Stacked in Our Favor

Thoughts about libraries, education, children's literature, writing, art and being connected

Monday, December 7, 2015

Library Catalogs

It's been a while since I set my thoughts down on this blog. Now seems like the perfect time to revive this platform. 

This year I'm offering an opportunity for Professional Development for my colleagues. We will be looking deeper at the myriad free resources available through the library and digital sources. We will start with familiarizing ourselves with our library catalogs and catalogs beyond. So in thinking about the many different catalogs we can use I decided that I would should share them widely. 

1. The first catalog is our school library catalog. Currently that is available only on campus so I won't provide a link here. Starting locally is the way to go. 

2. CWMARS is our regional consortium. Their catalog can be found at: 

This is where we can go to see what is in our local library's collection or see about holdings in the region. If one of the member libraries has the book we can order it through Inter Library Loan (ILL for those in the know.) If you are not from Central Massachusetts check your resources. More than likely you have the same kind of system through your local area. 

3. In Massachusetts there is a digital archive of historical photographs from Massachusetts towns called Digital Commonwealth. I use this resource each year when Third Grade does their study of local history. We look at these photos to see what in our town is the same and what is different. We examine a variety of aspects of everyday life such as clothing, transportation, and architecture. Look up your town and prepare to be amazed.

4. The New York Public Library has an extensive digital collection which is broken down into topics. With almost 850,000 items, this sorting into collections is a helpful way to make searching more manageable.

5. The International Children's Digital Catalog features digitized children's books in many different languages. Click on the Read Books! button in the middle of the page to get to the search interface. You can search by length of book, age, language, subject and even color of cover.

6. From the National Archives Experience comes the Digital Vaults. You can search through the wide selection of primary source materials and even curate your own collection.

These are some of my most popular catalogs. I hope you will enjoy trying them. 

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Reading in public

For every profession there are clich├ęs. Librarians are no exception. What annoys librarians? Buns and shushing noises are laughable. What really gets under our skin is when people say “It must be nice to be able to read all day.” They usually say it in a tone of voice that lets us know that they are at once envious and looking down on our profession.

We laugh sardonically about how nice it would be to be able to get some of our required reading done during our working hours. (As a school librarian I have to wonder what working hours really means, but that is another story. One that my teacher friends can write as well as I can.) When do we get our reading done? At home, in the evening, on the weekend, during those summer “vacations”, waiting for the doctor, dentist, child’s soccer/baseball/football/dance/swim/etc. practice. On the bus/train/plane/etc. Listening to some of them via books on tape during our commutes. Waiting for the laundry. I’ve even been known to sneak a few pages in during a wait at the grocery story or department store. Especially during the long Christmas lines.

We do our reading by stealth, trying to impose on no one. Cramming as much work in while on location and then indulging our guilty pleasure in the dark recesses of privacy. Reading is our lurid secret.

And, did I mention that since I became a school librarian I’ve read only a handful of novels aimed at adults? I’m mostly in the middle grade trenches. I read these, even the types I dislike, so that I can find the perfect match for my students. Sometimes it is hard to plow through them.

And this was my pattern until a few weeks ago when I saw an article by Stephen Krashen. (see below if you would like more information.) I admire his work. In fact, I began using Sustained Silent Reading as a foundation for my classes after reading a number of his posts some years ago. This article jogged me. The one thing I wasn’t doing was reading during SSR. I was using SSR as the opportunity to take care of book check out. So I started sitting in the midst of my students, cheek-and-jowl and reading. It was refreshing. But to be honest, I felt like I was going to get in trouble for not doing my work. I felt like I was goofing off. Regardless, I do find that much more reading goes on when I am in the middle of the class.

The absolute kicker happened on Friday. It was my lunchtime. I don’t often eat lunch during this time, I use it to change gears and ready myself for the afternoon. Friday, however, I was dying to know how the chapter I had been reading ended. I thought I’d give myself a few minutes to find out. A student walked into the library, one of our youngest, an said in sheer innocence

“Oh, Ms. Shoup! You read too?”

I was shocked. I read books to this student all the time. I thought it was obvious.

She knew the difference. Adults read to children, but that doesn’t mean they read themselves.

Librarians need to come out of the dark places where we read and be caught in the act.  I need to stop worrying about whether someone thinks I’m taking it easy and start acting on the knowledge that being a visible reader is the most effective advertisement for reading.

Von Sprecken, D. and Krashen, S. 1998. Do students read during sustained silent reading? California Read 32(1): 11-13.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Making Book Trailers

This summer I am taking a course through Simmons in creating book trailers. I am learning about tools that are new to me, considering what to include and what to leave out and am newly impressed with how music changes the tone of a video. 

Here is a first try. I am hoping to join with students to make book trailers for the 2014 - 2015 nominees for the Massachusetts Children's Book Awards. 
Making book trailers is fun and rewarding. It's also time consuming. While I hope to create plenty of my own, enlisting students to make them seems like a good idea. 


Saturday, December 28, 2013

Setting: Creating a Sense of Place in Your Novel

The group of young novelists I have been working with this year have been working independently. It's been amazing to see their enthusiasm. Yet there is never enough time to give all the attention I would like to each novelist, so I decided to create a series of videos for them. Here is the first one - Setting. This is also my Show Me tutorial.

Sunday, June 30, 2013


A couple of years ago I had a plan to separate my content into distinctly themed blogs. I had so many ideas and I dreamed big. It turned out, however, that at the same time I inherited some major projects and my change in responsibilities broadened my focus. At this time, posting all school library and kid lit posts to just one blog makes more sense. I will be closing down Picture Book Inspirations and keeping Purple Glasses Club. A few posts, like the one below, will be migrated to this blog. 

Origami Angel (originally posted March 19, 2013 to Picture Book Inspirations)

For years I have been doing origami as part of my story time routine. The kids love and so do I. When I switched schools at the beginning of the school year and met students who I hadn’t seen in years, the first sentence most of them said to me included the word origami.

I wrote an article, Origami as a Teaching Tool in the Elementary Library, a few years back that was published in Library Media Connection in May 2009. It detailed how I use origami in my library program.

With all the push for time on learning I constantly reevaluate what I am doing. For a while I practically cut origami out of my program. After a hiatus I put origami back in…it just made sense. Origami is a great motivator and everything is so much better when students have something to work towards. Still, I started wondering whether I should pre-fold the prizes. Then along came a couple of young boys who totally changed the way I saw the value of origami.

Last Tuesday I was a little discouraged. I needed a little inspiration. I went to pick up my first grade class and a boy handed me a trio of cat puppets.

“See I made these last night. I watched how you made them” he said.

I looked at them in amazement. They were folded almost the same way I folded mine. When I tried to return them, he said “No, those are for you. I have a lot more at home.”

I treasure them.

As if that wasn’t motivation enough for me, later that day I folded a pig puppet for second graders. At the circulation desk a boy told me that he was making pigs at home. His teacher is a great fan of pigs. Another student asked how he learned to do that.

“Oh, I watch Ms. Shoup to learn how. Then I go home and try changing it to make my own things” he said off handedly.

At the beginning of the next day I see his teacher holding an intricate pig mask with an elaborate headdress. The boy was standing beside her pointing up at the mask. There were smiles all around.

The kids are learning all about geometry. Not to worry, I find ways to integrate origami as part of the learning process. I usually make them “pay for” the folds with recalling facts from something we read.

What does this have to do with picture books? When I read a picture book, I try to find an origami that goes with the picture book. The origami is an enticement to sit still, to focus on the story and recall details. The child who wins the origami at the end of class will remember the story as long as they have the prize. This extends the fun far past the moment they leave the room.

It extends mine when I see them clutching their prizes as the leave the school building at the end of the day or hear tales of students who still have them years later. 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

MotherReader: 150 Ways to Give a Book

Many of us are in the process of doing holiday shopping. Mother Reader has made a list of 150 ways to Give a Book. I know that I have a whole new set of gift giving options.

MotherReader: 150 Ways to Give a Book: For all of your holiday shopping needs, here are 150 Ways to Give a Book , grouped by (approximate) age. They are all MotherReader-approved ...

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

NaNo's Eve

I haven't been posting on any of my blogs lately. I've been completely focused on the work of reconfiguration of schools, serving a wider age range of students and catching up on middle grade reading. Revamping a library to serve a new range of students is certainly time consuming, but very exciting at the same time. 

My writing has been mostly of the school related sort. I was delighted to see that one of the goals of my new school is to foster the writing skills of our students. So I suggested that NaNoWriMo would be a perfect project to have our students not only writing, but also excited about writing. Don't know about NaNoWriMo? It's National Novel Writing Month. If you don't already know this, NaNoWriMo has a curriculum of lessons that align with the Common Core. Sweet. 

I decided to have students have the option to sign up for NaNoWriMo or be critics. Before I left school today there were 142 students signed up and ready to write. 

To figure out word count for each student I assigned them a 10 minute writing test. They wrote story for 10 minutes. Then I developed a formula to calculate the number of words they could write during their library block during the month of November. Lastly, I conferenced with them and allowed them to choose to set their word count higher, lower or exactly the same. I thought it was interesting to note that most students elected to set it higher. 

Tomorrow we start writing our novels. It's going to be a crazy ride. Not only will I be writing my own novel, but I will be cheerleading 142 students as they write their novels. Coordinating extra writing time   before school, during recess and lunch and providing incentives. How I'll juggle it all, I don't know yet. 

As if that isn't enough, I've signed up for PiBoIdMo as well. 

I'm excited for this month. The writing samples students have shared with me are inspiring. I can't wait to see how it will all unfold. 

So tonight is NaNo's Eve and tomorrow I'll wake early to jot down a few words before I have to head off to school. 

Hoping your writing is sweet!