Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Revisiting Last Year's Power of the Picture Book

Last year in November I celebrated Picture Book Month with a blog series entitled The Power of the Picture BookI am excited to announce that The Power of the Picture Book will return this November with a whole new group of AMAZING contributors.

I will be back on November 1 to kick off this year's series.

Until then, let's take a look at last year's posts.  Maybe you missed one, or maybe you just want to read them again.  Enjoy and see you in November!

Click on the name to see each post!


Jim Bailey

Julie Falatko

Lesley Burnap

Melissa Guerrette

Sara Grochowski

Adam Lehrhaupt

Scott Filner

Melissa Stewart

Alyson Beecher

Camille DeBoer

Josh Funk

Susan Dee

Deb Pilutti

Joseph Kuefler

Andy Plemmons

Kathy Burnette

Matthew Cordell

Kurt Stroh

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Stop it! (and do better!)

This weekend I finally got to read Kelly DiPucchio’s newest picture book, Super Manny Stands Up!, illustrated by Stephanie Graegin (Atheneum).  Given the current political climate, this book really resonated with me.  I have been searching for the perfect book with which to start the school year, and upon reading this book, I’ve decided that I will use it as the first read aloud in my library.  I will read it to every student during the first week of library classes.  Together we will learn that it’s ok to say “Stop it” when we see people treating others unfairly. Together we will learn to say ”Stop it” when we see or hear hateful actions or comments.

And most importantly we will learn to LISTEN when someone says “Stop it!” to us.  That if someone tells us to “Stop it”, instead of getting mad, instead of getting defensive we will, indeed, stop.  We will take a closer look at our words and actions.  We will try to see things as others see.  We will try to hear things as others hear.  We will try to feel things as other feel.

I know that this is something that I’m always striving to do:  Let’s face it, I’m a white, straight, Christian, middle class male.  I’m about as privileged as they come.  I have never been marginalized because of the color of my skin, my gender, who I love or where/how I worship, and I absolutely need to be cognizant of this.  I need to been keenly aware that the lens through which I see life is not the lens available to many people.  So I always want to learn more. I always try to be better.  But here’s the thing….sometimes I’m not.  Sometimes my privileged life causes me to clumsily say or do something that could be interpreted as hurtful by someone.  And when this happens, I count on other people to tell me…to "stop it and do better”.  When they do, I have the opportunity to stop and reassess something I’ve said or done.  I have the opportunity to see why someone might have been offended.  Most importantly, I have the opportunity to make it right…to do better. 

Last spring I was commenting on social media about the amazing lineup of authors that had come to my school for author visits.  I was fortunate to have had five authors/illustrators come visit my school and talk with my students.  After reading many replies like “Wow!”, “Lucky kids!” or “What an amazing group!”, I received this reply from an author friend: “Next year you should have some women or people of color.”  Upon reading that comment I didn’t get mad.  I didn’t get defensive.  I became reflective.  Someone had basically told me to “stop”…and I did.  Upon reflection I realized that the fact that my authors were male was, indeed, a conscious choice.  In all the previous years, I had only invited female authors and illustrators to our school, and I wanted to make sure that my students were getting a balance.  So, I invited two male authors to visit. (The other three were sent by publishers…which I know is another issue!) However, my author friend WAS absolutely right…My students weren’t being exposed to culturally diverse authors.  This was something of which I needed to be aware.  I needed to do better.

Lately, my Facebook feed has been spotted with things like:  “Get over it.”, “Just move on”, “I didn’t own a slave…” and to that I say “Stop it!!”.  Those are ignorantly, privileged statements.  They are hurtful.  I ask you to reflect upon what you’re saying.  Better yet, reach out to someone who is not as privileged as you are and try to understand why it’s ignorant, why it’s hurtful.

This past summer there were some very heated racial issues in the kid lit world being discussed on Twitter.  I didn’t agree with them. Upon reflection though, I realized that the reason I didn’t agree with them was due to the fact that I didn’t understand them because of my privilege. My disagreeing (without understanding) was unfair and quite frankly ignorant.  I needed to learn more.  I needed better understanding.  So, I sat down with a dear friend, a friend who is part of the marginalized group that was taking issue, and we talked.  I asked questions.  I dug deeper.  I was empathetic.  I left the discussion with a richer understanding.  It was an understanding that my lens alone would have never brought into focus.  I know that I can never fully understand because I haven’t lived that life or had those experiences. However, I will always strive to gain as much understanding as I possibly can.

It’s very easy block or unfriend people who continually say or post hurtful, privileged things (and at times I have).  It’s easy to not go to a particular gathering because things will be said with which you disagree. Let’s face it though, the easy thing isn’t usually the right thing…and we need to do the right thing.

To those of you who are part of marginalized groups (or have kids that are part of marginalized groups), I see you.  I care about you.  I want to learn more about you and your story.  I want to be like Manny and protect you by saying, “Stop it!”…and I promise that I will.  I know that I can always be better!

Monday, August 7, 2017

Readers and Friends

I just returned from an annual camping trip that we take with some of our dearest friends and their families.  Now, a lot of my friendships have developed around books and the love of reading. However, the relationships with these amazing friends have been built through years of shared experiences with our kids: chaperoning events, planning school functions, serving on parent/booster boards, being there for each other in times of crisis...Rock-solid friends.

This year's camping trip was wonderful...as it always is. Fireside conversations, game playing and more laughing than you can imagine. And while our initial connection didn't happen because of reading, I couldn't help to notice that our weekend was filled with books.

There were numerous discussions about the books people were currently reading (or had recently read). The reading included a wide variety of topics and genres;  the building of the Trans-Continental Railroad, a person's escape from a village that practiced witchcraft, the struggle of caring for people with dementia, the Chronicles of Narnia, Trevor Noah's journey from apartheid South Africa to the desk of the The Daily Show, a fantasy story set in Medieval times, a child learning the truth about her father while coming to understand the horrors of racism during the 1960s. Throughout the weekend these "book talks" would spring up naturally in conversation, often with people joining in on the discussion and asking to learn more about each book.

At one point I looked around the campsite and I couldn't help but smile...

...everyone was reading!

So, while books may not be what initially brought us together, our shared love of reading continues to deepen these already beautiful relationships.  

Like Kate DiCamillo says, "Stories Connect Us".

Friday, March 31, 2017

Northview Says "Hello, Hello!" to Emily Arrow by Carrie Davies

Some days just feel magical.  March 29 was one of those days.  


Northview was very fortunate to host award-winning singer/songwriter, Emily Arrow, from Nashville, Tennessee, for three daytime concerts and an evening community concert.  As part of this district-wide event, students and staff from all three of our elementary schools -- East Oakview, North Oakview and West Oakview -- came together for grade-level specific concerts at our High School Performing Arts Center.  Emily performed for 1,200 students during the day, and another 400 fans at her evening concert.  


I am extremely fortunate to be a part of an amazing Teacher Librarian team at Northview.  My colleagues, Kurt Stroh, Leah Pietrusza and I, began planning this event  just under a year ago.  This event was truly a collaborative event, and I’m so very thankful that I get to work with these dedicated educators, who I consider both colleagues and friends.

We were also lucky to have Teacher Librarian extraordinaire, fellow Book Nerd and friend, Kathy Burnette, join us for the day!

From the beginning of the school year, we had been preparing for Emily Arrow’s visit on March 29.  This included celebrating Emily’s music and reading aloud the books her songs are based on during library classes, incorporating her music into activities at our Family Literacy Nights, and having classroom teachers use her music and YouTube videos in their classrooms.



In the weeks leading up to her visit, we celebrated at school with a special count down bulletin board.  


Students worked to create a welcome banner, and arrows to encourage concert-goers to “Follow Their Arrow” to see Emily Arrow’s performance!



We also knew Emily Arrow would need lots of water to help her singing voice for such a busy day, so we created water bottles just for her!


It seemed like such a long wait, but as we found out with the first strum of her ukelele on March 29, it was well worth it! Emily Arrow not only lived up to the hype and excitement that had been created, but far surpassed our wildest expectations.



Emily played lots of crowd favorites, including THE DOT, THE CURIOUS GARDEN, and even sported her “Louise glasses” for LOUISE LOVES ART!  


The entire audience at each show was engaged with her music, and sang right along with Emily Arrow as she played her ukulele "Bow" and her trademark big blue kazoo.  Students and staff all knew the motions to her songs, and weren't afraid to jump right in!


One of the most moving moments of the day was hearing the voices of 400 3rd and 4th grade students singing Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s I WISH YOU MORE along with Emily Arrow.  Many of us in the auditorium were moved to tears.

We had quite a few staff members dress in striped shirts and pinned-on red hearts, a nod to Dennis from Salina Yoon’s BE A FRIEND.  During her performances of that song, Emily invited those staff members onto the stage to “mime along” with her!


After each of the 3 daytime concerts, Emily Arrow graciously signed CDs and kazoos for her young fans who had pre-ordered them.


The fun continued into the night, as we had over 400 Emily Arrow fans in attendance at her evening performance. From toddlers to grandparents, and every age and stage in between, families had fun singing and interacting with Emily Arrow's music.


As a special surprise, Emily Arrow's 2nd CD, Storytime Singalong Volume 2, was made available for the first time anywhere at our Northview concert that night!

Families eagerly waited in a long line after her show to get their new CDs or kazoos signed.  


We were also very lucky to have three author/illustrators join us as special guests that night!  Aaron Zenz (MONSTERS GO NIGHT-NIGHT), Laurie Keller (WE ARE GROWING) and Deb Pilutti (BEAR AND SQUIRREL ARE FRIENDS...YES, REALLY!) all had a chance to hear Emily perform that night, and meet her after the concert.  It was an awesome experience to see creators who admire and respect one another meet, and share their appreciation for each other’s work!



The entire day, start to finish, was absolutely amazing.  Emily Arrow is an incredibly talented, kind, genuine, passionate individual, and my life was made infinitely richer by spending the day with her.  I know the students, staff and families of Northview feel very much the same way.


After the concert, one student's comment said it all: "I wish I could have this night just happen over and over and over."

Some days truly are magical.

Many thanks to everyone who helped make this day possible, especially Mike Frank at the Northview High School Performing Arts Center and funding from the Northview Education Foundation.  

Emily Arrow creates songs based on well-loved children's books, and has won awards, including the 2015 John Lennon Songwriting Contest and a National Parenting Product Award.  She is also is featured on regular rotation on Sirius XM Radio's Kids Place Live.  She currently has 2 CDs available, Storytime Singalong Volume 1 & 2 and has created numerous interactive videos of her songs that are available on YouTube.  Emily Arrow also hosts interactive Facebook Live performances most Sunday nights at 6:30pm EST.  If you are interested in ordering either of her CDs or other merchandise, visit her website at www.emilyarrow.com.  

Carrie Davies is a preK-4th grade teacher-librarian from Grand Rapids, MI. You can follow her on Twitter at @readwithdavies .

Friday, March 17, 2017

Book Fairs: A Schoolwide Event

Yesterday, I closed my book fair.  It was the ninth fair that I have hosted.  Though exhausting, they are exciting and rewarding.  Our sales have increased...but MUCH more importantly, the excitement has increased.  Last September at school open house, I was actually asked by a fourth grader what this year's book fair theme was going to be and if I knew what books would be on it!

Sometimes I follow the fair theme suggested by Scholastic, other times I choose my own.  This spring, my fair theme was Book Fair Luau!  (I felt a need for some "warm weather" in my library.)

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I do everything I can to create a space that will excite my readers and their families!

Book Fair Luau

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Some previous themes:

Bookaneer Book Fair

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Take Me Out to the Book Fair

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Under the Sea

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Sir Read-a-lots Castle

Nothing makes me happier than seeing kids come into the space and be so excited about the theme and the books.  Students enjoy previewing and making their wish lists.

Older students love to make book recommendations for younger students and enjoy helping them create their wishlists.

Excitement builds when our sale has books by authors and illustrators who will be visiting soon.

And boy do we sell a lot of their books!

Students enjoy making decorations and help to advertise.

I love listening to the conversations that families have while they shop for books...kids are talking about favorite genres, books, series, authors, illustrators...

Staff gets involved and helps build excitement!

Of course, food!  (Thanks to my amazing office staff, Cindy and Sheryl, for helping make this part happen!)

And the VERY best part...Kids with new books to read.  Kids excited to read! Kids so excited to start their new books that they actually sit in the hallway just outside the fair and read.

So...even though I just closed up the fair yesterday, I did decide today what the theme of our fair will be next October,  Stay tuned....

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