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? 


  • 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 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!


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