March Madness Tournament of Books


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Right now our school is holding a Tournament of Books in the style of March Madness.

tournament of books

Two of my teacher friends (teachers who are your friend = God’s gift to librarians. You can usually get them to participate in all of your crazy ideas & vice versa) approached me after seeing this idea on Pinterest. I was glad to have their help & enthusiasm as we brought this idea into fruition. They were immediately drawn to using classic books and stories everyone is familiar with (The Very Hungry Caterpillar for example), but I saw a good opportunity for some shameless book plugging. I was able to convince them to pair up lesser read books. We tried to have books in pairs that were somewhat related to each other. Here is what we came up with:

Silly Sally by Audrey Wood vs. Silly Tilly by Eileen Spinelli (Silly theme)

The Napping House by Audrey Wood vs. While You Were Napping by Jenny Offill (napping theme)

Little Roja Riding Hood by Susan Middleton Elya vs. The Three Little Tamales by Eric A. Kimmel (fairy tales with a Hispanic twist)

Edwina the Dinosaur Who Didn’t Know She Was Extinct by Mo Willems vs. Amanda and her Alligator by Mo Willems (lesser read Mo Willems titles)

Journey by Aaron Becker vs. Flora and the Flamingo by Molly Idle (wordless books)

What to do if an Elephant Stands on your Foot by Michelle Robinson vs. The Memory of an Elephant: An Unforgettable Journey by Sophie Strady (elephant theme)

Same, Same but Different by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw vs. Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors by Hena Khan (cultural books)

Blizzard by John Rocco vs. Super Hair-o and the Barber of Doom by John Rocco (author John Rocco)

Because of our fabulous partnership with our public library system ( we were able to request several copies of each book from our public library. I am housing the books in the library along with a sign-out sheet. I was also about to find digital copies via and BookFlix. We were also able to check out some ebook versions via overdrive and load it onto a library iPad for teachers to borrow.

Of course, March is not the best month to run a program like this. Third and fourth grade are under a time crunch with state testing approaching fast. And it seems like all of the classrooms are just busy! While participation is optional I have encouraged teachers to at least read two books from one bracket so their class feels involved. Once we are down to the final four I am going to encourage everyone to participate.

Voting round one for the sweet 16 ends on March 20th. Then we will advance to the Elite 8, Final Four & then the game match! I will be sure to report back with our winning title!


Top 10 Books Read in 2013-2014

nonfiction fiction

What does this tell me as librarian?
1. Year after year Diary of a Wimpy Kid remains the most popular books. Those books drive me crazy because the kids ONLY want to check these out. Last year I worked diligently to beef up my chapter book section with more series that appeal to our students and so this year I plan to do a lot of digital book talks to get the kids to read something other than Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

2. Last year was my first year NOT running my Dewey Club which promotes the reading of nonfiction at my school. Seeing that the majority of my NF checkouts were “fun” books & many came from the same Dewey classification I definitely need to run the Dewey Club this year so that students are exposed to a wider range of NF books. Don’t worry, I’ll do a post soon on what the Dewey Club is.

3. Paper airplane making is a timeless hobby. I sure hope none of the kids were making them during class though! 😉

I encourage you to look at your own Top 10 list and use that data to make some decisions about this school year.


My word for this school year is ACTION. Over the summer I read some silly FB list of “25 signs you might be lazy if….” and it was like a smack in the face. Can’t remember the last time you untied your shoelaces to put on your sneakers…check! I realized that sometimes this quality rolls over into my professional life as well. So many times I have a fabulous idea and yet I don’t implement it because of the time and effort it will take. Shame on me for robbing my students of those experiences. So this year it’s all about action. I kicked it off by creating this book display that I pinned on pinterest a few years ago but never did because I thought it would be too difficult (I am so not crafty).


Ok so it took about 2 hours, I seriously broke a sweat trying to get the paper to align right, and it might not be perfect but you know what? I posted it on instagram last night and a former student commented’ “I wish I were there this year so I could check out a book from that.” BOOM. That was definitly worth the 2 hours of action.

What idea do you have that requires some action? I encourage you to act on something great this week!

How to Have a Successful Author Visit

I can still vividly remember the day the Lynne Cherry, the author/illustrator of The Great Kapok Tree came to visit my elementary school. It has always been my dream to bring an author/illustrator to my school for my students to meet, so when I finally had the chance to host Judy Schachner thanks to a partnership with our amazing local & independent bookstore Parnassus Books, I knew I needed to make the event meaningful and unforgettable.  Unfortunately, due to the winter weather Judy’s flight was cancelled and we ended up having a snow day – however we were able to host Bruce Hale a few weeks later. Even though we weren’t able to have Judy visit, I still want to share some of the things I did leading up to the scheduled visit.

1. Build excitement!!

Don’t assume that just because YOU are excited, everyone else will be, too. You must build the excitement. To do this, I enlisted the help of a witty teacher to write five clues about Judy Schachner, one to be read on the morning announcements each morning for a week. Each day, every class had the opportunity to submit one guess as to who the special visitor was. The first three classes to guess correctly won an autographed copy of one of her books. This not only built excitement in the students but it also got the teachers talking & excited, too. Even our cafeteria staff wanted to know who the author was!

2. Create contests

I ran two contests. One was a bookmark decorating contest. I gave the students blank bookmarks (just cut paper into a rectangle) & had them decorate it with the theme of Judy Shachner’s books. The art teacher helped judge the bookmarks and the winner received an autographed copy of one of her books and I also made color copies of the bookmark and gave them out to students as they visited our library. The second contest connected to Common Core writing and research standards: I gave students the opportunity to write a short biography and introduction of Judy Schachner. The author of the winning introduction was going to read his introduction in front of the school before Judy came out on stage. He was also going to get an autographed copy of one of her books.

3. Promote the books

Of course our library has every copy of SkippyJon Jones but I wanted everyone to be reading her books like crazy! So I requested every single one of her books from our public library. I made these available for teachers to borrow and read to their class. This helped free up our copies of books for the students. Teachers simply used a sign out sheet to borrow the books so I made sure none were lost.

4. Publicize the event

If I weren’t a school librarian I could probably work in PR. I love sharing the love of the library with everyone I meet and that includes making sure school officials and the local community understand the value in our school libraries. I made sure to invite our Director of Schools, Director of Communications, my bosses and other VIP’s in our district. Hey, if they don’t know what we’re doing – how can we expect them to value us?


A Fantastic Pre-Kindergarten Read Aloud

One of the highlights of my week is story & checkout time with our Pre-Kindergarten class. Since the role of a librarian has changed so much over the past few years, I actually don’t get many opportunities to read to children – instead I’m teaching technology & research skills most of the time. I love that I get to share the love of books and reading with our most impressionable group especially since the majority of them have never been to a library before coming to school. However, because my school has a high English Language Learner population, finding a great book can sometimes be difficult. Our Pre-K is full of students who barely understand English so I always want the text to be very simple yet still very engaging. So I was delighted to discover that Moo! by David LaRochelle (published in the Fall of 2013) has VERY simple language & is extremely engaging. In fact as soon as I finished reading it the class ebrupted into applause and shouted “again, again, again!”


Moo! has only two words, “moo” and a surprise word at the end. The book tells the tale of a cow who “borrows” a farmers car and takes it on a joy ride. The tone and inflection in which you read the moo’s on each page really make the story. Even I couldn’t help but laugh as I read it. The Pre-K kids were especially thrilled when I told them they could read it with me the second time around – “imagine that! You can read a book,” I told them.

Not only is Moo! the perfect read aloud for the youngest students in your school, but I also plan to read it to a third grade class full of reluctant readers whom I’ve been visiting each week to share new books with. I really think they will get a kick out of it, too. Oh and I’m totally checking it out and reading it to my 14 month old son tonight. But don’t worry, I won’t let him touch the pages 😉

Beyond the Basic Biography Report


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Each year, when February rolls around I am in high demand as teachers want me to lead research on famous Presidents & African Americans. Usually I leave the report part up to the teacher and honestly I don’t really know what they do, but it’s usually some sort of paper pencil activity. Recently I was convicted in a technology workshop when the presenter called to our attention a common core standard which begins in second grade:

With guidance and support from adults, use a variety of digital tools to produce and publish writing, including in collaboration with peers.

I knew our school was not up to par in using digital tools to produce and publish writing and I realized that when I leave the project part up to the teacher it sometimes isn’t executed well. So this year, I approached my teachers about using our new laptop carts to create biography projects. I presented some options to each grade level & we ended up with 1st grade typing their reports into Word, 2nd grade creating a biography blog, and 3rd grade using Voki to create avatars of their project (this ended up also covering a listening & speaking standard). I am so proud of our students & teachers for stepping outside of their comfort zone & embracing technology to create their reports!

I would love for your to check out the second grader’s blog (it is still a work in progress as snow days, spring break & testing have gotten in the way of our plans for all students to have submitted by now)

Perhaps the most exciting part was creating the Voki avatars with third grade. The kids absolutely loved it! I used this tutorial from A Turn to Learn to help me but honestly found that Voki is really easy to use. I did pay ~$30 for a years subscription and have been using it to create digital book talks as well. Here is an example of a third graders report.

Of course we did run into a few snags along the way and I had one grade level who rejected my proposal for a digital report; however, all in all I was pleased with the end results and I have a lot of ideas on how to make things even better next year!

What digital tools have you used for reports?

Tech Inspired


This past Saturday a crazy idea came over me and I gave up half of my day to attend the FREE Ignite Unconference at Lipscomb University. I’m glad I did because learning about educational technology was the catalyst I needed to energize me during what I call the spring slump (you know, when there’s only two months left of school). Also, the complimentary bagels & coffee helped. 😉

I hope to incorporate many of the tech tips into my teaching & to share them with my teachers as well. For now, I’d like to share two of my favorites with you.

1. Common Core Explorer

common core explorer.jpg

This website suggests technology aligned with each common core standard. The site went live less than a month ago so I’m hoping they add more to it soon!

2. Unite for Literacy

unite for literacy

This is a huge deal for our school since we have a significant EL (english language learner) population. Unite for Literacy features ebooks with the option to have them narrated in a number of languages include Arabic, Spanish & Burmese. Where has this been all my life?!

Huge thanks to Lipscomb for creating quality & inspiring professional development for Nashville’s teachers! They will have another Ignite Unconference in the fall – I encourage Nashville educators to attend!



Welcome to Kids in the Stacks! The creation of this blog has been in the back of my mind for over a year now & finally a moment of courage and a whole lot of “why not!?” culminated in the page you see today. My hope is that this blog will become a place where school librarians, teachers, children’s book fanatics (& hopefully more people than just my parents) can gather & be inspired to change the world of literacy for young children one post at a time.

About me:

I have been a library media specialist at a Title 1 elementary school in Nashville, Tennessee for three years. Prior to that I taught kindergarten and first grade for five years. A Yankee by birth, I have lived in the south since 2002 and fully embrace the saying “y’all” and the usage of real butter in my cooking. I’m also a wife and mom to a one year old boy. My work passions include: cultivating the reader in every child, integrating meaningful technology into instruction, collaborating with teachers to create engaging lessons, and creating a relevant and exciting library collection. My life passons include: reading (duh), traveling, cooking and spending as much time in the sunshine as possible.

If you’ve made it this far I’d love a comment with a friendly hello so I can get to know my readers.