The Return of Summer Reading Bingo

Based on the fun that was had last year, we’re bringing back bingo! Graphic designer & educator Bram Meehan of Santa Fe created our unique bingo board and has updated it for this year. All AISL members are invited to take part – and yes, there are prizes!

Here is the bingo board:

And here are the guidelines (also on the board), but the main thing is to have fun!

  • 1 book = 1 box (no repeated titles)
  • Each completed row (horizontal, vertical or diagonal) = 1 ballot in the draw
  • Completed bingo cards should be emailed to sstraughan@tcs.on.ca by Labour Day (Sep 2)
  • Multiple winners will be drawn, and gift cards awarded based on winner preference: local bricks & mortar bookstore or online bookseller
  • An optional Zoom wrap-up party will be held on Mon Sep 9th (5pmPST/8pmEST) where winners will be announced and an informal book chat will be held (winners not in attendance will be notified via email)

Share your ongoing bingo experience by DMing AISL socials!

Our First High School Book Fair

Every fall, when we do our big middle school book fair, my high school students tell me fondly of how much they loved the book fair and ask me why we don’t have one in the high school. The reason for that, of course, is that none of the big book fair companies offer a high school option and I was worried that working with an indie bookstore would require a lot more work on my end (let’s face it – Scholastic makes it pretty easy). When our on-campus bookstore decided it wasn’t going to purchase summer reading books for students, I decided it was the perfect time to try it out. My friend at our local indie was totally game, and it turned out she had just attended a bookseller conference session about how to do book fairs with schools! We did 3 days in the middle school at the beginning of the week then finished the week in the high school. My goal was to get students excited about books and reading before school ended in May and also have a convenient option for families to buy summer reading books.

Prep and set up was really easy. We made a list of titles that we knew students would like or listed genre-type things like “realistic fiction graphic novels,” “Karen McManus-style mysteries,” “romances like Caraval or The Selection.” Over a few days, we went back and forth with the store adding things to the list and changing up titles as needed, and we ended up with a list of 35-40 different titles for each division. I opted for a variety of titles with a few copies of each, rather than tons of copies of just a few books, to give our students lots of options. I also knew that we could easily order anything we ran out of and just deliver to students later. The bookstore ordered the books and set up a Square that we would use for checkouts during the fair. They also ordered some “treasures,” as Nicole so aptly described them a few weeks ago. I made a joke at one point about how we’d have fun pencils and bookmarks but nothing that smelled like chocolate, only for chocolate-scented erasers to show up – needless to say they were a hit. Once everything arrived, the bookstore rep brought everything to campus and we set up the books on a few tables, making levels with some display stands.

In addition to taking cash and card, we allow students to charge book fair purchases to their student accounts, which means a lot less handling of cash for all involved. In order to do this, we require students to have a form signed by a parent that gives them a budget they’re allowed to spend. All middle school students got a paper form to take home, high school students could grab a paper form in the library, and all parents in both divisions got an email with a link to an online form. We then keep a spreadsheet of purchases that we can turn into our business office and can pay the bookstore in one lump sum. The Square app that the bookstore set up allowed us to put students’ names in the purchase notes, so we could easily keep track of who purchased what, and the Square also made it really easy to pull a quick report and make sure our spreadsheet matched actual sales.

So how did it all work out? Our middle school fair was pretty par for the course – lots of traffic from 6th grade, less from 8th – but I did have one kid come back in the afternoon to say how much he was enjoying the book he bought that morning! For me, the high school was the really fun part. See, my fiction and narrative nonfiction books are in a “Reading Room” on the opposite side of the building from the Research Library where I spend most of my day, so I don’t often get a chance to have impromptu conversations about just-for-fun books with students. I loved being able to have these readers advisory conversations, and both students and teachers were excited to come shop for books. I had conveniently read most of the books on offer, so I was able to make lots of recommendations, and I had several students who would just sit and talk to me about what they’d been reading lately. We have a lot of discussions about how our students aren’t reading, and there are plenty that aren’t, but a lot still love it and just lack the time to read during the busy academic year. This was a nice reminder of that.

The only thing I would change is scheduling the fair during the high school field day. Our Research Library, where the fair was set up, is right off the football field, and my plan had been to be open during the field day powderpuff game as a nice break from being outdoors. However, it rained all day, the powederpuff game was postponed, and students were dismissed early, so I had very few visits that day. In a perfect world, I’d also move the fair to May, but that’s up to my business office and not me.

I loved working with our indie store, and we plan to make this an annual fair. It was so much easier than I was anticipating, and I left with all the warm fuzzy feelings, plus a few new books for the library. Have you worked with an indie bookstore for a book fair? How did it work for you, and what else would you recommend to those looking to try it out?

Book Bingo

Hopefully, you are all enjoying some meaningful (or not!) summer reading. For those interested, let’s check in on AISL Summer Reading Bingo:

Click here for the bingo card & guidelines:

Check out this shared doc for recommendations – intriguing and helpful on its own but also supportive of one of the bingo squares

Look at the AISL Instagram page for additional inspiration, particularly the #aislfridayfeature

Mark your calendars – live bingo on Monday, September 11 (at 5:00pm Pacific, 6:00pm Mountain, 7:00pm Central, and 8:00pm Eastern)

Yours in reading,

Shelagh (with shoutout to my bingo-planning partner, Catherine 🙂

STEM and Writing

In January 2023, NCTE posted a Position Statement on the Role of Nonfiction Literature (K-12), pointing out that nonfiction is “a rich and compelling genre that supports students’ development as critically, visually, and informationally literate 21st century thinkers and creators.” During NCTE’s nonfiction webinars this summer, several notable nonfiction authors expressed a concern that nonfiction works are often compartmentalized into a once-a-year topic report. Challenged to expand and deepen the use of nonfiction in our libraries, I have been incorporating nonfiction in literacy skills projects and exploring ways to encourage students to read and write more nonfiction. Here are some initial projects and future musings to enhance nonfiction reading and writing.

Launch Writing with a STEM Experiment
Patricia Newman, author of Plastic Ahoy and Planet Ocean, shared a fascinating STEM demonstration about ocean acidification at a TLA session (April 2023, Austin, Tx.). I adapted this STEM experiment to launch a writing activity with 7th grade creative writing students. 

Step One: (See experiment details in “A Tale of Two Acids” by Meg Chadsey)
A purple cabbage solution was used as an indicator solution in three containers. Students added lemon juice to one container and noted the dramatic color change as this citric acid reacted with the indicator solution (cabbage solution). 

Step Two:
Students watched a short clip from this Smithsonian video about the effect of carbon dioxide and ocean acidification on coral reefs. Students were asked how they could add carbon dioxide to one of the solutions to mimic the effect of carbon dioxide on oceans. Students guessed that their own breath could be added to the solution, and a student used a straw to blow into a second container of cabbage solution to see how carbon dioxide would affect a base. A color change again happened. 

Step Three:
Students were shown two photos of coral reefs, one healthy and one damaged by ocean acidification.

Students read a poem by a first grader at our school. The poem described the beauty of coral reefs, the coral resembling “underwater flowers in an ocean breeze.” Using the second photo of the damaged coral reef, students created a word bank to describe the contrasting appearance of the coral. Some words included “cemetery, white bones creeping out of the ground, and brittle branches.” The word bank inspired individual poetry writing, then collaborative writing to combine their best poetic lines about the damaged coral. Poetic imagery included “a coral city turned cemetery,” “spindley winter trees,” and “what used to be rich in color, rapidly changed to ghostly white and night black.”

Read to Write: Environmental Poetry
As a follow-up writing activity, students browsed nonfiction books about a variety of environmental topics of concern, and used database articles and online news stories. After identifying an environmental topic that interested them, students cited the nonfiction source and created a Word Bank from words in the article or book; these were words that resonated with them as important.

Here is an example of one students’ planning template, and following is the poem inspired by an article about the Colorado River water crisis.

River Run Dry
Sylvie C.

A coming quarrel of a river run dry
The basin on which seven states rely

A craggy, cracked channel soon to be empty
Used to be a source of plenty

The futile fight for conservation
Is an endless conversation

Aridification of the West:
Overuse of water on human’s request

The carver of a canyon grand
Now barren bones atop the land

Putting the A in STEM
As a final art activity themed to environment and nature, this video by artist and designer Raku Inoue demonstrated creating Insect Art out of garden clippings. Using garden clippings from my home garden, students selected leaves, twigs, berries, and flowers to create their own insects. Students loved designing nature insect sculptures, and the textures, shapes, and colors of the garden clippings inspired distinctive insect “personalities.” Below is a sampling of their insect art.

Encouraging Nonfiction Reading and Writing
Each year the library and creative writing teachers co-sponsor a literary magazine, and writing contests have been a popular way to generate writing and art submissions. This year’s writing contest will be themed to the environment (in praise of our natural world and ways to be better stewards of our environment). Creative writing students will be challenged to create a promotional video for the environmental writing contest by using their colorful insect nature art. These insects will be animated in a promotional video using the Puppet Pals app.

The library will be displaying nonfiction titles themed to environmental conservationists and activists, endangered animals, environmental concerns, and national parks. Suggested reading lists for environmental books have been created in Destiny Collections so that teachers and students can browse library titles available in print and through our digital SORA collection. To highlight nonfiction book checkouts, stuffed toy birds will be “nesting” at our circulation desks, and when a student checks out a nonfiction book, they can celebrate their nonfiction book checkout by pressing the stuffed bird for an authentic bird song.

Future Plans
Here are possible ideas that will be explored further this coming school year:

  1. Recycle/Upcycle Fashion Show
    Student-created designs would be paired with informational displays highlighting environmental concerns. Creative writing students have already interviewed Tina Davis, the owner of a Houston vintage clothing store, and the interview generated several creative ideas to possibly pursue. Tina Davis stressed the importance of “buying less and choosing more.”
  2. STEAM Literacy Event
    Nonfiction library books displayed with related STEAM activities.
    Students would facilitate STEAM demonstrations as visitors browse the display tables.
  3. Environmental Podcast
    Our creative writing students may be collaborating with our STEM teacher and her Digital Design class to create podcasts highlighting environmental concerns.

The goal of these STEM and writing activities is to spark students’ curiosity and deepen their awareness of environmental concerns through thoughtful reading of nonfiction writings. Please share the ways you enhance students’ reading of nonfiction and incorporate nonfiction in your literacy skills programming and collaborations with teachers.

The Joys of Book Juggling

As I sit at my desk trying desperately to focus between questions, printer drama, and the need to tell that student that he can’t surf wheelie-chairs in the library, all while trying to will away the constant din of conversation on the the silent floor, I’ve decided to write this post about something a little further from my day to day. Today is the last day of regular classes here, so the real day to day is ending for the year. We are moving into exams and then those year-end traditions that transition us into summer, off to college, up a grade level. So I’m taking a moment to pause, and invite you to my reading realm.

I never used to be a book juggler. I get so invested in each book that I don’t want to be reading anything else until I’m done with the characters, ideas, and worlds that I’m so immersed in at the moment. Over time though, and for a variety of reasons (children, long commutes, competing desires), I’ve shifted to being someone who is often reading at least 2 books at any given time. Right now I find myself in the delicious early pages of two pleasure books, while also slowly eking my way through one “work” book.

One aspect of book juggling I have come to appreciate is how the mental hangover from one to the next can sometimes lead to interesting connections and insights. Because I’m still mulling through the as-yet-unresolved thoughts and threads from one book as I shift to pick up the others, I bring those muddled thoughts to a new context and I often apply the same questions there.

Looking back at my reading list since the start of 2023 I’ve been on a real fantasy kick: Bardugo, McGuire, Roanhorse, and Clarke.There are other books mixed in, but fantasy easily sweeps me up. Rarely is a new world contained in just one book, there are trilogies and series to fall down the proverbial rabbit hole into. So, it was, in fact, a bit of a surprise to myself, when this week I paused and realized I was juggling 3 non-fiction books for the first time in a while.

I picked up Gathering Moss: a Natural and Cultural History of Mosses, by Robin Wall Kimmerer when my kids brought me to the bookstore for Mother’s Day. A few days after I started reading, I was not entirely surprised to find out that our Environmental Science teacher is also reading it currently. Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass has been a book that clearly made an impact on our school in the past year. The only book at all mentioned in our weekly Meeting for Worship, it has actually moved students and teachers to speak at three different Meetings with entirely different queries. Given how infrequently our community has been moved to speak at Meetings this year, it is clear that this book has power. Beyond that, it has also been one of the most frequently shared books by faculty on our “What’s We’re Reading” display. I myself managed some strange hybrid of both devouring and savoring Kimmerer’s words when I read it last year. Gathering Moss has been on my to-read list ever since.

Also sitting on my list for several months has been Katherine May’s Wintering: the Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times. After reading an old NPR review sometime last fall, I’ve been intrigued by the narrative and mildly anthropological exploration of wintering, which May describes as “a fallow period in life, when you’re cut off front he world, feeling rejected, sidelined, blocked from progress, or cast into the role of an outsider.” As someone whose personal “to-visit” list is topped by northern destinations, May’s inclination to also turn north for strategies to manage the cold and dark times in life piqued my interest (and also makes me want to make time for a sauna).

Meanwhile, on my desk at work, sits Attention Span: a Groundbreaking Way to Restore Balance, Happiness and Productivity, by Gloria Mark. I find no shortage of irony in my inability to focus on reading it between notifications on my laptop and students dropping by. I often intend to read something professionally useful in the earliest part of my mornings, between opening the library at 7:30 and the end of first period. While most of this year those have been books more specifically on pedagogy, Attention Span caught my interest to perhaps help me to understand our student’s device dependance (and that deep discomfort they feel at being physically separated from their phones when I have to confiscate ones being used against our device policy) and also think through those tensions of student stress at just how much homework they have, declining mental health, and simultaneously large amounts of free time during the school day used in academically unproductive ways. Perhaps understanding a bit more about attention will give me some insight, too, into how to physically structure our library space to serve the real needs of our students.

Photo by Mick Haupt on Unsplash

Right now, in the early stages, there are threads from each that I want to tease out. I see the importance of cycles shining through. Nature and people cycle through seasons, we need dark and light, joy and sadness, energy and rest. Mosses thrive in moisture and go dormant in drought, only to reemerge healthy when the conditions are right again. Our attention needs both focus and distraction in order to maintain balance–we cycle out of deep focus to periods of rote engagement in order to restore our ability to enter periods of focus again. The restorative and calming power of nature is there too. Pause, look closely, notice the details. Kimmerer describes how her world changed upon first seeing a snowflake through a magnifying glass–that experience taught her that there was more to see if we look closely. Observation is akin to mindfulness in ways that appear through May’s writing, from nature walks to mid-night watches and restorative baking. I also see threads of a need for acceptance. May finds power in accepting winter as part of life. One cannot simply avoid that cold dark season, by accepting winter one can prepare and embrace the unique parts of that season. So too, with our attention. Times of distraction restore our ability to focus. Accepting that not all our time will be focused we can better consider how to be distracted well. These are some of the threads that seem to connect from all sides. As I turn the last page in these and the juggling act shifts, I look forward to where else the interleaving of pages will take me.

In the meantime, I’m really excited for the change in our cycle that comes with the end of classes. In my reflective mood, the exam period feels like an important liminal moment in our year. Soon we will have various ceremonies, formal and informal, where our students will transition. Our juniors become the senior class of 2024, our graduates become alums. The academic cycle moves us all into summer. And I, for one, am ready to accept the summer.

Building Knowledge in the Age of AI

I was tempted, but this blog was not written by AI or any Chatbox, one who loves me or not. But this piece is all about AI and its implications for librarians and education.  It seems we can expect a flood of texts written by AI from now on.  The question is how reliable will they be? Will the program pull from authoritative sources?  

As of now, AI  has no access to the “invisible internet” of database resources or print books that have not been digitized.  Nor, does it have materials uploaded after 2021.  When these programs scan sources, how will they determine the value of the sites? Just look for similar language and phrases? These questions have important consequences: for example, a  recent Nature article noted that scientists were fooled by such texts.

The increasing usage and acceptance of AI, presents challenges and new opportunities.  Perhaps the most important skill or students will need going forward will be to assess the accuracy and relevance of texts.  Yesterday, for example, the International Baccalaureate (IB) program announced that it would accept AI  generated material if cited properly. Matt Glanville observed that “When AI can essentially write an essay at the touch of a button, we need our pupils to master different skills, such as understanding if the essay is any good or if it has missed context, has used biased data or if it is lacking in creativity.” So, assessing content will be vital.  Granville states, “These will be far more important skills than writing an essay, so the assessment tasks we set will need to reflect this.” This approach is fine as long as students have time in school and home, to acquire this content in the age of distraction.

Emphasizing skills rather than content has become a trend lately. Memorizing facts is seen as boring and unnecessary.  The idea being students should learn the skills to “do” history and science like  the professionals..  Content could be learned later, or just by “googling” something as the need arose  But if you don’t have a solid foundation of basic facts, how you can judge the credibility of AI-generated content?   Will readers take the time to assess each fact?  Of course, these demands were present with human-generated content, but now the need is greater.  Perhaps it will help that the National Council of Teachers of English is placing greater emphasis on reading nonfiction.  

Of course, the role of librarians is clear: acquire and highlight noteworthy, human-authored background content and nonfiction so that students can build this important reservoir of background knowledge when they encounter new texts, regardless of who or what created it. Encourage the idea that reading for information can be fun, especially if connected with previous knowledge and interesting facts.  It will be essential in a world dominated by texts produced in 5 minutes by AI.

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Creating a children’s collection in a high school library

I don’t think our high school library is unique in getting requests for children’s materials from time to time. Whether for young families living on campus or our students tutoring young kids from our local community, we’ve had a number of picture and chapter books on hand for years.

This year, 2 members of our library team decided to formalize this collection and did so by harnessing the power of  Week Without Walls (WWW), an annual event when all Senior School students & staff perform volunteer service in our area, including some sites on campus. 

One month prior to WWW, a team member emailed staff & posted a notice in the parent newsletter, asking for donations of books suitable for up to 12 years of age; 10 families donated a total of 203 books.

When the week arrived, 4 students were assigned to this WWW group based on their shared passion for reading & children, and over the course of 8 hours:

  • Reviewed donations; a handful of books didn’t make the cut based on physical condition and appropriateness
  • Created a variety of materials to support the collection including identification stickers (items aren’t barcoded so the stickers highlight where they are to be shelved) and dividers noting their creative and unique categories, such as “Kids in Charge” and “Interactive” (pop-up books and I Spy), “Guide for Life”, along with some traditional genres.
  • Colourfully painted book ends (seen above)
  • Bookmarks that celebrate and encourage reading 

Initially, the students were keen to catalogue the books so that they’d be searchable in our database but time didn’t allow for this, although it was great to have students get a glimpse of how much goes into this detailed behind-the-scenes work.

I’m grateful to work with colleagues who created such a meaningful initiative for our students and for students who enthusiastically embraced the opportunity!

Summertime reading hits different

We’re in Illinois for the next several weeks, in my childhood home in a small town in the middle of the state. Shifting gears from Los Angeles means there is an abundance of time and space and quietude. There is nothing to do here, really. Oh, there are plenty of pleasant, quiet, serene outings that take up a morning or an hour – the Abraham Lincoln New Salem village, the tiny zoo, a walk around the duck pond, a trip to the drive-thru coffee shop. I can drive my son past my old high school and show him where I played in the park as a kid. There are scrambled eggs in the morning, sandwiches at lunch, dinners made by my mother in the evening. It’s an absolute retreat from the world of Los Angeles, and my parents’ house is a house designed for reading. Every chair with a lamp and a side table and a foot stool. Every table with a pile of books and magazines. Trips to the well-appointed public library happen every other day, at least.

For me, reading in the summertime just hits different. I read more, for one. I may read three or four books a week, because I can read for several hours a day. I read more indiscriminately because my purpose has shifted. During the school year, I most often read for business. I keep up with trends, I vet books for the collection, I read teacher or student recommendations, I re-read a book that’s going back into the curriculum, I skim, I assess, I “librarian”. Summertime reading, however, is just for me. The activity itself is the purpose. The long, lazy mornings on the patio or the sofa with coffee. The heat-induced siestas where my eyes close for a few minutes and that drowsy, timeless feeling blurs the lines between my book and my dreams. The quiet nights where I read long past my bedtime because I don’t have a bedtime, for now.

If you looked through my goodreads ratings and isolated the summertime books, you’d see a whole lot of five stars! Five stars! FIVE STARS! That’s because I also like books more in the summertime. I like books more because I’m not judging them or studying them. I’m just enjoying them. In summertime, a five star book is a book I had a great time reading. A book that swept me away, or kept me guessing, or just filled the time pleasantly. Maybe the ending was too tidy or too swift, and maybe there are holes in the plot, and maybe this character wasn’t so well developed. Who cares? It’s summertime! Did I enjoy reading it? FIVE STARS!

I can’t help but wonder if my students get to experience this transformation in summertime. I suspect some do, if they aren’t over-scheduled by summer school, internships, camps, sports, etc. If their summers include empty time, do they fill it with murder mysteries and romance novels? Perhaps. For many of them, their required summer reading is likely to be looming over them, making summertime reading bliss harder to achieve. Do any of them read those books first, to get them out of the way so they can relax into their library books? I doubt it. They wait to read them until late summer (if they read them at all) to make sure the book is fresh in their minds for the first days of school when they’ll need to retrieve details for discussions and essays and possibly even quizzes. With Jane Eyre sitting on the bedside table, lurking, can they sink into a cozy fantasy novel without guilt? Do they lose themselves in a random bestseller if 1984 is just sitting there, daring them to start annotating it?

Every summer I think about this. Every summer I think that maybe I should create a summer reading challenge, or a summer reading book club, or a summer reading incentive for my students. But then, wouldn’t my own summertime reading become business again? I haven’t been able to make that sacrifice for my students. It means too much to me to have this retreat from my professional life. Perhaps if my school’s campus and library were open all year, it would be different. I know for some of you, you’re working right now, and summer reading programs are part of your school culture. At my school, everything goes quiet. There’s a little summer school, and then the campus empties. If I built it, would they come? Maybe. But for now, I’m going to go make another cup of coffee and pick up my next book.

What does summertime reading mean for you? Did you just go to ALA and pick up a new stack of ARCs? Do you use your summer to binge watch all the shows you missed during the year? I’d love to hear!

My most recent reads: Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus, The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill, Beneath the Stairs by Jennifer Fawcett, Search by Michelle Huneven.

Visually Thinking with Sketchnotes

Leonardo da Vinci is noted for many accomplishments in the fields of art, science, and invention, but he was also a master in the art of sketching. His notebooks filled with drawings and observations about the world around him reveal a mind that was insatiably curious and adept at making connections. This image from one of his notebooks exemplifies how his mind leapt from one observation to another. The flowing drapery of the pictured old man is mirrored in similar energetic linework on the facing page that depicts swirling water.

Leonardo. Whirlpool and Old Man. Britannica ImageQuest, Encyclopædia Britannica, 25 May 2016.
quest.eb.com/search/109_225206/1/109_225206/cite. Accessed 20 Jun 2022.

Though visually thinking with sketches is nothing new, educators and businesses have been exploring the merits of Sketchnotes as a way to communicate ideas in a graphical format. Sketchnotes can take a variety of forms, from simple infographics, to stick figures, to complex representations of processes (such as cell division).  A book by Tanny McGregor, Ink and Ideas: Sketchnotes for Engagement, Comprehension and Thinking (Heinemann, 2019) provides several examples of introducing Sketchnotes in the classroom and using this technique to spark student thinking. I took a dive into Sketchnotes after reading Ink and Ideas, and the following examples and reflections show how Sketchnotes can be used to enhance discussions of books. 

Book: The Magnolia Sword by Sherry Thomas

Reflection:
The first two chapters of The Magnolia Sword by Sherry Thomas are a master class in writing: introducing compelling characters, setting up conflict, and suggesting a trajectory (quest) that will set these characters on a future collision course. 

Specific details from the chapters were first annotated in a journal and certain words circled that would be emphasized in the Sketchnote (such as “Fated to Clash”). As I sketched in pencil the preparatory drawing, I decided to group textual quotes by the two characters, shown separated in the sketch by the Great Wall of China (denoting the location of the story). The textual quotes highlighted in the sketch show the fierce martial arts skill of each adversary while also suggesting their mutual attraction to each other (Mulan faces her opponent with both trepidation and thrill while Yuan Kai muses that if circumstances had been different, they might have met as friends). Transferring my journal annotations into this graphical format helped me to compare these two characters while also hinting at future conflicts (Mulan’s father bent on pursuing this feud and the looming threat of the Rouran Invaders).

Book: Jennifer Chan is Not Alone by Tae Keller

Reflection:
I read Tae Keller’s book as an ebook, so my journaling notes were added in the notes section of the ebook. I discovered that these reflection notes were not as detailed as when I read a print copy and took pen and paper notes.

For my Sketchnotes design, I chose a basic template so that I could plot story events  highlighting major moments in the book. I represented events around a quote by the main character, Jennifer Chan: “We pull each other close, we push each other away.” The pictured events show this tension, some frames denoting hurtful actions and some frames denoting moments of healing.

Though plotting story events is a helpful exercise, this type of Sketchnote would need to be supported by questioning to reveal the richness of the message of this story and the dynamics of the the characters’ grappling with the worries, pain, and hopes. Question prompts might include Which character would you befriend? or, Which characters’ actions were hurtful and how would you respond to that character? 

Creating these Sketchnotes was a fun exercise in making visual the ideas that surfaced as I read these books. The process of reflecting on the sketches helped to clarify connections and prompt questioning for book discussions. Though these Sketchnote examples are not Leonardo masterpieces, this process was a fun and thought-provoking experience. I invite you to take pen and paper and try your hand at Sketchnotes.

#BookTok: the collection development tool I never knew I wanted and now refuse to live without

I love TikTok. Like, I really love it. Years from now, when we’re all sitting around talking about what got us through the COVID era, TikTok will be one of the things at the top of my list. It’s brought me so much comfort, joy, and humor. It’s a place I’ve returned over and over for solace and escape. For the year we were remote-teaching, it was pretty much daily that I would call out to my family  “I’m taking a TikTok bath!” and then disappear for an hour into the bubbles, aromatherapy, and TikTok trends that would soothe my weary soul. I don’t create any content, but I follow hundreds of creators, from gardeners to miniaturists to satirists to frustrated and exhausted educators. I’ve learned to hack my instant ramen, make super spicy chile paste, and marinate mayak eggs. I’ve witnessed epic thrifting hauls and seen women sewists craft exquisite period costumes. I’ve found daily affirmations and asmr creators that bring my anxiety down three notches in an instant. I’ve learned new vocabulary and word origins, toured ruins, and been exposed to obscure historical trivia. I’ve seen a lot of talking dogs. It’s been a safe haven and a gift.

Little did I know that this habit would also lead me to one of the best collection development tools ever – #BookTok! If you are not familiar, BookTok is a community of readers, book lovers, collectors, preservationists, sellers, and librarians who make videos about what they are currently reading, what’s on their tbr lists, their favorite books, their least favorites, you name it. BookTok occasionally includes controversies, just like any social media community, but mostly it’s just a lovely place to learn about new (and old) titles and authors. In some cases it has even driven books onto bestseller lists or revived the popularity of older titles. In many cases, my students have read books because they’ve seen them on TikTok, so it’s also been an unexpectedly effective readers’ advisory promotional tool that I am super grateful for. I love it!

Here are some of my favorite BookTokkers and why I find them especially informative in terms of collection development.

@the.ace.of.books

This booktokker reads a lot. She posts frequently with weekly reading updates, and also sometimes does one-off posts about specific titles or addressing questions she receives in the comments. She sometimes talks about how her ADHD and ASD inform her reading choices, which is a great way for me to think about how to best serve my neurodivergent student population via collection development. I really love the variety of titles she reads. While she is perhaps primarily a fantasy reader, she also reads poetry, nonfiction, literary fiction, memoir, and more. Also, because of her popularity, she often receives ARCs or other gift boxes from publishers and subscription services, which means I’m also kept up-to-date on what’s in the hopper in terms of new releases.

@schizophrenicreads

This booktokker also reads a huge number of books, though he focuses almost exclusively on nonfiction. He reads widely across subject areas. Most of his picks are very current, which is helpful to me because I sometimes think keeping track of new nonfiction releases is like drinking from a firehose. He makes great connections between titles, often talking about how one book he recently read reminds him of another, so many of his videos offer multiple points of entry for thinking about nonfiction curation. He also values excellent writing, not just interesting content, and so is a really good source for essayists and literary nonfiction.

@bookpapi

This booktokker is an independent bookstore owner (Golden Lab Bookshop). He’s an excellent source for titles by authors of color, and particularly Latinx/e authors. He talks a lot about decolonizing book collections and intersectionality, and so regularly offers alternatives to mainstream titles that, while good or popular books, are representative of the dominant culture rather than exploring marginalized voices. His store’s website has really nice curations, and he offers a BIPOC Lit mystery subscription box, which is cool.

@schulerbooks

This is one of many independent bookstore BookTok accounts. I like this type of account because of the “book challenge” structure of most of their videos. One person working in the bookstore will issue a challenge to their coworkers to find a certain type of book – scariest book, book with the best ending, book that made you cry, etc – and then you get to watch all the bookstore employees go find their books and give a short ‘book talk’ about why they chose it. This is great for me for a few reasons. One, I get to hear about new books. Two, I get ideas about fun curations or displays for my library because of the challenges they do. Three, I get a glimpse into how independent bookstores organize their collections, which is helpful as I consider ways to genrify and de-Dewey portions of my collection.

There are SO many great BookTok accounts out there, I couldn’t possibly list them all. I’ve encountered so much variety and diversity on this app, and of course I didn’t even scratch the surface with this post. I’d love to know what your favorites are and why you like them!