January-February 2022

Whether at home with Responsive Learning or in the classroom for indoor recess, the cold weather invited us to snuggle up to a good book. The Library sponsored a renovation of the annex space next to the Kindergarten by adding books, a chalk easel, chairs and tables for different sized bodies and an Eric Carle wall design depicting The Hungary Caterpillar. Now teachers, tutors, learning specialists and scholars can learn in a cozy Small World space. New colorful cushions in the shape of donuts spread out the seating for K-2 grades on the Green, Green Grass carpet that has been a part of the BWS Library for 8 years.

2nd Grade ventured into the stacks of non-fiction finding Minecraft books, interplanetary exploration books and, of course, the always-favorite scary animal books. 3rd Grade has its story in the classroom during lunchtime, which allows the teacher to send small groups into the Library for a deep exploration of the collection. No peer pressure. Each scholar finds the books he is most interested in reading during these dreary days of Winter.

Book Clubs

Much like colleges do, we offered a mid-winter focus for grades 3-5. We zoomed in on the genre of Fantasy and read aloud a classic: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis. Each scholar had his own book and followed the adventures in Narnia Tuesday-Thursday at lunchtime over a 6-week period.

We discussed the context of children leaving London bombing during WWII. We spotted tricky vocabulary and explored a map of Narnia. We followed how the main characters changed over the course of the novel. The allegorical lion Aslan as Savior was not lost on the scholars. Even though it was not enchanted, we did celebrate the conclusion with Turkish Delight !

CSK Book Club

During Black History Month Barbara Ochmanek and Heather Florance encouraged an exploration of our newly expanded Coretta Scott King Award winning books. As an added incentive to make a connection with these honored books, Mrs. O set up the CSK Book Club. Scholars from 4th and 5thgrades are invited to read CSK award winners and report on them. Then they all read the same novel: Finding Langston by Lesa Cline-Ransome. A culminating afternoon of discussion and games will follow.

Our BWS Black History Month went on for 3 months! When we returned from Christmas break we started with the life and achievements of Martin Luther King Jr. From there we exposed the scholars to our vast collection of Biographies and Fiction written by and about African Americans. Every week we encouraged the scholars to search the shelves for that “Just Right” book and also to choose a book to share at home about an African American who really inspired them. They had hundreds of books to choose from. Some swapped books with each other. Others found two very different books that pleased them.

Early Primary explored their History through African American Biographies. Some K and 1st were not alive for Barak Obama’s Presidency, so that was an introduction. Then we moved onto MLK Jr.- his early life leading to greatness. Over the next weeks we covered Scientists, Explorers, Inventers, Olympic Athletes like Simone Biles, and Artists such as Alvin Ailey. We read and sang well-known Spirituals and Pharrel Williams closed us out with his Happy book.

Washington DC-Local Dignitaries

For the older scholars we focused on several people for whom Washington DC was home at some important times in their lives: Frederick Douglass from the 19th century and Thurgood Marshall from the 20th century. We reviewed their childhood and asked what character traits did they develop from those years.

Both Anacostia and Howard University featured in their experience. Both were orators and writers. Both suffered terribly from brutal racism but showed Resilience, Resistance and they Rose Up to change our country. According to Mr. Molina, these 3 R’s inform Black History and our scholars found those qualities in our myriad Biographies of well known and little-known African American Kings and Queens.

November-December 2021

Since the end of Play Ball! in late October, the 4th and 5th grade have settled into a library routine of a picture book read-aloud followed by plenty of time to explore the shelves and find those next good books.

Four books can be checked out and returned or renewed each week.

Fourth grade delved into the mysterious work of author/illustrator Chris Van Allsburg and both grades learned interesting background information about Thanksgiving. Thank You, Sarah, the story of one woman's activism that brought about the national holiday and Balloons Over Broadway, the history of the puppeteer who is responsible for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade provided fun historical context for our family feasts.

Fifth grade also discussed the primary source material behind the fictional Hanukkah at

Valley Forge. The library's ever-expanding graphic novel collection now has pride of place in the central shelves formerly housing the baseball books, and that is the first place the 4th and 5th graders head after storytime.

Visitors such as Alistair Chang from the DC Board of Education came to see why the scholars gain such value from their Library. He wants to keep the funding going for public school libraries and he gained fodder for his argument at the BWS Library.

Festivals of Light for Grades K-3

From Halloween onward, we traveled the Northern Hemisphere of the Earth noting the various holidays and festivals popping until January 1. Over 4 continents north of the

equator, the diminished light caused folks to gather together, feast together and share the light of candles and fire and very bright colors. We touched marigolds and lit the diya candles of Divali in India and colored skull pictures for Dias De Los Muertos.

We floated candles on leaves to send our problems away with the river for Loy Krathong in Thailand and learned of how a kind Bishop from Turkey tossed coins to children in need for Sinterklaas in The Netherlands or St. Nicolas Day. We learned from Father Sheppard that each Advent candle has particular meaning, as do the 8 candles of

Hanukkah and the 7 candles of Kwanzaa. These rituals give meaning and purpose to our lives and strengthen community. The scholars heard many stories read aloud and can compare and contrast each festival. Such a joy to share!

The first Advent candle lights our way toward hope while the next candles lead us to faith, joy and peace.

Surrounding the Winter Break, we had Library time virtually as Responsive Distance Learning occurred due to Covid protocols. Well, we have done this before and we managed to introduceKwanzaa through Zoom by lighting the red candles on hand, gathering the winter harvest fruits and veggies, laying out the Kinara on a woven mat and hearing stories about the Seven Principles that build character and fellowship within the African American community. Our final Festival of Light.

The 1st Grade checked out books to take home for the first time in this second term of school. We have a vast collection of Picture books and a growing collection of Early Readers and Nature books for them to choose from. Heather Clessuras and Sandi Hannibal constructed books that align with their Reading Program of leveling up the complexity of phonics and sight words. In this way the young readers can hold in their hands the same booklet that they see on a screen.

Kindergarten checked out a crate of Classic Stories so that their teacher could easily show them the parts of a story: Character development, Setting and the Arc of a story to its conclusion. Never underestimate what those young minds can absorb.

On December 1st we celebrated the beginning of Advent, the anticipation of the birth of Jesus Christ. Bishop Mariann Budde and our new Chaplain Father Sheppard were joined by the 5th grade scholars in the Chapel space within the Library. Afterward, Bishop Budde had a nice long chat with the scholars.

She spoke of leadership and compassion. And she asked questions. She demonstrated her interest in how their lives were going during this pandemic. The blessing she gave strengthened us all for the challenges and the adventures ahead.

September-October 2021

This year we have Library classes 5 days a week. That means our volunteers are more spread out and pitch in with reading aloud each week. The scholars returned to school so ready to read!

This year began with an introduction of the over 60 new science books given to our Library. Ann Wang truly updated a popular section of our Library-the 500’s or Natural Science. Young people can be scientists by using their eyes and ears to observe change in nature all around. We explored the changes to the trees with What John Marco Saw and Little Tree, among other titles. The difference between fact books and storybooks became clear with National Geographic selections.

Let’s Play Ball!

After 18 months of absence, we wanted to reintroduce the library collection to our scholars. New books had been added, old ones weeded out and shelves rearranged. Could we make these books fly off the shelves? We needed a reading incentive game and Barbara Ochmanek devised a clever way of combining game strategy with exposure to the historic tales of The Negro Leaguesand players like Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, Satchel Paige and Mamie “Peanut” Johnson. Grades 2-5 competed under the banners of old team names. Each book read delivered a hit for the team. MVP awards went to biggest hitters and Team Player sportsmanship awards went to those who prevented errors for their team by tidying up. Each day equaled an inning and each reader’s progress posted until the Team won in the 9th.

The range of baseball biographies came from our collection, purchased new or collected

from the DC Public Library. We had a wide variety to offer our scholars. They now know as much about Satchel Paige and Peanut Johnson as they do about Jackie Robinson.


Here are the STATS:


  • 3rd grader Akin read the most baseball books-16.

  • 4th grader Toluwani, our 3 time MVP, was Champion Reader of The Games with 32 books read leading to 24 runs for the KC Monarchs.

  • All 4 grades had players on the All Star Team, scoring at least 22 each.

  • Our books checked out went from 44 Week One to a high of 209 books checked out by students and staff in Week Four. Graphic Novels, Wimpy Kids, Dragon Master series and leveled books on Super Heroes=big hits.

All this fuss about Play Ball for grades 2-5 did not interfere with a lively program for those boys who are just learning to read and appreciate good stories in Kindergarten and 1st grade.

Our newest volunteer and dear friend of the BWS Village, Sandi Hannibal, offered a challenge to our 1st graders: compare and contrast the old favorite Caps for Sale with the Ghanaian version The Hat Seller and the Monkeys.

For one class, Susan read a story into the Zoom screen so that a class that was in Distance Learning could still get the library experience.

For Early Primary we always check in early with the masters such as Eric Carle, Maurice Sendak and Mo Willems to ensure that our scholars have a baseline of fanciful and humorous tales. Each week the two classes took crates of books aimed at their levels of interest and pre-reading skills back to their classrooms.

The Library also supported teachers with their social studies curriculum this fall. We

delivered crates of books to various classes for read-alouds or research. From Kindergarten weather and home/shelter studies to 1st grade families and identity to 3rd grade Eastern Hemisphere country and culture studies, we filled boxes and boxes with new and pertinent books from our recently refined collection.

Dragons, monsters and things that go bump in the night led us to the first of our Festivals of Light-Halloween. Heather brought the drama by reading this ghost story to 2nd grade.

On a final note, we awarded Barbara Ochmanek an original Louisville Slugger baseball bat in gratitude for her daily (and weekend) efforts to create the Play Ball game, recording

reading hits of each scholar daily for 6 weeks. Her enthusiasm and dedication knocked it out of the park!