The Worst Story Time of the Year

It happens every year, sometimes more than once. A story time that I think is going to be really awesome just falls flat and is actually pretty terrible.

It happened today for me. I had a K5 class about to come in, and I was really excited about it. I had a group of super funny books lined up. (Stuck by Oliver Jeffers, My Teacher is a Monster by Peter Brown, Hug Machine by Scott Campbell and I am Invited to a Party by Mo Willems. I mean, how can you mess a story time with those books up?) I was also excited about the song I was going to play on the ukulele in between two of the stories, “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad.” I loved that song as a kid, and my son does too, so I thought that most of the kids would recognize it and sing along.

Well, it started out kind of crazy. I played and sang “Shake My Sillies Out” like I do before every class. The shaking got a little crazy this time, and led to some pushing and shoving. I got through the song,  sorted out the mess, and got everyone calmed down and seated for our first book. As soon as I pulled out Stuck, I knew I had made a mistake. Cries of “Not again!” and “We already read that one!” rang out from the kids. I asked, “Really?” and they all informed me that I had indeed read this book to them already a few weeks ago. I keep pretty detailed notes of what I read to each class, and somehow, when I was planning for today’s classes yesterday afternoon, I just missed the fact that I had already read that one to K5 this year. I’ve never done that before, but I guess there’s a first time for everything.

I told the kids that we were going to read it anyways, and they were ok with that, but everyone shouted out what was going to happen next in the book the whole time I was reading it, which kind of ruined the story.

Sometimes moving on is the best way to recover, so I read My Teacher is a Monster, and it went over ok. The kids couldn’t move past my mistake, though. “At least you haven’t read this one to use before, ” someone called out right before I started.

After that book, I tried “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad.” I hadn’t really practiced the song at full volume, because I tried to learn it in my office here at school, and people are always walking in and out of the library, so I tried to keep it down while I was learning it. I thought I was ready, though. It sounded ok to me in my soft, whisper-like singing voice.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t ok. While trying to perform it at full volume, I realized that I couldn’t sing it in that key, so I was switching octaves all over the place, up and down, trying to get it right. If I had more time, I could have changed the key, but it was too late for that. It was a mess. The kids just sat there watching the train wreck, a few of them mumbling along with the words. It definitely wasn’t the whole-hearted, joyful belting the song out that I usually get from them.

I moved on with the story time, and read the last two books. Hug Machine is one of my favorites of the year, and it went over decently, and an Elephant and Piggie book ALWAYS goes over well. Every. Single. Time. I would almost say that the E & P book saved the story time, but the beginning was just so bad, it’s hard for me to really believe that. (I will say this, though. If any author can save a wrecked story time. It’s Mo Willems.)

Finally, it was over, and I let the kids get up to select their books for checkout. As soon as they picked them and lined up to head back to their classroom, I hurried over to my computer to change my class plans on Google Drive. I had another K5 class coming in 20 minutes. I deleted Stuck and replaced it with A Pet For Fly Guy (After double checking to make sure I hadn’t already read that one to K5) And I totally got rid of “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad” (I may never play it again.) and replaced it with “The Fruit Salad Song.” An a cappella song that the kids love that we hadn’t done in a while.

The next class came in, and it went much better. The kids love Fly Guy, and they actually cheered when I said we were going to sing “The Fruit Salad Song.” I guess it had been longer than I remembered since we had done it?

I breathed a sigh of relief after that class walked out. I had gotten through my really bad story time of the year, and adjusted it before the next class. Maybe there won’t be any more like that this year. I can always hope!

Story time ukulele songs: Down by The Bay

This week, I added another Raffi song to my arsenal. I thought that none of the kids were going to know “Down by the Bay.” I thought that kids didn’t really listen to Raffi that much these days, and that we would be learning a new, awesome song. Well, I was wrong about that. Every  class from K4 through 1st grade (I haven’t had my K3s yet this week) had several students who knew the song very well. I thought it went over great. Here’s a Video of Raffi performing it.

Here are the lyrics and ukulele chords I used.

(G) Down By the Bay Where the Watermelons grow (D7) back to my home, I dare not go (G) For if I do (C) My mother will say (G). (a cappella here) “Did you ever see a moose kissing a goose, (D7) Down by the (G) bay?”

I alternate the last line every time I sing it. Some of the lines I have used are “Did you ever see a spider drinking apple cider? “Did you ever see a whale with a polka dotted tale” “Did you ever see a creature kissing a teacher?” “Did you ever see Mr. Terry (our principal) dressed as a fairy?”

All in all, it made for a great, silly pretty short song to play in between two of the longer story time books.

Ukulele Story time Songs: There’s A Spider on the Floor

Every week I’m trying to learn a new song on the ukulele to play for my K3 through 1st grade story times. I thought it might be fun to share the song that I’m playing each week here on my blog with the chords and lyrics in case there’s anyone out there looking for story time song ideas.

This week’s song is, “There’s a Spider on the Floor.” I’ve seen many different versions of this song out there, but my favorite is Raffi’s. Here’s a link a video with the song.

I changed a few of the words, especially the line, “There’s a spider on my head. Oh, I wish that I were dead.” It was probably funny back in Raffi’s day, but suicidal thoughts aren’t something to joke about these days. Sorry Raffi. I still love you, though.

Here are the lyrics that I use. I got them from a few different versions of the song, and made a few of the lines up myself.

There’s a spider on the floor on the floor. There’s a spider on the floor on the floor. There’s a spider on the floor, oh who could ask for more? There’s a spider on the floor on the floor.

There’s a spider on my shoe on my shoe……….There’s a spider on my shoe, oh I don ‘t know what to do…….

There’s a spider on my knee on my knee….there’s a spider on my knee and he’s looking up at me…….

There’s a spider on my tummy, on my tummy,……. there’s a spider on my tummy and I think I want my mummy……

There’s a spider on my neck on my neck…..There’s a spider on my neck. Oh my, I’m such a wreck…..

There’s a spider on my head on my head….There’s a spider on my head, and I wish that HE were dead…..

Then the spider jumps off and I sing the “there’s a spider on the floor” line again.

The great thing about this song, is that it makes a great a cappella song, so no instrument needed. Raffi, did it a cappella in fact. I  play the ukulele for it, though, and the chords are CGGCFCGC. If you don’t like that key, you can play DAADGDAD.

At first, I was a little worried about how it was going to go down. All the songs I’ve done before had motions or dances that went along with them. This one didn’t, but I liked it, so I tried it out anyways. And wouldn’t you know it, the students made up their own motions. Kids are so smart. They all started swatting at the floor during the floor line, slapping at their shoes during the shoe line, scratching at their necks during the neck line, etc. It made for a great song that students can remained seated for, but still allows them to get some of that excitement out. I’ll definitely be playing it again in a few weeks or so.

Corrupting the Youth of America (A soccer post, that I will try to make relevant to the library since this IS, after all, a library blog)

First, let me just say that I live in college football country. I’m well aware of that fact. I went to the University of Alabama, and my last year of grad school (2009), we won the national championship (then again in 2011 and 2012) When my daughter was about to be born, my wife and I made sure that the hospital had a TV in the room, and that the channel was set for the SEC championship game. My students argue all year about Alabama and Auburn. I had two first graders in a shoving match last January, because one of them said that Alabama was going to beat Auburn in the Super Bowl, even though college football had been finished for about a month. I know that in this state, college football is king, and will probably always reign. 

That being said, I have a confession to make. As much as I love college football, I have a second love, and sometimes, it is just as big. I love soccer. Every four years I spend the summer in front of the TV (This year, I spent the summer with my ipad in my lap) watching the best soccer players in the world duke it out. I cheer for the US, like everyone else, but I always keep watching long after the US is knocked out. I liked playing soccer as a kid. There’s something magical about having a ball and an open field in front of you, knowing that if you run fast enough, no one i going to be able to stop you, and that if you kick the ball just right, you’re going to beat the goalie, and you’re going to score, and everyone is going to go bananas, because  in soccer, every goal is worth something. This past summer, I decided that I needed to pick a British Premier League team, and I settled on Liverpool, and it has been a blast watching them. These days, you can watch almost every game online.

I know not everyone loves soccer, especially here in Alabama. I’ve heard it called unAmerican and communist pretty frequently (Even though, I’m flabbergasted as to how a sport can be considered communist) people make fun of the diving and flopping (Even though I see a lot of flopping in the NBA, and then there was this Auburn player diving to stop Arkansa’s momentum last year.) It was this column from Ann Coulter, though, that set me off. Ann Coulter loves to make people mad, and before this column, it’s never worked on me. I kind of see her as a clown trying to get a reaction from people, but this time she actually offended me. She saw that the world, and yes, the United States too, was fixated on soccer, and I guess it worried her because for some reason she felt the need to attack the sport and its fans.

Well, the day that I read that column, I decided to fight for soccer. I may not have much influence in the world, but I do have over 400 students ranging from 3 years old to 10 who come to see me every week, and listen to me read books. Surely that counts for something? 

The first thing I did was cut a library summer story time short by a few minutes. I stopped reading to some fifth graders a few minutes early so we could all gather around my computer at the circulation desk and watch the US play Germany live. The boys and a few of the girls all surrounded the desk and cheered for our country as we competed in an “UnAmerican” sport. Take that Ann Coulter. 

The next thing I did was intentionally add a few soccer picture books here and there to my daily story times. So far this year, I’ve read:

Soccer Star, a book about a soccer-obsessed boy in Brazil, who gets his sister on the team, even though the team rule is no girls.

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Happy Like Soccer, a book about a girl from the city who plays soccer every week, but has no one to watch her play, until she pulls some strings with her coach to get her last game moved to her own neighborhood.

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and Froggy Plays Soccer

 

 

 

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The stories have gone off great, and the reaction has been the same as when I read football stories (cheers and requests for more. Take that Ann Coulter) I’ve also added a few really cool series to the collection like The Kicks by US olympian Alex Morgan. (I found out about the series from the back of a cereal box) So far, they’ve circulated really well. The 4th and 5th grade girls love them.

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While, I’m kind of just joking about doing all of this to spite Ann Coulter, I do hope that one day, some of our boys can grow up and achieve fame playing a sport that won’t give them life-long brain injuries and really bad knees. I hope that some of our girls can grow up to be olympians like Alex Morgan. And yes, I hope that some of these kids will get interested in soccer, and will one day become stars and that with their help, the US will one day actually win a World Cup. Who knows, maybe the next Messi is walking the streets of Montgomery, Alabama kicking a soccer ball around?

 

 

 

School Librarian Tip # 773 Never Throw Your Old, Outdated Technology Away

Two years ago, in August, I ordered a brand new state-of-the art barcode scanner for the library. It was my first year on the job and the previous librarian had used these old pen looking scanners that you had to rub back and forth along the barcodes, sometimes five or six times before it would read. Being someone born in the digital age, I knew that this just wasn’t going to work for me. I like fast. I don’t have time to sit there, and rub pens along barcodes all day, so I ordered the new scanner, and let me tell you, it was cool. It hooked up to my USB drive and as long as it was charged, I could go anywhere in the library and scan a book, and it would register the on my computer at the circulation desk. It was awesome. I thought about throwing the old pen scanners away, but I decided to just cram them into a storage closet. “Who knows,” I thought, “Maybe someday they’ll be considered antiques and I can get a fortune for them on Ebay.”

The kids were all awed by the scanner too. They ALL wanted to scan their own books. I didn’t see any problem with it, so I let them. I was pretty proud of my new, fancy scanner.

Everything went well until a few months later, when the infamous “Drop” happened during a fourth grade class. This story has kind of become legend throughout the school, (at least in the library) and two years later, I’m still not exactly sure what happened. What I know is that I was in the stacks taking a student to the Captain Underpants books when I heard a loud crash and then a beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep. I hurried back over to the desk, and saw a group of students standing around and staring at the fallen barcode scanner. Apparently, one of the 4th graders was attempting to check her own book out, while another student was trying to stop her because she wasn’t supposed to be doing that alone. That led to a scuffle, and then the drop. Both of the girls said the other one dropped it, so I didn’t know who to believe.

I picked it up, and it still seemed to work, so I breathed a sigh of relief and continued on with class. Later that day, I learned the true extent of the damage. The charger had broken off inside the scanner when it hit the floor. The scanner was only going to be usable as long as its charge lasted.

I remembered something about a warranty when I purchased the scanner. (It was from the same company who runs our circulation system), so I called and explained my situation to them. They laughed at me (yes, actually laughed) and told me that the warranty didn’t cover dropped scanners. I could purchase another from them (it was 600 dollars, I believe), but they wouldn’t replace the broken one. I was a little bit irritated. I explained to them that I worked in an elementary library, and that drops were bound to happen. Was their product really so fragile that it would break after one drop? I had only bought the scanner a few months before, and if I spent 600 dollars on a new scanner, that was 600 dollars worth of books that I wouldn’t be able to purchase for the students. I must have been a little bit convincing, because they knocked 200 bucks off of the price and sold me a new scanner for 400 dollars.

When the new scanner came in, I started enforcing a strict no touching policy. For the rest of that year, and the next, I was the only person allowed to check books in or out. I wouldn’t even let substitutes do it when I was sick. I had them write down the barcode numbers of books that the students were checking out, and I just typed them in when I got back. This worked out nicely. For the rest of that school year and the whole of the next, I had an awesome, expensive barcode scanner that worked very nicely. I didn’t love it like I had at first, because all in all, it had cost the library 1,000 bucks, which made me a little sick, but it worked fine.

Earlier this week, the scanner stopped working for no reason at all. Even when it was plugged up, it was telling me that it needed a charge. Occasionally it would get bursts of energy, and would check out books, but mostly I was typing in barcodes, and it was taking forever.

I called the company again,and told them what was happening they told me that I was out of warranty by a few months (the warranty only lasted a year) and that even though I hadn’t dropped it or anything this time, there was nothing they could do. “So what am I supposed to do?” I asked. “Buy my third 600 dollar scanner in three years? Should I start planning on these things breaking?”They told me that no, I couldn’t even buy another one because they had stopped carrying them. “So you recognized that you were selling a very poor product?” I asked. They told me that yes, they were unhappy with the product so they stopped selling it. I asked them what I could do? They gave me the number of the manufacturer, but also told me that they were in Taiwan and didn’t speak any English so they probably wouldn’t be able to help me.

Well anyways, today, the scanner died all together. I went and dug the old pen scanners out of the closet and hooked them up. They are probably twenty years old, but so far, they’ve worked fine. It takes a little while, maybe five or six swipes, but at least they don’t die on me.

Today, as I was checking out a third grade class, one of the students saw the pen scanner, and said “Cool! You got a new scanner! Can I scan my own book?”

“Sure,” I said. “Knock yourself out. I don’t think you could break this thing if you tried.”

They just don’t make things like they used to.

Moral of the story: Don’t throw your old technology away. You might need it when your fancy new things quit working.

TTT: Top 10 Characters Who Would Have Set at My Lunch Table in High School

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly blog meme, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. I’ve been a fan of the meme for a while, and I really liked this week’s topic, so thought that I would give it a go. Maybe it will be come a regular weekly thing, since my blog is kind of dying from my lack of updating. This week’s topic is “top ten characters who would have sat at my lunch table in high school.”

Sooooo, here we go…. I think it’s assumed that we would all be around the same age.

1 and 2. Fred and George Weasley from the Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling

3. Eugenides  from The Queen’s Thief Series by Megan Whalen Turner

4. Scout from To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

5. Leslie Burk from A Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Patterson

6, 7 and 8. Lockwood, Lucy and George from The Lockwood and Co. series by Jonathan Stroud

9.Turtle from The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

10. Ramona Quimby from The Ramona Series by Beverly Cleary

That was fun. Who would your ten lunchmates be?

 

The Story of the Library Ukelele

I came to my current school library job from a public library setting. The friend who trained me to plan and conduct preschool story times told me to always, always include songs and rhymes in between the books to keep the kids engaged and to keep them from getting too antsy. So, recognizing that she was much wiser and a much better storyteller than I was, (Seriously, she’s still the best I’ve ever seen)I took her advice.

Months later, when I got my current job, I brought all of my public library antics with me. The librarian at this school before me was very calm and quiet. She read the kids stories, checked their books out and then had them sit very quietly and read, so when I showed up and wanted to sing and dance, some of the teachers looked at me like I was nuts, some even told me that they thought I was going to lose control over the class (maybe I did a few times, but I always got it back!)From K3-K5 we start every story time off with Raffi’s “Shake My Sillies Out”, and we do lots of songs and flannel board activities in between the stories.

This summer, Ashley, my wife attended some of my summer story time sessions for the students with my two kids (my son is three and my daughter is 20 months). A few weeks after the first session, on Father’s day, I opened my Father’s Day gifts. I got a Harry Potter marauder’s map coffee mug and a blue giraffe ukelele.

 uke 

Both of these gifts were really thoughtful and unexpected. I can usually guess what I’m going to get (This time, I thought it might be the new Outlander novel since it had just been released) but this year I honestly had no clue. I must have looked surprised because my wife laughed and told me that she thought that I could learn how to play it over the summer, and then I could use it in my preschool story times when school started. I admit, I was a bit doubtful. I loved the ukelele, but I just didn’t know if I was ever going to be good enough to play in front of my students. 

At first, my fears seemed well-founded. I was terrible. I couldn’t switch between chords very well (G gave me a lot of trouble) and I just couldn’t get the strumming right. I was getting discouraged, and didn’t think there was any way that I would be ready by the time school started in early August.

I decided to try playing with a very thin pick, and that helped out with the strumming some, but  I was still really slow switching back and forth between the chords. I gave up trying to learn children’s songs for story time, and just had fun with it. I learned some pop songs (even some R & B songs) and just played for fun. One night, I was playing around, and I realized that I was actually switching between all of the chords, even G without any trouble. Somehow, it had just worked itself out. That got me excited, so I switched back to learning some children’s songs, and I found that they came much easier.

School started, and I still wasn’t brave enough to bust out the uke that first week. I just didn’t feel confident enough to “preform.” My wife went out of town with the kids, and I went book shopping to alleviate some of the boredom. One of the books I picked out was the new Eric Litwin book, The Nuts: Bedtime at the Nut House. I read it to myself, and loved it. Then I went to Litwin’s website, and saw that he had some songs that went along with the book. One of them was “If You’re Nutty and You Know it.” It’s basically, “If You’re Happy and You Know It” but with nuts. I already knew “If You’re Happy and You Know it” on the uke, and thought I had finally found a way to introduce the uke at story times. So, the second full week of school, I read the book and played the song for the K3, K4 and K5. I was really nervous, but it went ok. It really wasn’t that  big of a change to the kids. We were already singing songs every week, so it didn’t seem like big of a deal to them.

The next week, I added a bit more ukelele. I did “Head and Shoulders Knees and Toes” for the K3 and K4, a song we had done a million times before a cappella and “Five Green and Speckled Frogs” for K5, and I even started doing “Shake My Sillies Out” on the uke instead of playing the Raffi recording for a few of the classes.

Overall, I’ve been really pleased with the uke addition. It adds a bit to the overall story time experience. My only problems so far have been leaving the uke at school when I meant to take it home to learn a new song (I had to learn a new one in my office this week and a 5th grader walked in on me) or leaving it at home when I meant to take it to school. I’m still working it all out, but honestly, if I’m still leaving my lunch at home after all these years, I’m probably going to leave the ukulele at home a bunch too. I’ve made so many mistakes playing, but the kids don’t seem to notice. They just like singing. I have a terrible singing voice, but they’re used to that, and they know that if they sing loud enough they can cover my voice up.

Usually, when a K4 class lines up and leaves the library, one or two of the really sweet kids will shout out, “Thanks for reading to us!” as they are leaving. Today, one of the kids smiled really big and yelled. “We had fun! Thanks for playing with us today!” That just made my day. I wasn’t just reading books to them.We were playing together. We sang songs, danced and read some fun books, too. To the kids, the books were just part of the fun, and that’s exactly how I like it. I hoping that they grow up loving to read, without even realizing it.

Girls Kissing in the Library

This particular incident happened this afternoon during a 2nd grade class. We were upstairs having some end of the year quiet reading time. Everything was very peaceful and quiet until one of the boys erupted in an incontrollable fit of giggling. He got up and ran over to where I was sitting. He pointed to a group of girls that were sitting in the corner apart from the rest of the class.

“They’re…they’re kissing!.” he managed to say in between giggles.

“Kissing?” I asked.

“Yeah! Kissing!”

I didn’t know what to think. I’m not prepared to deal with anyone kissing anyone, but girls kissing girls? and 2nd graders? I don’t know if there’s proper protocol for that. I asked the boy to sit back down, and decided to watch the girls for a little while.

One of the girls took the book that they were all looking at and brought it up to her face, and planted a big kiss on the page. I started giggling myself. I knew what book it probably was.

I walked over to where the girls were sitting and looked down. Sure enough, I had guessed correctly.

1d

 

Most circulated books in the 2014 school year (continued)

Friday, I posted my top ten circulated books of the 2014 school year. You can view it here. Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Elephant and Piggie dominated the list. I had a lot of fun with that post. I love to see which books top the list every year and sometimes, it surprises me. I had so much fun, I thought I’d extend the list to 20 titles. The11-20 list offers a much better variety. 

20. Doll Bones by Holly Black

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It really surprised me that this was in the top 20. It’s kind of creepy, and I usually only recommend it to  older kids. I knew that the 4th graders had given it a lot of love, but I didn’t know that many students had checked it out. I’m glad though. It’s a phenomenal novel, and very deserving of it’s 2014 Newbery Honor.

19. Bad Kitty for President  by Nick Bruel

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Bad Kitty is really popular. I’m not sure why this particular title was more popular than the rest, but the kids loved it.

18. Arnie the Donut by Laurie Keller

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This is probably one of my favorite picture books to read out loud. If you have a 1st-3rd grader, this would make an awesome gift. Everyone loves Arnie.

17. The 13-Storey Tree House by Andy Griffiths

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This one was a huge hit with the 3rd and 4th graders. I couldn’t keep it on the shelves. The sequel, The 26-Storey Treehouse, was recently released and has been extremely popular the last month or so.

16. Creepy Carrots by Aaron Reynolds

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Creepy Carrots in an awesome book. The students (And the 2013 Caldecott committee) agree.

15. The Last Straw by Jeff Kinney

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Greg is still tearing up the list.

14. Big Nate Goes for Broke by Lincoln Peirce

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My shelves are always a mess around the Big Nate section.

13. Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

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There’s been a kind of Harry Renaissance (a Harryssance?) this year. I’ve always tried to direct kids to this series, but for some reason, this year they’re biting. I actually have a 2nd grader who just just finished them allA 2nd grader! Anyways, it makes me happy to see Harry on my top 20 list.

12. Happy Pig Day! by Mo Willems

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Elephant and Piggie will not be denied.

11. Extreme Baby Mouse by Jennifer and Matthew Holm

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The girls love these graphic novels. The boys pretend they don’t because they’re pink, but after they finish all of the Squish books, they always read Babymouse too. They just try to check out when no one else is looking.

That’s it. The top 20 books circulated this year. I just looked at my list from this time last year. (At the bottom of the post). Interesting.

 

 

 

The Top 10 Circulated Books of 2014

Here are the top 10 books at my school this year. My students range from 3 years old to 11.

10. Pete the Cat and his Cool Blue Magic Sunglasses by Kimberly and James Dean

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This was the first decent Pete addition in a while, and the preschool kids love Pete.

9. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules by Jeff Kenney

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8. I am a Frog! by Mo Willems

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Elephant and Piggie are HUGE here, and not just among the preschoolers. Kids all the way up to the third grade here love these books. In case you didn’t know, so do I.

7. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days by Jeff Kinney

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6. The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

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This makes me so happy. The Newbery committee nailed it last year.

5. Diary of A Wimpy Kid: The Third Wheel by Jeff Kinney

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4. The Popularity Papers by Amy Ignatow

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These books are wildly popular here, and there’s a story behind it. Last year, a parent complained about one of the characters in the book having two dads. He didn’t try to remove the books or anything. He just complained. Some students heard about it, and since then, I can’t keep this series on the shelf.

3. Elephants Cannot Dance by Mo Willems

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Yay!

2. A Big Guy Took My Ball by Mo Willems

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Go Mo!

And no drumroll needed.

1. Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

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Are you surprised? If you are, you shouldn’t be.

To see 11-20, just click, here!