Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Don't Shoot From the Hip- Again

Once in a while a book comes along that takes you by surprise. It’s simply spoken. Simple illustrations. Suddenly, wham! It jumps out and gets you. You realize its simplicity is genius. I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen, published by Candlewick Press, is just the book. The pattern in the text hypnotizes you, enabling you to laugh out loud (or gasp) at the surprise ending. The title has already won a Publisher's Weekly Best Book of the Year.

The story is about a bear who has lost his hat. He meets animal after animal in the forest. No one has seen his hat. Well, actually, he has seen his hat. He remembers after Reindeer jogs his memory. What happens to Rabbit when Bear catches up with him? You’ll have to read it yourself. But beware- this book is my favorite genre- Don’t Shoot From the Hip ‘Cause it Might Backfire.

The link to Candlewick Press includes a book trailer and a 13 page teaching guide that includes this title and other new titles from the publisher.Check out my list of other books like this in an early blog post.

Friday, September 16, 2011

California Young Reader Medal- 2.0 Style

Tomorrow is my day at IMC, so I’m presenting another Saturday Matinee. Topic: California Young Reader Medal- 2.0 Style. In this fast-paced one hour session, participants will learn a little bit about the CYRM and the resources that are available for including it into their curriculum or library program.

Launched in 1976, this reader’s choice award program has 5 different categories: Picture Book (K-3), Intermediate (3-6), Middle (6-9), Young Adult (9-12) and Picture Book for Older Readers (Grade 4 and up). It is the only national reader’s choice award to be sponsored by four different professional organizations: California Association of Teachers of English (CATE), California Library Association (CLA), California Reading Association (CRA), and California School Library Association (CSLA). A committee of representatives from each organization coordinates CYRM activities at the state level.

California children and teens can read the nominated books from May through March and vote for their favorites. Teachers and librarians introduce the nominees, often reading them aloud. They provide ballots for voting, compile vote totals, and submit results to the CYRM committee. CYRM ballots must be postmarked by April 1st of each year. Winning titles are announced in May. New nominees are announced on February 1.

Saturday Matinee Focus
The class focus will be on reviewing and voting for the nominated books. We’ll review using Photo Story and Power Point games. We’ll look at the free resource booklet that is available at the program website. Reader’s Theater scripts are available for all awards.

We’ll also look at how teachers and librarians can use their whiteboards for interactive voting. Even without all the bells and whistles, educators who have access to computers can create online surveys that take the counting out of voting and put the fun back in.

Looking Ahead
Though this class is only an introduction, we are planning more training for teachers and library staff. Mark your calendars now for our Second Annual SDUSD CYRM workshop. Wednesday, November 16. From 2:30 to 3:00 we’ll have poster sessions, door prizes, shopping with Yellow Book Road and refreshments. The program will be from 3PM to 4:30PM with continued door prizes, poster sessions, shopping and refreshments until 5PM. All are welcome!

California Young Reader Medal official site- (complete resource guide available)
100 Web Resources for Teachers
Libraries Matter wiki CYRM page

And the nominees are…
On Meadowview Street by Henry Cole. Greenwillow Books, 2007.
Let’s Do Nothing by Tony Fucile. Candlewick Press, 2009.
The Odd Egg by Emily Gravett. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2009.
Princess Hyacinth: The Surprising Tale of a Girl Who Floated by Florence Heide. Illustrated by Lane Smith, Schwartz & Wade Books, 2009.
I Need My Monster by Amanda Noll. Illustrated by Howard McWilliam. Flashlight
Press, 2009.

Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightning by Danette Haworth. Walker & Co., 2008.
Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School and Other Scary Things by Lenore Look. Schwartz & Wade Books, 2008.
The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis by Barbara O’Conner. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2009.

Revolution is Not a Dinner Party: A Novel by Ying Chang Compestine. Henry Holt, 2007.
Waiting for Normal by Leslie Conner. Katherine Tegen Books, 2008.
Every Soul a Star, by Wendy Mass. Little, Brown & Co., 2008.

Graceling by Kristin Cashore. Harcourt, 2008.
Beastly by Alex Flinn. Harper Teen, 2007.
If I Stay by Gayle Forman. Penguin Group USA, 2009.

Goal! written by Mina Javaherbin. Illustrated by A.G.Ford. Candlewick Press, 2010.
Henry’s Freedom Box written by Ellen Levine. Illustrated by Kadir Nelson. Scholastic Press, 2007.
Wabi Sabi written by Mark Reibstein. Illustrated by Ed Young. Little, Brown & Co., 2008.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Orientation 2.0 Style

One of the first things we “do to” our students is bore them to death with an Orientation. Rules, procedures, what we will learn this year… Yak. Yak. Yak. Snore. Snore. Snore. Sometimes, I think we should just herd them all into the cafeteria and do it all at once. Get it over with- like ripping off a band-aid. It’s a necessary evil. We have to do it, right?

Maybe we do have to do it, but it doesn’t have to be boring- for your students or for yourself. They only have to hear it once. You may have to do it 6 to 25 times! Enter a solution. Orientation 2.0 Style. On Saturday @ the IMC I’ll be teaching a Saturday Matinee about modern ways to teach the same old thing. We'll look at websites that offer free digital tools. For example, we’ll learn how to make a Voki, like the one here (click on the play button to get your homework assignment). I'll show you how to work smarter by looking at what other folks have done. For example, my class for elementary teachers has its own website- Best of the Best- Top 100 Web Resources for Teachers or a wiki like Web 2.0, Cool Tools for Schools.

During our quick hour, I’ll introduce you to PowerPoint games that you can adapt for Orientation- Jeopardy, Millionaire and Smarter than a Fifth Grader. These interactive games can be adapted by your older students and played by your younger students. They can be used later in the year as pre or post tests for your curriculum units. The more students are involved in the learning, the more likely they are to remember.

We can also take those same slides, add some pictures, and create movies in Photo Story or other video programs. One of the best uses of this media is that it saves your voice (and retains your enthusiasm). You can play it all day long without having to repeat yourself, ensuring that all students get the same message. Once your movie is created, you can also place it on your website and students or parents can watch it when they need to do so. Be sure to do “best practice” and introduce your video as well as discuss it afterwards.

You can also use your interactive whiteboards for your orientation. You could create a flipchart that has students take a test. Use Inspiration and have older students create a chart of rules and procedures. You can easily use it with the PowerPoint games you created.

Online voting is another interactive way to use 2.0 technology is You can create a survey that students have to complete online. As the creator, you can get their compiled answers. It’s a great way to test students who ought to know the answers. There are many free online sites for creating surveys- Survey Monkey, Google, or even your school website. Our district uses School Wires which has surveys as a component.

Another fun way to use technology is to create a QR code. Anyone who has a Smart Phone can scan the QR code and it will take them to your website. It’s a great marketing tool. Once you create it, put it on your brochure or newsletter. How about a bookmarker for your parents?

And because I am a firm believer in working smarter by collaborating, I have added a page on my wiki- Libraries Matter for Orientation. As folks create their orientation, I'll invite you to post yours to my wikispace page. Then, as we add projects, we can borrow what someone else created and adapt it to suit our needs.

And yes, I know everyone doesn’t have a Smart Phone, interactive whiteboard or even an LCD projector, but just like everything else we do, we need to reach out in all manner of ways. Different fish are caught with different bait. Why not try some new bait this year? You never know who might actually bite.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Developing New Seminars

On Monday- was that just yesterday?- I sent in my handbook for my newest seminar, How School Library Staff Can Impact Student Achievement: Collaboration Ideas that Work. (See Institute for Educational Development to find out if I am coming to your area. Like most other things in my life, one deadline follows another.

Now I am working on another seminar on Using Technology in the Library. I have my own ideas about what to include, but I am curious as to yours. What would you like to learn about in a 5 hour seminar? Though there will be breakout exercises, this seminar will be mostly show and tell. Participants won't necessarily bring their laptops or have internet connectivity. So, put in your two cents and let me know.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

July = Summer Musical

It's almost July, so that means a great many things. Summer is here. Almost all of my schools are out until September. I have another book due in two weeks. Yikes! And for me it also means the summer musical opens in two weeks. This year’s Vanguard Productions @ Westminster Theatre is “Damn Yankees.” With a cast of almost 50 and most characters with multiple costume changes, it’s been a challenge for this costumer. I’m also in the show as Gloria, the reporter who makes Joe famous and then tries to find out who he really is.

There are many other SDUSD folks in the production. Bill Cobb, musical theater teacher at Dana Middle School, returns to the Vanguard stage as Joe Boyd. Consuelo Goodman, Super Lead Teacher @ CDC, stars as Lola. JoDarlene Reardon, retired from SDUSD, is our Doris, part of a laugh out loud sister team. Lesley Pearson, Administrator @ CDC, is producing the show. We also have lots of SDUSD students.

The show opens with a rousing song, “Six Months Out of Every Year,” that sets the stage- Joe Boyd would love to save his beloved baseball team, the Washington Senators, and lead them to the pennant. Enter Applegate- the devil who grants his wish. What Joe learns is that home and the life he had is worth more than his favorite pastime.

“Damn Yankees” opens July 15 and runs for 3 weekends. Tickets sell out quickly, so go online (new for us) and order yours today. Bring your family for a heartwarming and fun show.  You don’t want to miss it!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Bribery… Works Every Time

It’s the end of the year and you’re trying to get the library and textbooks returned. How do you get them back without feeling like a nag? Though you have to face the fact that some books won’t ever return, there are many ways to encourage folks to play along. One of most important ways is to think positive: try “rewarding” those who do before harassing those who don’t. For example:
  • Brownie Party: Have a drawing for the classes that return all their books. Reward them with a party- pizza, brownies. Maybe you could save money by having them bring their school lunches to the library and eating there with you.
  • Class Stars: In a high traffic area, post the names of the teachers (or students) who return their materials. People don’t like to be left out.
  • Library Lollies: Give kids who return their materials a lollipop, etc. when they return their materials. It could also be a trinket. Oriental Trading has cute, inexpensive things.
  • Return One-Get One: Students who return their materials get to choose a free book, magazine or lottery ticket for a door prize.
  • Book Return Countdown: Get the whole school involved. Post a thermometer in the hall. Use construction paper to fill up the thermometer. As books are returned, add more color until the thermometer is full and all materials are returned.
  • Amnesty Day: For those of you who charge late fines, announce an Amnesty Day and excuse fines for one day. Kids will bring them back because they won’t fear the fine.
  • Bring a Can-Feed the Needy: Collect food for the needy. If students bring in dry or canned goods, you can excuse the fine when they return the books. This works especially well in November and December.
  • Collaborate: Work with your PE teachers. Ask them to award extra points for field day if the class has returned all of their books.
  • Little Red Wagon: Go to where they are. Take a little red wagon and go from class to class picking up books.
  • Return Bins: Have a book return outside your secondary library. Sometimes kids just won't take the time to go inside.
  • Lunch Encounters: Go to the lunchroom and have them return books there.
Sadly you have to be realistic. Not all books will come back. Some students just have too many things going on and can’t find their shoes, much less a library book. Some of your students just don’t have the money to pay for lost materials or overdue fines. For those students you may want to try the following options.
  • Payment Plans: One of our Teacher Librarians has her kids bring in a dollar a week until it’s paid off. Little by little students can clear up their fines.
  • Work it Off: Hold students accountable by “hiring” them to work in the library at minimum wage until they pay off their accounts. Talk to them about the cost of the materials and how long they will have to work to replace it. Putting it in real world terms also teaches them a valuable lesson.
  • Replacement: Especially with paperbacks, you might take a different paperback for the one that was lost.
  • Paperwork: In actuality, handing out notices to teachers is rarely effective. They get buried in the bottom of the backpack. It’s more effective to hand a student an overdue notice when the rest of his class is getting to take a book or a prize. His paper can be exchanged for a prize when he clears up his record.
Do the best you can. Know that some loss is the cost of doing business. At some point you should forgive the students and move on. Clean up records after a year or so. Certainly by the time he graduates, his record of losing Brown Bear in Kindergarten should be off his record. Let it go and move on. Focus on the positive.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Just in Time for Summer

With all of the end of the year stress and the staffing situations, this weekend I was dying to read something far from my real world. I wanted something light. Maybe something funny. Something that takes me away from it all and lets me relax. So, Saturday night at dinner, I grabbed a book off the big pile in the hallway. Alex Rider: The Final Mission- Scorpia Rising.

Fans of Alex Rider are probably laughing now. If anything, Rider books are certainly not light. I feel exhausted after reading most of the first chapters. Alex Rider is the James Bond of 14 year olds. His life is far from ordinary and full of adventure. It will take you away from your real life. Dishes will go unwashed. Homework will go undone. The world will fade away when you are reading books from the Alex Rider series. Scorpia Rising is the last of his missions- and it’s just as good as its predecessors.

Set mostly in Cairo, Alex again finds himself in the employment of M16. It seems, however, that he has fallen into the trap that Scorpia set for him. Having been twice defeated by Alex, Scorpia has no intention of letting a 15 year old boy get the best of him a third time.

Like every other book, Horowitz hooks you in the first chapter. There is no easy stopping place. If you wait for the end of the chapter, you’re too hooked to stop. Needless to say, on Sunday, when I should have been writing, I was reading. I sat on my patio-porch-balcony in the sun of the day and consumed it. In just a matter of hours, I was finished. Mouth open. Really? How can that be? Are you kidding me? Did that really happen?

Ah. Intrigued? Your turn to read Alex Rider’s final mission. Haven’t started them? Run to your library- and check it out. And thank goodness, it’s just in time for summer.

Friday, June 3, 2011

It's a Present, But it's No Surprise

Once in awhile a book comes along that warms your heart and teaches you a lesson. Enter True.. Sort of by Katherine Hannigan. Delaware Pattison “was trouble: little trouble on the way to BIG TROUBLE, and getting closer to it every day. Delly’s trouble wasn’t mean. It always started with her thinking something would be fun and good. It always ended with somebody yelling, ‘Delaware Pattison, to your room!’ or, ‘Welcome to detention, Ms. Pattison. Again.’ And there Delly’d be, wondering how something that had seemed so right could go so, so wrong.”

Delly is a kid who has heard “bad, wrong, trouble” until that’s all she can see about herself. That translates into a heart that only feels sadness until one day she feels the coming of a “surpresent.” What she gets is not only a surprise but could be a present not only to herself, but to all those who get close enough to be touched by someone who can’t bear to be touched.

Just like she did in Ida B., Hannigan writes a story that pulls at your heartstrings. It makes you laugh out loud. It makes you cry real tears. As an adult it makes you look twice at the “gray children” you teach- those kids who are quiet. Those kids who stay on the fringe of the crowd. Those kids who act out and seem uncontrollable. Like Ida B., this is a must read for any adult who works with kids.

It’s also a great read aloud. It has boy characters. It has girl characters. It has adults who pay attention. For kids who struggle, it will give them hope. For kids who harass, it can lead them to a higher path. They can see past their own weaknesses and choose to lead the underdogs out.

Hannigan's latest book is certainly a present to all who read it, but considering her track record, it's no surprise.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Poetry: Take 2

Last month was Poetry Month, but who says we can't do poetry all year? After all, that's what Poetry 180 is all about. So, to compensate for the cancellation of last month's class, I am offering two options for an entertaining, informative class. The first is Saturday, May 7 from 10 AM to 11 AM, Saturday Matinee. A repeat of the same class will be held on Wednesday, May 11 from 4PM to 5PM, Evening Gathering. Both classes will be held in Room 3 at the IMC. SDUSD staff (both classified and certificated) should enroll in the class at ERO, using your ERO PIN number, not your district ID password.

Bring your coffee/tea cup! See you then.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Off to Chicago

Tomorrow I leave for a short trip to Chicago to teach a seminar called, The Best of the Best: Top 100 Web Resources for Elementary Teachers, K-6. Sponsored by the Institute for Educational Development, this full day seminar includes:
  • Teacher-friendly templates to use upon returning to your classroom
  • Grant funding opportunities for educators to add much-needed resources to your classroom
  • Best subscription databases and the resources they provide to teachers
  • Searchable databases filled with engaging Webquest adventures for all elementary subject areas
  • Timesaving teacher tools to ease the strain of all that paperwork in your classroom
  • Exciting online collaborative projects that can connect your students with a world-wide community of learners
  • Copyright-free digital images to enhance your presentations and Web sites
  • Explore the wonderful world of free Google tools
  • The latest, most cutting-edge Web 2.0 tools such as blogs, wikis and Webcasts and how to use them in your K-6 classroom
  • Web site addresses (URLs) and what the various parts mean to make you a savvy surfer
  • Web browser choices and why you may need more than one on your computer
  • Online bookmark services to organize your favorite Web sites in one location for easy access from any computer
  • Tips for conducting successful searches to ensure that your valuable time online is well-spent
  • Elementary curriculum sites that focus on elementary math, social studies, art/music, ELA, reading, science, special education, and ESL
  • Software to create your own Podcasts to communicate world wide or locally
  • Online translator tools to help improve your communication with ESL parents
This is a new seminar for me. My biggest hope is that the teachers who attend will learn how to save time and money by finding the best resources that are available. When you search Google for Ancient China, you get over 10 million hits. Life is too short to sort through that.

So, what are your 5 favorite sites? Oh, and by the way, the Voki, is one of those cool things we'll learn now to do.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Beyond the Book

While reading the local paper online, I saw a link to an article called Beyond the Book. Intrigued, I clicked. What I saw next was brilliant. The article was a description of 20 programs that will be held in North County public libraries over the next week. From resume writing classes to guest speakers and musical programs, patrons can attend these free programs- beyond the book. Check out your local public library. There’s a lot going on.
There's also a lesson in there for school libraries. How many of us school library types offer programs and activities like this? What are some beyond the book programs that we offer?

How about these?

• Resumes that Get the Job
• Concerts from student performers
• Theater performances by student actors
• Books Anytime- Anywhere- E-books
• Reference Online- Databases Rock!
• 4G charging stations
• Dial-a-Story
• Game Night/Day
• Stitches- A Sewing/Knitting, etc. group
• Musings- Teen Writers Workshop
• Yoga in the Stacks
• Gaming Night/Day
• SAT Prep
• Poetry Slams
• Art Demonstrations by students
• Recycling Crafts
• Cooking Demonstrations

So think about it. When people think of the library, what do they think of? It's time to change the stereotype. There’s a lot more we can offer beyond the book. Why not advertise that too?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Thank Goodness for English

I've spent most of the last two days at the district hearings regarding the layoff notices to certificated teachers. This morning, the union attorney told us that 20 teachers would be recalled before the testimony continued. She rattled off many different subject areas. Library was not one of them. I settled in for what I was sure would be a long day. The very last name that was called was me. I gasped. I cried. People applauded.

What happened? I don't know exactly, but it seems there were errors made in the seniority list and tie breakers due to other certification. I believe my English teaching credential saved me. Now I am free to breathe and go about my work.

Relieved? Extremely. Relaxed? Not yet. Classifed battles have yet to begun. Now, I get to stay to help fight them.

For all of you who wrote to support me. I thank you. For those who prayed and spoke and wrote to others, let's remember we're not out of the woods yet. Let's keep all libraries open. Libraries matter because children matter.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

More than a Storage Room

I am a published author. An international speaker. A school librarian. Twelve months of the year I am employed by San Diego Unified Schools as the district’s only resource librarian. We have over 228 schools in a district with nearly 132,000 students. For the first time since I took this job 9 and a half years ago, we have every school library open except one.

Our School Board is currently in the process of making budget reductions for the 2011-2012 school year. Of over 200 schools, we only have about 30 Teacher Librarians. School budgets have excessed about half a dozen of them. Another 13 Teacher Librarians have received a layoff notice. Though I don’t work at a school site, I got caught in the big net of media credentials, so I am one of the thirteen. It appears that certificated library staffing could take a 50% cut.

Classified staffing seems just as grim. We are projecting that 37 school libraries will close due to no staffing. Eleven additional secondary schools will have less than one person working full time. Most of these have more than 1000 students who will need to check out textbooks.

Our library staff is a mixture of mostly classified and just over 30 certified people. In the last two years, we have trained almost 100 new staff members. Many of these library workers began as volunteers. Their children attended their school. Then they saw the value in what they did. They do their job, not for the summers off or for the salary. They do it because it’s important. They do it because it matters.

There is a common misconception about what a “librarian” does. The average person thinks a librarian reads stories to children and checks out books. Today’s “librarian” is much more than that. Libraries with adequate staffing level the educational playing field. Not every child has internet access at home. Not every child has a 4G phone. Not every child has books to call his own.

But in the library, students may have access to current technology. They have access to books. Most importantly they have access to trained staff who can guide them from 92 million Google hits on poetry to 184 educationally appropriate sites. Someone who can teach him about how to find the most current data. Someone who can find that just-right book.

Yes, I am an international speaker and a published author. But I am also a school librarian. I chose to work in this district because it matters. These are my schools. My teachers. My students. They need me. They need all of us. Libraries matter because kids matter. Libraries are more than storage rooms for books. They are the doors to literacy. Let’s keep them open. Shall we?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Bringing Poetry to Life with Digital Resources

Baseball, spring flowers, and poetry. It must be April. Since 1996, April has been National Poetry Month. This weekend I will be teaching a Saturday Matinee at the IMC on using digital resources to teach poetry. Whether you teach language arts or not, there’s a poem and a strategy that will enhance your curriculum and jazz up your lessons.

We will start, of course, with Destiny, our one-stop-shopping hub of all things digital. Within your online catalog, you may also find titles and digital resources. If you Google “poetry” you get over 92 million hits. Within Destiny, 184 educationally appropriate sites. Why start driving the Titanic when what you really need is a speedboat?

We will look at some of the best sites for K-12 instruction. We will also look at our databases. In, for example, there are 546 results. From lesson plans to videos and strategies, everything you need to teach your curriculum is there for the searching.

As time allows, we will also look at poetry dramatization. We will sing some poetry. We’ll look at some of the best new titles. Today’s poetry is fun. It’s informational. Picture book poetry is beautiful.

Maybe you belong to me (fellow SDUSD teachers/staff). So join me. It’s not too late to get in on a jam packed, rip roarin’, poetry packed hour. Bring your cup. I’ll make you some coffee or tea. The bonus: It’s my Saturday to work, so I can help you find the best resources from the IMC collection while you’re here.

For more information:

April is National Poetry Month. Join Deborah B. Ford, District Resource Librarian, for a one hour workshop of online resources to jazz up your current poetry curriculum teaching with the latest in Web 2.0 tools. Learn how to find new digital resources. Discover lesson plans, books and teaching strategies for your library or classroom that will entice even your most reluctant readers. Find them today. Use them tomorrow.

Register for this fun one hour workshop at:

IMC Saturday Matinee Series: Bringing Poetry to Life with Digital Resources (5458SATMAT0008)
SRN: 545804162011

Class will be held from 10 AM to 11 AM at the Instructional Media Center, Room 3. Bring your coffee/tea cup!!

Contact Deborah B. Ford for questions.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Aunt Betty Skypes

Today Aunt Betty had a new experience. She Skyped with a school- in Michigan. Pansophia Academy is a school in Coldwater, Michigan. I met the librarian at a recent workshop. Her school planned a read-a-thon, so she asked Aunt Betty to share a story with her school.

Enter Skype (or Google Voice and Video Chat). Skype offers free audio and video chats, all for the downloading of the software. You can talk (and see) someone from anywhere in the world without leaving your house. How about Skyping with an author? Try a Virtual Visit. Check out for more ideas about how to use video chats in your classroom.

To do this with a guest speaker you will want to do a few things ahead of time.

1. Download Skype,
2. Invite your speaker to be a contact within Skype.
3. Check your Privacy settings in Skype.
4. Get an LCD projector to connect to your computer.
5. Get speakers- you may need to place a microphone near your speakers, depending on the size of your audience.
6. Do a practice test with your guest before there is an audience.
7. You may want to use a USB web cam so that if you want to show other things in the room, you won’t have to move the whole computer.

Because we used a USB web cam, Aunt Betty was able to show her office and a Google map of the distance between San Diego and Coldwater, Michigan. We sang a song together and Aunt Betty told the true story of the Itsy Bitsy Spider.

As my mama always says, “a good time was had by all.” Try it. You’ll like it.

Monday, March 28, 2011

All the Way to America

“Work hard, but remember to enjoy life, and never forget your family.” Dan Yaccarino's newest picture book tells the story of four generations of his own family's history. Using a family shovel as the connecting link, an Italian family begins a new life in New York City. Michael (formerly Michele Iaccarino of Sorrento, Italy) uses his father's shovel as he works in a bakery. The shovel passes to his son who becomes the owner of a market and uses the shovel to measure out beans, macaroni and olives.

The influence of family, hard work and enjoying life are sprinkled throughout the narrative. Each generation becomes more “American,” but never loses their heritage. From family recipes to work ethics, the Yaccarino family’s strength and character moves from generation to generation.

This wonderfully told story with classic Yaccarino illustrations, causes readers to wonder. Where did my family come from? What family treasure have we passed from father to son or generation to generation? What family recipes and traditions do we have that came from past generations? Like the author, when students tell their own stories, they will have to edit. Read an interview from Publisher’s Weekly for the inside scoop.

In just a few minutes, librarians and teachers can use this book as a starting point for immigration units or for teaching narrative writing. Go to for teachers to find ready to use teaching guides. This new-for-2011 may be just the book you need- even if you don’t have a family shovel.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

At Least They Aren't Really Pink

Last week, while I was on tour, more than 1300 people in my district received layoff notices. Having already seen the budget cuts for each school, I knew that many of those notices- and those yet to come- would be library staff. It was starting to look like 32 elementary libraries will be closing and more than that will have reduction in hours. Thirteen teacher librarians would get those “pink slips.” While I traveled, I rehearsed this post in my head.

What can you say to someone who knows her job is important, yet because of money, she will not return? What can you say to someone who works hard to meet the needs of an entire school, yet because of money, she will have to figure out how to do the same thing with less time? What can you say to the people who have established collaborative relationships with teachers, yet they will be “bumped” because someone with more seniority was eliminated or reduced?

I made a list of all the things I would say to those people. Then on Friday night, as I was making my way home, my boss called me. It seems there was a surprise layoff notice waiting for me at home.

So there I was- now in the net of people who work hard at their job, yet no matter how much work needs to be done, no matter how hard we work, we could lose our jobs. What do I say now?

I say the same thing I would say before. We should prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Get your check ups. Pay off your credit cards. Meet with your union. File for a hearing. Put a little money aside. Start putting out feelers for Plan B. Plan for the end of your job as you know it.

But…do your job every day. Help the people who need you. It’s not the fault of the children that there are budget reductions. It’s not the fault of the teachers- or the parents.

So, we get up in the morning and we remember why we took this job in the first place. The library is the one place at school where every person can feel welcome. Every child can feel safe. We remember that the children are the reason we have a job. We put ourselves aside and do the best we can for as long as they will let us.

In the end, things will work out. It may not be what we planned. It may not be what we expected. It may turn out to be a big fuss about nothing. It may turn out that we get to go to a different job that we love even more. We plan for the worst and hope for the best.

Oh! And one more thing. Pink is my favorite color. At least pink slips aren’t really pink.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Red Light, Green Light: What's Your Signal?

Music Wand from Tree Blocks
Every classroom teacher has a signal for getting a class’s attention. The library is the largest classroom in the school, so it only makes sense to have a signal there as well. Training your students in the procedure for getting their attention takes some initial explanation, rehearsing and reinforcement, but the payoff can be huge. In literally seconds you can quiet a room with the wave of your hand- or maybe a wand.

Harry Wong teaches us that a procedure is how you want things done. So, you must first decide what your signal will be. Let’s say you choose to ring a bell. You will begin to teach the procedure by telling your students that whenever they hear the bell, they should stop, look and listen. You have something important to say.

Tell students that next they will rehearse the procedure. Ring the bell. Students should stop, look and listen. You will tell them how well (or not) they did. Usually they do well the first time. They need practice. So, send some students to the circulation desk and some to the tables. Give everyone a few seconds to talk to each other and ring your bell again. This time, count the seconds. If they do well, go about your regular schedule. Half way through the period, try it again.

Remember that this is a procedure. Not following procedure brings more rehearsal, not punishment. For example, if they don’t respond fast enough to the bell, they should try again five minutes later. They should not have to write “I will stop, look and listen at the bell.” That teaches them to hate writing (and maybe the library). I remember years ago, I had a really big bell. My kids learned to stop talking when I was walking to the drawer where I kept it. I never even had to ring it. They saw me walk to the drawer and the library became silent.

The third step is reinforcement. Once students have learned a procedure, from time to time, acknowledge those who do a good job. If you notice that one table was especially quick to stop at the signal, point that out. I did that last week at a staff training. When I gave prizes to that table, it was amazing how fast the others remembered the procedure. Point out the good and the rest will quickly follow.

What are some signals you can use?
• Give me five- raising your hand, children raise theirs too; sometimes kids count backward- 5,4,3,,, (eyes on speaker, quiet, be still, hands free, listen)
• Raising your hand
• Ringing a bell
• Flicking the lights
• Music
• MusicWand from Tree Blocks
• A wooden frog
• Clap your hands in a pattern- students clap it back
• Say, “if you can hear my voice, raise your hand” (use a very small voice)

If your school already has a signal, adopt it. All you will have to do is tell the students. Rehearse. Reinforce. You’ll be amazed at how much time you save after they learn the procedure. It’s never too late to start a new procedure. You’ll be really glad you did.

What signal do you use?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Joining Forces

Late yesterday evening I went to a new group meeting. Bill Sannwald, Youth Service Librarian @ Malcolm X Library wanted to connect with the area school libraries to network. A small group of us met at his branch library for about an hour. So what did we talk about?

We talked about services we were offering at our sites and at the branch libraries. At Malcolm X, they have movies, game nights, storytelling, a quilt show and teen artwork coming soon to a wall near you. At Lincoln High, kids are reading. Margo said she has 3 copies of the Hunger Games series and none of the copies have been on the shelf since she got them. They continue to be on hold. Erin talked about how she was doing the California Young Reader Medal Program at her schools. Thanks to the collections at the IMC Libraries, she said she has enough books to do it. At Bell Middle School, Erin has created a student book review blog- Bell Literacy Council. Check it out and be a follower.

In times like these, we have to work together. Networking to share ideas does more than let us toot our own horn. It lets us share our resources. If you are a school library staff person and you don’t have a book that a student wants or needs, when is the last time you told him to check with the public library? Better yet, you showed him how to order the book online? Add it to your own wish list and provide customer service that will help him for a lifetime.

When you are looking at reducing your databases, talk with your public library and buy what they aren’t buying. If you are a public library staff person, when is the last time you visited a school? Bill is going to Nye Elementary to do Story Time. How great is that? Of course, Aunt Betty is going to Malcolm X to do her thing too.

By working together, we find that we are bound together to help us see that we are not alone. Library budgets are tough all over. School libraries are building a foundation that transfers over into life at the public library. As both grow into what our customers need, we need to reach out to each other so that we transform into more than just a building with books. We become that safe haven. That place where all are welcome- whether they came there to read or not. Besides, we all like a good movie. Don’t we?

Oh yes, and bring cookies.