even though it meant getting up early on a Saturday morning we had such a great turnout from our Northside community to meet and greet with an author we love so much.  And a big thanks to Mrs. Symons and Mrs. Leonard for providing shuttle service for several students on the day of the big event. 

We learned so much about Jarrett during his author talk as he described his journey to becoming an author.  And what resonated the most with me was his resiliency.  He had numerous rejections before ever being picked up by a publisher and he never gave up!  He always knew the work he wanted to do and kept trying again and again.  And it paid off because he has since gone on to be honored as a National Book Award winner!  What a positive message to share with kids about the importance of hard work, determination and persistence!  He also shared with the audience that his Lunch Lady series was inspired by his own lunch lady growing up during elementary school.

And we learned the importance of always keeping a sketch book nearby because you never know when an idea will come to you.  Although these days Jarrett's sketchbook is in the form of an iPad because he can quickly send ideas back and forth with his editor.  Jarrett also described how intensive the writing process is when creating his graphic novels.  There are multiple edits and revisions before he ever even begins to design the drawings that accompany the story.  He stressed the importance of this writing process because "...there are going to be mistakes.  We want to find mistakes so we can fix them before the final version."  Talk about the growth mindset at work!

After sharing his story, Jarrett called all the students down to the front for an up-close and personal experience as he sketched out some of his most popular characters including the Lunch Lady herself (which he signed and gave us to hang in our library)!  Afterwards he took questions from the audience and acknowledged our very own Room 330 Scholars!  Before the day ended he autographed books for the kids and even took the time to take a picture with our Northside crew! Later that day he even gave us a special shout-out on our Twitter feeds!

 And this is why we love Jarrett Krosoczka.  Not only is he a pretty cool author who writes things that kids like to read that are "laugh out loud" funny, but he's just a super nice guy.  Thanks for creating a lasting memory in the minds of so many.  Keep writing...keep creating....keep inspiring kids to read!

To find out more about Jarrett and his creative works visit his website at

Monday, September 23, 2013

Making Our Mark - A Celebration of Dot Day!

International Dot Day comes around once a year on or around September 15.  Inspired by the book The Dot  by Peter Reynolds, students are encouraged to be creative and make their mark on the world. At Northside, we decided this would be a great opening to the school year as we work to build community and learn about one another.  This also served as a great lead-in to our first Project Based Learning unit entitled,  "Making Our Mark From Past to Present - A Northside History Project" in which all students will begin exploring the history of our school and how people in the past have made their mark at Northside long before our new building constructed.  Click on the video below to check out all the fun that was had on Dot Day 2013!

Thanks to a grant from The Public School Foundation we were able to purchase a copy of The Dot for each teacher at Northside to share with their students the first week of school.  We decorated our doors and hallways with all the ways we were going to make our mark as both students and staff.  


We put our iPads to work as we got super creative using an augmented reality app to bring our creative dots to life in 3D.  We had so much fun being creative with this new technology and the students were really generating some great shots that captured their 3D creations.  


 In the library we also created a celebri-dot display that highlighted various authors who got in on the fun and created their own creative dots in support of Dot Day!  We paired each author's dot with a picture of the author and a book we had from our collection.  Many students were inspired to read a celebri-dot book or two as they made their way in and out of the library.  We also had loads of fun adding our own creative marks to our giant dot display and learning about the Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama better known as the Princess of Polka Dots.  Check out the clip below to see a bit more about her work. 

And finally, we couldn't resist adding to the fun by decking ourselves out in dots to celebrating making our mark! What a great staff we have at NES!  We look forward to celebrating Dot Day next year with more students as we continue to MAKE - OUR - MARK!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Summer Reading 2013

 Ahhh.....the lazy days of summer are almost upon us.  That means lots of time to soak up some really great reads. With so many amazing books written for children it's hard to know where to dive in first.  Picture books, chapter books, graphic novels, informational books, biographies, the list goes on. Summer allows children an opportunity to engage in reading for pleasure as they explore various genres and navigate their way towards the books and stories that bring them the most pleasure.  

Beyond the sheer joy, there are also many benefits to summer reading that support student learning and prevent a loss in reading abilities while away from school.  Access to reading materials (think public library) and time spent engaging with text are the most critical components to ensure children don't suffer reading loss over the summer months.  Click here to read an article on how to make summer reading effective for your child.  You can also get some useful parent tips about summer reading here.

Below you will find resources for families to take advantage of this summer to support the summer reading habit with your child.  From national book challenges to local programs at the public library there is something for everyone.  You will also find book lists, read-alikes and more that will be helpful as you navigate the world of children's literature with your child.

Summer Reading Programs: 
 Chapel Hill Public Library Reading Program 

How can you resist staying away from the newly renovated Chapel Hill Public Library and the enchanted forest that was created for children and youth?  This summer's reading theme is "Dig Into Reading" and kicks off on June 1. To find out more about all the fun  happening at the library this summer from performances to reading clubs click here.  And for even more fun - check out this song written by Randy Sauer to go along with the 2013 reading theme. 

Scholastic Reading Challenge
Participate in the Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge and Read for the World Record!  The Scholastic Summer Challenge is a free reading program dedicated to stopping the “Summer Slide” and encouraging kids to read every day this summer. Now in its seventh year, the Summer Challenge invites kids to log the minutes they spend reading as they Read for the World Record. The top school with the most minutes read/logged will win a school visit from Dav Pilkey, the bestselling author of the Captain Underpants series. The top 20 schools with the most minutes logged will receive recognition in the 2014 Scholastic Book of World Records. The top 20 schools (along with the top school in every state) will also receive a “Reading Plaque” to display at school and a badge for their websites.  How awesome would it be for Northside to be one of the top reading schools?!!  Click here to sign up and begin logging those minutes. 

Barnes and Noble Summer Reading: Imagination's Destination

Each summer Barnes and Noble holds a special summer reading promotion in which children can earn free books.  With two locations nearby at New Hope Commons and Southpoint Mall, it's a quick and easy way to support the summer reading habit while also getting more books in your child's hand.  The New Hope Commons location will host a Summer Reading Kick-off Party on Friday, June 14 at 7pm.  Author Edward Kemp will be discussing his new book about a boy wizard called Woodard's Crest!  To learn more about this program click here.

And.....mark your calendars - Northside Elementary School will be holding an in-store bookfair and "Think Fun" game day at the New Hope Commons Barnes and Noble on Saturday, July 20.  NES will receive a portion of the money raised from sales to spend on our school and classroom libraries.  More information will be provided at a later date.  

We Give Books: Read For My Summer
We give books is committed to combing the joy of reading while helping others.  By simply signing up for a free online account, users have access to hundreds of free digital books.  Many popular titles are included and the best part about the program is every time a user logs on and reads a book, a print book is donated to someone in need around the world.  Currently, they are sponsoring a "Read for My Summer" campaign.  This campaign highlights a special book for parents and children to read online from the We Give Books library every week, along with fun activities and reading tips to make each book come to life, including custom activities from Read Write Think. This free 10-week program helps parents, schools and libraries offer children an exciting online reading experience, while helping to share books with public libraries in the US.  To learn more visit

BookLists and More: 


The CHCCS librarians have compiled suggested reading lists by grade level if you are looking for book titles that kids are sure to love.  To access these lists click on the grade range below that your child will be entering this fall.
K-1     2-3      3-5     Middle School

You may also want to check out the "Just Right" booklists I created for students.  These lists were created to give students suggestions based on their "just right" book level.  Click here to access these lists. 

Scholastic has published recommended reading lists by age range.  Each lists designates titles based on the following: read aloud, recommended for reluctant reader, nonfiction, available in Spanish, available as an e-book, series book, award winning, and Common Core Standards ready.  To view these book lists click here

Finally, check out the library's Pinterest page and follow us if you are a "pinner" to find more great information about summer reading and book recommendations.  Information will be continuously added throughout summer and school year.

With lots to keep you busy this summer I hope you find time each day to read, relax and laugh a little.  Have an enjoyable and fun summer and we look forward to seeing you in August! Happy Reading!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Building A Library - Book By Book

Welcome Northside students! We are so excited to begin the planning process for developing the library for our Northside school community. A lot goes into building a library collection and creating a physical space that encourages inquiry, curiosity and a lifelong love of reading. As we work to prepare the space and the collection for the opening of the 2013-2014 school year we want to hear from you! Leave us a comment and share with us books you want to see in our library. Is there a series you couldn't put down? Is there a topic you can't wait to learn more about such as outer space or ancient Egypt? Do you love graphic novels? Who is your favorite character.....Pete the Cat, the Pigeon, Big Nate?? We look forward to creating a collection with our community members at heart and can't wait to have you each enter the doors of our library where together we will grow as readers, writers, and thinkers! Until then....happy reading!