September 12


We’re Excited About Reading! by Sara Ralph


Attending nErDcampMI was a life-changing experience for me. I learned so many things, and was overjoyed to meet some of my favorite people in real life.  It was just the experience I needed to reinvigorate me for my 12th year as an elementary school librarian. It is amazing to be in a room full of people who love books as much I do. However, I learned that it is more than just books that binds us together. We share a passion as educators that every student we teach will love reading.

One of the planned sessions on the first day was focused on building relationships with students. It was led by Katherine Sokolowski, a fifth grade teacher and co-founder of the Nerdy Book Club. She told specific stories about her students, emphasizing building relationships with EVERY student. I will never forget the connection she made between building relationships and teaching self-control, with the realization that teachers have to give up some of their own control to accomplish just that.

In implementing these ideas, I knew that I needed to revamp Library Orientation, the first class of the school year. I asked myself if a teacher listing a laundry list of rules and procedures was how I wanted students to experience the library for the first time. Would that do anything to build relationships? No, absolutely not. At first I thought I would create an activity where the kids make the rules. Then I decided that I was missing something. Why should rules be the focus of our first class? I decided to focus instead on the most important thing I want them to learn this year, the love of reading.

The first thing we did was share things about ourselves. I showed pictures of my children, and told students that I read 71 books this summer, sharing a Padlet with some of my favorites. Students shared about their families, pets, favorite activities, books, colors, etc.

One day this summer, school librarian, John Schu (@mrschureads) featured author Tommy Greenwald on his blog. Once I saw the book trailer for Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Not Reading, I knew I had to share it with my students. After viewing the trailer, we discussed why kids do not like reading. Someone in each class came up with the idea that reading is not fun when you cannot choose what you are reading.

There is not a more perfect dichotomy to the previous video than Mr. Sharp LOVES Reading! Colby Sharp is a 3rd grade teacher and another co-founder of the Nerdy Book Club. The kids LOVED this video. I know this not only from their reactions while watching it, but because it was the talk of the school. When I showed it to the last class on Friday, one student said, “This is the video they were talking about on the bus where the guy loves reading so much he stands on desks!” It was so popular that kids requested to watch it again during their next class.

To wrap things up, I showed the kids our reading pledge for this year: WE CAN READ! WE WILL READ! WE WILL LOVE TO READ! We both signed the reading pledge and chanted it, very, VERY loudly. Kids looked at me unbelievably when I told them we were going to yell in the library. One student even expressed concern that we would get in trouble with the principal.  Here is a glimpse of my first week in the library.


Thank you, Nerdy Book Club, for making me a better teacher librarian! See you at #nErDcampMI 2015!

Sara Ralph is an elementary school librarian in Asheboro, NC. She blogs occasionally at So Many Books, So Little Time and would love to talk to you about books and teaching on Twitter. Her username is @sralph31.