Blog name: The Fairview Review
Blog URL: http://fveslibrary.blogspot.com
Your name: Suzanne Costner
A nice place to start is with your library origin story – how did become the school library media specialist at Fairview Elementary School? Can you briefly explain your role and your favorite aspect of your job?
I have always wanted to be a librarian, and after several years as a classroom teacher, I realized that my favorite activities all revolved around the books I used with my students. So I completed my LMS degree and moved into the library. I had a wonderful mentor in the school where I was teaching, and she helped me with the transition to the nearby school where I am now librarian. I teach a library class for each homeroom once a week, and also have classes schedule extra time to come in for research or other projects. My favorite part of the job is connecting my students with the right books and watching them become avid readers.
How is technology incorporated into your library, for your students but also for yourself and your staff? Do you have any goals for incorporating further technology into your library?
I began the blog as a way to incorporate more technology into the library program. I wanted to offer the students an authentic audience to share book reviews, rather than just writing a book report for the teacher to check off in the gradebook. I’ve had a few students take advantage of the platform, but most are more excited about reading the books rather than writing about them. I’ve slowly been adding MakerSpace activities to the library, and the most popular so far is the green screen. Our plan is to record student book talks, then attach QR codes to the covers of books for other students to access the videos.
I serve as a “tech teacher leader” for my school. Part of the role is to model technology integration for the other teachers, and to offer support as they try to implement new things. We have used the Quiver AR app and Plickers in guidance classes, robotics and computer coding in the library, and apps like Epic! ebooks and Quizlet in classrooms. The big focus lately has been the green screen. I’ve used it to record voter public service announcements with the 5th graders; the 4th grade has recorded math instructional videos on how to solve word problems and also infomercials starring the founding fathers of the original 13 colonies; the basketball teams even came in and made an appreciation video to show the coach at their banquet. I lead training sessions on using online resources, STEM lessons, and equipment like the green screen or document cameras.
Which book(s) would you suggest for a middle grade level reluctant reader?
There are so many great stories that are not thick, intimidating books, so I usually start with those. Series like The Zack Files, Eerie Elementary, or The Imaginary Veterinary are fast-paced and include lots of humor to up their appeal. I also reach for anything that is heavily illustrated or in graphic novel/manga format such as the Dragon Breath, Babymouse, and Amulet series or anything by Doug TenNapel (Cardboard is a big favorite). And then I look for topics that appeal to the students like the I Survived books. Once I find one book they enjoy, it is much easier to say, “If you liked that, then try this.”
How long have you been reviewing books online and why did you start? Do you find reviewing the books helps you better recommend them to students?
I began the blog in June 2013, as something to offer the students in place of writing book summaries or taking AR tests. I wrote out some reviews to show them a sample of what they might do, and became hooked on it. I have always read children’s and YA books to be able to find new titles to use in my classroom or to add to the library, so sharing my thoughts about them was a natural progression. Reviewing definitely helps me think of which student(s) a certain book would be perfect for. It has become a ritual when they come up to the circulation desk, they ask me which of the books in their stack I have already read. And there are several students who come in the door and call across the room, “What should I read next?”
Do you have a favorite moment when you provided someone with a book?
My first year in the library I had a family come in for the book fair on a Friday afternoon and the father asked me to help his son find a book. “He hasn’t found anything that he likes since he finished the Harry Potter series,” the dad said. So I showed them The Lightning Thief and told them to take it home and try it over the weekend, and if he didn’t enjoy it, I would exchange it for something else. Monday morning both parents came in and I asked if their son had started the book and did he think he would like it. The mother replied,” Start it! He read the whole thing in one sitting and we’re back for the rest of the series!” And I thought to myself, “The library is where I belong.”
Which upcoming Middle Grade book(s) on NetGalley are you the most excited about recommending?
Oh, I’m glad you put that (s) on book, because there is no way to pick only one. For fantasy readers I would say Jen Calonita’s Tricked (Fairy Tale Reform School #3). For graphic novel lovers, Gene Luen Yang’s Secrets and Sequences from the Secret Coders series (coding, robots, and graphic novel format all together). If readers enjoy humorous fiction with action, then The Matchstick Castle by Keir Graff. And for a bit of suspense/supernatural elements I would say Journey’s End by Rachel Hawkins.
Your favorite Storytime book to read:
Anything by Mo Willems. We Are in a Book (with Elephant and Piggie so excited to be the characters in a story), is a great one. My students also love Double Trouble in Walla Walla by Andrew Clements. I think they like listening to me try to read it without getting tongue-tied.
The most popular books in your library right now:
I Survived series, A Series of Unfortunate Events (thanks to the Netflix series), Secret Coders series, and spooky books by Mary Downing Hahn.
And to finish off our interview, if you could have coffee (…or something stiffer) with any author, dead or alive, who would it be, and why?
I would love to have tea with Anne McCaffrey and talk dragons with her. I periodically go back and read through all the Pern books and remember when I found the first one while I was in middle school. She wrote such a wide range of science fiction/fantasy and I love all the various worlds she imagined and shared with us.
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