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