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?
Amy: 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?
- 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?
- 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: 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.
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!