Advertisement. Click on the ad for more information.
Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Archive | Middle Kingdom

Middle Kingdom: Kapolei, Hawaii

The books that most delight middle school and junior high readers often straddle a “Middle Kingdom” ranging from upper middle grade to YA. Bookology columnist Lisa Bullard regularly visits the Middle Kingdom by viewing it through the eyes of a teacher or librarian. Bookology is delighted to celebrate the work of these educators who have built vital book encampments in the transitional territory of early adolescence.

This journey takes us to Kapolei Middle School in Kapolei, Hawaii, where Lisa talks with Library Media Specialist Carolyn H. Kirio.

Carolyn H. Kirio, Kapolei Middle SchoolLisa: What are three to five things our blog readers should know about your community, school, or library/media center?

Carolyn: Aloha! Greetings from our 50th State! Located in the Pacific Ocean, our state is made up of eight major islands and 124 islets, stretching in a 1,500-mile crescent from Kure Island in the west to the island of Hawaii in the east. Most of the state’s residents live on Oahu, and nearly ¾ of them reside in Honolulu, the state’s capital. Kapolei Middle School is located in Kapolei, a newly developed suburb on the west side of the island of Oahu. Our school services 1,450 sixth to eighth graders and is a year-round multitrack school.

Lisa: What recent changes or new elements are affecting the work you do with students?

Carolyn: Although it is not a recent change, our school is on a multitrack year-round schedule.  To accommodate our large school population, our students are divided into four tracks. This means that at any one time, three of the four tracks are attending school while the fourth is on intersession (vacation). Furthermore, our instructional cycle is a year-round education (YRE) pattern which offers us an alternative way to construct the school calendar. The rotation sequence follows a year-round 45/15 calendar where one track returns from vacation and one track leaves every 15 days. Our teachers do not have a classroom to call their own because they constantly rotate into the room vacated by the teacher leaving on intersession. The transition is completed in a single afternoon with the exchange of file cabinets, instructional supplies, and desks. After the dust settles, our school updates the room and phone lists to reflect the track change.

Kapolei Middle School, Carolyn H. Kirio

Besides being very confusing and chaotic, you might be wondering how this affects the library. Many times I attempt to do school-wide instruction or initiatives. What would normally take a week to complete teaching all classes stretches out to two or more based upon the number of students who need to cycle through, as well as the intersession that occurs for the track. Because timing is everything, I have enlisted technology to assist me in teaching. Using the strategy of flipped classroom instruction, I create many lessons in mp4 format and have them available on demand through our closed circuit and intranet system. The library has several dedicated stations that teachers can call up on demand. As time allows in their busy schedules, they can fit my lessons in throughout the day when it best fits within their course instruction. Some of the most-viewed segments include my lessons on bibliography instruction, recognizing and avoiding plagiarism, and book infomercials I create to get students excited about different titles in the collection.

Lisa: What five books (or series) are checked out most often by your middle school students?

Carolyn: This year has been a roller coaster as far as tracking which books are trending and which are not. Book-inspired movies and television shows have influenced book borrowing throughout the year. However, once the popularity of the show wanes, students quickly transition back to the writers who reliably create great reads. Narrowing it down, the five authors and their series that remain consistently popular include Rick Riordan (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, The Heroes of Olympus), Jeff Kinney (Diary of a Wimpy Kid), Rachel Renee Russell (Dork Diaries), R.L. Stine (Goosebumps), and Darren Shan (The Saga of Darren Shan/Cirque du Freak).

gr_hawaii_books

Lisa: What book(s) do you personally love to place into middle school students’ hands?

Cacy & Kiari and the Curse of the Ki'iCarolyn: On a daily basis I work as a literature matchmaker to pair students with potential books that they will connect with and enjoy. Engaging students in conversation, my goal is to discover what their personal interests are and what topics they are passionate about. Oftentimes I love to introduce students to Hawaiian historical fiction such as titles written by Graham Salisbury, who focuses on story lines and communities set in different parts of our state. Because characters and settings are familiar, students can easily understand and relate to his books. An exciting new book has recently been on my recommendation list: Cacy & Kiara and the Curse of the Ki`i (Hawaiian statue or idol) by Roy Chang. Roy is the author and illustrator and has skillfully crafted an adventure set in a world where our main characters interact with Hawaiian myths and legends. An intermediate school fine arts teacher, Roy knows what interests middle school kids and created a hybrid manga and chapter book that is an instant draw. I hope that his sequel will be out soon because students can’t wait to revisit Cacy and Kiara and embark on another journey filled with Hawaiian culture and mythology!

Lisa: If you had a new staffer starting tomorrow, what piece of advice would you be sure to give them?

Carolyn: Gee, where do I begin? Get ready for a bumpy ride! Some words of wisdom that would be shared would include:

  • Always keep students busy and engaged
  • Network with your surrounding school librarians and get peer support
  • Organize yourself and make a plan (immediate and short-term goals)
  • Get to know all the teachers and staff in your school
  • Model desired attitudes and behavior
  • Enlist the help of a teacher to collaborate with
  • Expect the unexpected
  • Everyday is a learning experience, just do your best
  • Find the time to laugh and have fun!

Lisa: What do you like most about working with middle schoolers?

Carolyn: No two days are ever the same! Students are filled with never-ending energy and questions. They keep you constantly on your toes and thinking outside of the box. Given the opportunity to grow and challenge themselves, they exceed expectations and surprise you with what they can produce.  

I laugh every day! It is such a weird stage in life for these kids, that if you can’t laugh with them, you will go insane. Middle schoolers have the ability to really push themselves, be independent learners, and tap into their creativity and curiosity. They are constantly questioning who they are, discovering what they can do, and testing where their boundaries lie. As a teacher it can be exciting and frustrating at the same time. They are what they are, which is, in short, growing up.  Still children at heart, they can’t help but want to learn and play, so why fight them? Join them!

Lisa: How have books or other things changed for Middle Kingdom readers during your time as a librarian?

Carolyn: I have been a librarian for 23 years. During this time I have seen the phasing out of the card catalog, floppy disks, and microfiche. I have seen computer storage increase from megabytes to terabytes, to archiving in the cloud. The Internet has made the world a smaller place, offering access to information, resources, and experts from around the globe, and with a click, universally translated into a familiar language that can be understood and comprehended by everyone. Recently technology has progressed and desktops have been replaced by the adoption of apps, mobile technology, and eBooks. Middle Kingdom readers have increased access to information, and libraries are now open virtually 24/7. With so much knowledge at their fingertips, it will be truly amazing to see what they discover and how their curiosity inspires this next generation of learners.

Read more...

Middle Kingdom: Albuquerque, New Mexico

The books that most delight middle school and junior high readers often straddle a “Middle Kingdom” ranging from upper middle grade to YA. Bookology columnist Lisa Bullard regularly visits the Middle Kingdom by viewing it through the eyes of a teacher or librarian. Bookology is delighted to celebrate the work of these educators who have built vital book encampments in the transitional territory of early adolescence.

This journey takes us to Albuquerque Academy in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where Lisa talks with librarian Jade Valenzuela.

Lisa: What are three to five things our blog readers should know about your community, school, or library/media center?

Jade ValenzuelaJade: Our school library is a large, multi-functional space with over 140,000 items and is a place students can come before, during and after school to study or have class, and to just hang out!

Lisa: What recent changes or new elements are affecting the work you do with students?

Jade: New school schedule, implementing a laptop program at the school, using new technologies like LibGuides and digital tools have changed the way I work with students, the latter in a very positive way.

Lisa: What five books (or series) are checked out most often by your middle school students?

Jade: Comic books like FoxTrot by Bill Amend. In the past couple of years, Dork Diaries by Rachel Renee Russell, Divergent by Veronica Roth, the Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins, and Rick Riordan books. John Green, too.

Albquerque Academy reads

Lisa: What book(s) do you personally love to place into middle school students’ hands?

Skulduggery PleasantJade: Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy–one of my personal favorites that most kids haven’t heard of, but all love it after they read it. I love going through the shelves with students, talking with them about what they have read and what they would like to read and then I offer suggestions based on what they say. It is a very personalized process, and I just love to get students reading something they are interested in.

Lisa: What do you like most about working with middle schoolers?

Jade: The energy and enthusiasm. It can be exhausting sometimes, but I love seeing them light up and get excited about books and reading.

Lisa: Could you share some information about your most popular/successful/innovative program for promoting books and reading?

Jade: I do booktalks with middle grades, so I meet with classes and get to share books that I like and want to recommend. Our lower division also brings students up to the library for Independent Reading hours, where students just pick books and sit and read, and I am available to help them pick. Lots of books get checked out on these days! I also sometimes do displays to promote books.

Albuquerque Academy Simms Library

Lisa: How have books or other things changed for Middle Kingdom readers during your time as a librarian?

Jade: I have definitely noticed a shift toward digital media, not necessarily for reading, but just for everything–playing video games, watching YouTube, etc., seems to have taken over for many students as their favorite hobby. It is always interesting to me to see the trends, especially in my own community. One year, manga may be all the rage, then dystopian, then realistic. It is really interesting and hard to predict. Keeps me on my toes!

Lisa: What do you want your students to remember about your library in ten years?

Jade: I want them to remember it as a place they liked to come to, welcoming and safe, where they could find what they needed, get help, and leave happy.

Read more...

Middle Kingdom: Denver, Colorado

The books that most delight middle school and junior high readers often straddle a “Middle Kingdom” ranging from upper middle grade to YA. Each month, Bookology columnist Lisa Bullard will visit the Middle Kingdom by viewing it through the eyes of a teacher or librarian. Bookology is delighted to celebrate the work of these educators who have built vital book encampments in the transitional territory of early adolescence.

This month we’re visiting Denver Academy in Denver, Colorado, where Lisa talks with librarian Jolene Gutiérrez.

Lisa: What are three to five things our blog readers should know about your community, school, or library/media center?

Jolene GutierrezJolene: I’m the librarian at Denver Academy, a school for diverse learners from elementary through high school.

  • Our school is located on 22 acres and we use the campus as a learning tool, from studying wildlife in our small pond to working out math problems in chalk on our sidewalks.
  • Our campus started as a tuberculosis hospital in the early 1900s, so we have some beautiful historic buildings, including the Chapel where my main library is housed (I also run a small High School Media Center in another building). The Chapel is 90 years old this year and is designated as an historic landmark in the city of Denver. We’re working on a grant application that will help us to preserve and restore certain parts of the building, including the copper cupola and the zinc-camed windows. I’ve done a lot of research over the past few years and have pulled that information together into a website that my students use to create presentations and tours of the Chapel for their parents.

Denver Academy Chapel

  • Our school is comprised of diverse learners, which can mean lots of things. Some of our students are diagnosed with things like dyslexia or ADHD, and some have no diagnoses but do better with smaller class sizes. Either way, many of our students have struggled before coming to Denver Academy, and I think that their struggles and some of the pain they’ve experienced make them some of the most compassionate, respectful kids I’ve ever met. There’s very little bullying on our campus because most of the students know the pain of being bullied or feeling “less than,” and they don’t want others to feel that way.
  • Our students are some of the most creative people I’ve ever met. All of our students are brilliant, and that brilliance includes phenomenal artists, gifted musicians, creative writers, and wonderful actors. Many of our alumni have gone on to make a living as actors, sculptors, and musicians.
  • Some people say our library and other parts of our campus are haunted. A group of our teachers lead a “Haunted Denver” class each year, and the ambiance of our Chapel library coupled with those ghost tales have inspired many student movies and stories.

Denver Academy

Lisa: What recent changes or new elements are affecting the work you do with students?

Jolene: I started working in my library over 20 years ago when we weren’t automated and I was writing out overdue notices by hand. The technological changes in the last 20 years have transformed both the way I manage my library and the skills my students need to have when they graduate from our school. I do my best to keep up with teaching them what they need to know today as well as giving them the critical thinking skills they’ll need in the future (because I have no idea where we’ll be in another 20 years)!

Lisa: What five books (or series) are checked out most often by your middle school students?

Jolene: Dystopian fiction (especially that which has been made into movies like The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner, and The 5th Wave) has been very popular this year, as have books by authors who’ve visited our school recently, including Avi’s Old Wolf and Bobbie Pyron’s books Lucky Strike and The Dogs of Winter. And I know that’s six books, but I became a librarian because I like words better than numbers.

Denver Academy is reading

Lisa: What book(s) do you personally love to place into middle school students’ hands?

Jolene: No specific titles; just the right book for each kid, including books that students love because they make the task of reading a little easier to tackle:

  • Graphic novels are great for kids who have a tough time visualizing as they read because the pictures are pre-supplied. I also suggest graphic novels for the students who always ask for the novelizations of movies or books that movies are based on—these students may have issues with visualizing and picturing things and might want to read about something that they’ve seen visually, like a movie. Movies are CliffsNotes for kids who struggle with visualization, and they often want to read something they’ve already seen because they now have the images that go with the story.
  • Choose Your Own Adventure and similar books are wonderful for reluctant readers because they get to feel like they’re cheating at reading (so are graphic novels and nonfiction books with lots of photos). Now that there are so many CYOA-ish book series out there, students can find both nonfiction and fiction books, and when I show students that they can skip around and not really read the entire book, they get really excited and a lot of them actually end up reading most of the book because they try to get a positive ending to their story.
  • Series books give anxious students the answer to “What do I read next?” and help them to grow as a reader as they work their way through each book in the series.
  • Audio books and/or large print books allow students who struggle with print other options for accessing books. If students have a learning difference, they can work on growing their reading and comprehension skills in a less intimidating manner with these resources.

Lisa: If you had a new staffer starting tomorrow, what piece of advice would you be sure to give them?

Jolene: Some of our students don’t love books or reading, and that’s okay. We’re here to help them at least learn to like libraries and trust librarians. Teaching students to access libraries teaches them a life skill. And once students begin to trust you, they may become more open to exploring books with you. There’s nothing more fulfilling than finding the right book for a reluctant reader. Oftentimes, there is that one magical book that will unlock the world of reading for kids, and that is one of the most rewarding parts of being a librarian. If you can find that perfect book, you can help change a life forever.

Denver Academy

Lisa: What do you want your students to remember about your library in ten years?

Jolene: I want them to remember the magic of this space and the fun we’ve had here! I hope our library teaches students the joy of learning and books. I want our library to provide some warm fuzzy memories for students once they’re grown, and I hope my students’ good memories of their library will cause them to be lifelong library users.

Read more...

Middle Kingdom: Anchorage, Alaska

Nicole RoohiThe books that most delight middle school and junior high readers often straddle a “Middle Kingdom” ranging from upper middle grade to YA. Each month, Bookology columnist Lisa Bullard will visit the Middle Kingdom by viewing it through the eyes of a teacher or librarian. Bookology is delighted to celebrate the work of these educators who have built vital book encampments in the transitional territory of early adolescence.

This journey takes us to Goldenview Middle School in Anchorage, Alaska, where Lisa talks with librarian Nicole Roohi.

Lisa: Nicole, thank you so much for inviting us to make this virtual visit to your school library! Our first question is, what are three to five things our blog readers should know about your community, school, or library/media center?

"Nicole

Nicole: Goldenview Middle School serves 700-800 seventh and eighth graders and is located in Anchorage, Alaska. The Anchorage School District is the most desegregated school district in the country, and because of that we have an incredible diversity in each classroom, in race, language, culture, and socio-economic status. The top three most diverse high schools in the country are in Anchorage, and six of the top seven most diverse middle schools are also here. Although Goldenview is not one of these six, it can’t help but be incredibly diverse as a result of being in this wonderful city.

Lisa: What five books (or series) are checked out most often?

Nicole: Naturally, all the dystopian trilogies are topping our circulation list for the fall, followed by the movie tie-in books, so I’ll concentrate on the next most popular books after these usual suspects. That’s what makes it interesting, isn’t it? Intriguingly, The List by Siobhan Vivian was hands down the biggest single book in circulation this fall. I book talked it to one class, and then word of mouth made it spread like wildfire amongst the seventh graders. A few days later I noticed we had 14 holds on it, so I had to ILL several copies from other schools to fill the demand! The next four top books were Case File 13: Zombie Kid by J. Scott Savage, Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier, Girl, Stolen by April Henry, and Zero Tolerance by Claudia Mills.

Gardenview 5 most circulated books

Lisa: What book(s) do you personally love to place into students’ hands?

Nicole:

  • Graceling (by Kristin Cashore) is a favorite, and is an easy sell 95% of the time.
  • Ashfall (by Mike Mullin) is another easy sell, especially to boys. I like how the character matures.
  • Some years, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer) is very popular, other years not. This year it is circulating because some girls have read I Will Always Write Back (by Caitlin Alifirenka and Martin Ganda with Liz Welch), or I Am Malala (by Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb) and want something similar, so I put this in their hands.
  • The Thief (by Megan Whalen Turner) and The Raven Boys (by Maggie Stiefvater) are two of my favorite fantasies but are harder to sell. Generally girls who love fantasy and romance will take them, and they come back gushing and tell their friends about them.
  • We have a sizeable Native population here, so The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (by Sherman Alexie) is always popular; it’s one of my favorites and is one I love to show kids.
  • Whale Talk (by Chris Crutcher) and Slam (by Nick Hornby) appeal to boys once I point them out to them.
  • Finally, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks and even the Ruby Oliver series (all by E. Lockhart) are ones I love to give out because they are, as my daughter calls them, subversive chick-lit. The girls get hooked on the romance and drama, but they are quite empowering too. Probably The Disreputable History is too empowering as the girls hate that Frankie loses her boyfriend in the end. I’m guessing high schoolers are much less disturbed by this ending.

Gardenview Booktalks

Lisa: If you had a new staffer starting tomorrow, what piece of advice would you be sure to give them?

Nicole: Whenever I get a new library assistant, I tell them our first priority is service. Also, you have to love kids and books. If you do, then this is the best job in the school. What could be better than helping students and staff every day? We make their lives better and easier and more fun! The best thing about this job is personally delivering a book on hold to a student’s classroom and seeing the excited smile on their face.

Lisa: What do you like most about working with middle-schoolers?

Nicole: This age group is still young enough that they read all the time and homework doesn’t interfere too much, so we still work with books a lot. But they are finally old enough that they are thinking about the world around them and are trying to figure out what their place is in it and how they can make a difference. So we get to talk about how to make the world a better place and I can help them find resources for that too.

Reading in the library

Lisa: Could you share some information about your most popular, successful, innovative program for promoting books and reading to middle schoolers?

King of the Mild FrontierNicole: There are lots of ways we promote reading here. We just finished the Amazing Race, which is a district-wide reading competition among six of our middle schools. Last year several of the secondary librarians decided to genrefy our fiction sections to increase reading, and one of the things we did with that was to take our Amazing Race competition and turn it into a way to encourage our students to read in all seven genres. This year with all our students reading together, Goldenview read 3,268 hours in just 28 days! That is twice as much as we did last year.

We also have video announcements every morning, and I have been doing occasional recorded book talks for many years. However, last year we got a fantastic new announcements teacher, and we’ve worked together to improve the book talks. We now have Book Talk Tuesday every week, and the kids greatly look forward to it. They often sing the book talk jingle to me when I pass them in the hall.

Finally, I have for years created, curated, and updated a series of book pamphlets on different topics in our library. I have these on our circulation desk and students take these every day to help them find books of interest. Of course now that we’ve genrefied our fiction section, that helps them too!

Lisa: What do you want your students to remember about your library in ten years?

Nicole: In ten years I hope that my students still love to read. And I want them to see reading as a pathway to continue their education and growth for the rest of their lives. I very much would like to have them be strong public library users and supporters.

Read more...

Middle Kingdom: Suzhou, China

The books that most delight middle school and junior high readers often straddle a “Middle Kingdom” ranging from upper middle grade to YA. Each month, Bookology columnist Lisa Bullard will visit the Middle Kingdom by viewing it through the eyes of a teacher or librarian. Bookology is delighted to celebrate the work of these educators who have built vital book encampments in the transitional territory of early adolescence.

This month’s journey takes us to Dulwich College Suzhou in Suzhou, China, where Lisa talks with Head of Libraries and Senior School Librarian Leigh Collazo.

ph_MKDulwich

Dulwich College Suzhou

Lisa: Right off the bat, I’ll clarify for our readers that in this case, “college” means something other than how we use the term in the United States. Dulwich College Suzhou includes students ages 2-19. Leigh, what are three to five additional things our blog readers should know about your community, school, or library/media center?

Leigh: Dulwich College London was the first in our franchise, established in 1619. It has since expanded into Dulwich College International, which currently operates five additional schools and two international high schools in Asia.

Dulwich College Suzhou students and faculty represent over 40 nationalities all over the world. Our largest groups come from UK, Korea, and the United States. Our students are ages 2-19, separated into three schools: DUCKS (PreK-1st grade), Junior School (grades 2-5), and Senior School (grades 6-12). We have about 900 total students across the three schools. Though we do have very nice boarding facilities available, the vast majority of our students live off-campus with their families.

ph_suzhougarden

Lingering Garden, Suzhou

Suzhou is a beautiful Chinese city! We are located about 50 miles from Shanghai, which is easy to access via a 25-minute bullet train ride. Often called the “Venice of China,” Suzhou is most famous for its UNESCO World Heritage gardens, water towns, Buddhist temples, pagodas, and network of canals running through the city. All over the city, we see beautiful willow trees, colorful flowers, and lots of sculptures. There is a large recreational lake with a boardwalk within a five-minute walk from my front door. The weather here is very like that of northern Florida: hot and humid in the summer, cool (but still humid) in the winter. We get lots of rain, but it is rarely cold enough to snow. There are many expats from all over the world in Suzhou; I’ve heard the figures are as high as 10% foreigners in this area, mostly from Europe, Australia, and the USA.

We have two libraries at Dulwich College, located in the Junior School and Senior School. We have full-time library employees: two librarians (fully-certified with MLS degrees), one library intern (who will receive her MLS this December), and two library assistants. Together, our libraries boast a growing collection of 38,000 books and international newspapers and magazines. Our libraries are open from 7:50 am-4:30 pm daily. Both libraries have computers and iPads for students to use in the library. Both libraries have wireless Internet, and Senior School students are also able to connect to the school’s VPN. We subscribe to many of the same databases I used in my Texas library—Encyclopedia Britannica, PebbleGo, JSTOR, Tumblebooks, BrainPop, and Facts on File.

ph_MKLibrary

I think many people would be surprised to hear that I have had few difficulties with Chinese government censorship when purchasing library books. When we order (from the USA and UK), Customs does inspect our purchases, but I have not had any books rejected. I am able to purchase the same books here that I was able to purchase in the USA, plus I can purchase books from Australia, UK, and Canada, too!

Lisa: What recent changes or new elements are affecting the work you do with middle school students?

Leigh: Last year was my first year at my school, and we spent a large part of the year genrefying the 15,000 fiction titles in our library. It’s been a huge hit with students and faculty, and our overall circulation last year increased 89% over the previous school year.

This year, I am thrilled to tell you that we are adding Overdrive e-books for all our Senior School students, which I expect to launch by the end of September. My library assistant has been working on genrefying our 2,100-title Mandarin section, something our students requested last year. We plan to genrefy our Korean section this year as well, which is about 1,200 titles.

In November, we are bringing illustrator Matthew Holm (Babymouse series, Squish series) to Suzhou to speak to our students. We also have slam poet Nick Toczek visiting in November. All of our middle school students will get the chance to hear them speak.

ph_Panda Older ReadersLast, we are participating in Battle of the Books for the first time this year. We are using books on the Panda Older Readers Book List, plus seven more titles selected by participating librarians in the Shanghai area. In March 2016, our students will compete against other international schools from all over Shanghai, Wuxi, Suzhou, and Kunshan. They will also get to meet Newbery Award winning author Kwame Alexander at the competition.

Lisa: What five books (or series) are checked out most often by your middle school students?

Leigh:

  • The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
  • The Selection by Kiera Cass
  • Dork Diaries series by Rachel Renée Russell
  • Half Bad by Sally Green
  • Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Lisa: What books do you personally love to place into middle school students’ hands?

Leigh:

  • The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
  • Unwind by Neal Shusterman
  • Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin
  • Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen
  • The Seer and the Sword by Victoria Hanley

Lisa: If you had a new staffer starting tomorrow, what piece of advice would you be sure to give them? 

Leigh:

  1. Read the books! You can’t recommend them if you don’t read them.
  2. Be the weirdo. Be the crazy one who plays the spoons or breakdances or decorates the library with cat posters. Don’t be afraid to be yourself or be different from the other teachers. You are not them. You are you!

Lisa: What do you like most about working with middle-schoolers?

Leigh: I love their energy and their quirkiness. They are old enough to do many things for themselves, but they are still young enough to need guidance from trusted adults. I can joke around with middle school students, and they (usually!) get the jokes. Middle schoolers can be challenging sometimes, but every day, they make me laugh, give me hope, and even help me see things in a different way. Who else can say that about their job?

ph_MKLibrary2

Lisa: Could you share some information about your most popular/successful/innovative program for promoting books and reading to middle schoolers?

Leigh: I am a huge proponent of genrefication of fiction sections. Genrefication better reflects the way students browse the library. Front-facing library books (where the entire front cover is visible) also really helps students select books, as does multiple themed book displays. My favorite and most successful book promotion tool is reading and booktalking a LOT of titles. I booktalk all day long!

Lisa: How have books or other things changed for middle kingdom readers during your time as a librarian?

Leigh: I started working as a librarian in 2004. Since then, I’ve seen a huge increase in the number and acceptance of graphic novels. I’ve separated my graphic novels into their own section (rather than 741.5) since 2011. They were taking over the 700 section! That said, I think graphic novels still have a long way to go before many people consider them “real reading.”

Read more...

Middle Kingdom: Nebraska City, Nebraska

Middle Kingdom: Nebraska City, Nebraska

The books that most delight middle school and junior high readers often straddle a “Middle Kingdom” ranging from upper middle grade to YA. Each month, Bookology columnist Lisa Bullard will visit the Middle Kingdom by viewing it through the eyes of a teacher or librarian. Bookology is delighted to celebrate the work of these educators who have built vital book encampments in the transitional territory of early adolescence.

This month’s journey takes us to Nebraska City Middle School in Nebraska City, Nebraska, where Lisa talks with Media Specialist Alice Harrison.

Lisa: What would you like to tell our readers about your community?

Alice: Nebraska City, Nebraska is home to the national holiday Arbor Day, celebrated every year the last Friday in April. J. Morton Sterling, the founder of Arbor Day, migrated to the Nebraska Territory in 1854, where he later became the Secretary of Nebraska Territory. Sterling saw the agricultural and economical benefits of planting trees, and in 1872 he convinced the Nebraska Board of Agriculture to establish a specific holiday for everyone to join in planting trees. April was chosen to correlate with Sterling’s birthday, and several presidents since then have declared Arbor Day a national holiday on the last Friday in April. Since the first Arbor Day celebration to the present day, Nebraska City has celebrated with a parade down the main street where area middle school and high school bands come to perform. Tree starters are distributed to the attendees, as well as tons of candy!

The abundance of apple trees planted in Nebraska City has led to another celebration—the AppleJack Festival  was established to celebrate the harvesting of all those apples. Taking place the third weekend in September, people come from all over to consume apple pies, apple bread, apple donuts (my favorite!), several varieties of fresh apples, apple jams, and a long list of other apple items, along with participating in other celebratory events.

Lisa: What changes are ahead this year for your school or library/media center?

Alice: Nebraska City Middle School has 325 students, predominately white with a large population of Hispanic students. It is a Title 1 school with 45.8% free and reduced lunch. The district school board passed the implementation of a technology 1:1 initiative, beginning the school year of 2015-16, as a pilot program in the Middle School. All the students, staff, and faculty will have Chromebooks to use (at school only) by checking them in and out of the homerooms or alpha classrooms. Presently, the Middle School is the only school in the district approved to participate in this pilot program. Every classroom teacher will be using Google Classroom (a Google Apps for Education app). The goal is to help teachers save time by organizing lesson plans, incorporating interactive curriculum, allowing for student and teacher collaboration, and providing immediate teacher feedback, along with displaying and accessing class assignments and grades. To incorporate this 1:1 initiative, our IT director is setting up every student with their own personal Gmail account.

To teach digital citizenship and personal responsibility with the Chromebooks, every teacher, including myself, will be teaching and utilizing the Common Sense Media curriculum. I am only a ¼-time Media Specialist at the Middle School (I teach at the elementary school for the other ¾-time), so I am fortunate to have a marvelous full-time assistant in the Middle School library. The first few days of school this coming year, all the students will be attending training sessions taught by the faculty and staff to instruct students in the use and care of Chromebooks. In the past, I have taught 6th grade keyboarding, but to date, I do not know of any plans for keyboarding instruction.

The Nebraska City Middle School band preparing to perform in the Arbor Day parade 2013

The Nebraska City Middle School band preparing to perform in the Arbor Day parade 2013

Lisa: What else will be new for the Middle School library this year?

Alice: I am excitedly anticipating this new school year at the Middle School because this past May I purchased 37 e-books, our first time to acquire this format. The e-books that I purchased were from Follett, but our library automated system is the online, cloud-based version of Library World. Follet sent me detailed instructions as to how to set up the e-books for checkout. The students and faculty will be able to read the e-books on the Chromebooks, but only online. However, they can be accessed on all other devices for online or offline reading. I’m ecstatic!

Sixteen of the e-books are our state award nominees, which are called Golden Sowers . There are a total of 30 books nominated every year for three levels, with 10 nominated in each level: Primary, Intermediate, and Young Adult. And that leads me to how I came to connect with Lisa Bullard, who asked if I would participate in this interview for Bookology—her book Turn Left at the Cow is a Golden Sower nominee for the 2015-16 school year.

Lisa: Alice, the Golden Sower nomination is such a huge honor for me, and I’m so delighted that it brought the two of us together! Can you tell us more about the impact of the Golden Sower titles on your library and student reading?

Alice: Each summer, I try to read as many Golden Sower nominees for the coming school year as I can. READING…my favorite pass-time!

As you can imagine, a major concentration of our promotion at the Middle School library is devoted to the Golden Sower state nominee books. Our literature/reading teachers also heavily promote these in their classrooms. At the end of every school year, the students are awarded certificates for four different levels of completion for reading the Golden Sowers. From these students, three names are drawn for additional prizes.

Some of the Golden Sower nominees are books from a series—then I usually purchase the whole series, because the students are so interested in the nominated books. For example, some of the series with recent Golden Sower nominated-titles are: Richard Paul Evans’ Michael Vey series, the Starters series by Lissa Price, Rob Buyea’s Mr. Terupt titles, the According to Humphrey books by Betty G. Birney, Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games series, and the Legend series by Marie Lu. Two years ago, Wonder, by R.J. Palacio, was chosen as a Golden Sower Award winner and our Middle School selected this book as an all-school read.

Lisa: What other books and series have been popular reads in your Middle School?

Nebraska City Middle School

Nebraska City Middle School

Alice: The list includes the Divergent series by Veronica Roth, the Conspiracy 365 series by Gabrielle Lord, the Selection series by Kiera Cass, Erin Hunter’s Warriors series and Seekers series, the Ascendance Trilogy by Jennifer A. Nielsen, and the Cirque du Freak series by Darren Shan. Other popular authors with our middle schoolers are Mike Lupica, Laurie Halse Anderson, Meg Cabot, and Carl Hiaasen.

Lisa: I’m amazed at all you have going on—especially since with your split schedule, you don’t have a lot of time to do it all! Are there any other initiatives you’d like to share?

Alice: In the past year, I have been trying to focus more on our reluctant readers in the Middle School. I’ve been purchasing more nonfiction graphic readers and fiction graphic novels. Also, this new school year I am incorporating a new promotion at the Middle School for the Golden Sowers. I have been making audio and printed text QR codes for each Golden Sower book and printing the book covers to apply them to the covers. I will be displaying them in the Middle School library and hallways. The audio portion features me reading the book’s summary, and the printed portion contains links to book trailers, author websites, and book theme links.

Read more...

Middle Kingdom: Dartmouth, Massachusetts

The books that most delight middle school and junior high readers often straddle a “Middle Kingdom” ranging from upper middle grade to YA. Each month, Bookology columnist Lisa Bullard will visit the Middle Kingdom by viewing it through the eyes of a teacher or librarian. Bookology is delighted to celebrate the work of these educators who have built vital book encampments in the transitional territory of early adolescence.

This month’s journey takes us to Dartmouth Middle School in Dartmouth, Massachusetts, where Lisa talks with teacher librarian Laura Gardner.

Lisa: What are three to five things our blog readers should know about your community, school, or library/media center?

Laura: Our school library is busy. There are often three classes in at a time getting and reading books, doing research, creating multimedia projects using iPads/green screens. We have a game corner, lots of computers, the beginnings of a Makerspace, and space for collaborative work. All our students are required to have a free reading book at any given time and we are big believers in choice. Even our summer reading requirement involves choice.

Lisa: What five books (or series) are checked out most often?

Laura: Popular series this year include the Maze Runner and Eye of Minds series by James Dashner, everything by Sarah Dessen, the Spirit Animals series by Brandon Mull, and everything by Rick Riordan.

Lisa: What book(s) do you personally love to place into students’ hands?

Laura: I personally love to put good (sometimes sad) realistic fiction into kids’ hands. Some new favorites include Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt (One for the Murphys was on our summer reading list last year and is very popular), Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff, Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan, Fourmile by Watt Key.

Lisa: What do you like most about working with middle school students?

Laura: Middle school students are the best! They change so much in the three years we have them, which I love. It’s so fun to see who they become by the time they leave us. Many of my students are often still comfortable being goofy on tech projects and I have lots of students who love to help out in the library. Here’s an article I wrote for SLJ on my student volunteer program.

Lisa: Could you share some information about your most popular/successful/innovative program for promoting books and reading?

Laura: Our summer reading program has been hugely successful over the last few years. Our students have a choice from 10-15 popular, fun books from four categories: realistic fiction, mysteries, historical fiction, and fantasy/science fiction. Our PTO and the district pay for the books and every student gets his/her choice before school ends. This summer we are even buying books for all the 7th and 8th grade teachers, and when we return in the fall we will have book club discussions for each book on the second day of school.

 

Read more...

Middle Kingdom: Shakopee, Minnesota

The books that most delight middle school and junior high readers often straddle a “Middle Kingdom” ranging from upper middle grade to YA. Each month, Bookology columnist Lisa Bullard will visit the Middle Kingdom by viewing it through the eyes of a teacher or librarian. Bookology is delighted to celebrate the work of these educators who have built vital book encampments in the transitional territory of early adolescence.

This month’s journey takes us to East Junior High in Shakopee, Minnesota, where Lisa talks with media specialist Amy Sticha.

Lisa: What are three to five things our blog readers should know about your community, school, or library/media center?

ph_shakopeeeastAmy: East Junior High is one of two junior high schools in Shakopee, Minnesota, a rapidly growing suburb of the Twin Cities. Because of our district’s growth over the past several years, we have gone through a lot of reconfiguration of grade levels at all of our buildings. Currently, our junior highs house students in grades 7-9, but with the passage of a referendum to build an addition to our high school a few weeks ago, we will be changing to grades 6-8 by 2018.

As a result of all this shuffling, the EJH library has been split twice in the last eight years to accommodate other schools’ libraries. It has been challenging to maintain a relevant collection with the loss of so many materials, but thanks to a supportive administration and community, we are in the process of adding technology like mediascapes, charging tables, Chromebook carts, and 1:1 iPads, and updating our district’s media centers to add makerspace areas and other spaces to stay current within the changing scope of a school library/media center space. I invite you to visit my media webpage

Lisa: What five books (or series) are checked out most often? 

Amy:

  • the Missing series by Margaret Peterson Haddix
  • I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga
  • the Michael Vey series by Richard Paul Evans
  • the Brotherband Chronicles series by John Flanagan
  • the Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare

Lisa: What book(s) do you personally love to place into students’ hands?

Amy:

  • Wonder by R.J. Palacio
  • Bruiser by Neal Shusterman
  • Every Day by David Levithan
  • Swim the Fly by Don Calame
  • Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick
  • Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
  • Emako Blue by Brenda Woods
  • Black Duck by Janet Taylor Lisle
  • The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Lisa: Could you share some information about your most popular/successful/innovative program for promoting books and reading?

Amy Sticha's list

Amy Sticha’s list

Amy: Promoting reading is probably one of my favorite things to do as a junior high media specialist.  In addition to book talks and displays, my para and I work closely together to come up with a variety of fun and interactive reading promotions throughout the year. We use Facebook and Twitter accounts to announce contests, special events, and updates about new books or what we are currently reading. I actually just finished putting up my favorite display of the year, which is our Top 10 Summer Must-Reads and is made up of my para’s and my favorite books we have read throughout the year and would suggest for fun summer reading. Both students and staff members around the school make comments about our lists every year. Several times over the last few hours today, I have looked up from my desk to see someone taking a pic of our lists with their phone. 

Para's List

Para’s List

Every month, we have a student book club that is led by a different staff member. At the beginning of each year, I ask for staff volunteers who would be interested in leading the club for one of the months of the school year. In preparation for the upcoming month’s book club, the staff member and I decide on which book they would like to choose, and students who participate get a free copy of the book and free breakfast at the two meetings held during the month. Some months have better participation than others, but overall, it is a fun way to show students that staff members read for pleasure outside of school, too.  

We also have a Tournament of the Books every March to coincide with the NCAA basketball tournaments. Thirty-two books take on each other in our annual tournament to see which one is chosen by our student body to be the ultimate winner. This year’s winner was The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan.  

This year for the first time, we had a spring break reading competition during which we encouraged students to take pics of themselves reading in unique, strange, fun, or interesting places. Our overall winner took a pic of himself reading in front of a mountain range while visiting his grandparents in Arizona. This year we also participated in the Young Adults’ Choices project sponsored by the International Literacy Association and were introduced to a number of really great titles!  

We have a great time promoting reading to EJH students!

 

Read more...

Middle Kingdom: Hartland, Maine

The books that most delight middle school and junior high readers often straddle a “Middle Kingdom” ranging from upper middle grade to YA. Each month, Bookology columnist Lisa Bullard will visit the Middle Kingdom by viewing it through the eyes of a teacher or librarian. Bookology is delighted to celebrate the work of these educators who have built vital book encampments in the transitional territory of early adolescence.

This month’s journey takes us to the Hartland Public Library in rural Maine, where Lisa talks with librarian John R. Clark.

Lisa: What are three to five things Bookology readers should know about your community or library?

Library

Hartland Library

John: Hartland is very rural, economically depressed, and isn’t close to any city with a bookstore. That means the library assumes a much larger role in terms of offering access to juvenile fiction than a city like Portland or Boston. We’ve tried to address this in creative ways, like swapping books online at PaperBack Swap, using revenue from books sold online to add to the collection, and trading with other librarians in Maine when we get recent duplicates. Maine is big in size, but very close in terms of library cooperation. It helps immensely that we have a statewide interlibrary loan van service. That makes encouraging younger patrons to feel comfortable using interlibrary loan an easy process.

Lisa: I’ve heard that you’re retiring, so I have a couple of connected questions I really hope you’ll address given your valuable in-depth perspective: How have books for middle kingdom readers changed during your tenure in the library? And have the types of books that readers this age ask for changed in any key way?

YA area

The new YA fiction corner

John: There has been a major shift in both juvenile and young adult fiction, particularly in the past few years. I attribute this to two things. First, J.K. Rowling stood the publishing industry on its ear and suddenly everyone realized that there was one heck of a market for books that involved fantasy and kids who weren’t ‘average.’ The second was 9/11. I don’t think adults (except for writers and librarians, maybe) had a clue how scary that made the world for everyone. Escape into books became a very healthy and popular part of life. In the past few years, we have seen a second wave begin, that of addressing all sorts of social/mental health/family issues in literature. This is more pronounced in young adult, but things like divorce, gay parents, sibling loss, and bullying are being addressed, very excellently I might add, in juvenile literature. In fact, one of my blogs at Maine Crime Writers recently was about this phenomenon, which I think is a hip version of what we used to call bibliotherapy when I worked in the mental health field. Kids have responded very well to these books and I read them myself because I enjoy seeing how different authors address the topics. Juvenile readers have responded to these new topics and I often see them come in and ask specifically for a book a friend read that they think will be interesting because of something going on in their life.

Lisa: What five books (or series) are checked out most often by readers in the Middle Kingdom age range?

John:

  1. anything by Rick Riordan
  2. anything by John Flanagan
  3. the Saranormal series by Phoebe Rivers
  4. Anybody Shining by Frances O’Roark Dowell
  5. The Question of Miracles by Elana K. Arnold

Lisa: What book(s) do you personally love to place into middle school readers’ hands?

John:

  1. Half a Chance by Cynthia Lord
  2. A Hitch at the Fairmont by Jim Averbeck
  3. The Secrets of Tree Taylor by Dandi Daley Mackall
  4. A Million Miles from Boston by Karen Day
  5. The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky by Holly Schindler
  6. Sizzle by Lee McClain
  7. Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan
  8. Lost Boy by Tim Green

Lisa: If you had a new staffer starting tomorrow, what piece of advice would you be sure to give them about working with readers in this transitional age?

John: That’s easy, read in the genre if at all possible because you can’t beat real, firsthand experience when it comes to talking about books with teens and tweens.

Lisa: What do you like most about working with middle-schoolers?

John: They’re really excited when they realize you understand their interests and treat them as intelligent human beings. It’s doubly rewarding when they come in waving the book you suggested and say, “You rock! What else should I read?”

Lisa: Could you share some information about your most popular/successful/innovative program for promoting books and reading?

car photo

The car.

John: Several years ago, I won a street-legal version of Kasey Kahne’s Dodge from Gillette. It included a trip to meet Kasey at the Citizen’s Bank 400 in Michigan. The staff of the promotion company was really interested in my summer giveaway program for kids who read. They got various NASCAR drivers and teams to send me a ton of posters, shirts, and banners to use as reading incentives. I added in a bunch of stuff like MP3 players and new DVDs we’d gotten for Pepsi points and we gave away over $1,000 worth of prizes for a combined reading and writing program. Kids were beyond thrilled.

[Clark-John-R]

 

Read more...

Middle Kingdom: Seattle, Washington

The books that most delight middle school and junior high readers often straddle a “Middle Kingdom” ranging from upper middle grade to YA. Each month, Bookology columnist Lisa Bullard will visit the Middle Kingdom by viewing it through the eyes of a teacher or librarian. Bookology is delighted to celebrate the work of these educators who have built vital book encampments in the transitional territory of early adolescence.

Our first journey takes us to Jane Addams Middle School in Seattle, Washington, where Lisa talks with librarian Laurie Amster-Burton.

Lisa: What are three to five things Bookology readers should know about your community, school, or library/media center?

Jane Addams Middle School library

New book collection getting unpacked in August 2014 (click to enlarge).

Laurie: Jane Addams Middle School is a new middle school in an old-ish (1949) building. We serve all kinds of students in grades six-eight, including programs for English language learners, highly capable, and autism inclusion. Our staff is energetic and our students are lively. The library opened this year with 10,600 brand-new books.

Lisa: What five books (or series) are checked out most often?

Laurie: Graphic novels or comics are 11 of the top 20 books checked out, and Raina Telgemeier is the reigning queen. Her books Sisters, Drama, and Smile are in constant circulation. Popular series include the Menagerie books by Tui T. Sutherland, Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney, and the Dork Diaries series by Rachel Renée Russell.

You can see that those titles skew toward the sixth grade readers. The books most popular with older students include The Living by Matt de la Pena, the Maze Runner series by James Dashner, The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, and Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell.

Lisa: What books do you personally love to place into students’ hands?

Laurie: Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi. Good Enough by Paula Yoo. Impossible by Nancy Werlin. Zach’s Lie by Roland Smith (witness protection!). Girl, Stolen by April Henry (kidnapping!). Confetti Girl by Diana Lopez. Blizzard of Glass by Sally M. Walker is amazing nonfiction that I love to booktalk.

Our library has the new editions of Lois Duncan, and when I get them into kids’ hands they always come back for more.

Lisa: If you had a new staffer starting tomorrow, what piece of advice would you be sure to give them?

Laurie: Be calm. Be patient. Show the kids that you care.

Lisa: What do you like most about working with middle-schoolers?

Laurie: They are so funny and earnest and thrive with a little kindness.

 

 

 

 

Read more...