Through the month of November, the Zimmerman Library challenged Middle and Upper School students to stretch their writing horizons and participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). One of many library initiatives to encourage our students to read and write for the fun of it, NaNoWriMo dares students to write an entire novel in 30 days. The event happens every November and is a fun, web-based writing event where the challenge is to draft an entire novel in just 30 days. The program encourages writers to banish their inner critic, throw editing out the window, and let the joy of writing be their guide. The Zimmerman Library library hosted the Young Writers Program of NaNoWriMo, supplying our students with instructions, inspiration and a lot of support.
There is only one rule in this contest, write! After signing up through the Young Readers NaNoWriMo site, each student set their own goal for the length of their novel or story and could write about whatever topic they like. All of the work was done through the website which provides tools, timelines, and suggestions for the writers. We also provided topic cards for students needing a boost to get started and displayed a selection of books written in 30 days by professional authors (Night Circus, Fangirl, Cinder, Water for Elephants).
One 6th grade participant stated,
When I first came [to the library] I wasn’t really into books. I met some high schoolers and they gave me some suggestions of books to read and that got me into reading more and helped me find a book series I really liked, Of Poseidon and Of Triton by Anna Banks. Then this writers thing came up and I liked it because it seemed fun. I didn’t know what to do at first and then I thought of those books so I decided to write fan fiction based on them. My first goal was 2000 words but I completed that pretty quick so I’m going to write another story and try for 5000. Even though this contest is over and the time limit is up, I want to write a sequel. I think there’s still a lot to write about.
I wrote a book about two teenager angels who don’t really like being angels that much so they decide to leave. Their parents think they are on a mission to help people but they really escaped to live in the real world. My book is just fiction, I came up with the idea. My goal was 2000 at first, but I accomplished that in the first two days so I changed mine to 5000 too. I still want to keep working on this same story even though the contest is over.
What a fun opportunity to get kids excited about reading and writing beyond what’s required in class!
A Wrinkle in Time was an interesting graphic novel read for me because I loved the original full text when I read it years ago. It was fun re-reading with pictures in front of me, particularly because the magical elements were translated well. The distinct drawing style set apart the different worlds, and the various types of speech bubbles made the text understandable. The classic story of love conquering evil give the sci-fi/fantasy plotlines a heartwarming backbone. Meg’s issues with self-confidence, Charles Wallace’s caring exuberance, Calvin’s outsider attitude, and Mr. Murry’s quirky intelligence provide readers with a fully-developed sense of character and relatability for many bookish students. While some of the concepts are slightly sophisticated, the imaginations of our middle school students are strong, so I would recommend to 6th grade and up. A great option for kids who want to read the book before seeing the movie, but need a more paired down version than the original full text.
Orange: The Complete Collection 1 is the first manga I’ve read, so it took a bit for me to get used to reading from right to left. Once I got the hang of it, I got sucked into the story. Naho is 16 and begins receiving letters from her 26-year-old self. What she originally thinks is a prank becomes too real when the letters from the future predict specific occurrences in her life. There’s a new student at school – Kakeru – who future Naho wants to protect. Present day Naho has to heed the warnings in the letters to save Kakeru from his future, but sometimes she gets in her own way. The book questions whether what happens in the past actually affects the future, or if there is a parallel universe where the past and present don’t eventually collide. Good for 6th grade and up.
What is the Upper School Read?
Upper School Read Day is an annual Severn School tradition that brings our community together to dive into relevant and often controversial topics in literature. This year we utilized a reading model where students chose from a list of faculty book recommendations. All Upper School faculty and students then read it over the summer and engaged discussion and/or a book related activity.
Faculty were prompted to nominate books with any of the following qualities:
- Book that students want to read.
- Language that high school readers can understand.
- Theme that touches upon Severn themes (character, conduct, scholarship, leadership, inclusion, globalism, sustainability).
- Story that encourages an hour-long exploration of the book.
- Book with many layers – interesting plot with deeper meaning revealed.
- Plot that moves along.
- Main character that inspires.
- Book that appeals to different learning styles; one that lends itself to physical and intellectual exploration.
The final list included 16 fiction and non-fiction choices, spanning all genres including biography, fantasy, horror, realistic fiction, and memoir. Something for everyone!
Students were separated into groups based on the book they read, then faculty led them in fun discussion and activity. Activities ranged from a tea party for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to building a fire for A Walk in the Woods to bystander reenactments for All American Boys. Head librarian Mary Carrington observed, “I love seeing students step up to dig deeper into a conversation. At first they were reluctant, but after a while, we were sharing some complicated sentiments – and that was from freshman through seniors.”
US boys build fire
US teacher with students who read The Fire Next Time
US teacher and US head with students who read Snow in August
What do we love about the US Read?
Each year the Upper School Read brings a new opportunity for students and teachers to explore their own interests and opinions while learning from each other. Ms. Carrington enjoyed the “Shift in the way I get to know our students – I met some very deep thinkers on US Read Day, and I don’t always get to see that when I work with students in the Library.” This day gives us the chance to:
- Explore a book we might not have read.
- Collaborate with students from another grade.
- Interact with a teacher who we may never study with during our years at Severn.
- Learn more about our teachers through their favorite books.
- Learn without pressure or grades.
For a look back at previous Upper School Read days, check out the summaries on our library website.
Paper Girls 1 starts innocently enough with a group of girls delivering newspapers in the ‘80s around Halloween time. Things quickly ramp up when they find a time/space machine, and zombies who aren’t actually dressed for the holiday start chasing them. Turns out the zombies are actually young people from the future travelling back in time to fight old people who also seem to be from the future. Somehow the chaos made me want to read on. The old people look more futuristic and seem to have bad intentions. Because the zombie teens and future old people both speak different made up languages, it’s a little hard to follow who is good and who is bad. Pair that with the trippy flashbacks and dream sequences, and I was left wondering what exactly happened. Solely out of confusion and an unresolved cliffhanger, the second volume is on my to-read list. Because of the language and complex story line, this might be better for high school students.
In November 1989, the Black Caucus of the National Council of Teachers of English came together to set the first Sunday of February as a nationwide Read-In to promote diverse reading habits. Fast forward to February 2017, and libraries are still participating in African American Read-Ins. Librarians can choose any day in the month of February, and we at Severn decided on February 17th.
Collection of Books By African American Authors
Let’s Get to Reading
The event was open to any teacher, student, or staff member looking to read works by African American authors throughout the day. Poems, short stories, magazines, and novels were offered, featuring authors like Walter Dean Myers, Maya Angelou, Sharon Draper, and Langston Hughes. Some popular choices included Life Doesn’t Frighten Me At All, Twelve Rounds to Glory, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and MLK: Journey of a King. Students cozied up on bean bag chairs while snacking on cookies and listening to John Coltrane. Afterwards, they shared their readings in the forum, giving them the chance to discuss with peers.
Students Reading and Sharing Ideas in the Forum
Reflections from the Day
“One of the things librarians love to do is to help students find books they love. I heard a sixth grade plop down into a comfy chair this morning and exclaim “what a cool book!” If students don’t have the opportunity to sit and relax with a book of their choosing, they are on track to be an adult who does not enjoy reading later on. So this is part of our effort to help students become lifelong readers.” – Mary Coutts, Head Librarian
Students and teachers alike reveled in the chance to read something new and relax in the welcoming atmosphere of the library. We would certainly call the African American Read-In a success!
Library Decorations Included Poems, Author’s Last Names, and Quotations
Successful researchers know easy tricks to evaluate websites at first glance. Follow the acronym ADAPT to evaluate any page you think might be useful.
A: How accurate is the information? Can you verify it elsewhere? Is the site free of typographical or spelling errors?
D: Depth matters. Does the site offer a sufficient depth of information or just pieces that can be misleading?
A: Who authored this site? Can you contact them for more information if needed? Can you verify the site owner’s authority on the topic?
P: What is the purpose of the site? Is this a blog or a fact based page? Check the domain extension (.edu and .gov will likely be legitimate). Be skeptical of sites with big or varied fonts, multiple bright colors, or excessive punctuation.
T: Time is important. How new is the information? If there are no dates listed, look for other clues. Don’t mistake the date the page was created for the date that the information was obtained.
Still not sure? Check out this helpful website credibility guide from EasyBib!