Thursday, January 12, 2017

#30SecondBookTalk Challenge! It's Time for ROUND 1!

The wait is over! It's time to reveal the 16 booktalks that make up ROUND ONE of the 2017 World Book Talk Championship! We had such a blast collecting this year's book talks and the passion of our first 16 educators from around the world is TRULY inspiring!

Fun Facts:
  • The books talks in this podcast are only 30 seconds long!
  • We've divided the tournament bracket into two teams; Lead Learners & Literacy Legends.
  • Educators from three different countries participated.
  • We're proud of the diverse blend of titles that are featured.
  • Our book talkers have shared their Twitter handles so you can reach out to encourage them.
  • A hashtag is being used so classrooms can share their creative #30SecondBookTalks with an authentic audience. 
  • Resources to support classroom book talks are found below.


Talking about the books we love is a win for literacy, and empowering students to create their own book talks is even better! That said, only four of the original 16 book talkers will move to the next round. After that, one of these rockstar educators will also take home the grand prize package consisting of a "Vince Lombooki" digital badge, bragging rights, and $500 in books for their classroom or library - sponsored by Scholastic!


So… who will win?  Well, that’s up to you! To participate, simply watch the videos and cast your vote! Voting for Round One will close on January 20th, so be sure to get your votes in before then.  We’ll announce which book talker from each bracket will advance to the Final Four once all the ballots have been counted.

But why stop there? 

Here are some resources to help you create your own #30SecondBookTalk challenge at your school. Whether your teams consist of different classes competing for the big prize or your bracket is made up of teachers vs students, we love hearing about how teachers and librarians recreate this project with their students.


Resources for the Classroom/Library:.
Voting Link: Cast your vote for this year’s champion!
#30secondbooktalk hashtag - where you can follow the players as they promote their "book talks" and exchange some friendly banter and encouragement.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

#30SecondBookTalk Championship 2017 - CASTING CALL!



Last year Dr. Brad Gustafson and I co-hosted the World Championship of Book Talks. Many of you will remember that we started with a field of passionate educators who each shared their favorite 30 second book talk video. What happened next was truly amazing!

Thousands and thousands of people voted on the books they loved best. Students created their own book talk videos and shared them with us. We shared templates of blank book talk tournaments, and teachers created similar book talk experiences with their classes. Social Media was buzzing with book talk banter as the "Literacy Legends" competed against the "Lead Learners."

When we started this little project, our only hope was that it would result in more young people seeing adults talking about the books they love! Both Brad and I are passionate about growing readers through authentic literacy programs that engage students in activities that look like what real readers do! I want to start a reading revolution - a wave of change that champions the necessity of reading for JOY, that empowers teachers to abandon remedial, incentive based reading programs that ruin reading for kids and that enables educators to share their passion for reading with students. After all, passion is contagious! The #30SecondBookTalk Challenge fits the bill, so I'm happy to announce that we're doing it again!

This year we're opening up the championship bracket to educators everywhere. If you're interested in taking a risk and creating an original 30 second book talk please click HERE or go to tinyurl.com/BookTalkVolunteer (signing up takes only about 1 minute). Brad and I will host a live draft show in the next few weeks. As a fun token of appreciation, participating educators will be awarded some fun literacy-themed surprises as a small way of showing our gratitude!


If your book talk is selected to move on to the championship round, you'll even be eligible for a stellar surprise from a company that loves literacy as much as we do. Drumroll please.....Scholastic is supporting our book talk project!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (This is BIG, y'all!)

Of course, only one book talk video can earn the coveted "Vince Lombooki" championship trophy. Our main goals are to celebrate reading and the books we love. We also want to model creativity and the process of making book talk videos for students. If you know somebody who might be interested in participating please share this blog post with them and encourage them to volunteer. Returning champs, the Literacy Legends are counting on you!

Finally, Brad and I want to take a second to thank last year's inspiring contributors. They made sure to keep the focus on the books we love, creativity, and the students we serve. All of them represented reading in such a positive way! To see our four book talk finalists from 2016 click HERE.

2016 World Book Talk Honor Roll:

Lead Learners:


Literacy Legends:


***2016 Vince Lombooki Trophy Winners:
The #Brobarians (Stuart and John....)

Who will be on the 2017 Honor Roll? 
Volunteer to participate TODAY.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Five Ways School Librarians Can Meet The Needs of Students in Poverty

This afternoon the librarians in my school district had the great privilege of (virtually) spending an hour with Donalyn Miller, talking about all the ways that we can be independent reading champions for our students. The conversation was rich and important and I am so grateful to her for sharing this time with us. 

That said, one of the (many) pieces of information Donalyn shared during our time together was the recent research suggesting that children raised in homes with (access to) more than 500 books (over the course of their lifetime) spend an average of three years longer in school than children whose homes contain little or no print material. In fact, this research goes onto to point out that growing up in a household with 500 or more books is “as great an advantage as having university-educated rather than unschooled parents, and twice the advantage of having a professional rather than an unskilled father.”

That’s kind of amazing. But it also got me thinking….

500 books. That’s huge. Even though we’re talking about children having access to that number of books over the course of their lifetime (and not all at once), for families living in poverty, that number may as well be a million.

I’ve written and spoken before about my own experiences growing up in poverty, but I don’t think I’ve ever shared this story: Like most kids, when I was little, I had a small collection of picture books. I don’t remember all of the titles, but some of my favorites included Curious George and those by Richard Scarry. When I was five, these books were lost to a fire - not a house fire, but rather, they were used as kindling during a particularly cold winter when my family didn’t have money for electricity or firewood. I remember the day we burned them: my whole family huddled around the wood stove and my mother saying we’d get new books when we had more money. But, of course, that time never came and I don’t remember owning another book of my own until I was in college. My entire life, I’ve been quietly envious of those people who still have treasured, dog eared copies of the books they had as children. To this day, there’s still a small, bookshaped hole in my heart that will never entirely be filled. And although I don’t pretend to speak for every family living in poverty, I can only say that in my experience, a lack of exposure to print material in my home wasn’t due to a lack of value placed on reading or learning. Rather, books were a luxury we simply couldn’t afford.

Of course, we know that poverty has lots of other (potentially) devastating effects on children. For instance, we know that students living in poverty are…

The list goes on and on. But did you also know that, over half of US public school children now live in poverty? Let me allow that to sink in for a moment. Seriously. Stop and think about this for a minute: In the richest country in the world, a majority of public school students now live in poverty. And while I could go off on a rant about how unbelievable, insane, criminal this is, I guess what I’m trying to say is that these are not “other teacher’s students.” Kids living in poverty are all of our kids. 

Now... I know what you’re thinking: Jennifer, this is the most
depressing post ever! And you might be right, except for one thing: we can fix this. No, really… we can. Here’s how:

As Nelson Mandella said, “... [poverty] is man made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings.” I am living proof of this fact and the undeniable truth in his words gives me great hope. So, let’s talk about how school librarians can and should be part of this important work:
  1. Be A Champion of Choice: We all know that choice is a powerful motivator and yet far too often students have little choice when it comes to selecting their own reading material. For students who have yet to develop the habit of reading, this autonomy is especially critical. Here's how you can be their champion: 
    • Fight for your students’ right to select books for independent reading based on their passions, interests, questions or other authentic reasons for selecting a text. Be their voice when no one will listen to them. 
    • Talk to students about how YOU pick a book and model that process whenever possible. 
    • Relax your circulation limits to allow students the flexibility to “try on” different genres, authors or difficulty levels. 
  2. Be A Reading For Pleasure Evangelist: For too many of our students, reading is something they associate only with assessment. It’s time to change that. 
    • De-emphasize reading as a key to “school success.” Quit talking about how students are doomed to fail if they don’t learn how to read. Instead… 
    • Re-emphasize reading as a joyful, social activity. Let your reading geek flag fly! Let kids know when a book makes you "ugly cry" or tell them about the book that made you laugh until you nearly peed your pants. Passion is contagious, and they need to see yours. 
    • Validate and celebrate all types of reading. Stop telling kids that reading manga, skateboarding magazines, Captain Underpants, _______ is not a real, or a good enough, reading choice. Every time we tell students that their reading choices are not good enough, we send the message that they are not real readers. 
  3. Use Reading To Build/Strengthen Relationships With Kids: 
    • Use every book talk as the opportunity to connect with a kid. 
    • Allow books to open doors to important conversations. 
    • Build book displays that are about students instead of books and that specifically target your most vulnerable kids.
    • Be “that person” for kids who have no one else. 
    • Create reader advisory groups, made up of students, who help you pick books that will interest their classmates. And make sure kids from all backgrounds are represented. When students have stake or ownership in the library, the more likely they will be to use it. 
    • Stop charging overdue fines. Period. Or at least allow students to continue to checkout books even if they owe money. Make the library a space of possibility instead of punishment. 
  4. Harness The Power of Social Media To Cultivate Reading Communities: It’s been well documented that even though many of your poorest students don’t have access to the internet or a traditional computer at home, most do have access to a mobile phone. Instead of competing with student screen time, leverage it to get kids excited about reading: 
  5. Create Spaces And Collections That Inspire Hope: One of the more insidious, but under reported, effects of poverty on children is its ability to crush a child’s natural sense of hope. Children living in poverty are less likely to report that they feel hopeful about the future. It’s imperative that we create collections and spaces that provide students with windows into a more hopeful world. 
    • Make sure students see themselves and their stories reflected in both your space and your collection. 
    • Make sure students see you and your space as a “safe place” where everyone is welcomed and respected. 
    • Connect kids with books and authors that offer a glimpse into a world other than the only one they’ve ever known. 
    • Share your own stories of personal struggle or of how reading changed your life. Especially, if like me, you’ve also experienced poverty. Kids need to see that things get better. 
I’ve written and spoken before about the role libraries played in saving my life. And about how literacy turned out to be the engine that would propel me out of poverty. I know, first hand, the power of your work. What’s more, I know that for many of your students, you are their last hope. And I also know that while the problem of childhood poverty is huge and can feel overwhelming, you can make a difference and change outcomes for students. You just have to choose to.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Let's Share Book Displays That Matter!

I've written before about how I believe library spaces and displays represent AWEsome opportunities for us to share the story of our work and how we transform teaching and learning for kids.  Everyone who walks into the library is a potential library supporter. If we're not there to tell them what happens in our spaces, can they tell by looking around?  Does your space reflect what you value and how you make a difference?  I sure hope so.

I've been sharing this message and asking these questions for a long, long time.  And now (and just in time for school library month) I'm looking to curate examples!


  • Are you creating book displays that matter? 
  • Are you using this valuable real estate in your library to make a difference for specific groups of students? 
  • Are you giving those students a voice in selecting the titles, authors and themes of those displays? 
  • Are you you seeking feedback from students and other stakeholders about the success of your book displays?  
  • Do the displays you build tell the story of your work and how it results in outcomes for your learners? 

If so, let's share the love and a grow a resource of library displays that make your favorite Pinterest boards look puny!! No idea is too small. Upload photos, videos and don't forget to include your name and Twitter handle so we can grow our PLN!

Add your examples to this Padlet wall and share this link w/your networks!  I can't wait to see what you share!