Category Archives: Celebrate children’s lit!

Library Lessons: Oct 29-Nov2, 2018


Laura Vacarro Seeger is a favorite, especially her DOG AND BEAR stories.  These last two weeks have been a lovely mini-study.

Note: all K classes start with The Name Song for the first 8-12 weeks of the school year. In a 30 minute class, this can take up to 3-4 minutes. But I think it’s important to greet each child by name and to learn their names ASAP, so the song is sung. Plus: singing!

Grade 1:

The final week in the Peter Brown author / illustrator study. This story gives readers an excellent chance to determine the difference of whose name appears on the spine label, as the previous 4 stories were all E BRO.  We always credit the author first. 🙂

If there was more time – a famous phrase uttered by many a teacher and librarian – students would have created their own CREEPY CARROTS.  Alas – our 30 minute classes do not lead to such creative endeavors (unless the lesson were to spill into next week…and next week is the start of something enormous!.)

Grade 2:

Since our library Symbaloo is complete and loaded into Destiny (at least, the links I’ve added), it’s time to highlight the resources with my students.  First up: MYSTERY DOUG. MYSTERY DOUG is, without a doubt, one of my favorites to share with students & teachers.  Each week, a video is sent to a subscriber’s email address.  Want to unlock all Doug’s videos? Simply enter 5 email addresses, and voila!  I used 5 of my own emails: school, home, home 2, old school email, and spouse’s email.  They get a link to sign up (which is easily ignored), and I get all the videos Doug has ever made for free!

The only downside to MYSTERY DOUG is that the video bank isn’t available for students to view independently at home or in class.  Honestly, though, that’s a small quibble for the richly researched, high quality videos Doug creates answering science-themed questions from students around the world.

Since Doug has a video on “Do bats drink blood?”, this was an ideal way for grade 2 to wrap up their BATS unit while highlighting our catalog’s resources.  While we watched, I pointed out how Doug gives credit to the sources he uses for images in his videos.  Authentic lesson on copyright – YES!  We also fact-checked Doug’s information using what had been learned when researching bats in PebbleGo the previous week. WIN-WIN!

Grade 3:

Because Mystery Doug is so good – grade 3 got in on the action, too!  Their video – ‘What makes pumpkins orange?‘ – was timely, given that it was Halloween week.

Grades 4/5:

If you ever want to have your students watch a video and literally OOH and AAH and ask questions, Mystery Doug’s video on ‘How do things glow in the dark?‘ is for you.  And them.  We ended up pausing the video a few times to think, to reflect, and to react.  And just like in grade 2, I make sure to point out how Doug gives credit whenever he uses information or sources that aren’t his own.

Why this video this week? Glow in the dark things are super-popular during the fall.  Kids know about glow bracelets.  Most, though, don’t know how the science works.  The chance to embed real-life learning into our library class is a chance I’ll take. 🙂Cheers, y’all! –arika

Library Lessons: Sep 5 2018

Week 1 came too fast this year. Having been hired not two weeks before, I was *not* prepared in ways that I expect of myself.  Excuses or valid reasons?  Either way:

  • Library passes for self check-out weren’t made, nor was there railroad board used to make them available (thank you, Dick Blick, for having it AND delivering it in a speedy fashion). Result: no self check out during week 1.
  • Destiny wasn’t set up. Time was spent on setting up the physical space, not the virtual computer.  Students had to be updated, old fines forgiven, and restrictive notes removed.  Eep. Result: no check out at all in week 1.
  • Sorting through the cabinets and drawers was akin to an archeological dig: it never ended and there was a good chance of finding something valuable where it was least expected. Result: tons of time spent clearing, tossing, recycling, labeling, and reorganizing.
  • Books were double-stacked behind the circ desk.  Result: my mental sanity was being tested…
  • The library had new carpeting installed a week before Day 1.  All the furniture had to be put back..but where to?  There was no good map.  Result: designing a new library layout that worked.  Shelves had to be rolled, books had to be shifted, tables and chairs had to fit as the space needed to have a natural flow and sense of order.  Result: sweatiness, sore muscles, hours of time, but a design that flowed and made logical sense.
  • There were boxes and bags and tons of “stuff” packed pre-carpeting.  Dealing with furniture was easy compared to this.  What to keep?  What to let go?  I tossed it all in the library storage room for the time being (note: the room was, 4 weeks later, christened The Book Room and all the junk stuff that was tossed in there had to be dealt with ASAP).

But week 1 doesn’t care about these things: week 1 comes, whether I’m ready or not.  So it was a slow week, one where I shared a little bit about me, my family, and new books.  My personal goal for the year is to let students discover that the library is a place for them: that they’re always welcome in the library and that it will have what they want/need.  Starting slow, sharing books, and introducing my expectations (Be Kind, Be Safe, Do Your Best, Help the Rest – which are similar to the schoolwide expectations…except they rhyme, which works really well for the 16 K-2 classes) was the way I chose to go.


Grade 1/2:

Grade 3/4/5:

ALA Midwinter book preview, part 1

Book friends!  Didn’t make it to ALAMW19 in Seattle?  Want to know the hottest in kidlit and MG titles for 2019? Then this is for YOU!

Below, a handful or so of titles pulled from one of my conference bags…and the reason I picked them up.  This is but one of numerous #alamw19 book posts.  And – truly – the books are in no particular order 🙂

FAR AWAY by Lisa Graff

Why I picked it up: um, it’s a new novel by Lisa Graff.  I’ve loved her books since THE THING ABOUT GEORGIE.  And I think she does realistic fiction in a lovely way. Pub Mar 2019. Ages 8-12.

THE STORY WEB by Megan Frazer Blakemore
Why I picked it up: The cover.  Ooh, the cover…with a blurb by Newbery Medalist Erin Entrada Kelly (whom I love), no less.  AND it looks to be magical realism.  Pub Jun 4, 2019. Ages 8-12.


Why I picked it up:  Another catchy cover.  Plus: a mystery!  I find there are never enough lighthearted, fun mysteries for MG readers.  Pub Apr 23, 2019. Ages 8-12.


Why I picked it up: look at that tagline: ‘Take flight. Find hope.’ And, on the inside: “a heartbreaking and hopeful debut novel about a young girl on a journey to find home”.  This has me thinking it’ll be a heartprint books that readers adore.  Yes, please. Pub Apr 30, 2019. Ages 8-12.


Why I picked it up: GREAT cover. My summer was always full of bike riding (though no crazy birds or robots chased me).  The publisher compares it to a mix of HARDY BOYS and THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH – ooh, another MG mystery that’ll have some time-travel thrown in!  And if I needed another reason: on the back, a quote from Jason Reynolds on the importance of this book.  Pub April 2, 2019. Ages 10-12.

And – a new series from Scholastic: ACORN!

  • HELLO, CRABBY! (A Crabby Book, book 1) by Jonathan Fenske
  • DO YOU LIKE MY BIKE? (Hello, Hedgehog!, book 1) by Norm Feuti
  • SPARKLY NEW FRIENDS (Unicorn and Yeti, book 1) by Heather Ayris Burnell

Why I picked it up:  I *adore* Scholastic’s BRANCHES books for transitional readers.  The short are always in-demand in my library (and I think they’re pretty cute to boot).  Now, with ACORN, Scholastic is meeting the needs of the beginning reader.  These three (plus a re-issue from Dav Pilkey) are fantastic. There is humor. Friendship. Gentle understanding. And, above all, the celebration of being oneself. Pub Apr 30, 2019. Ages 4-6.

Until next time…

Cheers, y’all! –arika

ALA Midwinter 2019

I love – LOVE – ALA conferences.  There are old friends.  There are new acquaintances.  The best of the best in books is being shown by publishers.  There are lunches.  And breakfasts.  And all this with people who love the same things that I love – libraries and books and connecting with readers.

Here’s the truth, though: Midwinter is a WORKING CONFERENCE.  There are not so many sessions for learning, though I learn just as much on the conference floor and in preview sessions as I would in any “traditional” conference format.

Midwinter is also the time of my favorite day of the librarian year: the Youth Media Awards.  Hello Newbery! Hello Caldecott!  Hello Geisel and Printz and Stonewall and more!  Thanks to another library friend (Monica, my OTTER colleague), I had The Best Seat in the house for the live announcements!

With Midwinter in my backyard, I drove into Seattle each day.  The parking cost about equaled the cost of shipping books back to my house from prior years (though I didn’t have to deal with the Post Office line in the convention center).  And I brought home as many kidlit books as I could carry.

I had a helper, too: my J-girl.  Back in 2013 – when she was 6, and the last time ALA was in Seattle – I’d promised to take her to her to this conference.  Thanks to the generosity of a friend (Mike Fleming!), she got a floor pass this year and walked with me for two hours on Sunday afternoon, picking up ALL THE BOOKS and meeting authors like Lauren Myracle and Abby Cooper.

When not picking up books, I spent time talking – a lot of talking.  Connecting with former colleagues, chatting with my public librarian cohort from KCLS, escaping for a dinner with my mentor Susan, gabbing with my BCB (Best Conference Buddy) Alpha…ALA is a lot about talking.  All those stereotypes of librarians being introverted?  Many of us are, but not when we are around kindred spirits.


I didn’t get videos of all the publisher booths, but I did pick up plenty of ARC’s and F&G’s (ARC – Advance Reader Copy, used to describe pre-published novels | F & G – Folded and Gathered, used to describe pre-published picture books). I’ll share lots of them in upcoming posts.

Curious as to tips on what to expect from your first ALA?  Read my post from 2014 – the advice still holds true to this day!

Cheers, y’all!  –arika

Library Lessons: Feb 4-8, 2019

Y’all.  I made that Anna & Elsa post the other day…and this week, they decided to visit the PNW.  Snow, ice, and temps in the teens – things not typical to the PNW – have been in our forecast & lives for the last week.  We had no school Monday and Tuesday of this week and a delay on Wednesday due to over 8″ of snow (which then froze – see temps in the teens).  THEN – just as things were starting to thaw – Snowpocolypse 2019 hit, with schools closing early as the snow forecast was 100% right and the flakes starting falling hard and fast at 1pm.

Given the snowy forecast, it was the right time to pull all the snow-themed books and send a “just-in-time” email to teachers, inviting them to stop in and grab a snowy read.


But that doesn’t mean that specialists were cancelled for the week.  Far from it!  Here’s what I pulled out of the magic hat to keep students engaged this week.


This year, I teach 6 K classes – 5 on Monday afternoon, and 1 on Thursday afternoon.  Guess how many Mondays we’ve missed in 2019?  FOUR.  The Thursday class is so far ahead of Monday – and with the end of our Ezra Jack Keats unit upon us – AND with the snow forecast – that they earned a movie week.  The movie of choice?  EJK’s THE SNOWY DAY on  Amazon Prime. Students watched half as we compared the movie to the book.




Grade 1:

Only one of five grade 1 classes had library this week.  Eep!  They voted in our Guessing the Geisel mock book award, selecting I LOST MY TOOTH! by Mo Willems as their favorite.  With 4 other classes still to vote, though, it’s still any book’s award to win.

Next week, as the other classes need to catch up, this group will listen to the Geisel winner & an honor title.

Grade 2/3/4/5:

New Book Look!  Having recently received the big fall/winter book order of over 300 books (valued at over $4000!) from Follett, this was the week to let all grade 2/3/4/5 students get their hands on as many as they could so they could truly see what new books we had in our library.  And they LOVED it.  There were some students who were ambivalent about looking at new books,  mumbling under their breath, “there’s nothing here l like” – but most found something among the piles that they liked.  This order was heavy on graphic novels and short chapter books (transitional readers), as our collection in those areas was extremely thin.  The next big order will focus on nonfiction.


What worked for me?

  1. no student could check out the books. Why? Because the hottest books would only be seen by the first class.  i wanted ALL students to get their hands on these titles – holding them is different than seeing pictures.  Bonus: the books weren’t in Destiny yet, which made this easier.
  2. no holds on any books.  For the most part, I don’t do holds in the elementary library anymore – too much hassle and work and not enough students looking and discovering what IS there. Plus: no titles were in Destiny, so holds couldn’t be placed.
  3. grades 4&5 could write sticky notes of titles they really wanted to read.  With only 20 minutes to do the New Book Look, I wanted maximum LOOKING time for grades 2/3.
  4. Spread out the books! I mostly kept series together (there were a lot of short chapter book series), but each of the 8 tables had a variety of books: GN’s, MG fiction, picture books, short chapter books, and a sprinkling of nonfiction.
  5. when I do this again, I’ll have music playing.

All teachers in the building were also invited to come down to see the new books.  Those who stopped in left knowing what the library has purchased to meet the needs of their readers, and most left with a new read-aloud idea in mind (they couldn’t take the books yet, as the students need to see them!).

ALSO! Since M/T classes have missed so much library, those teachers were invited to stop in with their students for a 15min check out.  There isn’t much time in the fixed schedule, but a handful of teachers made the times available work and popped in for a quick visit.  It didn’t matter that they hadn’t brought books back – they NEEDED books, especially as the forecast shows more snow for next Monday/Tuesday!


Cheers, y’all! –arika

Library Lessons: Jan 21-25, 2019


Fact: I *still* haven’t seen the 5 K classes on Monday but twice since the beginning of the year.  Good thing there are a LOT of Keats stories for the Thursday class to explore and enjoy!

Grade 1:

Guessing the Geisel, week 4. Unexpected bonus of this unit: students are checking out more books at their just-right reading level AND noticing books that have the Geisel medal (note to self: buy more medal stickers at ALA Midwinter…we have loads of Geisel winners/honors without stickers!)


Grades 2 & 3:

Alternately tagged: I love Mock Book Awards.  And now, so do my students.  They had the hardest time choosing which of these two was their favorite when critiquing the art.

Grades 4 & 5:

Thank you to Jennifer LaGarde for continuing to inspire me to teach children critical media evaluation skills.  And thank you to Google’s BE INTERNET AWESOME for providing some excellent lessons as springboards for my teaching.

Cheers, y’all! –arika

We’re not worthy…

Remember that WAYNE’S WORLD sketch with Dana Carvey and Mike Myers?  You know the one.

Well, after watching today’s Youth Media Awards at the ALA Midwinter Convention, I have a message for you: YOU ARE WORTHY.  Because I hear a lot of librarians saying things like, “well, I only have one of the Caldecott books in my collection, so…” or “I did a terrible job ordering this year – i have NO Newbery books.”.  Or “You are so much better at guessing and buying the award nominees than me.” You get the idea.

Here’s the thing: not having the nominees in your library is not a bad thing.  Neither is not reading them prior to the award announcement.*

Why?  Because you are human.  You’re curating a library collection for YOUR school or setting.  Not all books will fit your need.  You’ve got limited time, and you’re reading and buying what you find and what you hear about and what will (hopefully) work best for your professional setting.  And – after today – that just may include a few more books.  I know it does for me.

There’s a level of competition that sometimes happens on ALA YMA day, and I’m ready for it to stop.  No one is any better or worse on this day.  We are all excited to see what books the committees choose to be distinguished. (And believe me – the Newbery/Caldecott/Geisel honorees are selected by the committee applying the criteria…and there’s a 99.9% chance that the lists would be different if chosen by a different group of people). And speaking of the various committees – remember that it is their JOB to read literally every book published that fits within their scope.  I truly get a bit excited when they honor a book I’ve missed, because there are So Many Books and So Little Time.

So today, regardless of your pre-ordering or pre-reading, You Are Worthy.  Hopefully you’ll have seen books get shiny stickers that you’ll take time to look up, read about, and try with your students (I’m looking at you, Geisel Award FOX THE TIGER).

Cheers, y’all!


* Choosing to not look at the distinguished titles post-announcement is not the same.  Please look at the winners and honorees, even if you don’t like the cover design.  Read the summaries and professional reviews.  Check them out from the public library and give them a chance.  These books that have been vetted by the best of the best and honored with shiny stickers for a reason.