Sunday, September 25, 2011


Its been a few weeks since I have posted here. I always feel a little harried at the start of a new school year, so I gave myself permission to slack off on a few activities. So here is how things are going now I am firmly "back to school."

All classes in grades 1-6 have had their orientation sessions. This is the lesson where I say all the things that must be said before students start coming to the library independently. Rules, procedures, schedules, and what to do if the fire alarm rings when you are in the library.

I added an emphasis on respecting personal space (not crowding, not touching) to this orientation. The library was very crowded during open access last year, and I am trying to figure out how to keep it comfortable for students even when overfilled. I have also added an acknowledgment that I can't always help with big questions during open access periods. I am asking students with bigger questions to put a note with their name and class in the book drop. The note can be as simple as "I have a question." Perhaps I should also put an "I have a question" form on the library home page. It is frustrating when the big issues - the real library work - gets pushed out of the way by the mechanics of checking books out to students.

Next week I have my first "real" library class sessions - the traditional Google Earth introduction for third grade. My principal is a little annoyed that the classroom teachers get basically a free ride. I do the heavy lifting of planning and teaching the lesson after a conference with the classroom teachers. They participate, guide the content they want the students to remember, but are also learning too. She feels that the teachers should learn how to use and teach this tool. I agree, and have told the third grade team that they are expected to teach their own Google Earth lessons throughout the rest of the year. I will be in the room (either with a small group or on my lunch or prep) to act as a seat belt. This year I am also asking the teachers to give a written assessment checking on the students understanding of the work we do. I feel that I need this both as a check for me, and to add accountability for the students and teachers.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Books for Girls and Boys

I spent the last three days back at school unpacking and beginning to set up for the new year. (Teachers are officially due back next Tuesday.) While unpacking and moving books around to cope with the perpetual problem of much too little shelf-space I was also thinking about what my students did (and didn't) read last year. To buy space on the shelves I moved several more series and popular authors into plastic tubs labeled by author or series. These tubs provide an easy way for students to find a particular type of book, essentially promoting those particular types of books.

This morning while reading the news, list-serve, e-mail etc. while putting off making labels and otherwise working productively, I read a series of articles about the genderization of reading - AKA boys books and girls books.
Charles London for the Huffington Post
Oposing Viewpoints at the School Library Journal
Saundra Mitchell's The Problem is not the books
And this is why the problem is not the books (with book list)

So back to my book tubs: If tubbing up a series or author essentially promotes them, am I "empowering" more boys or girls? What does it say if I put the Time Warp Trio next to the Magic Tree House and Abby Hayes next to Junie B Jones?

Here is a list of some of my tubs - an incomplete list because it is only ones that need new labels or that I clearly remember.
Paula Danziger
R.L. Stine
Lois Lowry
J.K. Rowling
Laura Ingalls Wilder
Magic Tree House / Mary Pope Osborne (2)
Arthur Chapter Books / Stephen Krensky
Horrible Harry / Suzy Kline
My Weird School / Dan Gutman
Rotten School / R.L. Stine
Dragon Slayers Accademy
Junie B. Jones
Dav Pilkey
Abby Hayes / Anne Mazer
Bone / Jeff Smith

Some series are definitely geared more to one gender than the other. I especially notice concern about gender appropriateness towards the older edge of the series age group (end of grade 3 - 5) rather than at the beginning (end of grade 1 - mid 3rd). Sometimes I feel that I see more struggling readers thinking about gender issues. Though perhaps the more proficient readers are more self sufficient...

I do feel that fewer "boy" books are exclusive to boys than to girls. I do recommend the story collection Guys Read Funny Business to anyone who likes funny stories. I would not probably recommend Fairy School Drop-Out or the Allie Finkle series by Meg Cabot to any boy. However, contrary to popular belief, guys do read and enjoy Junie B.