Brecknock Elementary Librarian inspires students to ‘read them all’ through literacy trading cards

When Brecknock Elementary librarian, Rachel Sebastian, came up with the concept of the literacy trading card game, BookBeasts, in early 2023, she had a simple mission: harness her 3rd and 4th-grade students’ love of trading cards and collectibles to expand their literary horizons.

“I wanted to create something that made it exciting for students to explore the library and step outside of their comfort zone,” said Sebastian, “My goal is for kids to be excited about reading and learning -in the library and beyond.”

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After receiving a grant from Berks County Community Foundation in support of the project, Sebastian hit the ground running. Less than six months later, Sebastian’s students are reaching for books with previously low circulation rates in hopes to find a rare card, while Sebastian is sharing the story behind BookBeasts with audiences from across the globe.

Sebastian’s initiative was selected by the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) to be one of twelve featured exhibits at the ISTELive Discovery Museum at the ISTELive2023 Conference. The conference will take place in Philadelphia from June 25-28 and seeks to empower educators to harness technology in their classrooms. In addition to having an exhibit in the museum throughout the duration of the conference, Sebastian will also be participating in a Q&A at ISTELive2023 to share more about the concept.

“It’s so exciting to have the opportunity to share, with educators from across the country and from around the world, the work students are doing here at Governor Mifflin.”

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In addition to encouraging students to explore new genres and topics, they have also fostered students’ creativity and taught them new technological skills.

Sebastian recruited a small group of student volunteers to create the cards, working collaboratively to research common features of trading cards, design their card’s template, and conceptualize different ‘beasts’ for various genres.

While some of the artwork included on the cards was created by Brecknock students under the direction of art teacher, Amy Smith, the BookBeasts project also presented an opportunity for Sebastian to introduce the students to A.I. in a classroom setting.

“We used an A.I. art generator, StarryAI,” said Sebastian, “students became really well-versed in how the A.I. platform responds to their prompts.”

The BookBeasts initiative closely follows the methodologies of Albright College’s Total Experience Learning (TExpL), a program that has taken hold in classrooms throughout Governor Mifflin School District. Sebastian is certified in the practices of Total Experience Learning.

“Designing these literacy cards is an iterative process that engages students in authentic learning across disciplines. I’m grateful for the Total Experience Learning framework, and the way it inspires students and teachers to create and innovate.”

Governor Mifflin School District may be out of school for the summer, but Sebastian says students will still have opportunities to collect the cards. Sebastian is working with Nolde Forest, Reading Science Center, and Mifflin Community Library to orchestrate opportunities for students to continue learning over the summer months and collect their cards.

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