Wednesday, August 01, 2012

The Boxcar Children; Library Notes

MacLachlan, Patricia. The Boxcar Children Beginning: The Aldens of Fair Meadow Farm. 1 August 2012

 Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny live with their involved and loving parents on their farm, possibly during the Great Depression. (The original story was published in 1942, so this would make sense.) Times are tough, but the family pulls together. Their mother sells baked goods, the children help out, and all is going okay. When a family is stranded with a broken down car near their home, they are invited to stay for several months until they can get back on their feet, and the Aldens are very sad when they have to leave. When tragedy strikes, the children attempt to stay with famly friends, but the law has other ideas, giving rise to their plan that leads to the events of the first Boxcar Children book.
Strengths: MacLachlan imagines a very likely beginning for these beloved fictional characters. This is a short and easy story about a loving family during a tough period of history, which is something many students might appreciate these days.
Weaknesses: To me, the whole point of The Boxcar Children was that they were on their own. There was that bit of mystery as to why their grandfather was not in the picture. I did not care for the mystery books-- only the first book! Still, MacLachlan stays true to Warner's mission of simple stories for beginning readers, even if the characters seemed much different to me in this different setting.

 LIBRARY NOTES: Ah, nothing like 40 assembled overheads no one really wants anymore, 500 books to shelve, and three online classes to finish up to spiral one into a deep. dark midnight of the soul while creating the library schedule for the year.

Since we no longer have Sustained Silent Reading, I created two schedules-- one bringing all the study halls into the library once per ABCDEF rotation, and one bringing language arts classes. The LA class one was mainly because there are six LA teachers and six letter days, and the study hall one looked impossible at first. I think we will go with the study hall one, since library visits are not the responsibility of LA classes.

I struggle with two issues-- not enough research classes, and repeat visitors who don't really need books who then misbehave. With SSR, I didn't worry about the research as much because students needed books. With the second issue, I had students coming primarily from one study hall, so they were easier to track.

Since we have many new teachers, and our schedule is so very different, I am going to concentrate on what I do best-- connecting books and children-- and work on research classes later.

As for supervision, I am going to insist that students check in when they are coming to the library independently, and will have a spread sheet with the names of study hall students that period at the circulation desk. It seems like a lot of work, but if I have spreadsheets, I can see easily which students come all the time and which students I never see, and hopefully will be more attuned to what each child (700+) in the building is reading. I am also making bright pink passes with the study hall teachers' names on them for students to wear around their necks, so I can tell where they have come from if they are a problem in the library.

This quantifies for the administration what I am doing. Students need to read in order to improve their skills and therefore their TEST SCORES. I am helping by making sure that each student has a book that is enjoyable and appropriate to his or her needs.

Whew. I am very curious about how other librarians' schedules are set up! Feel free to comment.


  1. Complex! I spent 3 days making phone calls to get our fall schedule organized. Parks and Rec runs the library's community room and I have to coordinate with the Parent Educator from our school district who does programs in the library. Then I had a meeting with our director and adult services librarian to finalize everything and this is what we ended up with:

  2. Hopefully the book will open the doors for another generation of fans reading the classic Boxcar Children books, at the very least. :) I remember reading so many of those books as a youngster.