Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Blog Interaction with Janette Fluharty - Thurs. Nov. 9 to Sat. Nov. 11, 2006

Janette Fluharty is the final SLMS visiting with the class for this semester's blog series. She is completing her second year as the teacher librarian at Avon Intermediate School East, Avon, IN.

Visit her school's website is at
(Look for the link to media center pages at Special Areas)

Learn more about Janette's experience and interests at

Janette has a strong background as a classroom teacher. She can share her insights and practical ideas about switching careers, getting started with her own school library program, and any topic related to school library media.


  1. Anonymous8:34 AM

    I read that you participate in the Battle of the Books at your school. I just attended the AIME conference this week and sat in on the session highlighting two Battle of the Books programs. The two media specialists who presented were from Vigo County and they have a huge competition between about 18 teams at the end of the school year.

    This is something that I would like to start at my school, although not on such a big level yet.

    How involved is your program? Did you start it or was it already in place when you started your current job? Do you compete with other schools or is it just within your school? What other information might you be able to offer?

    Emily Schubel

  2. Hi Janette!

    Collaboration with teachers is such a big and "talked a lot about" part of a library media specialists job and it seems that sometimes "reading" is a forgotten part of library services. I read that you are involved with several reading promotions in your library media center. Why do you believe that reading promotion is important in the library media center? Furthermore, what is your favorite reading promotion and why? One more question...when desiging a reading promotion, what are the things that you think the most about to get student buy in?


  3. Anonymous6:53 PM

    Hi Emily!

    I was at the AIME session on Battle of the Books too! Last year was my school's first year for Battle of the Books and Janella was very gracious and helpful.

    I wanted to find a way to promote reading that was fun, challenging, and would involve the whole school. Additionally, I wanted to find a program that would support the Young Hoosier Book program. After doing some research, I decided Battle of the Books matched my criteria.

    I am not running our program in the same way Vigo runs their program. At East, all classes participate. Teachers divide their students into groups of five or six kids and the students divide up the YHBs with each student being responsible for reading five books. (This means students will be eligible to vote for the award winner in April. :-) )

    In September I launch the program with booktalks. I do the booktalks up BIG. Think props, video clips, dry ice, dead rats, costumes, audience particpation, etc.

    Then, they have all year to read. Starting this month, we'll play YHB Jeopardy once a month to make sure the kids are familiar with the format, keep them excited, and help prepare them for the battle. Just for fun and to keep the kids excited, I think we are going to have a cookie war in February where classes challenge each other to a mini-battle and the loosing class has to serve cookies and milk to the winning class.

    The actual battle is at the end of May. The week before the battle we play a semi-final round to determine the two teams that will represent each class on battle day. The day of the battle we start at the beginning of the day and battle until there is one winner for each grade level team (There are three fifth grade teams and three six grade teams.) The winners from each grade level team meet in the gym and battle for the winner for their grade level. Fifth grade gets to come and cheer for the fifth grade teams and sixth grade comes for sixth grade teams. After we have a winner for fifth grade and a winner for sixth grade we're ready for the Grand Championship. The entire school gathers in the gym to cheer their team and we have the final battle. It's SOOO amazing! Last year it sounded like a basketball tournament. The kids were excited! The teachers were excited! I encourage the kids to dress up, make posters, etc. to support their team. Winners receive medals and a trip to a local ice cream shop. The teacher of the winning team wins a set of the next year's YHB books. The teacher of the runner-up team also wins a set of books.

    This year was so neat because the sixth graders knew about the program and from the first day of school were bugging me about when the books would be available, when would the battle be, when would I book talk them, etc. And, my teachers are so excited. Several of them are DETERMINED to win this year. One is using YHBs for his literature circles all of first semester.

    As I read back through my message I hope I am not giving you too much info. Feel free to ask for clarification or to even e-mail me if you want to discuss the program in more detail. I would be happy to share my questions, Jeopardy game, forms, booktalk tips, etc. You are welcome to come and see our battle in May. Janella shared her questions with me last year and it was a lifesaver. I would love to pay if forward!

    I don't compete with other schools because there aren't any other local schools using the program right now that I am aware of. I started the program and just tailored it to meet my needs. That's what so nice about it. You can make it fit your needs. It can be as big or as small as you want it to be.

    Here are two websites you might find helpful:

    Janette :-)

  4. Anonymous7:28 PM

    Hi Katie!

    I believe my job is a triad - collection management, collaboration, and reading promotion. All three components are necessary for a successful media center program and it's a balancing act to make sure each area receives enough attention. Sparking a love of reading and learning in kids is so important and I think fifth and sixth grade are vital years as the kids are still open and impressionable. What more important gift can we give to students than the love of reading and learning? During my interview, my principal told me he wanted the media center to be the heart of the school and wanted the kids to want to come to the media center as much as they want to go to P.E. class. It was a real meeting of the minds. That's my goal every day.

    My favorite reading promotions are the Young Hooser Book program and Battle of the Books. See my previous post for details about the program.

    What I like about YHB and Battle of the Books is that they are flexible and create a common body of literature. The YHBs are the core of my promotion programs and everything else I do ties back into them.

    When I teach a lesson on genre, I use the YHBs. All the kids are familiar with them and when I discuss various genre, they connect to it because they know the books.

    Many of my teachers are using the books at Read Alouds. Just today a teacher was telling me how much she's enjoying reading one of the books to her class and how she's using it to model fluency, vocabulary, components of a story, etc.

    I am hoping to bring in a YHB author this year. It's perfect because the kids are all familiar with her work already due to Battle of the Books.

    In January, I am starting a Lunch Bunch group that will revolve around the YHBs.

    The key to getting my students to buy into the program is:
    1. I hook them with booktalks at the beginning of the year. I just read an article that talked about how booktalking is one of the simplest ways we can influence what students select to read.
    2. Students LOVE a competition. Turn anything into a competition and they are with you all the way!
    3. The teachers love the program and buy into it.

    Janette :-)

  5. Hi Katie,
    The Battle of the Books sounds like a great way to promote reading! I was wondering how you manage your book clubs and what kind of book clubs you have?

  6. Thanks for the great reply Janette! The YHB program seems to be a big part of the school. You said that you launch the program with booktalks. Is that the only way that students are introduced to the books, or are teachers also "talking them up?"

    You also mentioned that many of the teachers use the YHBs as Read Alouds. Are there other ways in which the YHBs are a part of the classroom curriculum?

    Finally, how did you get teachers to enthusiastically adopt the YHB program?

  7. Anonymous10:44 AM

    Hi Mary!

    Last year I ran two book clubs, one for fifth grade and one for sixth grade. After getting in a shipment of new books I wanted a way to get the word out about them. So, I started the "Book Bridgade". Each club lasted for about five weeks and met during the students' lunch time. I had about 75 kids from each grade level participating. Two of my helpers chose the name and even filmed a commercial for me! (Anytime I can use the kids I do. I think it gives them a sense of ownership and increases participation.)
    Students had to sign an agreement detailing what they would do and their role. If they missed or failed to keep up with their reading they were dismissed from the club. Students read books of their choosing. We did specific activities each week and celebrated with a pizza party at the end. The kids brought in their lunch money and I ordered pizza from Papa Johns. To earn the pizza party, the students had to read their book and write a well-written book review to be shared with other students.

    I am going host clubs this year but am going to have students read the same YHB book instead of reading new books. Also, I am going to have a guest speaker for one of the weeks.

    Janette :-)

  8. Hi Janette,

    I've really enjoyed reading about your success with Battle of the Books, book clubs, book talks, etc. Thanks for all the great information and for generating enthusiam (within me) for these events.

    I think a lot about the transition from being a classroom teacher to being a LMS. In my own school the LMS is viewed as someone who doesn't do very much, and unfortunately I'm afraid this is true. She does the minimum to run our LMC.

    I'm curious about your experience. Have you been the victim of teachers who view your position as "easy"? Has anyone questioned your move from the classroom to the LMC? Do you ever have any doubts about the move?

    Jennifer Clifford

  9. Hi, Janette.

    Thank you for sharing about the Battle of the Books and your book clubs. I enjoyed reading what you wrote; you have given me some good ideas. I am a former sixth grade language arts teacher, and I share your enthusiasm for this grade level. When I was teaching, I loved having my kids involved in Battle of the Books. It sounds like you are definitely making the most of a great program.

    You mentioned your interview with your principal. I loved what he said about kids wanting to come to the media center as much as they want to go to P.E. Since you went through the interview process pretty recently, I wondered if you could offer any advice to those of us who will soon be looking for a job as a media specialist. Was there anything that was especially helpful for you? What do you think we can do to best prepare for this?

    Thanks so much!
    Heather Bontrager

  10. Anonymous10:51 AM

    I always try and think about what the teacher has to go through (conferences, IEPs, grades) when I approach them. What kind of advise can you give to a SLMS who's never been a classroom teacher first--especially when it comes to collaborating? Are there other things to consider?

  11. Anonymous2:50 AM


    Hi! The booktalks are the way I introduce the books. I also have a big bulletin board with last year's winners on it. Later in the year I post a weekly trivia question. The kids enter a guess and the winner get a prize. I do this every two weeks.

    Last year, I was really the one who introduced pushed the program. The teachers were supportive from the beginning. It was a new program and I think they were ready for a change. This year, the teachers are even more supportive because they want to WIN after seeing last year's competition. Of course, there are a few who don't push the program too.

    You asked how teachers use them as part of classroom curriculum.
    One of my teachers is using them for literature circles. He uses some other class sets but mostly he's using the YHBs. That's a nice perk of the program because my class sets of books are getting updated with current materials.

    If you look on my website or visit the Indiana Library Federation website, you can find a link to a really nice packet of information about all the books. For each book you'll find: a summary, booktalk, vocabulary, discussion questions, curriculum connection, etc. Be sure to check it out!

    Your question:
    Finally, how did you get teachers to enthusiastically adopt the YHB program?
    Number one, I am VERY enthusiastic about the program. I try to spread my enthusiasm to everyone at school. Even the art teachers... I am trying to get one of the YHB illustrators to come for a visit.
    Number two, I built relationships with them one at a time and asked for their input as I structured the program. Then, once I had the relationship, I push the program. It helps this year that last year's battle was so amazing! That really fired them up. So whatever you do, give it time.
    Number three, I work with a FANTASTIC group of teachers and a supportive principal!


  12. Anonymous3:12 AM


    I haven't really had to deal with teachers thinking my job is "easy" because I really am so busy all day, every day. The teachers see that. I put in a lot of extra time and they know that too. One thing I am very cautious about - bulletin boards and display cases. This may sound silly but I NEVER do my bulletin boards or display cases during the day. I come at night, over the weekend, etc. I want the teachers, visitors to the building, my principal, etc. to see me: co-planning, teaching, managing the collection, trouble shooting, working with kids, interacting with my peers, etc. -- not putting up bulletin boards. Just my little quirk!

    Each week, I have parent volunteers come in to help and they see what a busy, bustling place the media center is and believe me, parents talk!

    If you are collaborating, promoting reading and managing your collection then you are going to be VERY busy and your teachers will see that.

    No one has ever questioned my move. I am so fortunate that the teachers see me as a teacher and treat me that way.

    Your question:
    Do you ever have any doubts about the move?

    In some ways I miss having my "own" group of kids to work with each year. I still loved being a classroom teacher when I made the switch last year and I think that was healthy!

    I don't have any doubts. I LOVE getting to work with teachers. I LOVE getting to promote reading! I LOVE not having to do report cards and progress reports! :-) I LOVE getting to build relationships with so many kids. I LOVE getting to help integrate technology!


  13. Anonymous3:23 AM

    Hi Heather!

    I interviewed for two jobs in my corporation. After the first one, I realized how rusty I was at interviewing!

    I would suggest the following:
    1. Practice and prepare answers. Do one of the SLIS sessions on preparing for interviews. Do a search and find some questions. I belong to LM-NET, a library list serve (I HIGHLY recommend you join it. I get LOTS of good information and ideas from it.) Search LM-NET's archives and you'll find lots of examples of questions people have had to answer in an interview.
    2. Have a plan to share about how you'll promote reading, build bridges and collaborate with teachers, etc.
    3. Both principals asked how I felt about flexed v. fixed scheduling. I have a combo. Fixed weekly classes but whenever I am needed for research, the kids have checkout time. It's perfect. When they come to media class I do a short mini-lesson unless I am co-teaching.
    4. Really promote your classroom teaching experience.
    5. Create an electronic portfolio - show what you can do with technology.

    Good luck!

  14. Anonymous3:41 AM


    Well, it sounds like you are already doing the most important thing, you are trying to see things from their perspective.

    With Battle of the Books and the YHBs, I always try to make it as simple as possible for the teachers. They don't need and won't support something that causes them a lot of extra work.

    As I read professional magazines, I slip articles in their mailboxes.

    When I attended conferences last year, I came back and targeted a teacher. Then, I went to that teacher and said, I saw this great idea. Do you want to try it? I'll do all the hard with and will support you with the technology part of it. And that's what I do.

    As a teacher I was always so frustrated when someone would throw some new technology as me but didn't really show me how to use it or give me the time to figure it out. As an LMS, I make sure when I collaborate that I build in the time to completely support them because I know many of them feel that same frustration. I used blogs for the first time last year with an older teacher. She felt that frustration but once she realized I was going to be there to partner with her she became so excited and enthusiastic about blogging.

    Just be there, partner with teachers from start to finish.

    Be a sounding board... teachers have started to come to me just to brainstorm ideas this year. I LOVE that!

    When I want to change something or start a new program, I involve them from the beginning. This year I wanted to stop using an AR Store as a reading promotion. So, I approached my Lang. Arts teachers. We had a working supper on back to school night. I ordered Panera and picked it up. (They paid for it.) Then, we munched and had a working session.

    Something else, I always thank them for letting me work with them and ask them what I can do next.

    Offer to help grade... they'll LOVE you.

    I hope that helps! Good luck!


  15. Anonymous8:50 AM


    Thank you very much for the information about your Battle of the Books program that you run. It sounds like it would work in my setting very well. I'm sure I'll be getting in touch with you about the questions.

    Thank you,
    Emily Schubel

  16. Janette,

    Thanks for your great information. I like your tip about doing displays and bulletin boards after school and not during the school day.

    It sounds like you definitely LOVE your job! :-)


  17. Hello!

    My corporation just this year opened up an intermediate school; 5-6 grades.

    Our short sighted super didn't set aside funding for a new school library. His claim was we still have the same population of kids why should we have to build a new if we'd grown.

    Consequently our elementaries and junior high have shared / weeded their collections for items to share with the new school.

    While I'm at the high school and don't have much to offer I was wondering if you had any tips, lists, or suggestions for collection development? Come January the new school's library will be receiving funding of their own for the first time. What specific titles or resources would you recommend?


  18. Anonymous1:04 PM

    What a frustrating situation!

    I like to consult the ALA Best Books lists, the International Reading Association's Children's Choice lists, award winner lists, etc. when developing my collection. I also have used past Indiana Young Hoosier book lists.

    I have an old collection so I am in the process of weeding worn older favorites and replacing them with new copies. This sounds like it might be an appropriate task for this school too since they received items from all the other schools.

    I don't know if you use Follett for ordering, but Titlewave is a good resource. It's collection development features are wonderful!

    If you have a book fair, take all the profit in books. You'll double what you get and you'll be able to add new titles quickly.

    Those are my suggestions! Good luck!


    What specific titles or resources would you recommend?

  19. Anonymous1:35 PM


    I am a new midle school media specialist. The outgoing librarian kept very busy with the "administrative" duties of the job- book-keeping, book shelving, purchase orders, overdues, etc. I would like to shift this position into one of more collaboration and interaction with teachers and studenst. The problem is that the teachers aren't being very receptive- not that they aren't nice- I just don't think they realize what I would like to do for them. I have emailed out and offered to help on specific projects that they are working on, but the ball just isn't rolling. No one is taking the bait.

    I would love to hear any advice you have regarding:

    1. making a library program your own and not continuing in the footsteps of those before you


    2. regarding collaboration. How do you get it started when it seems like each time you reach out, no one reaches back?