Category Archives: Great books

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The Educator’s Balanced Diet Blog

At the end of this school year, I felt mentally and physically exhausted.  I had one of the best years in my teaching profession, but I had worked really really hard.  I missed my family, I missed my reading, I missed having free time.  I was so busy working last year, that I “missed” many things.  My French tribe decided that we should take  a beach vacation. I was very pleased at the thought of a beach getaway, but I was overweight and wanted to wear a bikini this summer.  How could I shed this excess weight before we left?  I was running out of time.

OFancyFrench-Pink-Poodle-on-Beach

Because we are educator’s, we meet many people each year, and we get personal pretty fast.  We meet new staff members and their children, we have new students and their siblings, and we meet new families each year.  When I teach, I want to show that I care about people, so I ask those that I encounter questions like, “How are you doing today,” “What did you have for supper last?”  Sometimes the answers are pleasant and easy, but other times you get responses that are disturbing, or sad.  What if someone did not eat last night because there is no food in the house?  (This is the difficult part of education.)  Teachers care about  people.  Teachers listen, and try to help guide people in a positive direction, otherwise these people would be in a different profession. I consume what people say to me.  I think about students, teachers, and peers long after they have left the conversation.  Last year, I consumed too much, and I was overweight at the start of summer vacation.  

Be mindful about what you consume, or it will consume you.  

Once vacation time began, I was burned-out.  I had consumed too much:  joy, grief, love, hate, work and exhaustion, for my mind and body to handle.  I was fat.  I was unhappy and exhausted.  I knew that I had to make a change, and began to think about the Educator’s Balanced Diet.

As in all good meal plans, the key to managing weight is moderation.  I realized that I was consuming things that were not healthy for me, too much junk food was in my diet, from too many people.  I had not had enough spiritual food in my last few months, and I was feeling sluggish.  I did not love my neighbors as I loved myself.  I had not honored my son and husband the way they needed to be honored. I had a problem and I realized I needed to fix it!

Summer-Books

Consume more love, peace, happiness, laughter, and light;   allow those positives to consume you.

I needed a better diet, so I became a picky eater this summer, and let me tell you, I have lost a significant amount of weight.  I chose activities this summer that helped me unplug from my profession.  I did not spend countless hours at my school working on curriculum, but precious hours with those that I love.  I cat-napped.  I laughed a bunch.  I danced and sang under stars.  I realized that I possessed the power to accept, or decline consumption, and it felt great!

So, educators and advocates for education, here we find ourselves at the start of a new year.  I am making  beginning of school resolutions (you are my witnesses!), and I hope that you will help me keep them, I resolve:  to consume a balanced diet, spend more time with those that I love instead of working at school all the time, I resolve to laugh more and share my joy, more purposefully with others.  I resolve to keep the weight off, physically and metaphorically.  It’s going to be a tough battle, but a balanced diet is important to keep us teachers healthy.

Be mindful about what you consume, because later, it WILL consume you.

Kathryn-French-OFancyFrench

Friends, how can you find your peace this year?  Consider doing things that bring you the most joy in life.  Love your family, and focus on the positives that they bring you.  Read books that are enjoyable, not just informational.  Eat your veggies, but have apple pie with, or without ice cream.  Leave school before 6:00 PM!

Let’s welcome our new group of people in August with a warm hug, and a happy heart.  Welcome little hands, and squeaky new shoes.  When we see our students, remember that they want YOU to adore them, teach them, praise them.  We must take care of ourselves as much as we care for our students.  I ask you, what will you resolve to do, or be this year to positively impact your life?  It’s time to get healthy, and we can make this journey together.  Let’s resolve together, let’s consume a balanced diet…

Have a fantastic 2015-2016 school year!

-K

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Kathryn-French-Educator

The Best Worst Librarian Ever

An open letter from the best worst librarian

Dear Big Wide World,

The 2014-2015 school year ended with me beginning and ending my career as a librarian.  It’s true… I will not be the librarian at Navasota Intermediate anymore.  I have switched schools and changed job positions. I will now be the Chief Literacy Advisor, aka the Literacy Cruise Director, as I like to call it, for a PK-5 elementary school!  I have spent the last couple of weeks packing all my stuff and moving schools, and that my friends is no easy feat.

After finishing this year, along with this move, I found myself simply exhausted, bone-weary, maybe even a little fragile.  My family and I took a beach vacation to find our repose, and I finally am able to reflect about the past year of school and  my job as the librarian.  Here’s why I think I was truly the worst librarian ever!

As you may, or may not, have heard, I kidnapped the entire Diary of a Wimpy Kid series from the library.  I was tired of the students fake-reading the books, and then coming back to the library day in and out to check out yet another book they would never read.  By kidnapping the books and holding them out of circulation, students checked out books that were on their level that they would actually read. Reflecting back, that was shameful. But, with a little help from this, the worst librarian ever, every child found a book they could… and more importantly would read. And it made them want to read the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books even more!

Kathryn-French-ShelvesThe second reason why I am the worst librarian is that I am terrible about shelving books.  It was just a fact that the library had stacks and jumbles of tumbling books, that were in constant need of reshelving.  I just could not find the time to organize books in their proper places.  All those days running in and out of classrooms, and rocking on the big purple bench with my little friends does gobble up a bunch of time.  The sweet lady, Sarah Martin, who helped me last year, would walk through the door of the library and would audibly moan, while rolling her eyes at the stacks of misplaced books.  I am truly sorry, Mrs. Martin.

The custodians must have thought me horrible. The library carpets were often covered in pink glitter trails and chalkdust.  I promise we tried to clean up after our games and poetry readings.  To the custodians, and our principal, thank you for being forgiving. The students and faculty really had some good times in our little library.

I am most ashamed of my inability to keep library secrets.  Even though I knew that our Friday Secret Society of Reader meetings were a secret, I posted, tweeted, filmed, and shared our events every chance that I had. And you know what? I am secretly so glad that I did!  So students, please forgive me for having so much fun with you this year.  #SecretSocietyOfReaders

I know without a doubt that I will miss you because I already do.

What I also know without a doubt, is that I will remember you.  You made my FIRST and LAST year as the librarian magical.  For all of those that I had interaction with, please forgive me. I am truly sorry and I humbly repent.

Kathryn-French-KidsI guess that what I have learned this is year was that, although I might have been the worst librarian in certain stereotypical ways, maybe I became the best librarian that sought out the right books for students… and even for the staff.  Maybe instead of falling into the traditional librarian role, I found my true calling helping others learn to love reading and also to find a love for writing.  Perhaps I was not the worst librarian in the world, after all. Just maybe I would call myself a little quirky, and a little thoughtful, and full of love for kids and books. And hey, that’s not so bad… Is it?

I send a warm thank you to the district, our administrative staff, faculty, and teachers, for trusting me to mind and mentor these incredible kids.  Here’s to another year, in a slightly different role!  I’ll try my best to make you proud!

Also be reminded that I shall remain the head librarian at www.labibliotecafresca.com. Come visit me anytime for fresh books and literacy chats. I hope to see you there!

Sincerely,

The Best Worst Librarian, Chief Literacy Advisor, aka the new Literacy Cruise Director,
Ms. Frenchie-Fry

Kathy French

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ofancyfrench-book-prom

Book Prom 2015 Was a Success!

As you may have heard, we hosted a Book Prom in Navasota last Friday, and man, did we HAVE FUN!

Fun at Book PromThe #SecretSocietyOfReaders decorated the library and moved out the tables and books to create a dance floor for our readers.  When the students arrived to the library, they signed in with their “book date,” and strutted down the royal blue carpet.  Students were dressed in their finest clothes, and some students dressed up their books too.

Students and teachers were invited to attend Book Prom, and even the Mayor of Navasota, Texas attended the celebration!  After walking the carpet our kids had their Book Prom, posed pictures taken in front of a city backdrop.  Guests were then treated to a donated breakfast, and after eating settled themselves for the welcoming ceremony presented by:  Sarah Martin, Kevin Bradford and Kathryn French.

Talking StickEach student was given the talking stick, to introduce the book that they chose to take to the prom.  Some parents and visitors, even shared their favorite books that they would take to the Book Prom.  It was indeed a splendid moment to hear adults from our school district, and community, speak about their love of literacy with our student learners.

After the book talks, students voted on which book they thought deserved to be the Book Prom King or Queen.  While volunteers scrambled to tally the votes, students danced and did the “Wobble “with their books.  I was one happy librarian to watch kids dance, the library was alive with positive energy, and  celebration!

Students were so excited to have a Skype chat with the wonderful librarian, artist, explorer and book lover!  We discussed our favorite books and what we wanted to be when we grow up.  Ms. Miller was kind enough to encourage our students to keep reading.  She introduced our students to fresh new books, books that we had not heard of before.  Our kids had a blast!

Book Prom 2015 King and QueenWhen the moment arrived to crown the Prom King and Queen…we all waited, quiet with anticipation…the winners were for:  Prom King was the book, Wonder, written by RJ Palacio and the Prom Queen was Divergent, written by Veronica Roth!  Of course, those were the MOST popular books in the library this school year!  We were all excited.

Tomorrow is Friday, the second to last Friday of the 2014-2015 school year.   So many of our #SecretSocietyOfReaders have asked if we will be meeting tomorrow, they want to get together again before summer vacation to talk about what they are reading.  I will miss our secret meetings that are no longer a secret, but I do not believe that I can beat our Book Prom Friday.  The readers will just have to wait until next year, which I guarantee you, will be BIGGER and BETTER than this year!  Book Prom 2015 was a success, my hope is that readers will be inspired to host mini Book Prom in their classrooms in celebrations of literacy.  It has been a wonderful year. -K

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Book-Prom-Invitation

Book Prom 2015!

Just Tag It—#BookProm

Summer is almost here! And let’s be clear, these students and teachers want to have some fun. What better way to have fun—and sneak in some literacy—than to have a Book Prom?

With my favorite book and fancy dress, I will be attending prom this year… #BookProm!
Many of our students have older siblings who went to prom this year, and their parents posted pretty pictures all over social media of prom-goers in all of their finery. I thought that a Book Prom would give parents the chance to dress up the little ones, and give us a chance to talk about books while getting some incredible photographs, too!

The first step in attending the prom is to find your date. Your date is not a person. At Book Prom, your date is your favorite book from all the books you read this year. In our school, students have kept reading logs, so remembering what they read throughout the year is a snap. The book selection process offers an opportunity for kids to engage parents and teachers about literature. In those conversations, teachers can prompt students to think about characters, settings, and conflict. It’s a great chance to help bring literature to life for them. Our kids will be working through an end of year literacy review, and they won’t even know it!

After students decide who to take to the prom, they must be able to discuss their date with others and try to convince fellow students to vote for their date as Prom King or Prom Queen, depending on the gender of the main character. Students will discuss with the prom participants the parts of the book that were memorable to them. After discussion, I write the book titles on a poster, and each student gets to cast one vote for their favorite title.

I have learned over the years that the best way to help kids read is to get their peers to recommend what they like, just like I am always interested in what the coolest and smartest adults are reading! A peer-to-peer book suggestion is a better method for getting kids to read and for helping them grow their literary interests. When the students have finished all their presentations, the kids dance while I tally the votes for king and queen.

Follow the dress code

Please follow the dress code 🙂

I am so excited to say that the Book Prom will be the most stylish event of the school year. Students are encouraged to dress up in their fanciest attire, and the best dressed student will be recognized at the end of Book Prom. The dress-up piece of the prom celebration is my favorite part, because the students look so handsome and beautiful! Teachers don’t normally see their students sharp-dressed, and believe it or not, the majority of students love to dress nicely! When discussing student/teacher attire, I always include the school disclaimer: “All clothing must adhere to school dress code policies. These policies will be enforced.”

As a librarian and teacher of reading, I am always looking for ways to incite a passion for reading within students. Putting together a prom party to celebrate books was just another sneaky trick to coax students to read more books. I love the prom celebration preparation process. Students get the chance to talk with family and teachers about what they read and analyze what they have read over the course of the year. They prepare themselves to speak persuasively to others about their favored book, and then they get to use what they learn about books they may or may not have read to vote for the title of Prom King or Prom King. For me it’s the perfect storm for literacy circles.

You’re Invited!

Want to see how Book Prom works in real life? Well you’re in luck! Show up at my little library in Navasota, Texas this Friday, May 15, 2015, at 8:30 am and bring your best book of the year as your date!

Use the Tag #BookProm!

Book Prom is centered around helping build literacy and love for reading. This prom will be a memorable way to end the school year, and celebrate our kids. If you can’t make it to my little library in Navasota on Friday, you can easily host your own Book Prom wherever you may be. Make sure to use the hashtage #BookProm on your pictures, posts, and tweets. That way we can all enjoy each other’s awesome celebrations of literacy!

Using #BookProm will allow students and teachers all over the world to see your innovative ideas in action! See you at the Book Prom on Friday. I CANNOT WAIT!
#BookProm rocks!

Invitation to Navasota Book Prom

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All you need is love

O’ How I Love The Book, brown girl dreaming…

I LOVED the book brown girl dreaming. The book was written from the perspective of a young lady in 1960s to 1970s America, who is searching for her place to belong, and looking for her voice, which she finds by the way, using the written word.

I read through the book and dog-eared a couple of memorable pages.  I thought it might be interesting to record some of the stand out moments that made me fall in love with this author and her lovely mind.    I thought that I might share some of those moments with you, if I may.  I will surely use these quotes to incite imaginative learning/thinking with my middle school students, maybe you will too.

 

“Somewhere in my brain
each laugh, tear and lullaby
becomes memory.” page 20

“We all have the same dream, my grandmother says.  To live equal in a country that’s supposed to be the land of the free.

She lets out a long breath,
deep remembering.” page 89

“When Daddy’s garden is ready
it is filled with words that make me laugh
when I say them-
pole beans and tomatoes, okra and corn
sweet peas and sugar snaps
lettuce and squash.” page 97

“and stars
and tears
and hope.” page 106

“But our hearts aren’t bigger than that.
Our hearts are tiny and mad.
If our hearts were hands, they’d hit.
If our hearts were feet, they’d surely kick somebody!” page 128

“The first time I write my full name
Jacqueline Amanda Woodson
without anyone’s help
on a clean white paper in my composition notebook,
I know
if I wanted to
I could write anything.” page 156

“I am not gifted.  When I read, the words twist
twirl across the page.
When they settle, it is too late.
The class has already moved on.

I want to catch words one day.  I want to hold them
then blow gently
watch them float
right out of my hands.” page 169

“And in the darkened auditorium, the light
is only on Hope
and it’s hard to believe he has such a magic
singing voice
and even harder to believe his donkey is going to come running.” page 233

“I want to write this down, that the revolution is like
a merry-go-round, history always being made
somewhere.  And maybe for a short time,
we’re a part of that history.  And then the ride stops
and our turn is over.” page 309

“Write down what I think I know.  The knowing will come.
Just keep listening…” page 310

“I believe in one day and someday and this
perfect moment called Now.” page 318

“When there are many worlds
you can choose the one
you walk into each day.” page 319

“Jackie and Jacqueline-
gather into one world
called You
where You decide
what each world
and each story
and each ending
will finally be.” page 320

This book is written in free verse, the words poetically dance themselves across the pages.  The characters in the novel are a part of my memory now, forever, the author Jacqueline Woodson, even includes a family tree and includes photographs from her personal albums, allowing readers to bridge their invented imaginations of the family, with actual snapshots of real family members.

I would suggest using this novel to model the writing process for students.  Woodson writes about the processes of how we observe, think and record personal narratives, with a graceful, and pure voice.  By writing this novel, Jacqueline Woodson offers herself as a role model for young ladies, especially African-American young ladies, encouraging these ladies to follow their dreams, just like she did.

I LOVE the novel, brown girl dreaming.

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photo of Kathy French, ofancyfrench, from Navasota ISD

The Navasota Intermediate Librarian Kidnapped the Diary of a Wimpy Kid Books!

The librarian at Navasota Intermediate kidnapped all of The Diary of a Wimpy Kid books from the library shelves and has hidden them away!  Surely she has gone insane, the kids love those books!

It is true, the librarian did kidnap all of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books at Navasota Intermediate and is holding them hostage until a handsome ransom will be paid.  The librarian is not insane or pro-censorship, rather she is tired of students coming in every other day returning these books to the library, to be re-shelved again and again, without being opened.  How do I know how she feels, because the “she” is me, long time reading teacher and newbie librarian.

You might say that the students did open the novels and were reading during their Silent Sustained Reading time, or maybe they were even reading at home.  But I ask you, can students read novels in two days and brightly smile as they return their books to the library, and have truly read their novels with an intensity that allows recollection?  On our campus I am sad to say, there are very few, and when you spot those readers, you know who they are because they are telling you about their book and why they loved it, or didn’t.

The Diary of a Wimpy Kid book series are the most often checked out titles in my library.  Man, I love the author, Jeff Kinney, he is a smart man.  Its hard to convince reluctant readers to enjoy books, but Mr. Kinney does that so well.  Through the success of the series and the success of the movie, kids are exposed to the wonderful work of Mr. Kinney.  I celebrate him and his work today in this blog, even though I kidnapped his books.  I just want my students to read something different, perhaps a series that they have not yet read…

Now here is where the reader gets to the good part, what price will the students pay to gain access to their beloved Diary of a Wimpy Kid books?  Students asked me what they could do today to get them back, I said, “I dunno, what do you think you could do to get them back?’  One kid responded, “I could read 20 books this week!”  Really, yes please I thought, read 20 books this week!  Another student said, “I could write a book report proving that I really did read my chapter book!” I thought in my head, WHAT?  Maybe this kidnapping of books would end happily ever after after all.

Now students at Navasota Intermediate School are coming up with their own “handsome ransoms” to rescue their beloved books from the librarian, and I couldn’t be more delighted.

Students are being exposed to new authors and new book series.  Students are now talking in the hall, restrooms, and playgrounds about what they can do to save their books.  (When was the last time you heard kids talking about books on the playground?)  Our students are thinking about how to talk about what they read, in non-teacher led, authentic conversations with their peers.  Also, students that cannot read the Kinney series will now have an excuse to check out books that are nearer their independent reading levels and not have to pretend to read the larger chapter books.

For me the kidnapping has been a win, win decision.  I cannot wait to see the handsome ransoms that will be paid to set these books free.  I have never been so happy to take books off the library shelves!

As for Greg Heffley, Rodrick and Rowley… move over, more characters will soon be visiting!

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