Planning is the name of the game as Washington schools come back to start the new year. Teacher back-to-business week brings a great opportunity to collaborate and to invigorate the teachers a librarian works with. This year I’m switching up the program. How can we work together this year? What’s your passion project for the coming quarter? How will we collaborate to bring cohesive learning to these open-minded learners?

This is our opportunity to work together and to learn from one another. It’s time to bring out the big ideas. Usually once expectations are set and we get into a check-out routine, I start a tour of non-fiction, the Dewey-tastic Journey through history, science, and so much more. This year I’m changing up the playbook.

Each year I work with the younger students to examine the Washington State Children’s Choice Book Award nominees. One year we did a play-off board where the entire K-3 grades voted on a winner. It was a commitment from me and the teachers alike. In the end, unless I’m creating this as our expectation and agenda, it will not happen. If we can get the teachers on board, we can devote the after-lunch reading period to one or more of these books per week and have in-class votes rather than reading all nominees and voting in the library (which is challenging with our time constraints).

The Newbery Awards and Mock Newbery initiative is a similarly challenging agenda for my library time. We love these books! Last year I read all nominees, and I intend to do so again this year. I also bring the ones that are appropriate for the maturity of my various readers into the classrooms and library. These books are often heavy, and they may take one to three weeks to read as a group, maybe longer for individuals to read at their own pace. We have to possess enough copies to accommodate these readers and teachers. Working together the most appropriate can be read after lunch during the children’s free period and re-zen-ification time after recess.

But why am I focusing on fiction early in the year and saving non-fiction for later in the year? First, Poetry Month often falls out of line with my Dewey Tour. The book awards are similarly challenging as they do not follow school schedules. In addition, this new schedule allows me to plan with the teachers better. We have preK’s and K’s working toward understanding their expectations in their roles in class and a new group of teachers who are focusing on creative writing. This early focus on writing could use the 3-5th grade writing lessons I traditionally teach in late February and early March.

Writing and bringing the creative act of storytelling to the children is right up my ally, but I’m more than glad to hand-off this work to the teachers who see them daily and know their creative spirits even better than I get to know them over the course of the year.  By working together in this way we can offer a cohesive group of lessons that originated in the classroom and work off one another to support my Book Award lessons. What a great start to the year.