Book Lists & Book Reviews to Help School Librarians Choose Books!

Book Lists & Book Reviews to Help School Librarians Choose Books! - I don't do books...but there are school librarians who do. Here are the booklists and book reviews that help me choose quality books for students, and they may help you, too. #NoSweatLibraryI don’t do books. … Wait…what?!

I realize this is a startling statement from a School Librarian, but let me clarify.

I’ve never been much of a “literary” reader, so I’m not adept at Fiction booktalks or book reviews nor can I “find the perfect book for a student.” As a former science & social studies teacher, I’m definitely a NON-fiction School Librarian.

So, when it comes to the Fiction area of our school library, I rely on book lists & book reviews from other library and education professionals, both to purchase books for our school library and to recommend books to students.

Here are the book list and book review sources I use to help me choose high-quality books for students. I think they can help you, too.

GREAT LISTS OF RECOMMENDED BOOKS

State Reading Lists

I love that here in Texas we have 10 different reading lists, for preschool to adult, all chosen by our Texas School Librarians. Half of the lists offer selections appropriate for the middle school students I serve:

  • Lone Star – fiction & nonfiction for middle school: I get at least 2 copies of all of these every year.
  • Tayshas – fiction & nonfiction for high school: I buy selected titles for our YA collection aimed at 8th graders.
  • Maverick Graphic Novels – for grades 6-12: Nearly 3 dozen titles for middle-school-aged students.
  • Spirit of Texas – by Texas authors & illustrators for grades 6-12: up to a half-dozen choices for middle school.
  • Tejas Star – Bilingual/multicultural for ages 5 – 12: I ask Spanish teachers to select appropriate titles to support our IB second language program.

If your state offers reading lists—either from librarians or literacy teachers—take advantage of those vetted titles and buy two or more copies of every book that’s appropriate for the age & grade of your students.

You may also want to use other state award lists for additional titles to buy. A great source for those is Simon & Schuster’s Current State Award Master List webpage. Just click on a state in the list or on the map for their list of award or recommended books.

Association & Organization Book Lists

There are a few organizations that I trust to recommend great books for students. Here are my favorites:

The American Library Association is a one-stop shop for book lists. Their Association for Library Services to Children (ALSC) and their Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) have a variety of book lists:

The American Literacy Association has 3 “Choices Lists” elected by their readers: Children’s Choices, Young Adult Choices, and Teachers’ Choices.

The National Education Association’s Read Across America has partnered with Colorín Colorado to create 10 lists to promote diversity, culture, and equity, including a list of books whose settings are in each U.S. state. They also offer 6 other organizational sources of book recommendations.

Book Vendors

Many large school library book vendors, such as Follett, offer customized lists or advanced sort features that produce a customized list. For example, you can sort by “popular” books or “best sellers” to find what other school librarians have purchased. I do this in the early spring to pick up titles I may have missed for my final book purchase of the school year.

You can also use the drop-down checklist of professional book review journals, such as School Library Journal and Voice of Youth Advocates, so you can specify starred or highly recommended titles to create your own quality list. This feature has rescued me from having to comb through piles of professional magazines for reviews of the best books to purchase.

BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS FROM LIBRARIANS

Book Reviews By Librarian/Teacher Bloggers

School Librarian Bloggers With GREAT Book Reviews! - Many folks review books on their blogs, but School Librarians specialize in books for kids in grades PreK through 12. Here are some School Librarian bloggers that have helped me choose quality books for our middle school library. #NoSweatLibraryA number of School Librarians have created online book reviews for students and fellow librarians to learn about “good reads.” Here is a list of LM_NET and TLC listserv folks I rely on for good book reviews:

  • Richie’s Picks – Richie reads a book nearly every week and posts his review to the LM-NET listserv. If you’ve missed them, you can search the LM-NET archive, but it may be easier to browse Richie’s Pbworks wiki-web site.
  • Pamela Thompson is one of my favorite school librarians. She’s been reading and reviewing books for years and has a huge compilation on her website Young Adult Books-What We’re Reading Now.
  • Mrs. Readerpants is another of my long-time favorite librarians. She has quite a few book reviews on her website, along with some “Genre Personality” information that can be helpful for students to identify their favorite reads.
  • Barb Langridge has a wonderful collection of book reviews on her website, A Book and a Hug. Some have been contributed by teachers and students. She also has a Reader Personality Survey form for young folks to fill out and submit for an overview of their type along with a visual list of books they’ll enjoy reading.
  • Laurie Evans reviews elementary & middle school appropriate books, which she has curated on her website, Blazer Tales. She offers 3 ways to sort and find the perfect books.

Here are other librarian & teacher bloggers who do regular book reviews, including student reviews which can be insightful for buying multiple copies of books. You may recognize a couple names as nationally-known authors:

  • Nerdy Book Club is a group of 4 teachers, including Donalyn Miller of Book Whisperer fame, who write reviews of books for elementary through high school.
  • Pernille Ripp is a middle school teacher who’s a passionate promoter of reading. Each year her students compose Our Favorite Books, a list with reviews of their favorite reads for the year.
  • Books in the Middle are reviews from 5 librarians and teachers who work with middle school students. Their reviews cover a wide range of topics/genres.
  • Libres is a website of professional book reviews by librarians & teachers in southeastern Michigan. They’ve been receiving publisher copies and reviewing books for 4 decades and once reviewed, the books are donated to schools and libraries in their geographic area.
  • Gaijin School Librarian, aka Ashley Hawkins, hails from a high school in Brooklyn NY where she writes book reviews and recommended lists for manga graphic novels and anime. She has links to other places to find manga information.

Just recently I learned about this site, “62 great books by Black authors, recommended by TED speakers.” These are recommended fiction & nonfiction titles that can bring diversity into your collection.

Book Talks & Book Trailers

There’s nothing quite like a book talk to get students interested in books. Since I’m no good at booktalks, I rely on other sources to interest students in books.

One of those resources is the public library’s Youth Services Librarian. Our school boundaries encompass 2 different public libraries, and both allow crossover access for our students. I have the benefit of 2 wonderful ladies who I invite to our school 4 times a year for booktalks and to promote public library activities to our students: early fall after school begins, and before our winter, spring and summer breaks. It’s a WIN-WIN for me, for them, and especially for our students.

Combining the best of booktalks and online book reviews are online video booktalks. Here are two you won’t want to miss:

  • Naomi Bates has written book reviews for years on her blog, YA Books & More. Now she’s upped her presence to a vlog—a video blog—where she booktalks a new book nearly every week. You can also use the playlists on her YouTube site to show a series of video booktalks while your students are browsing for books!
  • Colby Sharp, one of the “nerds” from the Nerdy Book Club, has an amazing YouTube site with lots & lots of video booktalks!

Students love book trailers, and so do I. They’re like movie previews only better, because you can create a QR link code and tape it onto the book so kids can use their smartphones to view the trailer when they pull a book off the shelf. Here are two good resources for book trailers:

PROMOTE READING WITH FIRST-LINERS & BOOKMARKS

Easy Reading Promotion with First-Lines & Topical Bookmarks! - As a NON-Fiction School Librarian, I read aloud the first-lines of fiction books so students know why reading the first page is on our checklist. And I create 21 different topical & series bookmarks to give students additional choices for story types they already like. #NoSweatLibraryOne way I help students find a book that appeals to them is with my IT IS FOR ME checklist, where the F is for the First page of the book. When I get new books in, I scan the first pages to find really catchy first lines. At a library visit I read these first-lines to students to emphasize why opening the book and reading the first page is worthwhile.

Though I’m not so good at book reviews or booktalks, I put special effort into creating “if you like this, you’ll also like…” bookmarks for students. I have templates for 21 different topical & series bookmarks, which I place in Demco acrylic displays on top of the circulation counter. Our Fiction area is organized by Subjects using color-coded sticker labels & transparent label covers. so I copy bookmarks to cardstock that matches the color for the Subject so students know where to go to find the books.

Many School Librarians love reading books from their school library and doing booktalks & book reviews. For those of us who don’t, we can benefit from these folks and return the favor by blogging about what we do do best!

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Best Online Professional Learning Network for School Librarians

Best Online Professional Learning Network for School Librarians - Some of my best practices & ideas have come from my online Professional Learning Network. So, here's my list of bloggers, social media groups, and other communities that have had the greatest influence on my Library Lessons and School Library Program..and they may help you, too. #NoSweatLibraryOften while creating Library Lessons or writing my blog, I realize many of the best practices and ideas I’ve gathered over the years are a result of, not formal professional development, but rather my  Professional Online Learning Network!

The concept of a PLN has been around since the 1990s, and some folks refer to it as a Personal Learning Network; but whether we choose the term personal or professional, it’s where we can learn to be a better educator and School Librarian.

For a long time, I referred to my “Professional Learning Community,” but in a Schoolology blog post titled “Personal Learning Network (PLN) Benefits, Tools, and Tactics,” Elizabeth Trach explains that PLC refers to a structured, place-oriented group of like-minded or content-related educators, whereas the major feature of a PLN is exactly what the term network implies: it’s a digital, online community connecting educators everywhere, at any time.

And that isn’t all…as Brianna Crowley explains in her December 31, 2014 Education Week-Teacher article, “Although technology is often the vehicle to build connections, a PLN is about relationships.

If you want to know more about building a PLN, visit Edublogs’ Building Your PLN, a free self-paced course. And now, here are the connections and relationships I’ve built as my Professional Learning Network over my many years as a School Librarian.

LIBRARY ORGANIZATIONS

School Librarians need to keep abreast of changing subject and library standards, of useful strategies for research & information skills, and for new technology. Membership in my State library association and in ALA/AASL are advantageous, but the international LM_NET listserv and my Texas State Library listserv provide my most valuable learning about standards, information literacy and library lessons.

Another wonderful organization for school librarians is edWeb.net. Through their School Library Network and Emerging Tech for Schools and Libraries communities, they offer at least one FREE webinar every month on new ideas, best practices, and valuable resources. School Librarians need to keep up with the constant innovation and diversification of technology, and to keep our professional skills one step ahead of students. I seek out new tools to integrate technology into assignments and ideas for new or better ways to implement my technology lessons.

Library of Congress is one of my favorite places to explore. Not only do they have a huge online catalog of nearly every book ever written (with both LOC & Dewey identifiers), they also have a vast digital collection of media about American life from the earliest years up to today, as well as a vibrant blog that regularly features interesting parts of their collection.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Many librarians rely on Twitter, but I’m not as enthusiastic, though I do follow a few dozen folks, as well as a few librarians on Pinterest. My main social media outlet for library learning is Facebook and these 6 Groups consistently provide great professional learning ideas for School Librarians:

MY FAVORITE BLOGS

Another essential professional learning tool is an RSS feeder that allows me to subscribe to and gather together blogs about School Libraries, education, and technology.  I’ve used feedly for several years and recently began also using Bloglovin’; through them I can read numerous blogs that provide insight and ideas for improving my Library Lessons and my School Library Program. Here is a list of my favorites:

Jennifer Gonzalez, blogger/author at Cult of Pedagogy.Cult of Pedagogy – Jennifer Gonzalez, education specialist and National Board Certified teacher. Best overall teaching blog ever, plus great technology implementations.

Joyce Valenza, blogger for Never Ending Search at School Library Journal.Never Ending Search – Joyce Valenza, the guru of all school librarians, writes this blog for School Library Journal. She’s a long-time tech leader and co-creator of #TLChat, TLChat Live, and TL Virtual Café. First as a high school librarian and now as professor of library science at Rutgers University, she keeps us all on our toes!

Stony Evans, librarian/blogger at Library Media Tech Talk.Library Media Tech Talk – Stony Evans, librarian at Bethel Middle School in Bryant AR and a certified Microsoft Innovative Educator, offers great ways to use technology in the library to engage students and expand their global connections. Every blog post is a new inspiration!

Naomi Bates, librarian/blogger at YA Books and MoreYA Books and More – Naomi Bates, a Texas high school librarian with a wide range of knowledge about books and reading, library skills and technology. (One of these days I’ll get in my car and drive across town to visit her library!) She’s now vlogging: creating 2-3 minute video booktalks on current YA reads.

Doug Johnson, technology director/blogger at Blue Skunk Blog.Blue Skunk Blog – Doug Johnson writes on all things library and technology. I became inspired by Doug during a group chat in one of my library courses. For many years he had the closing article in Library Media Connection [now School Library Connection] which was the first thing I read when I received the magazine!

500 Hats image.500 Hats – Barbara Braxton, an Australian school librarian, has 3 Master’s degrees and over 40 years experience. Her posts on the LM_NET listserv always offers excellent professional guidance for school library programs.

Shannon McClintock Miller, teacher/blogger at The Library Voice and spokesperson for Future Ready Librarians and Follett.The Library Voice – Shannon McClintock Miller, school librarian and currently the Future Ready Libraries & Project Connect spokesperson. She offers great resources for school librarians to become leaders in the digital transformation of learning.

Hilda K. Weisburg, author of her name blog.Hilda K. Weisburg – another long-time guru, Hilda is a retired school librarian with over 25 years experience. She has a way of making us see the big picture!

Nikki Robertson, librarian/blogger at The Absolutely True Adventures of a School Librarian.The Absolutely True Adventures of a School Librarian – Nikki Robertson, a Georgia school librarian and Instructional Technology Facilitator, is co-creator of #TLChat LIVE! and TL News Night.

Gwyneth Jones, librarian/blogger at The Daring Librarian.The Daring Librarian – Gwyneth Jones, a teacher librarian in Maryland, has a passion for edtech and shares all her creative and wonderful lesson ideas with the rest of the library world.

Diana Rendina, librarian/blogger at Renovated Learning.Renovated Learning – Diana Rendina, a media specialist/teacher librarian in Tampa, Florida is the guru of Makerspaces. Her ideas for redesigning the school library into a participatory learning environment with hands-on STEM learning experiences are the best!

Elizabeth Kahn, librarin in Avondale LATales from a Loud Librarian –Elizabeth Kahn, librarian at Patrick F. Taylor Science and Technology Academy in Avondale, LA. She has some of the cleverest ideas I’ve ever seen for library lessons that truly engage students.

025.431: The Dewey blog Everything you always wanted to know about the Dewey Decimal Classification® system but were afraid to ask025.431: The Dewey blog – Everything you always wanted to know about the Dewey Decimal Classification System but were afraid to ask. From OCLC, the folks in charge of keeping Dewey current, who also sponsor a Google Groups discussion forum where you can ask questions and contribute suggestions.

Larry Ferlazzo, teacher/blogger at Larry Ferlazzo's Websites of the Day.Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day – This long-time ELL/ESL/EFL teacher is a librarian’s best resource for online curation. He has thousands—yes, thousands—of sites organized in dozens of categories on his website. For us he’s better than Google!

Richard Byrne, author/blogger at Free Technology for Teachers.Free Technology for Teachers – Richard Byrne in Maine. The very best resource for all things technology, he also has a channel on YouTube with dozens of video tutorials for tech tools. My go-to guy when I need to know how to use a tech tool!

Educational Technology and Mobile Learning - logo.Educational Technology & Mobile Learning – Meg Kharbach, a doctoral researcher with 10 years of classroom experience, writes from Nova Scotia, Canada about dozens of technology tools for iPads, Smartphones, and Google, Chrome, & Chromebooks. You need it, she can recommend something!

There are thousands more educational bloggers, but if you’re looking for high quality sources, try Teach 100, a daily ranking of the top 100 educational blogs recommended by educators around the world.

I hope these online professional communities help you as much as they’ve helped me. Happy Professional Library Learning!

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