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It's... the end of April?!

Hi everyone! It has been a few months since I’ve written an entry… yeah. I feel like this year has finally caught up with me being in a new position and trying to reorganize and revamp programs in two school libraries. I feel like it was just winter break, and I blinked and we’re only a few weeks away from the end of the school year. Whoa…

So what has this librarian been up to the past few months??

The Follett Challenge

All our hard work paid off, and Gower School District was awarded a Follett Challenge People’s Choice Award at the end of February, winning $8,000 for new books in our elementary and middle school libraries!! I was ecstatic, and so grateful for the community support our school libraries received during the voting process. Deciding how to spend this money has taken up a lot of my time lately, as I weed our old collections and make lists of books to replace and new titles to acquire. Collection development is one of my very favorite parts of this job, and I’m so excited to be overseeing the transformation of our libraries. I can’t wait to see what things look like in a few years.

Sidenote: If anyone is interested in entering their school library in the Follett Challenge in the future, please feel free to contact me for more information. It was an exciting process, but an exhausting one, and if we ever enter again, it won’t be for several years!!

Illinois Readers’ Choice Awards

The 2019 Illinois Readers’ Choice Awards were announced in March. Students always are excited to hear these results, since they personally get to vote for the winners, unlike the ALA awards. Unsurprisingly, the hilarious picture book Creepy Pair of Underwear by Aaron Reynolds won the Monarch Award for K-3rd grade. Wish by Barbara O’Connor won the Bluestem for grade 3-5. I not only adored Charlie’s story, but the beautiful cover art of that one. Ghost by Jason Reynolds, first in the Track series, won the 2019 Caudill for middle school readers (I loved the whole series, but especially Patina and Sunny!), and the incredibly powerful The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas won the Lincoln Award for YA.

The new list of nominated titles for each of these categories were also announced, and dang are these lists GOOD! Well done to the committees!! I am especially excited to get the 3rd annual Caudill Challenge going at my middle school, and organizing how to extend this to the Monarch and Bluestem awards for our younger readers.

The Caudill Challenge is how I’ve gamified the state reading list for my middle schoolers, and it’s been very popular the past couple of years. By challenging our students and staff to read from the list of award-nominated titles from different genres and perspectives, it’s pushed boundaries and created a community of readers where we’ve all read the same stories, and as a result, discussions about characters, conflicts, and themes come about organically. It’s been awesome… plus the kids get prizes for reading, so win-win. If you want more information about doing something similar at your school, please get in touch! I’m always happy to share.

Here are the new lists for Illinois that we’re working with. If you’re from out of state, get in touch with your local school library organization to see if they do something similar!

2020 Monarch Award List

2020 Bluestem Award List

2020 Caudill Award List

2020 Lincoln Award List

Linda Ragsdale

My elementary school had the pleasure of being visited by the energetic and inspiring Linda Ragsdale, author of The Peace Dragon. I’ll admit I had not heard of her work before Anderson’s offered to send her, but I’m sure glad we took a chance on her! The message in the book is incredibly powerful, and Linda really knows how to talk to kids about big issues in an age-appropriate and engaging way for students in Kindergarten through 4th grade. She explained the concept that some people will be different from us, but that doesn’t make us better, worse, or even opposites of each other… just different. Linda also did some great scenario role playing to illustrate how to handle anger, which we all inevitably experience. If you have the chance to hear her speak or read one of her books, I highly recommend it!

Kwame Alexander

I took a group of middle school kids to meet Newbery Medalist Kwame Alexander, and it was AMAZING!! I’ve heard Kwame speak several times before, and I knew he would be a hit with these young readers. Along with two of my enthusiastic, always-up-for-anything colleagues, we took a group of ten students in 5th through 8th grade out for tacos in downtown Downers Grove and then walked to Anderson’s Bookshop down the street. We got there early to claim some good seats and get our books organized, and then Kwame and Randy began right at 7pm. As usual, the place was packed, and as usual, they were a hit!! What a fun way to celebrate National Poetry Month!

Daniel Jose Older and Jennifer Nielsen

We only have five weeks left in the school year now, which just feels impossible. We have two more authors coming to visit before the year is up: Daniel Jose Older, author of The Dactyl Hill Squad series, will be meeting with our 3rd graders on May 15, and Jennifer Nielsen, author of The False Prince trilogy, A Night Divided, and Resistance, will be at the middle school on May 16 to speak to all 5th through 8th graders. I love hosting authors, and hope these will be fun events to help build some excitement for summer reading!!