Category Archives: Online Resources

Text Polling on Reading Habits With Grades 7-9

The kids were surprised that I asked them to bring their mobile devices to library classes and they surprised me too!

Hands holding phone texting

By Jhaymesisviphotography on Flickr

Mostly I was surprised that only about half of them had devices with them and a few of them were not text-capable. So the sample in my poll was quite small, although I did get some more answers by a raise of hands.

Not Enough Reading For Fun

I used PollEverywhere (a free and friendly site) and embedded the questions in a Power Point. I found that only about half of the students often read for enjoyment, and some did rarely or not at all, which was a little disappointing. Although I know that reading for fun is not part of some kids’ lives, I guess I had always hoped that most of those who were not checking out materials from the library were finding their reading materials elsewhere.

I also discovered that print magazines are still more popular than those online, however there is a possibility that some students weren’t identifying some of their online reading as ‘magazines’ and I will have to show and discuss more of this medium in the future.

Asleep with book in hand

By Quinn Dombrowski
on Flickr

Most of the readers did most of their pleasure reading in bed, which didn’t surprise me and is why I encourage parents to set bedtime at least a half-hour earlier than they expect their children to be asleep, and allow reading-only during that time. Most readers like series and most still buy from bookstores in spite of the fact that there is not one within 200 km. of our town. A few buy online or get from the public or school library and (another surprise) none swap with friends or buy used books.

Books/Movies Divide

When I asked the question: “More than anything else, I want stories (movies & books) to be: exciting, funny, realistic, romantic or supernatural”, there were choices across the spectrum. But curiously, most chose “funny”. However, when I asked them to name some funny books they liked they had no suggestions! It turned out that most thought only of movies when they answered the question. I do wonder then whether I need to purchase and promote humourous teen fiction. I also need to either rephrase the questions or ask it about books and movies separately.

Teenager reading by window

By Demi-Brooke
on Flickr

So, although the sample was too small to be really instructive, I did learn a few things. There are still students who are not reading for pleasure at all and some rarely. Since research is showing that reading for pleasure is one of the most important factors influencing life skills and academic success (one source), even one in that category is too many. I need to identify and target those kids. These non-readers tend to put up a brick wall when approached directly with book suggestions so I need to find out why they’re non-readers and then find some kind of back-door to sneakily get them to open a book that will grab their attention. Are they ‘reluctant readers’ or just too busy with other things?

What to Do?

I touched on teens and home reading in my September newsletter but maybe there’s more I can do. Junior High library classes have always been their book exchange and silent reading time. With their teachers’ approval, this year I will be showing online resources, book trailers and discussing books more as a group for part of their class. I’m also printing QR codes to attach to books so students can access trailers, reviews and series lists on their mobile devices.

By  Jayel Aheram on Flickr

By Jayel Aheram
on Flickr

Here is some of the reading I’m doing to strategize my approach to those kids who haven’t discovered or have forgotten the joy of reading for pleasure. If you know of any great tips or sites to share, please do in the comments.


Filed under Education, Library Class, Library Management, Library Programs, Online Resources, Reading

Teacher Compiles Helpful List of 65 Online Picture Book Videos

Karen Tripp has compiled a list of 65 animated storybooks that can be found on YouTube. I’ve embed a few that are read (or sung in Bill Martin’s case) by the authors. See the full list at Picture Books on YouTube.

Just a Snowman by Mercer Mayer

Brown bear, Brown bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin

The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn


Filed under Books, Authors & Illustrators, Online Resources

Seasonal Printable Reading Promotion Bookmarks, Generously Shared

These are all free documents from Teachers pay Teachers. Join the site for free, then click the images for the download page. Some contain coupons and other seasonal goodies.

Christmas Bookmarks


Christmas BookmarksChristmas Bookmarks

Christmas BookmarksChristmas Bookmarks

Christmas Bookmarks

More seasonal bookmarks to colour here.

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Filed under Library Class, Library Programs, Online Resources

Read-Alike Sites: A Collection

I have a confession. I’m a very bad librarian. I am really bad at Reader Advisory. When a student tells me they don’t know what to read next my mind goes blank. I can’t pull a book out of my hat on the spot any faster than I could write one. Oh, I can fake it…I can go to the stacks and scan until I find one that might fit, or I can ask other students who read a similar genre but that doesn’t always work.

So it always helps to have a variety of options for readalike lists that will hopefully help satisfy the student. Some of these are new to me so I can’t vouch for them all but I’m willing to give them a go.

Library Thing Labs: Author read-alikes I belive these lists are calculated with an algorithm rather than personal opinion.

ATN Reading Lists: Read Alikes “If you liked…” lists by title.

Book Bowse Read-Alikes Searchable and browse-able by author and title

Goodreads Read Alikes Book Lists User-created lists by author, title, subject and genre

Your Next Read Searchable by author, title, genre, etc.

Clermont County Public Library Teen Readalikes & Kid Readalikes

I just learned of YALSA’s Teen Book Finder app thanks for our beloved YRL consultant, Jocie. I can’t wait to download it on the iPad and try it out with the junior high classes.

If you know of any others, please include them in the comments so that we can all benefit.

*Thanks to Mark Anderson of Andertoons for his delightful cartoons.


Filed under Library Programs, Online Resources, Reading

The Reference Section is Still in the Library

DSCF4574-1In the ‘good old days’ classes came to the library to use the encyclopedia, almanacs, atlas’ and other books from the Reference section.

Nowadays, to a large extent, they are ‘Googling’.

In the ‘good old days’, there were teacher librarians who taught the art of research: how to use the resources effectively.

In the not-so-distant past, it was our job, as non-professional library managers to at least make sure the reference materials were complete and up-to-date so that teachers doing a research project with their class could access reliable materials. It was our job to provide print resources to support the curriculum as theme materials housed temporarily in classrooms or as individual responses to student and teacher needs.

Nowadays teachers are often ‘Googling’ with their students, while the function of many school libraries has narrowed to the provision of free-reading and leveled reading materials along with providing a place to send students who need to be removed from their classes for a multitude of reasons.

Lewis Hine, Boy studying, ca. 1924 Wikimedia Commons

Nowadays, we need to transition that time we used to spend on the print reference materials to curating the online versions

It has been difficult for administrators to see that we – their non-professional library ‘assistants’ – can and should still be providing curriculum support in the digital age. And with the continued consumption of time involved in print collection acquisitions, processing and maintenance, student supervision and plant management (none of that has decreased although usage may have evolved), it’s been difficult for library staff to make the transition, to find the time to master the online reference world.


We can still provide resources for teachers and students; to support the curriculum and enhance learning by maintaining an awareness of and assisting with access to the best resources available.

The truth is that as budgets dwindle and resources become more online-based, if we don’t keep pace it will be the students who suffer because although library staff are ideally placed to offer resource assistance across the curriculum, not all stake holders are aware of that. It’s up to us to show them.

UC Berkley School of Information

Ideally a teacher librarian would be in place to teach the skills necessary to navigate and evaluate the profusion of information available, but there are things we can do as resource providers to help teachers do that.


Teachers may not be aware that they can come to the library for help when they are struggling to find suitable resources for a topic. I was unaware that the Outdoor Education teacher was having a hard time finding hands-on activities for her class or that the same teacher needed help with finding good resources to teach Athenian democracy to her Grade 6 Social Studies class. I found out at a one-on-one meeting I had set up with her during one of her preps.

My goal is to meet with each teacher at least once during the year for one period. It’s true that some teachers are harder to pin down than others but I haven’t yet had a teacher that didn’t tell me that they found our meeting very helpful and productive. (It doesn’t hurt that I assemble a goody-bag to give them at the end with freebies, inexpensive school supplies and, of course, a candy or two.)

I prepare for these meetings with a checklist of the subjects they teach and a cart full of related teacher resources and students materials. I also talk to them about each of the subscription-accessed online resources and try my best to determine where I can help.


A formal meeting is extremely helpful but at the very least, try to chat with each teacher about what their resource challenges are.


The generosity of educators online is astounding. Find people you trust who seem to enjoy nothing better than to freely share their expertise in evaluating resources. Blogs, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest are full of these knowledgeable people – many of whom are teacher librarians. Follow a few in the platform(s) you choose and start bookmarking sites you feel might be relevant. Make it a goal to check out one new resource each day.


Assemble a basic checklist of resources that you can check quickly when a teacher or student requests assistance. I am in the process of that right now and it’s public on my school library webpage for teachers to check themselves if they so desire. (Or for you to steal if it works for you.) You could also use an online bookmarking site. Keeping it online keeps it available from whichever computer you are nearest to, allowing for spontaneous assistance in an emergency.


Create Resource lists for teachers and students that they can access from the school website and show them where it is – often – at staff meetings or whenever you get a chance. Post links that you know are high quality through your own experience or those recommended by people you trust. Include links to sites that you know your teachers and students are using so that they have easy access in the classroom and at home. It’s important to keep the pages up to date, which means periodically checking the links and responding quickly when there’s an issue with a site. It’s also important to keep the list from becoming too bulky or long. Keep it relevant and general.


When you find a good new resource, email it with a short description to the teachers to whom it would pertain. Try not to bombard all staff with emails that aren’t related to their assignment.


Continue to offer print materials as curriculum support in the classroom. A box of books on Ancient Greece (AB Gr. 6) or Small Crawling and Flying Animals (AB Gr. 1) will still add value to the unit, whether or not the teacher specifically requires students to use them. Choosing to pick one up simply to enjoy it will enhance that student’s learning.


In the ‘good old days’ teachers knew that  their students could access reliable information from one of a few sets of encyclopedia, several atlas’, almanacs and other reference materials that were kept up to date in the school library, where there was also qualified staff to help ensure successful searches.

Nowadays there are a multitude of resources that might work, all of which have different interfaces and applications to familiarize themselves with. After a full day of teaching the ever-growing list of curriculum outcomes in the 5 or 8 subjects they are teaching, wouldn’t it be wonderful if they could fall back on a collection curated by the only member on staff whose responsibilities are all about curriculum support?


Recently it was suggested to me that teachers are perfectly capable of finding their own resources. Of course they are! And some teachers are truly self-sufficient, with enough interest in online resources to spend home-time learning for themselves. But in my school at least, and I suspect in most rural schools, teachers are frequently assigned to subjects they have not previously taught and sometimes have very little time to prepare for those changes.

And we all know that teachers are incredibly busy! It is some of the most efficient, effective and dedicated teachers who ask for my help and are exceedingly grateful when I am able to find something for them because they care about the quality of the education they are delivering.

Yes, the book repairs pile up; yes, the stacks are often disorderly; yes, autumn leaves are still on the window when they should be replaced with snowflakes…but that teacher’s ‘thank-you’ feels awesome.


Filed under Education, Library Programs, Online Resources

Simplifying Text for Younger or Challenged Readers

Rewordify is a free website that allows you to paste any text or website into an engine that replaces complex words with easier ones. Our Special Education teacher has recommended it for use with students who might be a bit below grade level in their reading skills, but any student or adult could use it to work on their vocabulary or to better navigate required reading.

The Rewordify for School page shows functions and other ways to us the engine in schools. For example:


Filed under Education, Online Resources, Reading

What’s a GLOG? And How Can it Be Used in School?

My previous post featured a GLOG…

For those new to the term,

“A glog is like a poster, only better. A glog is an online poster that allows students to add images, video files, sound files, text, and hyperlinks. Glogs address multiple learning styles and easily incorporate student research and educational content into a web publication. They are free, use no ink, and are fun!” Jan McGee

Here is McGee’s very detailed SlideShare presentation on GLOGS and how to use them in the classroom:

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Filed under Online Resources, Technology

Multiple Uses for Google Drive in the Classroom

Copyright 2007 Glogster Team

See the interactive GLOG by Susan Oxnevad at Glogster Edu.

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Filed under Education, Online Resources

Reading Classics Makes You Nicer Too

I read The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas this summer on my Kobo. The e-reader took the physical weight off my hands and allowed me to absorb the mental weight by the hour. I loved it. I do enjoy classic fiction (I’m a huge Dickens fan) but this book stuck me hard with the complexity of the diabolical plot and Dumas’ ability to draw such wonderfully unique characters.

It turns out that I was engaging in some social therapy as I lounged in the sunshine.

Photo by Jennifer on Flickr

In a recent New York Times article, Pam Belluck discusses a study published in the Journal of Science that found a direct correlation between reading literary fiction and good social skills. It’s not the first study to have reached the conclusion that the development of empathy and sensitivity can be enhanced by reading, but this one compares literary fiction with nonfiction and popular novels.

“…after reading literary fiction, as opposed to popular fiction or serious nonfiction, people performed better on tests measuring empathy, social perception and emotional intelligence — skills that come in especially handy when you are trying to read someone’s body language or gauge what they might be thinking.

“…The researchers say the reason is that literary fiction often leaves more to the imagination, encouraging readers to make inferences about characters and be sensitive to emotional nuance and complexity.

“…The study’s authors and other academic psychologists said such findings should be considered by educators designing curriculums, particularly the Common Core standards adopted by most states, which assign students more nonfiction.” For Better Social Skills, Scientists Recommend a Little Chekhov

Enokson on Flickr

Enokson on Flickr

Luckily, we library people can do our bit to encourage such reading in our schools. The very generous digital artist Enokson on Flickr shares these “Booktalkers“.

“Cut apart these bookmarks and slip into books on display or on shelves, leaving them peeking out of the top of the pages or to attract attention to new books or books of specific genres. A black and white version is also available in my photostream.”

Her Creative Commons license only asks that they not be used for commercial purposes, that you give the artist credit, and that if you modify it, you share your work with the same generosity.

(I wonder if these generous people who share their work so freely read more literary fiction – empathy and sensitivity at work, wouldn’t you say?)

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Filed under Education, Online Resources, Reading, Wisdom

Video-Making Tools

This video was made to show some options for video creation specifically for YASLA Academy videos but is a nice overview of many of the tools available for any video project.

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