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.