2nd Annual African American Read-In

After the success of last year’s African American Read-In event, we decided to host another during February’s Black History Month. African American Read-Ins are a chance to celebrate the contributions of African Americans to the arts, specifically books, poems, and other writings. We pulled all books from our library’s collection written by an African American and set them out on display. Students and teachers were invited to stop by for a snack and settle in to read during their free moments throughout the day. Some teachers even planned their class period around bringing the students to the library.

Over 20 students loved their choices so much they checked the books out, including choices like Long Way Down, Dear Martin, and The Rose That Grew from Concrete.

We also celebrated musicians by playing records from black artists. Duke Ellington, Diana Ross and the Supremes, Lauryn Hill, and Nat King Cole were some of the featured musicians, though the This is Soul record was a personal favorite. Kids also got the chance to learn about what a record player is and gain a brief history of the evolution of music – they just had to ask any of the teachers who were old enough to appreciate vinyl!

After a great day of reading and reflection, this is definitely an event we wish to continue.


5th Grade Researchers

We welcomed some little visitors to the library this week! Our 5th grade students made the trek over to our campus to do some research on arctic explorers. We set up 6 different computer stations to encourage students to use specific resources (databases, videos, pdfs, etc.) to answer questions about explorers. “According to Admiral Richard Byrd, what did he do on May 9, 1926?” is just one example. Students also learned about Barbara Hillary (first black woman to reach the North Pole), Robert Scott Falcon (leader of the Polar Plateau expedition), Lillimor Rachelew (one of the first women to reach Antarctica), Matthew Henson (first African-American arctic explorer), and Roald Amundsen (first to reach the South Pole). The 5th grade students got a feel for how our library is set up and what life might be like once they progress to 6th grade. We supplied additional books about animals and arctic life to provide some entertainment between stations. The students will now travel back to their campus to complete projects on the explorer of their choice. We’re excited about this new batch of researchers!

Graphic Novel Thursday: Malcolm X

This graphic biography covers the entirety of Malcolm X’s life in just over 100 pages. The dMalcolm Xrawings are all in black and white, adding to the black and white subject matter. While I can understand how challenging it is to boil down someone’s lifetime, it seemed odd how the book was paced. Specific events were explained in depth for an entire chapter, whereas other portions (namely family life) were skimmed over with just one sentence. Majority of the graphic novel focuses on the Nation of Islam and Malcolm X’s complicated relationship with its members and views. Conversations and narrations wove together, adding a personal touch to the historical context, but the narrator’s bias is strongly felt. It would partner well with a straightforward textbook about Civil Rights, providing a specific point of view and narrative, though students should be warned of Malcolm X’s sometimes PG-13 lifestyle of drugs, women, and guns.

Escape the Library: Egypt Edition

Escape the Library: Egypt Edition was a success! As a way to introduce our 8th grade History students to their new research project on Egypt, we had a little fun with puzzles in the library. Students were broken into groups of 4-5 students, leaving us with 4 groups per class period. The groups were given the names Osiris, Set, Ra, and Horus named after the Egyptian gods of the underworld, war, sun, and sky.

Egypt Escape 15

Jars, Clues, Locks, and Tiles

Once in groups, students set off into their guarded room filled with 4 locked jars, scratch paper, a pencil, 3 hint cards, and an initial clue. Each lock required a bit of effort to find the key or the right number combination to open. From the start, students had to use the online catalog to locate a specific book on the shelf that held the physical key to their next locked jar. The second jar was bound with a number lock that opened with the correct year found in a particular World Book Online article about pyramid architect Imhotep. To unlock the next jar, students determined and transcribed the letter ‘B’ into a hieroglyph and presented it to their door’s guard. The guard provided a key to open the 3rd jar with one last clue.


Problem Solvers

Along the way, students discovered Bananagram tiles in their jars. With all jars open, students had to unscramble the tiles letters and run to their door’s guard with the final password (“sphinx,” “embalm,” “papyrus,” or “artifact”). If a team stumbled and got stuck, they were allowed 3 hints from their door guard – but this came at a cost. Every hint added 1 minute to their final time. With only 30 minutes to escape the library, the pressure mounted! In the end, every team escaped, with times ranging from 17 to 30 minutes.


Happy to Escape

Students learned 1) where to locate the online catalog, 2) what information to use in the catalog to locate a book, 3) how the library is set up, 4) where to locate online databases, and 5) how to use key terms to search a database. It was fun to take a step back and let the kids struggle a bit to figure out the clues then work together to succesfully solve the puzzles and escape!

NaNoWriMo Wrap Up

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.

Another said,

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!

Graphic Novel Thursday: A Wrinkle in Time

Image result for a wrinkle in time graphic novelA 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.

Graphic Novel Thursday: Orange

Orange: TheOrange 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.