Things to #Goals

This post is a response to the question Christina Karvounis posed earlier this month.

Pretty soon now the daily faculty meetings will wrap up, the students will return to campus, and our attention will turn to the few hundred teenage reasons we’re here. We will meet students and advisees for the first or thousandth time and coach them through articulating their goals for the year ahead, their information needs, and research questions. So, as Christina Karvounis shared in her recent post, it’s time for us to look ahead to the next several months and figure out where our priorities, mandates, and inspiration will take us. Like Christina wrote, there are some goals and priorities that stick with us from year to year, that, no matter how skilled, innovative, or collaborative we are, will never be an item we can check off. However, some of those things periodically circle forward in our minds and hearts. I think when some facet of this job attracts our particular focus, that’s the signal that the year will feel more energizing and productive if our goals are aligned in that direction. Not to say we abandon all else, but the ways we feel inspired may shift year to year and I think it’s worthwhile to honor these shifts. 

Ryder Carroll, in The Bullet Journal Method, advocates for conducting a Mental Inventory to de-clutter the brain and decide what is worth paying attention and energy to – to do so, the journaler writes down what they are currently working on, what they should be working on, and what they want to be working on. I think when we identify where the “should be’s” and “want to be’s” overlap or complement each other, there lie our goals! Here’s my current (school-related) mental inventory:

Working on

Blog post

Summer reading group meeting logistics

Answering emails

Scheduling meetings

Should be working on

Database renewals

Collection analysis

Exploring new database authentication methods

Planning research class

Ordering supplies

Digital badge platform for reading initiative

Curriculum review

Want to be working on

Planning classroom visits and book talks

Planning book clubs


Reading about reading

Scheduling author visits

Planning activities for advisory

Redecorating Middle School library

Considering alternatives to Dewey

So this year, my heart and mind are drawn to student-centered reading promotion initiatives, revisiting library policies and procedures in order to have a collection that suits and supports the school community as it is now, and using new strategies to support students’ goal setting and reflection with wisdom and care. The other things are really important too, but my year and my service to our learners may be more effective if effort and time are concentrated in these areas, this year.

Summer Reading on Reading

In this season of free voluntary reading a-plenty (hallelujah!) I have recently had some collaborative brainstorming sessions on piloting a new reading project with colleagues who, like me, feel concerned and motivated to continue to build our school’s culture of reading. Inspired thus, I just reread Stephen D. Krashen’s The Power of Reading: Insights from the Research, which has started me down a happy rabbit hole of reading about reading. This has helped me rediscover some excellent advice for professional practice and affirmations of why we do some things we do.

Sometimes (what I consider to be) the most engaging and creative parts of this job are the things that have trouble making their way into daily library life; things like enticing, timely, and thoughtful displays, eye-catching promotional bulletin boards, and book talks. Revisiting and recommitting to the power of reading and its role in education is exciting, and helps focus my own summer work; thereby re-engaging through some deep fun.

AASL’s Position Statement on the School Librarian’s Role in Reading currently comes with a disclaimer of sorts, indicating that the statement is currently under review to align with the new National School Library Standards. Be that as it may, it’s pretty good as is and I don’t imagine the gist will change much. The last bullet point reads as follows: “Along with classroom and reading specialist colleagues, school librarians provide and participate in continual professional development in reading that reflects current research in the area of reading instruction and promotion.”

[Hey, look, I have all these books about reading! Let’s read them, shall we?]

Here’s what I’ve revisited in the last few days:

Bernadowski, C., & Kolencik, P. L. (2010). Research-based reading strategies in the library for adolescent learners. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Libraries Unlimited.

Farwell, S. M., & Teger, N. L. (2012). Supporting reading in grades 6-12: A guide. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Libraries Unlimited.

Krashen, S. D. (2004). The power of reading: Insights from the research (2nd ed.). Westport, Conn.: Libraries Unlimited.

Krashen, S. (2016). The purpose of education, free voluntary reading, and dealing with the impact of poverty. School Libraries Worldwide, 22(1), 1+. Retrieved from Academic OneFile database.

Miller, D. (2015, February 8). I’ve got research. Yes, I do. I’ve got research. How about you? [Blog post]. Retrieved from The Book Whisperer website:

Miller, D. (2019). If kids can’t read what they want in the summer, when can they? School Library Journal. Retrieved from

Richardson, J. (2014). Maryanne Wolf: Balance technology and deep reading to create biliterate children. The Phi Delta Kappan, 96(3), 14-19. Retrieved  from JSTOR database.

Questions I have:

  • If, according to Krashen, direct vocabulary teaching is less efficient than reading, how can research/library specific vocabulary best be acquired, especially for ELLS?
  • While I hope that our learners consider the school library to be a comfortable place conducive to free voluntary reading, students can’t spend all of their reading time there. Do we as a boarding school create or even allow space in our schedule and facilities for reading?
  • Extrinsic motivation is generally considered to send children the wrong message about why we read, however, is this also true for young adults? Or adults? Could the kitsch factor of badges, buttons, and leaderboards actually serve to encourage older readers to join the “literacy club” (Krashen, 2004, p. 130)?
  • Serving our English Language Learners is an issue often on my mind, and about which I’ve written before. Krashen and others point to the importance of engaging in one’s first language as well as the learned language. Should I be providing more pleasure reading material in my students’ home languages? I’m thinking yes.
  • It may be that some of our students, for a variety of possible reasons, have not had the experience as younger children of being read to often by a caring adult. Is there a way with older students to recapture a connection between feeling safe and cared for with story and language acquisition, or do we just need to hold that as a piece of our students’ social-emotional learning?

Newly appearing on the to-read pile:

Baye, A., Inns, A., Lake, C., & Slavin, R. E. (2019). A synthesis of quantitative research on reading programs for secondary students.Reading Research Quarterly, 54(2), 133-166.

Beers, G. K., & Probst, R. E. (2017). Disrupting thinking: Why how we read matters. New York, NY: Scholastic.

Merga, M. K. (2019). Reading engagement for tweens and teens: What would make them read more? Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited, an imprint of ABC-CLIO.

Miller, D., & Anderson, J. (2013). The book whisperer: Awakening the inner reader in every child.

Miller, D., & Kelley, S. (2013). Reading in the wild: The book whisperer’s keys to cultivating lifelong reading habits. John Wiley & Sons.

Ross, C. S., MacKechnie, L., & Rothbauer, P. M. (2018). Reading still matters: What the research reveals about reading, libraries, and community. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited, an imprint of ABC-CLIO.

Wolf, M., & Stoodley, C. J. (2018). Reader, come home: The reading brain in a digital world. New York, NY: Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers.

What are your favorite sources on reading?

April is for Poetry, Earth Day, and – Hey, wait, it’s School Library Month!

One evening last week I was driving a van full of Upper School readers to our county Reading Olympics competition; one of my favorite nights of the year. We were pulling into the parking lot of the large public high school where the competition was taking place, when I saw the proud sign at the entrance to the school:

It’s National Library Week!    

I cheered aloud and my students obligingly echoed. However, inside I was thinking, “Dang it, what?!? How could I have missed that? An opportunity to make some noise about our library, and I’ve blown it!” Then I remembered that April, I was pretty sure, is School Library Month, and maybe I could still rally. But what to do with only two weeks left to celebrate?

Luckily, in a past April, an earlier me was a little more on top of things. I remembered that it’s actually been a few years since I have set up pop-up libraries in different parts of campus, with themes and genres relevant to their locations around school. Having already created much of the signage to reuse or edit, and with new books, new institutes, and new students (for whom these good old displays are new and fresh), I can pull off School Library Month. Instead of bringing students into the library, I’m taking over – bringing the school library to them.

An Entrepreneurship/Innovation Pop-up Library in the Innovation Center

Years ago I created Smore flyers to showcase books that would tie-in with areas around school suitable for a small book display – sports for the athletics center, books on food and eating for the dining hall, writing for the Writing Center, and other topics or genres that could go anywhere. Now I just need to swap out a few book covers for some newer related acquisitions, make connections to new programs and renovated spaces, and dust off @perklibrary on Instagram. In the chosen locations, I display just a few books with a printout of the flyer and a self-checkout form similar to the one we use when we’re out of the library, so the students are familiar with it.

Thanks to a fun half-forgotten project recycled from a few years ago, I have a new spring in my step, and a promotion for School Library Month. I can’t wait to think of new pop-up ideas and ways to promote them.

Bringing new titles into parts of campus where they aren’t normally seen but still seem at home is a great way to promote reading and showcase the library as the heart of the school. I love AASL’s theme for this year: Everyone Belongs @ your School Library. How could it be said any better? But I like the flip of that idea, too: Your school library belongs everywhere.

“Teaming Up” with Athletics!

Here’s a story about how it pays to be “game” for just about anything when it comes to faculty collaboration. If your school is like mine, it is easiest and most obvious to forge collaborations with the History/Social Studies, English, and Science departments. It is valuable, important, satisfying, time consuming, and sometimes challenging enough to make those relationships work effectively and consistently. So, when we get an opportunity to make a library connection with a new department or office — yay, bonus!

Our school started a new initiative this year to promote and highlight girls’ sports. Called PerkGSports, athletes and coaches use social media, morning announcements, and other school communications to celebrate our female athletes. It’s been a source of positivity and community building on campus this year, that I have happily followed and “liked” through the library’s social media accounts. So, I was thrilled when the faculty member who leads this initiative called me to see if we could organize a book discussion to help celebrate National Girls & Women in Sports Day!

I started by gathering any title I could find on our shelves that might fit the bill; fiction or nonfiction, middle grades or YA.

We decided it would be a good idea to let the interested students choose, so I created a Google form and sent it to the other faculty member to distribute.

With Girls Can’t Hit by T.S. Easton as the favorite by one vote, we decided to offer the choice of either that novel or Let Me Play: the Story of Title IX, the Law that Changed the Future of Girls in America by Karen Blumenthal to broaden appeal and participation.

A student announced the books at Morning Meeting on February 6, as part of their larger presentation about NGWSD. I purchased a couple more copies of both titles. Following the so-far-so-good-model of our Windows & Mirrors book club meetings, we’ll offer food during both lunch periods along with casual book discussion. (Note to self – should we meet in the Athletic Center instead of the library?) I can’t wait to hear what conversation comes out of these selections, and how attendance and participation may vary from our other book discussions.

So far it’s a “W” for the library, girls’ sports, and collaboration!

…and More Library Gratitude!

Ellen and I, and probably many of you, are feeling particularly thankful at this time of year for the wonderful profession we are privileged to work in. While some individual class periods, days, weeks, months, and even whole school years can feel like not our best, there are powerful things to love about each day in our world. There are many things in my life for which I’m grateful, but in my professional life, I am so grateful for:

  • good work to do that engages my mind and heart and is different every day, and a stunningly beautiful space in which to do it.
  • colleagues who care about our students and their learning and are open to doing this good work together.
  • awesome students who amaze me every day with their creativity, curiosity, intelligence, drive, compassion, empathy, humor, and courage.
  • supportive administrators.
  • books and the authors who write them, especially for young people.
  • apps, websites, and tools that make our work easier and more effective.
  • coffee/lunch.
  • a free press and journalists with high standards.
  • other librarians in public and independent schools who are so willing and eager to share their brilliant ideas and challenge me to do a better job (whether they mean to or not), and who speak my language and share my questions and professional values.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Librarians as Vocab Teachers

Following a revelation I had last year regarding serving ELLs and international students at my school comes another, courtesy of my ESL teacher colleagues.  At the beginning of this year, they led a best practices session for faculty in which they emphasized that we all, no matter our disciplines or the language levels of the students we teach, need to be teaching vocabulary. They presented the three tiers of vocabulary development among other resources (mentioned below) and asked for our support in helping all students learn words in the second and third tiers, which become progressively more academic and domain-specific.

As an educator whose lessons can be jargon-heavy and full of words that have meanings specific to the library context (catalog, database, call number, collection) or the research process (authority, operator), this struck a chord. I often explain these terms during the course of an orientation or lesson, but I don’t directly teach them. In the month or so since that in-service day, I have been seeking tools and strategies to help me in my journey toward becoming a library and research process vocabulary teacher.

Maniotes & Cellucci have written in Teacher Librarian about how being a researcher and following an inquiry process leads students to develop domain-specific vocabulary related to an academic discipline or their research topic. However, at the moment I am more focused on the domain-specific vocabulary related to learning to use libraries and do research. I have started my own word bank of Tier 2 and Tier 3 words that appear in my own teaching, are found in places we might take for granted such as NoodleTools and the OPAC, and on guides for international students from academic libraries. I’ve taken a stab at categorizing them as Tier 2 (general academic words) or Tier 3 (library and research specific), tricky since “research words” do cross academic disciplines. Anyway, here’s a sample:

Tier 2:

  • Source
  • Resource
  • Publisher
  • Author
  • Title
  • Subject
  • Original
  • Journal
  • Academic
  • Keyword
  • Topic
  • Process
  • Electronic
  • Purpose
  • Content
  • Copyright

Tier 3:

  • Call number
  • Primary source
  • Scholarly
  • Database
  • Periodical
  • Reference
  • Archive
  • Dissertation
  • Thesis
  • Relevant
  • Collection
  • Accurate
  • Multi-volume
  • Catalog
  • Full text
  • Citation
  • Peer-reviewed

As a new researcher, let alone a new researcher working in their second or third language, these terms are not easily understood or may not make sense out of their previously known context.  Figuring out the appropriate word list for a research unit would depend on the level of the class and the input of the classroom teacher.

My toolbox for direct vocabulary instruction is growing as well.

  • In Vocab Rehab, Marilee Sprenger offers vocabulary instruction techniques that can be used in a class period with limited time. These could be handy during library orientations or one-shot lessons, provided there is opportunity for continued practice and reinforcement.
  • As new words come up, they could be added to a library word wall. Then a few minutes each inquiry session could be dedicated to engaging vocabulary review.
  • The Frayer Model could be used to help students understand the terms represented by the acronymic CRAAP test, for example.
  • Academic Word Finder identifies Tier 2 words for a certain grade level within a text, sometimes with surprising results.

I can’t wait to put some of these ideas to use as the year moves ahead and our ESL classes begin research projects. Building Tier 2 and Tier 3 word lists will be a wonderful opportunity for furthering collaboration with ESL teachers, and will benefit all student researchers too.

Do you do direct library vocabulary instruction? How and when? What words would you add? Any Middle or Upper School librarians with a word wall in the library (who would like to share pictures?)


Maniotes, L., & Cellucci, A. (2017). Doubling up: Authentic vocabulary
development through the inquiry process. Teacher Librarian, 44(3), 16-20.
Retrieved from

Sprenger, M. (2014). Vocab rehab: How do I teach vocabulary effectively with
limited time? Alexandria, Va.: ASCD.

Further reading:

Bernadowski, C., & Kolencik, P. L. (2010). Research-based reading strategies in
the library for adolescent learners. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Libraries

Lehman, C. (2012). Energize research reading and writing: Fresh strategies to
spark interest, develop independence, and meet key common core standards,
grades 4-8. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Student Achievement Partners. (n.d.). Selecting and using academic vocabulary in
instruction [Guide document]. Retrieved September 18, 2018, from website:

Teaching Research With Stories

Back in April at our conference, Carmen Agra Deedy inspired us to contemplate the power of stories and storytelling as teaching tools. I found a line in my notebook from that day – “Storytelling – (inc. into teaching research?)”

As a school librarians, we teach the research process. I have been wondering about how stories and storytelling might improve and spice up the teaching of this process, connecting inquiry to human experience in ways that feel relevant and vital to students. I’d love to help them progress through a research process using story to engage and illuminate, and in so doing, revealing to students that they, as researchers, are creators and storytellers. How to do this? I’m sharing ideas here that are still baking in the summer sun, so I hope you’ll consider and comment freely especially if this reminds you of something you already do or know about. While I’m inspired to learn more about storytelling and to begin to practice it, I’m not quite there yet. So far, I’ve thought of two texts that might help serve as stepping stones to engaging students in the process through story.

This summer I picked up The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin, which had been on my list for some time but until now had remained unread (yay, summer!). Benjamin begins each part of the novel with a quotation from the main character’s science teacher, Mrs. Turton; each part of the story relating to a section of a scientific paper and lending the novel that sense of structure:

“Background: Your background provides the context for your scientific quest. What do we already know? What don’t we know? Why does it matter – Mrs. Turton” (63).

How about a collaborative research unit with Middle School English and Science teachers, beginning a research process with a study of this novel? Has anyone done this or something like it? A summer idea to mull over!

Another book that could work to incorporate visual storytelling into teaching and supporting students through the research process is Grant Snider’s relatable and adorable The Shape of Ideas: An Illustrated Exploration of Creativity. While meant to relate to artistic creation, I think that parts of this simple book in the graphic format are wonderful illustrations for students identifying research topics, exploring information, formulating research questions, making connections between ideas, struggling with originality and procrastination, and reflecting on the process.

If you have this book in your collection, I recommend taking a look at its application to high school researchers as an illustrative guide to and validation of their process and feelings. It also helped me feel better about not knowing what this post would be about until pretty recently.

Benjamin, A. (2017). The thing about jellyfish. New York, NY: Little, Brown and

Snider, G. (2017). The shape of ideas: An illustrated exploration of creativity.
New York: Abram Comicarts.

Snider, G. (2015). Asking questions [Comic strip]. Retrieved from

Culture and Approachability in the “Heart of the School”

Last week I was preparing for the first meeting of a new book club that had been reading  The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Daniel Coyle. I hadn’t (and still haven’t) read the whole thing, but I did open up the table of contents a few hours before the meeting to select a chapter or two I could consume before then. Chapter 11 in the section entitled “Share Vulnerability;” is called “How to Create Cooperation with Individuals.” Like I’m sure many of you have found, I find that my best interactions with students engaged in a research process are in one-to-one research meetings, so I opened up this chapter. Either I picked exactly the right one, or I ought to read the whole book.

In this chapter, Coyle meets an IDEO designer named Roshi Givechi, who is prized by her colleagues for her ability to help others solve problems. She is described as a relatively quiet person who puts others at ease with her air of serene competence and approachability. When a design team is facing a sticking point in their process, Givechi is able to help them discover new approaches by “asking the right questions the right way” (151). Coyle is impressed by her term for when this happens – “surfacing.” By making people feel comfortable, listening fully and taking interest in their interests, and asking good questions, Givechi doesn’t offer answers but creates a situation in which the problem solvers can make connections that reveal solutions. In reading about Givechi’s talent, I thought “this is just a super deluxe reference interview!” 

These are some basic elements at the core of our profession that I think we generally internalize, but it doesn’t hurt to give them some extra thought sometimes. Simple but important, “approachability” is listed first among RUSA’s Guidelines for Behavioral Performance of Reference and Information Service Providers.

Steven Bell at Temple University, who was the keynote speaker at the 2016 Summer Institute, blogged last year about the basic importance of being friendly, approachable and trustworthy in library services ( Our Marsha Hawkins in her great conference presentation last month on the “Boy-Friendly Library” talked about this simple idea too, when she said that she greets every student every day by name. Making ourselves accessible and approachable creates the shared vulnerability that builds trust in a community.

I don’t really have an office; I work at the 105-year-old reference and circulation desk in the middle of the library. From my workstation, this is what I see:

The Front Door

When students come in this door, whether to come to the library or go to class, this is the first thing they see: 

Just imagine the pumpkin is me.

Working at a computer at the desk, it is way too easy for me to, as Steven Bell writes, “fail to quickly and adequately acknowledge another person’s presence.” My monitor and the desk itself are physical and psychological barriers between the students and me, and it’s my job to break them. I want to make eye contact, say hello, “happy birthday” and “good luck at the game today” to students as they walk in the door, giving them the cue that they are welcome and in the right place, and usually/often I do. But sometimes when engrossed in a task, I find that I haven’t looked up in a while. Maybe a student will say hello to me and draw me out of that place, making me feel sheepish for failing to greet her and acknowledge her presence. On the other hand, maybe I’ve greeted her enough times that the relationship is there and her greeting can remind me of why I’m standing in the middle of this room in the first place – to be approached, to be open to what the students need and help their ideas surface, and to be at the heart of a school culture that supports and gently pushes at the same time.   


Bell, S. (2017, August 21). There’s a reason why eye contact and smiling improve the experience [Blog post]. Retrieved from Designing Better Libraries website:

Coyle, D. (2018). The culture code: The secrets of highly successful groups. New York: Bantam Books.

“Guidelines for Behavioral Performance of Reference and Information Service Providers”, American Library Association, September 29, 2008. (Accessed May 15, 2018) Document ID: ce1dea7f-f77b-c194-2967-b53adb4b40ed

Hawkins, M. (Presenter). (2018, April 17). The fundamentals of a boy-friendly library: Practice and research instruction. Presentation given at AISL annual conference, The Lovett School, Atlanta, GA.


Serving International Students

This year I’ve been looking at a couple of “big picture” issues at our library, squeezing in my investigations around the edges of everyday library life: user experience, especially of our online presence, and examining those new AASL standards with an eye toward linking them with other school priorities, including cross-walking with other sets of standards (a whole other post!). Among other things, these projects are leading me to another big question that I have begun to think about in a new way; how best to serve our international students and English Language Learners (ELLs). In my consideration of these students and their needs, I have tended to focus on the second part of this description – service to ELLs. In collection development, class visits, one-on-one instruction and summer reading selections, I have tried to accommodate and learn how to provide accessible, interesting, and useful materials and information. However, I have felt slightly at sea when trying to learn more about school library service to ELLs – much of what I find, rightfully and crucially so, addresses the multifaceted and diverse needs of young students from immigrant or refugee families or those growing up in the U.S. who speak a language other than English in the home. For the most part, these just aren’t my students – our ELLs are international boarding school students in middle and upper school enrolled here in order to learn and build on English skills, and usually to prepare for the TOEFL and study in an American college or university. These students and the way to approach serving them, I have recently realized, may have more in common with international student experiences in academic libraries. While I have found almost nothing specifically about serving international students in independent K-12 school libraries, plenty of academic librarians have researched, written about, and created resources to support international students coming to their institutions.

This now seems so obvious, but my focus on the age group we serve in K-12 schools has often kept me out of diving very deep into practices common to academic librarians. Well, no longer. While my students needs and backgrounds are also diverse and multifaceted, perhaps I should begin to balance my investigation of library services to younger ELLs with strategies tested by our colleagues in higher education to support international students as readers and researchers.

In chapters he wrote for two books: International Students and Academic Libraries: Initiatives for Success (ACRL, 2011) and Practical Pedagogy for Library Instructors: 17 Innovative Strategies to Improve Student Learning (ACRL, 2008), John Hickok relays the importance of understanding students’ prior experiences of libraries in their home countries and previous schools. He then recommends incorporating comparisons into library orientation sessions for international students, so that students may understand that notions they may have about libraries and librarians do not necessarily match what is offered in their school. This matches what I have gleaned from interactions with students over the years, but reading this in such plain terms was kind of revelatory. Based on Hickock’s strategies, I am eager to try a few new ideas to engage and support our students:

  1. Interview faculty members who are from or who have lived overseas, especially those countries from which our students are coming.
  2. Have casual conversations with international students to get a sense of what their perceptions are about the library and the role of the librarian.
  3. Connect with young alumni who have matriculated at institutions whose libraries have made specific efforts to reach out or offer special programs to international students.
  4. Collaborate with ESL faculty members to include more hands-on library time at the beginning of the year, introducing myself and the physical and virtual spaces, and ideally embedding library instruction into summer camp or new student orientation.

I’m not sure whether creating a resource guide specifically geared toward international students is the way to go, though many college and university libraries have done so. (A search for LibGuides for international students retrieved pages of results from universities; none from a school in the first four pages of Google results, anyway.) However, I am awakened to the need to learn from the powerful wisdom of my ESL teacher colleagues and academic librarians in not only collection development and appropriate information literacy scaffolding, but also user experience. A lot more articles just got added to my professional reading list!

If you have discovered useful resources, UX design ideas, or effective ways of providing library services including information literacy instruction to international and ESL students in middle and high school, please comment!


Hickock, J. (2008). Bringing them into the community: Innovative library instructional strategies for international and ESL students. In D. Cook & R. L. Sittler (Eds.), Practical pedagogy for library instructors: 17 innovative strategies to improve student learning (pp. 159-167).

Hickock, J. (2011). Knowing their background first: Understanding prior library experiences of international students. In P. A. Jackson & P. Sullivan (Eds.), International students and academic libraries: Initiatives for success (pp. 1-17). Chicago, Ill.: Association of College and Research Libraries.





Following Through on Book Clubs, Part 2

In a post back in November, I shared my hopes for a new Windows & Mirrors book club that was kicking off that month at our school, with The Hate U Give as our first read. I am happy to share now that it was a success! We opened the library and provided pizza during both lunch periods, and had eighteen participants in total. While readers munched on their pizza, I played a video featuring Angie Thomas talking about her inspiration for the book, and then read aloud a lengthier piece on the same. I had the publisher’s discussion guide with me, but really didn’t need it. After eating lunch the readers enjoyed casually talking about the characters and moments that resonated with them, the parts that made them angriest, the book’s humor, and how they identified with the relationships among characters. In both meetings conversation spread to memories of learning about Emmett Till in Middle School and viewing that particular image for the first time.

Our Upper School readers loved this book. It was a strong first choice to start things off, being a pretty new book that has generated plenty of buzz with relevance to students and a movie on the horizon. It didn’t hurt that we had some readers ready to go – The Hate U Give was one of our Upper School Summer Reading options in 2017, and it is on this year’s county Reading Olympics list, so when it came to extracurricular reading time busy Upper Schoolers could cover more than one base with this book.

Since this book club is a collaboration between the library and our Global Diversity Council, the GDC faculty leader and I talk over book choices and logistics. We agree that student input on book choices would be a good thing, but to keep the ball rolling and get a few copies of the next book before winter break we chose the second book ourselves. This month we’re reading Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee. This choice allows us to open up this session to Middle School students and reveal new windows and mirrors.

Things that seem important so far:

  • Collaboration with another campus group. Many of the readers are also involved in the GDC, so they are able to maximize and diversify their participation in that as well as help publicize the book club.
  • We have been fortunate to be able to order a few copies of the books to circulate among interested readers over school breaks and leading up to the meetings. All copies of Outrun the Moon, including the library’s hardcover, eBook, and audiobook copies, were claimed within the first two days of the announcement and a few have come back and gone out again. Being able to provide access to a few copies is simple but important.
  • One of our ESL teachers has offered extra credit for participating!
  • I tend to err on the side of over-ordering when it comes to food, but it turned out two slices of pizza per person was enough.

Last week a student asked how she could get on the “selection committee” for the book club, so students are engaged in this concept and thinking of titles themselves. I created a Google Form to get the GDC members’ input on a selection with an LGBTQ focus to coincide with Day of Silence in April.

This morning I overheard a student tour guide in the library telling prospective families about the club, and while writing this post, two faculty members have emailed me with book ideas. I will really feel like this new try at an old idea is a success if our next meeting goes as well as the first and if the excitement can continue at least until the end of the year, or for a few more books. So far, so good!   

Please feel free to leave book suggestions in the comments. All advice welcome!