“Hot Topix”: The Five-Finger Rule, Six Practices And Seven Habits

Orange wine. Space operas. “All the feels.” Pottermore. Enid Blyton and Margery Sharp. Just Being Audrey and Around America to Win the Vote: Two Suffragists, A Kitten and 10,000 Miles. The 53rd Street branch of the New York Public Library and the Lowline underground park.

These are just some of the nifty discoveries I’ve made since tuning in to “The Librarian Is In,” the New York Public Library’s terrific podcast about books, culture and what to read next. Gwen Glazer and Frank Collerius, librarians who host the podcast, compare notes on what’s turning their pages — something they’re excited about, that inspires them, or makes them laugh. They share what they’re reading, discuss “hot topix” related to books and reading, and interview guests who read a favorite passage from a book and give Frank and Gwen hints as they try to guess the title.  You have to hear it!

I said a mental thank-you to Frank and Gwen when I stepped inside the Library Media Center at Griffith Thomas Elementary School and spotted a poster and a whole section of shelving devoted to Erin Hunter’s Warriors books, a series following the adventures of four clans of wild cats that a young reader recommended in Episode 17 of the podcast.

The Dublin, Ohio library was the first stop on this summer’s lineup of special library tours organized by the Central Ohio chapter of the American Society for Information Science and Technology (CO-ASIS&T).  Megan Dimmerling, library media specialist, showed us around the place she calls home on school days.

A local artist executed Megan’s vision of bringing the outside in by painting the walls the color of grass, the sky, and the sun.  A Dr. Seuss quote and framed illustrations by artists like Tomie dePaola who have visited the school add special finishing touches.

Teachers and staff can experiment with the library’s makerspace, a do-it-yourself resource for designing and creating.  Students can browse reference books, nonfiction works, fiction for readers in grades 3-5, and books for everyone to enjoy. Graphic novels and books featuring Star Wars and Disney characters are shelved in their own special sections. Popular series like the Magic Tree House books are housed in baskets, which hold special appeal for young readers.  There’s even a dedicated area for Japanese-language books donated by Japanese families. “Time for an American Girl binge-read,” I reminded myself as I paged through a recent issue of one of my favorite magazines.

Every four days, Megan spends 45 minutes with each class of children in Kindergarten through fifth grade. To make the most of their time together, Megan teaches these 800-plus students how to find things on their own through hands-on learning activities that foster independence.

They also have fun along the way. Since a school library serves a different function than a classroom library — it’s a place where students can read for pleasure and check out whatever they want — these young readers participate in innovative activities to inspire a lifelong love of reading. Students in grades 3-5 can decorate a pumpkin as their favorite book character in the Great Pumpkin Character Contest. For a small donation, students who sign up for the Birthday Book Club can check out a new book, have their name placed in that book, have their picture taken holding the book, and receive a small toy. The class with the greatest percentage of club participants is treated to a party at the end of the school year. Make reading the reward — that’s the motto of this library media center.

I left thinking about three “Hot Topix”: the Five-Finger Rule; the Six Practices of Thinkers; and the Seven Habits of Happy Kids, all in practice at Thomas Elementary School.

To find a “just-right” book with the five-finger rule, a young reader chooses a book and reads the first page or two. She puts one finger up for every word she doesn’t know. If five of her fingers go up while reading, she should choose another book. If only two or three fingers go up while reading, she’s found a just-right book.

Ask questions; collaborate; create and innovate; persevere; think flexibly; and present ideas confidently are the Six Practices of Thinkers. And Sean Covey’s 7 Habits of Happy Kids are: Be proactive; begin with the end in mind; put first things first; think win-win; seek first to understand, then to be understood; synergize; and “sharpen the saw,” a clever way to say “take care of yourself.”  

To learn more about school librarianship, join me in checking out New on the Job: A School Librarian’s Guide to Success, by Hilda K. Weisburg and Ruth Toor.

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