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What happens when there is a lack of or break down in communication between stakeholders about the tools used to assess children’s reading? One bookseller shared her experience when parents, booksellers, and students attempt to find the right book within a leveling framework.
In our previous post, “7 Strategies to Help Booksellers and Librarians Navigate Lexile,” we presented strategies for the book experts out in the field on strengthening the communication lines, sharing resources and context, and building a community invested in each child’s education. In doing so, we show our students, children, and customers that they have a whole team cheering for them and invested in their growth, joy, and success.
Now for educators! Want a child to achieve a year and a half of reading progress and develop a life long passion for learning? The more adults you have involved in your students’ success, the better chances you have for meaningful growth and creating a love of reading.
Next week, we will offer strategies for parents.
For teachers and school staff who want to invest more stakeholders:
1. Don’t wait for summer break to provide reading lists. After each assessment cycle or parent-teacher conference period, provide parents with book ideas to help students get to the next level. Research or create booklists to hand parents at a parent-teacher conference. Except for the outliers, you can generally get away with making 3 lists (above-, on-, and below-grade level) of where students are reading.
2. Assume that no one knows your leveling system outside of school. Create a toolkit (that can be re-printed each year) for parents when they go to a library or bookstore. At parent-teacher conferences or Back-to-School Night, arm parents with 1) pre-made booklists (see above) 2) addresses and directions to the public library, bookstore, or community center you trust or have reached out to 3) a level conversion chart—If your leveling system doesn’t provide one, download one from Reading Rockets, Booksource, Scholastic Guided Reading Program, Lexile, or Lee & Low.
3. Hold information sessions at Back to School Night or other times in the year for parents. Explain what leveling system you are using to assess a child’s reading ability. Demonstrate how to find books at that child’s reading level when in a store, online, or at a library. “What does an such and such level book like? Below-level book? Above-level book? What should a child be able to do at such and such reading level?” With colleagues, consider another session for nearby bookstores or public librarians. All leveling systems have websites and FAQs sections addressing misconceptions and how-tos that you can show parents, librarians, or bookstore staff.
4. Find out where your students and families are going for books. My students borrowed books from the local community center or bought books at the nearby discount retail superstore. We built a community by reaching out to the children’s librarian and community center coordinator. Reaching out to these places helped me learn about my students outside of school and familiarize staff with our goals. Share any booklists and conversion charts. Libraries and bookstores will be thrilled to be a part of your community. As I said last week, students may move on, but you and book staff are in it for the long haul.
5. Extend the classroom to your local library or bookstore. When I learned where my students were looking for books (and what poor quality those offerings were at a discount store), I realized that many had not been to the neighborhood branch of the public library and did not know what the library had to offer.
Invite a librarian to class to talk to students about finding books when they are outside the classroom. Show students how to find books when they don’t know a book’s level (Hello, five finger rule!)
Post in class or send home the library or bookstore’s calendar of monthly events.
Encourage families to join you at a weekend storytelling event at the library or an evening author event at the bookstore (you might be able to persuade your school to count these events as parent community service hours).
Is your local library or bookstore on Pinterest, such as Oakland Public Library TeenZone? Check out your branch’s or favorite bookstore’s new releases and collections. Show families how to engage with the library or bookstore from a school computer or on a mobile phone.
6. Simulate the real world in your classroom. Many teachers organize their classroom libraries around their guided reading levels or assessment leveling system to make it easy for students to find the right book. Yet, students need experience interacting with books that aren’t leveled—as most books in bookstores and libraries won’t be. Consider organizing your classroom library by author, theme, genre, or series—or at least a shelf or bin—so students can practice figuring out the right fit book.
7. Remember: You will most likely have at least a few parents whose first language is NOT English. They will rely even more heavily on librarians and bookstore staff for help finding the right fit book for their child. The more you help librarians and local bookstores and the parents, the more you help the child.
8. Think about the message. Parents may hear that their child is at Lexile level 840 and try to help you and their child by only seeking out Lexile level 840 books. Coach parents to continue to expose students to a wide range of texts, topics, and levels. Parents may need a gentle reminder that we want our readers to develop their love of reading, along with skills and critical thinking. This may include children seeking out and re-reading favorites or comfort books that happen to be lower leveled or trying harder books that happen to be on their favorite subject.
Next week, we will offer strategies for teachers and parents.
What have we missed? Please share in the comments your tricks, tips, and ideas for helping families and children navigate the bookshelves.
Jill Eisenberg, our Resident Literacy Specialist, began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language to second through sixth graders in Yilan, Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in San Jose, CA as a Teach for America corps member. She is certified in Project Glad instruction to promote English language acquisition and academic achievement. In her column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators.
Just a quickie this evening because the tendonitis in my wrist and hand is acting up and I need to rest it.
Nancy Pearl, rockstar librarian, has, some might say, sold out to the devil known as Amazon.com. Earlier this year Pearl made a deal with Amazon to reprint 12 books in her Book Lust Rediscoveries project. The e-books are only available for Kindle. Print versions of the titles will be available in paperback but lots of independent bookstores as well as Barnes & Noble have said they will not carry them.
Pearl is taking the backlash in stride even though she says that she might have to go in disguise to some of her former haunts. For Pearl, the fact that the books Amazon will publish were out of print and will be no longer is more important than who is publishing them.
Even though I have a Kindle I am not loyal to Amazon, really, I try to avoid them as much as I can since the more I hear about their business practices when it comes to books, the more I dislike them. I am not going to throw away my Kindle, but if I were buying an e-reader today I think I might go for the Sony or some other independent manufacturer. All that to say I am a bit disappointed with Pearl. I understand why she did it but wonder if she couldn’t somehow have come to some agreement with a company other than Amazon.
What do you think? Did Pearl do the right thing in partnering with Amazon?
A few weeks ago we got the nice news that The Dead Gentleman had been chosen by Amazon as a Book of the Month. A very nice honor and I’m grateful.
But THIS week I learned that the American Booksellers Association is including my little book on this Winter’s Indie Next List - and that’s just totally awesome! The Indie Next List is put together by the front lines, the many, many wonderful independent bookstores across the country and therefore it has special meaning to me (it should also help sell a few books)
One of our bookselling partners, ChrisLands, is having a birthday this month. It has been ten years since they opened up shop as tool for independent booksellers to set up their own e-commerce websites (ie: sites which can take credit card details and sell online). James, the site's creator, just sent us a note mentioning that as part of their celebration they are having a special offer for booksellers
In their 10 years, ChrisLands established themselves as a well-respected member of the online bookselling community. Well known for understanding the needs of independent booksellers, they continue developing their base product, updating old features, and adding new features based entirely on booksellers’ needs.
At BookFinder.com we think it's great because every time a bookseller opens a ChrisLands account it means that there are more interesting books available online for all of us to find when we need or want them, and remember this is another good way to make your books searchable by BookFinder.com if they are not already.
One of America's most treasured children's book authors is celebrating her 95th birthday tomorrow: Happy Birthday, Beverly Cleary! In addition to being her birthday, April 12 is also National Drop Everything and Read Day (D.E.A.R). D.E.A.R Day is about encouraging families to make a commitment to reading together on a regular basis. Ramona Quimby became the spokesperson for the program after it was featured in Ramona Quimby, Age 8, which is why it is celebrated on Beverly Cleary's birthday. All you have to do to participate is drop everything and read for 30 minutes of your day. (Well okay, if you twist my arm. . . )
What ultimately drove her to write for children, she recalled, was a book she noticed when she had a job in a children’s bookstore in the 1940s. In it, a puppy said: “Bow-wow. I like the green grass.”
“No dog I had ever known could talk like that,” Cleary said. She wondered once again, as she frequently had while working as a children’s librarian, “What was the matter with authors?”
Dan Santat, illustrator extraordinaire (who allowed us into his studio for Creative Spaces last summer), has come up with a really cool idea that simultaneously helps promote his new book AND supports his local independent bookstore. For his graphic novel Sidekicks, publishing this summer by Arthur A. Levine Books, he is offering a Limited Edition set if you purchase through his website by June 1. Included in the set is a signed hardcover copy of the book, a mystery unpublished art print, and The Domesticated Four, a downloadable PDF that features 60 pages detailing the evolution of this graphic novel. Sounds pretty cool right? And the way all this will support an independent bookstore is that Dan will be buying the books himself from his local indie bookstore. Really, it sounds like a win/win/win scenario to me: the bookstore gets business from customers outside their normal circle (for example me, who lives in Colorado and would not normally be shopping in a Los Angeles independent bookstore), Dan gets a strengthened relationship with his local indie, and you and I get to support both artist and indie while receiving cool extra features we couldn't otherwise get. If you'd like to learn more, go here to read more about Dan's rationale in coming up with this idea or if you're already on board go here to buy the Limited Edition Sidekicks set.
Two San Francisco independent bookstores will close in coming weeks. Modern Times, a shop on Valencia Street, sold both traditional fiction and progressive titles. A Different Light, located in the Castro District, specialized in books for the LGBT community.
The Bay Citizenreports: “But in recent years the store [A Different Light] has struggled financially. Some publishers have complained about the bookstore not paying its bills on time. The store’s owner, Bill Barker, could not be reached for comment. The person who answered Barker’s phone would not identify himself and said the owner was ‘in the desert’ and unreachable.”
For Modern Times, their landlord decided to not renew their lease. However, the store could reopen. According to an e-mail sent to The Bay Citizen, Washington D.C.-based Busboys & Poets has proposed that the store set up shop on the East Coast.
On April 30th, Fleeting Pages will open a pop-up bookstore inside a shuttered Borders bookstore in Pittsburgh.
The space will be stocked with independent and self-published writings: books, journals, zines, graphic novels, comics, magazines, e-Books, and book art. Follow this link to submit your work. The store will be open for at least one month.
Bagging the Beats at Midnight: Confessions of an Indie Bookstore Clerk author Karen Lillisexplained: “They will sell books by indie presses and self-publishers; hold book-making workshops, readings, and other events; and are open to other suggestions by writers and artists in the indie community.” (Photo Credit: ZeroOne)
Lots of independent bookstore news out there today. Some is good. Some is bad. Some is less than lovely.
First, off is the recent refusal some independents have shown towards stocking the upcoming Harry Potter book. So let me get this straight. Because independent British bookstores can't sell Harry Potter for prices lower than their chainish equivalents, they've instead opted not to sell them at all? How exactly does that work? I can understand not buying them in bulk, but how does one lose money if you have a couple around for faithful customers?
And then from the side of authors who wish to support independents but also want to make mucho money there's Chain of Fools?: Love them or hate them, chain stores are crucial to book sales. As the daughter of a woman who once worked in Kalamazoo, Michigan's oldest independent (and possibly last) bookstore until it was forced out by B&N, I read the article with interest. I remember all too well how faithful authors would come to The Athena to do book signings and then, a year later, do them at B&N without a by-your-leave. I can understand why someone would want to split their time between the big chains and the small independents, but let's remember that some authors don't even care where it is that they sign insofar as it makes them lots of money. And I'm afraid that Ms. Werris loses points for using the term "paradigm shift" with a straight face. Thanks to Bookseller Chick for that particular link.
So is the independent bookstore a dying breed? Maybe not. Consider, for example, that 5 new independent bookstores have just opened. NYC may be ranked dead last nationally in "bookselling stores per resident" with one store for every 43,000 residents, but you want a Taschen store? We've got Taschen out the wazoo. Thanks to Galleycat for the link.
Some of you live in NYC, some of you come here on business, and some of you might someday, possibly, take a vacation here so as to truly appreciate our one-of-a-kind smog in an up close and personal fashion. When you are not admiring our fog's infinitely photographable charms, however, you may wish to do something upstanding like visiting NYC's independent bookstores. In this, you are in luck. The Millions Blog has just posted a really wonderful walking tour of NYC independent bookstores. Go on. Gape at The Strand. Check out Oscar Wilde Books (which has not closed despite the rumors). Seethe with envy when you check out the impressive line-up at the Housing Works Bookstore. It's all there for your viewing pleasure.
Diana, one of my co-writers on Women Only Over Fifty (WOOF), is my guest blogger today. She was inspired to write about a very unusual Wisconsin bookstore that was featured on CBS Sunday Morning. (Video Segment below)
We love books, right? But just how much? Enough to set aside 12 buildings on our rural property where we house one million (yes, MILLION) tomes? Sure, we would if we could. But you gotta admit, THAT amount of effort takes an amazing passion for books.
Central Wisconsin, off County Road K, that’s where Lloyd Dickman cultivates wheat and corn while his wife Lenore grows the book collection. The Dickman’s bookstore is open regular business hours on Saturday and anytime by appointment…or if you happen to find them stocking shelves and not out procuring more books.
During an interview on CBS Sunday Morning, Lenore, who rather likes her Dickman system for cataloging instead of Dewey’s, pointed to a book table she says is the most important of all. The table does not labor under the weight of leather-bound classics like “Tale of Two Cities” or “Les Miserable.” Rather small, colorful reads such as “Mother Goose.”
“If a child knows eight nursery rhymes by the time he is four years old,” said Lenore, now retired, but who, with her husband’s support and sacrifice, earned a PhD, “that child will be an excellent reader by the time he is eight years old.”
Personally, I have to trust the opinion of someone ensconced by that much paper and ink; a person who when additional book space was needed, cleaned out, fixed up and roofed a huge storage bin that once held cow manure. Actually, that project was Lloyd’s contribution. Soon he’s going to turn over one-third of his tractor garage to Lenore’s ever-expanding stockpile.
That’ll bring their bookstore “chain” to 13. All that without serving one cup of coffee or surfacing the long dirt road leading to their store.
Yeah, one has to love books nearly as much as they do to venture out to their place. And that’s exactly what the Dickman’s count on.
CBS Sunday Morning - Bill Geist reporting
Women Only Over Fifty (WOOF) Summer 2008! (Echelon Press)
Author Roy Blount Jr. published a great holiday message on the Author’s Guild website. You can check it out here, but it’s so good we just went ahead and copied it in full in case your clicking finger is feeling lazy today.
Holiday Message from Roy Blount Jr.:
Buy Books From Your Local Bookstore, Now
December 11, 2008. I’ve been talking to booksellers lately who report that times are hard. And local booksellers aren’t known for vast reserves of capital, so a serious dip in sales can be devastating. Booksellers don’t lose enough money, however, to receive congressional attention. A government bailout isn’t in the cards.
We don’t want bookstores to die. Authors need them, and so do neighborhoods. So let’s mount a book-buying splurge. Get your friends together, go to your local bookstore and have a book-buying party. Buy the rest of your Christmas presents, but that’s just for starters. Clear out the mysteries, wrap up the histories, beam up the science fiction! Round up the westerns, go crazy for self-help, say yes to the university press books! Get a load of those coffee-table books, fatten up on slim volumes of verse, and take a chance on romance!
There will be birthdays in the next twelve months; books keep well; they’re easy to wrap: buy those books now. Buy replacements for any books looking raggedy on your shelves. Stockpile children’s books as gifts for friends who look like they may eventually give birth. Hold off on the flat-screen TV and the GPS (they’ll be cheaper after Christmas) and buy many, many books. Then tell the grateful booksellers, who by this time will be hanging onto your legs begging you to stay and live with their cat in the stockroom: “Got to move on, folks. Got some books to write now. You see…we’re the Authors Guild.”
Enjoy the holidays.
Roy Blount Jr.
President, Authors Guild
Addendum: Forward and Post!
December 11, 2008. The Guild’s staff informs me that many of you are writing to ask whether you can forward and post my holiday message encouraging orgiastic book-buying. Yes! Forward! Yes! Post! Sound the clarion call to every corner of the Internet: Hang in there, bookstores! We’re coming! And we’re coming to buy! To buy what? To buy books! Gimme a B! B! Gimme an O! O! Gimme another O! Another O! Gimme a K! K! Gimme an S! F! No, not an F, an S. We’re spelling BOOKS!
Thanks to all of you for your good wishes on our new arrival, Adrian. Even though I’m not in the store too much these days, I thought you might enjoy a pic of Adrian enjoying a good book. I’m sure you’ll be seeing more of him in the coming months!
Just before the Thanksgiving holiday, I attended the Middle East Studies Association conference, which is the yearly gathering of scholars of the Middle East. With its panels and papers, receptions and speeches, it is probably not unlike academic conferences of other disciplines, except that the music at the Sunday night dance party was Arab pop (if you’ve never heard the Middle East’s answer to Madonna, she’s worth a listen: check out Nancy Ajram on youtube) and among the post-docs getting down were a daunting number of accomplished belly dancers.
I go to MESA to get a sense of the ideas percolating in the field, sit in on assorted lectures, and meet with potential and existing clients whose research crosses over from an academic to a mainstream readership. This year, while helping out friends and former colleagues, I also had the memorable opportunity to moonlight as a bookseller. I have limited experience in the retail end of publishing; as an agent I’m in the business of selling books, but I’ve never tried it on a copy-by-copy basis. The experience was instructive, and I emerged from my adventure with a renewed sense of respect for the business of hand-selling.
It quickly became obvious that matchmaking between book and customer is both art and science—in this case I happened to know the books I was selling quite well, but to occupy that sweet spot between helpful and obtrusive was a wholly different challenge. When I convinced a browsing professor to purchase a novel I’d particularly loved, I was immoderately pleased. That she was already very likely interested in the subject I was peddling in no way diminished my sense of accomplishment. Other artisanal processes, like making cheese or crafting small batch whisky seem to be enjoying a renaissance, but hand-selling books, and the people who do it, ably and for real, are faring less well. Perhaps the book industry needs its own answer to the locovore movement. (Perhaps it’s out there—if yes, let me know).
Programs like B&N Discover and Borders Original Voices are efforts to scale up the hand-sell, and I like these programs immensely, but I note them professionally perhaps more than I respond to them personally. I’m curious to know how you all respond to them—ditto Amazon recommendations. Amazon’s ability to target my interests is undermined by the fact that I use the site as a research tool more often than I do to make purchases, but maybe you have better luck. Shelf talkers are great, but for me, nothing beats interested, widely read booksellers with whom I can speak; not only are they brilliant at suggesting books, they see the publishing industry from a perspective of the buyers who keep it alive. These days I’m particularly fond of New York’s Idlewild bookstore, which specializes in books on international themes—travel, world lit, etc.
But as I suspect is the case with many of you, indie bookshops have always had a special place in my heart. When I was growing up, each year, probably right about this time, my parents (both inveterate readers of nonfiction) would report to our local bookshop, where the owner would recommend a raft of novels that were just right for me. The stack that ended up beneath the tree, selected by Santa Claus, never disappointed. When, eventually I figured out that it was the bookstore owner and not St. Nick doing the selecting, it did not render the achievement any less magical. I was, however, crushed when the store closed (take that Virginia). Imaginary though he is, Santa’s position seems more secure than that of the independent bookseller, a figure whom I hope will not
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Last week, I was chatting with a client who was visiting from out of town and who I hadn’t seen for a while. We talked about all of the changes in publishing, especially in the area of electronic publishing, that had occurred since we had last seen each other.
One of the things he asked, and which I thought was a very interesting question, was what will happen to the brick and mortar bookstores now that electronic books are gaining such a foothold, to say nothing about the increased market share that Amazon and the other on-line booksellers have. What will this mean for the large chains – Barnes & Noble and, especially, Borders.
And Mike Shatzkin, industry pundit, estimates that by the end of 2012, digital books will be 20%-25% of unit sales with another 25% of books sold online. That’s 50% of all books sold and it would seem to me that losing that volume of business will cause the large chains, at least, to shutter a significant number of stores.
The only way I can imagine they could survive is by carrying an even greater variety of products other than books than they already do. And, because these changes are happening so quickly, they would have to begin carrying this additional merchandise immediately so as to build up customers before their book business deteriorates any further.
I think the independent stores that are left—after the chains took over a huge part of the market and put many of them out of business years ago—will be less affected and, in fact, could thrive. For them, selling more varied merchandise will be less of a “leap” than their much larger, more corporate cousins and their customers are truly the most loyal of book lovers. How ironic, considering what happened to the bulk of the independent booksellers when the chains descended over a decade ago.
I am still convinced that electronic book publishing will increase readership as opposed to destroying it. It is up to the big retailers to figure out how to keep up with this new world in order to stay in business.
What do you think? Will the chain bookstores survive and if so, how?
I agree with Michael’s post yesterday. Barnes and Noble and Borders are intimidating. Not to say that I won’t spend an afternoon there with a giant stack of books from a myriad of genres and the biggest cup of coffee they have to offer (which is pretty big), but on the days when I actually want to browse for a book I intend to buy, I head to smaller locations. I get overwhelmed by the rows and rows of shelves within shelves and soon realize I’m not even reading the bindings anymore, but just skimming the colors and shapes of each book—only picking up ones that stand out in that respect regardless of the title.
Smaller bookshops, whether they house used books, are devoted to a single genre, or are just mini versions of the massive box stores have an appeal that cannot be rivaled. My two favorite places to spend my book money in the city are the Housing Works Bookstore Café in Soho and WORD Books in Brooklyn. They both have their own unique feel—a sort of atmosphere that is lacking in the impersonal, albeit well-stocked shelves of the giant bookstore chains.
The selection is smaller, sure, but unless I’m looking for something absolutely specific, I find that doesn’t matter. I’ll still always find something I want and I feel that my choice is much better made. If I’m having trouble, the staff in a small bookstore will more likely know each book they do stock and will often have certain opinions and recommendations, which is an undeniable advantage of a smaller selection. In fact, both Housing Works and WORD pepper their shelves with little handwritten index cards from members of the staff praising their most recent literary loves. Because they can’t just sell every book that comes out, there has to be some level of thought and selection put into stocking the independent bookshops.
Smaller stores foster a sense of community—there even used to be a corkboard in WORD that served as a sort of personals section. Anyone could fill out a slip of paper with their name, age and email address followed by books and authors they loved as well as those they hated and then pin it up on the board, in the hopes that some book-reading match made in heaven would soon emerge.
As the holiday season is upon us, gift-buying must be as well. Shopping in an environment that fosters conversation and comfort as opposed to impersonal abundance, I feel, gives the gift itself greater meaning. Sure, the person you so carefully chose that book for might not know where it was bought, but the sense of thought and care that went into it is surely palpable.
I don’t want to come off totally disparaging the bookstore giants—I love them, too. If you’re looking for something specific, either they’ll have it or will almost certainly have the resources to order it for you. Nowadays there’s near a guarantee that they have a café attached, so there’s no end to the hours you can spend there poring over books you might actually have no intention of buying (okay, so there is an end, as the only times I’ve ever been in a Borders past closing time were for crucial Harry Potter book purchases). Living in the city, it’s easy to forget that oftentimes independent bookstores can’t survive elsewhere and it’s nice to know that the big places are still accessible to the vast majority of the population.
I have a specific experience in mind when I consider entering these havens I call smaller bookstores. When I go book shopping, I want to enjoy it, take my time and truly feel as if I picked the perfect book to read next. I know t
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