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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.


Beverly Cleary

Beverly Cleary, 1971

Bev­er­ly Cleary, 1971

For the last month I have been read­ing arti­cles, toasts, essays, and inter­views with one of my favorite authors of all time: Bev­er­ly Cleary. She turned 100 years old this week. Every­thing I read about her makes me misty-eyed — the birth­day plans in her home state of Ore­gon … her mem­o­ries of being in the low­est read­ing group, the Black­birds, in ele­men­tary school … that she writes while bak­ing bread … how she named her char­ac­ters … that she was a “well-behaved girl” but she often thought like Ramona (me, too!!!) … the fan mail she still receives in a steady stream … SIGH.

My sec­ond grade teacher, Mrs. Perkins, read us Ramona the Brave. It was a new book that year — she used it to show us how to open a brand-new book and “break in” the bind­ing so that the pages would turn eas­i­ly. She told us that it was part of a series and I remem­ber being out of sorts that she would start mid-series, but then I was so engrossed in the sto­ry that I dropped my grudge.

Reading Is FundamentalMy ele­men­tary school was a RIF (Read­ing Is Fun­da­men­tal) school. RIF day was eas­i­ly my favorite day of the year. I under­stood that RIF exist­ed to put books in the hands of kids who would not oth­er­wise own books. I had books at home, though many of my class­mates did not, and I was always a lit­tle ner­vous that some­how I would be exclud­ed — what if some­one report­ed my lit­tle book­shelf, or the fact that I received a book every birth­day? What if I was pulled aside — not allowed to go pick a book?! But it nev­er hap­pened. No ques­tions asked — just encour­age­ment to pick a book of my very own. RIF Bliss!

Ramona the PestThat sec­ond-grade-year, when my class went down to the entrance lob­by of the school to vis­it the tables and tables piled with books (this remains my image of abun­dance), the very first book I saw was Ramona the Pest. I knew it had to be relat­ed to Ramona the Brave, and was proud to have the pres­ence of mind — my heart beat hard in the excite­ment of my dis­cov­ery! — to con­firm that the author’s name, Bev­er­ly Cleary, was list­ed under the title. Mrs. Cleary lived in Ore­gon, Mrs. Perkins said. It was a place so far away from cen­tral Illi­nois that I was sur­prised one of her books could have made its way to our RIF tables. I scooped it up and car­ried it around with me as I perused all of the oth­er books. We were allowed to choose only one book, but none of the oth­ers even came close to tempt­ing me to put down Ramona the Pest.

illustration by Louis Darling

illus­tra­tion by Louis Dar­ling

I’m astound­ed when I look at lists of Bev­er­ly Cleary’s books and their pub­li­ca­tion dates. She start­ed the Ramona series in 1955. My moth­er was nine years old! The last in the series, Ramona’s World, was writ­ten when my son was two, in 1999. And that’s just the Ramona books! What a career! At least three gen­er­a­tions have read and loved Cleary’s books.

I still have that lit­tle trade-paper­back book. It’s well worn — I read it many times as a kid. And I read it to my kids, too, of course. It’s the only Ramona book I own — through all of the cov­er changes and box sets, I’ve just stuck with my one lit­tle RIF book.

I might change that this week, though. I think per­haps I’ll buy myself a boxed set of Ramona and make a dona­tion to RIF in Bev­er­ly Cleary’s hon­or.

Hap­py Birth­day, Bev­er­ly Cleary!

Keystones of the Stone Arch Bridge

Keystones of the Stone Arch Bridge

In down­town Min­neapo­lis, Min­neso­ta, span­ning the Mis­sis­sip­pi Riv­er, there is a “Stone Arch Bridge” that resem­bles a roman viaduct with its 23 arch­es. Built at a time when Min­neapo­lis was a pri­ma­ry grain-milling and wood-pro­duc­ing cen­ter for the Unit­ed States, Empire Builder James J. Hill want­ed the bridge built to help his rail­road reach the Pacif­ic Coast.… more
Mrs. Noodlekugel and Four Blind Mice

Mrs. Noodlekugel and Four Blind Mice

The woman who cuts my hair, Amy, had a par­tic­u­lar­ly hard sum­mer the year her boys had just learned to read. Their school asked that she keep them read­ing over the sum­mer, but there were only so many Mag­ic Tree­house books she want­ed them to read. What oth­er books would be suit­able? The min­utes flew by in the hair­cut­ting chair as I made sug­ges­tions and she lis­tened, appar­ent­ly hav­ing a prodi­gious mem­o­ry.… more

Space Taxi

Space Taxi: Archie Takes Flight
Wendy Mass and Michael Braw­er, illus by Elise Grav­el
Lit­tle, Brown Books for Young Read­ers What a hoot! When eight-year-old Archie Morn­ingstar gets up ear­ly in the morn­ing for his first Take Your Kid to Work Day, he nev­er imag­ines that his taxi-dri­ving dad in their rick­ety cab is actu­al­ly a taxi dri­ver for the stars.… more

Anatomy of a Series: Topps League Books

We’re in post-sea­son, when a lot of fans start to look wild-eyed, won­der­ing how they’ll hang on for three months until spring train­ing starts in Feb­ru­ary. Here in Min­neso­ta, it’s tough for sand­lot base­ball or Lit­tle League games to be played in the snow with an icy base­line. Young fans can keep up the momen­tum with Kur­tis Scaletta’s base­ball books, the Topps League series.… more


Peace is elu­sive. It is a goal of some peo­ple at some time in some parts of the world. As John Lennon wrote: “Imag­ine no pos­ses­sions / I won­der if you can / No need for greed or hunger / A broth­er­hood of man / Imag­ine all the peo­ple shar­ing all the world …” Is peace pos­si­ble?… more

Summer isn’t over yet, the next part …

For old­er read­ers, grades four through sev­en, there are great series choic­es. How many books do a series make? I’m think­ing three or more — I have no idea if there’s an offi­cial clas­si­fi­ca­tion. In July, I heard three excel­lent speak­ers on chil­dren’s lit­er­a­ture, Ani­ta Sil­vey, Judy Free­man, and Bar­bara Swan­son Sanders. They could­n’t get their book rec­om­men­da­tions out fast enough.… more

Summer isn’t over yet …

There’s still more sum­mer read­ing time, whether relax­ing in your favorite lawn chair, next to a bur­bling creek, sit­ting in the mid­dle of your gar­den, or soak­ing in a wad­ing pool. When do I read? I always read before going to sleep. I read when I first get up in the morn­ing — it’s a great way to greet the day.… more
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