Last spring I volunteered to lead a 3-hour workshop tentatively titled “25 New Picture Books to Use in Your Classroom This Fall” for my college’s Office of Partnerships and Field Experiences (OPFE). It was to be part of their summer-long Partnership Institute, a series of free workshops held throughout the summer. The audience would be teachers and librarians from our twelve area partnership schools. I had thought this would be easy for me as I read hundreds of books each year in order to select titles for WSU’s Mock Caldecott (started eight years ago), Mock Newbery (started three years ago) and prepared the final list of books for a collaborative effort between Wright State and our nearby neighbor, Greene County Public Library, called Picture Book Extravaganza (for the past seven years). Boy! Did I learn a lot from this experience.
When drafting my proposal for OPFE I started looking at the list of workshops that other professors had set up. While I am sure many teachers found them interesting, they were so full of theory and research that I thought “Yikes! Mine will be full of fun and don’t really fit in with these.” I contacted the coordinator and asked if she felt the same way. She encouraged me to proceed since this would be different in nature from everything else.
As it turned out, the same day I submitted my proposal for the 3-hour OPFE workshop, I received an email from one of my friends at INFOhio (our statewide digital library for PreK-12 students, teachers, and parents). She asked if I would lead a 30-minute workshop about children’s books. I asked if it was OK to use the same titles as I was using for the OPFE workshop, and this was acceptable to them. Then a big wrinkle popped up: both presentations were scheduled during the same time on the same day. INFOhio was able to push the literature booktalks (both children’s and teen’s) to the afternoon to accommodate.
I spent the rest of the spring and summer reading and rereading books, looking for those 25 books that I felt were a match for the audience and fit criteria that I had mentally set (all c2017, see diversity in authors/characters, represent many different publishers, possess a wide grade range for interest, and be useful in the classroom – as I was presenting them in content fields, noting cross-curricular uses when possible). I read reviews, talked to publishers (via email, in Exhibits at ALA, or at lunch or tea), and scoured my local bookstore to find just the right books. (Here’s a shout out to all the publishers who sent me a review copy of books when requested. Thank you!!) As soon as I identified a book that I knew I had to use (for example Bravo! by Margarita Engle and Out of Wonder by Kwame Alexander, Chris Colderley and Marjory Wentworth), I set up a wiki for the presentation: http://pbstousefall2017.wikispaces.com/ I searched the internet and other places for curriculum for teachers to use, author and illustrator websites, book trailers, and other supporting materials that might be fun to use in the classroom.
The day finally came. In the morning, barring a couple of burps that I was able to surmount (the room was locked when we first got there and I forgot the copies of books I was raffling off; they were back in my office), the group was engaged for the entire three hours. I did a few activities with them and enlisted volunteers to read selected passages from each book. Two stirring moments happened for us. First was the reaction of the woman who read aloud the entire text of Blue Sky White Stars by Sarvinder Naberhaus; she closed the book and said simply to the group “I have to buy this book now and use it”. The second was when I read Big Cat, Little Cat by Elisha Cooper. I had cautioned the group ahead of time that they should have a box of tissues nearby when reading this book to a group; I showed them the box I had on hand. Sure enough, one woman in the back of the room wept quietly while I read. (She told me later that she had lost her stepfather in the wee hours that morning and we cried again together later.) The time just sped by. Several remarked on their way out of the room that “This is exactly what I need.”
Quickly cleaning up and returning to my office, I set up and logged onto the INFOhio 2017 Boot Camp webinar. I should note that while I have participated in many webinars, taken several online classes and was comfortable enough talking online, this was my first webinar to lead. I was very cognizant about the importance of keeping my presentation to 30 minutes of talk. The adrenaline was coursing through my veins. I’ll admit to being nervous and getting rattled a couple of times when the website links didn’t go as I had hoped, but overall I think it went well. Here’s a link to the webinar video, PowerPoint and chat to see for yourself: https://www.infohio.org/educators/pd/lwi/recordings/view/item/bc2017s5
Reading through the group comments at the end, I think they enjoyed the presentation and found it useful. I noticed one of the names in the chat that I will have to follow up on – it’s a young woman, now a teacher, who was one of my “storytime kids” from years and years ago in the public library. This is why we do what we do, right?
I had a great time doing both presentations. Would I do the same again (two presentations in one day) in the future? Absolutely – this time making sure I keep in mind a couple of lessons on leading webinars that I will employ in the future. After all, this was all in a day’s work.
Our guest blogger today is Stephanie Bange. A librarian for 38 years, Stephanie recently left her position as Educational Resource Center Director at Wright State University and is now serving as a children’s literature consultant and looks forward to a new set of challenges.
Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.
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