Reading Challenges

J. Kaye of the Home Girl’s Book Blog has issued the 2010 Support Your Local Library Reading Challenge.  The rules of participation are simple:

1. Anyone can join. You don’t need a blog to participate.

–Non-Bloggers: Post your list of books in the comment section of the wrap-up post. To learn how to sign up without having a blog, click here.

2. There are four levels:

–The Mini – Check out and read 25 library books.

–Just My Size – Check out and read 50 library books.

–Stepping It Up – Check out and read 75 library books.

–Super Size Me – Check out and read 100 library books.

(Aim high. As long as you read 25 by the end of 2010, you are a winner.)

3. Audio, Re-reads, eBooks, YA, Young Reader – any book as long as it is checked out from the library count. Checked out like with a library card, not purchased at a library sale.

4. No need to list your books in advance. You may select books as you go. Even if you list them now, you can change the list if needed.

5. Crossovers from other reading challenges count.

6. Challenge begins January 1st thru December, 2010.

7. When you sign up under Mr. Linky, put the direct link to your post where your library books will be listed. Include the URL to this post so that other viewers can find this fun challenge. If you’d prefer to put your list in the sidebar of your blog, please leave your viewers the link to the sign up page. Again, so viewers can join the challenge too.

****You do NOT need to review your books. That is optional.****

(excerpted from the Home Girl’s Book Blog)

What a great way to promote your library and resources!  Imagine using this as a contest in your own library.  Create fliers with the challenge’s image and post throughout your school.  This would be a great advocacy tool to share with your school community.

J. Kaye has other reading challenges listed on the website.  Encourage your students to choose one or more of them.


Downsizing, or Can’t I Just Keep Them All?

To Weed, or Not to Weed:  Is that really the question?

As a library media specialist, I make weeding decisions: books that are in poor condition, outdated, contain inaccurate information (can you say “Pluto”?), or that haven’t been checked out in years – these must go to make room for new books. However, making decisions about books to weed from my personal collection? Not as easy.

This Christmas, my husband and I decided to gift the family with a new living room. We literally sold all the furniture we had (including a three piece wall unit with 10 bookshelves) to make room for a new, and might I say, much more inviting living space. I love the spacious, uncluttered look of the room, but it required me to box up hundreds of books and begin making decisions.

The first round through my weeding, I was able to let go of  five boxes of books – and I took them almost immediately to Goodwill so that I wouldn’t have time to change my mind.

In Search of Weeding Criteria

I love books on organizing and clutter control.  None of those went to Goodwill, and some are currently stuffed into boxes with the hundreds of other books with which I couldn’t bear to part.  The others? (Clearing throat here.)  They have their own shelf on one of the six bookcases downstairs.  Ironically, that shelf cannot now be accessed without moving the seven boxes of books that joined the party from the living room.

So, this weekend I decided to investigate the ebooks our public library offered and found The Clutter Cure. In it  author Judi Culbertson shares “The Top Ten Reasons to Let a Book Go”:

“1. You couldn’t get into it…

2. You enjoyed the book, but you know you’ll never read it again…

3. Your interests have changed…

4. The information is outdated…

5. The book is attractive but too general…

6. You mistakenly think the book is valuable…

7. The book is falling apart physically…

8. You don’t have room to display your books without looking cluttered…

9. The best thing about the book is that it is inscribed to you…

10. You don’t love it.”

~p. 52-53

Although this is great advice, it didn’t turn on any light bulbs.  I had already used quite a bit of these strategies in the first round of  my weeding process.

Still Looking….

That’s why I was pleased to find the N.Y. Times article “Books You Can Live Without” this morning.  Authors Francine Prose, Billy Collins, David Matthews, and  Jane Smiley share their criteria for weeding their personal libraries.   These authors have inspired me to march myself downstairs and get to work.

However, in all fairness, two other authors were interviewed for the article.  Their stories must be heard, but I cannot focus on them, or all is lost.

Author Joshua Ferris’s personal philosophy about books:  “Get rid of a book? No way. Every one is a brick keeping the building standing. Books are my life. I leave and come back, and the books I find there tell me I’m home.”

The other author interviewed for the article, Chang-rae Lee, says, ”  Although periodically I have fits of discarding all sorts of sentimental flotsam like old note cards and photographs and perfectly decent dress socks, I can’t bring myself to get rid of even a book I dislike, perhaps because I read “Fahrenheit 451” at an impressionable age. Still, there are too many books in our house, a good number of them not chosen but sent or given to me, and so here’s some I’d cull…”

Then Lee proceeds to share the criteria he would use if he were to pare down his personal library.  Sigh….

I’ve Put It Off Long Enough

I could go downstairs, shove those boxes of books over, and look to see what advice my organizing and decluttering books offer on weeding personal libraries.  But that would just be delaying the inevitable.

As one of my favorite television hosts says, “I’m going in, people!” (Neicy Nash, Clean House)


Because every bibliophile wants their books to have good homes, I’m going to sponsor a contest.  The prize?  A book (of your choice from ten that I will list) shipped free to your home.  (Sorry, U.S. residents only.)

Complete this form by midnight EST, December 30, 2009 to be entered into the contest.  The winner will be announced on the blog on December 31, 2009.

If I Were a Book…..

I suppose I have been reading them (books) rather than keeping up with my Google Reader, so just found these quizzes today. My result from the original Book Quiz:

You’re Catch-22!

by Joseph Heller

Incredibly witty and funny, you have a taste for irony in all that you
see. It seems that life has put you in perpetually untenable situations, and your sense
of humor is all that gets you through them. These experiences have also made you an
ardent pacifist, though you present your message with tongue sewn into cheek. You
could coin a phrase that replaces the word “paradox” for millions of

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

There’s also a Book Quiz II you can take, but I’ll spare you reading more about me. Instead,tell me, what book are YOU?

The Great Scavenger Hunt Contest

Some days you can spend hours surfing the ‘net and find nothing of value to share with others, but then other days you can’t believe your luck!  Today is such a day.

The Great Scavenger Hunt Contest is a FREE reading promotion contest open to public and school libraries.  Author Kay Cassidy has created a site worthy of your time to explore.  Her premise:

“I know it’s hard being a librarian in a rough economy. You’re strapped for time and cash, but still want to create fun programs to keep your kids and teens reading week after week. Not because they have to, but because they want to.

The Great Scavenger Hunt ContestTM is here to help you do just that.”

According to the site, over 150 authors for tweens and teens have created sheets on individual books  with ten trivia questions and a personalized message (see the example for Carrie Ryan’s The Forest of Hands and Teeth).

The available books cover the gamut of genres.  According to the site:

“If you’ve been looking for a way to get kids reading a variety of books, look no further. You’ll find nearly every kind of book you can imagine: fantasies, historicals, mysteries, romantic comedies, sweeping literary novels… you name it. The Great Scavenger Hunt ContestTM authors include many New York Times bestselling authors and winners or finalists of the Newbery Medal, Printz Award, National Book Award and Edgar Award. There truly is something for every reader.”

The books have been divided into two lists:  Middle Grades/Tweens and Young Adult.   You can see the trivia sheets for each book without registering, but to get the answers, you’ll need to register.

You will find a list of librarian resources, including a ready to print promotional flyer for the contest (don’t you love it when things are easy?), easy administration tools (printable checklists by author and by title), and tips and tricks.

B.O.W. and W.O.W. Are Coming!

As we prepare to begin the 2009-2010 school year, I am thrilled to hear that our administration wants to highlight our literacy initiatives.  We’ve had a successful voluntary reading program in place now for eight years and added several other programs in the last few years.

Reading Paws

paws in the snow

To kick off our Sustained Silent Reading (SSR) program three years ago, the former administration sponsored a contest to name it.  The winning entry was “Reading Paws” – a play on words since our mascot is the bulldog.  However, the name was not well promoted, and for the most part we still called that 15 minutes daily our SSR time.

Radical Readers

In conjunction with Reading Paws, our literacy coach began a program to reward classes for doing an exceptional job with silent reading.  Teachers could nominate their 4th block class (Reading Paws was held during that block) on the basis of participation and enthusiasm for reading.  The winning class would win a free lunch from Chic-Fil-A.  The first group to win was an English IV class who called themselves “radical readers.”  The school literacy team loved the name and decided to name the program “Radical Readers.”

Reader of the Month

READissance 002

The next year to encourage individual readers, our literacy coach began our Readers of the Month program.  Again, teachers could nominate students based on their enthusiasm for reading.  The winning student each month received a Barnes and Noble gift card.

Bulldog Booklovers Club

In the fall of 2006, I asked our literacy coach to co-sponsor a book club that brought teachers and students together to discuss young adult literature.  The Bulldog Booklovers Club was born and has continued to grow each year.  The first year we averaged five members attending each meeting, but by the end of this school year we were averaging seventeen members in attendance.

Changes in the Air

The administration, literacy coach, and I have been discussing ways to increase participation in these initiatives this year.  Creative ideas are being bandied about and excitement is in the air as we prepare to involve more faculty in promoting reading.  Booktalks will become part of our student produced news program and both student and faculty written book reviews will be included in our student newspaper.  The book club will expand to include meetings during lunch to accommodate those students who are unable to attend after school meetings.

B.O.W. and W.O.W. - Custom comment codes for MySpace, Hi5, Friendster and more

This year I will be promoting a Book of the Week (B.O.W.) and Website of the Week (W.O.W.) by creating a display in the media center and posting them to the media center blog.  I want to include a wide variety of books and sites that will be interesting and helpful to the students.

Any suggestions for the new initiative would be greatly appreciated!

What Do I Read Next?

Summer time.  A delicious respite from the hectic bell schedule we library media specialists and teachers must adhere to during the rest of the year.  Time to relax and read.  I have a “To Read” list that I occasionally add to, but often don’t see anything on it that tickles my fancy when I am in-between books.  Here are several  free Web 2.0 Readers’ Advisory tools that I’ll use and recommend to my faculty and students.

The Book Seer

Type in the title and author of a book you recently read on The Book Seer site and get recommendations from Amazon and LibraryThing (although I received no recommendations from LibraryThing with several different books including Twilight – gasp!).

screen capture of suggested reading site












Teacher Book Wizard

Scholastic has created a site that offers multiple options.  The Teacher Book Wizard’s Book Alike helps you locate similar books based on reading level.  Great for creating those Readers’ Advisory lists.  The List Exchange page provides lists of books in many categories including awards, grade level, author recommended, and themed. 


teacher book wizard screen capture











To learn more about this teacher created site for teachers, take the tour.

What Should I Read Next?

What Should I Read Next asks you to enter the title and author of a book you recently enjoyed.  The results returned are from a database created by the users of the site. 

what should i read next screen capture