Another Book I’ve Read…

I know it’s been awhile since I’ve written about something I’ve read.  To be honest, most of what I’ve liked recently has been more for adult readers… …stuff that I wouldn’t necessarily recommend for my middle school students.  Also, I purchased a Kindle at the beginning of this school year and have started downloading just the first chapter (for free!) of many of the books I’m considering for the library.  I’m able to tell, usually from the first chapter, whether or not the book is something that would be both appropriate and interesting for my students.  AND, of course, if I just can’t stop reading after that first chapter, I have the option of buying the Kindle version right then!  (That hasn’t happened yet.)

I purchased a copy of the following book prior to buying my Kindle… …and I’m glad I did.  Some books, you just want to hold and keep.


Countdown, by Deborah Wiles, is set in the early sixties… …the Kennedy years.  So many of us are fascinated with that time.  Interest in that era has been revived recently with the popular TV show, Mad Men, and the bestseller, The Help by Kathryn Stockett.  (By the way, The Help was my first Kindle read and I absolutely loved it!!)

Countdown, written from a preteen’s perspective, is an excellent and entertaining book to familiarize young people about this time in our nation’s history.  While the story is timeless (family conflict, friend troubles, and boy-girl relationships), the setting (October 1962) is an integral part of the drama.  Wiles’ creative use of song lyrics, news photos, and government propaganda (duck and cover ads, etc.) draws the reader into the early sixties.  This is a wonderful book AND the first in a series!  How great is that?  I can’t wait for the next one!

Keep reading and keep learning!

Easy Peasy Parts of Speech

As part of our writing instruction for our 8th graders, we decided a refresher on Parts of Speech might be needed. A little research uncovered two delightful Easy book series on the individual parts of speech. Although I didn’t have these books in our school library, it only took a few minutes to locate them in our wonderful Memphis Public Library‘s online catalog and place them on hold to be picked up that very afternoon. What an incredible resource!


One series by Brian P. Cleary is called the Words Are CATegorical series. ClearyInsideEach book is about a specific part of speech and features Nickelodeon-style cartoons and vivid rhymes that are full of examples of the part of speech depicted.

Another series on parts of speech is by Ruth Heller. HellerCover

HellerInsideHeller’s books are bigger and the pictures are colorful and beautiful. The parts of speech in her books are explained in more detail and some of the examples used are uncommon (e.g. “and it also describes a place – MYSTERIOUS, STAR-SPANGLED, ASTEROIDAL outer space…”).

As you can see, these two series would likely appeal to different types of students. I loved them both and plan to order both complete series to add to our library collection.

In case you’re wondering, the Parts of Speech lesson with our 8th graders was a big hit. The students split into groups, with each group assigned a different Part of Speech. The groups were given time to read through their designated parts of speech books and list examples on huge sheets of paper. A representative from each group presented their part of speech to the rest of the class. The culminating activity was for each student to write a sentence that included all eight of the parts of speech. We had some very creative submissions. Fun!

Keep reading and keep learning!

It’s Decimals…, DEWEY Decimals…


Math?  In the Library?  Hey, if it gets teachers to bring their students to the library, I’ll help teach Math.

The library can be integrated into every subject in the school, but teaching math in the library is actually fairly easy and fun.  Think decimals…, DEWEY decimals.  A “Library Review” Powerpoint presentation, with heavy emphasis on the Dewey Decimal System, leads very well into a Library Scavenger Hunt where students find library books on the shelf, using only the corresponding Dewey Decimal numbers.  Students learn to compare numbers with decimals in the tenths, hundredths, and thousandths places and put them in sequential order.  After this lesson, not only do the students understand decimals better, they are more likely to put the library books back in the proper place.  It’s a WIN-WIN!

Below are a few of the slides in the Decimal Lesson “Library Review” Powerpoint…


Keep reading and keep learning!

It’s Like Christmas in August!

Who doesn’t like to get gifts?  Our library has been happily receiving new books and the promise of new books since the school year started!  What a great way to start the new school year!

First, our school district was awarded the We the People Bookshelf fromHPIM1506 the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).  Every middle and high school in our district received a set of 17 books and a number of bonus items related to the history and culture of our country.  We’re thrilled to have these great resources for our students and teachers!


In addition, Townsend Press has a number of special offers on their website that I eagerly requested and received.  If you aren’t yet familiar with Townsend Press and their ongoing efforts to put affordable books into the hands of all students (especially those with limited access to books), you can thank me later for introducing you to them.  They continue to provide books that our students can relate to and will read. SSMS students LOVE the Bluford Series!  Thank you, Townsend Press, for your generosity!!

Finally, the promise of new books…  Last year, I applied for a grant from The Laura Bush Foundation for America’s Libraries.  I found out this summer that our school was awarded the grant to add more much-needed nonfiction to our collection.  I think my second favorite job task, right behind opening up boxes of new books for our library and students, is selecting and ordering new books for our library and students.  I’m in a really good place right now…

Here’s to a great school year!  Keep reading and keep learning!

Suitcase Exhibit: Dinosaurs!

Our great local museum, The Pink Palace, has a wonderful resource for teachers and librarians:  their suitcase exhibits.  These exhibits of artifacts and hands-on activities are delivered to your school for a two week period.  The sixteen suitcase topics currently available range from the Civil War to Electricity to Fossils to Weather, and yes, include a very popular exhibit on Dinosaurs.

I encourage all librarians in Memphis to consider reserving at least one suitcase exhibit during the next school year.  You’ll be hooked!  The students (and teachers) love the opportunity to explore a topic outside their classroom without having to leave the building!

Here is a short slideshow of pictures from our recent Dinosaur exhibit.  All of our sixth through eighth graders loved it!

Create your own video slideshow at

Keep reading and keep learning!

March Reading Madness: Championship


We’ve wrapped up our March Reading Madness competition.  The entire school voted for their favorite books through the first round, the sweet sixteen, the elite eight, the final four, and we were left with two books:  a non-fiction book about the Memphis Grizzlies NBA team and the fiction bestseller, Twilight.

One might think that this would be no contest and Twilight would easily win.  Even non-readers would recognize its popularity because of the recent success of the movie.  Surprisingly, it was a very close “game”.  Each student voted as they came to library for RIF and the winner was announced at the end of the day.  Yes, the book with the most votes was Twilight but it was a hard fought win.     MRMFinal2

Congratulations to the winning student and teacher who completed the most accurate March Reading Madness brackets!

Keep reading and keep learning!