Sunday, January 26, 2014

Creating Audio Book Reviews with Chirbit

Creating a Chirbit 
The middle school English teachers and I are always trying to encourage the students to have a book that they enjoy reading at hand. We want them to find what they like to read. That may mean finding an author who speaks to them so that they want to read everything by the author or finding a genre that speaks to them so that they can find books with similar themes. One of the sixth grade girls has gone dragon crazy and is trying to read everything that I have related to dragons in both fiction and non-fiction. She is a big reader and will probably run out of books in the PFTSTA Library pretty soon. To inspire the students to find books that excite them, the 6th grade teachers and I cooked up an activity that would motivate the students to read and provide book advertising in the library, too. 

Student is listening to a book talk captured with a QR code on the iPod
Each student in the class was asked to read a book that they liked and create a book talk that describes the plot and recommends the story to other readers. When read aloud, each book talk was to be 90 seconds or less. The students used the tech tool Chirbit to record their talks. I chose Chirbit because the interface is easy to use, and once recorded, a QR code and URL is generated for each Chirbit that a student creates. It was suppose to be easy to do. Unfortunately, the reality was that it took weeks and weeks for two classes to get their talks recorded.

The students read their book and then wrote out the book talk. The teacher read and then approved the talk when she thought it was ready to be recorded. To record, the students had to spread out around school so that they could find a quiet place (that was not always easy). We had stduents in closets, my office and the teacher workroom. The students' laptops are not the newest, and many of the laptops did not play nice with Chirbit. So students had to either use one of the desktops in the library or an extra laptop from the library. Once the recording was done, the students sent the link and QR codes to the teacher and myself. I printed the QR codes on cards and displayed them with the books on the library shelves. The students can use their own device or use a library iPod to scan the code and listen to the review. 

I have some examples for you to hear below. 

Kaitlyn Esneault read The Kane Chronicles series
by Rick Riordan. You can find her book talk here:

Victoria Mordica read Girl 15 Charming but Insane by Sue Limb. You can find her book talk here:

Ahmed Farhoud read Among the Impostors by Margret Peterson Haddix. You can listen to his book talk here: Books by the author, Margaret Peterson Haddix, were popular with the 6th graders because she, visited PFTSTA in September.


Saturday, January 25, 2014

Are You a Teen? Do You Live in Louisiana? Time to Vote for LTRC

In Louisiana, the state library sponsors three reader's choice awards for the following grade levels: 3rd-5th, 6th-8th and 9th-12th. I am on the committee to help select the titles for the Louisiana Teen Reader's Choice or LTRC. There are ten titles nominated which you can see below. Open here to watch a book trailer for each title

Voting for the Teen Reader's Choice closes February 1st. You need to have read at least two of the books on the list to vote. Open here to cast your vote

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Following Through With Library Resolution

Earlier in the month, I blogged about some resolutions for 2014 that I wanted to initiate in the library. I am so proud of myself because I have already begun seriously tackling one of these resolutions. There are so many fiction books that are series, and I can't remember series order and neither can the students. Often, the students don't even realize that an appealing book is part of a series. One of my tasks for the new year is to label all books in a series.

Over the holidays, I bought supplies to begin the process of labeling. See the picture above. That is not exactly true. I already had the scissors, iPad Mini and clear label protectors. I did have to buy those colorful green dots. I set up a template for the stickers on the computer so I could print out the numbers. I didn't want to write them--my handwriting is atrocious. I started the process when I received a shipment of new books the first week that we got back from the holidays. Then this week, I began the job in earnest. I started in the As, and when I found a series set, I would look at the website FictFact on the iPad Mini to see the book order for each series. I would place the green stickers on the spines and cover with label protectors. Okay, I haven't gotten very far because I have only completed the books with authors whose last name begins with A. You have to start somewhere, though. I think that it doesn't matter how time consuming this project is, having the books labeled will make it so much easier for patrons to find the books that they want to read. That is what it is all about, isn't it? In the picture below you can see all the books with the little green dots with a number on it. I plan to forge ahead and maybe by the end of next week, I will be somewhere among the Gs. It doesn't really matter, though, as long as I keep at it. 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Teens Review Cremer's The Inventor's Heart and Schrocke's Freak City

Bookmarked, the high school library book group at PFTSTA, recently finished its gig reading and reviewing books for the online newsletter from School Library Journal called, SLJTeen. The students have been submitting reviews twice a month for the last 18 months. You can read all those reviews here:

Since the students are still reading books pre-publication that the publishers are sending to us, I thought that I could post their book reviews here. Students self-select the books that they want to review from the ones sent to us by the publishers. All of their opinions about the books and authors are their own. The teen reader loved the alternate history presented in The Inventor's Secret by Andrea Cremer, who visited PFTSTA in 2012. The next book, Freak City  by Kathrin Schrocke, was first published in Germany several years ago, but it's initial publication in the US is January 2014. 

CREMER, Andrea. The Inventor’s Secret. Philomel. April 2014. Tr. $18.99. ISBN 9780399159626

In a parallel universe where Great Britain has just won the Revolutionary War, a resistance brews since a punishing Empire took charge in the country, Britannia. Deep into the Catacombs, Charlotte brings ‘Grave’, a boy who seems to have lost all memory of WHO he is, WHY he was running, and WHAT he is. As Charlotte learns that her labyrinth-like home has even more twists and turns than she expected, she must prepare to seek answers, trust her peers, not fall in love, play dress up, and even take up some ‘needlework’.

What I especially love about this book is the fact that it mixes this sense of ‘reversed’ important history with a kind of ‘vintage’ sci-fi. I love the book’s cover with the steam punk heart; this is what really drew me to this fantastic book because the cover art seemed so intriguing. I love how easily you fall in love with the characters and how Charlotte struggles throughout the book to not fall in love with a boy who says, “I’m not who you think I am.” There’s so much mystery and so many questions throughout this book as every answer comes with another question. As I kept reading, it was impossible to put this book down, highly 
recommended! Review written by Isabelle O. age 14

SCHROCKE, Kathrin. Freak City. Scarlet Voyage. January 2014. Tr. $17.95 ISBN 9781623240059

Mika’s ex-girlfriend has left him heartbroken. Then, the beautiful and mysterious Leah catches his eye. But soon Mika finds out that Leah isn’t your typical girl—she’s deaf. Over the summer, Mika takes sign language classes to better communicate with his new love interest. But with his ex looming and ties between his friends and family weakening, Mika isn’t sure that his world—the hearing world—can merge with Leah’s.

I enjoyed getting an insight into the deaf world. There aren’t a lot of fiction books about deaf people so I think Freak City is a very unique book. It gives readers a deeper understanding of the deaf culture: how the deaf communicate, how they enjoy music. I recommend this novel to anyone interested in an out of the ordinary quick read. Review written by Paris E. age 17

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Time for Library Resolutions for the New Year

I have taken a short break to rejuvenate myself to be ready for 2014. I have several blog post ideas that I am ready to execute soon, but I thought that I would start the new year on this blog by outlining some goals that I have set for myself and hope to implement in the coming weeks when I return to school. 

Students are constantly asking me what book comes next in a series. Sometimes I  know off the top of my head, but often I have to do a little research to tell them. I found this wonderful site called FictFact that I am now using to track series. It was designed as a tool for keeping track of books, series and the authors that write them. I have started following all the students favorite series here, so I can find books in series order in just a few clicks. If you are a librarian, this website is just what you have been looking for. On Twitter several months ago, I found myself in a conversation about series books. Several librarians (including  and ) mentioned how they labeled series books with numbers on the spine. That is ingenious. Why didn't I think of that? Labeling the books will certainly be more time efficient than having students come up to me to ask what book comes next. It also means that students will be able to easily determine that a book is a part of a series while they are browsing the shelves and also see if the first in the series is available. Resolution 1: To label all series books in the fiction section of the library. 

Another subject that school librarians have been debating recently is genrefication. That means organizing the library more like a bookstore model with like books shelved together. I am not ready to ditch the Dewey Decimal system just yet. If you are interested in researching this idea, I have collected some blog posts and online articles to help you in your research on this topic here: However, I have lots of empty shelving. I am thinking that I could create some themed displays on these shelves. That way I can get an idea if genrefication is something that would boost circulation in my library. Since these displays would be temporary and flexible, I would not attach labels to the books, change the catalog or be stuck with a limited number of genres. Really the sky is the limit: books that rock, love stories with happy endings, love stories with unhappy endings, adventure in another world, adventure in our world, etc. Resolution 2: To create some fun and eye-catching fiction displays to draw in new readers. 

In August of 2013, I opened the doors to the library at the new school. I like the minimalist look at work. I don't have a lot of clutter in the library which means that I don't have that many signs. I have been thinking that this is not such a great idea when students come in and don't know where to find certain books and resources that they want. I need to rethink signage and start labeling and marking areas to make finding materials easier for all patrons. Resolution 3: To assess needed signage throughout the library and begin labeling. 

As always, I will continue to read lots of YA lit, keep up with technology advances as best that I can and blog all about it right here. I wish you and yours a very HaPpY nEw YeAr! 
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