We've had a few classes visit the library so far, with read-alouds and orientation. It's great to see the library starting to be used as intended! We are not checking out books yet - sigh. The books are getting sorted into our digital catalog system, slowly but surely.
We continue to receive books that were ordered this summer. Most recently we got a small box with titles that will complete some of our series - whew! A series with a missing book is like an itch that you can't...quite...reach.
When you get a chance, come check out our special display near the exit door. Here you'll find Mistakes That Worked, by Charlotte Jones, the dot, by Peter Reynolds, biographies of scientists, artists, performers, athletes, educators, and more. Want to know about Misty Copeland, Anna Pavlova, George Washington Carver, Alexander Graham Bell, Helen Keller, Roberto Clemente, Lena Horne, Jack Andraka, Leonardo da Vinci, Effa Manley, Matthew Henson, Hypatia, and others? Want to know what they have in common? Come take a look and see for yourself.
Back To School Night brings families eager to see classrooms, meet teachers and staff, and get questions answered. We're glad to see you all! We want to make Kepler feel like home and help make sense of anything confusing.
For the library, one question I hear a lot is "Are you guys doing AR?" The short answer is no. The long answer is why not. If you don't care, then enjoy a little more of your summer before we dive back in to school goodness. Read another book and then come tell me about it when we open on Monday, August 14th!
If you do care, or are just curious, about why Kepler doesn't use AR, read on.
First, you may have heard of it but not know exactly what it is. AR stands for Accelerated Reader. It's a system that assigns points to books, lets kids log in and take multiple choice quizzes, and tracks how many points each child gets. It's meant to help teachers know what books and how many are being read, and give information that can be used for competitions or rewards.
On the teacher's side, even if a student scores well on a quiz, we don't know if he or she just guessed well. If they don't score well, we still don't know if that really reflects what they got out of the book. The best way to know what someone thought about a book is to talk to them. Talking about books also allows reading to be part of building a relationship, between peers, between students and teachers, between any reader and the rest of the world. AR just reports points, not the most surprising part of the book, or the way we wish it had ended.
For most kids, this focus on points steers them away from reading for enjoyment. Once reading becomes a chore, it also becomes something a kid stops doing as soon as it's no longer required. That's not how we #feedtheread to become life-long readers and learners.
So you may now be wondering what Kepler does to #feedtheread. We have a beautiful library with a wide range of books - wide in terms of style, subject, genre, difficulty, format - WIDE! Students will come in with their classes for library visits and will be allowed to come in before school as well as during school with teacher permission. Note - the library is still under a little construction after some donations and orders - we expect it to be open the second week of school.
Teachers will talk to students about what students are reading and what teachers are reading. We'll have literary celebrations like the Literacy O'Lanterns and Peach Blossom and guest readers.
Here's a link to a blog post about another school that moved on from AR, if you're curious about what it looks like in other schools. If you want to know about reading choice, here's one of my favorite blog posts about research on why choice matters.
If you have questions, please come see me or drop me an email through s dot addison at keplerschool dot org. I'm always happy to talk about books.
I know I already bragged about the Reading Summit, but now you're going to be so jealous. Seriously. The final speaker (and illustrator) of the day, and there were many, many great speakers, was Dav Pilkey, author of Dog Man and The Adventures of Captain Underpants and Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot and more.
Dav Pilkey talked about the power of choice. People often ask him how he got so good at drawing, and he answers, "Lots and lots of practice," with a little bit of a laugh. He first started drawing Captain Underpants when he was in second grade! His second grade teacher didn't like it, but he didn't stop. He's been writing and drawing for over forty years.
Dav reminded us that lots and lots of practice is always what it takes to get good at something. When practice is fun, that's when we develop skills, because we keep wanting to do it. Love leads to habits, and habits lead to skills.
Find something you love to do, and do it often. Get good at it.
If you don't love reading yet, try one of Dav Pilkey's books (I like the Ricky Ricotta books best myself), or try something else. The best way to get good at reading is to read a lot, but you won't read a lot if you don't find something you enjoy. Come check out our "Try It" wall to see if something looks good. Ask your friends what they're reading. Figure out what you like by thinking about what you want to know more about, or what makes you laugh, or what kind of movie or TV show keeps you on the edge of your seat.
Scholastic Books hosts Reading Summits every summer, where teachers, librarians, and administrators come to get encouraged, get re-inspired, get caught up on the latest research, get more books, get connected, etc. I was able to attend the Summit in Seattle this year, and I got all of the above.
One thing I was reminded of, over and over, is that reader choice matters far more than levels. Choose what you WANT to read. Choose what makes you laugh, or helps you figure out how to make something, or satisfies your need to know about something, or lets you get lost in the story. Tell somebody about it - they may like it too! Or ask what a friend is reading - they may tell you about something you've never heard of, but is awesome.
I had a lot of time to read in the airport, on the bus, and on the plane for this trip (yay!). I finally read The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. It's subtle, intense, and strong. If I were going to try a six- word-summary, I might say: "Escapes Blitz; horses/love nurture recovery." I also read the charming graphic novel awkward by Svetlana Chmakova. Six word summary? "Art/Science clubs' rivalry challenges newbie." That doesn't even begin to cover the beautifully drawn expressions - there are some realistic looks and some manga exaggerations - both are so great, and helped me see how the friendships unfolded.
The other graphic novel I devoured (seriously - there was a LOT of time to read. It was awesome.) was Cece Bell's El Deafo. This childhood memoir gave me a look at the challenges hard of hearing and deaf people face. Speaking of face - lip reading is next to impossible when the speaker's face is not clear to the listener/watcher, and there are so many ways a person's face can be blocked. I know that now! If I had stopped to think about it logically, I could have figured out most of it, but I never did until I read El Deafo. The other thing I loved about it is the way Bell shows what sound is like through pictures, not just words. Come check it out from the library when we get back and see for yourself. I also loved the way her friendships felt so real, full of ordinary complications and misunderstandings and joys I remember from my own childhood. If you like this, you may also enjoy Real Friends by Shannon Hale, another childhood memoir in graphic novel format.
I'm so much looking forward to hearing about what kinds of things you have been reading, and how you have challenged yourself for #ReadingWithoutWalls and how you have found things you love to #feedtheread.
Do you like free things? Do you like reading? You're in luck! Here are three reading programs that can get you free books this summer.
First, Bookopolis has two different ways to get a free book. One is by printing out their READ-O reading bingo card and filling out for a winning five-in-a-row, and then taking emailing a copy or a picture. Another is by logging reading minutes. What's great about Bookopolis is that it's free, and there are lots of great book suggestions and kid reviews, and you can write your own as well. Please be aware that there are external links to Amazon and the like for purchasing books.
Another place to get a free book is from Barnes and Noble. Print out your Summer Reading Journal in English or in Spanish. Read eight books, record the titles and tell your favorite parts, and turn it in for your choice of a selection of books. If I were the right age, I might choose Plants vs. Zombies: How to Save Your Brains or How to Train a Triceratops or John Grisham's Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer. And there would still be books I'd wish I could choose!
The final suggestion for a fabulous free book (and more than one, maybe!) is our own Fresno County Public Library. Sign up for the Summer Reading Challenge (Reading By Design). The link has detailed information about the challenge for kids and teens, and the prizes the public library will give away. Just for signing up, you'll get to choose a free book provided by Fresno's own Reading Heart. Finish the challenge and get another book (while supplies last). Turn in your challenge log for a chance to win other prizes too.
The Fresno County Library also has a fun thing called Win it Wednesdays - every Wednesday they give away a book! Just scroll down through the blog to find the newest possibility. While you're there, see what other exciting events are going on through the sidebar links.
Our library was open for class and individual visits for one month at the end of the school year. We thought it was much better to open the library with checkouts on paper and a few boxes still stacked rather than wait till next year. Based on student response, that was the right decision.
Just how much did the library get used in one month? I'm glad you asked!
We have great news about grants for our library as well:
Next year's Library Grand (re) Opening will be amazing, and the ways the library will serve our school will be even better.
Stay tuned for Summer Reading news!
As you visit the library, you may have noticed the display on the wall outside: "Take the Challenge!" "Read Without Walls!" You may have even read the comic "Comfort Zone" created by Gene Luen Yang for The School Library Journal and reprinted by permission. In that case, carry on with planning what you will read to meet the challenge.
If you haven't read it yet, follow this link to find the four page comic online (just click through the pages) and see what all the fuss is about. Which challenge will be easiest for you? Which more...well, challenging?
This summer I plan to read A Time to Dance by Padma Venkatraman. It's set in India, describes some Indian food, and includes some Hindi words, so it definitely meets the category for "a person who doesn't look or live like me," since I don't speak any Hindi and have only eaten Indian food a few times. That might change this summer. It also meets the category of "a topic I don't know much about," since the main character is a competitive-level dancer in Bharatanatyam. I'm not especially athletic. The back of the book tells me she's injured in a bus accident and has to have a leg amputated. Now we're really into a topic I know almost nothing about. I want to grow my understanding of what it's like to adjust to a major, life-changing accident. Finally, it also meets the third category of "a format I don't usually read," because it's a novel in verse, where each chapter is a new poem. I've read a few (Booked, by Alexander Kwame springs to mind) and enjoyed them, but not many.
I plan to read more than just one book this summer, and I plan to work at reading outside my comfort zone. I'll post my picks here. You can stay tuned for other teachers' plans to Read Without Walls as well. Start thinking about how YOU can meet this challenge!
You may have heard the buzz around campus - the library is open for use! Every student from a class that has taken the tour and done the orientation is now allowed to come in before school, during break, or after school with classroom or after school teacher's permission, as long as there is not a class visiting the library.
One of the first parts of our orientation is that the library is not perfect yet. We don't have everything unpacked. We don't have barcodes on the books to make checking out quick. Sections may be moved between one visit and the next, because more room is needed for one thing or another. But the good news is that students can visit this year instead of having to wait until next year!
We are winding down the borrowing phase of library use. All the books need to be returned before the end of the year so that over the summer they can all be given a barcode (so that next year, checking out is quick!), and so that we'll know what's checked in and what's checked out. Several students have asked about a "holds" section such as in the public library - this could work out if we get everything into the system. Help make this happen by bringing back books!
If you still want to come in and browse books in the library (and your class has taken the tour and you have teacher permission and the library doesn't have a class visit going), yes, please come in and browse, or make suggestions about books you'd love to see added to our collection! Come in and read with a friend! Come in and share your plans for the Reading Without Walls challenge!
Near the end of National Poetry Month, we celebrate National Poem in Your Pocket Day. This is the perfect way to wrap up the month and to share a favorite poem.
If you don't already have a favorite, please step right this way. If the poems below don't tickle your fancy, there are many, many more online if you search "Poems for kids." We also have two shelves of poetry books in our library, which will be opening soon!
A Balanced Diet
I eat a balanced diet,
I do it day and night--
a pound of brownies on my left,
a pound upon my right.
And filling up my right hand,
with clear and certain heft,
a twelve-ounce bag of jellybeans.
The same is on my left.
A candy cane in one hand,
and likewise in the other.
There are equal sweets on either side,
a big frown from my mother.
I eat a balanced diet,
but my mother disagrees.
I just don't understand it.
She's so darned hard to please!
-- Robert Scotellaro
My Praying Mantis
I once had a mantis as a pet.
A praying mantis, you must not forget,
is the tiger of the insect world,
hungry, fierce and extremely bold;
and if you are an insect, keep away
should a mantis be lurking where you play.
Anyway, my mantis was my very best friend.
He sat on my shoulder, and I did defend
his insect's right to stay with me,
protect him from people's curiouslty;
for they thought it very strange
the way his body was arranged:
For a start his neck was very long,
and his heart-shaped head did not belong
to that thin neck and bulbous abdomen
or toothed arms as strong as ten,
wings which gave hi speed in flight
when he attacked and with delight
grabbed a cockroach for his supper,
tore and ate it with his choppers.
However, one day, Phoebe, the neighbor's cat,
gobbled up my mantis and that was that.
Phoebe licked her lips, seemed satisfied
with a chewed-up mantis in her inside.
I suppose, for a mantis, the moral to the story
is, look out for cats or you'll be sorry.
-- John Lyons
Last year Fresno held our first LitHop, launched by our city's Poet Laureate, Lee Herrick. This Saturday, April 29, he launches the second, with multiple venues and authors. See the times and places here.
Note that the stars by the descriptions show that the event has been designated: SUITABLE FOR ALL-AGES (DETERMINED BY READING ORGANIZERS).
Here's the one I most want to go to.
Ghost Songs & Border Crossings (the star didn't copy, but there is one for this event)
3:00 p.m. | Mia Cuppa Caffè | feat. Tim Z. Hernandez, Mas Masumoto, Nikiko Masumoto, Kerry Klein
“Ghost Songs and Border Crossings” will lift up stories of the Central Valley from recently published works. Each of the themes of the title will be woven throughout three movements as the contributors present their work through interdisciplinary storytelling. Across different identities and places, the stories share in the spirit of longing for healing and the power of memory. The audience will be invited to experience the written word through sounds of memory, touch, and ritual.
Of course, there's also this: HEADLINE FEATURE EVENT: GARY SOTO at 7:00 p.m. at Fresno City College, in the Old Administration Building Auditorium.
Take a look at the events offered this Saturday. This is a small selection of the authors we have here in the Valley - what calls to you?
Always up for book chats, reading, library memes - proud to be Kepler's first librarian