My blog has been badly neglected in the past few months and today I am firing it up to post a couple of blog posts (by request).

Let’s start with why. Why did I start making these calendars in the first place? Initially, I started making them to respond to a need in my own school community. I had some evidence that some of the youngest students at my school were not being read to at home. When asked their favourite book, they would name reading instruction books, not great stories or series. I thought a lot about why this might be, but what it comes down to is that I could make all kinds of assumptions, and most of these would likely be wrong.

So this summer, I came upon Beth Lyon’s website and noticed her read aloud calendars. She has whole collections for all kinds of readers. I contacted her to ask how she made them and she shared that she makes them on Canva, then uploads them as slides. I am a bit of a tinker, so I started playing around with the web based software. It is easy to use and you can make some really visually pleasing things. In fact, my husband just used my account to create our newest honey jar labels (aka stickers in the app)!

Where to begin?

  1. Get an Educator Account.

Although it is advertised as a Free Design Tool, like most things, getting a pro or team account really gives you access to the good stuff. There are educator free accounts available that open up a lot of cool graphics. You will have to prove that you are an educator. To do this, I sent them a screen-shot of my OCT (Ontario College of Teachers) certification that is public and online. Within two days, my account was upgraded (for free) to Educator.

2. Click on Create a Design (top right).

A number of templates will pop up (and might inspire you – infographics, an alternative to your usual “slides”, videos, announcements, flashcards, graphic organizers, comic strips, story boards etc.). Here I type “Calendar” in the search.

3. Explore the Tool Bar on the left

Here you can choose different calendar templates (type a month in and a number of options come up). Just check that the month has numbers in the right order. If not, you can easily change them up. You can decorate your calendar with fun “elements”. You just click on it, drag and drop it on your calendar. Then you can size it.

4. Days of Significance

I know my school community increasingly well as a Teacher-Librarian. We have a very multilingual and multicultural school. I usually take some time researching. For example, October is a time when we recognize: Islamic Heritage, Women’s History, Hispanic Heritage, LGBTQ+ History (I missed this one unfortunately but will add more of this content next year). I know we have students that celebrate Diwali this month. The Day of the Girl is also recognized. Those are just a few examples. However, I am also conscious of what students do not celebrate. For example, Halloween. On my October Calendar, I have fall images and spooky monster books leading up to Halloween, but not Halloween directly.

5. Ethical YouTube Searching

One thing I was really conscious of was making sure that I was using videos that are either promoted by the publishers of the books I am featuring or read by the authors themselves. A few of my favourite channels? In no specific order: Simon Kids, Brightly Storytime, StorylineOnline, HarperKids, Orca Book Publishers, Tundra Books, Scholastic, Bibliovideo, Authors Everywhere, Puffin Books, Walmart Storytime, School Mental Health Ontario etc.

6. Find a Picture

Once I have selected a book that I want to feature on the calendar, I find a picture of the cover, or another image that represents a celebration. Because I use an Apple Computer, I can just drag the image into the calendar. You may have to save and upload. Again, drag and drop the image to the date you want to show the video. It can get a little cramped.

7. Add the Video Link

When you click on your book image, a window appears above it. There is a duplicate, delete or three dots options. Click on the three dots. You will see “Link” as one of the options. Select it and another window will appear. Insert the YouTube video link. Continue this until your calendar is full to your satisfaction.

8. Sharing

Click on the top right button “Share”. You have a number of options! I have been downloading it as a PowerPoint presentation, then uploading the powerpoint to my Google Drive as “Slides” a few minor adjustments and boom… it works.

While these calendars started to fulfill a need at my own school, they quickly went “viral”. I am grateful to all that shared it.

I suppose this type of calendar is answering a need in other places too. I love making these calendars and tinkering with them. In September, I made a French one too, but for the moment, I can only sustain a monthly English one. I dream of others that I could make… what about a book tasting each day for older students? There are so many book previews online that would catch their attention. I hope that this means more kids are hearing some great books. Maybe they will find a copy or related book in their school library.

I feel like I have only scratched the surface of how I can use Canva and I look forward to tinkering and creating some more things.

In the meantime, if you want to make sure you do not miss a calendar, I will keep a collection of them here:

Featured image by Patricia Prudente on Unsplash