This is what a library lesson looks like; or not.

This week I shared with an Early Childhood Specialist, who is also my best friend, the library lessons I had planned, and students had enjoyed.  They were all centered around picture books, and had an extension activity to create personal meaning for my readers.

Just because she is my best friend, don’t think for a minute she will not critique extensively, the work I’m doing.  Guess what?  She loved all of my activities! But…(you knew this was coming I’m sure), she felt that my lessons played out like  classroom lessons.  She added that she hadn’t the experience of witnessing a librarian do an actual lesson, the schools she visits don’t seem to have a solid library program,  but that she envisioned the library lesson as being something “else”.  @_@

I’ve been giving this much thought.  Have I yet to let go of the classroom teacher mindset? Was I doing the Librarian thing wrong? If you know me, you can imagine how much of a hole this burned into my mind.  I’ve mostly watched librarians do a read aloud, followed by a discussion, followed by check out.  These are great librarians that are appreciated by the faculty and administration of their respective schools. So what was I doing differently that could be anchored in my classroom mentality?

I began my search for answers by going back to what I believe MY mission is as a librarian.  This is my own goal, which is aligned with my district’s, department’s and governing association’s goals and missions, as I interpret them (wink, wink!).  I am working towards creating a culture of readers in our elementary campus.  What does this look like?  It’s a community of readers that finds adventure, love, answers, or refuge in between the covers of a book.  It’s readers sharing recommendations and talking about books like they talk about video games, television, or their favorite celebrity. It’s students finding kindred spirits, kids they never thought they had common interests or struggles with, because they discover they love the same books.  It’s reading becoming a necessity instead of a drudgery.

How can I create this culture?  By sharing my passion and love for books.  By reading engaging books to my students during library time and somehow relating it back to who we are, what we’ve been through, what we wish for.  I hope that what we do after sharing a book doesn’t taste like schoolwork to my readers, and the feeling I get from them is that it doesn’t.   Any extension activity, paired activity, or however you might want to call it is a way to make the book ours, and that takes different forms for each reader.  Do they write sometimes? Yes.  Do they color sometimes? I wish they did this more often.  Do they discuss the story, create a new story, or search for books with similar content? Yup. Do they start growing an interest in the authors I expose them to? Totally.  Do they order from their teacher’s Scholastic Book Club Flyer some of the books we’ve shared? Yeah! Do they ask to check out the book I just read out? Mm-hm.

Acquisition Selection Committee pouring through book catalogs.
Acquisition Selection Committee pouring through book catalogs.

Reflecting over my mission and what I’ve done so far to begin the hunger for reading and becoming part of a community of readers, I don’t have an answer to the thought that got this whole post started.  When I plan, am I planning with my classroom teacher brain or with my teacher librarian brain? Ummm not sure.  Do my lessons look like a classroom lesson? Perhaps. Do my readers enjoy it? I believe so, I measure it by their engagement and also by their need to share what they’ve come up with.  Are my readers taking chances with the authors I expose them to during library time? Many have.  Does this seem like steps in the right direction towards creating a culture of readers?  My 83 days as a teacher librarian, my years of experience as a reader, my knowledge of pedagogy and children afforded to me by the classroom, and my gut all agree that ABSOLUTELY, we are taking solid, forward steps towards becoming hopelessly and irrevocably in love with the written word in whatever format we choose to read in and that, is all that matters.

Marketing, who knew it would be part of my Librarian Life?

I have been a librarian for 83 days!  Now that I have gotten some semblance of routine and programming down I’d like to share my BIGGEST concern so far: getting students, and their families and significant adults to come to workshops, activities, and well all the fun stuff the library has to offer.  What are these fun activities?  Here’s a list:

  • -Story Time for Toddlers Wednesdays at 9:30 am
  • – Makerspaces after school
  • – Character Pumpkin Decorating Contest
  • -Literacy @ Home Workshops for parents of children in Pre-K and K in the evenings
  • -Battle of the Books

-Acquisitions Committee aka Cannaday’s Book Nerds

How have I gotten the word out?

  • Paper and digital flyers sent home
  • Pictures on twitter and our website so families can “see” how fun it is
  • Talking it up during students’ library time
  • Morning announcement during well…Morning Announcements
  • Standing at the curb handing out flyers to family members while they wait to drop/pick up their children

What else can I do to entice families to give it a chance, to come and have some fun at their library?

This is the new action plan so far:

1- During students’ library time I will show a clip or other visual of what we are doing during Makerspace

2- My first family night will be this week, I will place over tables all the activities that students will have to chose from when they come.

3- This idea is going to take more strategic planning than the others: visit homes for a quick greeting/invitation.  Maybe I could do it by grade levels or start with the streets in our neighborhood that have the greatest amount of families with children at our school.

If you read this and have any ideas that will motivate our families to come to their library please, share it with me.

The 5th time is the charm?

As I begin my new journey, this time as a Library Media Specialist (LMS for short) I have created yet another blog.  My previous creations have been requisites for courses and workshops and although I thought of using one of those, it didn’t feel right to document the learning, mishaps, victories, fun times, and growth on a blog that was not originally created for this career shift.

I have been having so many mixed feelings about this transition.  I moved to the library in order to have a platform that afforded me to influence not just a group of 20-30 kids a year, but ALL my school’s kids. However, I will miss the close relationships I developed with my homeroom and their families, I will miss children being “Mine, mine, mine!”  I also want to ease the pain, anxiety and frustration that testing can cause teachers and students by creating a reading culture.  Falling in love with the written word and finding books you are passionate about will develop high order thinking skills, problem solving skills, and just a warm and fuzzy feeling about reading that will make test taking just another part of the school year, not the center of it.  But, there are days that I wonder how I will be able to do that for 500+ kids ranging from K-6th grade.

I have thrown myself into reading blogs, following educators on twitter, and asking questions to anyone I meet that has a wealth of knowledge on how to affect positively and create a love of reading and a reading culture in our schools.  I am inspired by them and also supported by many.  I have reached out to fellow tweeters and they have always been there to answer my questions and suggest resources.

As the big day approaches I hope to successfully deal with my homeroom teacher “empty nest syndrome”, and focus on developing relationships (and remembering so many names!) with the students and teachers at my school.  I have planned and hope to successfully follow through with before/during/after-school library programs that will attract many interests, abilities, questions, answers, and ideas.  I am counting on the support of my PLN, PLC, and above all, my students, to enlighten me on what works best for them not only academically, but personally.