Category Archives: Middle School

Talk at home about…reading around the world!

Hello CCS Readers! I’m Simone, a former CCS student and current intern in the library. I’m introducing a new reading challenge for all middle school readers: Around the World Through Books! I spent a lot of time traveling around Europe this summer and fall, and was inspired to bring my experiences and love for reading and travel back with me. There are so many fantastic books written with young adult readers in mind that are set all over the world — in all time periods, with or without fantastical elements, and featuring all sorts of perils and adventures! There is simply so much to be learned and enjoyed from immersing yourself in other cultures.

To encourage students to take up this challenge, Mrs. Huestis and I have even offered a special prize for any student who reads six books, each set on a different continent (excluding Antarctica): a free book at the Scholastic Book Fair in February! These six books can be any genre, and don’t need to come from the CCS library (books read for a class certainly count as well). In order to get your free book, be sure to ask at the circulation desk for a Reading Passport, and get a stamp from Mrs. Huestis every time you read a new book. To help get you started, below is a list of suggested books from each of the six continents I’ve compiled (featuring fantastic infographics from EpicReads.com). If you’re looking for more Young Adult suggestions, feel free to find me on Mondays in the library, or check out my own book blog at gwenkatelibrary.wordpress.com!

YA Books Set in North America:

CCS Library Recommendations:

These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly: New York City

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead: New York City

Snow White by Matt Phelan (Graphic Novel): New York City

Around the World  (Graphic Novel) by Matt Phelan: All over the world!

Front Lines by Michael Grant: New York, California, etc.

Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson: California

Ghosts by Raina Telegemeier (Graphic Novel): California

The Pox Party by M.T. Anderson: Boston

The Curse of the Blue Tattoo by L.A. Meyer (Book 2): Boston

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee: Alabama

Day of Tears by Julius Lester: Georgia, Kentucky

The Secret Hour by Scott Westerfeld: Oklahoma

Red Glass by Laura Resau: Mexico

House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer: US/Mexico

YA Books Set in Europe:

CCS Library Recommendations:

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K Rowling: U.K.

The Apothecary by Maile Meloy: London

The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron: London

Secret Letters by Leah Scheier: London

The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason: London

Bloody Jack by L.A. Meyer: London

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman: London

Mark of the Thief by Jennifer A. Nielsen: Ancient Rome

Nobody’s Princess by Esther Friesner: Ancient Greece

King of Ithaka by Tracy Barrett: Ancient Greece

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs: Wales

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins: Paris

Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick: Scandinavia

The Sea of Trolls by Nancy Farmer: Scandinavia

Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George: Norway

East by Edith Pattou: Norway

Egg and Spoon by Gregory Maguire: Russia

Cabinet of Wonders by Marie Rutkoski: Czech Republic

Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier: Transylvania, Romania

My Bonny Light Horseman (Book 6) by L.A. Meyer: France

Viva Jacquelina! (Book 10) by L.A. Meyer: Spain

The Book Thief by Marcus Zuzak: Germany

Maus I: A Survivor’s Tale by Art Spiegelman (Graphic Novel): Poland

Courage and Defiance: Stories of Spies, Saboteurs, and Survivors in World War II Denmark by Deborah Hopkinson: Denmark

YA Books Set in South and Central America:

CCS Library Recommendations:

A Company of Swans by Eva Ibbotson: Brazil

The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson: Brazil

City of Beasts by Isabel Allende: Brazil

Enrique’s Journey by Sonia Nazario: Honduras

Colibri by Ann Cameron: Guatemala

Grab Hands and Run by Frances Temple: El Salvador

YA Books Set in Oceania:

CCS Library Recommendations:

Nation by Terry Pratchett: South Pacific Island

Magic or Madness by Justine Larbalestier: Australia, New York City

On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta: Australia

In Too Deep (The 39 Clues #6) by Jude Watson: Australia, Indonesia

I am the Messenger by Marcus Zuzak: Australia

Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey: Australia

Wildlife by Fiona Wood: Australia

Zac and Mia by A.J. Betts: Australia

Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden: Australia

The Wake of the Lorelei Lee (Book 8) by L.A. Meyer: Australia

YA Books Set in Asia:

(No infographic available)

CCS Library Recommendations:

Cinder by Marissa Meyer: China

Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale: Mongolia

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin: China

Starry River of the Sky by Grace Lin: China

When the Sea Turned to Silver by Grace Lin: China

Eon by Allison Goodman: China

Toads and Diamonds by Heather Tomlinson: India

Peak by Roland Smith: Nepal

Huntress by Melinda Lo: China

Shadows on the Moon by Zoë Marriott: Japan

The Mark of the Golden Dragon (Book 9) by L.A. Meyer: China

Heart of a Samurai by Margi Preus: Japan

Alphabet of Dreams by Susan Fletcher: Ancient Persia

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood (Graphic Novel) by Marjane Satrapi: Iran

YA Books Set in Africa:

(No infographic available)

CCS Library Recommendations:

Sphinx’s Princess and Sphinx’s Queen by Esther Friesner: Ancient Egypt

Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine: Egypt

Bad Girls: Sirens, Jezebels, Murderesses, and Other Female Villains by Jane Yolen and Heidi E.Y. Stemple: Ancient Egypt (also Russia, USA, London, etc.)

A Girl Named Disaster by Nancy Farmer: Zimbabwe, Mozambique

Golden Boy by Tara Sullivan: Tanzania

Over a Thousand Hills I Walk with You by Hanna Jansen: Rwanda

The White Giraffe by Lauren St. John: South Africa

Now Is the Time for Running by Michael Williams: Zimbabwe

Around the World with Dorthy’s List:

Full Cicada Moon by Marilyn Hilton: Vermont

The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands: London

Somewhere There is Still a Sun: A Memoir of the Holocaust by Michael Gruenbaum and Todd Hasak-Lowy: Prague

Waiting for Unicorns by Beth Hautala: The Arctic

The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club by Phillip Hoose: Denmark

Night on Fire by Ronald Kidd: Alabama

A Night Divided by Jennifer A. Nielsen: Berlin, Germany

The Lightning Queen by Laura Resau: Mexico

Echo by Pan Munoz Ryan: Germany, Pennsylvania, California

Good luck and enjoy!

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Filed under 6th Grade, 7th Grade, 8th Grade, booklists, Books, Booktalks, Global Citizenship, Guest Posts, Middle School

Talk at home about…a few weeks in pictures!

Time flies, friends! Here are a few pictures highlighting the things that have been keeping us so busy over the past few weeks.

Kindergarteners are exploring how to find “just-right” books, and we’ve also been sharing great new wordless books with them, working on visual literacy skills. They had great fun designing their own!

1st and 2nd graders have been reading, reading, reading! They’ve also begun learning about our new maker space materials, and getting creative with some awesome literature as their inspiration!

3rd graders have begun their fairy tale unit, and we have begun storytelling workshops as they work to write their own fractured fairy tales! 4th graders have been practicing their Destiny Quest and research skills as they work to find information on their independent topics. They have also been exploring the new maker space materials!

5th-8th graders have been busy with research, writing, and book groups! These are times when I get to visit their classrooms to help, or have students visit me with questions like “I’m using one of the library’s eBooks. Can you show me how to cite it?” and “I know ABC-CLIO is one of the most reliable sources, but what if the information I need isn’t there?”. I love that our older students have things like citations and reliability as part of their every day vocabulary! Here is an example of how I help guide middle schoolers through the research process. Give it a try!

Westward Expansion Pathfinder

Counting on You Pathfinder

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Filed under 1st Grade, 2nd Grade, 3rd Grade, 4th Grade, 5th Grade, 6th Grade, 7th Grade, 8th Grade, Collaboration, Digital Literacy, InformationLiteracy, Middle School, Pathfinders, Research, Writing

Talk at home about…student creations!

Libraries are centers of creativity. Ours has been humming the past few weeks with students thinking and creating! Here are a few highlights.

Sharing readalouds such as the Red Clover books with our younger students helps foster creative thinking. Picture books often contain big ideas in just a few pages. Guided discussions help students understand these big ideas and make connections to themselves and the world around them. Visual Thinking Strategies help them understand nuances of meaning included in the illustrations. These books  also serve as mentor texts for students learning to write their own narratives.

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Some of our middle schoolers have finished historical fiction book groups on Ancient Egypt and are beginning the process of creating book trailers, which are like multi-media persuasive pieces, to try to entice others to read the books! This project also serves to keep the conversation going about the books. Ideas are being defended with text-based evidence, and Visual Thinking Strategies learned and reinforced in their elementary years are brought to the table again as they work to construct meaning with images, sound, and words.

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Other middle schoolers have utilized our library space to get creative with WeVideo to record stories about their family cultures, and Garage Band to record early 20th Century inspired and researched radio broadcasts. It’s a good thing to see students tucked away in every available space, and to hear the steady hum of creativity.

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Filed under Elementary, InformationLiteracy, Middle School

Talk at home about…sailing into summer reading!

IMG_4617Wait a minute! What does this picture of beautiful Lake Champlain have to do with summer reading? Today was field trip day for the middle schoolers who participated in the Classical Connections summer reading program! Now in it’s 5th year, this collaboration between CCS and the Charlotte Public Library has grown into one of my most favorite things to do with my students!

Each year, students read a modern novel paired with a classic. This year’s classical connections were The Great Wide Sea by M.H. Herlong and Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. Is the picture making more sense to you now? Good! Over this past week, students have read and talked about two amazing stories, participated in activities like “How to Survive if You’re Lost at Sea”, written about the books using their Young Writers Project blogs, created fictional journals, and today they learned how to sail! The week just flew by, and I hope that this quick jump-start to summer reading will carry through the rest of the summer months for my students. I am so thankful to families that share their children with me. I find constant delight in my students, and am always amazed at their insights into what they are reading. I am also grateful for our strong Vermont community connections. This program would not be possible without the help of Cheryl Sloan and the awesome Charlotte Library staff. I am also grateful to Kathy Folley and the Young Writers Project Staff who provide a tool for students to capture their thinking in writing.  Appreciation to Mrs. Williams and Mr. Lutz for offering this program as a choice to help complete summer reading requirements.  Thanks to Sharon Colvin of the Vermont Department of Libraries for supporting the goodness of this program and helping to spread the word around the state. The Charlotte community also played a huge role this year! A Front Porch Forum request brought out donations for the week of nautical charts that illustrate the very setting of The Great Wide Sea! Alex Bunten of the Charlotte News visited and  graciously answered questions about a recent sailing trip of his own! Thanks also go to the Lake Champlain Community Sailing Center for an awesome experience today. Not only were my students making connections to the books they read as they sailed, they did so on the gorgeous Lake Champlain canvas. I so appreciate the opportunity for my students to make a connection to this beautiful body of water. Stewardship of  our local natural resources begins with simply experiencing them! Many thanks to Alex Kroll, who appreciates the middle school soul, and supports their reading adventures from summer to summer. I cannot forget to thank the entire Charlotte community, who welcome a middle school takeover of our public library space for a week every summer.  As you can see, it really does take a village! I’m so happy that my students get to experience something that develops around them with the help of many community hands.  See the slide show below for the story of our week in pictures, and sail on into summer my friends!

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Filed under 7th Grade, 8th Grade, Books, Collaboration, DCF, Fun, Learning, Middle School, reading, SummerReading, Writing, Young Writers Project

Talk at home about…collections, curation, and #shelfchallenge

SwinburneDo you know how teacher librarians spend their time? My time is filled with so much more than just checking books in and out. The major part of my day is, of course, my students! This week alone, lots of learning is happening. Classes of K-4 students are learning all about the author Steve Swinburne, who will be visiting with them in a few weeks. His books are providing fuel for the minds of CCS young writers and scientists. They prompt what I call “the lean-in effect”. I know a book is a winner when I see their little bodies lean in to just get closer to the words and pictures. It’s a good thing. We are busy collecting our connections and questions to share with Mr. Swinburne on the day of his visit. And his website? Totally awesome and kid-friendly!

6th graders are getting ready to embark on a new integrated unit of study on the Industrial Revolution. Reading, writing, research and media literacy skills will combine in this unit inspired by the book Counting on Grace by Elizabeth Winthrop. In addition to collecting enough copies of the book for each student, I also prepared a pathfinder to help students gain some background knowledge and explore materials for research. Curating resources for students and teachers is a part of my job that is not easily seen, but it is so crucial. I couldn’t do that part of my job without having classroom teachers and administrators who see me as an instructional partner. I can’t wait to visit classrooms next week to begin teaching about primary sources!

7th graders are also practicing their media literacy skills! Yesterday’s activity in the classroom allowed for conversation about media resources, particularly those that abound via social media. My favorite part of the visit was overhearing pairs of students investigating websites using their critical thinking skills and using some pretty great language while doing so:

“This site has adds, it’s distracting”
“Oh look! This one has citations – three of them, right here!”
“I can’t tell who the author is, only who edited it last.”
“This one is a .com. That might be bad. We might need a .org.”
“What’s a site map?”
“This is pretty one-sided.”

So that covers my week in direct services to students. shelf challengeNow I’d like to talk about something else that teacher librarians are ALWAYS doing in the background for our students. We’re like ninjas, really; sneaking around all quiet-like in the before and after school hours. We are constantly assessing our collections and determining where we need to add, refresh, or take away. That nonfiction book from 1963? That’s just gotta go. Every year during School Library Month, I participate in the Shelf Challenge. I found this through my twitter PLN a couple of years ago, and have used it ever since to keep me motivated to always be thinking about what resources will best meet the needs of my school community. This year my challenge was the 973 section. U.S. History. I found some things that really had to go. I found some that just needed a little refreshing; new covers perhaps. I began looking at this collection and comparing it to what I have available for students in a digital format. Do we need both? Not necessarily. Finally, I touched every book in this section! I found myself saying “Oh yea, I forgot about this one!  I’ll need to remember to share that the next time that unit happens.” I’m happy to say I made it all the way through the 973s and my students are better for it, whether they realize it or not. All these little things that happen in the background lend strength to their learning.

Oh, and we’ve got our Arbor Day celebration coming up, so I couldn’t forget to build a display for easy access to those books celebrating the goodness of trees. And hey…the week isn’t over yet!

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Filed under 1st Grade, 2nd Grade, 3rd Grade, 4th Grade, 6th Grade, 7th Grade, Authors, Book Groups, booklists, Books, Collaboration, InformationLiteracy, Kindergarten, Middle School, Nonfiction, Pathfinders, reading, Research, ShelfChallenge

Talk at home about…cream puffs & collaboration!

photo 2 (6)I love so much about my job, and one of my favorite things is the joy of sharing an outstanding book with my students.  My favorite novel for older readers is Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt. Here is a review written by author Tanya Lee Stone for the New York Times. I really can’t say it any better! I can add that I love to share this book with students because it exemplifies excellent story-telling. Schmidt’s writing brings vivid pictures to a reader’s mind, and the voice of the main character is strong and true. In addition, Schmidt gets students curious about Shakespeare before they even realize it!

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You might be asking yourself where cream puffs and collaboration play into the sharing of a favorite book. One of the other things I love about my job is the collaborative relationship I have with our public librarians. Cheryl Sloan, the Youth Services Librarian for the Charlotte Public Library, joined forces with me over the past few weeks in offering a “lunch bunch” book club for students. Together, we read The Wednesday Wars and explored Shakespeare’s work as it related to the story line. Students were able to bring their lunches, sit around a table from one another, and just talk about what they were reading. This was voluntary for them, and included no formal scripts  on our part. What we found was that the students who participated enjoyed just having this time to talk about a book in a “no-strings-attached” kind of way. Their questions led the direction of our discussions, and we enjoyed watching them discover something new.

Cream puffs play a role in the book club because Cheryl and I always provide dessert for our participants. Of course, we like it best when we can use the desserts or snacks to tie into the themes of the book we’re reading. Tricky of us, right? Believe it or not, cream puffs are very important to The Wednesday Wars story. Of course, I cannot tell you how. I must leave you guessing. And let you know that you, too, can borrow a copy of the book to read on your own!

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Filed under 5th Grade, Authors, Book Groups, Books, Collaboration, Fun, Learning, Middle School, reading

Talk at home about…the stories we share!

photoWe know that when our students are able to choose what they read, they are more likely to develop strong vocabulary and writing skills. From a librarian’s perspective, I also see that choice in reading allows students to explore the world around them in a safe way. It encourages curiosity, and develops empathy skills.

This week, while enjoying time with 4th graders , I learned that the core idea for their current literacy unit was “story ideas take many forms.” As I listened along with the students to the ways in which different authors shape their stories, I couldn’t help but think about the connections students are able to make with many forms of stories if they are given the power to make their own choices as readers.

Our school library contains a collection of over 20,000 print-and-paper books. If we take into account our online offerings, that number increases in ways I can’t even begin to count. We are constantly sharing books with our students. Booktalks are one of my favorite ways to share stories and show students the variety of books there are to choose from. Over the past week or so, I have been talking about Red Clover and Dorothy Canfield Fisher books. Both of these reading programs offer a wide variety of quality literature for our students to choose from. Take a look at our home page to explore some of the books on your own!

Here are some other links you might like to visit:

Red Clover Book Award Program (K-4)

DCF Book Award Program (4-8)

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Filed under 1st Grade, 2nd Grade, 3rd Grade, 4th Grade, 5th Grade, 6th Grade, 7th Grade, 8th Grade, booklists, Books, Booktalks, DCF, Kindergarten, Middle School, Primary, reading, Red Clover