Wednesday, October 7, 2015

How Excited Are Your Teachers About Kid Lit?

I have many dreams (perhaps too many) but one of them is to have the strongest possible community of readers here at Allen-Stevenson. Teachers’ interest in children’s books runs the gamut but sometimes I’ve found myself wishing there were more teachers eagerly anticipating the next book by Rebecca Stead or Gary Paulsen. Imagine the amazing conversations that would take place between students and teachers of all disciplines if they sometimes read the same books. A few years back I decided to make it a goal to see if I could get more teachers in my Middle School (Grades 4-6) interested in children’s literature. It’s still a work in progress - here’s what I’ve tried so far.

Maintaining a Constant Presence
Although our library is centrally located, my philosophy is that I can never remind teachers about us enough! To that end, I maintain a bulletin board on the Middle School floor, advertising our latest titles. (In case you are wondering, the library has bulletin boards on the Lower and Upper School floors too.)

Improving the Classroom Libraries
The library at A-S is filled with shiny, up-to-date, volumes but it dawned on me one day this was not the case for some of the libraries in the classrooms. I could see why teachers would not be attracted to some of the books on their shelves (obviously the same goes for our boys) so I negotiated some funding from the division heads and we rebuilt the libraries in all the classrooms over a three year period. Now when I go to the classrooms to teach I see lots of appealing books but I have to resist the urge to reorganize them!

Displaying READ Posters
Over the years we have made READ posters featuring many of our faculty and staff holding their favorite children’s book (all but the most camera shy). The idea is to inspire the boys but I’m secretly hoping that it inspires the teachers too! We plaster these posters all over the school the night before Allen-Stevenson Book Week in November and then take them down again the minute Book Week is over, in order to preserve the mystique!
Picture of my READ poster

Faculty Meetings
Last year during Book Week it dawned on us that we do a lot of activities for the boys but very little for the teachers. We asked if we could take over the faculty meeting that week so that we could have a little fun with books. 
The result was a speed dating event (dating books, that is!) which we ran in each division. There were red pencils and heart bookmarks, chocolate covered strawberries, Hershey’s kisses and prosecco. Not to mention a tower of (plastic) champagne glasses. It is still being talked about to this day! The fantastic Katie Archambault, wrote about it in a post she did for the AISL blog so if you want to know the details, take a look here
We are still figuring out what to do this year for Book Week but we know we are going with a mystery theme. If you have any ideas, please feel free to share them below!

Summer Book Discussion Groups
One idea that the Middle School faculty came up with during the speed dating event was for each teacher to sponsor a different summer reading book. Boys would choose a book and then form a group with the sponsoring teacher and some other boys from the division on the first day back at school to talk about the book and do a related activity. This simple idea entailed a lot more work than I had anticipated but it all proved to be worthwhile in the end. The teachers were amazed at how thoroughly many boys knew the book they had read and quite a few teachers said that they saw individuals in a new light.
To see how I presented the book choices to the boys, take a look at this Voicethread.

Book Award Challenges
This is our second year of running a Mock Newbery Challenge and to be honest, I like reading and predicting the next winner so much more than reading former winners...and so do the boys! Since there is no official short list I relied on blogs, such as SLJ’s Heavy Medal, for ideas about serious contenders. You can see the titles we are reading on our Pinterest board.
There are some cracking good reads here! 
All the boys who read eight or more books get an invitation to a voting party in early January. Pizza is involved and, despite the fact that many boys seem to eat it on a very regular basis, it is a ridiculously powerful incentive.We offer other incentives along the way, as well as a few different ways to show what they know about the books. What has this got to do with getting teachers reading children’s books? Well, we have been talking it up a storm with the teachers and placing book covers of the contenders in their classrooms. What better way to get teachers reading than by presenting them with the ‘best’ of what’s new? The covers of all the contenders are also posted on the wall in the library and everybody who reads a book gets his or her name attached to the cover of the book for all to see. Teachers know that boys will be taking note of who they can discuss the books with and since the teachers enjoyed talking about the summer reading books so much, they are more open to the idea than they were last year. In fact, we’ve checked out a number of books to teachers over the two weeks since we started the challenge!
Place picture of wall?

It has been a few years now since I first developed the goal of adding more adults to our reading community and though it started slowly, I feel that in the last year the momentum has really begun to pick up, due in large part to the terrific team we have in the library, so thanks, Liz, Bonnie and Kate! I’m sure there’s more I could be doing. What have you tried? - Sarah Kresberg

1 comment:

  1. What a great post, Sarah! So full of helpful suggestions. We have a young adult (which includes middle school books as well) book club for the teachers, and provide free books, and hospitality three times a year or so. The aim is to select titles that appeal to both the students and the adults.

    Patty Aakre ( Brearley School )