Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Boys vs. Girls - Gender Equality in the Stacks

Exhibition is next week.  It's always an exciting time as students demonstrate the deep thinking skills they have been developing throughout the PYP

This year we have a group focusing on Gender Equality, and they have used our Library Media Centre as part of their action.

After asking permission, this group was given one shelf in which they turned around the books lacking what they defined as a strong female character.


The criteria they used were the following three questions:

  • Is there a female main character?
  • Does she have a dream?

They created and hung posters explaining what they did and why.


Originally, participating in dialog was a requirement, but when the girls realized they would have to read EVERY book, they struck that requirement. How might it have changed the results?

I was surprised to see so many books turned around. It was over 80% of this particular shelf. I can't help but wonder if that would be the average for the rest of the shelves?


While I may not agree with every book they turned, it was a more thought provoking action than I expected.  I have always made an effort to purchase and maintain a balanced collection in every library I have worked in. A couple of years ago, I purchased every book available (that we didn't already own) from the Might Girl book lists. I was expecting a result closer to 50/50.

Most importantly, it has also made me examine the books I read with a more critical eye and realize what I have been accepting as "normal".

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Anti-bullying book bashes Girl Scouts

I don't often write book reviews, and as a rule, I only share about books I like, but I just finished one that made me angry for Girl Scouts.

Save me a Seat by Sarah Weeks is about a boy, Ravi, who just arrived in America from India.  It is his story of trying to fit into a new culture, while overcoming obstacles and assumptions.  All in all a good story with a solid message.... until it included a little unchallenged Girl Scout bashing. 

I thought, toward the end, Sarah Weeks would redeem herself by having Dillon, the bully, apologize or having Selena, the Girl Scout, speak up for herself.  But no, it leaves the reader hearing Dillon shout that only dorks stay in Girl Scouts after 5th grade and seeing Selena blush when she admits she is a Girl Scout. No self-confidence, just blushing. 

I was never a Girl Scout, but I've been a Girl Scout mom for five years and a leader for two. I've learned through my daughters how much there is to this organization. And the girls who continue after 5th grade are rock stars! This is when the girls really develop as leaders, impact their communities, and share their skills with others.

I find it unbelievable that a book about assumptions usually being wrong and there being more to people than meets the eye would include a character like Selena and treat her so poorly. Why bother to identify her as a Girl Scout if only to bully her? 

Looking for a book that promotes empathy and discourages stereotypes? Choose something else.


Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The Book Bus

Statistics state that about 60% of the students at my school are English Language Learners. I would argue that 100% of students in primary grades are English Language Learners; they are all building vocabulary and learning grammar. And what better way to learn than by being read to?

To ensure our students are being exposed to as much literature as possible, I talked to my EL 3-4-5 teachers about bringing the library to their students on a daily basis. Surprisingly, I got a lot of pushback.

"We want the parents to bring their children up to the library." (Me, too! But not many do.)

"We can't spare any more time in the week." (I'm not asking for more time.)

"We want them to learn to use the library." (Me, too.  This is in addition to library visit, not instead of.)

My original idea was to bring a cart of books down either first thing in the morning or at morning recess so students could exchange their books. It has morphed into something different and perhaps even more beneficial.

Meet our Book Bus:


When I purchased this shiny red cart equipped with bins, I never dreamt my librarian partner would convert it to a double-decker bus. She even lined two of the upper bins with shiny gold paper to distinguish them as the "return" bins, and she designed coordinating London-Tube-style bus stop signs that hang in the primary hallway, indicating where students can trade in their library books. It even has headlights and a bell! We often hear excited calls of "Here comes the bookbus!" as we approach the Early Learning hallway.
Students each receive a book bag on which we write their name and patron number. (They can decorate the other side if they wish.) When students want new books, they simply hang their bag outside the classroom on a hook by their Bus Stop sign. Once a day a library staff member drives the Book Bus along its route. If students are not busy with direct instruction, they are excused from class (2 or 3 at a time) to change their books. They LOVE it. If they are busy, they receive what we call "Librarian Surprise" and the staff member selects the books. Using our ipads with the DestinyQuest app, we check out books right there in the hallway. (To expedite the process, we bring most returns back to the desktop computer in the library.)


It has proven to be a fun way to give students access to more books and a wider variety of genres. We have a number of preschool and kindergarten boys who regularly limit their selections to sharks, dinosaurs, Star Wars, and Superman.  When they are in the library, they are allowed to choose what they want - even if it is the same thing every week. But those books rarely make it on board the book bus.  In the hallway, those same students choose from Caldecott medal books, books that support classroom curriculum, and books from a wide variety of Dewey sections.  There was some whining in the first weeks until they realized that they can still come to the library and choose their favorites. Parents have thanked us for providing variety in their reading diets.

There have been other benefits as well. We run reports that tell us which books have had 0 circs; those books are put on board the bus and are taken for a spin. Our quick and dirty solution for drowning in books to re-shelve is to place a number of those books on the Book Bus. And, finally, circulation statistics jumped an additional average of 12 books per student per year. (Not as high as I'd like to see it but trending favorably.)

Most importantly, perhaps, students in the early grades are learning that if you don't have to wait a whole week for new books.... because Every Day is Library Day!










Monday, December 7, 2015

Oh, Tannenbuch... Or the Evolution of a Book Tree

Making a book tree is not a new thing.  We saw it on a twitter or scoop.it or instagram posting somewhere and decided to give it a try in 2012.  It has now become a tradition to which the students anticipate; they begin asking us about it in mid-November.

Here in Germany, the Christmas tree is called a Tannenbaum.  Since ours is made of books, it has affectionately become our Tannenbuch.  

The first year we built it on a pallet and added a helium balloon star.  It wasn't very tall, very stable, nor very pretty. But it was a hit. And those are actual library book gifts around the base.  (See this post for the details.)

After studying photos of other book trees online, we were more purposefully in our construction and decided to build a "green" tree the next year.  It was quite fun to pull all the green books - far more fun to pull than to reshelve them later.

Year three saw the addition of a little red and a base made of old encyclopedias.


This year we added a little blue for our school colors and built it a little taller.  We have begun housing unused textbooks in the library, and our anti-lumberjack (the name we have for the assistant who builds the tree each year) found that having a surplus of thick, uniform books made construction simpler and more stable. 


No one remembers why, but our tree has become an exercise in estimation.  Students of all grades, as well as staff, are each allowed one educated guess at the number of books used. Prizes have varied from books to movie cards to book fair vouchers. We have done this since year one - but that year we could not give the prizes until we returned from vacation, dismantled the tree, and counted the books.  The next year we grew wiser.  

We now have a patron named Christmas Tree, and every book used in construction is scanned out to Tree.  This method provides an accurate count of books (without actually counting, and marks all of Tree's books as unavailable so we no longer scour the room looking for a book that turns out to be the cornerstone.

Our tree started at one end of the library in 2012 and has moved its way, a little each year, across our space to its present location, right next to the front door.  

So I have to wonder, where will we put it next year?