Defeating the “Decline By 9”

Decline After 9

Scholastic released their Kids & Family Reading Report. There were a lot of interesting seeds in there, but my biggest concern is the “Decline By 9.”

I’ve seen this firsthand for the past decade I’ve been directly serving youth of this age range. In 4th grade, academics get more a lot rigorous, adding an after-school activity or sport takes up a lot of “extra” time, babysitting younger siblings or neighborhood kids detracts from personal down time, and drama picks up with friends at school, depleting energy levels as texting and navigating interpersonal communications take their first adolescent peak.

What can we as educators do? There are many ways we can encourage pleasure reading:

  • Make displays that are eye catching, diverse, appeal to specifically to 9 year olds
  • Offer formal ways, such as a book club, that 4th graders can participate
  • Offer informal ways for readers to keep engaged by having a “BYOB” (Bring Your Own Book) Club so there’s no “homework” requirement
  • Have a Battle of the Books display and voting ballot box
  • Ask kids for their recommended reads (you can use Post-It Notes, or let kids write on the bulletin board)
  • Ask parents, teachers, coaches, etc. in the community to share what they’ve been reading. You can ask them to take a photo of their TBR piles and create a display or even a guessing game!
  • Offer SSR (remember Sustained Silent Reading?!) as part of your after school program. Have books on hand ready to be picked and allow 20 minutes of downtime of just reading. Some kids might not get the chance to do so otherwise.

What are some ideas you have?

Be the Competition! Join the School Age Programming Movement

Competition

As I am taking the plunge into the school age programming pool and trying to get others to swim with me, I am noticing a trend…Some youth services librarians don’t think what they do for a living is important. (Amy, storytime ninja at Storytime Underground, wrote about this, too.) There are a number of reasons why some librarians do not want to test the waters in the school age arena:

drowning

  1. Afraid of drowning: Trying something new is scary! Every time an adult patron asks me to help with genealogy I hope they don’t notice the sweat that soon covers me and soaks through my shirt! But I try my best, which is really what any of us can do. Plus, I like the variety in my duties (working with preschool, school age, teen and adults patrons all in once day!). I truly learn something new every day.
    water up nose
  2. Afraid of getting water up the nose: No matter how seasoned we become at working with a particular age group, it is inevitable that we will fail every once in a while. We all have bad days, the kids have bad days, the weather will effect everyone, the activity we planned will not work. This happens. It happens in storytime, it happens while teaching computer classes, it happens working the circ desk. I don’t let it get me down. I keep a diary of “cute kid stories” that cheer me up, and I have drawings and thank you notes posted on my desk when I have the occasional bad program event.
    man alone in water
  3. Afraid of being the only one in the water: When I started doing school age programs, I had a handful of children attend. I was ecstatic! I had the same amount of patrons that the adult book club averages each month. I embraced the “small” group of children! I was so happy that they wanted to spend their time with me talking about books and doing activities. Their parents took time out of their day to get their children to and from the library. How awesome it was to be part of the community. Of course, my numbers have grown and yours will naturally, too. You’ll adjust to the different types of groups that come to your programs just as you adjust to the different types of preschool crowds you get attending different events. Even though I average 30 children at a program now, I still enjoy the times I get a small group. We really get to know each other during that hour. (And can you imagine telling your director that you are going to cancel the adult book club because only a handful of patrons showed up? No? Good. Why do we think that way about children’s programs?)
    poolmgmgrand-jpg
  4. There are too many pools: A lot of librarians don’t want to “compete” with sports, scouts, leadership, etc. I don’t understand this. Our culture relies on menus of options. By not offering an option to families you are essentially telling your community that you / the library / literacy / reading / lifelong learning is not important. You are saying to your community that extra-curricular school activities, sports, scouts, and fill-in-the-blank is more important. You may not reach children who love sports and sign up for multiple sports each season. You may not get children whose parents think our society is too scheduled. But you’ll get children who need a safe place to spend time, and you’ll offer a whole slew of benefits to these children. (See S.A.F.E. practices for more info.) Plus, I’ve never heard of libraries not offering preschool programs because they don’t want to “compete” with preschool programs.
    boys-swimming-300x199
  5. The children already know how to swim: Don’t stop offering programs after the preschool level. You already have a base of library users from preschool storytime. If you offer programs when they get into school, then become teens, and then adults you’ll have lifelong library users, supporters, and donors. They will grow up seeing how important libraries, literacy, and lifelong learning is to themselves, their families and their community. And, they will bring their own children to the library.

Cliff-Diving-in-Jamaica

You are doing important work! Don’t forget it. So dive in! Who’s with me?!

Rethinking Book Clubs for the School Age

Rethinking Book Clubs for the School Age

Book Club After years of tweaking, I have perfected the Book Club for Kids. When I began my career as a children’s librarian, I was under the impression that any child that walked through the door of the library was an avid reader. They had no time to do any other hobbies except have their noses in a gigantic pile of books that they checked out from the children’s room. I was very shocked when I lead my first book club for the school age and realized that not a single child actually finished reading the entire book that was assigned for this awesome Book Club Meeting. Of course when I took a step back I examined my own Book Club habits, I found the following:

  • Did I actually finish the book that was voted on at my last book club meeting? No.
  • Did I care if every person in my book club read the book? No.
  • What did I look forward to the most at my book club meeting? Seeing my friends and finding out what other books they’ve read that I may like, get the latest movie reviews in theaters and DVD, get a recipe or two for new appetizers.

So, why was I so surprised that children were looking for similar things from their book club? Good question! Since working with children over the past ten years and learning to relax and go with the flow, I’ve tweaked my book clubs and you can do the same! My Book Club is no longer a single meeting, it’s held over eight consecutive weeks for one book title. (This may even work well for adult book clubs!) Children are asked to read about three chapters each week (and I usually have time to read one aloud), which makes it much more manageable for everyone. Of course, some children read ahead and that’s totally OK as long as they don’t allow any spoilers! A typical 45-minute meeting is broken down like this:

  • 15 minutes of share time: We go in a circle and talk about one thing that we feel is important (could be something we did, read, or watched, or it could be something we are planning to do this coming week).
  • 15 minutes of book time: We talk about the book: discuss plot, characters, make predictions, talk about other authors we may like. Sometimes I’ll do a which character from the book are you quiz, or a Mad-Lib, or a game.
  • 15 minutes: I read aloud. I almost always fit in a whole chapter. I only stop and clarify something if a child asks. I try not to break in and discuss foreshadowing, predictions, vocab words, etc. unless a child asks me. I just try to make reading fun.

I also always have the children vote (by paper ballot to avoid peer pressure) on the book title and/or genre. When I run this club during the summer reading program, I always choose a book from their summer reading list so they can get their school requirement finished by coming to the library. Book Club with Jupiter Pirates Books that work for the middle grade reader:

  • Deep and Dark and Dangerous by Mary Downing Hahn
  • Closed for the Season by Mary Downing Hahn
  • The Ghost’s Grave by Peg Kehret
  • The Puzzling World of Winston Breen by Eric Berlin
  • Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein
  • Walls Within Walls by Maureen Sherry
  • Spy School by Stuart Gibbs
  • Theodosia and the Serpent of Chaos by R.L. LaFevers
  • The Gollywhopper Games by Jody Feldman
  • Sixty-Eight Rooms by Marianne Malone
  • From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
  • Capture the Flag by Kate Messner
  • Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald
  • The Harlem Charade by Natasha Tarpley
  • The Winter People by Joseph Bruchac
  • The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich
  • Into the Lion’s Den by Linda Fairstein

Books that work for the tween/early teen reader:

  • Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer
  • The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson
  • The Maze Runner by James Dashner
  • Divergent by Veronica Roth
  • The Raft by S.A. Bodeen
  • The Metropolitans by Carol Goodman
  • Woods Runner by Gary Paulsen
  • Vincent and Theo by Deborah Heiligman

What tricks of the trade do you have that I can borrow?

Why I Continue to Read Middle Grade Fiction

MG Fiction

I’ve been asked by friends, colleagues, and family members, “Why do you read kid’s books?” My current position is more administrative. I no longer book talk to kids (or their parents), my daily duties do not include keeping circulation statistics up, and I don’t have to go into the schools and give my opinions on the latest Nutmeg nominees. My first few months of administration work, I did read adult books. I read the hottest thrillers, National Book Award winners, Pulitzer Prize winners, classics I somehow missed during my English undergrad days.

At first it was exhilarating! I could read whatever I wanted for the first time in my life since I was…in high school? No more reading for a test, to compile a list, for my next book club choice, for appropriate content, for my reluctant readers, for my advanced readers, for my next field trip. No more…anything!

For about two months, I read only adult books. And I was…wholly unsatisfied. Some stories introduced frivolous characters that had no reason for being, some novels droned on and on with minute details that nobody ever needs to know, others had amateurish or predictable endings. After the shine wore off, I marched right back into the Children’s Room scouring the newest releases.

I found a kindred spirit with Frances Pauley. I connected with Nan Sparrow as she fought for her cause while grappling with grief. I endured the loneliness of Peter until he met Pax. I felt the abandonment that Livy put Bob through while she struggled to find her own way. I had a strong sense of belonging as Aru Shah lit the lamp.

I keep reading these amazing stories for a multitude of reasons. The writing doesn’t stray, they are filled with metaphors, and are relatable in some way to everyone. Once you crossover to adult fiction, it gets so murky. As a reader you have so many judgements of characters based on their job, their political or religious affiliation, their romantic partner, the way of their chosen path. If the characters are kids, you have no judgement on how they’ve gotten to be where they are–circumstances are just out of their control. You feel empathy and root for them. Their struggles remind me that my own are temporary. I am never alone. I have the same inner battles. And if I survived adolescence, I can certainly get through this adventure called adulthood!

Why do you read middle grade fiction?

 

Fractured Fairy Tale Club: Book vs. Movie

Little Mermaid

In honor of our local theater featuring The Little Mermaid this summer, I decided to do a fractured fairy tale club to coordinate with them. Some local children will be featured in the play during their theater camp program.

Over the course of the six weeks, I will be reading a storybook aloud, and then showing about 10 minute clips of Shelley Duvall’s Faerie Tale Theatre. These plays are a lot of fun, especially if you have parents or families that come together for this program. Actors such as Jeff Bridges, Tatum O’Neal, Jeff Goldblum, Billy Crystal, Christopher Reeves, Beverly D’Angelo and Helen Mirren are in them. The early ’80s program is a little sassy in places. No more than Shrek, or a lot of other animated films out there. But the chapters I pulled are clean for general audiences.

Last year I did Mary Poppins and brought the book club to watch the play. Some children didn’t realize what a play was until it started–they thought it was a movie. One kids sitting near me said, “Mrs. Shaia…I think those are real people on stage!” So this year instead of choosing animation or film, I decided to go with theater clips. Fingers crossed!

Here are six different ones you can run your book club with, too. Notice on the bottom of each answer sheet I have the book, and the movie clip for each activity:

Fairy Tale Mermaid Book and Clip

Fractured Fairy Tale Book vs. Movie

Included are six (6) Book vs. Movie Games: The Little Mermaid, Goldilocks, Beanstalk, Three Little Pigs, Sleeping Beauty and Rapunzel. Read a picture book, watch a movie clip from Shelley Duvall’s Fairie Tale Theatre to play. Perfect for ages K-6th grade for after school programs, enrichment activities, special incentives, and library programs.

$19.99

Book vs. Movie: Ant Bully

ant bully

I’ve done a series of successful Book vs. Movie programs with grades K-6. Here’s another one: Read the picture book The Ant Bully to the children. That way there is no requirement to watch the film to participate in the program. If a word, phrase, or character comes up that they didn’t hear in the picture book, then it came from the movie.

There’s a great website to generate your own Bingo cards. Here’s the link of ready to print unique cards: Ant Bully Bingo Cards

Here’s a Power Point you can use to call out the Bingo words and phrases: Ant Bully Books vs Movies

To play:

  • Give each child a Bingo Card, a red crayon and a green crayon.
  • Choose a category and number value in the Power Point presentation to reveal a word, phrase, or character. Have the children decide if it came from the book or movie.
  • If the word, phrase, or character came from the book color the box red.
  • If the word, phrase, or character came from the book color the box green.
  • You can offer prizes for the first child who has an all red Bingo, an all green Bingo, and a “Blackout” Bingo (where every square is colored).

 

Book vs. Movie: Epic

Leaf men epic

I’ve done a series of successful Book vs. Movie programs with grades K-6. Here’s another one: Read the picture book Leaf Men to the children. That way there is no requirement to watch the film to participate in the program. If a word, phrase, or character comes up that they didn’t hear in the picture book, then it came from the movie.

There’s a great website to generate your own Bingo cards. Here’s the link of ready to print unique cards: Leaf Man Bingo Cards

Here’s a Power Point you can use to call out the Bingo words and phrases: Leaf Men Book vs Movie

To play:

  • Give each child a Bingo Card, a red crayon and a green crayon.
  • Choose a category and number value in the Power Point presentation to reveal a word, phrase, or character. Have the children decide if it came from the book or movie.
  • If the word, phrase, or character came from the book color the box red.
  • If the word, phrase, or character came from the book color the box green.
  • You can offer prizes for the first child who has an all red Bingo, an all green Bingo, and a “Blackout” Bingo (where every square is colored).

 

Book vs. Movie: Meet the Robinsons

Robinsons

I’ve done a series of successful Book vs. Movie programs with grades K-6. Here’s another one: Read the picture book A Day with Wilbur Robinson to the children. That way there is no requirement to watch the film to participate in the program. If a word, phrase, or character comes up that they didn’t hear in the picture book, then it came from the movie.

There’s a great website to generate your own Bingo cards. Here’s the link of ready to print unique cards: Meet the Robinsons Bingo Cards

Here’s a Power Point you can use to call out the Bingo words and phrases: Meet the Robinsons Books vs Movies

To play:

  • Give each child a Bingo Card, a red crayon and a green crayon.
  • Choose a category and number value in the Power Point presentation to reveal a word, phrase, or character. Have the children decide if it came from the book or movie.
  • If the word, phrase, or character came from the book color the box red.
  • If the word, phrase, or character came from the book color the box green.
  • You can offer prizes for the first child who has an all red Bingo, an all green Bingo, and a “Blackout” Bingo (where every square is colored).

 

Book vs. Movie: Babar

babar

I’ve done a series of successful Book vs. Movie programs with grades K-6. Here’s another one: Read the picture book Babar to the children. That way there is no requirement to watch the film to participate in the program. If a word, phrase, or character comes up that they didn’t hear in the picture book, then it came from the movie.

There’s a great website to generate your own Bingo cards. Here’s the link of ready to print unique cards: Babar Bingo Cards

Here’s a Power Point you can use to call out the Bingo words and phrases: Babar Books vs Movies

To play:

  • Give each child a Bingo Card, a red crayon and a green crayon.
  • Choose a category and number value in the Power Point presentation to reveal a word, phrase, or character. Have the children decide if it came from the book or movie.
  • If the word, phrase, or character came from the book color the box red.
  • If the word, phrase, or character came from the book color the box green.
  • You can offer prizes for the first child who has an all red Bingo, an all green Bingo, and a “Blackout” Bingo (where every square is colored).

 

Book vs. Movie: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

cloudy_with_a_chance_of_meatballs_book

I’ve done a series of successful Book vs. Movie programs with grades K-6. Here’s another one: Read the picture book Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs to the children. That way there is no requirement to watch the film to participate in the program. If a word, phrase, or character comes up that they didn’t hear in the picture book, then it came from the movie.

There’s a great website to generate your own Bingo cards. Here’s a link of ready-to-print unique cards: Cloudy Meatballs Bingo Cards

Here’s a Power Point you can use to call out the Bingo words and phrases: Cloudy Meatballs Books vs Movies

To play:

  • Give each child a Bingo Card, a red crayon and a green crayon.
  • Choose a category and number value in the Power Point presentation to reveal a word, phrase, or character. Have the children decide if it came from the book or movie.
  • If the word, phrase, or character came from the book color the box red.
  • If the word, phrase, or character came from the book color the box green.
  • You can offer prizes for the first child who has an all red Bingo, an all green Bingo, and a “Blackout” Bingo (where every square is colored).

 

Mary Poppins Club

Over a four-week period, I did reading club featuring the classic story of P.L. Travers’ Mary Poppins. It was hugely successful with a high retention rate of early elementary school students. Each week we met at the same time for one hour. I read aloud a short story (30 minutes), we watched a movie slip together (5-10 minutes), and then we played a game (the rest of the time).

MP Kids

Here are the games we played each week. You can open each pdf file and scroll to the bottom of the answer sheet to find the movie clips that correspond to each chapter. I used the classic Mary Poppins DVD starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke.

MP BingoMP Answers with Movie Clips

Chapter 1: Mary Poppins East Wind

Chapter 2: Mary Poppins Day Out

Chapter 3: Mary Poppins Laughing Gas

Chapter 7: Mary Poppins Bird Woman

Flannel Friday Halloween Extravaganza

great-pumpkin

Welcome to Flannel Friday’s Halloween Extravaganza! There are enough ideas in here to do a whole season of Halloween-themed storytimes! Click away my friends…

Halloween Ideas:

  • Carol shares a Halloween Hootenany with so many ideas, you’ll be using them for years!
  • Wendy shares an array of ideas including Jack-O-Lantern shapes, Halloween finger puppets (Bride of Frankenstein is my personal fav), an animal costume rhyme, and finger puppets to accompany the famous Five Little Pumpkins song. You MUST click on them all! Mhooo Whaaaa! (Scary monster noise)
  • For those of you talented enough to play ukulele and manage to somehow simultaneously do a storytime, Storytime Ukulele shares an arrangement of songs. These can be used with (or without thank goodness!) the instrument. I plan on immediately stealing Five Grey and Spooky Ghosts!
  • I am sharing a storyboard to accompany the 13 Nights of Halloween–a nice, singable story!
  • I also made a Tickle Monster flannel and board game.
  • Felt-tastic Flannelboard Funtime has lots of cute flannels and songs, including an original “Black Cat, Black Cat” to the tune of “Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear.”
    Leading Up to Halloween Ideas:
  • Kathryn shares her astronaut rhyme and craft for those non-Halloween storytimes (I mean, we still have three weeks to get through.)

Flannel Friday Logo

Next week Amy at Catch the Possibilities is hosting Flannel Friday. To find out more about Flannel Friday, check out the website, thePinterest board, and the Facebook Group.

Theme: Overlay by Kaira