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.