Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Just have not been feeling it, but this helps

This has been a hard school year for me. Besides the day to day of my job as school librarian, I have been trying to empty my mother's house since June that she lived in for 62 years. This has taken a lot out of me emotionally, and the act of sale is mid-January, so there is not much time left to finish it all. Also, the little aches and pains of aging are starting to catch up with me. I really need the two weeks off from school that starts on Saturday. 

As I was cleaning around my desk and filing some papers away today, I found this letter in the way back of my file cabinet. I don't remember the student or the year that she wrote this to me, but, boy, it has it put a smile on my face. Sometimes I forget the little things that I do have a huge impact on the students that I see everyday. To me this just helps reinforce that librarians do make a difference. 

If you click on the image of the letter, you can enlarge it to read
Bitmoji Image

I am going to take some time for myself over the holidays and also time to have fun with family friends. When I return to school in January, I am going to try and keep Sabrina's voice in my head so that I remember that what I do matters. 

Monday, December 17, 2018

Virtual Visit with Author, Ashley Elston

It is always a great day when I have students visit with an author. I first met Ashley Elston at a state conference. Like me, she is from Louisiana. Her presentation to the roomful of librarians was hilarious, and I thought that my students would really enjoy talking to her. After the conference, we connected on Twitter, and I found out that she was happy to schedule a virtual visit with us. We agreed on a Monday in December during one of our regularly scheduled Bookmarked meetings. If I can schedule the author when the group is used to being in the library at that time, it is easier for the students to remember.

Ashley came to writing after she had her children. She explained that being a wedding photographer did not mesh well with being a mom with young children. She really did not know what she was getting into but just began writing. She has four published books, and a new one to be published in the fall of 2019. For this visit, we concentrated on talking about her two murder mysteries, This is our Story and The Lying Woods

Since she doesn't start writing with a detailed outline or a map of what is gong to happen, Elston finds that she is often surprised as to who the murderer turns out to be. She thinks this helps to make the story work well for her readers. I can say that of the four suspects in This is our Story, I could not figure out who had done it before she revealed it. No spoilers, but one of the twists in this story that took me by surprise was not in the original draft.

The students loved hearing how she came up with new ideas. She explained that she likes writing mysteries, but her next book, The Blind Dates, is a rom com. The story just came to her, and she went for it. I know after hearing her presentation at LLA this past March that she has a real comedic flair.

You can find more pictures and more information about the visit on the library website. The members of Bookmarked and I appreciate the time that Elston took to give us a peek into her writing process and motivation to write. Thank you, Ashley!!!

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Geeking Out with Author, Claudia Gray

Two seniors designed this amazing welcome sign inspired by the book cover below

Book 2 in the Constellation series

That's me on the left

The young adult author Claudia Gray lives in the New Orleans area, and Patrick Taylor is located in the New Orleans area. Over the last few years, every time that I would see Claudia at a book event, I would ask if she would do a school visit. She always has said yes, but she is a busy writer and getting a time set on the calendar has been a challenge. On Tuesday, November 27th, the sophomores and juniors finally had a chance to meet her. I actually set up this event because I knew that the members of the high school book group, Bookmarked, would love her, but since this event was a long time in the making, I decided that every student in those two grades would benefit from hearing what she had to say. I was not wrong. The students were a great audience, and I think they all took a little something away with them at the end of the hour. 

Claudia came prepared to talk to aspiring writers, but when she realized that we were a STEM school, she switched gears. Members of Bookmarked had written questions for her on Monday at our regularly scheduled meeting. She decided to go with the questions as the outline for her talk. She took the questions created by the students and arranged them in a flow that made sense and worked beautifully for her presentation. The students were curious about how she got started writing the Star Wars' books and if she preferred writing her original characters and stories or someone else's, how her life changed after becoming a published author, if she based any of her characters on people that she  knew in real life, and what inspired her to become a writer. We did learn that when she was young she decorated her closet to use as an X-wing flight simulator. Though she never had a chance to leave Earth, you wouldn't know that from reading her sci fi series that begins with Defy the Stars. You can read the answers to these questions and see more pictures of the day by visiting the library website

We want to thank Claudia for taking time out of her schedule to talk to the students at Patrick Taylor Academy and to Octavia Books who helped make sure students could purchase books to be signed by the author. 

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Teen Read Week 2018 Brought a Crowd into the Library

Why do I bother to celebrate Teen Read Week (TRW)? 

Student interpretation of "It's Written in the Stars"

I have a steady stream of students in the library every day at all three lunches, and I do not need a special week of programming to encourage students to walk in the doors of the library. But TRW is an annual event, and I want my kids to have fond memories of all our TRW activities over the years that they attend this school. I like tradtions, and this tradition started when I came to the school, so it means a lot to me to keep it going. 

Playing the guessing game

Over the years, my students and I have developed programming for TRW that is altered and edited every year but always has the same components. As such, planning is pretty simple. We look at the theme set by YALSA and adjust all our activities to fit that theme. 

Crafting tissue stars

These are the events that are always scheduled: showing of an episode from Twilight Zone with treats, a simple craft that can be completed in about 30 minutes (length of a lunch period), a literary guessing game with sweet treats as prizes so many can win, some sort of picture taking to recommend books, guess the number of candies in the jar with the winner getting all the candy, a bookmark contest with a winner from middle school and one from high school, fine forgiveness for the week, and voting for Teen's Top Ten. Some years we have added events that included special visitors or authors, but that list is our general plan. It works for us, and the kids here seem to love it. I always ask members of my book groups to help with the planning and to give me ideas. If I need student helpers for any event, then I call on them. 

Below are just a few pictures to highlight the fun that was had during TRW 2018, but you can see a lot more on the library website here.

Focused on the video

7th grade helpers for the guessing game

Even the high school students like playing the game

Few came close to the number of candy stars in the jar

The tissue stars were easy but looked beautiful hanging in a window

We used star ratings to make book recommendations

High School Winning Bookmark
Middle School Winning Bookmark

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Library Filled with Activities for Teen Read Week 2018

It’s Written in the Stars @ PFTSTA Library
Teen Read Week October 9th -12th

Friday, September 14, 2018

Daniel José Older Visits September 11th

That's me on the left.

Older drew a dinosaur for this owner of a new book

Happy Book Birthday to the Dactyl Hill Squad!The author of this book, Daniel José Older, spent the morning of his book's birthday to explain to the 6th and 7th graders why they should read about Magdalys and her friends. Many authors are genre-bending these days, and this book really pushes the envelope by mixing a story about the American Civil War period in New York with dinosaurs. These dinosaurs are not man-eaters. They have been harnessed by the people for transportation and to move goods and materials. This may seem far fetched, but it does work. Older weaves historical accuracies into his fictional story to make for a bit of fun along with some history.

All 6th and 7th grade attended the presentation

Older works the crows

The students were most interested in where he got his idea for the book and how long it took him to write it. It took three weeks! This first in the series takes place mostly in Brooklyn, but in book two, which comes out in spring of 2019, has the characters traveling to New Orleans. With the story moving to our backyard, I know the kids are going to be anxiously waiting for its book birthday. You can visit the PFTSTA Library website to see lots more pictures of the day. 

We want to thank Octavia Books and Arthur A. Levine Publishers for making this event possible. 

Sunday, August 26, 2018

First Two Weeks of the 18-19 School Year

School always starts so quickly, and even though the librarians in my district are suppose to have two weeks at the beginning of school to get the library ready, I usually jump in with both feet. The middle school teachers wanted orientation as quickly as possible. I obliged, but I was not very clever with my presentation this year. Laptops weren't out yet to the students so the teachers were clamoring for the iPad carts. That meant that I would not be able to do something interactive with technology. I just didn't have time to figure out a way to complete orientation a different way. I revisited my power point from last year, made some edits and went with it. I did find a Buzz Feed list of the 18 Magical Ways that Harry Potter Changed my Life. I used this as my jumping off point of why books are important and that everyone can find their Harry Potter even if that book series is not the one for you. I went through a handful of the 18 ways and asked the students to explain what the speaker of the quote meant by what they said. It was interesting to note that the 6th graders had much more to say about the quotes than even the 7th or 8th graders. I even showed the list to my high school book group, and those students were really interested in all 18. Many of them could say that Harry Potter changed their lives. The biggest change was the way that it made them love books and reading.

Below are some pictures of our new students and returning students enjoying the first couple of weeks in the library with books and the makerspace materials---giving you a snapshot of what the day to day looks like. 

Monday, August 6, 2018

Preparing for the New School Year 2018-19

I have already sent this via email to all the teachers in my building, but I am also going to print it and put it in everyone's mailbox. I especially want the 15 new teachers to our school to know what I can for them and their students in our school library. I created this on Canva. Love that program so much and how it makes all my graphic designs look so awesome. Here's to the start of my 38th year of teaching, and my 29th year as a school librarian!

2018-19 List of PFTSTA Library Services by Ekahn6

Monday, July 9, 2018

Taking Students to #ALAAC18 was Amazing, BUT......

Loaded down with swag from ALA

I had been planning for the American Library Association's (ALA) annual conference in New Orleans for over a year. I was prepping the students in two of my book groups about what it would be like for them to spend a day with me at ALA, and if they wanted to attend, I made sure that they saved the date well in advance since many of them have camp, travel, or even work during the summer months. I was chair of the Young Adult Library Services Association's (YALSA) local area task force for this conference, so I had many duties throughout the week. I had not attended an ALA conference since Chicago in 2013, so I had booked myself solid from a pre-conference on Friday, June 22 until the afternoon of Monday, June 25. Then life happened.

I had to put my 91 year old mother in the hospital on the Tuesday before the conference. We did not think she was seriously ill, but she had been feeling poorly for weeks. She knew about the conference, and we planned ahead who would visit her and help her while I was busy at the Convention Center for four days.Then very early Thursday  morning, I got a phone call from the hospital. The next thing I knew, she was gone. So many emotions and so much to do.

On Friday at the opening session Michelle Obama was speaking. My mother, a true blue democrat, knew that I was going to hear Obama. I decided that I would do as much of ALA as I could handle. I did get to see Obama, and she was amazing. Though I was only close enough to watch her on a screen. If you want to hear what Obama has to say, you can fast forward through this video to about 20 minutes in to see and hear the interview.

LaToya Cantrell, the first woman mayor of  New Orleans, opened the conference.
My mother worked very hard on her campaign and would have loved hearing about LaToya's opening remarks.

Michelle Obama on the screen

These nine students had no clue that they were going to be bombarded with books and more books
At the NASA booth, you could hold specimens from outer space 

Nine members from two of my book groups were going to spend the day with me on Sunday. My siblings were very understanding, and I was able to make good on my commitment to take my students. We met at 9AM in front of the exhibit hall. We had a little over two hours to spend getting books, meeting authors, and filling bags up with swag. As I expected, many of them wanted to go by themselves.Two of the nine hung out with me along with a librarian friend of mine and a parent who was helping me chaperone. The two hours passed in a flash, but everyone was loaded down with many, many signed books.

Waiting for the rest of the group to arrive so that we could go to lunch

Then we headed upstairs to a room for lunch around 11:15. That wouldn't have been a problem, but it was an extremely long haul from the exhibit hall. Everyone had so many bags and many pounds of stuff to carry. YALSA provided pizza, salad, cookies, and drinks. Several publishers provided authors who speed dated around at each table so that every group got to talk to every author. I was impressed how enthusiastic the authors were to talk about their newest book since they had to give the same spiel over and over. The authors did not hesitate to answer every question posed by the teens no matter how strange but in the process seemed to really relish time spent in the company of their readers. I really believe that my teens read more and enjoy reading more when they have had an opportunity to talk to the creator of the books. I thank all of the authors for taking the time to share and listen to the kids: Deb Caletti, Neal and Jarrod Shusterman, Laurie Boyle Crompton, McCall Hoyle, C J Lyons, Allison McGhee, Andrew Smith, Caroline Tung Richmond, and Eliot Schrefer.

Laurie Boyle Crompton

My friend, Deb Caletti

Father and son writing team, Neal and Jarrod Shusterman

CJ Lyons

Andrew Smith

Caroline Tung Richmond
At 1:00 we all moved next door. The students were going to be talking to the YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults Committee (BFYA). Every year this committee selects about 75 of the best fiction works geared to teens and publishes a best of list. During the Mid-Winter and Annual conferences local teens are asked to give their assessment of the nominated books. All of the teens there that day spoke beautifully, but I was especially proud of my students. The committee was blown away and asked if we would send comments from the teens throughout the year. The librarians on BFYA want the list to be teen friendly and not a list of books only liked by the librarians and adults who serve teens. Below are pictures of the students talking to the committee.

Teen Speaks Back at BFYA Session At ALA Annual 2018 from Elizabeth Kahn on Vimeo.

It was all over about 3PM. Several of my students chose to return to the exhibit hall, but most of them left to go home to begin sorting through all their goodies. Once done, the students told me that I had not told them it was going to be like this. This meaning a chance to get dozens of free books and meet dozens of authors while becoming totally overwhelmed by the experience. I tried to tell them, but it truly is an experience that you have to go through to understand. Those kids are so lucky, and I think once it was over, they realized it.

All of the local teens who participated in the BFYA session

It was a looooong day, but so worth it.

One of my favorite books of the year ws the 57 Bus.
Here I am with the author, Dashka Slater.

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