Francesca Mellin is the Head Librarian at The Pike School in Andover
In these turbulent times, I find myself looking for silver linings and “small wins” wherever I can. I am encouraged by the increasing number of Native folks serving in Congress and the recent commitment by a professional football team to change an offensive team name. The number of books published by Native creators is on the rise, and recognition of problematic narratives is generating much-needed conversation. Just in time for Indigenous Peoples’ Day on October 12, here is a selection of recent picture books that reflect a wide array of Native perspectives, identities, and activism.
Lynda Moylan is the Library Media Specialist at Peabody Veterans Memorial High School in Peabody, MA and a recipient of a 2019 MSLA President's Award.
Stepping into the role(s) of a Library Media Specialist after someone else can be daunting, especially if that person was in their position for a long time. When I started at Peabody Veterans Memorial High School I was coming from the elementary level into a school that was just starting to rollout a 1:1 Chromebook program. The previous library media specialist was retiring and I was excited to be a part of this unique time of change in the Library and in the school.
One thing I noticed about my new school was that the culture was very different from the elementary level. Teachers mostly kept to their own departments and there wasn’t much of a collaborative culture. I wanted the library to be the heart of the school so I focused on ways that I could create a positive culture in the library that would hopefully influence other areas of the school. I started Instagram and Twitter accounts for the library and took advantage of our new switch to Google Apps for Education to make a new library website. Once I created an online space for the library, I wanted to update the physical space. I painted over the existing brown cork boards with chalkboard paint and put out colorful chalk to encourage students and staff to write down their current reads right in the library entrance. A Special Education teacher was running a free “store” in her classroom where students could take clothes that were donated but since her room was being used most of the day as a classroom I offered to move it to the back corner of the library so it would be accessible to everyone throughout the day. The IT specialist for our school moved his office to the library so we could be a one stop shop for tech support.
Cathy Collins is the library media specialist at Sharon High School
“Books are sometimes windows, offering views of worlds that may be real or imagined, familiar or strange. These windows are also sliding glass doors, and readers have only to walk through in imagination to become part of whatever world has been created and recreated by the author.” - Rudine Sims Bishop
In efforts to build community, a “Community Reads” program was planned at Sharon High School in which all staff and students read and discussed On the Come Up, by Angie Thomas. Our Community Reads Committee, spearheaded by ELA Coordinator Rebecca Smoler, met several times to come up with discussion “norms,” plan logistics and a format for the school wide discussions, as well as to create strategies and question prompts for staff around the book talk.
Kelly Depin is the head librarian at Derby Academy in Hingham, MA
Imagine yourself reading a picture book to students. If you’re a good sideways or upside down reader, you can keep the pictures in view the whole time. You may use different voices for each character, using inflection the way a chef uses a knife. A little library instruction may start or end the session : ‘What does the author do?’, ‘The illustrator?’. You might even draw attention to how the cover does this or that. But have you ever discussed the gutters or layout? How about the typography or endpapers? Megan Dowd Lambert, author of Reading Picture Books with Children : How to Shake up Storytime and Get Kids Talking about What They See does exactly that. In association with the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, Lambert has developed the Whole Book Approach, a dialogic method used to read with students, not to students.
Ms. Samantha Silag is the Library Teacher at Manchester Memorial Elementary School
How can you get your students to learn about different people, places and experiences through literature? How do you get them to try a book outside of their comfort zone or frame of reference? And then how do you keep them reading? These are the questions I set out to answer a few years ago sparked by two unrelated messengers.
Janice Alpert is the Library Media Specialist at Lynnfield High School
and received the 2019 Peggy Hallisey Lifetime Achievement Award
“There are many little ways to enlarge your world. Love of books is the best of all.” – Jacqueline Kennedy
Enticing students to read has become a difficult endeavor especially at the high school level. Books are in competition with homework, sports, clubs, jobs and let's not forget, social media, video games, and YouTube videos. Every time new books come in to the library media center, I try to think of ways to display them in an appealing and attractive way. I’m constantly brainstorming about what would stop a teenager in his/her tracks and draw attention away from the screen of a phone and towards a new book release.
Kelly Depin is the Head Librarian at Derby Academy in Hingham.
When I worked in the children’s room of a public library, picture books were some of our biggest movers. Adults and children would come in and take out armfuls, anticipating times spent reading together or looking through the pictures, telling stories of their own making. I hoped for some of the same circulation numbers when I became a school librarian. In my fantasy, students in the lower elementary grades would come in and beg to take home more picture books - or come in during free time and swap out the books they just got a few days before. Well, I’m not sure what it’s like in your elementary libraries - but that scenario has not happened in mine. Yet.
Ariel Dagan is the Library Media Specialist at Tri-County Regional Vocational Technical School in Franklin, MA and
received a 2019 President's Award.
The following is a letter, written by partner teacher Suzanne Dodakian, describing the independent reading initiative that Ariel Dagan has started at his vocational school.
In October of 2016, Mr. Dagan instituted an Independent Reading through Book Love exploration with the Grade 10 students in Medical Careers. This was a very important initiative, which involved the students taking an initial survey to measure their personal reading starting point. They, then, were able to select genres of reading material that were of interest while being able to swap a book if they did not care for it. Students then completed a book form and tracked individual progress through fun game challenges. This Book Love initiative was met with enthusiasm for the majority of the Grade 10 students.
Zoe Keenan is the Library Media Specialist at Frontier Regional School in South Deerfield.
My school has struggled with summer reading for many years now. It’s been a pull and push from both the English Department, the Library and the Administration on expectations of what students should read, how they should be assessed on it, and what culminating event should we do to wrap up the program?!?!
When I started at my school three years ago, all three departments had separate ideas about what makes a successful summer reading program. The Administration wanted results and proof of assessment, the English department wanted students to read a wide variety of eclectic books and, as the new Librarian, I wanted students to enjoy reading again. I remember getting to know the students during my first year and asking them how they liked the summer reading book. Many hadn’t read it, since they knew from past years that there was no assessment to be passed in or graded. Of the handful who read it, mistakenly thinking they would be tested on it, only a few enjoyed it. I remember thinking that it was going to take some time and lots of effort to change this program around.
Margaret Kane Schoen is a Library Teacher at Newton South High School.
A Reading Challenge can be a great way to encourage independent or free reading in your school. At our school, we often tie our challenges to our House Cup contest, where homerooms compete to win points for one of the four houses in our school. We’ve tried several versions at our school: March Madness tournament of books, and a “shelfie” challenge where students submitted photos of themselves reading.
These contests have all been great ways to encourage reading and boost school spirit. When meeting with the House Cup team, I always try to see how we can use technology to spice up the contest (and make it easier to track and total our entries!).
This year, we wanted to encourage students to stretch their reading to new genres. We also wanted a way for the faculty to compete. We ended up with a category challenge: the library staff came up with 23 different categories of books (books set in the past, short story collections, memoirs, etc), and challenged the homerooms to see who could check off the most categories.
Wendy Garland is the School Librarian at Avery School in Dedham
Our community read The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer as a One Book, One Community read.
The different formats enabled my elementary school students to participate. I was excited to have my students think about their community and work together within it to frame our thinking. I outline our project here and on my blog. Together with our cable station we created this video:
The article was co-written by the following people:
Allyson McHugh: Director of ELA for Waltham Public Schools and co-chair of the One School, One Story program
Emilie Perna: English teacher at Waltham High School and co-chair of the One School, One Story program
Kendall Boninti: currently Library Teacher at the Cambridge Rindge and Latin School and formerly Library Teacher at Waltham High School and co-chair of the One School, One Story program
Four years ago, Waltham High School embarked on its first ever One School, One Story summer reading program. We believe that One School, One Story is a living, breathing entity that needs constant renewal and fresh ideas, in order to engage students, staff, and the greater community. Over the past four years, we have hosted authors, “read” a podcast, initiated a 24 Hour Read-a-thon, and experimented with a conference-style workshop day for students. There is nothing easy about this approach to summer reading. We essentially start from zero again every year, as opposed to reusing the same list of books for each grade level, or even the same format. Since the change in approach, readership has increased by 20%, and the program has become deeply embedded in the fabric of the school community.
Wendy Garland is the School Librarian at Avery School in Dedham, MA.
I am always looking for new ways to engage readers. When National Ambassador of Young People’s Literature, Gene Luen Yang, proposed the Reading Without Walls challenge I knew it was the perfect opportunity to have rich conversations with students and take deeper looks at our reading to challenge ourselves as readers.
To start the new year we began by discussing what our favorite kind of books are - we all have those. The challenge was to read outside of our comfort zone. We talked about what might happen. I proposed a three part challenge: topic, character and format.
For our first exploration of topics, students chose a non-fiction book and returned to the perimeter of the rug where we then had a "30 second book preview" activity. Students had 30 seconds to look through the book then pass it on to the next student. I wrapped up the activity by asking for a show of hands in response to a variety of questions including “Who saw something that they already knew a lot about?” “Who saw something interesting?” and “Who saw something they might like to read?”
Meghan O'Neill is the Library and Learning Commons Director at Pingree School
In 2010, I started as the Library Director at Pingree School under the leadership of Dr. Tim Johnson, who had become Head of School in 2009. To my great surprise (and delight!), one of the first mailings that I received from Pingree included not only a printout of the daily schedule and the important dates of the school year, but also a copy of No Impact Man: The Adventures of a Guilty Liberal Who Attempts to Save the Planet, and the Discoveries He Makes About Himself and Our Way of Life in the Process by Colin Beavan.
I soon found out that No Impact Man was a Community Read, to be read by all students, faculty, and staff, followed by small group discussions in the first weeks of school. While there was already existing assigned summer reading books by department and grade level, this Community Read was the first of its kind at Pingree. Since there was no full-time librarian at that time, the program was spearheaded by a now-retired science teacher and environmentalist who wanted to use the book as a springboard for launching a composting program at the school. In addition to discussions and a new sustainability initiative, this science teacher had also coordinated a Skype session with the author that was held during one of our all-school assemblies.
Later that year, when Dr. Johnson asked me to build upon the momentum from this initial program and to make it an annual event, I was both excited and nervous. Luckily, I already had administrative buy-in (my Head of School was literally asking me to run the program, as opposed to me proposing the idea of a Common Read and needing to lobby for it) and I made note of structural elements that contributed to a successful program: a clear purpose, time for small group discussions, an accompanying event, and practical, follow-up steps. But I was brand new to Pingree, so I definitely had my work cut out for me.
Dr. Robin Cicchetti is the librarian at Concord-Carlisle Regional High School
and a winner of a 2016 MSLA Service Award
Schools are all over the place when it comes to summer reading. One thing that seems to be consistent is the moans of students who don’t want to have required reading, and the requests from parents who wonder where the expectation went. The traditional reading list has transformed over time to be less didactic and more about encouraging a love for reading. This shift certainly resonates with school librarians who promote lifelong- reading as part of our core mission. But without the mandatory check-in to ensure accountability for summer reading, how effective are our efforts?
Kate Powers is the Library Media Specialist at the James M. Quinn Elementary School in Dartmouth, MA
and a winner of a 2016 MSLA President's Award
I am going to say something crazy.
I do not think it is absolutely necessary for every child to love to read.
While it is an absolutely incomparable feeling when you see a student connect with a book, or blow through an entire series, or finally find that one book that they cannot put down, I understand that those ephemeral experiences are not always going to happen. Your mileage may vary.
Liz Phipps-Soeiro is the Library Media Specialist at Cambridgeport School in Cambridge MA
and a 2016 winner of the Ellen Berne Pathfinder Award
Ethel Downey is a Library Teacher at Newton South High School in Newton, MA
and a winner of the MSLA Web Seal of Excellence
2004 was the 100th anniversary of Dr Seuss and his amazing children’s stories.
Hamill and Stonehill and McQuillan conspire
Get them to write
To think and inspire
Not so easy to do
This thing called a book
Success they all knew
Treat them to pizza
Maybe some grapes
Little Johnny and Liza
Will listen and wait
The teens wrote their stories
An assignment they took
Imagine the glories
Imagine the look
A teen telling tales
Right out of a book!
--apologies to Dr. Seuss
Picture a high school class using creative writing skills, visual literacy skills, art, and imagination to create a decidedly low-tech resource, a book. This is what three 12th grade English classes have done this year for an assignment tied to celebrating reading. And, this is not something new - it has been an annual book writing event at Newton South High School since 2004.
Pat Keogh is a retired school librarian and a 2016 winner of a Peggy Hallisey Lifetime Achievement Award
From the time I walked into my first class in children's literature at Boston University with Dr. Lorraine Tolman I knew I
was hooked. We heard her read aloud from so many wonderful books by Beverly Cleary, Robert McCloskey and others. I still read children's books every day. Since learning of my good fortune to receive the Peg Hallissey Lifetime Achievement Award I have been reflecting on the twists and turns of my career.