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Getting to know teacher librarian Miranda Kral

Check out some humor with your books
Solon teacher librarian Miranda Kral browses in the fantasy section in the Solon High School Media Center. (photo by Nora Heaton)

SOLON– Miranda Kral asks some unusual questions.
What building has the most stories? (A library.) Who is the coolest king in the world? (King Author.) What does a cat like to read? (A mewspaper.)
As the Solon Community School District’s new teacher librarian, her favorite puns include— you guessed it— libraries and books.
As the name suggests, a teacher librarian is a professional librarian with a teaching license. But the job involves lots of different roles, Kral said. She works with classes to infuse information, technology and literacy. She guides students in research projects, showing them how to find credible sources and use the EasyBib tool for their project bibliographies.
Another job of the teacher librarian, Kral would say, is being the one with the joke book at the beginning of library lesson time. She uses humor often in her job. As the only teacher librarian in the district, Kral spends her days traveling from elementary school to middle school to high school and back again. With so much traveling from building to building, she relies on humor to help her establish connections with students in all schools.
Kral attended the University of Northern Iowa for an undergraduate degree in elementary education, where she took a class in children’s literature. In that class, she learned something novel.
“It was okay to read picture books— as an adult!” she said.
It was a game-changer for Kral. She went on to earn a Master’s degree in school library studies in order to become a teacher librarian.
Although Kral grew up outside North Liberty and attended Clear Creek Amana schools, she had ties to Solon through her father’s family. She had heard of the excellent schools in the Solon Community School District, and was excited at the chance to work as part of the family there.
Although teachers spend their days teaching students, they often end up teaching one another as well. Kral said her Professional Partner in the district, fourth grade teacher Maria Schroeder, has helped her learn how to be at ease with students and “go with the flow” of teaching. In turn, Kral hopes to show teachers in the district new ways to incorporate technology into their lessons to expand the ways in which students learn.
And to students, Kral hopes to show them it’s okay to be yourself. Whatever their deepest interests or passions, there’s a book— and probably also an app— for that. Kral does her best to help them find it.
The Guinness Book of World Records, for instance, has an application to accompany the text that presents record entries in augmented reality in 3D. One of the app’s features projects a 3D image of the World’s Tallest Man standing at full height. Kral said she showed the app to a group of fourth grade boys, who loved it.
“It was great seeing that excitement, where these boys who aren’t necessarily enthusiastic readers are engaged in something involving a book,” Kral said.
Another lesser-known fusion of books and technology is book trailers. Like movie trailers, book trailers advertise new books in a way that showcases the best aspects of a book and hopefully makes children eager to read it. Kral has made playlists of book trailers and explores them with students to get them excited about new books to read.
When Kral herself was in elementary school, her favorite story was, “The True Story of the Three Little Pigs,” by Jon Scieszka. It’s a fractured fairy tale with a twist: instead of the traditional arc following the three little pigs in hiding from the big bad wolf, the “True Story” is narrated by the wolf— who perhaps isn’t so big and bad after all.
Another favorite is “Miranda’s Umbrella,” by Val Biro, in which 6-year-old Miranda receives a magical umbrella that takes her on a wild adventure. As a child, Kral delighted in the fact that she shared a first name with the book’s title character. She remembers that, after Tuesday night dance classes in Coralville, her family would stop at Coralville Public Library and she would run to the children’s section to find “Miranda’s Umbrella.” It was one she read and reread over again.
Now, Kral enjoys young adult dystopian and fantasy books. Recently, she’s enjoyed “Hush Hush” by Becca Fitzpatrick, “The Legend” by Marie Lu, and “The Maze Runner” by James Dashner.
Sixth grade teacher Kearce Lindner, whose students recently worked with Kral on research projects, said Kral has an eagerness and an ability to connect with students and staff alike.
“She is constantly telling students and even teachers about books they might be interested in, or project topics they might explore,” Lindner said in an email. “Students notice that.”