Tag Archives: outreach

Booktalk Schedule–Fourth Grade

This year I’m hoping to continue my 4th grade booktalk class visits that were so fun and successful last year. I’ve talked with the two teachers I worked with last school year, and one gave me a list of core standards that I could talk about and share books on. I have about 9 topics to cover:

  • Folktales, fables, legends, and myths: What are the differences, where can you find them in the library, what are some awesome books in each areas.
  • Biographies/Autobiographies: Not just the regular requisite 100 pg assignment.
  • Mystery: From sleuths to spooky tales, get a clue here!
  • Historical Fiction: From the distant past to recent history, we’ll talk about what it is and some good books to read.
  • Non-fiction: There are a TON of super awesome non-fiction books out there that are fun to read and fascinating!
  • Fantasy: From talking animals to wizards and everything in between.
  • Science Fiction: cool gizmos and aliens, along with travels through time.
  • Realistic Fiction: Real kids, real fun, and real situations.
  • Fiction: I’m not sure why this is on the list, but sure I can talk about 4th grade fiction.

So here’s to a great school year with lots of awesome book talks!


Scheduling the School Year

Last year I started seriously pursuing outreach to the schools in my area, which led to many class visits, increases in program attendance, library visits, and a better relationship with the community. I really feel like these visits made a big difference in our numbers over the summer. It was an almost daily occurrence that kids would mention they’d been to the library with their class or I’d come to their class.

The biggest problem I had last spring was scheduling the different visits. I had a larger response than I’d anticipated and had a very difficult time finding a way to fit everyone in, while still providing coverage at the branch. It became even more difficult when we lost a part-time staff member so I could leave even less.

I’ve promised my boss to resolve this issue so I can continue to reach out to the schools while still providing coverage and not having as much drama over trying move the schedule to fit in a visit. My solution is a schedule sent out with my back-to-school letter to the teachers. Hopefully that will make it easier all around. I’m pretty sure it will decrease the amount of visits, but lessen the drama.

Right now the only times I can regularly be away from the branch or have classes visit are Tuesdays after 12:30 til school gets out and Wednesday mornings from 9 am until school gets out. Unfortunately Wednesdays are early release day and most teachers don’t like to schedule visits on the abbreviated day. There are a few Friday mornings I can go, but not regularly. I also have to figure out how to work around staff vacations.

Already I have two grades in two different schools that want to set up once a month visits, but I need to figure out how that will work with the different vacations. I also need to figure out how to communicate my willingness/excitement to visit or have them visit, while still saying I am only available at these times.

Suprise Second Grade Visit

So apparently I scheduled a 2nd grade visit while I was in the middle of a long reference question, and now do not remember what I said I would talk about. Yeah, not great. I plan on calling on Monday before to double check, but in the mean time I am planning a simple class visit. We have some fun programs coming up at the library and ideally these class visits will encourage more kids to come to the library.

Spot the Plot: A Riddle Book of Book Riddles While the schools I visit are all pretty close to the library, I’m always amazed how many of the kids have no idea where the library even is! So I like to start with an introduction to me and where the branch is located. I’m hoping to include more poetry in my school visits, but I’m always tempted to read a few of the poems from Spot the Plot, though I’ve used it a number of times.

Interrupting Chicken After that I encourage the kids to come to the library and ask me for book suggestions, or to find a book they can’t quite remember. Then I read a longer story, this time I want to try Interrupting Chicken, which I love, but haven’t had a chance to read to any kids yet. I think it will work well for the second graders.

A Picture Book of Harry Houdini I’ll finish with a book about Houdini to promote our magic show, I’m thinking A Picture Book of Harry Houdini, by David Adler.

This will work, so long as the teacher doesn’t tell me they had something specific in mind!

Twisted Fairy Tales

After I did my historical fiction book talk in February, the teacher e-mailed me to invite me back to share books again. *happy dance* I was also invited to visit another fourth grade class in the school. I’m planning on sharing the same books in the two classes, as there shouldn’t be any overlap of students. My theme for this set of book talks is twisted fairy tales/old fashioned fairy tales, with the Adam Gidwitz’ A Tale Dark and Grimm as the inspiration. In my library system it is in the teen section, but I think it is suitable for the 4th grade audience. Most of the kids are good readers, reading Percy Jackson and the like.

A Tale Dark and Grimm After introducing myself and announcing upcoming programs, I’ll read the introduction to A Tale Dark and Grimm, which lays out the theme for the book talk: fairy tales, and how they once were awesome and still are pretty good adventures. It is a good introduction to the tone of the book, as it is the narrator talking. I’d describe this book as a cross between the Brother’s Grimm and Lemony Snickett.

Then I plan on reading an original Brother’s Grimm’s tale, one of the more grim tales. I’m thinking the “Seven Ravens.” Grimm’s Fairy Tales are available from Project Gutenburg for free. We just got a new copy at the library, and I’ll bring that to show them where they can find these stories. I also have another collection of Grimm’s fairy tales called Grimm’s Grimmest, which is a little scary for them. I do warn them that it is violent, but that just gets them excited. Grimm's Grimmest

The Frog Princess (Tales of the Frog Princess, #1) Next I share something lighter, The Frog Princess, which is not as girly as the cover suggests, though there may be too much kissing for much crossover appeal. Honestly, if they cut a few of the kissing scenes this could be a good boy book. There are good parts about eating bugs, and adventure scenes running away from snakes. I was surprised that none of the kids had read it in the first class I visited.

How to Save Your Tail*: *if you are a rat nabbed by cats who really like stories about magic spoons, wolves with snout-warts, big, hairy chimney trolls . . . and cookies, too. After that, I introduced them to a pretty easy read How to Save Your Tail*: *if you are a rat nabbed by cats who really like stories about magic spoons, wolves with snout-warts, big, hairy chimney trolls . . . and cookies, too. It is sort of a Geronimo Stilton meets the Brother’s Grimm, with a little Arabian Nights. It is fun and not too scary, but also an easier read for struggling readers.

The Ordinary Princess I wrap it up with a book I loved from my childhood: An Ordinary Princess, it is kind of a girly book, and like the last book, it is easier read. I introduce the basic premise, but there is no cliffhanger in this book. At the same time, I think it is a gentler read and a nice counterpoint to the scariness of the first books.

For the first group I also did a little blurb for the Sister’s Grimm, but I think I’ll cut it for this final talk.
This post is part of Book Talk Tuesday, at Lemme Library, check out the other great posts!

Author Study–Kevin Henkes

One of the things I emphasized when I contacted teachers in local schools was that I wanted to contribute to the curriculum they had to cover and not take time away from covering the state standards. I want teachers to feel like the library has resources to help them achieve their goals and show that we can help extend the learning experience out of the classroom and help children bring books to life. So when I got a call from a local 1st grade teacher inviting me to come speak to each class in her grade at her school, I wasn’t surprised when she requested that I speak on a topic familiar to all early elementary grade teachers: the author study. I remember in library school having to put together a packet of information on an author, but this is the first time I’ve actually done it in the field.

They left the specific author up to me, giving me examples of Carle or Lioni. After some thought, I selected Kevin Henkes as a favorite author/illustrator that is still producing books, but has a substantial body of work. This is my first presentation of the kind, so I’m still working out the best structure.

Sheila Rae, the Brave After introducing myself and the library, and talking a little about our programs and getting a library card. I read Sheila Rae, the Brave and asked if the children have ever had a time they were frightened or were brave for their siblings. Then I shared some information about Kevin Henkes, from this biography , how

“Books played an important part in Henkes’s childhood, spent in Wisconsin. His family regularly visited the local public library, and checking out his own books and carrying them home was an important event for Henkes. Illustrations often determined which books he would select, and the works of Crockett Johnson and Garth Williams were particular favorites.”

And then after talking about what books are their favorites, I continued with this quote from the author’s website:

“”I also loved books, and the ones I was lucky enough to own were reread, looked at over and over, and regarded with great respect. To me “great respect” meant that I took them everywhere, and the ones I still own prove it. They’re brimming with all the telltale signs of true love: dog-eared pages, fingerprints on my favorite illustrations, my name and address inscribed on both front and back covers in inch-high crayon lettering, and the faint smell of stale peanut butter on the bindings. I wondered about authors and illustrators back then – What did they look like? Where did they live? Did they have families? How old were they? – but I never imagined that one day I would be one myself.”

Chester's Way Then I read Chester’s Way and discussed how Henkes likes to use animals in his picture books, because as he said “I found I could get much more humor out of animals, and besides it freed me from having to sketch from a human model,” I’ll show some of the other mouse books, and talk about how they tend to discuss common situations that the kids might encounter.

My Garden I finished by introducing his other picture books—Kitten’s First Full Moon, Old Bear, My Garden, and reading My Garden. And I encouraged children to come to the library to check out more books by Kevin Henkes.

And to Think that I Saw it on Mulberry Street

Last week was Dr. Seuss’ birthday, and I had the opportunity to share some stories and activities with students. Including a surprise visit on Dr. Seuss’ birthday to share a story with two grades of students. The school librarian called and invited me to come read to 4th and 5th grade classes to help celebrate Read Across America. I’d already planned a pre-school visit for 11 am, so I wanted to squeeze this visit in before. So I had to find something I could share with these kids that wouldn’t take more then 10 min. This was harder then it seemed, because most Dr. Seuss stories are long, and could take twice as much as that easy! So I decided to read And to Think that I Saw it on Mulberry Street which is both one of my favorites and much shorter. And To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street

It was interesting to read the same book for each class because no two classes reacted the same. One fifth grade class had a girl who just kept saying “that would be crazy messed up!” While one of the fourth grade classes had a group of girls whose response to my question about what could be added to the story Marco invents was to say “you could turn the page, that would make the story better!” Some kids had the book and followed around, while in one class kids muttered that they hated that book. My favorite part was asking the kids what things they could add to the parade to make it more exciting. There were lots of creative suggestions, a potato, dragons, missiles, talking animals. I hope that the kids take the message of the book and look at the world to find all the exciting things there are to see!

Dr. Seuss Celebrations, Part 1

It was Dr. Seuss’s birthday last week, and we went all out to celebrate one of our favorite authors. Not only did we host 2 second grade classes to present stories, activities, and crafts, but we held a party, and are continuing our festivities by going to a Spanish immersion program (my assistant is the Spanish speaking one, she is actually the one doing that program).

Our first program was a returning group of 2nd graders, the same students who came to learn about Shakespeare last month. The teacher left the topic up to me, and I was going to share books from the county reading program. When the teacher heard about our Seuss program, however, she requested I share Seuss with her students.

And To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street I started with some stats on Seuss. There is a nice bio of him here. I especially liked the information about And To Think that I Saw it on Mulberry Street my favorite Seuss book. It was his first book, and received 27 rejections before it found a publisher. Seuss based the scenes in the book on streets from his childhood home, even the name of the street is a real place in Springfield Massachusetts. After reading the book we worked to create a story together. All of the students walked down the block from their street, so we started
“As I walked to the library today, I saw a ______________. It couldn’t be a _________________. No, no. What I really saw was _________________________________________________ _________________________________________________ _________________________________________________. And to think that I saw it all on the walk to the library!”

I encouraged the students to help me build on what they saw to create a story of their own.

My Many Colored Days After that, we talked about how the things we could have seen made us feel. Then I introduced one of Dr. Seuss’ last books My Many Colored Days, which we read and then wrapped up with a quick craft. I had wooden stick people and tissue paper. The kids could color the stick to represent their emotions.

I’ll post more about the other programs later!

Third Grade Visit

Just a quick post about a visit I made to the 3rd grade classes of a local school. We met in the library, 91 kids who squeezed into a teeny storytime cove. My goal was to share information about the public library with the kids, but more over just to have fun. I shared three books and talked about some of the fun things we do at the library. It was hard with such a big group to keep them all focused, but well worth it.

Spot the Plot: A Riddle Book of Book Riddles I read Spot the Plot first, which is a series of poems/riddles that describe classic children’s books. The kids really enjoyed guessing which books the poems describe. I’ll share this one again, but probably just a selected few poems.

Sideways Stories from Wayside School Next I read a chapter from Sideways Stories from Wayside School. Many of the kids had already read it, so I probably will not read it again.

Tadpole's Promise (Bccb Blue Ribbon Picture Book Awards (Awards)) Finally, after talking about programs and services we offer, I read Tadpole’s Promise. The whole group was in stitches, even the teacher cracked up. I told them it was a Valentine’s day story.

Biographies for Fourth Graders

One of my first outreach visits this year was to a fourth grade class in the school right up the hill from where I work. The teacher requested I talk about biographies, so that the class would be ready to do their book report. I was already familiar with this assignment, as every winter we are deluged with 3/4 grade students who need to read a biography. They usually end up with a dry bio of Abraham Lincoln, or a 10 year old biography of Britney Spears (I exaggerate, I TOTALLY weeded that one out). So I found some fun bios to share with them. Here are a few highlights:

I opened reading a passage from Bad News for Outlaws Bad News for Outlaws: The Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves, Deputy U. S. Marshal (Exceptional Social Studies Titles for Intermediate Grades) Which depicts the gun fight between Bass Reeves and a fugitive, and leaves the audience wanting more. We talked about how many people have lived that we’ve never heard of, and how we can read biographies to find out about new people or new things about people we already know.

Ain't Nothing but a Man: My Quest to Find the Real John Henry Biography of a legend.

Amelia Earhart: This Broad Ocean A Graphic Novel Biography.

Lincoln Tells a Joke: How Laughter Saved the President (and the Country) Another perspective on an old standard.

And the best of the best, this is the book that I had to rip out of the hands of a crowd of excited boys: Knucklehead, more of a humorous memoir, but very well received. Knucklehead: Tall Tales and Almost True Stories of Growing up Scieszka

Outreach Overload

This year my resolution was to contact local schools and find ways to get into the class room or at least have them promote my programs there. I work in a fairly well off suburb, with probably three elementary schools within walking distance. But for the first year and a half of my time here, I had only done maybe three school visits and had two classes visit here. Mostly we have boy scouts and preschools coming for tours.

So at the first of the year I boldly sent off e-mails to the teachers in the elementary schools in the area, any e-mail I could find. I told them about our programs, and inviting them to contact me if they wanted me to visit. When I’d done this before, at a previous job, I’d received one e-mail back. This time I got at least 20 e-mails, some with thanks, but many wanting a visit, and the calls and e-mails keep coming in.

Success has meant trying to schedule visits in the meager hours of time I can escape the branch (ironically the one day that I have mostly free is the district’s early release day), but it has also meant many new programs to come up with to share. Since I didn’t really expect much of a response, I didn’t have scheduling requirements in mind. Now I’ve got to find a way to keep teachers inviting me, without having to constantly squeeze time out of a schedule stretched tight.

Any suggestions for good ways to communicate scheduling issues, while still encouraging teachers to invite us into the classroom?