Books That Give You the Feels

This bulletin board display was inspired by one of my favorite young patrons, who loves to read realistic fiction that tugs at her heart.

There are a substantial number of 4th-6th grade students who aren’t interested in books with magic, time travel, unicorns, mermaids, fairies, or dragons; they want to read books that include angst, confusing dilemnas, tragic family circumstances, kids facing big life challenges, and equally big disappointments. They want books that elicit strong emotions, and allow them to experience intense scenarios they may never encounter in their real lives, in a safe way: on the pages of a book.

With suggestions from one of the online librarian groups I am a member of, I printed and laminated small covers of the books in the school library that make eyes water and hearts ache.  I placed a book rack under the bulletin board with all the available books, to make picking one up to read just-that-much easier.

These are stories that demonstrate the importance of empathy, perseverence, overcoming adversity, and deal with tough topics–often more than one–such as disfigurement (Wonder, Firegirl, The War that Saved My Life), cancer (Ida B, Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes), neglectful/absent/abusive/alcoholic parents (Rain, Reign, True…Sort of, Because of Winn-Dixie), disabilities of all sorts (So B. It), orphans and foster children trying to find their place in a world that seems not to care about them (Echo, Counting by Sevens, Pictures of Hollis Woods, Missing May), financial hardship (Faith, Hope and Ivy June, Out of the Dust), families that are separated by death, distance and grief (A Dog Called Homeless, Walk Two Moons, Our Only May Amelia, Chasing Redbird, The Boy on the Porch), friendships that are strained or severed (The Thing About Jellyfish, Breadcrumbs, When You Reach Me), mistreated animals (One and Only Ivan, Flawed Dogs, The Underneath, Shiloh), and lots of dogs that die. Lots and lots of dogs that die (Where the Red Fern Grows, Old Yeller, Love That Dog, Marley and Me, Sounder).

Are there any popular books in your library that belong on this bulletin board too?  Leave me a comment!

And pass the tissues, please.

Book Graveyard – Books That Have Had Their Final Checkout

Here is a book graveyard display, made with books that have met an awful end.

At the beginning of each school year, I give a book care talk, and usually hand out damaged books to random students, and let them guess what happened to them–spilled on, chewed by a dog, little sister colored in it. They enjoy guessing what befell the unfortunate books.

This year, I decided to try something different, and let students pay their last respects to these books on display. Nothing too fancy, just some gray construction paper and a Sharpie marker for the headstones. 

I found inspiration from fellow blogger and Assistant Library Director, Rebecca, at Thank you for sharing your ideas.



After learning that many elementary students had their own Instagram account (yes, I know the minimum age is 13), I made a school library account, and I have a small following of students and parents. I post one or two pictures a week at most, I don’t post students’ faces, I don’t follow any students or parents back, and it takes almost no time at all. 

What do I post?


Pictures of new books, book displays, author visits, and activities in the school library. 

Students used my phone to take  some striking close-up photos of the California Mission projects that were on display.  

I posted a time-lapse video of how to cover a paperback. 

Hands down, the most fun posts are the #BookFaceFriday pictures. Google the term and you’ll be entertained by the librarian phenomenon of posing with a book cover and matching face or body parts to the cover. Students love to scout the library for photo possibilities.  

Here are a few examples from my library:


If you are new to Instragram, and don’t know how to use hashtags, take a look at the 5MinLibrarian’s 31 Days of Instagram Challenge for easy ideas and inspiration. 

You’re all invited to follow me on Instagram @opelibrary. I don’t follow individuals back, but I follow various library accounts. 

It’s Always Time to Read

FullSizeRender-1I’m getting bulletin boards ready for the start of the new school year. Here’s one I finished today. Each book title has a number between 1 and 12 in it. Lily, a student volunteer, did a great job of searching the Destiny catalog and locating the books needed for each number.

The titles I used were: The One and Only Ivan, The Two Princesses of Bamarre, Be a Perfect Person in Just Three Days, The First Four Years, Across Five Aprils, Now We Are Six, Counting by 7s, Ramona Quimby, Age 8, Dreams into Deeds: Nine Women Who Dared, Ten True Animal Rescues, Eleven, 12 Again.

I always allow kids to check out books even if they are part of a display (isn’t that the point?), so I have a few back-ups handy: One Came Home, Eight Keys, etc. (I am secretly hoping no one checks out 9; I have no replacement in my collection.)

Below is a picture in progress. I used four T-pins to affix each book stand to the bulletin board.  Even though they are aligned when empty, they required adjusting after books were added, to account for size differences.

IMG_8973I’m all ears, if you can suggest other back up titles with numbers in them in the comments.  Especially nine!

Digital Citizenship Survival Kit

This is a fun and easy lesson I did with 4th-6th graders. I used a new fishing tackle box, and gathered materials to place in it that represented different aspects of responsible, safe digital citizenship. I gave students the opportunity to guess what each item might represent first, before I revealed the answer, and it resulted in enthusiastic participation. The stories students added to the discussion were excellent. For example, when we discussed not sharing anything electronically that grandma would be horrified by, one student contributed that her 13-year old brother started a group text with his buddies and accidentally included his grandma, who got a hilarious eye-full. The point was made for me!

Digital Citizenship Survival Kit

Padlock – Instead of a password, think about using a passphrase. A common 8-character password with an uppercase, a lower case, a number and a symbol character would take a computer only a few minutes to hack.

Bad passwords:  password, passwerd, 1234, onetwothreefour

Better password:  OPELibraryis110%AWESOME!

A good password is: easy to remember, hard to guess, unlikely to be in the dictionary.

Toothbrush – Passwords and toothbrushes are similar in that you NEVER want to share them (Exception: I recommended sharing passwords with parents).

Boxers (new!) – Another password comparison:
Don’t share with friends
Don’t leave them laying around
The longer the better
Change them regularly

Permanent Marker – Everything that is put online is permanent, even if you hit the delete button after posting. Even when using an account you think is anonymous, it’s not that difficult for someone to figure out who you are.

Magnifying Glass – Colleges and future employers will be looking at applicants’ social media activity and basing decisions on what they see.

Small bar of soap – Remember to keep it clean.

Picture of grandma – Don’t post anything you wouldn’t be happy for her to see.

Strainer/Coffee Filter – Learn to filter information found online, to determine reliability and appropriateness.

Toothpaste – Imagine the information that you are putting online is like the toothpaste coming out of the tube. Once it is out, it is almost impossible to get it all back in the tube.

Have fun with this lesson, and if you are local and want to borrow my kit, rather than assemble a new one, just ask.

Thank you to for the inspiration to do this lesson.  Be sure to check his website to see many more ideas for items to include.

How to get students to “Bring Them Back” at the end of the year

I’m having so much fun with this library parody of the Frozen song, Let it Go.

I’ve been playing it at the beginning of every class visit on the big screen, using an iPad and Apple TV. We listen to it once, and then I play it again and use cue cards, so students can sing along. (It never hurts to mention how well another class performed it, to promote a little informal, friendly competition.) If you don’t have a big screen in your library, you could email the link to teachers to play in the classroom.

I’m sharing the cue cards below, in case you want to use them. I changed the line, “Just pay a fee,” to “There is no fee,” because I don’t charge late fees.  I transcribed the lyrics from listening to it over and over, so they are as close as I could decipher them.

I hope this song gets stuck in their heads, like it is in mine.

Leave me a comment, and let me know if you try it.

Barcode Scanner

“Scanner, what big eyes you have!”

“The better to see your barcodes with!”

I added some googly eyes to my scanner today (with removable blue painters tape), just for smiles at checkout time.  

Eats, Shoots & Leaves

Third grade students’ sense of humor, their growing knowledge of punctuation, and developing awareness of nuance make them the perfect audience for Lynne Truss’ witty book, Eats, Shoots & Leaves, Why, Commas Really DO Make a Difference!

Eats Shoots & Leaves2

You may recall the #1 New York Times bestselling book that Truss also authored, Eats, Shoots & Leaves, The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation.

Eats Shoots & Leaves1I started out the lesson with sharing both the hoax and actual magazine cover that went viral a few years ago, picturing Rachael Ray. The hoax version, sans commas, seems to declare that she engages in cannibalism and eats dogs. Talk about an immediate attention-getter!


rachelray02Then I asked two students to each read one of the following statements, being careful to pause for the commas. Everyone listened intently to detect the subtle distinction. The power of the comma is exquisitely demonstrated, as poor canines once again become food, if commas are not properly used.

IMG_7081a IMG_7081With only two sentences on each two-page spread, the book relies on it’s simplicity and highly amusing illustrations to make it clear just how important commas can be when conveying meaning in writing. Students eagerly volunteered to stand up and read some of the pages to the class.  The page spread that had the biggest reaction in every class? A combination filling station and store illustration:  “Eat here and get gas,” vs. “Eat here, and get gas.”

I passed out laminated bookmarks that I cut out of black construction paper, shaped like giant commas, and suggested that students take special notice of all the commas in the books they are reading. I also included a link on the back to a comma game students can play later, and test their commas skills.  (Note:  Requires Flash, and does not work on iPads.)



One 3rd grade boy came up to me right afterwards, and rattled off a series of sentences he made up on the spot that would be catastrophic without the comma, such as, “We’re eating Grandma!” vs. “We’re eating, Grandma!” He cracked himself up!

A 4th grade student was so entertained by it last year, that she has asked me several times to re-read it to her class again this year. I believe I will.



Transitional kindergarteners enjoyed hearing the story of Elmer, the colorful, patchwork elephant, and coloring the squares by numbers.  I also gave them a blank elephant to decorate however they wished.


IMG_7050 - CopyIMG_7051 - Copy

(Something that makes me smile:  Yes, the TK’s routinely come dressed as princesses, as the mood strikes them.)