Re: “Learning To Read Alone Is Not Enough. Your Students Need A Reading Champion.”

bookcollageHave I ever mentioned that Jennifer LaGarde is and will forever be one of my SHE-roes!?! Ever since I discovered her on Twitter, was fortunate enough to sit in on one of her presentations and then actually had the opportunity to meet her, I knew she is what I want to be when I grow up!

So, I wasn’t surprised at all when I read her post “Learning To Read Alone Is Not Enough. Your Students Need A Reading Champion” and could not stop shouting, “YES! YES! YES!” I won’t summarize the post for you, but I will say that every point she makes is valid, even though some educators will have a hard time admitting it.

Before I became a librarian, I was an English teacher. I always thought that I was a good teacher – my students seemed to really connect with me, did most of what I asked them to and I rarely had problems in class. We had rich discussions, read lots of books and wrote our hearts out. Now, however, when I look back on my 5 years in the classroom, I realize that while I’m sure I helped to make my students more confident, compassionate humans, I’m not really sure that I helped to make them lifelong readers. This is a hard pill to swallow, since I worked hard to be their reading champion.

As a librarian, I have an entirely different perspective on reading and its importance and place in education. I believe in giving students choice, yes and I do mean throwing out the whole class novel! But it’s not enough to just give them choice, we have to take time to listen to our kids and help empower them to find things that they want to read. Equipping them with the confidence to make their own reading choices is priceless!

I also believe that I can’t be a reading champion for my students if I’m not a passionate reader myself. So, I read, read and read some more. My nose is always in a book and my kids see this. I keep a sign on my desk that shows what book(s) I’m currently reading and I invite my kids to talk about them with me. I ask students what they’re reading and for recommendations. How often have you heard a teacher (who is probably unwilling to change his/her instructional philosophy) say, “If I don’t assign them books, how will I know that they actually read anything?” It’s very simple, just ask them about it. Take the time to engage students in conversations, both oral and written, about what they’re reading. It’s truly a magical thing.

I work everyday to reach reading champion status for my students because I know how much reading has changed my life. My first book subscription was for Girl Talk books. Thanks Mom! I tore through those books, reading the 3 that arrived for the month is 1 or 2 days. I often found solace in The Babysitters Club series, when I felt like no one understood my quirks. I discovered my love of all things mystery when my grandmother introduced me to Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. And I realized that girls can love action every time I read a Choose Your Own Adventure book.

Every child deserves to feel this way – to lose him/herself in a story and to find him/herself in a character. Sometimes all it takes is one book that they instantly connect with. We have the power and obligation to do this for our students. Regardless of what research says or doesn’t say, what test scores prove or don’t prove, we should strive to be a reading champion for them.



What I’m Bringing With Me…

I had grand plans to use the entire summer break to work on planning things for the upcoming school year. Unfortunately, Netflix and young adult literature had other plans for me. But, I did stay active on Twitter and continued reading all my blog feeds on Feedly. Finding a balance between working and relaxing was definitely my motto for the summer. I work hard, and sometimes I forget to take breaks. I think my body was telling me that rest was a priority for me and that all the work I am imagining will surely still be there in August.

I’m very excited to get back to school. Even though I know I have 1,100 Chromebooks waiting for me and a mailbox that’s overflowing with summer returns, I’m ready to get back into my normal schedule and flow. I have lots of books I’m eager to share with my students and tons of tools and resources I can’t wait to show my colleagues. Here are a few things I’m excited about bringing with me to school this year:

Ok, so I’ve never actually broadcasted live over Periscope, but I’ve watched so many other people do it this summer. I am super excited about this tool. There is definitely debate over its use in the classroom, and I can see how, if used inappropriately or “just for fun”, it could detract from learning, but the possibilities of using it for connecting are limitless. As a librarian, marketing is key to getting kids interested and involved. I have tons of ideas floating around in my head for how to use Periscope everyday to promote the CCHS Library and empower our kids to take more pride and ownership in the space. I’m also thinking of ways to utilize this with colleagues for sharing, transparency and learning.

Here’s a great guide to using Periscope in Education that I found on Twitter.

For me, finding the best, most effective way to curate content is always a learning process. Not only does the platform need to be quick and painless for me, but it also needs to be easy to use for my students and colleagues. I first read about AppoLearning in a blog post by Steven Anderson. In his post, he talks about the ease of using this tool for content curation. I like the idea of creating collections that can be public, private or shared with specific people. There are countless ways to curate and share content, but I’m excited about this one because of how easy it is to use! I like the sleek, simple interface and think that it is something my colleagues would actually look at and use on their own. I am going to start putting together my first collection, so more about that soon!

Professional Reading
I LOVE to read and while I read a lot of young adult literature, I try to sprinkle in a professional title here and there. This summer I picked up a few that I want to spend some time at the beginning of the school year working through.

I’ve already started reading this book and have posted about my favorite parts so far! This is one that I’ll finish up quickly, probably before students come back. It’s a great book to read before getting the school year rolling to help get the wheels of reflection turning in your head.





This book is a little older, but I keep seeing people on Twitter posting about how important it has been for them. I’m always looking for ways to practice more effective formative assessment in the library and to encourage this in classrooms. I’m hoping this book will speak to me like its reviews say it has to others!





Since I have been using the principles from this book a lot through the written conversation method, I figure it’s about time to actually read the book. Visible thinking strategies have been very successful with the students I’ve worked with, so I’m hoping to learn more from reading and spark ideas for new things to try this school year.





What are you bringing back to school with you this year? Are there tools and resources you can’t wait to try?