Sakura Medal

Sakura MedalThe International School Librarians Group in Japan has in recent years introduced a reading program for students in international schools across Japan that encourages students to read recently published books of literary quality from around the world. The Sakura Medal begins in the new school year, usually around October (each school decides their own launch date) and finishes at the end of April. The winners are announced in early May. Students choose and read books and at the end of the program if they have read at least 5 books from a list they are entitled to vote for their favourite book on the list. The votes from all participating schools are tallied and the winning authors are presented with a medal, certificate and some student art work.

We have several lists the students can read from. There are four English book lists and two Japanese book lists:

Picture Books
Japanese Picture Books
Elementary Chapter Books
Middle School Books
High School Books
Japanese Fiction for Middle and High School

The lists can be viewed on LibraryThing via the Sakura Medal Group

Each school implements the program a little differently with prizes, incentives, activities and parties that promote the reading.

At Tokyo International School, students in Grades 1 through 8 participate in four of the lists – Picture Books, Elementary Chapter Books, Middle School Books and Japanese Picture Books. We have several incentives and activities. Every child that reads five books on their list is entitled to go to our Sakura Medal party at the end of the school year and they earn a flower with their photo that goes on our blooming Sakura tree.


We offer free library passes for those who read at least fifteen books and for the students who read every book on the list a gift certificate for local book stores – alas not a great selection of Enlgish books available in the bookstores here!

The students are very enthusiastic about the Sakura Medal books and we never have enough copies to go around!

This year at TIS I introduced a Sakura Medal Ning which the students in Grades 4-7 joined and shared their thoughts about the  books. As well as learning how to use a social network in a safe closed environment, the students enjoyed watching and listening to book trailers, and author video and audio clips. We had fun sharing on the ning! If you visit the Ning you will only see the front page.

At the moment I am experimenting with a Sakura Medal netvibe and then I’ll decide which tool to use for next year’s program. For more about Sakura at Tokyo International School visit our web page Sakura Medal Blog

This years winning books were recently announced:


Picture Book

by Polly Dunbar

name of this book

Elementary Chapter Book

The Name of this Book is Secret
by Pseudonymous Bosch


Middle School

by Neil Shusterman

name of the wind

High School

The Name of the Wind
by Patrick Rothfuss


Japanese Picture Book

by かがくいひろし


Japanese MS/High School

by 水野敬也



The Sakura Medal Program is gaining momentum every year as more schools join and we shake out the kinks. It certainly is a way to encourage our kids to read outside their comfort zone!


Links – May

I’ve come across so many wonderful links recently! Here’s a couple of the best ones:
Create your own custom moo cards. i just ordered some very cool minicards with my own photos. Lots of fun!

21st Century Learning Spaces
Loads of resources for inspiration in designing technology rich spaces that promote individual and collaborative learning.

100 Helpful Web Tools for Every Kind of Learner
Great tools that cater for individual learning styles.

Visual Blooms
A visual representation of Bloom’s Taxonomic Hierarchy with a 21st Century twist.

A wonderful kids online book store with great reviews and booklists.

And just for fun…

The Dewey Rap
A great rap about the Dewey Decimal System.

Check my delicious for loads more links!

Improving my practice

I have been remiss in not posting more regularly to my blog. Life is busy and I am juggling graduate studies with full time work. Not entirely a valid excuse I know, but my work and students come first, my studies follow and then blogging fits in when it can!

Recently I’ve been preparing an assignment for my graduate classes that involves looking at research in schools. I decided to focus on school library research and most particularly on effective library media programs. I am looking specifically at flexible scheduling in PYP school libraries. I am just beginning on my literature review and have discovered considerable research that indicates the benefits of flexible scheduling in school libraries, for example, van Deusen and Putnam, however as far as I can tell, little or no research that focuses on the PYP environment.

I continue to review the literature (see my delicious bookmarks for more links on flexible scheduling) and will come back to this post as I progress.

Meanwhile take a look at this webcast by Dr R Todd entitled “But do they learn anything? School libraries, meaningful learning and productive pedagogy in information age schools” Dr Todd’s research is prolific and significant to the development of effective school library programmes worldwide. His website lists all his work and is well worth a visit.


Words….they are so powerful. Some people are truly gifted with words… they uplift, they challenge, they provoke, they inspire… I am so excited that Web 2.0 allows me to share in the words of others and be moved by them in some way.

I struggle with writing….I find it difficult and I am so envious of those to whom words seem to come so easily. Those same people motivate me and challenge me to be better.

In my searching, sifting and sorting through the web and on twitter I have found diamonds…people, blogs and “twitterers” who have meaningful and pertinent things to say.

We all need inspiration. These are a few who inspire and challenge me. I love visiting them for fresh ideas and perspectives….


How can you not be inspired by TED? Recently I have enjoyed Elizabeth Gilbert speaking on creative genius, Aimee Mullins (overcoming adversity – WOW!), and Dave Eggers (Once upon a school…). Please visit TED to view and hear some truly inspiring words, you won’t be disappointed.


The Unquiet Librarian quietly inspires us on her blog with wonderful insights and links. Her use of web 2.0 and cloud computing in her professional life and school library is impressive. Visit her blog and be inspired!


Kim Cofino, Technology Integration Specialist at the International School of Bangkok, is a powerhouse of inspiration when it comes to technology integration across the curriculum. Her blog is definitely worth a very regular visit!

You are Never Alone

Kerrie Smith is an educator and Executive Officer, Professional Learning and Online Communities at edna in Australia. She is an online learning enthusiast and supporter with lots of inspiring things to say at her blog.

Thank you to all these inspirational people for helping me learn2learn! Visit my netvibe to see who else regularly inspires me…