Top Ten Resources I Can’t Live Without!

(In no particular order)

I am the sole librarian at a Prekindergarten-12 school so I need all the help I can get! I am with first through fifth graders more than other grade levels, so most of these resources are tailored towards younger students.

1. SLJ online. While the full magazine is free online to librarians right now, I often visit the SLJ website to explore the range of noteworthy blogs, particularly “The Classroom Bookshelf” and “100 Scope Notes.”

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. I have used his “Name that Lego Book Cover” and “One Star Review, Guess Who?” (ridiculous reviews from Goodreads) for library contests.

2. Lucas Maxwell’s Portable Magic Dispenser! Lucas Maxwell is a school librarian at Glenthorne High School in London. He’s quite creative and very generous. When I need book suggestions, library lessons, research and tech tips, literary games, book displays and things I didn’t even know I needed, I refer to his blog and newsletter.

3. This subscription is worth every penny even though I could probably find most of the resources independently. I use it every single day.

4. Talented authors who generously share their creativity, and so many have stepped it up big time since Covid -19!

Mo Willems’ wonderful website and inimitable resources can be found here: Mo Willems/Kennedy Center (Also, if you haven’t watched Mo Willems making slop, you are missing out:  I Really Like Slop!)
If you found this entertaining, try Carnivores from the talented and truly funny Dan Santat: Carnivores

Jerry Pallotta has a terrific website: JerryPallotta. He visited our school last year. He’s hilarious and student – focused.

Grace Lin Activities are well worth a look; there’s games, crafts, drawing and writing activities to supplement her books.

My students love Dan Gutman’s books and enjoy visits to his website for trailers, writing tips, videos with Dan and games: Gutman.

Jarrett Krosoczka’s Draw Every Day with JJK is a program designed to “educate, entertain, and empower young artists.”

Jason Reynolds’ “Write. Right. Rite” series: GrabtheMic. On January 13, 2020, Jason Reynolds was appointed the seventh National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature.. Our English teachers AND their students have fully embraced this series sponsored by the Library of Congress. It’s superb.

Jarrett Lerner Jarrett’s Doodles & More: JarrettLerner. An abundance of FREE writing and drawing prompts, and activity sheets that marvelously supplement literature.

Read, Wonder and Learn– read alouds from a variety of authors and illustrators curated by author Kate Messer.

5. Ted Ed Talks/Videos. I use these videos all the time as they are well done, engaging and include review and discussion questions. The Electoral College video was a game changer for me in teaching lower and middle school students how our voting system works.

Does your vote count? The Electoral College explained - Christina Greer -  YouTube

6. AISL BLOG! I refer to it constantly – thank you!

7. Twitter. This is my go to and sole social media platform. Twitter provides me with a plethora of information from the authors, librarians, educators and colleagues I follow.

8. Shannon Miller. Her blog, TheLibraryVoice, is outstanding.
Shannon shares technology tools, incredible library rotation choice
boards, and ways to connect with classroom content.

9. ReadBrightly. I love ReadBrightly! I use it to locate
book recommendations, printables, activities based on books,
and read alouds.

10. DAISLA – We are a very supportive and flourishing group of
Dallas and Fort Worth librarians. Our organization is beginning to offer more
PD opportunities including guest speakers, virtual field trips (for
now), and member presentations.

I continue to be inspired and energized by the people who share their brilliance and creativity! And, to the many librarians who have taken the time to mentor me, particularly Renee Chevallier!

Author Visits: They’ll Be Back…Live and in Person

While this might be the school year of the virtual author visit, in anticipation of better days ahead I would like to share some of the most impressive and memorable author visits I’ve experienced as a school librarian.  

There is just no one like the inimitable Nathan Hale.  In case you don’t know his work, Mr. Hale writes and illustrates graphic novels, most notably the nonfiction, history based Hazardous Tales series, ideal for students in grades three through five.  He also writes and illustrates science fiction graphic novels and illustrates books for a variety of other authors.  Nathan Hale is smart and quick;  he “gets” kids, and knows how to keep them completely engaged.  He draws “on the spot” requests, gifts his incredible autographed artwork to the library he’s visiting, and tells the funniest (but historically accurate) stories.   Teachers in the audience laughed so hard, I saw tears.  He is non-stop “on it” all day long and earns every penny of his commission.  We plan to have Nathan Hale visit again, and I know many of you have had him visit your school more than once as well because he is just so entertaining and creative.  And his books are exceptional!

Another absolutely hilarious author is Aaron Reynolds, and our day spent with him was positively delightful.  My students have not forgotten his uproarious retellings of his Caldecott winner Creepy Carrots! and the ever popular Creepy Pair of Underwear! I am a huge fan of all of his books, and more importantly, my students are too.  Mr. Reynolds was truly “in the zone” during the entire visit – role playing with the kids, engaging them with games, involving the teachers; smiles all around.  He is one of the authors that was visibly sweating with the effort of  enthusiastically and continuously sharing his talents.

Lauren Oliver came at no cost to the high school where I worked seven years ago.  She was gracious and very sharp.  She shared her outstanding writing strategies with a very large group, and outlined how her career as a writer evolved.  The audience really liked her, and I thought she was quite friendly and her presentation very relevant for our group of “would be” writers. 

Chris Grabenstein also came  to us at a very discounted price.   I had  filled out a contest entry on  his website and  sent it to his agent.  Once it was accepted, our school was responsible only for his travel expenses.  Mr. Granbenstein is all about the kids. He wanted to eat lunch with them,  visit classrooms, offer extra writing workshops – and he did all of those things along with his three fantastic presentations to large groups.  Mr. Grabenstein has a background in advertising, television and radio and this is most evident in the comedic spirit of his delivery.  I am a huge fan of his work and his commitment to kids and reading.  He is a kind, funny, multi-talented author.

James Ponti came to our school last year and he is definitely one of the most kind-hearted people I have ever met.  His books are outstanding and enormously popular at Oakridge. Mr. Ponti wanted to provide a useful and memorable experience to our students.   We visited classes together and ate with a group of students in the lunchroom.  Mr. Ponti also  spoke to a group of upper school students currently taking a writing seminar,  and were expected to complete a novel by the school year. He thoughtfully spent some time with a staff member who was in the midst of self-publishing a book, answering some questions she had.  Now that the New York Times bestseller  City Spies is on the market our students were thrilled because he read the first chapter to them before it was published.  We have all of his books and this one is consistently checked out in ebook and print.

Jerry Palotta came last to our school  year also, another exceptionally big-hearted person.  His Who Would Win books are “top checkouts” in our library.  He also ate lunch with the kids in the cafeteria, and graciously went out to dinner with a second grader and his family.  Another first grader was sick the day of the visit, and devastated because Mr. Pallotta is his favorite author. In response, Mr. Pallotta sent the student a video introducing himself, reading one of his books, and subsequently sending him one of his signed books.

Sarah Weeks came to our school right before So B. It: A Novel was being released in theaters.  A group of middle school students and I met Sarah at a local theater showing the movie in its early release.  She is so smart, articulate,  great with the kids, and someone I would enjoy hanging out with!  She shared a cool story arc activity with the students that I’ve used repeatedly with my classes.   We met another school librarian for a leisurely dinner which included wine and casual, comfortable conversation. It was a terrific evening,  Ms. Weeks  is the most down to earth, transparent and genuine person.

We were thrilled to have Gordon Korman visit us two years ago because our lower and middle school students voraciously read everything he writes.  Restart is my personal favorite, and while I appreciate his incredible talents as an author, he didn’t impress me as much as a guest presenter to our middle school students.  He was the most expensive author we’ve hosted yet we did not feel we received our “money’s worth.”  While other authors arrived with interactive slide shows and activities and spent as much time with the students as possible, Mr. Korman did not connect with the kids in these ways.   Yet he certainly fulfilled his contract obligations.

Finally, I have to give a shout out to Fort Worth Country Day Librarian and AISL member Tammy Wolford.  She arranges many of these events so that local independent school librarians can share authors and costs.  I would love to hear about the authors and illustrators who inspired your students, whether in a virtual or on site visit.