From the Office of the Future of Reading

Please join me in welcoming today’s guest blogger, Natasha Carty. Natasha was a children’s librarian in Connecticut and Maryland for over 10 years. She became a teacher 6 years ago and feels it has been the most wonderful, difficult, challenging, rewarding experience. This year she became a Nationally Board Certified Teacher candidate. It was a difficult process but made her a better teacher. She teaches at a Montessori charter school and loves the Montessori method of teaching. Students learn to become self-directed learners. This year she plans to keep striving to become a better teacher and finish more knitting projects than she starts.

Natasha Carty

I was a children’s librarian for over ten years. I have always loved the library. When I was growing up,we always went to all the libraries in our vicinity and each member of my family checked out a stack of books. Consequently, we always owed library fines at each library. I was an anthropology major in college and when I graduated, I needed to find a job. I found my place in the library. When I got my first library job, I was excited, although I didn’t know what to do with myself as I stood in a big room lined with shelves of children’s books, a beautiful mural of Alice in Wonderland but no children. The source I turned to was a book belonging to my mother, an elementary teacher. It was Caroline Feller Bauer’s This Way to Books. I still turn to this amazing resource which has wonderful ways to connect children with books and poetry. 

A few years later, I got to attend one of her workshops and was excited to meet one of my mentors. One idea I love of hers is always having a “flood book” with you so you have something to read at all times. You never know when you’ll be stuck waiting! 

As a children’s librarian, I wore many hats. I did baby story time. My co-workers told me I was quite a sight doing the hokey pokey while 8 months pregnant. I did pre-school storytimes, books and crafts for elementary students, young adult groups. My modus operandi was to announce that I was doing a program, then figure out how to do it. This may not work for some but it took me out of my comfort zone and I did some amazing programs: mystery parties for teens, shadow puppet programs, an anime club. When I was home with my daughter as a stay-at-home mom, I decided to go back to school to become a teacher, like my mother, father and sister. I guess it was in the blood. While I was student teaching, we had a reading program with a textbook. When I got a job at a Montessori charter school, we didn’t have a reading program so I consulted many books to develop a method to support reading instruction. One book that was a great help me when selecting books to read to the class was Jim Trelease’s The Read-Aloud Handbook. I have older editions and I used to look at his website to find new ideas. Luckily, his 7th edition was just released last year. 

Books I have chosen using Jim Trelease’s advice have always been well-loved by students such as A Nest for Celeste by Henry Cole. As a librarian, I was able to hear him speak. 

Another book that was very helpful was Regie Routman’s Reading Essentials. She also has a helpful book on writing called Writing Essentials. I hope to someday hear her speak or attend one of her workshops. When people ask how I help students learn to read I have several answers. I have a large and amazing classroom library with books at different reading levels and on all sorts subjects to capture student interest. I make the library inviting with small chairs and pillows. 

One of the biggest things which seems so simple is I make sure students do a lot of reading throughout the day. Students book talk their favorite books. I also have lots of sets of books for literature circles. This year I did research on how to better support developing and struggling readers and I have improved my guided reading groups. I loved being a children’s librarian, but also love teaching because it is such a challenge to figure out how to reach students and I am always working on becoming a better teacher.

Thank you Natasha for sharing your journey with us. Keep up the good work! (And you and I are library fine sisters: my joke is that our new library was built because of all the fine
s I’ve had to pay!)