Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Graphic Novels: Why They're Not Junk

If you have been paying attention to the books that children are gravitating towards these days, you may have noticed that many of them are choosing what appear to be comic books. These books that are so popular now are called graphic novels. As Amy Mascott mentions in her blog, these books, just like your average novel, have defined characters and complex plots. Unlike your average novel, they are written in a comic book format with panels of pictures and with text mostly in speech or thought bubbles. You may think that these books are less worthy to be read than novels that are purely in text, but I assure you that graphic novels are a key to reading success for many students.
When trying to get a reluctant reader to read, you may not have much luck with a book full of words, but once you show them a book with illustrations and words they are much more intrigued. There are numerous students that would not read if it were not for graphic novels. These books are thick and have an interest level appropriate to the child so that they are not embarrassed to be caught reading it like they might a picture book, but with the help of the illustrations, students can comprehend what is happening in the book and feel successful at reading. Once students have built confidence through reading graphic novels, they often turn to regular novels with similar plots. This is why graphic novels based on the classics or on popular chapter books are wonderful. A student who reads The Lightning Thief graphic novel may be so intrigued that they then try the original version of this book. For these reasons, I often encourage my struggling readers to try graphic novels.
"But my student is not a struggling reader and they are still reading this junk!" I assure you these books are not junk. There is quite a bit of value to reading graphic novels. Many graphic novels use rich, challenging vocabulary words, but students are able to comprehend what is going on because they have the assistance of the rich, beautiful artwork. Thus through reading graphic novels, students are able to learn new vocabulary words and improve their reading fluency. There are also graphic novels that are based on classic literature. I love these books because they make complex texts accessible to all students. Even a student who is an avid reader can struggle with the vocabulary and text structure of a classic novel, but through reading the graphic novel version they are able to comprehend the text and access the important lessons embedded in the story. The same goes for graphic nonfiction. There are a number of nonfiction books that have come out in the last few years in graphic novel form. These are wonderful for learning history and as biographies since you are able to get a real picture of what happened that you would not be able to get from a traditional nonfiction book. Finally, reading graphic novels requires another whole set of skills that a novel does not require. Students have to track the story through cells, learn to read both pictures and words together, and learn to slow down and really breathe in the whole story. All of these are reasons why I have no problem with my students reading graphic novels and even encourage them to be read.
How do you feel about graphic novels? Why? If you like them, what are some of your favorites?

Please help us grow our graphic novel collection at Pinewood by supporting our Donors Choose project.

Further Reading:
Anderson, M. (2016). 10 reasons to let your kids read graphic novels. Retrieved from
Filucci, S. (2016). How comics helped my kid love reading. Retrieved from
Jones, E. (2014.) 5 great reasons to read graphic novels. Retrieved from
Mascott, A. (2017). 3 reasons graphic novels can be great for young readers. Retrieved from

Monday, March 6, 2017

Weeding the Garden: How We Determine Which Books to Remove from the Library

I love to garden. We purchased our first home about 3 years ago now. Each year I have done a little bit with the landscaping and gardening around our house. I spread the preexisting hostas and lilies out to line the sides of the house and garage. I tore out the dead bushes in front of our house and planted tulips, irises, and hydrangea bushes. I trimmed the lilac bush and I tilled up (ok my husband did the tilling) part of our backyard for a spacious vegetable garden. In order for my flowers and vegetables to grow, I needed to be sure to pull out the ugly dead plants and continually pull up the weeds. Without doing these things, it would be hard to see the beautiful new growth and it likely wouldn't have room to grow well. The same is true for a library collection. As much as we treasure every book in our library, from time to time we need to reevaluate, pull up the dead things, keep up with the weeding, and plant new things.
This is my second year teaching at Pinewood Elementary. (I hope to be here many more if they allow it.) This past summer, the Library Media Center got a little facelift with new paint and new carpet. This summer we will be doing a major overhaul with new furniture (shelves, tables, chairs, circ desk, the works). In order to make room for new spaces, like a comfortable seating area and STEM/Makerspace stations, we need to go through and weed our books. This means that we will be removing books from our library collection and either recycling them, offering them up to teachers, or donating them to a charity like Books for Africa. This is a big job and requires a lot of evaluation and consideration. How does one know which books to pull from the shelves and what to do with each one once pulled? How do you know whether the books should just be removed from the system and forgotten about or if they should be replaced with updated copies? Well. that's what this blog post is about. Read on to learn how this librarian chooses which books to weed and where to go from there.
I have to say, I am very grateful for technology when I start projects like these. The first step I take when planning to weed is to submit my library collection data to a company called Follett for an analysis. They then provide me with charts showing the age of different sections of the library and providing me with a base list of books that are good candidates for weeding. I use this list primarily for our nonfiction books as it helps me to pick out books that likely have outdated information. After looking at each book on the list, I pull the books that are indeed outdated and they are recycled. Next using our online library catalog software I run a report of how often books have been checked out in the last 3 years. The books that have been checked out fewer than 3 times are reviewed and I decide whether they simply need to be weeded, are good books hidden among ugly ones, or need an updated cover. This report assists me in weeding the chapter books, picture books, and sections of nonfiction like the folk tales and poetry.
My usual process involves starting an inventory in our online library catalog, grabbing a cart with a laptop or Chromebook and my USB bar code scanner, a stack of post its, and a book cart. I then start in the 000s section of the nonfiction books and slowly follow my list either pulling books and deleting them or scanning them for inventory. Deleted books go on the book cart while the other books remain on the shelf. By going through each shelf, I can also see books that are in distressed condition and pull them for weeding as well, even if they aren't on the list. This also allows me to pull books that may do better to be shelved elsewhere (this is where my post it notes come in).After I get through the nonfiction section. I continue with the remaining sections of the library. As my book cart gets full, I review my deleted books and decide what to do with them. Books that are in poor condition or contain outdated information get recycled. Books in good condition without time sensitive information (think fiction books) are put on a cart in the teachers lounge and after a week or two are donated to a charity. When I have finished going through all the shelves, I can also finalize an inventory of the library so that books that are not in the library are marked as lost. Now the library has room for new books and new spaces and the kids are able to more easily find the attractive new books.

For more information about weeding a library, visit this page for a comprehensive list of resources.
Standards for weeding are available here.