Welcome to Library Lions interviews Raising a Roar for libraries and the outstanding librarians serving youth in schools and public libraries across the U.S. Please Roar today’s guest, Arika Dickens!
Hi! I’m Arika Dickens – or Ms. Arika, as my students call me. For the last 11 years, I’ve been an elementary teacher-librarian at Medina Elementary in Bellevue, WA. This year, I teach on Wed/Thurs/Fri and my awesome colleague Mrs. Bethel teaches on Mon/Tues. During the 2014-2015 year, K-4 students come to the library for a 40 minute class each week. Students are engaged every time they come to library: we study authors, digital citizenship, primary sources, genres and more while weaving in research and read-alouds! The 5th graders drop in with their teachers each week for book selection and assistance in research projects.
Our library hosts many programs and celebrates lit-themed events each year, including the Scholastic Book Fair, KCLS’s Global Reading Challenge, author visits (this year we hosted Mac Barnett!), Poem in Your Pocket Day, World Read-Aloud Day, Children’s Book Week, WCCPBA and Sasquatch Awards, and more!
A Mighty Roar!
Being a librarian is not a job – it’s my passion. Sharing literature with children each day via booktalks, read-alouds, and book challenges is truly magical. Add in tech skills and project-based learning, and the library becomes the heart of the school! Watching the eyes of the children light up as they walk into the library brings me great joy. With their wonder and curiosity, their interests and passions, I see them grow to love all the library has to offer.
Libraries are important because they are a place for peaceful exploration. Regardless of age or gender, race or religion, the library is a place that serves the needs of its community. It is a place that promotes learning and curiosity.
On top of educating young students, one of my goals as a school librarian is to make the library such a welcoming, interesting place as to to grow lifelong library users. And each year, former students come back to say hello and reminisce with fondness about their time in our library and their favorite lessons/activities. I can only hope they continue to be patrons of the library in college and beyond.
A Lion’s Pride of Programs
This year, for the first time, I was inspired to run a Tournament of Books in the library. Timed to run during March Madness, our bracket of the 16 top-circulating books was set up to discover which book was the most popular among students (and teachers!) in our school.
In short, this program was more successful than I imagined. Student buzz about the bracket was high – they had clear favorites and were hopeful for some bracket-busters! Unexpectedly, my 2nd grade students took interest in the program (geared for grades 3-5) and began reading the books so that they, too, could vote. For full details of running a tournament – complete with a list of things to do and to avoid – check out my blog!
For NEXT year, I’m getting excited about a trial run of a new district-wide chapter book award geared toward grades 1-3. In Washington, there are two book awards: the WCCPBA (picture books for grades K-3) and the Sasquatch (chapter books for grades 3-6). There is a gap in the book award nominees: chapter books for the emerging readers. As seen in the Tournament of Books, though, the 2nd graders LIKE being involved in awards and voting! This new award will attempt to bridge that gap and meet the needs of 1st-3rd graders. Our goal: “Books that kids like, not books that adults think kids like.”
“…Visits to your library are a weekly highlight for [my daughter]. On a number of occasions, she has relayed enjoyable interactions with you. I take away from her anecdotes the sense that you care about her and her development, and that you celebrate her love of reading and learning.” – Parent
“Dearest Ms. Arika, You have blessed S’s life beyond words. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts!” – Parent
“My hero is my old school librarian Ms. Arika Dickens…She is the one who introduced me to books. She picked the greatest books for me that inspired me. I learned to write stories from her. … I had no idea how to read, and she helped me with that, too.” – 4th grader
“You are so pretty and so nice. And you read really good books.” -2nd grader
Time: 40 minutes before the end of the school day.
Lesson: Sharing Mark Teague’s The Secret Shortcut. Goal: to use illustrations to assist in inferring the meaning of tricky words like “meander”
Scene: During the lesson, one student had a bad case of the wiggles. She rolled around the lesson area, slid around the story stairs, played with her shoes, looked everywhere except at the book, etc. Totally acceptable behavior for a 5 year old at the end of the school day, but slightly frustrating nonetheless. She didn’t participate in our discussion on inferring the meaning of “meander” from Teague’s illustrations.
After the lesson – with 5 minutes left in the day – she came up and asked to go to the bathroom. I had grave concern that she could make it there and back in time for dismissal. Just as I began to explain this she piped up, “Ms. Arika! I will go straight to the bathroom and back. I won’t meander, not even a little.”
That’s right! Not only was she paying attention, but she could also use the vocabulary of the story in context correctly! This is my all-time favorite reminder that wiggly kids still can (and do!) pay attention as they squirm.
Hosting an author in our library is tremendously fun! For an author visit, I think the most important thing is generating enthusiasm and passion among the students and staff. This can be done many ways: reading aloud titles, book-themed writing activities, student-created décor, involving families, etc. Having an interested and enthusiastic student and staff audience shows authors that we care about them and their books.
Blog: LibrarianArikaWordpress (all things library – read-alouds, library lessons, childrens/YA book reviews, etc.)
Thank you, Arika or your terrific interview!
Note to Librarians: If you’re a Youth Librarian working in a school or public library we’d love to hear about you and your library. Contact Janet at [email protected] for an interview slot. The calendar for 2015 still has some openings
Note to Authors: If you’re interested in Roaring for Libraries on this blog, contact Janet at [email protected] for an interview slot.