Librarian of the Day: Leadership in 5th grade

In line with our school theme last year, The Power of You in Community, we start our introduction to the library catalog with an activity for 5th grade. They walk through the OPAC on their iPads and find the books that they have read over the summer. We work on leaving quality comments and reviews on these books.

Emphasizing that a book review should include:

  • The book’s title and author
  • A brief summary of the plot that doesn’t give away too much
  • Comments on the book’s strengths and weaknesses
  • The reviewer’s personal response to the book with specific examples to support praise or criticism

Keep in mind while writing the review:

  • Does the book fit into a genre, like mystery or romance, and why?
  • When and where does the action in the book take place? Does the author do a good job of making you feel like you are there? How?
  • Are the main characters believable? Do you know anyone like them? Does the author adequately describe them?
  • What do you like or dislike about the author’s writing style? That is, do you like the way the author uses words? 
  • Use concrete examples to back up your points, such as describing a scene that really moved you or using a couple of short quotes from the book.
  • Don’t forget to include your opinion of the book, whether you liked or disliked it.

As the students grow throughout the year, they are encouraged to be part of our 5th grade Reading Community by reading and reviewing books in our OPAC. we added some encouragement through a point system with two achievements. Once students are an active participant in our community (about 3 reviews in a trimester) they achieve status as a Reading Community member and earn a pin to wear on their badge lanyard.

The second achievement is earned when a student goes above and beyond with their participation in the Reading Community. They reach the status of Librarian of the Day! As librarians, they give a Booktalk to the entire middle school, facilitate the Mobile Library at lunchtime, send a whole school email with their reviews compiled, and process circulation at class time. Once a Librarian, these students are welcomed into the Library Leaders program which plans activities and is responsible for the library.

I have found that this is a great program to get students actively involved in reading. What are your programs that work in your library?

Advocating Public Library Resources in Schools

With September as National Library Card sign up month, I like to send out an email to our teachers, students, and parents about all the neat resources our public libraries have. What other unique resources do your public libraries provide?

September is National Library Card Sign Up Month! Library Cards open you to many many FREE resources! Is your library card collecting dust? Here are some great ways to RENEW your use of local libraries! 

  • Did you know your Cuyahoga County Public Library card is good at any Cleveland Public Library and CLEVNET Library (including Shaker Hts PL)?
  • Libraries have resources beyond reading!
    • TechCentral MakerSpace at Cleveland PL and Innovation Centers at the Cuyahoga County PL in Mayfield, Garfield, Parma, and South Euclid have 3-D printers, LEGO® robots, cameras, audio recorders, audio / video studios, Cricut crafting machines, t-shirt presses, Adobe Creative Cloud software, and much more.
    • South Euclid-Lyndhurst Branch CCPL has The Memory Lab, a “do-it-yourself” space to learn how to access, digitize, and share old videos, audio recordings, photographs, and slides.
    • Cleveland PL has over 1 million photos in their Photograph Collection, as well as, unique Chess and Checkers Collections, Folklore, Gypsies and Orientalia collections, a Miniature Books collection, a Tobacco Collection, and Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards- the only American book award designed to recognize works addressing issues of racism and diversity.
    • CLENET patrons have access to Rosetta Stone.
    • Access to digital resources: Hoopla (video), Freegal (music), Flipster (magazines)
  • Ever been on Amazon, Goodreads, Google Books and wondered “Hey, does my local library have this book?” but you never followed through to check? Not anymore! The Chrome Library Extension appears on the right side of the screen and tells you if your local library owns the book. You can even place a hold on the library book right from Amazon!
  • Meet Libby! The new and improved eBook and audiobook library app from Overdrive. If you thought Overdrive was a bit too clunky for use, then the user-friendly app Libby will be your new best friend!
  • Cuyahoga County Public Library app: search the catalog, read reviews, check out, use Overdrive, stream videos via Hoopla, scan a book ISBN to find in the library, register for events, and much much more!
  • Shaker Heights Public Library has a dedicated Local History Librarian who can help homeowners research their homes and a Career Transition Center offers resume and interview help. SHPL also has wifi hotspots for cardholders over 18yo. 
  • Fines got you down? Often times libraries have food drives or other activities to lessen your fines. Be on the lookout!

Author Visit: Tricia Springstubb

This National Library Week we were lucky enough to host two authors! Janet Stevens and Tricia Springstubb shared their talents with our Prime and Middle schools.

I really enjoy coordinating programs that bring in people passionate about reading and creating reading materials. Our Prime librarian Kristen organized programs for the Prime with Janet, author and illustrator, where each group created their own characters. Tricia, author and reviewer, shared her passion and talents for linking the written word with the Middle School.

Our MS students were a buzz with ideas; wanting to write about what they knew and what they connected with in the world. As Tricia said in her workshops, the best ideas hatch like baby chicks- pecking from both the inside and outside.

Tricia also joined our book club students for a lunch filled with book recommendations, writing advice, and of course, signed bookmarks!

I love connecting with students after they meet authors to hear their ideas bloom. What great author visits have you had?

Reading creates community

Sorry for the delayed posting; last week was Book Fair week!

“She’s quiet, shy, and always has her nose in a book.”

“She needs to connect with those around her.”

“She isn’t learning how to navigate the real world.”

“She reads so quickly; I don’t think she understands what she is reading.”

These are often comments I hear from concerned parents about their child reader. I want to rephrase these statements.

Books allow us to travel the world, meet amazing people, and try experiences we never thought were possible. I believe that reading is the foundation of lifelong learning. Every subject requires reading and understanding, by creating a passion for reading we create better scholars, engineers, scientists, and artists. This is the goal of silent sustained reading times. Yet, we are seeing that sitting and silently reading for 50 minutes is difficult, and students are not benefiting from the designated reading time, even when the time is dedicated to books that students choose for themselves.

Recently, I proposed to reframe our 5th/6th grade SSR: Silent Sustained Reading class. Moving from a SILENT sustained reading model to a STRUCTURED sustained reading model. My goal for this change would be to provide the opportunity to create discussion and evaluation around books for students in a relaxed format. While pleasure reading can be an individual activity, structured sustained reading creates the expectation of community. “Research has shown that reading ability is positively correlated with the extent to which students [independently] read recreationally,” according to the “Reading and Writing Habits of Students” section of The Condition of Education 1997, published by the National Center for Education Statistics (Hopkins). However, 20 years later, we know that silent independent reading is not enough. “Reading comprehension is not a single ability,” as the title of Hugh W. Catts and Alan G. Kamhi 2017 article states. Catts and Kamhi conclude that “the multidimensionality of reading comprehension means that instruction will be more effective when tailored to student performance with specific texts and tasks.” Our students need to be mentored through the pleasure reading process and when we provide the opportunity to discuss their personal reading, reading comprehension will grow.

Every student needs time to read for self-improvement. Structured sustained reading is a time to create positive relationships with mentoring teachers over personal reading. Such a model, as described by Michelle Gabriel, ED. M. in her 2017 presentation “Structured Independent Reading”, would include:

  • conferencing with students during reading time
  • discussing book choices for independent reading that will yield more successful reading experiences.
  • informally checking for understanding as students read
  • group discussions to make connections to what students have learned to capitalize on the teachable moment.
  • set expectations for students’ reading behaviors and habits
  • exploring a variety of genres.

The goal of the course is to create lifelong readers that set goals, discuss their reading, and build reading comprehension skills. Creating motivated readers increases facetime with texts and develops key reading comprehension skills.

“She reads so quickly; she understands what she is reading.

She is learning how to navigate the real world

and connect with those around her

because she’s quiet, shy, and always has her nose in a book”

Mentoring teachers and I will be prepping with Teacher Resources:

  • No More Independent Reading Without Support (Not This But That) by Debbie Miller and Barbara Moss
  • Creating Lifelong Readers Through Independent Reading by Barbara Moss

I’m interested to share experiences with other middle school librarians who have implemented similar changes to their reading programs.

Work Cited
Catts, Hugh W. and Alan G. Kamhi. “Reading Comprehension Is Not a Single Ability.” Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, April 2017, Vol. 48, 73-76. doi:10.1044/2017_LSHSS-16-0033.
Gabriel, Michelle and Maria Acero-Castillo. “Structured Independent Reading.” 2017, Microsoft Powerpoint online file.
Hopkins, Gary. “Sustained Silent Reading” Helps Develop Independent Readers (and Writers).” Education World, 19 November 1997,

#freedomforgirls: a Library and Dance collaboration

Something real is happening in our 6th-grade dance classes. Inspired by the hashtag #freedomforgirls and Beyonce’s Facebook post sharing Global Goals’ new music video to her own song “Freedom”, our girls have taken real-world issues and turned their paraphrased research into paraphrased dance.

The end of the music video challenges the viewer to help in fighting for a series of “global goals” by the year 2030 and our girls jumped and pirouetted at the chance to try. Working in groups to create pieces that raise awareness about an issue, the girls are using their dances as a call to action.

The International Day of the Girl music video cycles through many shocking facts that surprised and confused the girls.

Are these facts true?

How did we not know this was happening?

How can we spread this information?

The first question was one that prompted the dance teacher, Lisa Yanofsky, to ask for my help to co-teach two of her classes, and we held our first ever dance/research class in the dance studio. The librarian’s presence in the dance studio was met with some confused and concerned faces; but as I reminded the students of our digital resource tools, it was great to watch their faces as they made the connection that they could use the tools in ANY subject or situation, not just history or science research.

As they delved into our databases, researching injustice against girls, our girls began to ask and answer more and more questions. Learning that girls who are forced into marriage as a child don’t have beautiful elegant white dress weddings as they imagined but instead are overpowered and not free to have thought or education (“Is this the beginning”). Discovering that, at least, one member of their group of four could experience domestic violence in her lifetime (Cloos).


Realizing that the gender wage gap affects everyone, even female soccer teams (Das). Attempting to understand the difference between education as a right and as a privilege and who is helping protect the right (“Girls Education Network Launch”). Primarily using Gale databases, our girls collected facts and figures they believe would be impactful to their audience. All ideas that they never imagined researching in “dance class”.

During our next dance/research session, they worked independently to paraphrase their facts and develop an opinion based on each fact. The next step was to take that research directly into the creation of their movements. Literally moving the paraphrased fact into a paraphrased motion. Listening to them plan out their movements was really wonderful and seeing facts of 1 in 4 become visual ideas and movements was fascinating. The girls connecting that they could show the weakness of policy changes by becoming weak in their movements was something I have never experience in a research paper.

I would love to do more projects that move researching outside of the core subject and into passion-based projects. If it wasn’t for Lisa’s project ideas and invitation into her dance studio, I would not have experienced this amazing project. The girls are still working hard to perfect and complete their dance but I hope you enjoy this short sneak peek of their #freedomforgirls dances.


Work cited
Cloos, Rhonda. “Domestic Abuse.” The Gale Encyclopedia of Public Health, edited by Laurie J. Fundukian, vol. 1, Gale, 2013, pp. 256-258. Global Issues in Accessed 1 Dec. 2017.
Das, Andrew. “Female stars accuse U.S. Soccer of unfair pay; 5 players file suit, saying women’s team earns less despite a better record.” International New York Times, 1 Apr. 2016. Global Issues in Accessed 1 Dec. 2017.
“Girls’ Education Network Launched [press release].” Africa News Service, 12 June 2017. Global Issues in Accessed 1 Dec. 2017.
“Is this the beginning of the end of child marriage?” CNN Wire, 16 June 2015. Kids Accessed 1 Dec. 2017.

A Day in the Life of a Middle School Librarian

We all know that librarians wear many hats. For some this can be a bit confusing; however, I love all of the hats that I get to wear during a day in my library.


I start my morning in a “circulation” cap as our girls use the library to finish last minute homework, catch up on last night’s Netflix binge, or attempt to wake up with some breakfast from our in-house café. Our book drop fills up and the day begins in our 5th-12th grade library and learning commons.


Time to don the “research ranch” hat and “digital literacy” derby. My 6th-grade research workshop course can be a bit like taming wild horses. It is an opportunity for my students to discuss upcoming research projects, evaluate sources, argue the importance of acknowledgment and citation, as well as, dip their toes into some digital literacy activities. I enjoy helping to guide their reins as they learn to jump through the hoops of navigating research.


During their rotating free period, my 5th-8th grade Library Leaders can be seen in the library. Beyond wearing the “point-person” pillbox myself, my Leaders dress in the hats of responsibility. They reshelve and organize books, pick up and clean the learning commons space, and even design library displays and announcements. This week’s announcement was about Library Card Sign Up month, which had me wearing a Wonder Woman headdress- concealing my true identity!


Thankfully, there is lunch in this story. Of course, it is accompanied by the Pop-Up Library pom-pom hat! Themed for each month- this week the Pop-Up includes books that follow our school theme of Courage, Character, and Kindness. I set up the Pop-Up just outside the dining hall so that students can browse after eating.


My middle schoolers do not have scheduled library classes. So after buckling on my “brainstorming” hat, I have found monthly times to meet with each grade for Book Talks or themed activities to promote circulation and reading for fun. Today, I coordinated some Musical Books for my 5th graders. They enjoyed reading for three minutes, then when the music played passing the books until the music stopped, and they had a new book to read. Almost all of the 5th graders checked out a book afterward.


While I love all of my hats, I’m lucky to be able to show off my “secret talent” sombrero during my Book Art course.

We discussed the great importance of the crane in Japanese culture and introduced the belief that one thousand paper cranes can grant the heart’s deepest wish. The first cranes they made were crumpled, lumpy, and not at all resembling the graceful bird. One student even frustratedly suggested that we make seagulls instead because clearly, that is what she had created. But these girls encouraged, helped, and coached each other through the instructions and one by one paper cranes began to emerge from the recycled book pages.

Our paper crane making project was coupled with the sound of the audiobook Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr. As the story took its course, my students were becoming more proficient at paper crane making and commented about feeling as if they too were helping Sadako create cranes. Although the story was a sad one, my students talked with each other about how making the cranes allowed them to feel at peace.


Time to go home! Just kidding- today after school I sport my athletics cap as JV Golf coach!

While from time to time I don’t have to quick-change into all of my hats, I really enjoy how busy my life as a Middle School Book Wizard- I mean- Librarian can be!