On August 21, 2017 millions of Americans stood in awe of the first Total Solar Eclipse to span the entire contiguous United States in over 100 years. While craning my neck to catch a glimpse of this once-in-a-lifetime event, I wondered how many of my students knew the story of the first giant leaps into space?
That day I shared this young reader’s edition of Hidden Figures, which is perfect for middle grade readers who want to learn how four women, or “human computers” as they were called, paved the path forward in space exploration. Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden were mathematical pioneers before the era of iPads, cell phones, and laptops. They propelled our men to the heavens at a time when women and African Americans worked tirelessly without receiving the credit they were due. This book talk was well-timed to peak my student’s interest in space and is nicely paired with the major motion film.
During my Principles of Librarianship class in graduate school, we had extensive discussion about the stereotypes librarians face and the constantly evolving field. Many believed introducing eBooks to mainstream readers would make the library obsolete. Exactly the opposite has happened. The library is even more important today and is stamping out a permanent place in the landscape of learning and innovation. Librarians are resourceful and must remain flexible if they are to succeed. We service hundreds of patrons; we have no choice but to evolve. Every so often when someone new visits the BSE Library, they remark, “This doesn’t look anything like the library I went to as a child.” I take it as a compliment.
Every year, there are a few titles I share with students, and The Library Dragon by Carmen Agra Deedy is one of them. Mrs. Lotta Scales, a librarian reminiscent of the ‘old days’, chases students and faculty from the library with her fire and smoke. The children aren’t even allowed to touch the books. When Molly Brickmeyer lumbers into the library and begins to read a book aloud, Mrs. Lotta Scales transforms before her very student’s eyes.
This summer at the ILA conference, I attended the Scholastic breakfast where I sat in awe as Deedy told her story of how public education shaped her work as an author. Her talents as a speaker are as many as the stories she writes. The Library Dragon is a fun read-aloud full of puns, figurative language, and metaphor. I recommend librarians who want to shed their “scales” read aloud with 2nd grade and up, as the humor will be lost on younger students.
My first year in education I took one messy crack at teaching kindergarten, and then my principle suggested I might be better suited to second grade. After licking my wounds, I reluctantly obliged. It turns out, she did me a favor – second grade is a really great grade to teach, and now having more experience behind me, kindergarteners aren’t so scary! One of my favorite things about second graders is, they still love a good read-aloud, but are eager to jump into longer chapter books. Most people are familiar with Kevin Henkes popular works Chrysanthemum and Lily’s Purple Plastic Purse, but The Year of Billy Miller is a lengthier read that your students will bury themselves in.
Billy Miller starts off his second grade year with one mishap that leads to many more. I book-talked this title with a second grade class because, like most 7 and 8 year-olds, Billy longs to commandeer his own ship, yet he does not want to sail the high seas without mom and dad. Henkes accurately depicts common themes for readers this age: sibling rivalry, homework, teacher trouble, and tumultuous friendships. This also makes a great read-aloud at home.
After the newness of the library wears off, I usually pull out my collection of Froggy books for kindergarten and first graders. Many of them have read the books, but for some reason they are often overlooked.
Book talking Froggy Goes to the Library by Jonathan London was an enticing debut to the series. Like Froggy, kindergarten and first graders are still learning library etiquette, and there are a lot of rules to remember! Mrs. Otterbottom, the no-nonsense librarian offers gentle redirection when needed, yet she still knows how to join in and have fun with her students. Froggy books offer a humorous look into real-life situations young readers will have to maneuver.
Every summer since 2012, Kate Messner, along with Gae Polisner, Jo Knowles, and other guest authors, host a free online summer writing camp for teachers and librarians called Teachers Write. They volunteer their time and only ask that participants purchase guest author’s books when they can. It is through Teachers Write that I became more familiar with Messner’s works and the Ranger in Time series. When I discovered book three, Ranger in Time: Long Road to Freedom, a nominee for the 2017-2018 Volunteer State Book Award, I put it at the top of my book-talk list.
Ranger, an adorable search-and-rescue golden retriever, travels back in time to major historical events to help characters make their way through the stickiest of situations. Whether escaping the Underground Railroad, journeying from New Zealand to Antarctica, or traversing the Oregon Trail, Ranger will take middle graders on an adventure they won’t soon forget. I recommend this historical fiction series for students who enjoy the I Survived series or Choose Your Own Adventure books.