This year of the pandemic has been demanding, stressful, and more work for most librarians. When students were sent back to school in person, many librarians were frazzled about what that would look like, how we could do checkout, and how we could best assist our students’ reading needs. All specialists have been working off of a cart going classroom to classroom at my school since students have been back in person. It is a lot of work to travel to every room, but something that I have truly enjoyed is putting the perfect books into my students’ hands.
Every afternoon my library para and I prepare 6 crates full of books that we take to classrooms the next day. We have a specific number of books we pack for each room, depending on their grade level and reading level. We pack various fiction books, picture books, nonfiction books, graphic novels, and Spanish or Bilingual books. Then the next day in library class, after I teach a short lesson, I find an empty table or space on the floor where I can lay out those books in rows so that students can see them all and point out one to three books that they would like to check out. This is a very tedious process since I can only allow one student to check out at a time, and it takes anywhere between 20-30 minutes to complete this process.
Though tedious, this checkout process has been a great time to bond with my students over books. In a typical year, my students would find their books, bring them up to the counter, and my library para would assist them. With this new process, I have had to be much more involved in the checkout process, and I love it. This has allowed my students and me to have conversations about the books they are reading, students have asked me for recommendations, and I have had the chance to suggest specific books to specific students. It has also allowed me to get to know their interests more and discuss what they like to read.
Since we have to pack bins this year to bring to the classrooms, this has also given us a chance to push new books that have come in and older books that are still great but haven’t been checked out in a while. Since we have to hand-select the books that the students see, this has helped us pick books aimed at the correct level of students who will be reading them. It has also allowed us to choose books that represent the students within that classroom. This has been a great time to help our students find windows and mirrors within their library books. When I pack the bins, I try to think about which specific students are in each class, and I pack books that I believe will resonate with those students.
Although this pandemic has been a challenging and devastating time, there have also been some positive things that have come out of it. I know many people would think, well it’s not fair that your students don’t get to choose their own books, and of course we would like them to choose their own books. But, until it is safe to do so, we will be checking out in the classroom, and the students seem to be loving it. Many times what I hear from the students is, “Miss, there are too many choices!”. We do allow students 3rd -6th grade to place holds on books if they would like different ones also. So until we are allowed to go back to the library, checking out in the classroom is still very enjoyable.
By: Samantha Brown
I had never done a "Blind Date with a Book" display. So the week before Valentine's Day with help from my paraprofessional, we wrapped about 40 books, labeled them with their genre and a homemade book and off I went. I was so shocked at how many students took a book. I ran out before I reached all the classrooms. By the end of the week, we had wrapped over 110 books.
A comment from a teacher who had a few reluctant readers in her class, "The students were so excited to get a popular book that they didn't have to choose. Sometimes they are too overwhelmed with all the choices. Thanks for doing this."
Teacher Librarian - Ralston Public Schools
Here is my library display that I am most proud of this year. At the beginning of the year, I talked to my entire staff (teachers, paraeducators, administrative assistant, principal, custodians). I said the easiest way to get kids to read besides putting books of their choice in their hands is to spark their interest from other readers. The students expect me to recommend and be excited about books. I asked that every adult in my school send me a picture with their favorite book. EVERY adult did. The kids were so excited to see what they chose as their favorite because our kids each have at least one adult they connect with and this was just one more way to connect with them.
The project went on to feature their favorite place to read, favorite genre, and now we are finishing out the year with a Staff Vs. Student Recommendation board. For example, 3rd grade teachers and any other adults who work with 3rd grade recommended their "You have to check this book out!" book and then the students in 3rd grade recommended books back.
North Park Elementary Media Specialist
This blog is a joint effort by members of the NSLA Executive Board. We hope to provide relevant information, tips and tools to help you in your journey.