KidsMatter 2019 Digital Leadership Summit

On Tuesday, February 5th, LMC Directors, teachers and selected students were able to attend the inaugural KidsMatter 2019 Digital Leadership Summit.  This event brought together fourth and fifth grade student leaders from two school districts in the Naperville, Illinois area.  KidsMatter is a not-for-profit organization with the goal of creating leadership and volunteer opportunities for local children and give them a voice in their community.  

This event was structured to give the students basic digital citizenship knowledge and provide them with a chance to create a plan to share their new knowledge with the students of their school.  The lessons included creating strong passwords, being kind, real and fake information, and sharing carefully online. The basis for the student lessons were from the Google Be Internet Awesome program, Common Sense Media resources and the Illinois Internet Safety Act.

Michelle Shiles says, “I appreciated that there wasn’t a traditional digital citizenship “stranger danger, be afraid of the computer” lesson, but instead lessons that taught everyday skills and awareness.”


After the lessons were completed, students had the opportunity to work with the teachers from their buildings.  Their focus was to develop ways to share out what they have learned with others in their schools.

Chrissy Ensign says, “It was incredible to watch our students in this leadership role.  The students at Gombert Elementary are designing a slide deck that highlights the takeaways from the Digital Leadership Summit.  They plan on integrating these into the morning announcements, printing the slides out as posters to hang around the school, and adding the information to the presentation that plays on the TV in the entrance way of our building!”  

Graham Elementary students are planning two presentations to share out their learning, one for K-2 students utilizing Kahoot and one for 3-5 students utilizing PearDeck.  They are applying and modeling digital skills in all aspects of their presentation.


“I really appreciate the way our district and its leadership values putting the kids in the driver’s seat of their learning. We are being proactive in empowering our students,” Nikki Fader comments. Students at Clow Elementary are excited to weave these ideas into monthly character trait lessons that are already in place. They have organized weekly announcements highlighting examples of how to be an informed digital citizen. This group is also looking forward to working with the PBIS team to add visuals and tips to our monthly pillars of good character presentation.

Peterson Elementary students are still working on their plan of what and how to share the information learned with students in the building.  The way that the day was structured and with the goal in mind, students will have a voice in how to best reach the students in their respective buildings.  Ann Schimmoler shares, “Our student leaders are eager to get started to share their knowledge to continue to build citizenship within the building. Whether it is face to face or digital, our students know that being a good citizen in important now and will also be in the future.”


Student leaders from Fry Elementary decided to share what they have learned with other students, even as young as Kindergarten, by collaborating with our school’s technology liaison and library media specialist.  One thing they will do is plan with teachers to go into classrooms to read stories with a digital citizenship theme. Our student leaders will read books such as Goodnight iPad and If You Give a Mouse an iPhone and others; to use as a springboard to discuss the positive behaviors of being a digital citizen. Our student leaders are great role models for teaching their peers about these responsibilities and are very excited to plan more activities for our students.

McCarty students enjoyed the very engaging digital leadership experience.  Since returning to school they have met with teachers to discuss their plans for sharing the information gathered at the leadership summit.  The children feel confident that their peers will respond well to many of the activities shared during the summit. In addition, they are excited to develop opportunities for other Mustangs to make connections to our PBIS focus of being safe, kind and ready.  Students are organizing and preparing to share their ideas with our building leadership team at a future meeting.


So often this type of information comes from the adults in a school.  This experience has not only allowed our students to be empowered with the information they learned, but provided them with the opportunity to share it with a real audience.

Informational and digital literacy is such a timely and important topic.  As we see many adults struggle with this skill and the digital world becomes more embedded in our lives, we feel that it is critical to involve elementary students in the conversation.   It is vital to get them started on the path of learning important skills for our digital world.

The 2019 inaugural Digital Leadership Summit worked to empower the stakeholders to lead others in becoming better digital citizens.  Hopefully, this event is one of the many conversations students will have about digital literacy.


Janeen Christakes, Steck Elementary LMC Director
Christina Ensign, Gombert Elementary LMC Director
Nicole Fader, Clow Elementary LMC Director
Michelle Loughran, Fry Elementary LMC Director
Rhea McVey, McCarty Elementary LMC Director
Ann Schimmoler, Peterson Elementary LMC Director
Michelle Shiles, Graham Elementary LMC Director


Book Covers (Pun Intended): These are NOT Your Normal Book Reports!

By Rhonda Jenkins, elementary school librarian

Being the avid Twitterer that I am, I came across Debbie Ridpath Ohi’s Book a Day designs. She was inspired by Donalyn Miller’s Book a Day challenge. I in turn was inspired by Debbie Ridpath Ohi’s way to represent Donalyn Miller’s challenge. Whew, that’s a lot of inspiration! Being inspired by others usually leads to some great wonders of your own!

Debbie Ridpath Ohi is an author and an illustrator. If I may say so myself, she is extraordinary! She frequently shares her beautiful creations on Twitter (@inkyelbows). Her book a day creations inspired me to give it a try.

I have to admit, I’m having so much fun creating what I call “book covers.” Here’s my #22: Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell newly adorned by the Caldecott Medal!! Definitely a distinguished American picture book for children!


I have created 22 and have in queue 12 others. As I continue to read great books, I’ll have many, many, many more.

I designed a guide for making them: Make a copy and adjust as needed. You are more than welcome to use my example or create one according to your own style.

I appreciate one of Ohi’s recent Tweets: “If you love a book, write a nice review. It gives the author encouragement on days they want to take up scorpion petting.  — Liana Brooks”

Share your book covers on social media and include the author’s handle. They truly do love seeing their books get this extra coverage. It’s an honor to be able to give them encouragement to keep doing what they do so well!

Besides Twitter and Facebook, I also post my book covers on a public Padlet page:  

I taught  my 3rd through 5th grade students how to create a book cover. You can see their work here: They, too, are very inspired to continue to create them on their own!

Both of these Padlet pages as well as Ohi’s ( can be used as perfect places to go for book recommendations!

As I have been inspired, hopefully, I too can inspire others to cover the books they read with Book Covers!

Let’s Get Sense-Able with Sensory Story Times!

Contributed by Jill DeFarno, librarian at Builta Elementary School

Helping students and staff become future ready is an important role for school librarians.  Because school librarians work with all the students in the building, we have the opportunity to share many activities that build future ready skills.   However, future ready does not necessarily have the same meaning for all the learners in the school building.  In our school we have four classrooms of self-contained students and for these students future ready is more about life skills.  Therefore, as the librarian it is my job to make sure that all students are included in the library program in a way that best meets their needs.  One of the shared foundations in the new AASL standards is Include.  


In AASL’s infographic on Include, one of the bullet points under School Librarians Lead is “Showcase learner success and celebrate differences and similarities through learner-led projects, displays, and initiatives.”  This year one of the initiatives that I help implement is Sensory Storytime with Pat Russow, the ELL teacher at Builta. At the end of last school year Pat and I were talking about different ways for her to work with the students in our self-contained classrooms.  Due to the diversity within our self-contained classrooms, many students are identified as English language learners. In her role as the ELL teacher, Pat works with these students one-on-one and in the classroom. We were talking about how at times it can be a challenge to pull some of the students out and work one-on-one. These students need routine, and moving to another classroom can be difficult for them.  As we talked, she thought it might be better to push into their classroom to work with the students.

I shared an idea that I had read about called Sensory Storytime. During Sensory Storytime, books are used to engage students by using their senses to interact with the story. Knowing these students already have sensory integration activities built into their daily instruction, we thought that this would be a natural fit.  We talked with the teachers and they were on board with the idea. We decided that we would meet with each class once a week. The next task was to start looking for books and ideas. We went online and found blogs and websites with ideas to get us started. I also stopped at the public library and asked what ideas they used for sensory storytime. We found a couple of books to start us off and we jumped in. During storytime some of the activities are more sensory oriented and others are more interactive.  

Since the middle of September we’ve done fourteen storytimes. Here are several that we’ve done so far, we read Snowmen at Night and used potato flakes to create snowmen.  While we read Ten Little Fish the kids ate goldfish crackers as the fish disappeared.  As the kids listened to The Napping House students made sounds using instruments we borrowed from the music teacher.   After the first two weeks we weren’t sure how it was going. Students weren’t responding in ways we expected.   

Each class has its own challenges. One class is nonverbal so it’s mostly the two of us doing the work. Another class is higher functioning and will say parts of the story with us.  Despite these challenges we have found that we look forward to the storytime each week and so do the teachers and students. Students who would not sit down and listen or who would yell during the story seem to be more willing to sit with us.  The past two weeks Pat has been testing so we put the program on hold. Everyone is asking when it will start again – Answer: next week! And we found out that Pat received a grant to purchase more materials for storytime. We placed the order at the end of January, and now with even more items to work with, it’s off to the stacks to find more books!    

Reaching Readers Through Video Book Talks

This blog post was contributed by: Jill DeFarno, elementary school librarian

One of the challenges I have in my school library is talking to all students about books and getting them excited about reading.  Due to my flexible schedule I don’t see all students on a regular basis.  Although I do lessons with all classes throughout the year, it is based on topics they are working on and so it may be awhile between lessons.  If I have a lesson that I do with all grade levels it’s on one topic such as the book fair.  In addition, it seems as if fewer students are coming to the LMC to check out books.  The times where students have come in the past is now used in the makerspace area or online with a variety of personalized reading websites.  And although I see the value of both the makerspace time and personalized instruction I don’t want books to be forgotten.  I also value the teacher’s time and know that sometimes it’s hard to find time to schedule a library lesson or book checkout time into their schedule.  

Last winter I started to think about how to make students and staff aware and interested of the different books we have in the library.  What would be the best way to reach them?  After thinking about it, I decided that video was the way to address this challenge. I would record myself talking about books, post them on YouTube, and send the link out to the staff and families.  This way my message can reach all students and teachers can play it at their convenience.   My first book talk was to promote new makerspace books I’d purchased with a grant.  Incorporating a green screen (actually green bulletin board paper) and WeVideo I created my book talk and uploaded it to Google Drive.  By the end of the year I made seven more.  I invited other teachers to join me to talk about a variety of topics.  After each book talk I put the books mentioned in a prominent spot in the library.  

It’s been great to see the students stop by to check them out.   I’ve gotten positive feedback from students and staff about the talks and suggestions on what to do next and staff who want to be included. On a board in my office I have a list of potential topics.  So far this year I’ve done three talks.  My newest topic was You Choose Books.  Click this link to watch it  You can also see my previous videos on my YouTube channel.  If you are having the same challenge that I am, I encourage you to give this a try.  If you’re not comfortable talking in front of the camera just record your voice holding up a book.  If you don’t have time or want to incorporate a green screen just do it from a favorite reading spot in your library or at home.  I’ve found it’s a great way to share my love of books with the stakeholders in my school.     

204 Library Featured in Follett Case Study re: Digital Citizenship

Contributed by Kristen Mattson, LMC Director, Waubonsie Valley High School

This blog has primarily served as a space for the librarians of Indian Prairie School District 204 to share their own stories with one another and members of our community. In this post, though, we would like to present you with a case study on Kristen Mattson’s library that was written by one of our partners, Follett.

From the case study:


Click here to read the full case study!

Working Together is Success

Contributed by:
Jill De Farno, LMC Director, Builta Elementary School
Nicole Fader, LMC Director, Clow Elementary School
Natalie Hoyle Ross, LMC Director, Spring Brook Elementary School

Henry Ford’s quote “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success” fit this endeavor perfectly!

Collaboration among three District 204 school librarians enabled us to bring the talented author, illustrator, cartoonist, and musician Mike Artell all the way from Louisiana to visit our students in Illinois.  None of the schools could afford to bring in Mike alone, but sharing the presentation, travel, and housing costs made the visit possible.  Mike, author of more than 35 books, writes both non-fiction and fiction.  His non-fiction books cover topics from cartooning tips, weather and space, to jokes and sports.  His fiction writing includes a Cajun spin on classic fairy tales including his book, Petitie Rouge – A Cajun Red Riding Hood which was named the 2009 Read Aloud Book of the Year by the National Association of Elementary School Principals.  

Mike’s energetic and enthusiastic style fit well with large groups and he intrigued students with stories about his life, word play from his joke books, a reading from Cajun tales, and step-by-step cartooning instructions so that our students could draw with him during the presentation.  Students were engaged as he gave advice on how to “draw what you see not what you know.”  He also encouraged the students to “read like you eat” and give all different types of books a “taste”.

Artell ended the presentation with one of his songs and had all the students and teachers sing along.     

Our librarian team divided and conquered other aspects of the prep for the visit–some provided lunch, others worked out the transportation and housing details, and another contacted the district to share with the education reporters.  Rather than each of us creating separate presentations for our students, we were able to create and share it via Google Slides.

Collaborating on this visit has percolated new ideas for creative ways to resource share within District 204  because working together really is a success.



World Read Aloud Day: A Blog Post from Two Perspectives

This blog post is about a collaborative project between a high school librarian and an elementary school librarian. Since the project was collaborative, we thought the blog post should be too! Enjoy a blog from two perspectives: written by Michelle Shiles, elementary librarian (in blue) and Kristen Mattson, high school librarian (in green).

Tomorrow is World Read Aloud Day? It would be so fun to work in an elementary school and be able to participate in something like that. I wish high school kids would let me read aloud to them. Oh well….

Wait, a minute! I have an idea!

What do you do when a last minute opportunity to collaborate with another librarian appears?  I say, “Jump on it!”  

This is exactly what happened to me on February 15th, the day before World Read Aloud Day.

Sure, it was less than 24 hours from the official World Read Aloud Day when the idea came to me, but I knew there had to be at least one librarian as crazy as I am who would be willing to try something radically different and totally last minute. So I sent out a quick email and waited to see what would happen.

Before February 15th, there was a passionate effort among the district librarians to organize a World Read Aloud celebration. I was asked to participate but passed on these opportunities due to workload, and my perception that our staff wasn’t looking for an additional library event.

So, when Kristen Mattson reached out to the elementary libraries about possibly connecting through Google hangouts to celebrate World Read Aloud Day with high schoolers, I lazily forwarded the e-mail.

Within five minutes, I had teachers at my office door and e-mails crowding my inbox. Boy, was I mistaken! There was definitely interest and excitement about this possible collaboration.

Michelle was the first to reply to my email and said she had several teachers interested in having one of our students read to their class. Now the pressure was on to find a bunch of high school kids who would be willing to spend part of their lunch hour doing a read aloud to a classroom of elementary school students via Google Hangout.

In the end, we had six classes sign up to participate, which equated to roughly 140 students who would experience a read-aloud from a high school student.

It turns out that the teachers at Michelle’s school were not the only ones interested in participating in the Global Read Aloud. By the end of the afternoon, I had classrooms from six different elementary schools on our schedule and 22 high school students EXCITED about missing part of their lunch to read books aloud in front of a webcam. I had a feeling we might actually pull off something awesome!

Teachers were enthusiastic, but a little nervous about the technology demands. Kristen ran a test hangout with me the day before, and we were all ready for the students to “hang out” with the high schoolers on the actual day. In the end, I was only there for moral support. Several teachers mentioned that they were impressed with the technology and how simple things worked during the event.

On the day of the event, every high school student that promised to show up actually did. They shuffled through the pile of picture books I had brought along from home, and got excited as they recognized titles from their own elementary school days. One student from an AP Spanish class even agreed to read “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” in Spanish to a class of English language learners!

Not only did our students see the high school readers, but they also got to see other classroom audiences across the district. Students exhibited positive behaviors during the reading and asked thoughtful questions to the readers. My favorite part was when the students silently showed excitement, through waves or silent cheers. It was fun to see other audiences bopping with delight, too.

It was really cute to see the high schoolers embrace their position as role models. They read with enthusiasm and showed the pictures to the camera. After the books were over, the students agreed to answer some questions from the audience. My favorite part of the day was when a tiny kindergartner came up to the microphone and asked, “how do you even read so good, anyway?”

This day became the perfect event. All the stars aligned and the experience exceeded everyone’s expectations. I am thankful for colleagues willing to organize spontaneous collaborations and for teachers willing to take last minute detours into celebrating fun and reading.

Who says World Read Aloud Day isn’t for high school students? I think this event might become a new yearly tradition at Waubonsie Valley High School!



Our event – pictures from two perspectives!