Children’s Books for Summer Reading, Part 2

Earlier this week, I introduced a couple of fun picture books that I found at the ALA conference in San Francisco. Today I will highlight a few more children’s books that have a direct curriculum covers

First, some science: Like many people, I have fond memories of laying in the grass on a warm summer day watching the clouds turn into recognizable shapes. Cloud Country, by Bonny Becker, brings us back to those summer days. Gale is a young cloud who loves to gaze down from the sky and watch humans. It turns out (spoiler alert!) this is a rare trait in clouds – not many of them have the imagination needed to watch humans and make shapes humans can identify. Gale is indeed special! This fun picture book with illustrations by Noah Klocek, a Pixar animator, if full of meteorological words. This would be a fun addition to a primary grade weather unit. The perfect companion book would be It Looked Like Spilt Milk, by Charles Shaw. An oldie but goodie!

Now let’s look at a couple history titles. I freely admit that I should have paid better attention in history class as a student, but these two books introduced me to history that I had never thought about. They look at moments in history from lenses that are not often used in history books and provide something new for students to consider.

Let’s go to New Orleans in Freedom in Congo Square, by Carole Boston Weatherford with lively illustrations by R. Gregory Christie. In 18th century New Orleans, Sundays were holy and even slaves were given Sunday afternoons off of work. Slaves and free people of African descent would gather in Congo Square to share stories, traditions, music, and dance. In Congo Square, they could temporarily put aside their struggles and celebrate their culture. “Congo Square kept African music and dance alive in New Orleans, never really dying out.” (Branley). A foreword by historian Freddi Williams Evans provides additional information about Congo Square. This is a great addition to the study of African American history and culture or the roots of jazz music.

How many times have we read about and taught lessons related to World War 2 and the Holocaust? There are so many great books that describe this horrendous time in world history. However, I do not remember reading a book about a child in East Berlin as the Berlin Wall was being built. A Night Divided, by Jennifer Nielson is that book. 12-year old Gerta lives with her family in East Berlin. She knows tensions are high, but she is shocked to wake up one morning to a new fence on the border between East and West Berlin. She is even more saddened when the fence is replaced by a wall, and her father and brother are one the other side. As I read this book, I found myself wanting to know more about this time in world history. I remember the wall coming down in 1989, but I had never given thought to when it went up and the lives of the people living behind the wall at that time.

I would have done so much better in high school history if it had been told through these and the many other amazing children’s books that are out there now!

The books:

Becker, Bonny. Cloud Country. New York: Disney Pr, 2015. Print.

Nielsen, Jennifer A. A Night Divided. New York: Scholastic, 2015. Print.

Weatherford, Carole Boston. Freedom in Congo Square. New York: Little Bee, 2016. Print.


Sources of additional information:

“Berlin Wall.” A&E Television Networks, 2009. Web. 16 July 2015. <>.

Branley, Edward. “NOLA History: Congo Square and the Roots of New Orleans Music –” GoNOLAcom. New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation, 02 July 2012. Web. 16 July 2015. <>.


Children’s Books for Fun Summer Reading

One of my favorite parts of the American Library Association conferences is browsing through the seemingly never-ending aisles of vendors. I often skip right to the book vendors to see what treasures they are giving away. I usually mail home boxes of free books and my suitcase still tips dangerously close to 50 pounds!book-112117_1280
This week I will review a few of my favorite finds in new children’s literature.
Each ALA conference, I seek out the author Kathryn Otoshi who wrote Zero, One, and Two. These simple and beautiful picture books use numbers to introduce young children to ideas themes like bullying, friendship, and the importance of every individual. Her newest book is titled Beautiful Hands. This book was a collaborative effort between Otoshi and her friend Bret Baumgarten. It honors a tradition in Bret’s family, asking, “What will your beautiful hands do today?” The colorful illustrations are made entirely of the handprints of Otoshi’s and Baumgarten’s family members. It is a beautiful tribute and labor of love. Otoshi’s works and ideas for using some of her books can be found on her website at
I have a new favorite picture book character: Max the Brave. This book was first published in 2014, but it was new to me. Max is a brave, mouse-chasing kitten with a problem. He is not quite sure what a mouse looks like. This is a great story for predictions: what animal do you think Max will find next. It would also be fun to have a class create an animal picture encyclopedia to help Max. Or, tell the story using a different animal as the brave one: what if Max was a cat? What animals would be in his story. This would be a great story to act out. Have the students be different animals and put on a play. While you are at it, have them make simple masks or costumes. This is a fun read-aloud that your young students will surely love. Be on the lookout this September for a new book about Max!
That is just a taste of the hundreds of advanced reader copies of books that were given out at the ALA conference. It is so fun to have a sneak peak of great books coming out later this year!
Check back on this blog in a few days. I will review a few new curriculum-related picture books and give you ideas for using them with your students.

Co-Assessing in the School Library

So far this month, Judi talked about co-planning and Lucy addressed co-teaching.5227436224_aa52b49262_z

An important, but often left out, step in a collaborative relationship is co-assessment. The teacher and librarian have planned together and taught together, so it seems natural that the team should also assess together. However, time and other commitments often are allowed to get in the way of this step and the assessment is often left to just one of the educators.

In Lucy’s post earlier this week, one of the descriptions of co-teaching was “Both professionals coordinate and deliver substantive instruction and have active roles.” The same is true for co-assessing. One model for co-assessing might look like this:

  • The teacher assesses the content, the librarian assesses the library skills, and together they assess the product.

Assessment is not something that is just done at the end of the lesson or unit. Best practice is to continually assess for learning so you know the students are learning the intended information and making progress toward the lesson objectives.

A recent blog post by Angela Stockman describes “10 things you don’t know about formative assessment.”

Stockman’s first tip is “Formative assessment is a verb, not a noun.” It is something we do in order to learn about the student; it is not a thing. Assessment is active and continuous. Good assessments inform good teaching. Assessments are directly related to the learning objectives. After you spend the time planning and teaching, you need to know that your students have learned. You need to know that your collaborative teaching experience had a positive impact on the students. Once you have collected data related to student learning, you can use this to show the importance of your effective school library program. You can also use this data to encourage other teachers to join in a collaborative relationship.

One of the best parts of co-assessing is that the librarian has the opportunity to see the project through to the end. So many times a class comes in for the research part of a project but the librarian does not see the final product. When you are co-planning, be sure to set aside time so you can be there for the presentations at the end. This goes a long way in building trust and relationships. It shows the students (and the teachers) that you care and that their hard work matters to you.

How do you assess learning in a collaborative lesson? Do you divide the assessment responsibilities or do you work side-by-side to assess together? What is your favorite formative assessment strategy in the library?


Stockman, A. (2015, June 15). 10 things you don’t know about formative assessment. [Blog]. Retrieved from

Photo courtesy of PNASH via Flicker.


BACC Webinar Wrap-up

During the month of May, the BACC posts have revolved around the Texas Library Association’s webinar with the co-bloggers which took place on May 19. Over 60 participants from around the country attended the webinar . In addition to Texas, there were participants from Tennessee, Georgia, Missouri, Virginia, and more; at least one person joined us from Germany! It was exciting to see so many people all coming together to share ideas and discuss collaboration in the school library.

Judi Moreillon kicked things off by asking, “Is your school collaborative?” In an informal chat poll, the response was almost evenly split. We still have work to do. Why is collaboration important? Judi said it perfectly, “Working together, we can achieve more than we can individually.”

The discussion continued and soon the chats were filling up with ideas of what collaboration looks like in your school library. These ideas showed the changing image of school libraries:

What would a new person see when they come into your library?

  • Welcoming greeting
  • Talking
  • Buzz and flurry
  • Co-teaching
  • Students working in groups
  • Teaching on online tools

 Where is student input reflected?

  • Music
  • Student art
  • Smiling faces
  • Comfy chairs
  • Hours of operation
  • New coffee shop
  • Group study rooms
  • Student display boards
  • Student book trailers
  • Casual corner
  • Lunch/socialization
  • Student work on website and in library
  • Reading buddies
  • QR codes
  • Book spine poetry
  • Chatterpix Kids on website
  • Science research and poster sessions
  • Stop motion animation
  • Students submit designs for website banner

This is not the library of yester-year!

Next, we were encouraged to think outside of just the traditional classroom teacher/librarian collaboration. Who else could be a collaborative partner? Again, participants shared great ideas:

  • Art
  • Curriculum coaches
  • Sped
  • PE
  • Music
  • PTA
  • Coaches
  • Bilingual teachers
  • Theater
  • Preschool teachers
  • Student teachers

The consensus was that collaboration is about cultivating relationships. A great place to start is with new teachers. Rebecca Morris recently published an article about this in the June/July issue of Knowledge Quest, “You’re Hired! Welcoming New Teachers to the School Library.”

So, how do you earn their trust?

  • Become a curriculum expert – you are first and foremost a teacher
    • Melissa encouraged us to, “Teach more, librarian less.”
  • Ask to go to curriculum training sessions, even for areas outside a typical library focus
  • Train teachers after you attend conferences
  • Offer to do “little things” to make friends and build relationships
  • Service at the point of need. We are in the business of “servant leadership”
  • Use online tools to organize content, such as Symbaloo or LibGuides
  • Above all, stay focused on the student

One participant said, “Teacher do not always realize the depth of which we can help them. They think we are only there for the students.” One of the AASL dispositions for school librarians is “perseverance.” This may be the time to practice this disposition! Don’t give up – let them see the great things the librarian can do for the teachers with the ultimate goal of positively impacting students.

A final take-away for collaboration with teachers: What is your elevator speech for collaboration?

Ask the teachers: How can I help you? How can we together make an impact in increased student learning?

Judy Kaplan next reminded us of the importance of collaborating with the administrators. After all, the librarian often has the same “big picture view” as the administrator.

Find your entry point:

  • Find a daily chance to interact
  • Build a relationship
  • See the big picture – think from an administrator point of view
  • Active listening, empathy, humor”Massage the message”
  • Return on investment – scarcity of resources, time, and money
  • Mission and vision drives the activities – get involved on committees – be at the table
  • Show what you are doing in the library – important at budget time!
  • Find your allies

The take-away for collaboration with administrators: What is your library’s brand? Tie it to the mission and vision of the school.

Finally, some of Lucy Santos Green’s thoughts were shared. How can we collaborate with the greater community?

  • Parents who own businesses can be great partners
  • Public librarians visit to share summer programming

We were reminded that the community includes more than just the students and the teachers. What are you doing to collaborate with all of the stakeholders in your school community? Start by identifying them. Then think about the take-aways from this month and particularly from the webinar. As another school year draws to a close, I challenge you to consider these questions

  •  What is your elevator speech for collaboration?
  • What is your library’s brand?

Spend time this summer developing and practicing these, then share with the community of school librarians on this blog and in your local area. You might be surprised at the results.

brand community Original image created by Libby Levi for Used under Creative Commons licenses, Attribution and Share Alike


Students as Advocates

April is School Library Month. In Virginia, the governor makes an official proclamation every year acknowledging the importance of school librarians. The proclamation talks about the educational impact made by school librarians and the role of our profession in educating the students in the 21st Century. School librarians around the country spend this month advocating for their programs and espousing the significance of school libraries to the entire school. Who are the best advocates for the importance of school libraries? The students we serve. Truth – school librarians are important in developing 21st century learners. Truth – school librarians play a pivotal role in the school. Truth – school libraries should be the heart of the school. Truth – school libraries MUST be places of comfort and refuge for ALL of our students.
As I write, Congress is working on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and librarians are speaking out to get their voices heard. The NEA and AASL partnered to support a “Twitter Storm” just last week and library supporters tweeted about the impact and importance of school libraries. #GetESEARight Twitter lit up with comments about the importance of school libraries to the people that matter most – the students. Comments such as, “This is our library,” and “It’s a sanctuary,” showed what an effective school library program can mean to the students. Click here to watch a video about what one school library means to the school:

In a video clip posted by YALSA, one girl held up a sign that read in part, “When the world is harsh and unforgiving, I can escape to the sanctuary of a hardback novel, in a corner that is silent.”

When I was a high school librarian, a student leadership group at the school conducted a survey about bullying. We were delighted when they analyzed the results and discovered that the “safest” place in the school was the library! Students commented, “No one would dare bully anyone in the library. Everyone is welcome there!” Our students became our best advocates. They posted signs declaring the library was the safest spot in the school and announced it on the daily announcements. Their library was their safe haven no matter who you were, and they wanted everyone to know it. They wanted all students in the school to know that the library was a place of refuge, where all students mattered.

Watch this inspiring video from Fort Lauderdale Public Library Teens, “I Matter.”

What would your students say about your library? Put it to the test and ask them: Why does the school library matter? Share your video and let your students be your best advocates!

dog in the sun
I’m a dog person. I love to watch our dogs on a sunny day as they follow the sun spot streaming through the window. They can’t get enough and they get up and move as the sun moves. They are content, relaxed, and in their happy place.

The library should be the sun spot for our students. It should be the place they go when they need comfort. It should be the place they seek out for warmth and belonging because they matter, and so does the library – their sanctuary – their place of escape – their home. It’s where their heart is.