Thursday, September 25, 2014

Books to Read to Kindergartners

It's a new school year, and as you tell by this late blog post, quite hectic. One of my new assignments as a media specialist (I work in a grades 7-12 school) is to teach library skills to kindergartners. Every Monday morning, I travel to the central kindergarten and teach 4 back-to-back classes of 5 year olds. They are cute.......and exhausting. It's been a while since I taught that age group, so I've been gathering resources and planning my year. All suggestions are welcome from current elementary teacher-librarians. Today's list is about books for kindergartners.

25 Picture Books That Rhyme

38 Perfect Books to Read Aloud With Kids

50 Books to Read in Kindergarten- download the pdf

Best Books of the Month for 3-5 Year Olds (Amazon)

Children's Books to Read in a Lifetime (Amazon)

Children's Storybooks Online

The Kindergarten Canon- 100 best children's books

Kindergarten Suggested Summer Reading Lists

Online Talking Stories- animated

Popular Kindergarten Books- from GoodReads

Storyline Online- actors read well known stories

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Guest Post: Why Students Prefer Google, and Why They Should Favor Teacher-Librarians

Here at EasyBib, we research, discuss, and write a lot about how students conduct research in high school and college. We are constantly analyzing data from our 42 million users to see how they approach research, and using that data to improve our services.
Research shows that the overwhelming majority (96%) of students use Google in course-related contexts. Unfortunately, this is probably an unsurprising statistic for many of you. School and college librarians play an integral role in student academic success, yet students (and, from what we’ve heard, even some fellow faculty members!) don’t take fundamental research skills very seriously.
Here are just a few (out of many!) reasons why students should rely on their awesome teacher-librarians instead of the ubiquitous search engine, and consider basic information literacy skills and academic integrity as a natural part of their research, writing, and education.
Plagiarism goes beyond the classroom.
Through analyzing our user data, many of our student users are not even aware that they should cite paraphrased sources. Yikes! Students may not care about citing their sources now, because they believe that once they graduate, no one will care about whether or not they included a citation in their research papers, anyway. Explaining to students that plagiarism is a serious issue that has negatively impacted many professional lives can put the harsh consequences of plagiarism into a clear perspective.
We recently created a list on the EasyBib blog about celebrity plagiarism accusations. It’s likely that students have more interest in stories about rock stars and actors than, say, a politician dropping out of a Senate race. Placing plagiarism into a context that students can relate to can help them not only understand the consequences of committing plagiarism, but also see that acknowledging other people’s work is a lifelong practice.
Databases aren’t that scary, we promise!
With so many students going to Google for school research, it comes as no surprise that one OCLC study found that no students started their research on the library’s website. In fact, the same study revealed that 65% of students find library resources to be more trustworthy than search engines . . . yet they still go to Google. Why? Oftentimes, it’s because of time. Students are used to the convenience and fast response of Google, regardless if the sources they’re finding are valuable, or even credible.
Once again, librarians beat search engines because they can demonstrate to students how library databases are increasingly user-friendly, and function similarly to search engines. With a quick overview of limiters, advanced searching, and brainstorming keywords, students will be able to find higher quality and more accurate sources in no time.
Google doesn’t have all the answers.
Despite what students may think, Google does not have all the answers. Yahoo! Answers and Wikipedia popping up in the top results is only the beginning. With the “right to be forgotten” laws taking shape in Europe (and a continuing dialogue in the U.S.), Google is now manipulating results in far more apparent ways than search engine optimization and strategic ad placement.
Our sister product, ResearchReady, includes video tutorials that explain the importance of using library resources to find credible, authoritative information for research assignments.
There are myriad reasons why students should rely on their librarian over a search engine. Besides enabling them with tools and skills to write a brilliant research paper, librarians also provide necessary technology instruction to students who are not as tech-savvy. Their role is absolutely crucial in student, teacher, and school-wide success.


Emily Gover is the information literacy librarian for EasyBib andResearchReady. You can find her on Twitter, @Emily_EasyBib, or posting news you can use at the EasyBib Librarians Facebook page.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Guest Post: Voice is Power: Are You Using Yours?

Summertime immediately brings to mind the raspy, soulful voice of Janis Joplin, sleeping in, and sand between my toes.  In reality, though, summertime is a flurry of professional development sessions, educational conferences, lesson planning, and connecting with other educators.


This summer I attended four conferences, five professional development sessions, one 3 day workshop, moved, visited my new granddaughter in Kansas, got married, went on my honeymoon, and started a new job and I have loved every minute of the non stop action!  

As a connected educator, cofounder of EdCamp Atlanta, a “groupie” of all things EdCamp, a blogger, and a Twitterholic, I take for granted the fact that I speak up and contribute to educational conversations on a regular basis.  But many educators do not feel comfortable following suit, and this is a problem.  It is a problem because if we fail to speak up then who is doing the speaking for us?

Quote by Vickie Davis (aka: Cool Cat Teacher) Photo:
It is a problem because if we fail to speak up, connect, share, and learn from others how are we going to continue to grow professionally?  Is passively waiting for our school district to provide us with timely, relevant, professional development good enough?  Do YOU want to be just “good enough”?

At one of the conferences I attended this summer the failure to speak up and it’s consequences became glaringly and embarrassingly obvious.  An amazing speaker had just finished talking about the importance of making our voices heard and how each one of us has a story to tell.  Immediately following this riveting speech that received a standing ovation the conference transitioned into a SmackDown session.  For those of you not familiar with a SmackDown session it is one of my favorite things!  During a SmackDown everyone in attendance is encouraged to come up to the microphone and share, in two minutes or less, an app, website, lesson, etc., that they used or discovered that year.  There is usually a long line of people waiting to share their great finds and often a cut off point is determined by the moderator of the SmackDown.  It is fast, energetic, exciting, and you learn a lot of new, cool things in just a small amount of time.


At this particular conference for school librarians, however, no one shared during the SmackDown session.  

NO ONE.   

Yes…. NO ONE.  

As moderator, I and a few board members modeled how a SmackDown works.  I then encouraged the attendees to share some of their great tidbits.  


I encouraged attendees, saying, “Certainly everyone here has at least one thing they did in their library this year that they can share (big smiley face)”.  



I was aghast at the deathly silence that engulfed the room filled with school librarians from around the state.  Librarians who had earlier expressed grave concerns about zero funding of their libraries for the last nine years.  Librarians who had just lamented the firing of all school library aides throughout the state.  Librarians who recounted horror stories of school districts that had received waivers from the state department to do away with having a school library at all.  Yet, these same librarians couldn’t find even one thing to share during the SmackDown session at a conference for and about school librarians.  

If this group of school librarians couldn’t think of anything worth sharing with others in their field is it any wonder that the state legislators don’t see school libraries as valuable enough to fund?  

If this group of school librarians couldn’t think of anything worth sharing with others in their field is it any wonder that principals and superintendents don’t allocate local resources to help fund their school libraries?

If this group of school librarians couldn’t think of anything worth sharing with others in their field is it any wonder that administrators don’t see libraries as valuable enough to even have at their schools?

At another conference later in the summer I asked a librarian friend of mine who was there that fateful, silent day, why she had not shared during the SmackDown.  Her reason for not sharing was that the other librarians in her district were jealous of her and “bullied” her when ever she spoke up about anything so now she just keeps her mouth shut.  Seriously???  She was “mean-girled” into silence by other librarians?


This time I was silent.  I simply couldn’t think of anything to say in response.

Now that I have had time to recover from the shock, this is what I want my friend and all the other librarians to know:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do. It's not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. ~ Marianne Williamson

I challenge you, whether you are a school librarian, teacher, administrator, Instructional Technology Coordinator/Facilitator, Superintendent, etc., to share.


Your voice matters!  

I also challenge you to ask yourself this question:  

Have I done, taught, discovered anything today, this week, this year, that is of value in my school, in my classroom, in my library, in my district that is worthy of sharing with others?  

If your answer to this question is no… turn in your letter of resignation.  You are hurting the rest of us and more importantly you are hurting children.

Yes. Speaking out and sharing is scary. What if people don’t like what you have to say? What if someone criticizes your blog? What if you sound stupid?  What if you aren’t as great as someone else?  The stakes in education are too high for the barrage of negative “What ifs” we cripple ourselves with and our students are too valuable for us to cheat them by giving into the fear that the negative “What if’s” bring.


If nothing else in this post has yet convinced you of the power of and importance of your voice, please watch the video, Obvious To You-Amazing To Others by Derek Sivers.  It does a great job explaining why you should share.

Nikki D. Robertson

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Guest Post: The Secret to Having it all @ Your Library

Image courtesy: This Book Is Overdue! by Marilyn Johnson
I’ve been a teacher-librarian at an elementary school for 5 years and this past year I absorbed the technology classes into my schedule. Struggling with how to manage a library, classes and over 100 laptops, I devised an experiment. I decided to Let it Go!

I’ve always been a bit of a control freak, so I took a deep breath and looked for those areas that I could let go. I’m proud to say that I let go of my collection: overdue notices, shelving and collection development. I let go of the bulletin boards and I let go of the book repair. Librarians are superheroes, but even a superhero needs a sidekick. I gave my library over to my community, the rightful owners. By giving them ownership, they felt more invested and worked with me to keep everything running smoothly.

Here are a few things I did that may help you out as you look for more time in your work day:

Children as young as 7 can learn to check out their own books. Think about it, their moms are already training them by using the self-checkout at the grocery store. I pull one child from the class - you know which one - the eager beaver and I train him/her to use the self-checkout system, how to troubleshoot simple errors. Then s/he watches the others checkout. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy. (I keep a checkout station running behind my desk so I can do manual overrides.) Will there be a few books not checked out properly? Of course, but it’s a small price to pay for your time.

Check with your school district: chances are you may be allowed to have the circulation software on more than one computer. I placed my self-checkout station on a laptop, so I can easily relocate it, or gasp! take it into a classroom with me?!

Overdue Books:
A mentor once said to me, “Think of a book as a $20 pencil.” This is my mantra.  Books will come and books will go, relationships with the students are more important. Remember the ultimate goal of the library is to inspire young minds and to create life-long learners, not to squeeze a child out of his allowance. The relationships you form with students will influence their future feelings towards libraries and librarians. By all means, students should be held accountable, but there are kinder/gentler ways to do this without becoming a crazy book lady.  

First and foremost the responsibility should lie with the child. Borrowing and returning books is an exercise in responsibility. My older students attach their email address to the circulation software so they receive overdues via email. Younger students write notes to mom and dad, asking for help remembering their overdues.  After a reasonable amount of time, I reach out to parents via email or with the item’s bill. I always, always give the option for the parent to purchase the item from Amazon in like condition.

I allow students who have a lost book to work off their fines, but only if they genuinely can’t replace it.  My rule of thumb is to have them work ten minutes of their recess time for 3 days in a row. Students vacuum, wipe down tables, sharpen pencils, and dust the shelves, etc. I allow older students to re-shelve books, make bulletin boards, and perform simple computer maintenance. After the book is “worked off”, I make sure students know that their slate is wiped clean and that I do not hold a grudge, ever.

Collection Development - Let others Work for You!
I have a few methods for keeping my collection fresh.  I keep a public Amazon wish list that I refer students and parents to if they’d like to purchase an item for the library. I place a special bookplate inside, honoring the student. I promote this list on the school website and Facebook. Also, I use Google Forms to collect lists of wanted book titles, including ISBN. Navigating between separate tabs in a web browser and cutting and pasting is an important skill for students to learn.  If you’ve never used Google Forms, you’re missing out on an invaluable classroom tool! Here’s a simple form that you may use as a model.

I keep a running list on Follett Titlewave all year long of books that I may want to order. The collection development tool makes it simple to assess my collection weaknesses. Titlewave even suggests books to fill these holes. Another thing I do is survey the teachers every Spring and ask them where they felt the gaps in the collection were regarding their curriculum, again with a Google Form.  One of my favorite features in Titlewave is the bulk search. If you read a great article in SLJ, you can cut and paste the entire article into the search field. It picks out the ISBNs and populates a list for you. Wow! Think about how easy it would be to copy the ISBN field from your book request Google Form spreadsheet in order to search for those books.  Also, don’t forget that your book reps can make lists for you. Just ask!
Library Organization:  Dew-ey or Don’t We?

Yes, the Dewey Decimal system is wonderful, but I decided long ago that my collection needs to be easily accessible, especially for my youngest patrons. I still adhere to Dewey, mostly. This past year, student volunteers labeled our sub-3rd grade non-fiction with E stickers for easy locating. Popular subjects (dinosaurs, animals, transportation) are placed in free standing browse bins for quick selection. Not only does this make it easier for kids to find what they like, but the real bonus is
that these books are easy to shelve! I also use foldable cloth bins from IKEA on the shallow bottom 
shelves of my fiction bookcases for series paperback fiction. They fit so nicely! I label them with a 
picture of the series, and Velcro to the bin. Also,I recently pulled out all my little readers and organized them in awesome IKEA bins that are pre-labeled!

Remember - there is no rule that says your shelving cart  must be empty at the end of the day. No rule at all. I’m going to say it again. You can go home and leave things on your shelving cart! I’ve found that kids don’t mind taking books from the shelving cart. In fact, if it’s on the cart, it must be popular! I have a volunteer position that I call “Shelving Angel”. Several parents who know how to shelve occasionally stop by when they have a few minutes and they shelve. No scheduling required. Some of them even shelve during the monthly PTA meetings that are held in the library. Parents feel needed when you leave them things to help with.

Book repair - 10 minutes is too long!
This was a tough one to let go of because I’ve always wanted to be able to save every book, but the truth is, that’s impossible. I sat down and thought about how much my time is worth. I decided that if it takes more than 10 minutes to repair a book, it’s time to replace it. I hack fix many of my books. Nothing is off the table, duct tape, glue, construction paper. My goal is to circulate those popular titles a few more times. A school library is not an archive. One caveat, I strongly believe that stocking your library with ugly books sends the message to students that they are not worthy of nice things. My goal is to repair items quickly, but nicely. Of course, if you find a brilliant and neurotic volunteer (student or parent) who loves the challenge of tipping pages into your Captain Underpants books, the 10 minute rule doesn’t apply!

Pulling materials for teachers: - Get Them Involved
At the beginning of the year, I make sure my teachers know my preferences for requesting books. I prefer that my teachers know their way around the library and circulation software so that they can pull and checkout their own materials. Otherwise, I ask them to email me a list of titles through the OPAC. I have students pull these titles. I also make sure my teachers are aware that both our school district library and the public library will create book baskets for them within a two week window.

Displays and bulletin boards:
Students and parent volunteers can do these for you! Simple bulletin boards are the best. Have students write book recommendations, post student work, or tear apart some of those broken “Where’s Waldo” and “I Spy” books for a quick bulletin board!

How did my “letting go” experiment work out? I’m happy to report that it was a smashing success. I had more time for lesson planning and computer maintenance. I had more time to investigate Google Apps for Education. I had more time to reflect and refine my practice. I ended the year with only twelve outstanding student books, out of 415 students. The ultimate bonus is that I have created a space where everyone feels needed and welcome. I love it when students walk through the library as a “shortcut” on their way to class, just to say ‘Hi”. That’s when I know I’m doing it right! My next steps are to look for more places I can “let it go”!

Denise Cushing lives and works in Denver, Colorado

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Guest Post: "Hiring" Library Pages: The Best Library Publicity You Can “Buy”

I have a wonderful problem.  I have too many students who want to volunteer their time to work in the library...I know!  My heart swells every time I think of it!
Our middle school has an abundance of dedicated and exuberant readers.  They help keep our fiction shelves stocked with all the new releases.  They love to recommend new titles and are constantly stopping in during homeroom or study halls to browse the shelves.  AND they love to sit behind the desk and run the show!  sbb12.JPG

With only two check-out computers, I have more demand for volunteers than I can reasonably staff.  Here is how I make this possible:

·   All volunteers need to apply.  I have a short permission slip that they need to get signed by their parents and homeroom teacher.  I just want to be sure that homeroom time isn’t essential for the student to get their homework done.  Showing initiative that they can get their application back to me is step one.
·   Step two is a short interview with me or our other librarian.  They should be able to articulate why they want to work in the library (and they should not answer "because I want to see what everyone else is reading!").
·   Students who are “hired” are given a day of the week to report for their shift.  Often they will stop in other days too just to see if I might need extra help…how can I say no??  I’ve become very imaginative with these lesser though equally necessary tasks:  make new posters for signage, walk around the school looking for missing books, etc.
  • They need to progress their way up to the circulation desk...with a smile!  If I need them to shelve, they shelve.  If I need them to work crowd control, they roam the stacks.  If I need them to pull books for a teacher collection, they take a cart and hop to it.  Running the circulation desk means they have proven that they are willing and able to do it all.  We also discuss the concept of privacy and our pages prove themselves remarkably trustworthy in this regard.
  • Students need to know that they can get fired.  While I "hire" them and pay with "good kid points," I need them to take their shift seriously and be accountable.  A few no shows without any communication and they will lose their library benefits:  their bonafide library badge with lots of bling, full behind the scenes access to their wonderful library and the opportunity to spend the end of the day in a different environment than the classroom.
Let’s be clear.  This can make for a hectic and busy end to my day but knowing how important this is to the students makes it well worth it.  And sometimes it is absolutely wonderful to step away from the desk and watch my pages shine!

a library page working the desk

Students come into the library and see their fellow classmates manning the circulation desk or shelving books and they are in awe – you work here?  Can I work here too?  And our pages are so excited and proud about their role that they spread the word.  It creates a great library buzz that costs us nothing but means everything in terms of promoting the library as a vibrant and essential place in our school.

Suzanne Dix, Middle and Upper School Librarian | The Seven Hills School, Cincinnati, OH |

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Guest Post: Are Media Specialists Irreplaceable or Dispensable?

For the last five years, I was a library media specialist in two elementary schools in a small school district in the Midwest. I loved my job; I loved the students I taught; I loved working with the fantastic paraprofessionals in the libraries and being surrounded by books and new ways to learn every day. But it wasn’t enough for me. Is it for you?

Ever since I started grad school to get my library media license I’ve heard professors and fellow media specialists go on and on about how no one understands what media specialists do; how we are never supported; how we are often the first ones cut, even though studies have shown that having a library media specialist in your school raises test scores. I’ve read about how important it is that we advocate for ourselves; how we need to help administration and school board members understand what it is we do and how we help the entire school – teachers and students – reach their full potential. Honestly, though, I rolled my eyes at all of these articles and blog posts and conference sessions. After all, I had a secure media job. Sure I covered prep time (that is, after all, what made it secure), which meant that most of my day was spent teaching, and the remaining moments (including my own prep time) were spent doing the jobs that actually define a media position – assisting teachers with technology, setting up computer programs for students, reading up on new technologies and books. But it wasn’t until I resigned this spring that I really began to understand how little we media specialists are understood.

I resigned in order to move closer to my family, but when another media specialist in the district decided to go back to the classroom, and the other two specialists in the district were interested in tech jobs that were open, the district saw an opportunity to rid itself of media. (While at the same time adding about 1000 student iPads, thus officially becoming a 1:1 iPad school, K-12.) What a punch to the stomach. What a way to say goodbye. While I joked that I was like Beyonce – “Irreplaceable!” – I was actually very hurt. When I was hired five years ago, there was no media curriculum. Over the last five years, I created my own, and while it was by no means perfect, I am proud of the program I created.  But now no one was going to continue what I had started.

I think what we all want in a job, whatever our occupation is, is support, understanding, and accountability. I did my job well for five years, but I wonder who noticed, besides the students who (hopefully) learned a little bit -- about technology, about learning, about literature. Perhaps that’s all that matters – that I taught my students well, that I shared my own love of learning and literature and technology with them. But it’s not enough for me.

In my next job, I dream about having the full support of my bosses. I dream about my bosses actually understanding what it is I do. I dream about having a job description. I know I won’t be finding that in a school library media position. And while it’s been sad to say goodbye to the students and to the colleagues and friends I’ve worked with for five years, I am ready, excited, and optimistic that, while I do not expect to find a “perfect” job (Does that even exist?), I do hope to find one that holds me accountable for what I’ve been asked to do and that makes me feel appreciated for doing it. I sure hope to find it.

Author has asked to remain anonymous.
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