Library News

April is School Library Month

posted Apr 4, 2017, 12:20 PM by Kathleen Finn   [ updated Apr 4, 2017, 12:21 PM ]

April is National School Library Month, a great time to stop and thank the many volunteers who do so much to “keep the wheels on the machine” in the library. 

Keeley Schell, Janet Walsh, Gerry Quinlan and Alice McNeish give time every week to staff the circulation desk, catalog new materials and get them shelf-ready, repair older materials, shelve books, put up displays,  and perform many other tasks.   Jennifer Stearns has spine-taped dozens and dozens of new paperback book at home this year.  Bonny Picard often pinch-hits at the circ desk.  Long-time volunteer Nancy Trono (20+ years) is on hand nearly every day to shelve books, staff the circulation desk, manage periodicals circulation and assist with Pre-K resource needs.     Becca Brynga has managed several Scholastic Book Fairs held here at school this year, the profits from which go to purchasing wonderful new materials for the library and classrooms.  And many, many more SFX parents step up to run these week-long book fairs.  To all of them, we say:  Thank You!

Irish Dancing from a Real Pro!

posted Mar 17, 2017, 11:49 AM by Kathleen Finn   [ updated Mar 17, 2017, 12:55 PM ]

We have warmly welcomed Alice McNeish into our library volunteer and subbing ranks this year.  Alice not only has decades of kindergarten teaching to her credit, but also founded and ran the McNeish School of Irish Dancing for ten years.  (Mrs. Varhue's daughter, Nora, is one of her many alums.)  Alice usually volunteers during Kindergarten's weekly trip to the library, so when that day fell on St. Patrick's Day recently it was the perfect opportunity for her to share some Irish dancing artifacts and information with a roomful of children wearin' the green.

Digital Access to Library Resources

posted Feb 3, 2017, 7:39 AM by Kathleen Finn   [ updated Feb 3, 2017, 9:08 AM by Becky Wetzel ]

Our small school is blessed to have an unusually large library space….nearly 3000 square feet. Over the last eight years, there has been much refurbishment in our library-- repainting and new carpet, furnishings, ceiling, lights and window shades. Our library has become an attractive, much-used space by all ages, with an average of 600-700 materials circulating monthly.

In a perfect world, this physical library space would be in the center of our school, not on a lower level two floors away from the middle school classrooms. But with the integration of 1:1 tablet devices for all our middle school students, the distance between the physical library and these students has shortened considerably. Now the middle school students can access the library on their own tablet thanks to Follett’s Destiny Quest App, introduced in Mrs. Finn’s Digital Learning class. Not only does the Quest app give students quick digital access to the library’s catalog holdings, including newly cataloged additions and popular check-outs, it also enables students to take responsibility for their own library accounts. Overdue slips are no longer sent upstairs to middle school students. The app allows them to renew and put holds on books digitally, make lists of books they want to read, and rate and review books they have read.

Key to the success of helping students take charge of their own virtual library browsing and housekeeping has been the collaboration of Mrs. Richards, middle school Language Arts teacher. At least monthly, and sometimes more often, Mrs. Richards gives her students class time to check on their accounts and renew any overdues that they are still reading. This opportunity also jogs students’ memories as to what materials are hiding in their lockers and need to be returned. Learning how to look after one’s own middle school library account builds a highly transferable skill set for navigating future high school, college and public library catalogs and accounts.

Here’s what some 8th grade students had to say early this school year about the utility of the Destiny Quest app:

“It is helpful because you can renew books and see if the book you want is in.”
“It is an easy way to request and renew books...instead of going down to the library during Quiet Time [a short interlude between lunch and afternoon classes] or a free read class, we can go on our tablets and renew or request the book we want.”
“I like it because we don’t have to worry about getting a late slip.”
“I like being able to renew a book whenever I want. It’s so convenient and easy; I love it!”
“I find being able to use the Destiny Quest app very helpful because you can go find books you didn’t know were in the library.”

This year, Mrs. Richards and Mrs. Finn are collaborating to allow students to go further with the app than just library account housekeeping. After an in-depth unit by Mrs. Richards in Language Arts class on how to write a constructive page-long book review, Mrs. Finn assigns students to craft a short book review for the Quest catalog. Mrs. Finn either approves students’ reviews for posting or returns the review to the student for further editing. Student voice is becoming more and more evident in our library catalog, and students are encouraged to submit additional reviews independently.

With the use of students’ 1:1 tablets, Mrs. Richards and Mrs. Finn’s collaborative work with the Destiny Quest app truly falls into the “Redefined” category of the SAMR model of computer technology use in learning and teaching. It allows for new tasks to demonstrate learning that were previously inconceivable, resulting in a high level of student engagement. Happily, reports Mrs. Finn, middle school students spend no less and maybe even more time perusing the shelves in the library and checking out books. Perhaps the integration of the Quest app into their daily school lives has made them feel more at home in the library than ever.

(This article adapted from the original post on the Tarrant Institute for Innovative Education's blog for educators.)

Five Great Books to Read Before (or during or after) Kindergarten

posted Feb 3, 2017, 7:25 AM by Kathleen Finn   [ updated Feb 3, 2017, 7:28 AM ]

    It’s  common knowledge that reading aloud daily to pre-school children is a vital step to help prepare them for success in school; in fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics endorses this habit.  In line with the AAP, the 1000 Books Before Kindergarten initiative began several years ago,   promoting the development of early childhood literacy through the shared and oh-so-pleasurable task of reading aloud to a child (with some helpful print and digital logs to track progress).  

When you think about it, reading 1000 books to a child before kindergarten is actually a quantitative concept that’s not so hard to wrap one’s head around.  That averages out to about 200 books per year between birth and the start of kindergarten--not even one a day! (And who can stop at just one?!)   But how to begin selecting those 1000 books?   To get started, the 1000 Books Foundation has compiled and posted on their website a very good list of 100+ titles called  “Books Your Child Should Hear Before Kindergarten.”  This list is a great roadmap for parents to take to their local library or retailer.   Here are five of my personal favorites that I have especially loved reading aloud both to my own children and those I’ve served in public and school libraries.  Dive into “1000 Books Before Kindergarten” with these sure-fire and your young child will love them!


        Whose Mouse Are You?  by Robert Kraus, pictures by Jose Aruego

This simply written paean to the centrality of family ties and love in a young (mouse)

 child’s life  blends rhyming text and colorful, amusing  illustrations seamlessly.  

 Each page spread deftly anticipates the next with humor and heart.   Just right for preschoolers.


Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann.  This nearly-wordless book relies on rib-tickling, predictable visual jokes to tell the story of a hapless zoo keeper whose attempts to keep his animal charges safely locked up at night are thwarted by a key-snatching gorilla.  Very young children will catch right on to what is happening and relish the amusing details, again and again.



A Visitor for Bear by Bonny Becker, illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton.   A  large curmudgeonly bear, who lives alone quite by choice in his forest house, is called on by a very small, polite mouse.    Finally outdone by the mouse’s  persistence in staying for a visit,  the bear  relents and  lets Mouse stay for a “spot of tea” … and slowly realizes, through their conversation, the pleasures of companionship.  The comic visual and verbal antics of both the mouse and bear combine perfectly with repetitive language and just enough plot to hold a young child’s attention. 

                             The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Stephen Gammell.

 The excitement of relatives coming to visit could not be more joyously rendered for a young child than in this book. Arising at dawn in Virginia and driving hundreds of miles over hill and dale in their overstuffed car, “the relatives”   finally arrive at their destination, where their assorted kin sweep them exuberantly into their home and lives for a cozy, active and  extended stay.  Warm, conversational text matches perfectly with delightful, humorous drawings exquisitely rendered in colored pencil.  A Caldecott Honor Book.   Readers of all ages will be sorry when this family reunion comes to an end.  

Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel  by Virginia Lee Burton.  When your preschooler is ready for a longer “listen”, there is no better book to r

ead aloud than Burton’s beloved, enduring tale of a determined  steam shovel named Mary Anne and  “her”  driver, Mike Mulligan.  Brightly colored, whimsical crayon drawings evoke a small town community of an  earlier era in which new-fangled gas and diesel-engine contraptions are threatening to put both Mary Anne and Mike out of business.   The duo finds a creative  way to repurpose themselves in a way that has left generations of readers and listeners cheering.     

Hour of Code 2016

posted Jan 8, 2017, 5:25 PM by Kathleen Finn

Digital Learning classes in grades 3-8 participated in the 'Hour of Code™', a nationwide initiative by Computer Science Education Week [] and [] to introduce millions of students to one hour of computer science and computer programming. This introduction demystifies code and shows that anybody can learn the basics. More than 100 million students worldwide have already tried an Hour of Code in the largest learning event in history.  SFX students proudly point to their "I Did the Hour of Code" sticker.

4th Grade Faves

posted Jan 8, 2017, 5:10 PM by Saint Francis Xavier School Information   [ updated Jan 8, 2017, 5:11 PM ]

There is a lot of enthusiasm for certain series and authors in 4th grade.  

  The "Secrets of Droon" fans.  (fantasy series by Tony Abbott)

 The Mary Downing Hahn fans (ghost and spooky books)

  The J.K. Rowling fans (need we say more......)

How close can you get to Mother Nature?

posted Nov 15, 2016, 12:28 PM by Saint Francis Xavier School Information

This year's Red Clover nominees are being presented and discussed in Library 1, 2 and 3 classes.  Recently students listened to and looked carefully at Raindrops Roll by April Pulley Sayre, which showcases the wonders of raindrops in striking close-up photographs and simple, poetic text.    Third-graders then enjoyed trying their own hand at taking some close-up nature photography. 

Third graders try out some close-up photography  

Lego Club

posted Nov 14, 2016, 8:45 AM by Saint Francis Xavier School Information   [ updated Nov 14, 2016, 8:46 AM ]

The Lego Club was begun last spring, spearheaded by student interest, and is enjoying much continued activity.   We are grateful to parent Vincent Hammer, who supervises about a dozen students in grades 2-6  meeting weekly after school in the library to build, build, build.    Stay tuned for the results of a student-initiated building contest. 

Red Clover booklets--a collaborative project

posted Jun 8, 2016, 1:23 PM by Saint Francis Xavier School Information   [ updated Nov 13, 2016, 5:32 PM ]

Ms. Catozzi and Mrs. Finn recently attended the annual Red Clover conference at Lake Morey Resort  both to learn about the newest crop of Red Clover nominated books and to share their own collaborative project with other conference-goers. 

Second grade teacher Ms. Catozzi and Library Media Specialist Mrs. Finn collaborate all year to help second graders create a booklet showcasing each of the year's 10 Red Clover nominees.  After being introduced to each title in Library class, Mrs. Finn works with Ms. Catozzi during second grade literacy time to help second graders write or research something meaningful about each title and create a small art project to go along with their writing.  The result is a wonderful keepsake of 10 outstanding books and a portfolio of how each student improves their writing throughout the course of the year. 

Click here and scroll down for some great charts and graphs depicting how Vermont students voted for the 2015-16 Red Clover nominees.  Right in line with St. Francis Xavier students' sentiments!

Author-Illustrator Jason Chin Visits SFX

posted Jun 2, 2016, 8:32 AM by Saint Francis Xavier School Information   [ updated Jun 2, 2016, 8:48 AM ]

      A new crop of young writers and readers at St. Francis Xavier School were treated recently  to a  return visit to SFX from children’s book author/illustrator  Jason Chin.  Chin, who lives in Vermont,  has written and illustrated a half dozen non-fiction picture books on many diverse topics such as redwoods, coral reefs, the Galapagos Islands, gravity and the water cycle.    A book about the Grand Canyon will be published next year.   Mr. Chin’s books blend imaginative stories with non-fiction content and consistently earn starred reviews and high praise from major review journals.

Students in grades K-4  read and studied one of Mr. Chin’s  books in depth over the last month.   Each class created a special project based on one of his books.  Mr. Chin’s other books were introduced and discussed in library classes.  On the day of his visit, Mr. Chin   presented to the students how he  researches his wide-ranging topics and how the creation of one of his books evolves.  Chin’s research often involves a “site visit” to specific geographical locations around the globe to sketch and learn more first-hand about his topic.  Back home in his Vermont studio, he then sets to work writing and illustrating with many, many revisions to his book dummies before beginning the final art.  His books usually take at least a year to produce.    Chin ended his presentations with some on-the-spot, interactive drawing with his young audience.   

Mr. Chin speaks to his creative philosophy:


I want my books to both educate and to entertain, and I have found that stories are the perfect medium for achieving these two purposes. . . .  No matter the story, I always want it to capture the reader's imagination and to make them wonder. . . . When kids read my books, I really hope that the book takes them on a journey and that when they come back, they'll have picked up some science along the way.

  There was time for plenty of questions students had formulated prior to his visit. After lunch Mr. Chin visited the Grades 1-3 classrooms to see their research and art projects.

 The visit was organized by School Librarian, Kathleen Finn, in collaboration with the Grade K-4 teachers and sponsored by a longtime SFX School supporter with a special love for the library and literacy programs at the school.  


Jason Chin talks about coral reefs with third graders


First graders sing "Gravity" to Jason Chin

Jason Chin reads Water is Water with kindergardners

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