Library Stile

Ideas & Inspiration for School Libraries

project lit imageMy students and I are joining Project LIT this year! I love giving students a variety of opportunities to connect with books. Project LIT will combine the traditional 1 book focus along with community involvement, service learning and fun activities at our meetings.

Last year on Twitter, I noticed a guy who was making things happen at his school in Nashville. Jarred Amato is an English teacher at Maplewood High School, and he started Project LIT. The goal of Project LIT is ” to inspire children to become lifelong readers by making books more accessible and creating excitement about reading.” For service learning, the focus is on eliminating book deserts. Jarred and his students had a knock-out year, and after seeing their success, I wanted my students to check it out.

I love that my students will have the opportunity to connect with others in and outside of our community and join a larger conversation going on about reading and books. I plan to set up a Padlet wall for any of the middle schools to use so that our students have a place to talk about the books virtually. My students are going to love sharing their thoughts and ideas with others around the country!

For our service learning, we’ll also address book deserts. We already do a huge book drive every fall, but what more can we do to get books to kids in need? My students will love the challenge of examining this issue and will do whatever they can to help.

Finally, our focus will be on reading diverse books. The demographics of my school reflect an 89% Caucasian population, so Project LIT will be another way in which we can focus on and celebrate the wonderful diversity in books.

Nationwide conversation with peers. Service learning. Diversity centered. My students need and will love being part of Project LIT. I look forward to sharing our journey!

Project LIT Middle Grade Selections 2017-2018

Project Lit MG Selections











Once a month, during lunch, students grab their food and head to the library for a book club meeting.  Each grade level has their own time to meet, eat, and share what they’re reading. The central focus is on the middle grade selections from our state book award list. I stock 3-4 copies of each title on our list, and let the students have at it.  It’s a read at your own pace, and really, read what you want kind of book club.

We kick things off at the end of August with a preview of the books. I share book trailers of our state book award nominees, I reveal our visiting author(s) for the school year and book talk those books. As students look around the library at the other 50 or so kids from their grade level who also showed up for book club, inevitably, someone will ask- How are we all going to read the same book?  And the answer to that is- we don’t. And, the reason why is- there’s too many of us. That’s a good problem, right?

Book club books 2016-2017

Our 2016-2017 list.

Lunch Bunch provides a way for students who love to read, and even those who feel half-hearted about it but like the idea, a place to come together, hang out, talk a lot, and then share what they’re reading. We also explore media connected to books. We play book trivia Kahoots, regularly check out Nathan Hale’s You Tube channel, and recently, we watched part of Marc Tyler Nobleman’s documentary Batman + Bill. Rather than all being on the same page, at the same time, it’s very casual, which creates the vibe of community. It’s a place for readers to gather, and all are welcome, anytime.


Book club watching Marc Tyler Nobleman’s documentary.

Are kids expected to even read? Of course. The minimum I expect students to read is 3 books from our state awards list, so that they are eligible to vote in our state book awards election. They can choose to read from either the middle grade or high school list, depending upon their reading tastes. They typically have until mid-April to complete this because we vote in the state election in late April. Each meeting, I remind students of their goal, and students report back on their progress. Each April, I’m also proud to submit around 150 votes from my school.


A sample of the reviews in our catalog.

When a student finishes a book on our list, I simply ask they review it in our library’s catalog, as a way to help other students in our school get book recommendations. I keep a resource list of our state award books in our Destiny Library Catalog, so I can easily click through each book and keep track of who is reviewing. When students read from our list, they also usually find a way to tie this read into their ELA classroom reading requirements. Our informal book club never leaves students without great book ideas, and their reading helps fulfill classroom objectives. Double score! Here’s a sample of the flier students get for our book club.

I’ve also had students post review to our Google Site. I scrapped that because it wasn’t being accessed by the school community. Posting the catalog has helped my book club have a greater impact. This year, we may add a Book Club Padlet. This would be easy for me to share with the entire to school to view. I am always trying new ways for my students to share and make recommendations to others.

Lunch Bunch serves as the core group of students I see on a regular basis, so they are my people, and I treat them accordingly. They are always the first to know about any event going on in the library. They will always know firsthand who our author visitors will be. They get first dibs on the new books that arrive, and they get to preview the book fair the day before it’s open, and as a result, they help spread the amazing things happening in our library via word of mouth.


Courtney Stevens spoke to the book club in May 2017.

Lunch Bunch has a few special traditions. First, they get their own author visit each year. It’s like backstage access, if you will. I reserve the whole library just for this time for them and the author. Because they are among their peers, who share similar interests and passions, as opposed to being in the mix of the entire grade level or student body, the questions that get asked of the author are some of the most knock-your-socks-off questions you’ve ever heard, which allows the author to go a little deeper than they normally would because the audience can handle it. I love bringing in authors to speak to the whole student body, but I especially love it when it’s a book club only visit.

We indulge a little from time to time, too.  It’s lunch bunch, after all, so eating is one of our core principles. In December, we decorate cookies. I am not sure how this holiday tradition made it into our club, but they all love it. A local grocer gives me a deal on fresh baked sugar cookies, and the students bring icing and sprinkles. We have donuts as our allergy friendly treat. I work with students who can’t have either, and I bring in whatever it is they can have. For our final meeting, we make ice cream sundaes. I set up a station with ice cream, chocolate syrup, whipped cream, sprinkles, and cherries. This aspect gets trickier to navigate each year with new district policies, and it’s an aspect that can go, if need be. We’ll be sad to see our 2 treats per year go, but we’re a creative bunch, so we’ll figure it out.

Amidst all the fun, the thing I’m most proud of is I have kids who also desire to share the


This is what 3,000 donated books looks like!

love of reading. Therefore, we host a book drive at our school in order to benefit a charity of our choice. Nashville is fortunate to have Book ‘Em, which is a non-profit committed to getting books in the hands of children in our area. Book ‘Em has been our pick for many years. The school-wide book drive is held each year during our annual book fair. Students are encouraged to bring gently used books from home, or they can purchase a book from the fair to donate. The Lunch Bunch helps come up with the rewards students get for donating books, which can be anything from a certain amount of school cash, to what the top grade level wins, to what silly, but hilarious, stunt faculty will do if we meet our goal.


Faculty members post pie in the face since we met our book drive goal. 

We always meet our goal and then some. If I had to guess, my students have given approximately 10,000 books over the past decade.

My top 10 tips for a lunch bunch book club:

  1. Take attendance. I keep a spreadsheet of book club attendance. I print it out each meeting, and students check off their name. I update the spreadsheet after each meeting.
  2. Have extras supplies on hand. I have a basket of eating utensils, napkins, which cuts down on the back and forth to the cafeteria to pick up said forgotten items. Lunch is short. We don’t have time to waste.
  3. Table washers. Always enlist a few students to hang back and help wipe tables. Give them a late pass to class.
  4. Garbage management. Get a large garbage can from the cafeteria. Don’t let them toss their lunch in your library trash cans. Trust me on this one.
  5. Reward them for participating. We have school cash, aka tickets, and I give a ticket for attending, and I give 5 for each review they post.
  6. Talk time is important. I let them chat about whatever and eat for the first 10 minutes. Then, we meet for the remaining 20.
  7. Empower them. Let a couple of eager students plan a meeting. We’ve had some great book trivia Kahoots and games of Balderdash planned by students.
  8. Involve them. They are my go-to students when it comes time for the author visit. I enlist them to meet the author at the front office and escort him/her to the library. They are always called upon during author presentation q&a time.
  9. Fangirl with them. The book club members were huge Hamilton fans last year. We planned a Hamilton celebration after school one day. We had a sing-a-long, performances, and trivia. Related to our middle grade state book awards list? Well, no. But, this was important to them.
  10. Recognize them. During our end of the year student honors program, I give each participant a certificate, and I brag on them in front of their families and the student body for their accomplishments for growing as readers and for their service in giving and sharing their love of reading.

I am proud of this reading community. We have a pretty cool thing going on. If you find a way to create a casual community of readers in your school, I would encourage you to give it a shot. The readers will come to you, and this will not only help you get to know a core group of the coolest students in your building, but this will help you have your fingers on the pulse of the interests and preferences of readers.


I did this activity with my students following Mr. Schu’s visit to our school. It is 100% inspired by Mr. Schu and his slideshow of book talks. Also, I book talk in this format constantly, where I have a slide with the book on the screen as I share the book. My students read a lot, so why not have them share a book in this way? We have Google Apps for Education (GAFE) accounts at my school, so we have a great set of tech tools at the ready.

My students used Google Slides to access an assignment I posted in Google Classroom (Yes, I have all of the students in Google Classroom by reading teacher. I highly recommend it). After viewing a short slideshow of book talks I created, and after we talked about the important components of a book talk slide, I asked my students to create their own slide. They shared it with me, and then, I compiled the slides into a slideshow of student book recommendations. This is fun for students because it allows them to be creative, to show ownership of their learning, and share! This activity was a big hit, and I will definitely use this on a regular basis.

Here’s the template I gave them:

Book Talk Slide Template

Items needed:

  • Class set of computers, or students may use a personal device
  • A slideshow of great books you’ve previously created
  • A template of a book talk slide
  • 1 class period (My middle schoolers completed this easily in about 30 minutes or less.)


  • Create an assignment in Google Classroom (*I have each reading class already part of a Library Google Classroom).
    • If you do not have the students set-up in Google Classroom, you can totally still do this. Just have students share/ send their slide to you. They should give you editing capabilities if sharing via Google.
  • Book talk several books yourself with an accompanying slideshow. Ask students along the way to notice the various components of the each slide.
  • Create a template slide to show students the components of a Book Talk slide
    • TITLE-  font no larger than 30 pt., italicized.
    • AUTHOR- font no larger than 24 pt.
    • COVER IMAGE- use the library catalog, or if you’re comfortable, Google Images, or whatever you prefer
      • Have students include a small text box under the image to provide the name of the website where they found the image.
    • BOOK HOOK (3-5 sentences that spark interest in the book without giving anything away. No spoilers! Emphasize qualities of good writing. If students are having trouble getting started, have them begin with a “what if” statement.  Ex: What if you had to flee your home at a moment’s notice and all you’ve ever known, and you are captured and sent to a work camp in Siberia?
    • RECOMMENDED BY: My students use the name they go by, which should also include their last name.
    • Optional items to consider: genre, location in the library
  • Allow students to be creative with background, colors, fonts. Yes, you will end up with a slide that has pizza cat as the background for a book that has nothing to do with pizza or cats. Remind students that the goal is to represent the book they’re excited for others to read and the graphics should contribute positively and not be distracting. Even so, you’ll still get a pizza cat.
  • Sharing
    • If you created an assignment in Google Classroom, when a student “Turns In” the assignment, it will attach their slide. You can then find the slides from that class in your Drive.
    • If you are not using Google Classroom, but are still using Google (GAFE) have students share the slide with you, giving you editing permissions. You will locate these in your Drive- shared with me.
    • Here are a few samples from my students.
  • Evaluate
    • I used a checkbric to assess the following:
      • All components are represented: Title, Author, recommended by, image, and hook.
      • Hook sparks interest in the book without giving away the story.
      • Graphics complement the book (i.e.- no pizza cat)
  • Creating a slideshow of students book share slides
    • I had to copy each submitted/ shared slide and paste it into 1 presentation.
    • I could have created a presentation and then tweaked the sharing settings to allow anyone with the link to access and edit, which would have allowed the students to paste their slide directly into this presentation. However, this was a step too advanced for my students.
  • Post their slideshow!
    • I shared their show in Google Classroom, and I will rotate different classes’ slideshows on the library tv.

I tied this activity to one of our standards, which is the same across grades 6-8 in ELA in my district, which is: By the end of the year, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poems, in the grades 6-8 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range. 

My students did a fantastic job, and they put time and care into their work. I’ll be using and sharing many of their book talk slides for years to come!

View Book Talk with Google Slides in lesson plan format. 



summer-reading-logo-clear-background1Summer reading is optional for my district, which means that teachers cannot require students to read anything over the summer. I take that to mean I can strongly recommend they read, so I create a suggested summer reading list each year, and no, it doesn’t include reading anything published before my students were born. It’s my goal to assemble an exciting list with a wide variety of current reads that students would enjoy reading on their summer vacation.

First, I add titles that were popular during the previous school year. Having these on the list helps carry on the momentum and excitement that was created surrounding these particular books. They represent books I book talked (or Mr. Schu book talked when he came), or books written by our author visitors, or they were in our Top Ten most checked out list. If students didn’t have a chance to get their hands on the popular picks, then now’s the time.

My book club students enjoy helping give these genres unique names. So, we have a genre called, “Live, Love, Laugh, Be Inspired, which beats calling it, “Realistic Fiction.” I’ll never forget the year we had “A Good Cry” as a category on our list. Nothing says summer like a good cry! But, that’s what’s great! The students pitch in, they own it, and I am totally fine with it. Here are a few that fall under “Live, Love, Laugh, Be Inspired.”

Then, I add titles that give students a taste of the coming school year. I include books by next year’s visiting authors. I like the idea of students having the extra time to discover these books, outside of a classroom setting, which allows them to make their own connections to the author’s work. This always builds a grassroots following before our guest ever walks in the door.

I also included some books by authors who have books releasing during the summer. My students love books about animals, and author Kristin O’Donnell Tubb has visited our school previously, so I wanted them to have A Dog Like Daisy on their radar. Daisy will find a home in the hearts of readers at my school! Alan Gratz visited a couple of years ago, and his books have been staked out in our Top Ten Titles list ever since, and I knew they’d want to know about Refugee. I will start the year book talking both of these, and with some already getting their hands on these over the summer, I better have plenty of copies on hand in August, as word of mouth recommendations for great reads travels at light speed at my school.


vsba logoThe final component of my suggested summer reading list is our Volunteer State Book Award middle grade nominee list. A variety of genres are represented, and it’s a great mix of current reads. My Lunch Bunch Book Club focuses on these books, and our district’s middle school Battle of the Books uses titles from this list, so it really gives students who are interested in participating an opportunity to get a head’s start. Plus, these are solid choices that I direct all students to all year long. These will be book talked and shared widely throughout the coming school year. Any student who reads a minimum of 3 nominees is eligible to vote in the state book award election, so the inclusion of this list provides additional access and opportunity for students to participate in our VSBA program.

Last year, I asked surveyed students, and asked who read over the summer.  For it to be optional to read, it was great to see that 70.1% of my students chose to read. Our student population was 925 last year, so I take that as a win! I will continue to make this little suggested summer reading list, and hope that it continues to encourage my students to read over the summer, and one thing’s for sure, whether anyone reads from the list or not, my students and I will continue to come up with ridiculous genre labels, and for that reason alone, it’s worth a look.


Categories: Read

This was not your ordinary day of professional development. There were no forlorn faces with glazed eyes suffering through the day, a day of their lives they’d never get back. I’ve sat through my share of those professional development days in my 17 years in education. Designed to inspire and ignite, the Reading Summit was nothing short of magic with lots of smiles, laughter, and happiness to go around! I left with more energy, excitement, and ideas, which will make for a great 2017-2018 school year!

Create cool ways for students to share what they’re reading


I enjoyed learning from amazing ELA teacher Katherine Sokolowski!

  • Students take a selfie with the book they’re reading and post it to a Padlet. Many will look at me like I’ve lost my mind when I tell them this is what we’re doing. “Did she say selfie?” This has lots of possibilities. I can have them share just within a single class, within a grade level, or school-wide.
  • Students share a book that best represents them. It’s important that kids see themselves in the books they’re reading. I am thinking about doing this at the beginning of the year as a way for students to introduce themselves. Students post to a class Padlet.
  • Create a shared Padlet between ELA classes. I am doing Project LIT this year, which is a book club, and kids from all across the country are participating. I will be connecting my Project LIT book club with a book club in another state, and creating a Padlet which allows the students to share thoughts, ideas about the common book we’re reading. It’s like reading pen pals!

With Padlet, I’m a big fan of moderating the posts. It only takes me a few minutes to browse the pending posts and approve them.

Create a culture of reading


Colby Sharp and his principal, Sue Haney, shared loads of ideas for creating a culture of reading.

  • Give teachers books! I’m constantly giving kids books. They borrow arc’s I receive. I have lots of giveaways. I’ve even ordered books and had them shipped to students because they’ve been so excited about a certain book. I love giving my students books! But, I haven’t been great about giving books to the staff. I love how Principal Sue Haney shared how she asks the staff for a list of books they’d like to read and then gives them a book from their list. What a cool idea!


  • Little free library. Certainly not a new idea, but one I’d yet to entertain. My book club will 100% be all over sponsoring this. I like the idea of students having access to this especially during the summer. Can ours have fur like this?
  • IMG_4938

    Trippy newspaper stand I saw in Nashville.

    Celebrate reading holidays. This year, we’ll be participating in Global Read Aloud in conjunction with our Project LIT book club. I’m going to ask my Lunch Bunch book club to select some book birthdays and plan special events. We’re also going to get in our the fun of Poem in Your Pocket day. I also plan to schedule some Skypes for World Read Aloud Day.

Educate parents on the importance of independent reading

How do families encourage independent reading at home? I work in a community where the kids are shuffled from one practice, lesson, private coaching session, travel sport to the next. I had a parent comment recently, “My daughter doesn’t have time to read.” And, there it is. I’m totally guilty of assuming that because my students live in a community with excellent, easy access to books that their families take advantage of it. I’m realizing more and more that I have a lot of students who can read, but choose not to, because it doesn’t fit into their over scheduled lives.


I will be working on sharing information with families about creating a culture of independent reading in their homes.

Share books all the time

You can’t go to a Reading Summit and not be inspired by Mr. Schu and his passion for sharing books. It’s totally contagious. I think about the variety of ways I already share books, and then I challenge myself to think of even more ways to spread the love of books among students and staff. Watch out, kids, I’ll be coming at ya with even more book love!

For more takeaways, check out the Padlet I created, and consider registering for a Scholastic Reading Summit!


Last year, I had the opportunity to have a weekly Makerspace club. I’ll be honest. I had no idea what I was doing, but I will jump in with both feet and try anything. It went well, and I learned a lot along the way. I’ve recently had a couple of new librarians reach out and ask about how to start a club, so I thought I’d share how mine worked.

We offered stations each week, and the students would either choose a station or they’d continue working on something they’d previously started. Our stations involved 2 crafts and then 2 tech activities. We eventually scaled that back to 1 of each because more and more students chose to continue working on their project from the previous week. We had about 60 kids in our club.


Having a library assistant who is an admitted craft supply hoarder is a plus when starting a Makerspace. She was moving and didn’t have room for her supplies at the new house. She emptied her hoard and brought it to school where we sorted through it and organized it into small, labeled bins. You might not have the library assistant craft hoarder, but these are things that families could easily donate.

Also, if you are the librarian, I bet you have some weeded books or books damaged beyond repair. Save those! Unless you have some rule that says you have to do something specific with those, then save those for book page projects. Follow our Books and Crafts Pinterest board to see all of the ideas we have.

Makerspace Inventory: 

popsicle sticks

pom pom balls- all sizes

yarn, string

cheap wooden photo frames

craft glue- glue sticks, and liquid glue

mini glue guns and glue sticks


colored pencils, markers

pipe cleaners

scrapbooking paper


googly eyes

beads, sequins

jewelry supplies

modeling clay

stamps, stamp pads

Other (non-craft) supplies:


Books or websites bookmarked on origami, calligraphy, paper airplanes, sewing

Adult coloring pages (If you have a poster machine, you can enlarge the pages so that multiple kids can work on this together.)

Jigsaw puzzles


The PTO bought a MakerBot Replicator + 3D printer. A parent thought this was so cool that he donated some money for the filament, and then his company matched his donation. I didn’t ask for this, but he saw a write-up I’d shared about our new printer, and his son is a library helper and had already had a chance to use the printer, and apparently, he couldn’t stop talking about it at home. Score!

There were kids who worked on designs week after week until they were ready to print. We use SketchUp because our county has a license for it.

I also reserved a cart of Chrome Books each week for those working on coding. These students were largely self directed because they have some prior coding experience. However, they were actively teaching others in the club who were interested in learning.

Next year, I plan to incorporate robotics and work on adding more tech opportunities.

Students Supplied

A few students wanted to be in the Makerspace Club, but they wanted to work on their own projects week after week. They provided their own supplies.

One student only wanted to draw manga characters. She used her phone to pull up images of characters she likes and practiced drawing them every week. Another student wanted to learn how to knit. She brought her own yarn, knitting needles, and a pattern. She worked on knitting a scarf. Eventually, 2 more students joined her because they thought it was cool, and she started teaching them!

Makerspace Club in action

Students come in the library and pick up their unfinished projects to continue working, or they sit at one of the new craft project stations. Those working in tech, go to the tech station and are using Chrome Books. I have the attendance roster on the library front desk, and students check off their name as they arrive.

Our craft projects this year included: book page crafts (flower, hedgehog, etc.), decoupage picture frame, string art (we nailed nails in board in patterns and students wrapped string around the nails), cross stitch ornaments, jewelry, modeling clay.

Student supplied stations included: coloring, drawing, knitting, origami, calligraphy

Non-craft stations: Legos, jigsaw puzzles

Students are largely self-directed for the next 45 minutes. My library assistant and I visit each station multiple times to check progress, to help out with questions, etc. But, we are really not instructing or giving step-by-step directions. This is their time to learn, explore, and figure things out. Of course, we help further as needed, but this time is largely student directed.

It’s not quiet. There’s a healthy level of chatter, laughter as they work together. It’s messy.  They stop when our timer goes off and start the clean-up process, which takes about 10 minutes. It’s productive. Each week, it’s cool to see the progress being made on the various projects. The students are so proud when you notice the improvements or changes they’ve made.

Display and Share

If you have room in the library, create a display of items made in Makerspace so other students and faculty can see the results. Share photos and information through a variety of avenues so that the administration, PTO, and parents can see all of the exciting things going on each week. I made Vines each week and posted to our school’s social media.



Fidget spinners were all the rage, so we used the 3D printer to make our own. We remixed a file on Thingiverse and experimented with the bearings.


Someone will take the modeling clay and make poop. It’s middle school.










Categories: Make

Planning an author visit? It’s worth every extra second of your day to put this magical experience together for your students and your school. My colleague, Scot Smith, the librarian at Robertsville Middle School in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and I have hosted numerous authors over the years, and we may have missed our callings as event planners. We created an author visit checklist to help librarians and educators stay organized and hit all the details necessary to host a successful event. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions. Happy planning!

PDF: Author Visit Checklist

fullsizeoutput_2bc5I believe the library is the heart of the school. It’s not the back of the knee, an ear lobe, or another extremity. It’s the pulse and the lifeblood of the school. I am continually searching for inspiration to make my school library program stronger, propelling it into the future, creating longevity, and impacting students for a lifetime.

Here’s what I know. As a librarian, I have the power to impact the reading attitudes, tastes, and abilities of each student in my building. As a librarian, I have the power to be a go-to person in my building, a team player, a key player. As a librarian, I am willing to try new things, take on new challenges, so that I can grow. As a librarian, I work to do what is best for my students and my school.

I have my own style that I’ve developed after 17 years in education, which makes my library the community that it is. Library Stile is a way for me to share my ideas and experiences and to lend my voice to the conversation on the importance of school libraries, of reading, and connecting kids with books. I look forward to sharing my ideas with you and continuing to learn from all of the amazing school librarians and educators out there. I am a better librarian because of countless numbers of you who inspire me daily.