Can You Handle this 2019 YA Book Challenge?

(Okay…it’s two months late, but that only adds to the challenge) Here’s my 2019 YA book challenge (but you can definitely adapt it to ANY reader!) There are twenty-five challenges that’ll make any booklover more well-rounded. An additional challenge? Create a unique hashtag for your library and get those who do this challenge (or any challenge for that matter!) to post selfies of them with the number they’re on and the bookcover to prove it. Challenge accepted?

Creative Archiving: Holiday Makerspace Projects with Weeded Books

‘Tis the season!  Time for gifts for family, friends and colleagues.  This is also especially true for students too!  But budgets can get tight when the circle of giving gifts gets larger.  And that’s where creativity (which is free!) and a few materials can really help.  And as I told my students, what better gift to give to a loved one than ones that’s homemade?

What I did for several past fall semesters is have students create things from weeded books.  They usually did a book wreath, but since than I have made several other things with weeded books.  Minimal cost, patience, and time.  So if you’re looking for ideas, here are a few you can do:

Book Page Christmas Trees:  What I like about these is that you can make them large or small, depending on what you’d like.  All you do is cute strips of paper with the same width and then cut down the strip halfway to make a fringe.  Roll it around a pencil to fluff it out and then hot glue it from the bottom up overlapping the strips as you go up.  After you finish, you can add little decorations and use an upsweeping motion to fluff it even more.  (the picture is one I made in 15 minutes)  
Resources: posterboard, weeded books, hot glue gun, scissors, pencil.  If you’d like something a little easier, try this idea for a simple weeded book Christmas tree

Book Wreath:  I don’t know how many of these I have made, but it seems like a million!  And the best part?  They all come out so differently!!  Again, size is what you’d like it to be and how you put the pages on (cone shapes, scrunched up paper, rolled shapes) is up to you.  The hardest part is cutting a template (which looks like a giant donut) but other than that, the sky’s the limit, especially if you’d like to bling it up a little!  The MOST creative one I made was with a comic book for my fellow nerd in arms teacher at my campus.  It doesn’t have to be just books.  My library assistant did one from an almanac for a friend who traveled a lot. (the picture are two I made for my house).  Here’s a link to a book wreath, including the template  Resources: template for book wreath, heavy duty cardboard, hot glue gun, pencil (to help glue the pages), and a ribbon to loop on back to hang it.  

Paper Ornaments:
This is going to be the one I’ll be making this year, as I haven’t tried it before.  Last year, I purchased a small white Christmas tree and instead of putting traditional ornaments on it, I’m going to do all different sizes of ornaments and hang them on there for a little white on white contrast. This creator is using scrapbooking paper, but book pages that have a little stiffness or thickness to it would work well.  If not, I plan on double the strips and gluing them together to make them more sturdy.    The link to this excellent tutorial can be found here

So there are three projects you can do with students and make someone’s Christmas merrier!  And if you need any more ideas, I have a BUNCH of ideas on a Pinterest board, so head on over there and see what else you can do with those weeded books!  

Happy Holidays everyone!!  

Amazing Library Ideas for K-12!

The best part of my job is being able to visit with librarians and talk with them about anything from programs to books and how I can help.  One of the benefits of visiting them is seeing the amazing things they come up with!  Library spaces should capture the heart of the reader, the creator, those who study, and those who teach.  These ideas help do that.  The best part of being a librarian is that there is always a willingness to share with not only their community, but beyond that.  Here are a few things I’ve seen this year that librarians have shared with me:

This librarian at an elementary school took a couple of noodles and put them around a table to keep puzzle pieces on the table!  This could also be great with makerspaces that have lots of components and so many other things.
Another elementary librarian added visual cues to popular chapter books to make them easier to find for kids by adding the book covers to the bins they’re housed in.
This high school librarian took book ends and got her teens to paint a representation of their favorite book on it during Teen Read Week.
Another high school librarian made shelves more interesting by putting some great folded book art at the end caps.
A beginning of the year bulletin board not only had teachers sharing their favorite books, but they also got to know the new librarian better!
I saw this at a high school, but it have universal appeal at any grade level.
Encourage reading through sharing! Take some cardboard letters, decoupage book covers, add ribbon and clips and let students and teachers share their favorite books. This was hung right by the entrance/exit doors.
This homemade art installation was made in the spring, but think about the possibilities for all seasons to liven up the library a little
This wall is dedicated to sharing books through recommendations, including a starred review. Simple clipboards and supplies included.
If you want to get kids interested in simple makerspaces, why not do what this librarian (and co-blogger) did by setting out QR codes around the library to Youtube videos to create cool origami.

Get Over Your Fear of Fantasy by Jackie Son

Fantasy readsFor years, I have been an avid reader of realistic/ contemporary fiction. In fact, it’s pretty much all I read while growing up (save for the occasional historical fiction title that sneaked in or the classics I was given in high school English).

When we created genres for our library this year, I noticed that Realistic Fiction had met its match with Fantasy; shelf space is taking a nose dive. Not that I’m complaining, but I just couldn’t understand what the hype was all about.

I decided to go to the experts…teenagers. I am now in full-fangirl mode for fantasy. I recently realized (while stalking the shelves at Barnes and Noble) that there’s a reason I’ve historically stayed away from fantasy: have you SEEN the size of those books?! Not to mention that there are rows and rows of this genre (so many rows). It’s hard to know where to start… especially when the covers can look so similar (*insert a fierce protagonist on a dark cover, probably navy blue, hunter green, or black*). But change is good, and I’ve gotten into so many reading slumps, and I have found one of the best ways to break out of one is to break tradition. So, without further ado, here are my tips for diving into the wonderful world of fantasy!

1.) I Hear You:

If possible, try to get your hands on a physical copy AND the audiobook of your chosen title. If your school library doesn’t have Overdrive, your public library might. It’s definitely a more economical way to acquire audiobooks, but I’m also a fan of Audible (if it’s in your price range).

Here’s why: a lot of what happens at the beginning of a fantasy novel sets the reader up for: a.) world building and b.) a magic system. If you’ve never read fantasy and you start with a high-fantasy read, an audiobook can help (provided the narrator’s voice works for you) you get started. Hearing someone’s tone and inflection in those first few chapters gives you a baseline for the world, and it also clues you in to what might be important later.

2.) Split the Difference:

What I mean by this is…try a book that takes place in the real world and a different one. Think about it. The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe start with the children leaving their city home for a countryside escape in the midst of WWII. Within no time, you’re in Narnia. Finding an entry point that’s in your comfort zone is what makes exploring fun.

3.) We’d Love to Double Date! 

Don’t fret if you start feeling a little overwhelmed (sometimes in the best way) with your fantasy read. Sometimes you just need a break. I recently started reading The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss and this book… is an epic (literally) read and halfway through, I just needed a break! I picked up a book that (I thought) was completely different from TNotW, but you’d be surprised how fast you start to see parallels. I picked up The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, because what could be more antithetical to a high-fantasy read than a story about a glamorous Hollywood star from the 1950’s?!

Not. Much.

Both of these stories involve living legends whose life stories have remained elusive and borderline infamous over time. Their secrets would be lost, were it not for them telling their stories to a biographer (chronicler) throughout the entire book. The main characters are clever, cutthroat, unapologetic, and fiercely dedicated to telling the truth. I finished the latter title with a resurgence of excitement to dive back into Rothfuss’s opus.

4.) Safety in Numbers

The fantasy genre lends itself to series. It’s just the way it is; I don’t make the rules. And I can tell you this: if you spend that much time investing yourself into another world, with complex characters, and an incredible magic system (hello, Harry Potter), you will want more. Finding the right series and the right authors is almost another blog post entirely, but if you do your homework/ take a chance and find a series you enjoy, this will continuously challenge your conceptual, concrete limitations. Bottom line: the more time you spend in a variety of  worlds, the more comfortable you’ll be when you encounter a new one.

5.) The Kids Are Alright:

When I told my students that I was interested in trying fantasy, they were all-too eager to suggest titles. But, as anyone knows, you only get to make a first impression once. My students deliberated for days about my new TBR pile. They crafted only their favorites (“but nothing too crazy otherwise she’ll hate it”). They worked and worked on their list for me, and when it was all said and done, they not only had some of the best books I’ve read in a long time on the list, but they were excited to talk to me about it when I finished.

When I check out books to kids that I’ve really enjoyed, I make them promise to come talk to me about the book when they finish. This was some major role reversal… but I didn’t hate it. I came to work for a week D-Y-I-N-G to talk about The Raven Cycle with two of the girls who recommended it. Every day they’d rush into my office and I’d explode with, “I can’t even with Blue and Gansey! What is going to happen?!!!” They would grin and say, “I don’t know. Guess you’ll have to keep reading.” And then they’d skip off to calculus, proud of themselves for creating yet another fan.

It was so wonderfully frustrating. I was being book-talked to by seniors, but that has always been my dream. Talking to kids about books is one thing, talking with kids about books is another.

My students have loved creating TBR (to be read) piles for me, which is wonderful. It’s yielded student voice, collaboration, relationship building, book talking, gushing, “shipping” our very favorite characters, and hating the ones who are “literally THE WORST, Ms. Son”. But I think (for me) the best part has been how organic the whole experience has been, and it all stemmed just from me asking what they thought. There is value in being heard.

Don’t believe me? Ask them.

Summer Reading Challenge!

Ahhhhh….the sweet sense of freedom that summer provides is what makes this season such a popular one.  No more pencils, no more books, no more teacher’s….(did you finish the Pink Floyd’s iconic song?)

Another thing that happens is our reading habits change! FREEDOM!!  SO…instead of just giving another booklist with a bunch of titles, how about trying this list?  It has the freedom to read what you want (or even incorporate the “recommended reading” that happens) as well as making it a challenge to complete it.

But hey, whether you get to 10 or finish all twenty, here’s a lemonade salute for what you do accomplish!  It is summertime 🙂 Reading Challenge!

Books in the Digital Age

It’s so interesting to see how books have transformed in the last 30 years.  Some have come and gone, but one thing has remained true – reading will always be essential and important for pleasure and academic pursuit.
With technology becoming more sophisticated, the ways people approach reading has also changed.  Here are a few ways books are transforming in the digital age:

Books as movies – There has always been books to movies (although some of them stray (far) from the original while others remain true) but it goes without saying this is one popular way people are exposed to books.  After digging around, I found a book to movie that’s been around for over 119 years!

Today, people can’t wait to see Ready Player One or one of the many other coming out in 2018.  Is this another way of reading with your eyes?  Not sure, but it goes to show that really well-written books will always tell a good story, whether on screen or in a book.

Capture321Books as audio – Books have been recorded on records (I still have the copy of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream) and they have continued to transform into different formats such as cassette tapes, CD’s, and streaming  downloadable audio.  With the adaptability of audiobooks today (and the quality!!! WOW!) readers can now experience books in a completely different way.  This video has two professors from Sam Houston State (Rose Brock and Karin Perry) discussing the importance and transformational impact audiobooks has (as well as some great suggestions!)

Books as Digital e-books:  These have been around for quite awhile, and when they were first introduced, they came in fast and furious.  Years later, and libraries and individuals continued to purchase them for readers.  Some excellent qualities of e-books is that they have greater maneuverability than traditional books through downloading.  Recently, I’ve seen a change in e-books.  For the first time, I read something called “Kindle in Motion.”  It takes the regular e-book but adds animation and video into the book so the reader has a more sensory experience while reading.  Here’s the current list of Kindle in Motion books  (I read Hell’s Princess in one day and LOVED the animation…even the pages looked old through graphics!)

It’ll be interesting to see where the future takes readers and books.  Wherever it does, the best part of the transformation is creating new readers through curiosity (is the movie better than the book or vice versa?); sustaining current readers through digital evolution; and tantalizing readers through new and innovative (and as yet, unseen) ways.

Another Round of Great K-12 Library Ideas!

The fun never stops with my current position!  I have seen some more amazing things I’d like to share via the blog.  These are also posted on my Twitter feed (@yabooksandmore) of great ideas I’ve seen in libraries I’ve visited.

If there is one thing we need bring into students’ lives, it would be that they live in a world with people and events that make a difference for the better.  This YA librarian promoted this through her awesome display (which can be used for a bulletin board too!)






globeThis savvy elementary librarian went environmental on the library by re-using things teachers didn’t need anymore into some amazing genre signs!  Beautiful!!!  Now, go hit up your teachers for old, unused globes!  (And if you have extra, DM me and I’ll take them)  🙂






Sometimes you don’t need signs to capture attention.  Try wallpapering the backs of the shelves for certain genres like this middle school librarian did with her graphic novels. Plus, it cost little to nothing to do it 🙂  POW!  Ka-BAM!






This elementary librarian decided to do something to showcase books AND gets students involved in the library.  Taking those large envelopes (that have a tie or metal closure on the backs), she got her students to decorate them for the holidays.  They couldn’t open it until they checked them out.  Use it for any holiday and promote student library collaboration 🙂



series tracker
This junior high librarian created and used series lists of books and their order to create shelf markers under the series to help students track and find them easier.  She and her library assistant did these on their own but you don’t have to if you have a Follett Titlewave account.  It contains a series tracker/finder, including have them in numerical order as well as when the newest one will be released.  You’ve got to try it out 🙂

Enjoy these and be inspired, share, and incorporate them!