Tuesday, November 11, 2014

VAASL Conference: Questions from the session on SSR and Secondary Students

Thank you to everyone who attended one of the SSR and Secondary Students sessions.  I enjoyed talking with you all and appreciate you posting your ideas, questions, etc on the poster boards on your way out.  Here are the posts from the Questions Poster:

  1. YA titles and Middle Students- what titles are acceptable?
  2. I think I need more help getting started/getting teachers on board.
  3. How long for book talks with your classes?
  4. How do you get your administrators on board?
  5. Some students won't read independently
  6. Our assistant superintendent is against SSR.  How do you convince someone who seems dead set against it?
Great questions- and I need help from you all with these!  

1. YA and Middle School-- this is a great question because the content in YA books can be quite mature.  I would rely on reviews and only add titles that say grade 8 or age 14.  I have a friend who is a middle school librarian and she puts an 8th grade sticker on these titles.  If a younger student wants to check them out, they must bring a permission slip from home.  

2, 4 and 6  All of these questions have to do with buy in and getting started.  I would try to start with one or two teachers to get started.  I would ask to present in department meetings and I would also recommend trying the one to one conversation whenever you get a chance to encourage SSR.  I started by asking the teachers to give the high school kids library time for check out.  Even if you can't do SSR it is worthwhile for the students to come to the library for check out time every so often. 

The part of this question that asked about administrators and superintendents is tough.  I would prepare a way to share the evidence.  I am thinking of doing this myself in the form of a short Animoto video or something like that. 

At the end of the day, if you can't do SSR you can still encourage reading as much as possible.  Anything we can do to encourage reading is worth doing!

3. I tailor the book talks to the class and teacher.  Most of the time they last about 30 minutes.  I talk up some titles and do some follow up activities on the books they have been reading for about 20 minutes and then give the class about 10 minutes to find a new book to check out.  I have done books talks in as short of a time as 15 minutes though. I sometimes use a timer to keep myself from going on and on too long.  I love to talk about books so I have to be careful to respect the time the teacher has alloted for book talks.

5. The question about some students not reading is a hard one that I do not have a magic answer for.  I sure wish I did!  I try lots of things that are successful some of the time.  I encourage Orca titles that are short and easy to read. I try to have lots of nonfiction that appeal to the non-reading students- I purchase based on these kids too!  At my school lots of books on hunting are good. An idea I got from the SSR Handbook is to let the kids take multiple magazine, books, etc to their desk to look over during the SSR time.  I also think that reading aloud to hook the kids into a good story is a good idea.

I don't do much with audiobooks but I am interested in trying more of this.  I have a question about these- I wonder if listening to a book is as beneficial?  Can students get the great gains of SSR if they listen to a book?

Ok, there are my thoughts on some of your questions.  I hope you all will join in the conversation!

VAASL Conference SSR and Secondary Students: Sharing Success Stories

Thank you to everyone who attended one of the SSR and Secondary Students sessions.  I enjoyed talking with you all and appreciate you posting your ideas, questions, etc on the poster boards on your way out.  Here are the posts from the Success Poster:


  • Teachers make SSR the best with collaboration
  • I genrefied the sports fiction and the boys have loved it
  • one English teacher has their students sell their books (2 students at a time). The class votes on the winning book.
  • Book pass- students choose books from a large selection. Read 3 minutes and move on to another one.  Go back to pick one you want to read.
  • The Book Whisperer changed my whole view of teaching.  My students and I cherish our independent reading time- 20 minutes every day.
  • One to one with individual non-readers
  • Book talks
  • Reading Zone- with 9 and 10 Academic classes.  They read every English class and come read for 1/2 hour each week in the library.  Reading scores went up!!
  • We had school-wide SSR at my former school until the admin changed.  Everyone read.
  • Loved the idea of the graffiti wall. May adapt it for my readers.

Thank you all for sharing your successes.  I love the book pass idea, what a great way to give kids access to lots of great books!  I am also a huge fan of The Book Whisperer, and in fact it was from Donalyn Miller's twitter account that I got the idea of using a graffiti wall for reading comments. I have not genrefied the fiction section of my school library.  I do a lot with genres and pull lots of genre displays though.  I have been a bit resistant to this idea because it is not clear cut what genre a book belongs in.  I do see the appeal to kids though and that is one of the key elements of successful SSR.  I would love for you all to comment on this topic!

Any other success stories?  These stories can be powerful indicators of the importance and power of reading!

VAASL Conference SSR Session New Ideas Share

Thank you to everyone who attended one of the SSR and Secondary Students sessions.  I enjoyed talking with you all and appreciate you posting your ideas, questions, etc on the poster boards on your way out.  Here are the posts from the NEW IDEAS Poster:


  • bring in therapy dogs
  • kids commenting on morning announcements
  • reorganize the library by genre
  • use Glogester
  • Mockingjay PreMovie release party
  • English teachers can use SSR for small group remediation
  • Steven Lane, The Passion of Reading (speed dating for books)
  • let kids put sticky notes on books-- no spoilers
  • Reading Fair, like a science fair, to promote new books
  • Give your administrator a copy of The Power of Reading
  • Have classes do SSR outside during National Library Week
  • QR Codes with book trailers- kids can scan with their phone
Recap:  Great ideas shared here!  I too am planning a Mockingjay movie release party.  I do a monthly lunch in the library with a different theme each time.  I think these events help with the appeal factor of SSR.  I try to use my library programming to let kids know what books we have and to have access to them.  I love the Reading Fair idea!  I do New Book Preview Parties which is a little like this.  I thought the science fair board for a genre, a book series or an author could be a great follow up research opportunity for a student.

Which new ideas really speak to you?  Do you have any additional new ideas for SSR at the secondary level to share?

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Conference Day is here!

I am excited about today's sessions and evening event, dessert with best selling author David Baldacci!  I am currently setting up for my concurrent session on SSR and Secondary Students.  I am VERY excited to hear Dr. Stephen Krashen give his keynote address today, Dr. Krashen is the expert on Free Voluntary Reading and his book The Power of Reading is an important part of the session we are presenting this morning!

My coworkers, Renee Favaro and Kate Givens, should be here soon.  I am so glad they were willing to present with me and will be able to enjoy the conference today.  They are both English teachers at Lord Botetourt and I am so grateful for the strong library-classroom collaboration we have.

I hope you will check back later to see what participant questions, ideas and success stories we have to share after the 9am SSR and the Secondary Student session.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

2014 VAASL Conference: SSR Session

I am so excited that the annual Virginia Association of School Librarians Conference begins tomorrow!  I am co-presenting with two of my coworkers on Sustained Silent Reading (SSR) at the Secondary Level.  The keynote speaker later in the day is Dr. Stephen Krashen, an expert in the area of SSR.  It should be an awesome day.

At the end of our presentation, we have an activity where participants can ask questions and share success stories and new ideas.  I plan to post the information from this activity here and hope that the blog format will allow for further professional discussion on the topic of SSR.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Labor Day Weekend

I enjoyed the long Labor Day weekend and read several books! I have a lot of students coming to the library this week so I am happy to have a few new titles to talk up.

Finished The Fifth Wave- Sci Fic title that I am looking forward to book talking.  I predict that this is a popular title this school year.

Loved After Ever After- great realistic fiction title with a male main character.  The age of the main character (8th grade) may make this a little hard to sell to my high school students.  So many students read The Fault in Our Stars this summer though that I think this will appeal to some. I enjoyed it...and cried.

Survive was a great adventure novel.  I read this almost in one sitting.  I look forward to book talking this one!  Wish it had a different cover because I think boys will like this story but not all boys will check out a book with this cover.

Quarantine: The Loners has circulated really well every since I put it out on the new book shelf last year.  I read it this weekend and enjoyed it.  This novel made me think of Lord of the Flies.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

LB Reads 2013 Summer Reading

We are using the high school Virginia Reader's Choice books as our list for summer reading.  (This is our 4th year using the VRC list!)  We held summer reading assemblies recently and I am so excited about the interest in the titles.  I REALLY like the list this year!

I am having a hard time selecting one favorite from the list this year.  Here are a few thoughts on each title.

Anya's Ghost- a graphic novel, which is honestly not really my thing.  I did like the simple drawing style of this novel and the story grabbed me and I was compelled to read the entire book quickly to find out how the mystery was resolved.

Choker- a very fun, quick read with a few surprises!  This is one you will enjoy talking about with a friend once you have both read it.  A good choice if you like a mystery.

Between Shades of Gray- Incredible historical fiction novel set in WWII.  I read this novel awhile ago and have been recommending it ever since.  I really enjoyed reading about the WWII time period from a very different perspective, a young Lithuanian girl in the Stalin Era Soviet Union. I highly recommend this one and male and female readers have enjoyed it.

Scorpio Races-- a great surprise.  This book did not appeal to me at first but I read it because it was on this list and really, really liked it!  Mythology, fantasy and a great plot- a great combination. A good choice for guys and girls.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone- one of my all time favorites.  I read this last year and devoured the sequel when it was published.  This is a well written fantasy novel.  Maybe my favorite on the list....

The Fault in Our Stars- While I just said that Daughter of Smoke and Bone could be my favorite, well this one is also pretty darn awesome!  Time Magazine ranked this the #1 Fiction novel for 2012 for all ages and it is popular in the Young Adult as well as Adult market because it is so well written, so thought provoking, and so universal.  Warning... have tissues handy when you read this one!

This Dark Endeavor- A great Science Fiction title about Victor Frankenstein as a teenager.  A great adventure that is a good choice for male and female readers.

Something Like Hope- I really liked this novel and I would love to have a book club discussion with students who read this book.  The author made me really care for the main character and I felt a variety of emotions, including hope, as I followed her journey to her 18th birthday and freedom from incarceration in a juvenile detention faculty. I was so interested in the problems with the juvenile detention system after I read this book that I was interested in learning more about the issue.  I LOVE it when a fiction novel makes me think about the problems in society and how they can be addressed.  Give this one a try!

Hold Me Closer Necromancer- Funny/Horror- what a combination!  This is a great choice for guys and girls alike.  Each chapter starts with the title of a song and the chapter relates in someway to the title.   I just checked out the sequel to this novel it was so good! A very clever novel that does not take itself too seriously- I predict this will be a popular title with my students.

Oogy: The Dog Only a Family Could Love: A wonderful true story about an abused puppy.  This is a sad AND happy/hopeful story.  If you love animals, you will love Oogy!