Branding your Library Reading Program: #SunsetReads

When I started at Sunset High School three years ago, I knew I wanted to “brand” my library program and create a hashtag that could be used for sharing cool things happening in my library on social media.

I decided on #SunsetReads and began creating posters and library displays to brand my program. One of the first things I did was take photos of the administration and faculty members sharing their favorite books holding a #SunsetReads frame.


I passed out “What I am currently reading ….” laminated posters to all the staff and asked them to hang them outside their classroom door and keep it up to date.  I created #SunsetReads vinyl stickers and passed them around. I created a Twitter and Instagram account and started sharing library events or recommended reading on social media. All of these ideas were good to get the name out there and start building the #SunsetReads brand among the Sunset Community.

Helpful hint: Make sure the hashtag you choose isn’t being used by someone else.  I didn’t realize when I first started that a romance novelist was tweeting using the #SunsetReads hashtag — but maybe because some high school in Oregon used it all the time — the author has decided to move on.

When the English department received classroom libraries with current YA novels, I was thrilled. I began booktalking lots of YA titles and used this opportunity to pass out #SunsetReads bookmarks. Rebecca Larson, a fellow English teacher began posting on social media and included #SunsetReads whenever she discussed a book.

We convinced the administration to begin a free choice reading program throughout the school — not just during English classes. One thing we emphasized was that our students need to build reading stamina and one way to do that is to encourage more choice reading. It also aligns with one of our school goals to help students become career and college ready.

We received donated books from students, Multnomah Country Library Titlewave Used Bookstore, and from Washington County Cedar Mill Library thanks to parent and WCCLS librarian, Mark Richardson. I created #SunsetReads book bins and placed them in every classroom in the school with the donated books. I labeled every donated book with a #SunsetReads sticker. The book bins run like a Little Free Library — students could borrow a book and then return it to any classroom library. Students now could choose a book from the bin, from their classroom library, or from the school library. We even placed a #SunsetReads bin in the hallway.  Books are everywhere!

We got the staff onboard to include 10 minutes of choice reading twice a week during homeroom. #SunsetReads was really starting to take off. I asked our Parent Club to make a donation to the school library so we could purchase additional YA titles to support our #SunsetReads program. (Note: this year we switched to 30 minutes of choice reading every other week – wish it was more often, but that is what works with our schedule. They still read in English class)

We continue to use #SunsetReads for promoting library events. We hosted a special edition of GLOW-IN-THE-DARK #SunsetReads where students could come to the library for their choice reading time and we turned off all the lights and passed out glow sticks and lollipops! When authors, Fonda Lee and Carmen Bernier-Grand visited, we had them take photos with our SunsetReads sign. The SHS book club is now posting book reviews to our #SunsetReads website and has adopted the hashtag themselves. I am constantly looking for ways to create a reading culture at our school and having a brand helps to promote it.

My next goal is to include the parent and neighboring community with the #SunsetReads brand.  Why not have local businesses sponsor #SunsetReads programs or have parents share what they are reading on social media and use our hashtag? It takes time and persistent action to build a loyal brand. Look for some #SunsetReads graphics and branding coming soon from our very own Graphic Design students!!!

Today when I was leaving school, a teacher asked me, “How was the SunsetReads event in the library?” I smiled because I had just been working on this post. I guess the branding is paying off.

My reflections on EduBloggerCon

100_4743I’ve heard about EduBloggerCon for the past two years and have always wanted to participate because the type of people who attend seemed like “my kind of people” — and I am happy to report that I was right.

EduBloggerCon was everything I had hoped for … and more:    smart people talking about interesting topics – people who really CARE about learning, use technology and improving education.  I absolutely loved finally meeting my twitter friends face to face.  Beth Still said it best, “It’s like going to a high school reunion and seeing old friends”.  The morning of EduBloggerCon was filled with handshakes, hugs and lots of “I follow you on Twitter”.  I loved it!

The first unconference session I attended was Web 2.0 smackdown led by Vicki Davis and with Paul Wood as referree.  The time was spent with folks coming up to the mic and quickly sharing some new tool or gadget.  It was quick and fast paced – luckily – folks were twittering the links participating in a Cover It Live chat so I can go back and remember all the cool tools.

The next session was led by Mark Wagner about cool tools we wished we had.  Mark led a discussion about brainstorming ideas for tools that we could “rent a coder” to program.  They were lots of ideas of unique aggregators, assessment rubrics and so on – but one of the neat things that happened if someone suggested an idea — another person said, “oh, that already exists” and then shared the URL of that tool.  I think a lot of folks learned new things.  Mark would like to pursue the rubric idea and I am willing to help.  I already reviewed what Rubistar offers – but love the idea of an interactive rubric that sits on top of Google spreadsheets or one that sends students immediate feedback.  Great session and looking forward to learning more.

One of the most compelling discussions of the day was led by Jon Becker titled “Where School Reform Meets Madonna:  Can public schools fundamentally reinvent themselves?”  This was a thoughtful and insightful discussion about school reform and what we can personally do to improve education.  Yes, it started off with a rehash of what’s wrong with education but then quickly moved to ideas about engaging students with relevant projects, sharing models of what really works, filling the empty space with innovative projects and discussions of how 15, 16, & 17 yr old students are very ME oriented – and can they really chart their own course of how to effective use technology in school?

The next session I attend was a small group that discussed how students can use social media to effect positive social change – led by Mark Wagner.  We shared ideas of how we could engage students by using social media tools while they engage in social justice or service learning activities.  There was a strong sense that this type of “work” is very relevant and meaningful for students and as educators we should encourage more connections by using social tools or use the tools as a reflective process to think about & discuss what they are experiencing while doing service work.

Afterwards,  I had a great discussion with Wes Fryer about his Story Chasers program and how I can incorporate some of the elements of his program with a MS nursing home visitation program that is already being done in my school.  More thoughts on that later.

I showed up late for the last sessions so I just joined a group that was discussing “Social Media Policy & Practice for K-12 Districts” a Conversation with Ann Flynn,
Director, Education Technology, National School Boards Association (with Kevin Jarrett & Scott McLeod).  Even though I teach at a private school that is not governed by a school board, I still gleamed some ideas of how to get my administration on board with social media.

Overall the day was great.  We de-briefed at the end of the day and made plans for future events.  I will definitely try to make EduBloggerConNW a reality at the NCCE conference next March in Seattle.

EBC09badge3I need to thank Steve Hargadon for all of his efforts with EduBloggerCon and Adam Frey of Wikispaces for their generous hosting of the afterparty that evening.  It was great to see everyone in good spirits and having a great time.
Kevin Jarrett’s Flickr stream:
Scott Merrick’s Flickr stream: