Tag Archives: Librarian

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

ofancyfrench-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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Kids and adults sitting on library floor

With Perfect Positivity, I Will Gladly Greet the Day

When I got to work this morning, I was not upbeat and smiling, like I usually try to be.  I absolutely hold true that a smiling face will greet a smiling face.  (When you give good, you get good back.) But today I am grumpy, and I said it out loud.

And I WAS grumpy, I will tell you the truth.  Thinking about all of the work that needed to be done today cast deep shadows over my face.  I was certain that I would not have enough time to fit everything in to my work day.  And just guess what, I did not have time to fit everything into the school day, or even two hours after my day ended.  And that was okay.

Somehow today, I was able to meet with teams of teachers that I LOVE, visit with students that needed someone to talk to, visited with teacher leaders that needed a little sunshine, dined with people that make me laugh everyday, and found just the right book for about 40 kids.  Thinking about my people-time made me smile.  Yes, I had paperwork to complete and writing samples to evaluate and they are tucked away in my schoolbag waiting on me, and I will be okay with that.  Here’s the BIG but (conjunction, not body part), it took me all day to get to this appreciation.  It took me until that late last bus arrived and picked up the 30-40 rowdy students at 4:12, talking with my peeps and a 30 minute drive to allow my soul to feel refreshed.

With perfect positivity, I will gladly greet the day, came to mind on my drive back home this evening. Teaching is unpredictable, I might have a bad day, but I will do my best NOT to.  Tomorrow when I see my teaching friends, and my friendly students I will smile, and utter nothing about grumpiness, with perfect positivity, I will gladly greet the day…then I will wait and see if that attitude makes a difference.

Or at least I will try to greet the day that way, and if it doesn’t work well, that is perfectly okay too.  Giggle giggle….

Optimistic O’ Fancy French

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Student writing with chalk on library floor

How Do You Teach a Student to Write?

It’s that time of the year when fourth grade teachers across the state of Texas are looking through student compositions and are worried, they wonder how their students are going to fare on the STARR test.  They sigh and ask themselves, “How do I teach my students to write?” I know those teachers, I was one of them for 17 years, now I get to look at the situation from the outside, and I have a different perspective about how to teach writing… just write, and write often.
I get questioned all the time about how to teach students to write, and not only just to write, but how to get them to write well.  I secretly smile when asked those questions, all educators know what to do…put the pencil to the paper and let words take over.  Just do it.  Simply stated, students and teachers alike need to be just brave enough to start writing a thought.  Thoughts, will lead to feelings, feelings will translate in to sentences, and pretty soon, you will have paragraphs.
Today in a writing class, I explained to the students that I do not like to always write and I do not always share my writing with others, I am super-critical of myself.  When I write I double, and triple check my spelling searching for errors, I question whether or not my writing is interesting enough for someone to read?  (I am doing this now as I type.)  Students share the same fears that us adults have, it’s hard to put yourself out there to be potentially judged by others.
Remember that the power of the pen is mighty.  As a teacher, I am very cautious about editing and revising student compositions.  I try not to make too many corrections, or suggestions, I want students to understand that I am their teacher, not their judge and jury.  Students are still learning their writing craft.  Children want to share, they talk all the time, as educators, we need to get them to use another form of communication…written communication.
I write these sentiments to offer a “shout out” to my writing friends and colleagues that may be worried about writing and exams, and perfecting the craft.  Writing doesn’t have to be perfect.  The intent of writing is to be expressive.  How do you develop strong writers?  Strong writers are created when they are nurtured, confident, and practiced.  You want to know how to get those students to write well…get those kids to put the pencil to the paper, they will make you proud!
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Secret society of Readers at Navasota Intermediate

O’ Fancy French and the Secret Society of Readers

This blog is for teachers, principals, and even parents that struggle with motivating their students/children to read.  I have been trying to come up with an idea that would entice our young learners to want to read more, and get together and talk about what they have read.  On our campus, we have developed a pretty perfect plan to get students to read more…nominate students to become a part of the Secret Society of Readers.

Kids meeting at the weekly secret society of readers meeting  The Secret Society of Readers is an organization that is TOP SECRET.  Students may not join the society, but must be invited.  I thought about how religious movements, civil rights movements and most societal upheavals began, and they share common threads, these movements began with small secret groups of people gathered together for a common goal.  Today I will share with you the TOP SECRET implementation plan that we will be using with our intermediate readers,  you may find yourself ready to accept an invitation to the Secret Society of Readers, if you are brave enough to undertake the challenge…

 

Reading is fun bird logo

Secret Society of Readers

Welcome to the Secret Society of Readers.  You were nominated to join our secret club for these reasons:  you love to read, you recommend books to others, you talk about the books that you read with your friends.  Once you accept this nomination to the Secret Society of Readers, you will be on a mission to secretly discover other readers, and persuade them to join the club.  Remember that this is a secret club, and not everyone will be invited to join because not everyone is passionate about reading.

Once you decide to join the Secret Society of Readers, you will be invited to attend the secret meetings that are held in the library on Friday mornings between the times of 8:30 to 9:00.  Only your parents and teachers need to know where you are going on Friday mornings, these meetings are TOP SECRET, and remember not everyone is invited to attend.

New invitees will be inducted into the Secret Society of Readers by special ceremony. (No cameras or videos allowed, we are after all a secret society.)  Upon arrival on Friday mornings you must bring the most current book you are reading, and be prepared to speak with others about your book.  You must also sign the secret, sacred SSR reading log. The meetings will be lead by the founders of the secret society, and their identities shall not be named.  Founders will travel far and wide to speak to the members.  Members should understand the importance of this society, and pass on the love of reading to future generations of people, thus ensuring a literate society for years to come.

Inductees will be given 3 invitation cards to deliver to 3 people, young or old, those cards will serve as an invitation to join the Secret Society of Readers.  Remember to choose your candidates wisely, for not all people are “True Readers.”  There are many dishonest readers roaming the world, and we only want the most loyal and devoted to be inducted to our secret society.  In order to receive an invitation people must:  love to read,  recommend books to others, talk about the books that they have read with other  friends.

The Secret Society of Readers truly hopes that you, as an inductee are prepared to accept the responsibility of belonging to such an important club.  You must attend meetings with an open mind and caring heart, and most importantly, keep this society safe from others that might corrupt it.   Your responsibility is large, are you prepared to accept the challenge?

 

Signing your name below indicates that you WILL accept this invitation to SSR.

 

Sign your full name: ___________________________________________

Date: _______________

Teacher’s signature: ___________________________________________

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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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