Tagged: student librarians

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Another successful Book Faire in Oakland

favicon I like the Book Faire that Envision Academy in Oakland puts on to build its school library and to promote reading among students.

The process is simple.

Once a semester, Mary, the school’s vice principal, calls up the Oakland Public Library Teen Zone. Its librarians, Brian and Xochitl, are wonderful. They know what students like to read, and they pull 150 high-interest titles from the shelves.

The day before the faire, I drive on over to the library in my Honda Civic. Brian grabs a cart, which we load with five massive book bags. We wheel the books down to my car, and I drive them on over to the school.

When I arrive, student librarians are ready to receive the books, take them upstairs, organize them into genres, and put them on tables. Here’s a picture of part of the ethnic literature table:

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Once the books are on tables, everything is ready for the event.

The event runs extremely smoothly, thanks to the student librarians. They have the whole process down pat. Classes come in (this time, the groups were organized by Math classes), get a book request slip, browse the books for about 10 minutes, and then fill out their slip with three choices.

It’s great to see students talking with students about books. It’s also great that students know that we’re going to buy the books that they request. (That’s what the book request slip is for. After the event, I go through the slips and purchase up to three copies of each requested title.)

Overall, the Book Faire is simple and smooth. I can’t say enough about the student librarians. If you want to build a reading culture at your school, the single most important investment is to find, train, and cultivate the skills and passions of student librarians. Mary, the school’s vice principal, has done an excellent job building this group.

Here’s a quick picture of them after a job well done:

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Please, if you have a minute, consider leaving a brilliant insight. What do you think of this Book Faire? What thoughts do you have about the student librarians? Thank you for your insights! favicon

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Building a culture of reading at a school in Oakland

2013-12-12 08.00.09favicon Today I was at the Oakland school, which always brings me tons of joy, and I got to read with the Kindlers during the 25-minute Sustained Silent Reading period.

(Spending good time with the Kindlers will be an entirely separate post!)

I have a lot of respect for high schools that dedicate a significant part of their schedule to SSR. After all, SSR is controversial. Some say that it doesn’t work, and others say that even if it works, it’s not appropriate for schools to devote so much time to independent reading, particularly in this time of the Common Core State Standards.

Blah blah blah.

OK, sure, it’s possible to do SSR poorly. Here are a few ways: (1) Don’t have enough good books, (2) Let kids fake read or do homework, (3) Pretend you care about reading when really you don’t.

I’m pleased to report that I get to work at a school where SSR is going brilliantly. The depth of silence across the school is profound. The students are all reading, and they’re curling up when they’re reading, and it’s eminently clear that they’re enjoying their books. When the 25 minutes is up, students don’t want to stop.

As a reading advocate, I believe, of course, that voluminous reading is the most important outcome of SSR. But a close second is the calm that SSR generates. Whereas other schools focus on mindfulness or meditation, this school gets the same result through reading. The students are still, and they dive into a different world.

There are benefits for the adults, too. They’re also reading. They’re not taking attendance or shushing students or getting ready for their lessons. Staff members who are not classroom teachers are reading as well. In fact, the main door to the school is locked, and there’s a sign that says that visitors should return after SSR is over. The school shuts down so that everyone can read. The only room with non-reading activity is, ironically, the library, which students visit to return finished books and check out (from student librarians) new ones.

It’s clear that this is all super impressive. I’m particularly happy because this is the school’s first year building a culture of reading. Much is possible in four months. The staff is absolutely committed. I also give the Principal a lot of credit. Not only did she find $10,000 to found the library (we’ve spent $4,000 so far on books), but she also has done a good job observing and reporting the data about how SSR is going. Money is important, but so is leadership and a high-functioning and passionate staff.

Here are a couple more photos of book door displays! (Note: Many schools have door displays of what teachers are reading. It’s much more powerful to have door signs of what students are reading.)

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The school has big plans for second semester. After last week’s successful Book Fair, students requested three books they might like. Today I ordered each student a book! Librarians will organize and deliver the books to students either next week or right after break, depending on how quickly they can get through the project. Here’s my favorite part: After a lot of debate, it was decided that students will not get to keep their book after reading it. Instead, they’ll donate their book — complete with a sticker with their name on it — to build the school library. (Yes, it’s forced donation!)

I’ll keep you posted, but in the meantime, please let me know what thoughts and questions you have! favicon

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Putting on a book fair, the easy (and free!) way

2013-12-06 08.47.36favicon As a literacy coach, my primary job is to work with teachers to improve reading and writing instruction. But a related goal is to help promote a culture of reading among students.

So far, it’s been really fun — and we’ve had quite a bit of success!

Last June, the principal at my Oakland school had a dream that came from a warm childhood memory. “Can we have Scholastic come to our school and do a book fair?” she asked.

I said sure, but Scholastic is better known for its books for younger kids. Their selection for urban teenagers of color is extremely limited. Plus, their book fairs are either expensive or tough to manage. There’s a lot of set-up and upkeep and takedown and drama.

So I countered. “How about doing our own book fair?” The principal agreed but wondered how we would pull it off. “Won’t it be a lot of work?”

It turns out, no, it didn’t take a lot of work. Actually, it was pretty easy, thanks to the wonderful teen librarians at the Oakland Public Library. The vice principal and I called up Brian Boies, the lead TeenZone librarian, and his staff pulled 150 high-interest titles (both fiction and nonfiction) for us to borrow for the book fair. I drove over in my Honda Civic and loaded the back seat with mountains of books.

Then, we elicited the help of our student librarians, who have already gained fame this year after founding the school’s new library. They sorted the books into genres, got tables and signs ready, and double checked the day’s schedule. English teachers brought in their classes in 20-minute installments, and each student got to browse, talk with the student librarians about books, and write down three titles they might want to read.

Here are a few more photos from the day:

Here’s the best part: The principal has decided to allocate funds so that all students will receive, right before Winter Break, at least one of the books on their list! Not a bad way to go into vacation!

Even if the book fair did not lead to the purchase of new books for students, it would have been a big success. Students got connected to good books. More important, students got connected to other students who like good books. There was much joy, and the joy was about reading. favicon