BOB is here again

The selection this year for grade 5 and 6

With the start of the school year comes the launch of our grade 5 and 6 Battle of the Books or BOB as it has affectionately become known.

Battle of the Books began in 2013 in Montreal, Canada with two Teacher Librarians wanting to encourage students who loved to read (Stark). It is now a worldwide phenomenon being run by public libraries and school libraries in different ways.

Our school has been running BOB since 2015 and our goal is to encourage students to read books outside their usual range. We choose titles that are worthy reads but not necessarily the most popular books. We have a classic, one nonfiction, a graphic novel and a few other titles. As Ian McEwen, a teacher-librarian in Ontario describes – students form teams and, as a collective, they read as many of the books on the list as possible (36).

Our students enjoy the celebration of reading that BOB brings. They develop confidence, leadership, and teamwork while getting to read some new titles (Stark). The teams have a few months to read the books and then we have a quiz about them. The prize is a trophy and obviously the glory of being winners. BOB adds to the vibrant reading culture in our school. But as the sports cliche says “Reading is the winner on the day”

Below is the YouTube promo for BOB coming up in December for grades 5 and 6. Grade 3 and 4 get their Battle in May.

Works Cited
McEwen, Ian. “Battle of the Books.” Teacher Librarian, vol. 41, no. 3, Feb. 2014, pp. 36–37. EBSCOhost, Accessed 5 Sept., 2019.
Stark, Julia. “Battle of the Books: Coaching an English High School Literary Trivia Competition in Montreal, Quebec.” Education Libraries, vol. 41, Jan. 2018. EBSCOhost, Accessed 5 Sept., 2019.

Summer reading – creating a family culture of reading helps reverse summer reading regression

What can help your child improve their reading skills? Reading over the summer break. Studies have shown that the achievement gap in reading forms and widens during the summer vacation rather than the school year (Kim 3). In fact, students could lose approximately three months of reading development each summer and two years of reading loss by the time they reach sixth grade (Blanton 2). This is called summer reading regression and there is an effective solution to this problem. Since parents and families are with their children over summer these results imply that the biggest contributor to a child maintaining the learning gains they have achieved during the school year is their family approach to reading.

Further research show two major aspects to the child maintaining their reading level over summer:
1. Access to resources – books
2. Positive reading experiences for the child – actively using reading skills learned during the year and the opportunity to read to and discuss books with family members (Kim 4)

Here at IICS, we can certainly assist with the first aspect through our summer borrowing program. Children returning to school in the fall are encouraged to borrow 12 items for the summer. Students from grade 4 and over have unlimited borrowing. The students returned a signed form and then can select their books in the final week of the school year. Many class teachers bring their students and assist with book selection, recommending books knowing their students’ tastes and reading skills. We also give access to all our electronic books over the summer – the same permission slip has the login information required for Tumblebooks and TeenBookCloud.

The second aspect is up to the parents and the children together. As students the children learn the five optimum strategies for reading comprehension:
1. Re-reading text
2. Asking questions while reading
3. Making predictions
4. Summarizing
5. Making connections with other texts and personal experiences (Kim 7)

Some possible discussion prompts parents could try for each strategy include:
1. Re-reading the text – ask your child to read aloud the most exciting or interesting part they have read that day. Don’t be surprised if once your child has read and enjoyed a book that they will want to re-read it. Encourage them to this as it is a great strategy for deeper comprehension. Ask the child what did they appreciate the second or third time they read the text. Ask about any new vocabulary and ask how did the child come to understand what the word meant?
2. Asking question while reading – ask your child what questions they have about the plot or characters that have not yet been answered OR what questions did they have that were answered that day?
3. Making predictions – ask your child what they think will happen next OR how will this chapter end OR what will a particular character do about a situation?
4. Summarizing – ask your child to explain the book to you OR to explain what the scariest/funniest/most surprising part was?
5. Making connections with other texts and personal experiences – this offer perhaps the richest source of conversation with your child about what they are reading – what other books have you read that are like this? Have you seen a movie or TV program like this? Does that make you think about the time you went to an event?

Research also shows that while reading books alone is beneficial the more involved the parent is in a positive way the greater the gain for the child. Three keys to reducing summer regression in reading are the reader, routine, and relationship (Blanton 16). Reading daily is part of the routine and hopefully with the strategies and questions mentioned above those positive relationships already in your family can be extended to developing a family reading culture. What happens in the home with the summer reading resources has a huge impact on reversing summer reading regression (Compton-Lilly 2). Literary interactions can involve many family members and thus over summer your family can develop a powerful culture of reading (Compton – Lilly 3).

We, families and teachers, want to see our students flourish in their learning and one great way to support this is through summer reading.

Works Cited

Blanton, Morgan V. “Keys to Reducing Summer Regression: The Reader, Routine, and Relationship.” Journal of Organizational and Educational Leadership, vol. 1, no. 1, Jan. 2015. EBSCOhost, Accessed 10 June, 2019.

Compton-Lilly, Catherine, et al. “A Closer Look at a Summer Reading Program: Listening to Students and Parents.” Reading Teacher, vol. 70, no. 1, Jan. 2016, pp. 59–67. EBSCOhost, Accessed 10 June, 2019.

Kim, James S., and George Washington University Center for Equity and Excellence in Education. “Summer Reading Summer Not: How Project READS Can Advance Equity.” George Washington University Center for Equity and Excellence in Education, George Washington University Center for Equity and Excellence in Education, 1 June 2010. EBSCOhost, Accessed 10 June, 2019.

The importance of teaching research processes and tools

Students arrive in our classrooms with the latest technology in the form of laptops, phones, and tablets. Our assumption is that they will know how to use these tools to organize themselves, conduct research and learn. That is definitely not the case – leveraging apps, programs, calendars, documents, and websites all need to be taught if our students are to make the most of the technology tools that are available to them. Certainly, secondary students require these skills when they advance into tertiary education. Students may not get the instruction they need at University as it can be assumed that they arrive having had experiences of high-level research tasks in their last years of secondary school. Teachers in secondary school can also assume that students learn these skills in the middle school years when there is ‘more time’ and less content pressure. None of these assumptions are realistic and they always rely on someone else to teach the skills and tools required. In a workshop at IASL (International Association of School Librarianship) conference in 2018 Jamshid Beheshti from McGill University in Canada, gave some scary information about the research strategies of first-year students – they went straight to Google or their friends to find information (Bond). The conclusion of the study was to call for high school students to be better prepared for academic research, – using databases, evaluating websites, using citation tools with understanding (Bond).

Schools must make the time to teach their High School students the tools and strategies of sound academic research and allow them time to practice those skills with feedback and guidance. Simply showing students how to use a database, how to take notes from a source, how to use a citation generator once is not enough. Guided practice is more helpful. At Gill St. Bernard’s School in Gladstone, New Jersey students were started with Guided Inquiry from grade 7 and each year revisited the process on a major unit of Inquiry (Oatman 58). In this school, the teachers and the Teacher Librarians (TLs)worked together to design the inquiry, deliver it and guide the students through the process (Oatman 58). The key to the student’s successful development of academic research school was the partnership between TL and teachers and the fact that the students do not do this once and are then expected to remember it. They revisit the skills and tools systematically throughout their secondary schooling and build their skills while being guided by their teachers and TL.

In a study conducted by Ryan Rafferty with first-year medical students, he found that instruction about library resources and giving students guidelines on research methods had the biggest impact on the quality of cited materials in the work the students produced (213). The instruction those students received related directly to their actual assignment and the works cited lists produced were analyzed to see the impact of the instruction and make any necessary improvements for next time (Rafferty 213). This kind of work involves the academic librarians of the University and the Teacher Librarians in schools can give the same high-level guidance and instruction. In fact, some schools are setting up partnerships with tertiary libraries to create and deliver a syllabus that explicitly teaches the research skills necessary for college-level inquiry (Oakleaf and Owen). IN their study on the value and impact of librarian’s interventions on student skills development Sue Shreeve and Jacqueline Chelin found that every time academic librarians actively assisted with student research the students completed the work with much more confidence in conducting searches (204)

Effective partnerships between TLs and teachers and TLs and students must be formed if we are to send our students to College with adequate skills in academic research that are expected and required. This takes time and energy, commitment for school leadership and staff who are experts at collaborating for the sake of student success.

Works Cited

Bond, Amanda. “3 steps before Google – research support.” Wondering at work, 8 May 2018, Accessed 17 Apr. 2019.

Oakleaf, Megan, and Patricia L. Owen. “Closing the 12 – 13 Gap Together: School and College Librarians Supporting 21st Century Learners.” Teacher Librarian, vol. 37, no. 4, Apr. 2010, pp. 52–58. EBSCOhost, Accessed 18 Apr. 2019.

Oatman, Eric. “Overwhelming Evidence: Now, There’s a Surefire Way to Show How Libraries Make a Big Difference in Student’s Lives.” School Library Journal, vol. 52, no. 1, Jan. 2006. EBSCOhost, Accessed 18 Apr. 2019.

Rafferty, Ryan S. “The Impact of Library Instruction: Do First-Year Medical Students Use Library Resources Specifically Highlighted during Instructional Sessions?” Journal of the Medical Library Association, vol. 101, no. 3, July 2013, p. 213. EBSCOhost, doi:10.3163/1536-5050.101.3.011. Accessed 18 Apr. 2019.

Shreeve, Sue, and Jacqueline Chelin. “Value and Impact of Librarians’ Interventions on Student Skills Development.” New Review of Academic Librarianship, vol. 20, no. 2, 2014, pp. 204-32. EBSCOhost, Accessed 7 Mar. 2019.

Student librarians – service in action

Last year we resurrected our student librarian internship programme. It had died off due to the numerous changes in the CAS (Creativity, Activity and Service, part of the core of the IB Diploma) programme about five years ago. With new CAS programme leaders and a renewed focus which allowed for in school service we decided, we would bring it back – with great success.

The hardest place to serve is in your own school.

What makes for a successful student librarian programme? Well apart from the enthusiastic students there are some key elements that we have discovered and research also confirms.

  1. Ask students to apply (Braxton, McGown, Sproul). We have an application form which includes questions about why the student has applied and what they feel they can bring to the role.
  2. Give a job description and make your expectations of the students very clear (Braxton, McGown, Sproul). Our job description is very generic but now I have read the articles cited below I have decided to add the need of commitment, reliability, cooperation, responsibility, trust and work ethic (Braxton).
  3. Provide training (Braxton, McGown, Sproul). We have a 90 minute training session after school. We did try on the job training but it was very ad hoc and not as effective as training the students. Braxton suggests having levels of achievement within a training and student librarianship programme and have the students track their own progress.
  4. Change up the tasks the students are required to do each week. We have four key roles and the students rotate through those roles.
  5. Have experienced students lead team and help to train the new students (Braxton, Sproul)
  6. Celebrate the successes and show appreciation for their efforts (Sproul). We find actually closing the library and ‘breaking’ the rules of no food with a pizza lunch or coffee and cake are all much appreciated by our student librarians.

Below are some helpful articles and websites I have found. Some of them are about adult volunteers as well.

Works Cited

Barack, Lauren. “Are There Any Volunteers?: A Pain-Free Approach to Getting the Very Best out of Parents.” School Library Journal, vol. 56, no. 12, Dec. 2010, pp. 40–43. EBSCOhost,

Braxton, Barbara. “Make Your Load Lighter with STARS.” Teacher Librarian, vol. 32, no. 5, June 2005. EBSCOhost,

Lincoln, Margaret. “Information Literacy: An Online Course for Student Library Assistants.” School Library Media Activities Monthly, vol. 25, no. 10, June 2009, pp. 29–30. EBSCOhost,

McGown, Sue W. “Valuable Volunteers: How to Find, Use, and Keep Them.” Library Media Connection, vol. 26, no. 2, Oct. 2007, pp. 10–13. EBSCOhost,

Snyder, Beth. “Recruiting Library Volunteers.” Library Media Connection, vol. 28, no. 1, Jan. 2009, pp. 22–23. EBSCOhost,

Sproul, Betty. “Implementing a Library Helper Program Is Easy, Economical, and Energizing.” Library Media Connection, vol. 24, no. 7, Jan. 2006, p. 44. EBSCOhost,

“Student librarians.” National Library of New Zealand, Accessed 18 Feb. 2019.

The happiness of permission

This week I had the pleasure of seeing a student who was making a documentary go through the process of determining whether permission was needed to use some film clips from two published films (in one case no and in the other case – hmm not so sure). She decided to ask permission from the filmmaker but wasn’t sure if they would reply before her deadline to complete the film. We discussed a plan B – to use the information in the film and cite it but use voice-over or text over her own filmed footage at a Museum. It was not ideal and certainly would not have had the same impact. We discussed how to cite other people’s work in her film credits and in her write up. The very next day she came into the library with a brilliant smile – the filmmakers had given her permission to use their film. What a great outcome for her and what a delight for me to see a student being encouraged by professional filmmakers.

Students often do not understand or even consider copyright when using content (text, images, video) created by other people. Admittedly it is more difficult in an international setting but almost all countries have some sort of copyright protections and ignorance of the law of the land is no defense.

There is the idea of “Fair Use”. Richard Stim in his blog post for Stanford University Libraries explains Fair Use this way:
” fair use is any copying of copyrighted material done for a limited and “transformative” purpose, such as to comment upon, criticize, or parody a copyrighted work. Such uses can be done without permission from the copyright owner. In other words, fair use is a defense against a claim of copyright infringement. If your use qualifies as a fair use, then it would not be considered an infringement.”
Stim goes on to explain that actually, the word “transformative” is open to different interpretations. There have been times when people thinking they have adapted someone else’s work have been prosecuted for copyright infringement.

I always advise that when in doubt ask permission. Stim, has also written a blog post advising on the basics of getting permission which outlines 6 steps for students to follow. The first two are to see if you need permission and then find out who to ask.

I hope that more students follow this student’s example and experience encouragement from academics, researchers and professionals as they seek to do the right thing.

Works Cited

Stim, R. “The basics of getting permission.” Stanford University Libraries, Accessed 25 Jan. 2019.

—. “What is fair use?” Stanford University Libraries, Accessed 25 Jan. 2019.