Welcome Back!

book“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!”   Who doesn’t love the start of a new school year?  The teachers’ supplies are out of the library and delivered-mostly!  (The library is the staging area for orders placed over the summer.)  The carpets have been cleaned.  The new books (all ___ of them) are cataloged and ready for checking out.  I have  read over 80 books this summer and am eager to share the titles with my students.  The first day of school is just so much more exciting than New Year’s Day.

So why am I dragging my feet?  School starts September 3.  I should be preparing seating charts, prepping materials for the first week, and adding finishing touches to the lesson plans.  Instead, I just want to read one more book or maybe two.  Perhaps I question how I will be able to share all the great new books with students.  Maybe I am worried about finding time to connect with each student during the final 10-minutes of class checkout.

But, the library is about more than books-especially now-because of the Common Core.  The library is the place to learn about information literacy skills.  This absorbs most of my face-to-face time with students.  The curriculum needs to be taught, and I enjoy- no, love- teaching these skills to students.  It is so satisfying to have students generate questions and then help direct them to where they can find the answers.  Students who are able to search, sift through, and find good information will grow into successful adults.  But sometimes I just want to talk books!  So maybe this year, I will set aside the curriculum that needs to be taught for a day (or three!) to just talk about books.  Not to remind students about how important reading is (because they know that and probably hear it a lot), but to give them an opportunity to share what they like about books (the good, bad and ugly- because we don’t like every book we read, and that’s ok).  But I don’t want just me to talk about the books, I want my students to talk, too.

That’s why this year I plan to take our book talking online.  I am going to try Biblionasium with my fifth graders.  Biblionasium is a protected social network site for kids ages 6-13; think of it as a Goodreads for the younger set.  Students will be able to keep track of books they read, create lists of books to read, share reviews, and give and receive book recommendations.  Here’s to hoping that this gives me another opportunity to share what is missing from the day to day library classes:  sharing a love of books.  And if it works, I will go bigger and add more grades this year!

The Fourteenth Goldfish – Summer Book Review

goldThe Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm is a celebration of science. I loved the opening chapter where Ellie remembers the day her  goldfish died (the one she received back when she was in preschool and was to teach her about the cycle of  life). Okay, so maybe that sounds bad, but it was quite a funny chapter.  The goldfish ties into the the whole story, but you have to get to the end of the book to know how.

Next, readers are introduced to Mom, who is late coming home because she had to get Ellie’s grandfather from the police.  Apparently he was found trespassing on private property; it turns out he was trespassing at the laboratory where he works.  Grandpa has discovered how to prevent aging, or in other words, the fountain on youth… and he tried out his experiment on himself, so now he looks like a fourteen year old.  But he can’t get his research and specimens from the lab because he doesn’t look like his older, much older self.  And then his key card stops working, and his email account has been deactivated.  Grandpa needs to get his data so he can be published and remembered forever for this major scientific discovery. So he enlists some help- from Ellie and a classmate of theirs.  Yes, theirs, because Grandpa, as a 14-year-old, has to attend middle school with Ellie.

There are several things that make this story work so well:

  • The animosity between Ellie’s mom and her father, Ellie grandfather; many people can relate
  • Melvin’s (aka Granpda) adjustment to looking young yet having the mind of an older adult who takes for granted things he used to do- like drive a car, putout the trash
  • And, Melvin’s love and passion for science that Melvin plants in Ellie, then waters and watches grow

There is plenty of science to enjoy in the book with references to Louis Pasteur, Robert Oppenheimer, Marie Curie, and Jonas Salk; all of whom had major contributions in science, but not all were arguably for the greater good.  Which leads to the moral question about the fountain of youth:  Should their be one?  This would be a great read aloud book with plenty to offer every listener.