Character dress-up day is coming on Friday, October 20th

It’s time to start thinking about costumes again! This year, in celebration of International Schools Library Week, our Elementary students and teachers will come to school dressed as our favourite characters on Friday, October 20th. There will be plenty of activity in and around the library during that week and we’ll tell you a bit more about those things after our National Day holiday week. In the meantime, we wanted to give everyone a reminder to plan their costumes.

Back in April, Ms. Simon wrote this blog post with many excellent ideas for costume ideas. Be sure to revisit that post for a refresher. For more inspiration, look at this list of “100 Book Character Costumes.”

We won’t be surprised if we see a few Baby Mouse costumes after the success of our recent author visit from Matt Holm!


IST Library annual report (2016-2017)

Every year, the librarians at IST produce a report for the school administration and staff. This year, we took a more visual approach. We welcome your questions and feedback so if there’s anything here you see that you’d like to know more about or anything you think we should have added, please contact us or leave a comment below.

View our library report for 2016-2017

Summer reading

As parents, one of our major roles is to make sure that children set aside time every day to read – to read for pleasure, for information, for the vicarious thrill of living in an imaginary world. (Julie M. Wood)

If you’ve been reading the weekly Blaze, you might have noticed that we’ve been quoting Julie M. Wood from the article, “Helping to prevent summer reading loss.” Dr. Wood is only one of the many literacy experts who emphasize the importance of maintaining literacy levels over the summer holiday. In fact, continuing to read over the summer can boost student learning–and we want to help!

Here are a few things parents can do to encourage more reading over the summer:

  • Let your child choose what to read. The library can help. Secondary students can check out as many books and magazines as they would like over the summer. Elementary students need a signed permission slip from a parent. You can download the permission slip here.
  • Use our Summer Reading brochures to help your child make good reading choices. You can view or download any of our four brochures by clicking on one of the following links: Nursery to Grade 2, Grades 3 – 5, Grades 6-8 and Young Adult.
  • Take reading material everywhere. Always have books, magazines or graphic novels in your child’s bag when you’re traveling, staying with relatives and going to the beach.
  • Read aloud to your children–no matter how old they are! Alternatively, listen to audio books on long road or plane journeys. (See this recent blog post from Stacy Fisher entitled “Free Audio Books: The Fifteen Best Sources Online.”)
  • Use Tumble Books, an online collection of high-quality, age-appropriate novels, graphic novels and nonfiction books at all reading levels. For Kindergarten to Grade 2, use the TumbleBook Library; for Grades 3 to 5, use the TumbleBook Cloud, Jr.; for Grades 6 and up, go to the TumbleBook Cloud. The username and password can be found on the library homepage. Just visit and log in.

Critical thinking and the “filter bubble”

The recent U.S. elections in the United States have brought to light the need for all of us to be better critical thinkers and fact-check those Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and WeChat posts that enter our feeds and fuel our anxieties.

Here are some steps to take when you read something shared by a friend but not supported with reliable evidence:

  • Google it. Or Bing it or Yahoo! it or Baidu it or Naver it or do whatever you do to look up information quickly;
  • Look to see if a reliable news source (a news site that pays its reporters to do real, investigative journalism) has reported on the event in question;
  • If you can verify that the information is true, share it;
  • If you realize that the information is not true or you can’t be sure it’s true, challenge it. Comment on it and send a message to your friend to let them know that they need to question their sources.

Here are two sites that make it their business to verify information that we find online: Attempts to give accurate information about rumors and urban legends on a variety of topics, including war, business, events, toxins, science, military, popular… Monitors the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews, and news releases.

In 2011, Eli Pariser gave a TED Talk on the topic of the “filter bubble” and the ways in which Google, Facebook and other sites tailor what we see depending on our past web-browsing behaviors.  Parents and (pre-)teens (preferably together) can watch his TED talk (see below) and discuss what this type of invisible editing does to our world-view. Pariser warns that we need to balance our “information diet” and not just feed on the “junk food” diet fed to us by those who have decided what’s most “relevant” to us–not necessarily what’s important.

Pariser went on to co-found the good-news sight, Upworthy, and to write the book titled, The Filter Bubble: What the internet is hiding from you.

Do you have a resource that you use (perhaps in your mother tongue) for fact-checking or promoting critical thinking? Please let our librarians know so we can share it with our community. Email us at or

International Schools Library Week is coming!

ISLW Oct 24 to 28

International Schools Library Week at IST–Monday, October 24th to Friday, October 28th.


You can begin to look forward to the week of October 24-28th when there will be lots of action in and around the library. We’ll be launching this year’s Panda Book Awards, offering Apple Store workshops, giving prizes, hosting the Beijing Book Fair and more. Watch this space for details and updates.

If you are interested in being a guest reader for an elementary class, please contact Ms. Simon at Linnea_Simon at istianjin dot net to let her know what you’d like to read and when.

Next IST Parent Book Club scheduled for Thursday, October 27th at 1:30PM

A Man Called Ove

“A Man Called Ove” by Fredrik Backman–our October Parent Book Club Pick.


Last week on Friday we had an excellent turn-out and an interesting discussion about the Man Booker Prize winning novel, The Vegetarian by Han Kang. Our next meeting will take place on Thursday, October 27th at 1:30PM. Please note that we will usually meet on the last Friday of the month in the morning but we needed to choose an alternate time this month. Join us to discuss the novel, A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. This book is available to purchase in Kindle format.

To join the book club, email Eleanor_Surridge at istianjin dot net

IST Parent Book Club pick — “The Vegetarian” by Han Kang

IST Parents, join us on Friday, September 23rd at 9:15 to discuss this month’s book club choice, The Vegetarian by Han Kang. If you would like the library to order a copy for you from Book Depository, email before Wednesday, August 24th.

2016 Man Booker Prize Winner

The Vegetarian by Han Kang

Originally written in Korean and recently translated into English, The Vegetarian was awarded the 2016 Man Booker Prize—one of the world’s most prestigious literary awards. Here is the announcement from Man Booker chair of the judging panel, Boyd Tonkin:
The Vegetarian by Han Kang, translated from the Korean by Deborah Smith, is an unforgettably powerful and original novel that richly deserves to win the Man Booker International Prize 2016. After our selection of a diverse and distinguished longlist, and a shortlist of six truly outstanding novels in first-rate translations, the judges unanimously chose The Vegetarian as our winner. Told in three voices, from three different perspectives, this concise, unsettling and beautifully composed story traces an ordinary woman’s rejection of all the conventions and assumptions that bind her to her home, family and society. In a style both lyrical and lacerating, it reveals the impact of this great refusal both on the heroine herself and on those around her. This compact, exquisite and disturbing book will linger long in the minds, and maybe the dreams, of its readers. Deborah Smith’s perfectly judged translation matches its uncanny blend of beauty and horror at every turn.’

Literary festivals in Beijing

Book lovers rejoice! March means authors galore in Beijing over the coming weeks. Both Capital M and The Bookworm host literary festivals that include talks from world-renowned authors and they each have something very special to offer in terms of ambience and atmosphere. The Bookworm will set up chairs in the loaning library room, bringing the comfort of wooden floors and ceiling-high bookshelves−a most appropriate climate in which to listen and learn about craft. Capital M offers a more refined setting with a world-class view looking out towards Tian’anmen Square and a menu of tantalizing fare. For a full line up of the Capital M festival, go here (tickets are available for purchase through MyPiao). The Bookworm Literary Festival line-up is available here.

Secondary Parent session highlights

We had an excellent turn-out for yesterday’s parent session. Our objective was to highlight the importance of academic honesty, define plagiarism, and walk parents through the how-to for accessing the Library OPAC and our subscription databases.

Parents at the “Homework Help” session on Tuesday, 20 November, 2012.

Parents were shown how to

  1. use the Secondary Homework Log as a resource;
  2. use the Library OPAC as a starting point by logging on and viewing the homepage;
  3. begin research with Britannica Online or World Book;
  4. cite sources in MLA format—copying and pasting the citations given in most database entries or using EasyBib or NoodleTools to manage their project;
  5. make use of The Writing Center.
The next Secondary Parent session is planned for 30 January and will go into more detail on using project managers such as EasyBib or NoodleTools. Stay tuned to this blog for more details early in 2013.
In the meantime, there are two short sessions planned for next week. One is for elementary parents and the other is for all of our parent community.
28 November parent sessions

The Poetry Project–IST gets a taste of the spoken word

As most of you will already be aware, we were visited by three professional poets last week on Thursday, October 26. Luka Lesson, Omar Musa and Bodhan Piasecki performed for grades 5 to 11 in a 90-minute assembly last Thursday morning. It was a thoroughly entertaining performance. From the opening exhortations of Lesson’s, “May your pen grace the page,” to the love poetry and Polish word-play of Piasecki and the concluding rhythms of Musa’s raps, the audience was rapt (pun intended). The three poets’ styles varied significantly but each had something unique to offer the listener–and they clearly love what they do and enjoyed working together to plan and present.

Following the assembly, several teachers made a point of thanking the library for arranging this performance, many saying that they thought it was the best outside performance they’ve seen in their time at IST. Students, too, made their feelings known but with fewer words—the “awesome” s and “pretty cool” s abounded—high praise for poetry! Perhaps the greatest testament to the day’s success is the experience of the workshops that followed and the work that was produced. Each group brainstormed words upon which to build their poems. They then worked on a few lines and walked and delivered—often using different volume, voice and pace. There was never any judgement, only giving voice to their ideas.

Here’s a sampling.

Abstract art can be anything
the voice of the colors telling me things
spontaneous colors energetically jumping of the canvas
the voice of their souls whispering softly
the flow of it all, the feel of it all
to express the way you feel
the violence, the kindness everything from A-Z
just let it all out
now what do you see on the canvas?
                     Esther, Grade 6

The Grade 9-11 group worked with a 5-line formula that looked like this: Line 1 verb/action; Line 2 metaphor; Line 3 color; Line 4 place; Line 5 verb. Here are two pieces that came out of that session:

In the city that never sleeps
there is a bench is in the centre of the park.
There was, on the bench next to the girl—
a bowl with a gold fish.
She took the bowl, never returned.
There it was—an empty bench in the centre of the park.
                              Lawrence, Grade 10

The sea is a blank that covers all the darkness and
grief with its surface.
Under the turquoise blue hides the darkest of navy and
The beach in Sydney is a paradise for people who
want to forget about all their worries.
The tourists will lie there sun-bathing while watching
over their kids swimming and laughing.
Their concerns will flow into the sea, making it
even darker.
The sea is a blanket that covers all the darkness and
grief with its surface.
Under the turquoise blue hides the darkest of navy and black.
Huge thanks to The Bookworm Beijing and Kadi Hughes for bringing the Poetry Project to IST. And thanks, also, to the PFO for generously supporting this event. We’re hoping to see IST get slammed again when poetry month comes along in April!