Spring Book Challenge


We had so much fun with our January & February Book Challenge, that we’re having another one!

First, my reflection on the January & February Challenge. I was blown away by how intensely some of our students got into reading for this challenge. There were a total of 15 tasks in the challenge for a total of 15 books, and we had 5 students complete the entire thing and a number of other students come very close! About 40 students turned in their logs to me at the end of the challenge, but I know more participated. We had a total of 39 join the group on Schoology.

I could have done a better job in a few areas. First, I should have made more announcements/reminders to keep pushing students along. The ones who did participate were very much self-motivated. I didn’t even post the updates on Schoology as regularly as I should have. I’ll definitely be better about this next round. I also planned to do some type of leader board. That didn’t happen at all. The points and such were too difficult to keep up with and organize on a larger scale.

I’ve had questions from my blog and Twitter followers about a few things. First, I said I was going to do prizes. I ended up nixing the prizes. I’m not much of a prize person because I want them to be intrinsically motivated, and these kids really were. Instead, I opted to do an “event” at the end of the challenge. We had nachos, discussions, and activities including make your own bookmark. Once again, my communication skills were a bit lacking (and I had to reschedule it). I only had 7 students show up for the after school event, but we had SO MUCH FUN that it was completely and totally worth it. I have no doubt that I’ll have more show up next time. And they felt that the event was plenty enough “reward” for them.

I also had the question of how I was going to verify if they actually read the books or not. This is another reason I went away from the original idea of prizes. I wanted this to be completely on the honors system (with a little help/monitoring from their ELA teachers).  For the most part, I think the students were pretty honest about what they read. Like I said earlier, the students who truly participated in this were self-motivated and pushing themselves to read more. And WOW, did they ever!

SO, I’m very excited that today was the start of the Spring Book Challenge!

Spring Book Challenge by librariantiff

After getting feedback and seeing how things went, I made a few changes. First, I did away with the “points” for different categories. I also went from 15 tasks to 10 tasks. And we cut down the time frame from two months to one month. Some students felt overwhelmed by the length of the first challenge, so this one is pared down a bit.

I’m excited to get this new challenge started! And I love the graphic I created! And I love the 10 tasks! Yay! So, as always, feel free to take this and make it your own! I’m excited to share something that my students and I are enjoying so much.

Who is your book crush?

This idea was seen and immediately stolen from my library BFF Tamara Cox, see her post here!


We are having a blast sharing our book crushes in honor of Valentine’s Day! Both teachers and students are sharing who their ultimate book crush is — you can see mine below! It’s interesting to see how many of my girls share the same book crushes as me (meaning I’ve pushed my favorite books on them and they loved them as much as I did)!

This is my book crush:


Some of our other favorites include:

  • Augustus Waters from The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
  • Peeta Mellark from The Hunger Games by Susanne Collins
  • Wolf from Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume
  • St. Clair from Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
  • Jacob from Twilight by Stephanie Meyer

…just to name a few!

And here’s the template I’ve created for the slips to fill out for your book crush:

Book Crush by librariantiff

So I have to ask…who is YOUR book crush?

Book Challenge Update

We are back to school and I’m so excited to have kicked off the January & February Book Challenge! As promised, here are some more resources:

Video to introduce students to the challenge:

Flier to post around school:

JanuaryFebruaryBookChallenge Flier by librariantiff

Book Challenge Reading Log:

  January February Book Challenge Reading Log by   librariantiff

I’m still undecided about how I’m going to do prizes. So far I’ve just told students that more info on prizes is still to be announced! I’m hoping that I can get a few local businesses to make some donations, like gift cards to the frozen yogurt shop and such. And maybe a Coke float party or something for students who reach a certain number of points. Like I said, I’m still thinking about that and trying to gauge how I think it’s going to play out a little before I lock myself into some prize scheme. 🙂

I’m very excited about using a Schoology group to communicate with participants — I can’t wait until our first “check-in” to see what the students are reading for the different tasks! I’m hoping that a lot of great recommendations will come of this!

January & February Book Challenge

Happy 2013 friends!

I’m very excited to get 2013 off to a great start with a January & February Book Challenge. Back in August, I had big plans for Reader’s Quest, which never even really came into existence at my school. After reading Donalyn Miller’s The Book Whisperer last year, I got really excited about the idea of replicating what she does at our school. All of our ELA teachers read the book over the summer and it was very interesting to see how others thought they were or weren’t working along the same lines as what Donalyn does in her classroom. They didn’t all share the same opinions as me, though, so it wasn’t the miracle I was seeking. Also, we do the Accelerated Reader program at our school. I’m not even going to get into that in detail at this point and discuss what we do with it. The biggest obstacle in our getting rid of the program is that everyone feels that we need something to replace it, something to hold students accountable for their reading. So at this point, we’re just kind of stuck.

Bottom line — I can’t keep sitting around scratching my head trying to figure out this AR/Reading Program conundrum. There just isn’t an across the board solution to get all students where they should be with reading. If there were, we would all be doing it already…DUH! I also can’t keep clinging to the “we just moved/there’s a lot of change/I’m just going to take it easy” excuse, either. I did that for the first semester and I’m not overly pleased with where it got me. Don’t get me wrong, the move was HUGE and as a school we experienced a crazy amount of change in 2012. But I can’t continue to dwell on that — it’s time to get on with it!


Back in my early days of wedded bliss, I frequented the message board on The Nest (which is where you moved after your were finished with wedding planning on The Knot). One of the boards was a Book Club, and each quarter there would be a Winter/Spring/Summer/Fall Book Challenge. Basically, there are five “challenges” in each 5, 10, 15, and 25 point category. It really got me to read outside of my comfort zone. It also pushed me to read even more than usual, which was really saying something for me!

I’m thinking that something along these lines will be easier to manage than Reader’s Quest was going to be for me. Each student who chooses to participate will get a log of sorts to track their books and points. I will also have a Schoology group for these students, where each week they can post the books they have most recently finished and their running point total. Each week I’ll post an updated leader board  in the library and on our Friday Video. I’m going to have some prizes, of course. I’m also going to offer this as a competition among the teachers as well.

January February Book Challenge

A book can only count once, even if it could fit into multiple categories. You can only use each category once as well. However, books are not necessarily “locked in” once they’re read — you can move them to a different category as long as the other rules are still met. I don’t think I’m going to do a 25 point category at this time. Typically, the top 5 winners in the previous challenge create the 25 point challenges for the next round. If this is a success, we’ll go that route.

I’m planning to make a promotional video and tracking log of some sort, which I’ll share when it’s completed. And I hope you noticed the cute logo — no project can officially kick off until there is a cute logo attached to it! If you are interested in doing something similar, feel free to use anything I’ve created. The Google Doc with the challenges can be found here, and the logos are available on my Flickr.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this…especially if you’ve ever done something similar!

The Wonder of Wonder

I’ve really been putting a major focus this year on reading. I always read more than my fair share, but I’ve been thinking a lot about how essential it is for me to read excessively so I can recommend amazing books to my students. This year I’ve also been thoroughly enjoying making recommendations to many of my colleagues AND my awesome principals. When our kids are getting book recommendations from all of us and hear us talking about books, I know it makes a difference. I mean, one of our fabulous counselors always introduces me to new students when she shows them around, telling them that I am an incredible “literary stylist” (shout out to Brandi!). We are making strides to growing our culture of reading, and it’s great.

While making my way through my extensive list of books to read, I FINALLY read the incredible book Wonder by R.J. Palacio. Oh my gosh, it’s the best books I’ve read this year, HANDS DOWN. We are teaching “The Leader in Me” program at our school as well, and Wonder goes hand-in-hand with everything we’re promoting through this program. As soon as I finished reading Wonder, I pushed it over to my principals and insisted that they read it immediately. Of course they loved it as much as I did, and I shared some of the great things that other schools are doing with the book, including One Book, One School.

I am SO very excited that this week, we are starting a school-wide read-aloud of Wonder at Central Middle!! My amazing principals ordered 45 copies of this beautiful book so each teacher of Flex Time (where we do Leader in Me and other positive/leadership activities) will have a copy to read to their students.

I’m very excited about the possibilities and opportunities that will come with our reading of this amazing book with all of our students.

If you haven’t read this book yet, WHAT are you waiting for??

If you’re interested in more resources on Wonder, check out these links: http://choosekind.tumblr.com & http://rjpalacio.com

Book Trailer:

Nothing like the scent of a new book…

I’m sure this won’t come as a shock to anyone, but I’m obsessed with new books. I’m deeply devoted to Perma-Bound books — nothing gets me like the fresh scent of that polyvinyl adhesive holding together those beautiful, shiny covers with their laminated polyester coating. And on the rare occasion that that one of my Perma-Bound copies of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix starts to come un-bound, I shoot them an email and they send me a fresh one. I’m quite upset when a book isn’t available in Perma-Bound. Nothing quite compares to opening boxes from a shipment from my beloved Perma-Bound.

Nothing except an awesome bargain-packed trip to Books-A-Million. I love my BAM! My BFF (fellow bookworm and ELA teacher at my school) and I love to hit up our local BAM! and dig through the bargain book section.  Here’s some photographic evidence from one of our more lucrative trips:

Very rarely am I able to bring myself to pay full price for a book from here. Well, I don’t actually have to pay full price because they give us an AWESOME 20% off for purchases for school. And there’s the occasional new release or hot cover that I just can’t leave without. But what gets me REALLY giddy is when I leave with two heavy bags of books for less than $40. The number of (mostly hardcover!!) books that I score from them for less than $4 is pretty amazing. Copies of “I Am Number Four”, “Heist Society”, and “The Summer I Turned Pretty” are just a few of my recent finds that left me doing a jig as I exit the store with the beautiful new books!

Regular visits to the book store also keep me aware of what’s hot and what’s new — definitely important as I try to stretch my ever-shrinking budget to get the most bang for the buck. And, honestly, that’s what it’s all about — doing the best I can to get the best possible books in the hands of my students!

What are your tricks for stocking your library shelves?

The Power to Recommend

(or my Library Superpower OR why I read MG books so obsessively)

I like to think that my greatest library superpower is my ability to put the right book in the right hands. It’s a job that I take very seriously. If I ever reach the point where a comment to the effect of, “You always recommend the BEST books Mrs. Whitehead,” gets old, then I need to start doing something else. I really take a lot of pride in this ability.

Recently, one of my ELA teachers — after I passed along Lauren Myracle’s Shine and John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars for her reading pleasure — explained my talent to her students in a way that totally made my day:

If you don’t have a book that you are reading and enjoying, then you NEED to go see Mrs. Whitehead. She knows exactly how to find the perfect book that you will love and not be able to put down. I’m telling you — it’s just like she can look into your eyes and see it, then know what book you need!

It’s easy to get distracted by all of the other aspects of our job, the technology, troubleshooting, programs, and day to day library business to the point that we forget that reading and recommending books is still at the heart of our job. We all know that if we’re doing our job, there’s no WAY that we have time to read at work regularly. But then the thought of my kids never seeing me read really bothers me, too. I’m supposed to be their ultimate reading role-model. They’ve got to see me read sometime! I try to keep my current read on my desk (amid everything else that seems to converge on my desk over the course of the day). I let them see it, know what I’m reading, maybe see me read a few pages from time to time, even. But like I said, if I depended on “reading time” during the course of the school day, I’d never even finish a book! So it’s something I commit myself to doing. It’s not always easy, especially when I get into a reading slump. It’s all worth it, though, when I’m able to take that book that I just finished and hand it with confidence to a child that I know won’t be able to put it down.

Here are some of my favorite go-to books to recommend —

For recovering Hunger Games addicts:


Series for girls without too much mature content:


Books for boys:


Edgy reads to hook more mature reluctant readers:


For my mature, YA reading girlies:


For my Sci-Fi/Fantasy lovers:


For those looking for a book that’s not boring:


I’d love for you share your go-to recommendations for your students! I’m working on my to read list for this summer, and it’s going to be a looong list!

Lessons learned from Harry Potter

I cannot believe that this weekend, so many of us got our final first taste of a new Harry Potter movie. It was really hard for me to bring myself to go out and see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 because that meant it was over. I didn’t go out and see it on opening night. Instead, I had a Harry Potter movie marathon and saw the new movie on Sunday night. I’ve been wallowing in my Harry Potter ending for days now. It’s been part of my life for so long! I could write a million posts on lessons learned from Harry Potter and why it’s so awesome. But instead I’m going to elaborate on three of the most important and meaningful lessons I’ve learned from the series.


The aversion that many have to the Harry Potter series is it’s length. It spans over seven years, for crying out loud! And Harry perseveres through it all. For seven years, he was constantly hit over and over with situations that required so much from him. Through all of his trials, he never gave up. He always managed to hold on to his faith and understanding of what is right. Things didn’t always turn out perfectly. Things sure weren’t easy. But despite all of the challenges Harry faced, he held on to what he truly believed and persevered.

“We must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy.” Dumbledore in the Goblet of Fire 

Dumbledore has so many powerful, thought provoking quotes throughout the books and movies. He’s the wise old owl and he knows what’s up. And I think this quote is probably my favorite from our favorite witty, powerful wizard. And he’s so right — we all have to decide if we are going to take the right path or the easy path. There’s always an easier way out of a situation. As educators, it’s so important that we put forth the time and effort to do what is right. That’s what we signed up for. To do what is right for our students, even if it isn’t the easy thing. Isn’t that what we try to teach our students to do? How can we expect them to do this if we don’t lead by example?

You can’t do it alone!

Would Harry have made it through a single one of the challenges he faced without the help of his friends? I’m thinking no! Harry surrounded himself with smart, brave, trustworthy friends. This didn’t happen by chance, it happened because Harry is a smart dude! We have to surround ourselves with good people that will support us and enrich our lives. Then we can accomplish great things together, just like Harry, Ron, and Hermione.

It’s so sad to know that there’s no new Harry Potter magic to look forward to. Thankfully, I have the books on my shelf and the movies in my DVD collection so I can visit with and feel empowered by my dear friends as often as I’d like.