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 4515 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).


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 247. 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.

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