Librarians are readers. They love books and read plenty of them. They delve into fictional worlds, constantly update their knowledge with the latest nonfiction, hone their research skills with a constantly evolving cyber world, keep abreast of the latest apps and an ever-increasing catalog of digital books.
So, what happens when a group of librarians from Korean International Schools (International schools teach in English) and an American School get together to compare favorite titles? They develop the Morning Calm Program, aptly named for a program featured in South Korea. Korea is described as “The Land of the Morning Calm” in a poem written by the Indian poet, Sir Tagore during the Joseon Dynasty.
Each librarian selects their own books to recommend to the committee. Each book must have been published in the last two years, have school-wide student appeal, and is worthy of literary merit. Where they find books to consider is wide-open. Books can be chosen from far and wide, and not through regular channels. If a librarian falls in love with a book, and it meets the criteria, he or she is free to bring it forward.
The books are presented to the whole committee of librarians. The committee, a multi-cultural mix of people representing many different perspectives, reviews and discusses each book before placing it on the next school-wide reading list.
The list contains: 5 picture books, 5 intermediate elementary, 5 middle school, and 5 books for high school.
The following are the books that made this year’s 2017-2018 Morning Calm Reading list:
Elementary Picture Books
Elementary Chapter Books
At the beginning of the year, our elementary school librarian sets up a showcase featuring all of the picture books and intermediate titles. The top shelf showcases a photocopy of the book standing up. The books are in such demand, a representative has to take its place. The bottom shelf houses the copies. Students are allowed to open the case and take one from the pile to check-out. At any given time, a quick glance tells you the books are popular.
The program doesn’t stop there. The librarian begins the school year by introducing the books to each class in an exciting way. For the little kids, it might be a video introduction. For the older kids, it might be a letter from the author. PYP/IB schools call this a “provocative introduction” because it peaks your interest and makes you want to know more.
Many teachers purchase class sets for their students. Some classes do projects centered around the story. Many teachers make the books required reading. Older students do reviews and post them to the school’s Schoology website. The books might be part of a literature circle. They may become part of an after school book club. They may become part of a reading competition between classes. They may be chosen for a teacher’s read aloud time.
Our librarian, and every librarian out there, offers student incentives for reading. The incentives may come in the form of reading contests, where the winning class is rewarded with an ice cream party. Or there might be banners hung in the library listing the names of students and the titles they’ve read.
Teachers get in on the act, too. They may have bulletin boards featuring book elements and plots. Classes may have book talks with other grades. Parents may be invited for a read-in with their child. Students from 5th grade may read picture books to 1st grade partners. There are also volunteer community members who might read to a student one-on-one or a student may read to the volunteer. And we can’t forget the PTO. Members running the book fairs may offer the Morning Calm titles for sale.
Anyway you look at it, these books are the talk of the school for an entire school year.
The librarian at our elementary school estimates 50% of the student body reads the featured titles. Keep in mind that the little ones generally aren’t part of those statistics, meaning the upper elementary grades make up the bulk of the reading.
At the end of the year, students vote on their favorite titles. Each student must have read 4 of the 5 titles to be eligible to vote. Numbers are crunched from the participating schools and a winner in each category is announced. Winning books receive the Morning Calm Medal and shouting rights for placing first.
The most important thing? The exposure our students receive for a year of great reading. Check back in May when all the votes are in!