Promoting a Reading Culture- Part Two

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Last week I shared the RHS Reading Challenge and wanted to share a little more about how we are attempting to grow and promote a reading culture here at Ryan High School.

Interactive Student Book Recommendations

One of the categories in our reading challenge is to read something recommended by another student. Thankfully, Tiffany Whitehead, (also known as @librarian_tiff) already had a great sign with creative commons license that we could incorporate in our library showcase! We have two book stacks dedicated to this interactive student recommendation display and a stack of post-it notes readily available. Students are just supposed to grab a book they would recommend, write their reason for recommending it on a sticky, and leave it on the shelf for someone to read.

To help the kids notice the display, I created this poster in Canva and added real sticky notes for dimensionality. It hangs above the shelves to get their attention.

I’m also asking some teachers to bring their classes in just to leave recommendations and spend a little time in the library reading in our cozy seating. Because even though our library is a little loud sometimes, I still want to facilitate a reading culture in what was once a quiet library. With testing season around the bend, students are needing a little more independent reading time built into their school day. Plus, I have a dedicated area in our library just for reading. It’s one of my fav places to go during the day when I want to be reminded that even teenagers read. And they read REAL BOOKS!  (And if you must know, I do actually make kids be quiet if they sit here. I move them to other collaborative spots if they want to talk or work on something actively with others.)

Close up of Student Recommendations

Lastly, if the student book recommendations shelf gets too bare, I’m asking my lunch time readers to find books they’d want others to read and leave recommendations for others. Here are some intriguing #bookrecs left by students so far:

Teachers Sharing Reading Habits

While I think it’s super important for students to share with others what they are reading, I think it is equally important for our teachers to show that they value reading as well. At the beginning of the school year, I asked one of our creative students to hand draw some signs for our teacher doorways after seeing Michelle Cooper’s frames for teachers. I finally scanned, printed, and laminated my student’s handcrafted version so we could hang them on the doorways of teachers who would like to share their independent reading habits.

We’ve only just hung these up, but I’m already loving seeing the blend of reading habits by our teachers. Some teachers are reading multiple books, some love nonfiction, and others are re-reading favorites. I also noticed one teacher printed their book cover as a way to share what they are reading, so I copied that for my own sign! We’ve even got a few of these signs hung at our circulation desk from our student aides and library groupies who just want to share what they are currently reading.

Plus, the student who made these signs is SO PROUD to see her work in the hallways, she’s already offered to make a few more!

So what are some ways you promote a reading culture at your school? What do you do when you struggle with getting teens to read books independently?


Super Happy Maker Fun Hour – Wrap Up

Aaron and I had a great time on Super Happy Maker Fun Hour yesterday provided by the Colorado State Library. In case you missed it, you can still watch the event here:

(Best pause of us EVER^^)

Articles and Links we mentioned:

Aha Moments

Ashley sent me questions ahead of time asked me why I am so into circuitry projects. So I started thinking, why AM I so into circuitry projects? Circuitry is AMAZING! Circuits power our world! You can learn so much about how things work by learning about circuits.

My Circuitry Journey

I started the hard way. When I started adding maker activities to my library in the spring of 2013, I decided I had to have Arduino microcontrollers and I attempted making with Arduino first! Before paper circuits, before Makey Makey,  I went to an Arduino meetup at my public library and fell in love with the concept, BUT I had no background in coding and electronics and I quickly realized I was in WAYYY over my head.

So I kept tinkering and trying to get myself to be the master maker I wanted to become. I followed lots of Arduino projects, but I still couldn’t hack the code and make my own Arduino projects from scratch.  Then…. in the spring of 2014 I held a coding focused “May ker” bonanza.  I completed Hour of Code and the Intro to Computer Science lessons from along with my middle school makers. Leah Mann loaned me some Makey Makey kits and I finally understood how awesome circuits and coding can be when you combine them together. That summer I finally received a grant and was able to buy the library some Makey Makeys, Spheros, and a ton of other stuff.  I spent that summer learning Scratch through some summer “courses” with Pursuitery.

Last school year, I started using Scratch and Makey Makey with my middle schoolers (read about the Makey Makey Challenge) and I learned even more about coding by helping them when they needed help debugging their projects. But honestly, most of those kids were way better at Scratch than me! They’d learned how to use it in elementary school and were already coding wizards. (Technically they are programming wizards, but people really enjoy the buzzword “coding” and who wouldn’t want to be a coding wizard?)

Last year I also realized I needed to set aside time for girls, so I wrote up a Donors Choose for Chibitronics notebooks so I could start hosting weekly meetings for the Circuit Girls: a STEM focused club for girls. Through helping the girls with their notebooks and creating custom cards for our donors, I learned even more about circuitry and electronics! Finally, some of the missing gaps for making Arduino projects really started filling in.

So I have to point to Makey Makey, paper circuits, and littleBits for really pushing me and giving me creative confidence. Once I became versed in understanding the building blocks of coding and the literacy of electronics, I really became more confident as a maker.

Why Project Books?

Ashley also asked me what projects I’d been working on lately. Since I’d just finished writing over 50 projects with Aaron for our Big Book of Makerspace Projects, you might be surprised to find out I’ve been hacking projects and guides from my friends. Now that we are done prototyping, researching, making, documenting, photographing and writing, I finally have time to just MAKE STUFF FOR FUN! I’m happy to finally have time to work through some projects from the Invent to Learn’s Guide to Fun by Josh Burker. Plus,I’m starting to tinker with some fun paper circuitry projects my friend Bev Ball gave me during  the Austin Maker Faire.  

You’d think I’d be tired of making stuff since I just wrote a whole project book. Why am I completing projects from others?  By completing projects designed by others, it allows me to become more invention literate.  When I start hacking those guides and making them my own, it solidifies the concepts I learned from making in my brain. 

Following maker projects can help you gain creative confidence… BUT hacking and tinkering with projects … THAT will help you internalize the meaning you gain from making. It’s why I love following projects designed by others ( and hacking them when I’m ready to internalize that learning.) (2)

This week my students talked with the Tinkering Studio (full blog post to come) and Ryan Jenkins said this awesome quote about making great projects that I think totally encapsulates how I feel about these projects I’ve been hacking.