November 24

Scholastic Book Fair Storytime

The Book Fair Runs from December 6-9th in the OJCS chapel

The OJCS Scholastic book fair is less than two weeks away so today’s storytime will give students a taste of the amazing books that will be at the fair.

The fair visit schedule is as follows;

And be sure to check out the teacher wish list board at the fair and support building the child’s in-class book collection!

For those who aren’t up to visit the fair in person, this link will be active the week of the fair and ordering online is a cinch!  Here is the virtual link:

Without further ado, here is the Scholastic Storytime video!

Today we read Fox and Squirrel Help Out by Ruth Ohi and Sloth at the Zoom by Helaine Becker and Orbie




November 11

Evaluating a World of Reading Challenges

For my professional development project this year, I have decided to tackle the question of school reading challenges.  There is a lot more to this than you would imagine.  In fact, there have been numerous studies done to evaluate if these challenges encourage or discourage reading, or even if they make any impact at all.

I have run 5 school-wide reading challenges since my arrival here 7 years ago, and they all had fairly minimal student and teacher participation.  I tried a wide variety of prizes (from pizza parties, to small prizes, to classroom parties) and formats (number of books read, number of time spent reading, individual classroom goals, book bingo, social media sharing, etc…)  Unfortunately, there wasn’t much cohesion… some grades participated regularly, and some didn’t at all.  One of my tasks in this project is gathering feedback from language arts teachers about what worked and what didn’t.  More on the feedback later!

I started my project by looking at some of the biggest Canadian reading challenges.  Most of these are done in Public Libraries to encourage summer reading, but their applications are wider as well.  Here is a chart with some of the challenges that I have looked at so far;

An Overview of popular challenge styles in Canada

Name of Challenge How it works Prizes and rewards
TD Summer Reading Club Students get a nicely designed notebook where they track their reading.  For each book read they gain stickers.  This works as a sort of reading passport. Stickers for each book read that students add to the notebook.  They also get to put their name in for a draw for big prizes every summer day they read.
OPL summer reading club This is the same as the TD Summer reading club but involves more programming such as events involving robotics, events with animals, events with authors and illustrators. Prizes are drawn for participation and books read.
St. Albert Public Library Summer Reading Games (Alberta) Kids are given a reading tracker that includes a puzzle.  Students are able to colour in one piece of the puzzle per 10 minutes of reading.  There are 4, 8, or 12 hour trackers.   When the tracker puzzle is finished, kids get a small prize.  The prizes were mostly coupons for free food and treats at various places.  There was also candy and stickers.
Edmonton Public Library Reading Challenge Kids are given a reading tracker.  For every tracker completed, the child can make a button with the button maker.  A ballot was also entered for large prizes. A button made with each tracker returned.  Large prizes included a Nintendo Switch, an electric scooter, zoo passes.
Read to Succeed – The Ottawa Senators Reading Challenge Teachers set a reading goal online.  They track the class’ reading with an online tracker.  As each month ends teachers submit progress.   In April winners can get a pizza party with Spartycat or meet an Ottawa Senator.  Prizes are also drawn.
Toronto Public Library Reading Challenge Print a form that involves choosing 12 books to read across 12 genres in 12 months.  Participate in online forums about your reading.  Complete the challenge and then submit it at the end for your chance to win prizes. Prizes are not stated.
Battle of the Books (Selected Canadian Cities) 6 students from the school are put on the team.  Students read from a book list.  They then meet to compete in a question challenge.  The answer to each question is from the book. Winners get a trophy and move on to local and regional competitions.  
Indigo Reading Challenge – (Canada-Wide) The Indigo reading challenge is a book genre bingo card.  For every bingo you win prizes.  The expectation is that you participate via social media.   Book giveaways and credits.

It was very interesting to see the wide variety of formats and prizes available and how creative and elaborate some of them got.  I love the tie-in at OPL of including events such as guest speakers and authors.  I love the creativity of kids making their own buttons as prizes, or the idea of the puzzle time trackers.  There are so many amazing librarians out there working so hard to encourage kids to read in an age where most kids would rather be on a device.  It is a beautiful thing!

What Does the Research Say?

My next step was to cover some Scholarly research.  I chose two research papers.  The first was called ‘A Hook and a Book: Rewards as Motivators in Public Library Summer Reading Programs’ by Ruth V. Small, Marilyn P. Arnone, and Erin Bennett who are from the Association for Library Service to Children.  This paper, published and peer-reviewed in 2017, makes some surprising and interesting points.  Their first major point was about intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.  If motivation is intrinsic, it means that children were engaging in a task for its own sake out of interest and enjoyment.  It also contributes to lifelong learning.  On the other hand, extrinsically motivated learning includes a reward system or prize.  These rewards focus the learner’s attention on the prize, rather than the learning itself.  It was noted that in a paper by B.F. Skinner that giving extrinsic rewards for reading sends the learner a message that the task or behaviour is not, in and of itself interesting or valuable.  In fact, it must be in some way disagreeable since a reward is required to make them do it.  It was also noted that extrinsic rewards can undermine students self-esteem and motivation.  Children who received rewards for reading have less interest in reading unless the reward is a book.  The researchers of this paper wanted to uncover the truth of Skinner’s points.

What is interesting is that these researchers actually found that the reading challenge participants felt that their reading competence was positively affected by their participation.  In fact, the results, based on interviews with students, parents, and librarians, found that relevant rewards given to students who have low intrinsic motivation can have a long-term positive impact.  It was noted, however, that the key to developing intrinsic motivation for reading relied on allowing children to choose books relevant to their interests, the setting of PERSONAL goals, and that the rewards should be related to reading or connected to the subject of the books they are reading.

The second paper I read was from Andrew Morrison at the University of Connecticut and was written as an Honors Scholar Theses.  It is called ‘Incentivized Learning and Libraries: A Comparative Study of Summer Reading Programs in Connecticut’ and was published in 2020.  This paper had a bit of a wider in scope in the sense that it was looking at how to promote reading in the face of declining library funding and interest without losing the intrinsic benefits.  This study contained some sad statistics, the first being that in 2018 average time spent reading for pleasure declined 24% from ten years earlier and that people age 15-34 read on average for only six minutes a day.  (I imagine this does not include reading posts on social media platforms.)  This paper covered the way many public libraries in Connecticut were running summer reading programs and highlighted some of the things that were working and some of the things that didn’t.  One of the key points is the value of these programs being a way to get kids into public libraries more frequently.  Once children make a connection to the place, the staff, and the books, you can grow readers.

Instead of counting books read, most programs aim for 20 minutes of reading time per day.  Shorter chunks that came with rewards made the goal more obtainable.  And just as in the other study, one of the key points was that libraries need to foster a love of reading no matter what the text’s genre, level, or audience, to create life-long readers.  This to me is a key point in an academic environment.  To gain a lifelong love of reading, we need to remember that it is not a level or genre of book that is important, it is the encouraging of student interests that will make this a life-long habit.

A wide variety of rewards in these programs included gift cards to arts classes, admission to museums, free books, field trips, etc…  In other words, the focus was less about material rewards as it was about rewards or experiences that continue to educate the child.

How Do Our Teachers Feel About Reading Challenges?

From here I moved onto surveying our OJCS language arts teachers.  It was very interesting to see the results of this survey.  Here are some of the results;



So our teachers feel that there is value in a school-wide reading challenge.  And yet in an open and honest conversation with several of them, they admitted that the reading challenges often caused students to rapidly flip through books and say that they read them just to be able to mark it down as read.  In conversation, it also came out that they felt that the challenge made reading seem like a chore, which is something that the researchers pointed out.  It causes reading to lose its intrinsic value.

It is interesting to see that they felt the most motivating prizes for their kids weren’t the ones that cost money, but rather, the class party prizes.  They also felt that it was important to have a classroom goal to meet.

How Are the Students at the OJCS Reading This Year?

Circulation this year is higher than it has ever been across all grades.  My numbers are as follows;

2019 School Year from September to November:

Last school year from September to November (during this period they had to reserve books online.)

This school year so far:

This year circulation is up exponentially!  It will be the year with the highest circulation ever since I arrived at the OJCS.  It is interesting to note though that the grade with the lowest book sign out rate consistently is grade 8 (JK and SK are signed out by the teachers.)  I think this is likely due to all of the novel studies that go on in that grade, combined with a bigger homework load and of course, the fact that reading is competing against social media.

I also introduced a Manga section at the library that has created a reading frenzy among some of our historically most reluctant readers.  It is very true that by letting students read according to their own passions and interests, circulation goes way way up.

So What Now?

Some of the big takeaways for me were we to decide to run a school-wide reading challenge next year would be;

  • that kids set both personal and classroom goals based on time rather than quantity of books – this could mean that kids decide they want to learn more about certain topics by reading about them (animals, famous scientists, volcanoes, etc…) and that they decide to read for 30 minutes a day after school.  They will also set a class goal that can be a certain number of hours read combined for the class.
  • that kids track their reading in a paper-journal or puzzle-page format – This would help teachers to know what was read and the level of student comprehension.  It would also allow for documentation.
  • that kids be free to read according to their own interests in order to grow a life-long love of reading – this connects to students setting personal goals and means that students determine where their reading will take them this year.  There will be no rules about what books are chosen, but students are encouraged to explore and grow.
  • that the prize for meeting the classroom goal is a class party (maybe with a literary theme?)
  • after reaching a student’s personal goal at the end of the year, students could choose a new book as a prize.

This has been a very enlightening project to work on and I am excited about where we will take this at the OJCS next year.  If you have any feedback for me about reading challenges, I’d love to see it in the comments below!


October 21

Are You Hooked on Your Devices?

A Grade 4 Media Balance Workshop

Grade 4 visited the library this week for a workshop on media balance.  It was wonderful to have such meaningful and honest conversation with our students about their screen time and their feelings as they relate to their online lives.  Here is the slideshow!

October 20

Same But Different, Different But Same Storytime

Today we learn about how even though we are all unique and different, in many ways we are also the same!  We read Everybody by Elise Gravel and Same, Same but Different by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw.


Break your students into groups of 4 and provide them with a list of questions.  Find out all the ways in which they are the same and all of the ways they are different!  Here is a sample handout you can use.  For younger, non-reading students, you can ask questions and tally the answers on the board.

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October 12

New and Notable Additions to the Library

This week I received my first book order of the year and I wanted to highlight some notable books for our teachers, students, and parents.

Social Studies

Committing to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals

With this series, young citizens of the world will learn how they can commit to the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Books include thought-provoking questions and hands-on activities for youth to engage in their own communities and make an impact on local and global levels! Readers will be prepared to take informed action in accordance with the National Council for the Social Studies C3 Framework. Aligned to curriculum standards, these books also highlight key 21st Century Content: Global Awareness, Public Policy, Health and Wellness, Civics Literacy, and Environmental Stewardship.

Amazing Women in Canada

Throughout history women have shaped the culture, politics, and people of the land we know as Canada. The women in this series have had a lasting impact on our daily lives. Explore their stories and learn how they have made a difference.


Mini Math Mysteries

The student detectives at Lincoln Elementary love math-and solving mysteries! Can you help? Each case in these pick-your-own-path books is solvable based on second-grade math problems. Choose the right answer, and advance to the next clue. Choose the wrong answer, and clear text and visuals explain the math and encourage the reader to try again.

Digital Citizenship

Protect Yourself Online

Protect Yourself Online informs readers about the benefits, risks, and dangers of being online. The series examines social media, the protection of personal data, and ways to avoid online predators, online addiction, and online scams. It also provides information on how to be a smart, safe internet user. Each book includes a graphic that presents key information visually, source notes, and resources to aid in further research.

Exploring Careers in the Gaming Industry


The gaming industry is growing fast and offers many creative and technical job opportunities. This book explores six jobs in this field. What the jobs entail, what they pay, and future prospects are discussed along with insights from industry insiders.






NHL Teams

This action-packed series introduces young readers to the hottest teams in the National Hockey League. Each book provides an inside look at the team’s history, from its formation up to the present day, while highlighting the team’s greatest players and key moments. Each book includes a table of contents, team facts, additional resources links, a glossary, and an index.

Culinary Arts

Animal Chefs (Create! Books)

Grab your chef’s hat and a furry friend-it’s time to get cooking! Get into a splatter of batter with Chef Sloth, join Chef Hedgehog on a prickly cooking adventure, show your love for the kitchen with Chef Llama, and more! These hands-on cookbooks are full of bright step-by-step photos and easy to follow recipes inspired by your animal chef guides. Once you’re full of tasty treats, learn all about your new animal friends. It’s bound to be a wild time!


We Belong

We all belong! You and I, we’re alike, but we’re different too. That’s not good. That’s not bad. It’s just what is true. Explore and celebrate who you are and who others are too! Rhyming verse by Laura Purdie Salas invites others to notice the diversity of our world and affirm that we all belong, just as we are. Bright illustrations by Carlos Vélez Aquilera feature a diverse group of children, playing and learning in an urban setting.




Pirates Don’t Dance

Jack longs to be a pirate. He loves everything about the job, from the peacefulness of the ocean to the opportunity to make new friends to the excitement of exotic travel. Jack also loves to dance, from the graceful glide of the glissade to the energetic leap of the grand jeté to the controlled kick of the grand battement. In fact, Jack often dances as he does his pirate apprentice chores. Unfortunately, Captain Squinty Eye’s number one pirate-ship rule is PIRATES DON’T DANCE. Dancing is too silly and not fitting for a rough, tough pirate. What will it take for Jack to convince Captain Squinty Eye that dancing is not a bad thing, and may even help Jack be a better pirate? Or will Jack and his dreams get tossed overboard? An empowering and relatable story about staying true to yourself and following your dreams. Back matter includes explanations of dance movements, as well as definitions of pirate speak.



Make Way for Animals!: A World of Wildlife Crossings


Around the world, city highways and country roads have cut through natural spaces. Wild animals are blocked from the resources they need to survive, or must make dangerous crossings across busy roads to get to them. Fortunately, solving this problem has inspired some creative solutions! Take a tour of wildlife crossings across the globe, from grassy badger bridges to underpasses for elephants. Discover how these inventive pathways have saved both animal and human lives and helped preserve ecosystems.

Operation Pangolin: Saving the World’s Only Scaled Mammal

What animal is the world’s only scaled mammal? The pangolin!Prized for their hard scales, pangolins are one of the most poached animals on the planet. They are also highly endangered. Yet scientists know very little about them. Pangolin rescuers and researchers such as Thai Nguyen have the difficult task of saving pangolins, changing local laws to prevent poaching, educating locals, and learning more about these mysterious creatures. Join author and photographer Suzi Eszterhas in this exploration of the jungles of Vietnam where Thai works to save endangered pangolins.

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