Spotlight on ProjectLIT: Part 2

logoToday I am excited to continue the conversation with ProjectLIT Chapters Leaders Kimiko, Ashleigh, Lindsey, Mary, Jessica, and Erika.  Yesterday, they shared how they run a ProjectLIT Book Club. And today (Part 2 ) is all about student leadership, community involvement, and that BIG question – how to get the books! Part 3 will look at future plans, favorite books, and advice to new ProjectLIT chapter leaders. 

If you want to know more about ProjectLIT – follow them on Twitter @ProjectLITComm and if you are ready to apply to become a chapter leader, the form is right here!

~ Corrina

One of the things that I love about ProjectLIT is that it empowers students to take leadership roles. How did students contribute to the planning and running of your ProjectLIT Book Club?

Kimiko: Students contribute to the planning and running of our ProjectLIT Book Club by creating the questions for the meetings.

Ashleigh: Although it didn’t happen from the jump, I was so impressed with how my kids stepped up to the plate more and more every time. Our LIT Leaders did the following things:

– Worked collaboratively on Google Docs to create our Discussion Questions.

– Submitted Trivia questions on Google Forms to me.

– Set up and helped break down every meeting.

– Shared invitations and created reminders on Instagram and throughout the school.

– Reached out to authors. (Jewell Parker Rhodes sent us an ARC of Ghost Boys from an Instagram message!)

– Sending updates and reminder emails via mailchimp!

– Wrote a Donors Choose grant for our book club for the MARCH BOOK 1 meeting.

– Wrote thank you notes to donors.

– Divided up roles for Saturday meetings to lead everyone in the different parts of our meeting.

– Hyped the book with friends and adults. (There’s nothing like a kid gently shaming their teachers for not reading a good book!)

– Probably a ton of stuff I am forgetting!

Lindsey: My students enjoy having roles in ProjectLIT. Our roles are: Greeter/ Sign-In helper, makerspace helper, trivia question writers, and discussion question writers. We have a Google Classroom, and students can share their trivia questions, discussion questions with me ahead of time. This year, our first meeting will center on planning our year. We need to pick a book for each month and send out invites to our community.

Mary: So our ProjectLIT chapter was born of my student library club. Right when I got to my school I formed a library club – our student clubs meeting during lunch. To determine our first book, we did a school wide book madness competition (like March Madness) so students had choice and ownership from the jump -the library club helped to facilitate this big time!  I chose the books for the book madness competition based on two things, first if they were ProjectLIT selections, and second if they met my school’s guidelines that I co-created with my principal. When we were narrowing votes down to the final two, Ghost was losing against The Witch Boy by one vote, which threw me into a moral crisis over whether or not I should doctor the vote. It felt weird that Witch Boy wasn’t a ProjectLIT book. In the end I went with student votes all the way, which is how we landed on The Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus. Around the same time I started advertising for next year’s ProjectLIT selections with this bulletin board. I think it’s important for chapters to stick to the books on the list (from last year and this year) and my students are already reading and excited about voting for next year’s books. In May, I sent a google form sign up to all students that indicated when planning meetings would be held (they were at the same time as library club). At the planning meetings a lot went down! Students submitted trivia questions as well as discussion questions. One student organized our amazing logo, and other students worked on a powerpoint presentation that would guide the meeting. At our last planning meeting (three days before the event) we divvied up day-of jobs, like setting up breakfast, manning the sign in table, and introducing various portions of the meeting. Honestly Ashleigh’s powerpoints were the best guide.

Jessica: I love that, too! It is always about empowering students and allowing them to use their voice. Last year being our first year, I did a lot of the work (not all!). This year, I plan to utilize the students more and have a  couple of student leaders in place to run the book clubs. I want to take a more secondary role and really let them run with it. Last year, students created all the questions and trivia questions and each student would run a discussion at a table. This year, I plan to have my two student leaders run the entire book club! I am excited to see how it unfolds.

How have you engaged your community in the ProjectLIT Book Clubs? Did you get community members and other adults to read the books and attend?

Kimiko: We gave a copy to community members and some students read the books with their parents. I also invited them to attend an author visit so they could enjoy a Q &A session.

Ashleigh: A lot of parents, staff, friends, and family attended. Usually they saw the Instagram or MailChimp email reminders or were reminded enough by an important child in their life to come with!

Lindsey: We had amazing guests from our community throughout the year: our public librarians, police officers, representatives from Graceworks, Habitat for Humanity, Blood:Water Mission, Fisk University, GoNoodle, Catholic Charities, and the coach of Belmont University’s Men’s Basketball team. Sometimes, our community guests did not have time to read the book, so knowing that, I shifted how we involved our community guests, and I gave them time to share their work and service in our community, so that my students could understand the needs that exist and how they can help.

Mary: We had a few parents and one other teacher at our first meeting, so this is a big area of growth for me!! I’m hoping as we have more meetings and more kids get involved people start paying more attention and joining us!

Jessica: This is definitely an area I would like to improve, but we did have many community members participate last year. A lot of them were teachers and district level employees, but I also spoke to the retired teacher’s association and our Rotary Club to recruit other members. This year, I plan to ask members of the city council and city staff as well as parents to participate.

Erika: Our school has several community partnerships, so I asked the person who manages those relationships to share our Project LIT info with them and she did. We received book donations as a result.

Did your ProjectLIT chapter do any service learning projects last year? If so, how did it go?

Kimiko: Yes, we partnered with Book First Chicago. They donated over 300 books and we packaged and distributed them to students at the end of the year to prevent the “summer slide”.

Ashleigh: Not yet! But we’ve got some stuff in the works!

Lindsey: We had a Little Free Library built for our campus in honor of our principal, who retired. A student’s grandfather built it. We felt it was important to establish this library on our campus first, and then next year, we will put one elsewhere in our community. We held a book drive for Book ‘Em, which is a non-profit in Nashville that gives books to Title I schools and to organizations like the Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs, Habitat for Humanity. Some of these books went to classroom libraries at our reading partner school, Glenn Enhanced Option Elementary. My students gave 3,000 books!

Mary: Not yet!

Jessica: YES! This is such a great part of Project LIT. Students need to understand that giving back to the community is a vital part of supporting where you live. Last year, we were able to get a Little Free Library donated, which we painted. Unfortunately, we were unable to obtain the needed permits before school let out, so we will be “planting” the library this coming fall. We also hosted a book drive in which we collected over 2,000 books! The books are being used to supply new teachers with classroom libraries and to fill our Little Free Library. This summer, we have gone to our school district’s lunches in the park and passed out free books to all the kids in attendance. Next year, we plan to connect with some elementary schools and do some book giveaways and read-alouds with younger kids in addition to continuing what we did last year.

Erika: No, but hopefully this year.

Alright – here’s the BIG question! How did you get books for the kids?

Kimiko: I bought them, created a donors choose, ordered books from First Book, or used my scholastic points to get books.

Ashleigh: Ha the big question indeed. I was very motivated to make sure every kid and/or family member could take home and keep our books and begin building their own LIT Libraries at home! So many parents came up to me to say how excited they were to keep the books to share with younger kids when they were able to read them!

I did three major things:

  1. Applied for a Culture Champion Grant through my school. This funded a lot of our purchases.
  2. Bought as many books as I could from lower cost sites – mostly First Book Marketplace and some Scholastic sales.
  3. My students wrote a Donors Choose Project grant to get funding for one of our more expensive books as well as prizes for trivia winners.

Lindsey: This is the hardest part for me. My district has extremely strict rules on fundraising, so the best I could do was buy as many copies for the school library that I could. I had approximately 10 copies of each book in the library. Also, at our book fairs, I created ProjectLIT displays and encouraged people to buy a book for ProjectLIT. Many of my students bought their own copies either in print or in e-book form. I would also buy ProjectLIT books and give away these books throughout the year. It always put a smile on my face to see a student attend a book club because they’d won a copy of the book.

Mary: Luckily we had several copies of the books already through the book madness competition, which was funded by the school. When students signed up to participated, they indicated the following on our google form:

Screen Shot 2018-07-18 at 11.29.23 PM

The loaners were either purchased by the school or donated by families.

Jessica: Persistence! (seriously!) You will be denied for many grants, but you have to keep applying and keep asking for money in order to secure the books. Just keep at it. Get your community involved, too!  Here is how I got my books:

  1. My principal is seriously amazing and committed to buying 2 of the titles last year and this year. He is also buying a few (not class sets) of each of the titles for our classroom libraries.
  2. Apply for grants! Any and ALL grants! Look for local grants as those are sometimes easier to secure since not as many people will be applying for them, but don’t discount the big ones, Keep at it!
  3. Ask local businesses to donate to you! Some have donated money, but a lot have donated goods (food for the book club, tickets/goodies as raffle prizes, etc.).
  4. Talk to the local library and ask them to help you publicize your cause. You never know who might read it and give you books or money!

Erika: see above; also, I’m a librarian, so having books in the collection was also helpful. And we have an outstanding partnership with our public library, so students could also borrow titles that way.

 Stop back tomorrow for Part 3 to learn about their future plans, favorite books from last year, and advice to new ProjectLIT chapter leaders!

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