More Books for my Students Thanks to Christina Woll Memorial Fund Grant

by Priscilla Delgado, Bowie Elementary, San Marcos Consolidated ISD; TALL Texans Class of 2016, Teacher Day @ TLA Task Force, Tejas Star Reading List committee, Tomas Rivera Book Award Committee.

Once upon a time, I was a new librarian with a healthy book budget.  I was able to purchase new titles and award-winning books without thinking twice about it.  I also had enough money to bring authors to our school and purchase books and prizes to give away to our students.  It was a blissful time.

Sadly, those good old days are gone. As many of us in public schools have experienced, there are budget cuts left and right, reducing or completely eliminating funding for various programs, resources and activities.  I found myself working with less money year after year, until ultimately I came to a point that I could no longer afford to purchase the books and materials my students were accustomed to having. 

To make matters more challenging, our school district was experiencing a budget deficit, and for the 2016-17 school year, my budget was one-fifth of what it had been previously.  This was a major blow, and I longed for the days that I could freely and happily purchase what my students and teachers wanted and needed.  Working with a fraction of what I once had, I had to drastically reduce the number of books I could purchase, and in turn, modify one of our library celebrations.

Every spring, we study the ALA award winning titles as part of a library unit - Caldecott, Newbery, Coretta Scott King, and Pura Belpré. Unfortunately, for the 2016-17 school year, I was unable to purchase the award winners.  Due to the budget constraints, the one-fifth budget that I had was already earmarked for other materials the school needed.  Anticipating the lack of funds to purchase the ALA winners, I created a Donors Choose project in September 2016, hoping to raise enough money to purchase the ALA winners, but it was not funded within the time frame, much to my disappointment. 

I received an email about the Christina B. Woll Memorial Fund Grant through one of the library listservs, and initially I didn’t feel the urge to apply.  I had applied in the past, and hadn’t been selected.  The Woll Grant had come to feel to me like Charlie Brown and the football - something elusive and just out of my reach.  But did Charlie Brown ever give up on kicking the football?  He kept trying!  I figured that I had as good a shot as anyone and it wouldn’t hurt to apply again, so I moved forward with the application.  I shared with my administrators that I was applying for this grant and what I hoped to use the money for if it was awarded, and stressed the fact that I had an insufficient budget to purchase the library materials that I needed for our students and for my curriculum.

Lo and behold, one day in March 2017, I received a phone call from the Woll Grant committee chair.  My library had been selected for the Christina B. Woll Memorial Fund Grant!!!   I shared the news with my administrators, my family and friends.  I felt excited and triumphant; my inner Charlie Brown had finally kicked that football. 

The grant allowed me to purchase the ALA winners, and I have enough money to purchase the award winners for 2018 as well.  I was honored to be recognized during the Texas Bluebonnet Award luncheon as the Woll Grant recipient for 2017.  At the beginning of the 2017-18 school year, to my delight, I was given a much larger budget, similar to what I used to receive, specifically to enhance our suffering library collection.  It makes my heart happy to know that we will be able to improve the library's holdings to best serve our students and teachers.

 So, even though I’ve had my budget challenges and I anticipate there may be more in the future, it felt like a fairy tale ending to receive the Woll Grant.  If you find yourself in a similar situation, in which your library budget is not sufficient for what you need or want, consider applying for this grant.  It targets libraries who demonstrate a commitment to providing quality children’s literature and a need to enhance an area of their collection or programming.  I’m thankful to the Woll Grant for selecting my school for the grant, and to TASL Talks for the opportunity to share my story with you.  For more information, visit the Woll grant website.  The deadline for the grant is January 31, 2018 -- good luck to all the applicants!

NOTE: Many TLA and TASL awards have applications and/or nominations that open in December and January. Scholarships as well. Check out the opportunities!

Tools for Telling Your Message

It is obvious to anyone paying attention that educators across the country have been erroneously painted as incompetent, inconsistent, and unconcerned with our student achievement. This incorrect message has been spread far and wide by groups who are successful at getting their side of the story out to large segments of the population.  As educators, we need to be better about sharing the successes we regularly see in our classrooms.  The data heavy reports and charts that show the excellence of public education aren’t  getting the job done. We need to take this down to our community level - how and what can you promote to your local community as evidence of success in your school or in your library program?  This promotion really needs to become part of our job. We need to sell our product to our consumers and I would like to share with you a few tools that make that part of our job easier:

Word Dream - free Apple app that enables you to create quick graphics in less than 5 minutes.  You can upload your own picture or use one from their collection.  This tool pairs different fonts together for visually appealing images that make you look like a pro.  The paid version offers you more template and font options. I use this primarily for social media posts of upcoming events or book promotion.

Spark Post - free web-based tool and app that is part of the Adobe package.  This tool is similar to Word Dream, but offers you a few more options. One option I find to be most critical is a banner overlay that is beneficial to use on top of images that are very busy so the text really pops out and is easier to read.  I use this most frequently for social media posts, book quotes, and event flyers.

Canva: FREE, web-based graphic design tool. I have used this to create event flyers, social media graphics, and infographics to highlight program data.  They feature a great help section with tutorials to improve your design skills.  Your products can be downloaded as jpgs, png, or PDF files AND they can also be shared with team members so you can collaborate with others on the designs.  There are paid features, but I have found the free version to be sufficient for my needs.

Quik - a free app that helps you create slideshow videos.  This is the easiest video creator I’ve used since Animoto came out several years ago.  Simply upload your images or short videos and the program puts them together in a video complete with music.  There are numerous templates to choose from and some templates can be further customized. I have used this tool to recap events in order to showcase the various ways our library supports our teachers and students.

Broadcasting your message doesn’t have to be time-consuming or scary; it just has to be frequent!  Using these quick tools will help you showcase the impact you have within your community and beyond. Please comment below with any other tools you use to help spread the word about the great things you're doing in the library!

Computer Science in the Library is more than a C++

by Brooke King, Middle School Librarian in Humble ISD, TxASLTalks Editorial Board and Cynthia Cooksey, Perez Elementary Librarian in McAllen, TX

Computer Science is our future. It drives innovation. According to, there are currently 500,000 open computing jobs nationwide.

Libraries can take part in promoting computer science this week during Computer Science Education Week. CSEdWeek is an annual program dedicated to inspiring K-12 students to take interest in computer science. It is held the week when December 9 falls in honor of computing pioneer Admiral Grace Murray Hopper’s birthday. The library can host programs that promote the computer sciences by introducing students to different opportunities. One simple way is to try Hour of Code which provides students a one-hour introduction to computer science, designed to unmask code and show that anybody can learn the basics.

Cynthia Cooksey, the librarian at Perez Elementary in McAllen, TX, shares how she incorporates coding in the library:

Two years ago, I made one of the best investments of my library career.  I invested in the students and myself by deciding to incorporate coding and robotics into the library curriculum.  I didn’t just want to teach coding, I wanted to learn how to code as well, and getting to use a robot was just the cherry on top of the cake.  Like many others, I didn’t have a clue about what coding entailed.  Sure, I had heard of the “Hour of Code,” but I had never really participated in it.   My coding experience was limited to finding a couple of websites that had block style coding for teachers to use with students during the Hour of Code the prior year.  But, something sparked my interest when I saw those programs, and I set out to bring coding to life on our campus.

As luck would have it, our local community (McAllen Educational Foundation) sponsored several grants that year, and my grant – Robotics Rocks! - was selected.  I purchased four sets of Dash and Dot robotic sets which arrived in October.  Little did I know that this one purchase would totally revolutionize the school library and my career.

Literally days after the robots arrived I received an email from Wonder Workshop, the makers of Dash and Dot.  I had not even charged the robots yet when I saw the email advertising the first ever Wonder League Robotics Competition.    This free competition was available to elementary age students throughout the United States.  My initial thought was, "No way," as I knew little to nothing about coding.  The students had only had one Hour of Code the year before.  Our campus wasn’t big into coding, and  there was no way we could compete.  Then, I remembered my mother’s words, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”  So, it was on!  I gathered a group of girls together, and we formed an after school coding club with the specific target of participating in that contest.  It was certainly not easy forming a girls’ coding club.  I had to really “talk it up” with the girls.  I drew on my reading relationships with some to get them on board, but in the end, it was worth every hour I spent after school working with them.

When I implemented coding during library class time, things really hit a high note.  I began by introducing the second through fifth grades to basic coding.  We started with simple things – moving up and down a line while incorporating lights and sounds (using measurement).  It took a bit of work at first to teach coding as I had to model everything I wanted the students to use.  But, as they began to code and realized that their codes were actually controlling Dash, they were hooked.  Once hooked, they began to get a bit more creative and explore some of the control features on their own.  Next, we incorporated shapes.  Having the students move Dash around a square, rectangle, triangle, etc., the students reinforced their knowledge of angles.
After a few coding lessons, we got to the point where students entered the library and returned their books – ready for me to assign them a coding task.  As they were coding in their groups, I would shelve the books they had returned and then walk around to make sure they were on task and see if they needed any assistance.

Later in the year, Pre-kinder through first grade were introduced to Dot.  They learned the foundations of coding by changing Dot’s colors and making Dot say something or make a sound.  Once I was sure they understood how to properly care for the robots, they met Dash and robotics really took off in the lower grades.  The excitement they felt when they actually saw Dash move based on their codes was breathtaking.  Their squeals, laughter, and the twinkles in their eyes cannot be measured.  It’s two years later and the students still cannot get enough of coding in the library.  They are always asking to use Dash and Dot and make fist pumps whenever they see Dash and Dot come out on their storage cart.

That first year of coding in the library was very basic.  The students only completed linear codes – which was a great starting point.  Last year, we began a push into intermediate coding skills – incorporating some conditional statements, such as “if Dash sees Dot,” “if Dash detects an object” and “If else” statements.  This year, we continue the push forward introducing algorithms using call statements and repeat functions.  It’s an ever changing world with technology, and our students should be on the front lines of technology - ready to take on real world challenges.

If you want to teach the Hour of Code this week or any week, provides step-by-step instructions. Learn more at, try an hour yourself, or host an Hour of Code event to introduce others to the world of computing. Inspire students to try any aspect of computer science with teaching tips, videos, posters and more. Need help organizing other events to celebrate CSEdWeek? Check out’s tips.

Teacher Day @ TLA - now open!!!

by the Teacher Day @ TLA Committee

Do you know a classroom teacher who would enjoy the TLA Annual Conference? Our annual conference – made up of books, authors, technology integration, makerspaces, curriculum connections, and supportive  librarians – may very well be the stuff of teachers’ dreams. They would unquestionably have to experience it to believe it.

Now is your chance to make a teacher’s dream come true!  On Thursday, April 5, 2018, classroom teachers will have the opportunity to experience a special one day event during the TLA conference, comprised of speakers, activities, and pricing designed just for them. Here is your chance to help. You, as a sponsoring school librarian, will play a crucial role by identifying interested teachers, helping them secure permission and funding for their attendance, guiding them through the registration process, and ensuring our guest teachers have a positive experience.

[Remember, the TLA dates were adjusted to accommodate STAAR Testing dates...]

The planning has begun for a fun, interactive day for the teachers who attend, as well as the librarians who sponsor them. Participants are welcome to stay for the full conference. Now is the time for interested librarians to:
a) identify motivated classroom teachers and
b) start to lay the groundwork for conference attendance and travel funding. 
Teachers have great things to say about Teacher Day.  “For me, Teacher Day at TLA was an introduction into a world of educators who have a passion for fostering a love of reading in their students every day,” , said San Marcos CISD teacher Ryan Damron, who attended the inaugural Teacher Day @TLA in 2017.  “I can't express how encouraging and inspiring it was just to be in that kind of environment. The connections I made with other teachers and librarians are invaluable and have given me an extended professional learning community to whom I look for advice quite often. Teacher Day definitely made a lasting impression on me as an educator. Every teacher would love it!”

The focus of this program is for classroom teachers who experience a TLA conference to return to their districts as library advocates and collaborators  - or perhaps become librarians themselves. Details about Teacher Day @ TLA, an event that has become an annual highlight, will be shared by task force members soon via listservs, social media, and the TLA website.   Applications to attend Teacher Day @ TLA will be accepted starting on November 1.  Find more information and register for Teacher Day @ TLA .  This is an event that should not be missed!
EDITOR'S NOTE: A shortage of qualified and certified applicants for jobs across the state makes this TLA effort especially important. I can speak for HISD, but other districts were crying for applicants just this past September - let's inspire our classroom colleagues to see what we do and maybe change career tracks now that our advocacy efforts are beginning to gain traction.

Lilead Fellows Program Holds Potential to Positively Influence Texas School Librarianship

by Judi Moreillon, Literacies and Librarians Consultant, and Lilead Project Cohort 2 Mentor

Just as school librarians are usually the only educators in their buildings who know what their job entails so, too, are school library administrators most often the only person at the district level who understands the many hats school librarians wear in today’s educational landscape. Being responsible for school libraries and librarians in a district is not easy. Just as school librarians need support from job-alike colleagues so, too, do school librarian supervisors.
One reason Texas school librarianship is strong is because it has the largest organization in the nation for school librarian supervisors—the Texas Association of School Library Administrators (TASLA). TASLA supports school librarian supervisors’ professional learning throughout the academic year and at the annual TASLA Workshop held in Austin every summer.
Now, there is additional support for the work of school librarian supervisors at the national level. The Lilead Fellows Program, led by Ann Carlson Weeks who coordinated the National Library Power Project from 1992-1996, is building a peer-community among district-level school library supervisors that builds upon the work of Library Power. (Read a summary of Library Power outcomes on the California Department of Education’s Web site. The Lilead Project offers a professional development program and a network of support “designed to empower, enable, and equip school district library supervisors to think differently and creatively about their library programs and to be effective and inspirational leaders for change in their districts” 
With a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the University of Maryland iSchool-based Lilead Fellows Program invited the first cohort of twenty-five school librarian administrators, known as Fellows, to join the program in January, 2015.  Robin Ward Stout from Lewisville, ISD, was among the supervisors from across the country who participated in the first cohort’s 18-month program of face-to-face and online learning and sharing. 
Thanks to an additional IMLS 2016 Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program award, the iSchool is partnering with the Darden College of Education at Old Dominion University (Norfolk, Virginia) to offer a program for a second cohort of twenty Fellows. The funds are also supporting the Project in developing a series of leadership courses for school librarian supervisors.
Carter Cook, Fort Worth, ISD, Carolyn Foote, Eanes ISD, and Ann Vickman, South Texas ISD, are the Lilead Project Cohort 2 Fellows from Texas. Like Robin and the Cohort 1 Fellows, they are participating in professional development designed to help them “tackle challenging and pressing issues in their districts and work toward transformational change to support student success.”

            Each Lilead Fellow has the charge and opportunity to develop an Action Plan to achieve a positive change in their districts. While each plan is uniquely focused at the local level, their professional development experiences and action plans may lead the Fellows to identify a shared purpose for a project that crosses state borders. Cohort 1 and Cohort 2 Fellows’ actions, networking, and collaboration is bound to strengthen the school librarian profession. Stay tuned to the TxASL Talks blog for more information about the learning and leading experiences of the Lilead Fellows.

NOTE: We hope to offer posts by our TX Lilead fellows later this year.

Texas Book Festival - A Bookish Bliss

by Brooke King, Middle School Librarian in Humble ISD, TxASLTalks Editorial Board

This past weekend I attended the Texas Book Festival in Austin. I’ve had the pleasure of attending the festival many times, and it is one of my favorite literary experiences. The TBF, a nonprofit organization founded in 1995 by Laura Bush and Mary Margaret Farabee, sets out “to connect authors and readers through experiences that celebrate the culture of literacy, ideas, and imagination.”

The TBF features an amazing line up of over 250 authors for reading interests of all genres and ages. This year, Dan Rather, Tom Hanks and the Bush sisters were some of the prestigious names of presenters. The festival spans the State Capitol grounds with exhibitors, live music, food trucks, family activities, and of course, interaction with nationally and critically recognized authors. The festival is completely FREE (even parking!) and is funded through sponsors and book sales at the festival which also support their statewide school and library programming.

Students from nearby schools announced the 2018-2019 Texas Bluebonnet Award Master List - Photo courtesy of the Texas Bluebonnet Award 

One of my favorite sessions at the festival is the announcement of the Texas Bluebonnet Award Master List. This year, twenty-four students from nearby school districts introduced the new list followed by cheers and applause. Occasionally, the audience even gets the pleasure of having one of the newly-nominated or past-nominated authors in attendance.

Authors Cynthia Levinson, Donna Bowman, and Don Tate in the audience at the TBA Master List announcement - Photo credit: Susi Grissom

Then there are author sessions for all age groups. Since I am a middle school librarian, I focused on sessions and panels for middle grade and YA readers. I had the pleasure of hearing Andrew Clements talk about his new book, The Losers Club, and he even read from the first chapter. He also told the story of how the title Frindle came to be and gave writing tips to the audience of both kids and adults. Then I listened to a panel of YA authors, Brandy Colbert, Tillie Walden, and Julie Murphy, talk about their latest novels and how the characters in their novels explore identity, sexuality, and growing-up as females.

Authors Brandy Colbert, Tillie Walden, and Julie Murphy discuss their newest books - Photo credit: Brooke King

Listening to authors speak about their books and writing can be a powerful tool for promoting reading and literacy. The TBF encourages educators to bring students on field trips to the festival. Classes can even apply to introduce authors at the sessions. There are also many resources on the TBF website for promoting author visits in your school including a list of Texas authors by region, reading and writing resources, and an Author Visit Tips guideline.

Knowing the importance of author visits, the TBF’s Reading Rock Stars Program makes sure that Title I schools can have their own author visits by nationally recognized authors. The program not only includes an author presentation, but each student receives their very own book and a set of the author’s books is donated to the school’s library. The Reading Rock Stars program has grown from the original service area of Austin and is now available to Title I Elementary schools in Austin, the Rio Grande Valley, Dallas, and Houston. It is supported by the H-E-B Tournament of Champions, The Wright Family Foundation, the ECG Foundation, The University of Texas – Rio Grande Valley, and individual sponsors.

Although I have attended the festival several times in the past, I was unaware that there was a creative writing contest specifically for secondary students. The Fresh Ink Fiction Contest is hosted by the TBF and the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement (DDCE) at the University of Texas at Austin. Students are invited to submit a piece of original fiction, no more than 2,000 words in length, to their division: grades 7-8; grades 9-10; and grades 11-12. Each year there is a unique theme, and this year’s was “Funny Running Into You Here.” Submitted entries are judged by TBF authors, local educators, and leaders in the publishing industry. There are cash prizes and winners are also awarded a plaque, have their stories published on the TBF website, and are invited to participate on a panel at the festival. The new contest opens in January 2018.

In collaboration with the Texas Book Festival, the Texas Teen Book Festival (TTBF) is a one-day event that occurs in October on the campus of St. Edwards. It celebrates reading by inviting teen fans to connect with some of the most popular young adult authors in the country.  In addition to interacting with amazing YA authors, students can attend free writing workshops if they register in advance. They can also enter a literary-themed costume contest. Educators are invited to programming held during the festival. This year’s included a We Need Diverse Books workshop and a book club discussion with author Adi Alsaid. Be sure to stay tuned for 2018’s events because it will be the festival’s 10th anniversary!

Be on the lookout for information about the 2018 Texas Book Festival. Authors are announced in September and the schedule is released about one month prior to the festival.

Connect with TBF:

Tomas Rivera Award - another great opportunity

by Priscilla Delgado, Bowie Elementary, San Marcos Consolidated ISD; member Tomas Rivera Award committee 2017. Also: TALL Texans Class of 2016, Teacher Day @ TLA Task Force, Tejas Star Reading List committee

#ThrowbackThursday – 1996, sitting in a dimly lit auditorium surrounded by my classmates, anticipating the presentation that was about to start.  There was lively music, clapping, lots of smiling faces, so much excitement.  I was extremely curious about what was to come next and why all the adults seemed so excited, but my 13-year-old self was too shy to start partaking in the fun.  I just knew that something amazing was coming.

A few minutes later, someone came on stage and welcomed everyone to the 1st annual Tomás Rivera Mexican-American Children’s Book Award presentation.  There was a roar of applause.  The speaker shared how this award was created by the Southwest Texas State University College of Education to honor authors and illustrators who create literature that depicts the Mexican-American experience.  They said the award was named after an author and distinguished alumnus of Southwest Texas State (now Texas State University) and countless people were thanked for making this day possible.  I was among a few hundred grade school students brought in from nearby schools to attend the award ceremony. 

After the introductions came the authors.   There were 2 authors receiving this brand-new award, Rudolfo Anaya and Gary Soto.  At the time I wasn’t familiar with Rudolfo Anaya’s books, but I knew many of Gary Soto’s works.  He was the author of Too Many Tamales, one of the first books I remember reading as a child that reflected something I could connect with – a Mexican-American family on Christmas Eve making tamales.  Growing up in the 90’s, I was an avid reader, but I rarely saw myself in any of the characters and books that I read.  But in Gary Soto’s books, I could always identify with something that reminded me of my family, my upbringing, that struck a chord with me.  When Gary Soto took the stage, I was completely mesmerized.  Here, in front of me, in the flesh, was the author who shared my story, nuestra historia, whose works reflected the Hispanic experience.  After the presentation, we had the opportunity to meet the authors.  My heart was pounding the whole time I talked to Gary Soto.  He autographed my well-worn copy of Baseball in April, which I still have.  That day, my first encounter with an author, is a day that I have never forgotten.

Flash forward to present-day: The Tomás Rivera Award is still thriving and is in its 22nd year at Texas State University.  The award has evolved over the years, now recognizing an outstanding book for younger readers (up to age 12) and for older readers (ages 13-18) every year.  The book award ceremony is held every fall at Texas State University, and, like when the award started, hundreds of students from surrounding schools come to Texas State to attend the ceremony.  Students, teachers, librarians, and guests have the opportunity to see the award presentation and meet the author.  In the weeks leading up to the award, schools will begin a book and/or author study of the award winners.  Original student work is displayed at the award ceremony and is always a point of pride for those participating students and schools. 

In 2015, the Tomás Rivera Award held a 20th anniversary literature fair, similar to the Texas Book Festival but on a smaller and more intimate scale.  All the authors who have received the award within the past decade plus a few from the earlier years were on-hand at the San Marcos Public Library for the literature fair to do book readings, autographs, and lead conversations on trends and issues in the literature world.  This event was free and open to the public.  San Marcos CISD participated by having each campus adopt a book, engaging in a campus-wide book study, and creating props and materials for a book parade that was held during the literature fair.  As the school librarian at Bowie Elementary in San Marcos CISD, this project was dear to my heart, and it was a beautiful experience seeing my students prepare for the parade, getting to interact with the authors, and most importantly, finding reflections of themselves among the books they were reading.  I feel privileged to have been at the first award ceremony and to have witnessed the growth of this award and celebration.  There is already talk about what kind of festivities will be planned for the 25th anniversary of the award. 

Have you attended one of the award ceremonies?  This would be a perfect opportunity to take students on a field trip to Texas State University and participate in the book award presentation.  This year’s award ceremony is scheduled for Wednesday, November 1. The Tomás Rivera Award winners will also be at the Texas Book Festival in Austin.  Keep this event in mind! For more information, visit the Rivera Book Award website

Starting a Book Club at your School

By Pamela Thompson, Library Media Specialist, Col. John O. Ensor Middle School, El Paso, VOYA reviewer, School Library Journal reviewer, TX and YA blogger at Young Adult Books - What We’re Reading Now

You’ve heard about it. You’ve thought about it. Your administrator has asked you about it. Why don’t you start a library book club? Everyone knows that reading is important; there is no doubt about that fact. Book clubs offer a safe place for children to read, learn, grow, belong, and communicate.

Starting a book club is not that hard. In fact, it’s easy and achievable. The rewards are amazing. Your readers will become your best patrons and aides. With just a few simple steps, you can have that awesome, fluid, energetic, and inviting book club.

Book clubs do require some prior planning. To attract your audience, you will need to get the word out. Make flyers, posters and ads. Post them in hallways, bathrooms, and the cafeteria. Place a notice on your school and library webpage. Place signs throughout the library. Finally, have a designated Book Club table near the circulation desk. A long rectangular table works best. Make a sign: “These books are members of the Book Club. Why aren’t you?” Display the titles the club will read all year. Kids will see the displays and begin asking about the books. Go ahead and check them out. Make sure you have enough copies for your club. I bought class sets each year of titles we used. I also used book fair profit to buy class sets from the book fair. Get creative.

I have found that I had some readers who read the book in a couple of days and were dying for more. I asked them to check out other books that interest them until our next meeting, but to keep the Book Club book in their mind so that when we meet again, they would be able to discuss it or recommend it.

This question comes up every time I talk about book clubs: Do I let kids choose the books or do I choose the books? You can do either, but I have had more success in choosing ten titles for each grade level at the beginning of the year. I give a short book talk on each title for that grade level. The book club members vote to choose what book to read first. The title that receives the most votes is the first book that the members will read, The runner up is the second book we read. I try to choose titles that will appeal to both boys and girls and have a mix of genres. Try to select adventure, mystery, paranormal, dystopian, and realistic fiction. Possibly add one nonfiction high-interest title and a great graphic novel.
Club members should feel a sense of belonging. They should decide on the name of their book club. I allow students to vote on each name suggested. Students may want to get book club shirts that show their pride in belonging. That would be amazing!

I allow book club members to check out two additional books. Members also check out for summer. With a signed permission slip, students may check out five books over the break. I have done this for two years and never lost a book yet.

At the first meeting you may want to have an icebreaker or two. Some students may be just starting middle school (or high school). Some may just be shy. If you can get them talking about other things in small groups, they will open up.

One game that works every time is what I call the Character Game. Tell the students to think about book characters. Who would they be given the chance? I have areas for the characters: Katniss Everdeen, the Wimpy Kid, Hermione, or Ron Weasley. You can choose characters that are popular with your readers. Then tell them to go to that area. Each person there has to share one admirable trait about the character that they chose.
After the ice breaker, introduce your first book. Give the students a little background and two weeks to complete it. Chances are most will finish early and want additional help from you in choosing another book to read. After two weeks, we have a conversation about the book. I print out questions and give one question to each student. That person reads the question and chooses one or two others to answer it. You can find additional ideas for games on the Internet.

Going forward with your club, search for ideas on publishers’ websites and teacher sites for each book. I have a folder that has all the questions and discussion guides for the year. For fun, ask several students to perform a Readers Theater. This takes a bit of time to set up, but the results are worth it. Videotape it! Share it on your web site or on social media (with parents’ signed permission).

Students can make book trailers and book talks for announcements during the school day. Also, readers can make shelf talkers for book club books. Your book club books should be visible in the library, in readers’ hands and on the web page. So go ahead: begin a book club at your school!

Building a Productive Relationship with Your School Administration

by Dr. Bill Chapman, Superintendent of Jarrell ISD and 2017 Winner, TASL Distinguished Library Service Award for School Administrators

Let's be honest, most school administrators do not know all that a school librarian does or can do. When your principal, assistant principal, or even yours superintendent was in school, how much time did they spend in the library? Furthermore, when that administrator was a teacher, how often did they visit the library for themselves or with their class? All of these past experiences drive what administrators know about libraries. The modern school library is much different than the ones that these administrators frequented as children, and quite possibly those that they visited as teachers. It is up to the librarians to start forging a relationship with administrators to help them understand what the library, and the librarian can do to assist the administrator in achieving their goals for the campus or district.

First and foremost, get the administrators into the libraries. Discuss everything from the furniture to the books. Explain how teachers, students, and classes utilize the library spaces. Display how and why students are using technology in the library to extend or enhance their learning. Advertise and thank your special guests or presenters who use the library to meet with students. Send administrators pictures and emails when you have special events. Publicize your events on your campus, district, or personal social media pages. Make it hard for your administrator to ignore the content you are creating in your library. Focus on things that make an impact on students and teachers. Showcase students creating, performing, and solving problems. Share those positive experiences that make learning in the library fun, unique, and memory making. In short, make it hard for them to ignore the positive things that are occurring in the library in order to help them fully realize what occurs inside that room.

Next, educate your principal or superintendent on the skills you are using in your library, sharing with students and teachers, and helping meet the academic goals of your campus or district. Let them know that you are willing to assist in in-service training for teachers, either with library specific trainings or classroom instructional tool assistance. Become a part of the academic teams on your campus or in the district. I promise you that administrators are looking for all the help they can get in improving students learning and teaching quality.

Finally, and probably most importantly, do not bring problems to your administrator. Bring solutions. All day long they are bombarded with problems from teachers, parents, and students. If you want to make a lasting impact, recognize the problem, but offer a solution to that problem at the same time. This does not mean bring them a solution that requires the campus or district to outlay funds to solve it. Come to them with a complete and total solution including funding sources. In doing this, you have taken the responsibility off of their shoulders, and help make the campus or district better.

You are working diligently to make a difference on your campus or in your district. It is not that administrator’s don’t like libraries. They may not fully understand what really happens inside the library. It is very feasible to grow that relationship, and it will reap rewards down the road. Just reach out to your campus or district administrators and make a point of showing the importance of the library and the librarian. You do wonderful things each and every day in your library; make your administrators understand just what they are and how you can help the campus or district as a whole.

This message is very similar to the one he offered in a video for the October 2016 TASL Advocacy webinar (recording of the program).

AASL Standards – Evolved and Familiar

By Dorcas Hand, Editor of TASLTalks
NOTE: The title was borrowed from the AASL promotional video.

Certified school librarians across the US are familiar with the AASL Standards and Guidelines that were introduced in 2007. Now, in 2017, we have new standards being unveiled at the Phoenix AASL division conference in November – and the excitement is building. Every district (and many librarians!) will want to own a copy for ready access to the latest thinking about what strong school librarians and their libraries should offer all students. In fact, librarians, libraries and students are the three frameworks that organize the new work – an integrated whole that describes the same goals through three different lenses.

First, there is a short video offering an overview: AASL Standards – Evolved and Familiar – 3 minutes you will appreciate. 

The Standards web portal offers further detail.

Besides the three frameworks that appear graphically on the cover, the new Standards continue to count our basics.

4.  The four domains in which the standards are framed will be familiar from the 2007 Guidelines: Think, Create, Share, Grow.
5.  Librarians continue to have five roles also as in the 2007 work: Leader, Instructional Partner; Information Specialist, Teacher and Program Administrator.
6.  And there are six Foundations to organize and integrate the standards further: Inquire, Include, Collaborate, Curate, Explore, and Engage – all active verbs to motivate strong practice.

You note by now that the 2017 Standards no longer refer to Guidelines at all. Too many readers took the 2007 Guidelines to be optional – but these Standards are real and solid, not just pie in the sky goals.

The portal offers an article from the September/October 2017 Knowledge Quest issue entitled “On the Horizon: New standards to Dawn at AASL 2017.” Author Marcia Mardis, Chair of the AASL Standards and Guidelines Editorial board, offers a review of the process that has led to this new publication, as well as a compilation of six underlying assumptions – yes, another six:
  •      The school Library is a unique and essential part of the learning community.
  •      Qualified school librarians lead effective school libraries.
  •      Learners should be prepared for college, career, and life.
  •      Reading is the core of personal and academic mastery.
  •      Intellectual freedom is every learner’s right.
  •      Information technologies must be appropriately integrated and equitably available.

AASL leadership hosted a TwitterChat on Sept. 18 that has been archived on Storify – lots of great info there. 

And AASL is hosting a webinar about the Standards on Thursday, Nov. 16 at 6pm Central – sign up now and mark your calendar! If you can’t make it to Phoenix, this is your
chance catch up and discover this new tool.

Taken together – 3,4,5,6 – we have ONE
 powerful new resource for strong school librarians and their libraries as they teach students. These new Standards will be unveiled for us all to use in Phoenix on November 9. Preorder your copy now

Images are excerpted from AASL’s National School Library Standards and used with permission.  Any reproduction, reposting or reuse of images requires direct permission from AASL.