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.


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