How Was It? The Return to School

August 29th, 2014

As we head into the last days of the month, many schools have completed a week or even two of the new school year. The year is still fresh, but those first few days are under our belts! For me, that’s always a relief, and after catching my breath from the intense summer course schedule, I enjoy getting back into the routine of Fall.

The cycle of returning to school is different for me in my current role as a university faculty member than when I was a classroom teacher and librarian, but the experience still feels familiar. At this point we’re two weeks in. We’ve completed the back-to-school professional development days. We welcomed students through the doors and online portals for the first time, and we greeted friends and colleagues again.

So how was it for you? Are you ready for the three-day Labor Day Weekend? And where are you setting your gaze and goals for the month of September? Here are a few topics on the docket for me now, and into the next couple of months.

- Digital storytelling across library settings: I’m teaching a graduate seminar in digital storytelling this semester. We’re reading Brian Alexander’s The New Digital Storytelling: Creating Narratives with New Media. We’re having some great discussions about the diverse formats and contexts for digital storytelling, including in gaming, blogs, social media, and more “traditional” forms, like narrated multimedia stories.

AASL Fall Forum (October 17-18): Our school, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, is hosting one of the Fall Forum Satellite Sites in October, and plans are underway! Are you attending the forum in St. Louis or one of the sites? Join us for this year’s event: School Librarians in the Anytime Anywhere Learning Landscape.

NCSMLA Conference (October 9-11): I’m presenting with two UNCG colleagues at our state library conference in October (North Carolina School Library Media Association). This year’s theme is Extreme Makeover: Evolving Libraries Edition. We’ll be getting ready this month for our session on fostering communication between school librarians and principals, including strategies for discussing budget and budget proposals proposals and communicating how your school library program aligns with school goals.

I’d love to hear what you’re doing in your library and school as the year gets underway. Share in the comments—does your school have a theme or focus for students this year? Or perhaps for the teachers or PD program? What are some library management tasks that you’d like to accomplish? What collaborations are you planning to start the year?

Image: Weird School Bus, by Kevin on Flickr. Used with a Creative Commons 2.0 License.

–Rebecca Morris


Monthly Poetry Book Picks

August 26th, 2014


Recently I was searching for the text of the Robert Louis Stevenson poem “The Land of Nod,” to share in the children’s materials class I’m teaching. I knew I could find it online, but I was determined to locate the anthology that I just knew I had somewhere. I had a pleasant time flipping through poetry books — shouldn’t we all do that more often? — but facing a time crunch, I gave up and went to Google. As it turned out, I was delighted to find the poem on The Poetry Foundation’s website, where I also found another nice resource to share with you: the Monthly Book Picks from Children’s Poet Laureate Kenn Nesbitt! Here is the link, which doesn’t appear to be specific to this month (so if you’re reading this beyond August 2014, you may see a different monthly choice):

This month’s pick is Rutherford B. Who Was He?: Poems about Our Presidents, by Marilyn Singer. This is the August pick, so if we check back in a few days, we’ll probably see the September selection. The post includes a brief summary and review, but no poems from the book. Still, glancing over the other monthly selections at the bottom of the page, it’s still a nice fresh collection of newer poetry for  collection development considerations.

For full-text poems, you can visit the children’s poem of the day. Today’s (August 26) is “One Cow, Two Moos” by one of my favorite poets, J. Patrick Lewis.

One Cow, Two Moos by J. Patrick Lewis : The Poetry Foundation via kwout

Why not share some poetry with your students as you start back to school? The full-text poems for children are within the Children’s Resources section, where you’ll also find a few selections from two TV series on poetry: A Child’s Garden of Poetry and Classical Baby (I’m All Grown Up Now): The Poetry Show.

–Rebecca Morris

Happenstance Reading

August 18th, 2014

Terry Pratchett: By the Book – via kwout

I love the moments of serendipitous reading that unfold sometimes, when you notice a story that connects to a recently relevant idea, news item, or film, maybe in a moment that you didn’t expect. I had this feeling of satisfaction and surprise yesterday, after a series of “fortunate events,” as it were!

I’m preparing for the start of the fall semester this week, and one of the graduate courses that I’ll be teaching is Materials for Children. I’ve taught this previously, though not at my current university. I flipped around my typical sequence of course topics in order to accommodate the (much-hyped) film release of the 1994 Newbery Award Medal book, The Giver. Students will read The Giver and see the film, and we’ll incorporate this into conversations about fantasy for young people, children’s literature in popular culture, and promotion of reading. It should be an engaging exploration!

I’ve been looking for articles and reviews of The Giver film, of course, and I’m less cautious about reading them since I saw the movie yesterday. (No spoilers below, though there are some in the links, all labeled!)

The info on The Giver shows up all over, from Entertainment Weekly (film review) to the Washington Post (discussion of what’s in/not in the film), to NPR (Lois Lowry interview, no movie spoilers). I always like to sprinkle our course reading with popular articles and media to complement the scholarly and practitioner-based pieces. Children’s materials “happen” in a societal context that families and kids know well, and I like for the library candidates to notice and look for these connections too, in addition to the professional sources that they study in the class.

Here’s where the series of fortunate events gets even more fun. I love the Sunday New York Times, and I was sad to find out that my new North Carolina house (as of early May) wasn’t in a Times delivery route. I continued my digital subscription, but it wasn’t the same as turning a page and enjoying an article that might not entice me to click online. But suddenly last week, the Sunday Times began to appear in my driveway! And I was quickly back to the enjoying the ads for Broadway shows, the New York Times Magazine, the opinion pieces, and the book reviews. I wondered if the newspaper would come back this past weekend– and it did! I was delighted to find an interview with fantasy author Terry Pratchett in the book reviews section. Here was one of those moments. I had just seen The Giver, I had fantasy on the brain, and Terry Pratchett gives a wonderful interview about the influence of The Wind and the Willows and his version of a good fantasy novel, which he describes as,

“The kind that isn’t fantastic. It’s just creating a new reality. Really, a good fantasy is just a mirror of our own world, but one whose reflection is subtly distorted.”

This was pretty fantastic to me (though I know what he means). I’ll soon be sharing this treasure and the story of the magically appearing paper with my students.

What moments of happenstance reading have you encountered recently, for school or just for fun?

–Rebecca Morris