I have an odd way of learning new things or taking on challenging tasks. I say, “Oh, sure. I can do that.” Usually, I have no idea what I’m supposed to do, how to do it, or if I’ll be successful, but somehow volunteering to do things I know nothing about spurs me on to figure things out. If I didn’t have this disposition, I would stagnate. Stagnation stinks!
One of the challenges I took on this year came in the form of an invitation from Tamara Cox, one of South Carolina’s Librarians Supreme and blogger of Eliterate Librarian fame. I had the pleasure of meeting Tamara when she and her Librarians in the Middle buds Monique German and Kristen Hearne visited our school district to inspire (awe?) our librarians. The invitation was a new concept for me, but since I was peer pressured by yet another librarian (do we ever grow out of this?), I decided to go for it. The challenge? A Middle Grades Book Boot Camp, a “combination of a book club and middle grade literature class” as Tamara describes it. Participants choose a month and book genre, create a blog post with reading lists, then host a 1 hour Twitter chat at the end of the month. The invitation was sent out in April 2013, and I had the foresight to choose February of 2014 and the theme of Horror. This gave me months to prepare (read as “panic” and “sweat”) and horror is one of my favorite genres. I was reading Stephen King and Dean Koontz as a junior high school student and continue to be drawn to the genre. I love a good scare! Hence the volunteering for something I knew nothing about…
February is now past and I just wanted to let everyone know that I survived #bookbootcamp! I did it! I completed my book list and posted it to our wiki. I moderated the Twitter chat. I had a blast with my PLN, sucking in one of my assistant principals and an ELA teacher in the process. Not only that, but in participating in the monthly reading and Twitter chats, or at the very least, reading about them after the fact thanks to Monique German’s Storify, I have learned so much about what is new and popular in middle grades literature. This is a boon since my budget isn’t getting any bigger, I tend to avoid those genres I don’t particular enjoy like romance, and I learn where others stand on that decades-old question of the invisible line between middle grades fiction and YA fiction. We haven’t revealed the secrets of the universe, nor do we really know the answer to the line question; but we end up sharing some great titles, learning more about each other and our views of library service to middle grades, and have a great time doing it. And that hour long Twitter chat? Over in the blink of an eye!
If this is the first you’ve heard of #bookbootcamp, it isn’t too late to join in! Our next Twitter chat will be hosted by Tamara herself and will focus on nonfiction. Check out her reading list here and tune in March 31st at 8 PM! We will also have chats in April and May.
What will be my next challenge? I’ll probably borrow more ideas from my favorite people and try them out at my school! Maybe I’ll take the #bookbootcamp experience and create something at the school level for my staff as Tamara suggests in the Book Boot Camp blog. Right now I’m entrenched in March Madness book voting, which I borrowed from another of my favorite people, Cathy Jo Nelson at Dorman High School. It is an incredible honor to be part of a profession with such dynamic and creative thinkers, not to mention incredibly hard workers who do it all not for accolades but to encourage students to be literate and critical thinkers and to help teachers find new ways to reach those students in an increasingly challenging learning environment. Thanks Tamara and #bookbootcamp for challenging me to continue to learn and grow!