The Literacy Village

This past weekend, Tucsonans and visitors to the Old Pueblo celebrated literacy at the ninth annual Tucson Festival of Books. Over 100,000 people attended the two-day festival.

From infants to the elderly, future and avid readers from all backgrounds and with varying literary preferences enjoyed immersing themselves in the power of story and the critical importance of literacy in their lives.

This year, I had the responsibility and pleasure of booking the storytellers and facilitating their performances at the Children’s Entertainment Stage. These performances were part of the Entertainment and Family Activities offered at the Festival.

In chronological order, Elly Reidy, South Mountain Community College (SMCC) Storytelling Institute tellers, Antonio Sacre, More to the Story Entertainment, Joe Hayes, and Carla Goody shared their love of story and their talents to eager audiences of all ages.

Elly Reidy and  SMCC Storytelling Institute Tellers Mario Avent, Chantel Freed, Chrissy Dart, and Liz Warren shared stories from published traditional literature. Their stories spanned different cultures and their retellings reflected the personalities of the tellers. In addition to enjoying their live retellings, listeners could find their stories in the folktale section of their public and school libraries. Hurray for 398.2!

Antonio Sacre, who told stories on both days, shared personal family stories some of which have become picture books or part of a short story collection. One of the overarching themes in Antonio’s tellings is the power of family storytelling, Throughout his performance, he asked listeners to connect with their own stories/memories. Antonio shared his stories in Spanish and English and gave listeners a humorous and heartfelt window into his experiences as a boy, son/nephew/grandson, and father.

More to the Story Entertainment captured the attention and imaginations of the youngest TFOB audience attendees and their families. Through fairy costuming, song, audience participation, and magical moments they delighted their audience.

Joe Hayes once again captivated his loyal audience and made new fans, too, with his Southwest-seasoned tales and stories from beyond our region. Joe said he enjoys telling stories that blend cultures. He told a Cuban story about a family of white herons in Spanish and English and wove a chorus throughout the telling that reminded listeners of the African ancestry of a majority of Cuban people. Joe reminded us that stories connect people of various cultural backgrounds to a shared humanity.

C. A. Goody shared the story of her inspiration for her Charlie the Cat series, which now includes nine titles. Taking the point of view of Charlie, she recounted how a cat might experience various aspects of life. Written for third- and fourth-grade children, Carla’s stories invite readers to take up their pencils/pens/keyboards to craft stories of their own.

Thank you all for your part in making the Children’s Entertainment Stage an exciting part of the TFOB.

As a former school librarian, (school) librarian educator, and family literacy advocate, I am keenly interested in the literacy organizations that support Tucson’s literacy ecosystem, particularly those that impact early childhood education.

These were some of the booths I visited and the groups whose work I applaud (and support). In alphabetical order:

Expect More Arizona: “Expect More Arizona fosters a shared voice and collaborative action among partners statewide to advocate for all Arizona students to have the opportunity to succeed, from their early years and throughout life.”

First Things First: “First Things First is one of the critical partners in creating a family-centered, comprehensive, collaborative and high-quality early childhood system that supports the development, health and early education of all Arizona’s children birth through age 5.”

Literacy Connects, which includes Reach Out and Read Southern Arizona, Reading Seed, and more: “Literacy creates solutions to many of society’s most persistent problems. From reducing unemployment and poverty to increasing economic growth and opportunity, literacy is key to a better future for all of us.”

Make Way For Books: “Our mission is to give all children a chance to read and succeed.” MWFB serves more than 30,000 children and their families and 700 educators.

Worlds of Words: “Worlds of Words is committed to providing a range of resources to encourage educators at all levels to integrate global literature into the lives of children.” (More about WOW next week!)

It does take a village to support literacy and these organizations are doing vital work to elevate literacy in our community and improve the quality of life choices for our residents, particularly as they launch their literacy lives.

Thank you to the presenters, sponsors, exhibitors, volunteers, and most of all the readers who use their literacy skills every day to enjoy life, to improve their life choices, and to participate in the life of our village, our country, and our world. In doing so, you are an essential part of the literacy village we all need. Bravo to all!

Image Credit: Tucson Festival of Books logo courtesy of the Arizona Daily Star, image created in PowerPoint

Celebrate Diversity in Schools

DSCN0748

In early December, Judi Moreillon introduced our focus for the month-diversity and inclusion in school library programs. She shared a number of excellent resources for building school library collections that support the cultural background and interests of students, and also represent perspectives from the broader global world through literature.  Global literature provides a platform for understanding the humanity that connects all cultures.

Last week Karla Collins reminded us in her post that we have to recognize and remove barriers that inhibit equitable access to resources and school library learning spaces for a range of diverse learners.  We need to look at our spaces and collections with fresh eyes as the student demographics continue to change in our schools, if indeed, we are to transform learning for all who come through our doors.

Let us reflect on the wonder and possibility of our educational system that is open to all, and to celebrate the opportunities that exist for the future. Every school is unique, and reflects the hopes and dreams of the local community, from rural areas to suburban and urban neighborhoods.  “It takes a whole village to raise a child,” comes from an African proverb, meaning that a child’s upbringing, or education, is the responsibility of the community, and the message is even more relevant in contemporary times.

Continuing with the December theme, I invite you to come along with me to visit a school here in Northern Vermont to see what diversity and inclusion in a school library looks like here.

C.P. Smith School is a Grades K-5 school of approximately 260 students, located in a Burlington neighborhood that represents a cross section of learners from diverse cultural and and economic backgrounds.  Burlington and the surrounding area have welcomed new immigrants and refugees for many years, and at least 40 different languages are spoken in homes throughout the city. Students and their families are welcomed in the schools, and have achieved academic success over time.

 From the school website:

Since 1959, we have worked hard to build a learning community that is respectful, responsible, and safe for all who come through our doors. We believe we offer equal amounts of academic rigor and joy, as numerous activities and events occur throughout the year at the classroom and whole-school levels to celebrate learning across cultures. We serve a diverse population of students and strive to make sure each one becomes an inquisitive learner and contributing citizen. We engage parents and guardians as vital partners in the education of their children and actively seek ways to reach out to the larger community, as well.

 The Ellie B. McNamara School Library reflects that mission also, and it is a hub of classroom and school wide activities. On the day I visited,  Sharon Hayes, the Library Media Specialist/Tech Integrationist had helped organize a poetry residency with the poet Ted Scheu. He was leading poetry workshops in classrooms all day, and lunching with poets in the library. Parents volunteers were helping with activities. DSCN0747

hr of code2In the meantime, the computer lab was buzzing with groups of students jazzed with the Hour of Code activities that Sharon had planned.  The flexible learning space in the library accommodated varied visitors, from students looking for reading books to parents chatting at a table in a corner.

 

The collection has been genrefied somewhat to reflect the range of reading levels and interests of students who come from a variety of cultures and backgrounds. Sharon asks for student and teacher input for building the collection. Novice readers can access nonfiction books in baskets that have visual clues for topics such as animals, weather, and so on.  Signage helps students find favorite authors and series books.

DSCN0746A set of Chromebooks are new to the school, and Sharon is looking to expand access to technology for students who might not have access to computers at home. Some children have multiple devices, and some have few, or none.  Ereaders are desirable for students who are working to improve reading skills, and they provide privacy for students. Equitable access to technology is critical for all, and schools must fill that need, so Sharon is writing grants to increase capacity for her students.

Sharon enjoys the diversity of the students, and her goal is for them to be independent and successful readers and learners.  She encourages them to turn to each other for help, to be problem solvers, and to take risks and make mistakes.  The library space is an integral spot for learning after school also. The after school program is welcome to use the facility and the resources, and it provides a safe and comfortable place for children who have to stay until parents are finished with the workday.  It is truly a space that reflects the community values of the school.

As I left for the day, the principal came out to say farewell and to be sure to come again.  I’m sure I will, too.

 

References:

“C.P.Smith Elementary School.” C.P.Smith Elementary School – Index. 2015. Web. 18 Dec. 2015. <http://smith.bsdvt.org/>.

Hayes, Sharon. “Welcome to Our Library.” Ellie B. McNamara Memorial Library. 2015.  Web. 18 Dec. 2015. <http://cpsmithschoollibrary.blogspot.com/>.

Healey, Rev. Joseph G., M.M. “African Proverb of the Month, Nov. 1998: ‘It Takes a Whole Village to Raise a Child.’ “ 2015. Web. 18 Dec. 2015. <http://www.afriprov.org/african-proverb-of-the-month/23-1998proverbs/137-november-1998-proverb.html>.

 

Photos: Judy Kaplan Collection

School Libraries – Reinvented?

shooting_starThe BACC bloggers are experimenting with exploring a shared topic each month. We will share various perspectives and points of view.

This month we are looking at school libraries as compared with classroom libraries and book rooms and the impact of leveled reading on library resources. Overarching question: If a school librarian’s goal is to strengthen her/his relationships with classroom-bound teachers, what roles might the library collection play in supporting teachers’ teaching and students’ learning?

While I was pleased that the eSchool News noted their #1 Top Story of 2014 was “Libraries, reinvented,” I must take exception with the reasons they cited in this article. According to eSchool News: “With libraries serving as many schools’ central hubs, it’s only natural that they would intersect with many of the other top trends on our list—by setting up maker spaces, letting students explore coding, and helping to increase student access to the internet after school hours.”

Providing students with “trending extras” such as makerspace and coding opportunities does not capture the most meaningful contributions school libraries make to learning and teaching. These two examples should not be restricted to the library environment and would be most effective if integrated into a total-school program. School libraries that are open for after school hours have always provided students with access to whatever resources they need; this is not new and should not be news.

In my opinion, school libraries first and foremost contribute resources and the expertise of the school librarian (not necessarily in that order). While library resources and school librarians’ skills have changed, these contributions have been consistent — at least for the quarter of a century I have been involved in school librarianship.

According to literacy educator Frank Serafini, at least 100 books per child should be the goal for a well-stocked classroom library and recommends that classroom libraries contain 2,500 – 3,000 books in all genres and at all reading levels (37). While I applaud classroom teachers that write grants, raise funds, and use their own financial resources to provide students with classroom libraries, my experience tells me that a classroom collection cannot compare with a well-developed and managed library collection.

A school librarian who aligns the library collection with the curriculum and provides independent reading selections for students can provide a wider selection of books and resources in all genres and more support for readers at all reading levels. Involving classroom teachers in reviewing, recommending, and purchasing resources for the library is one way for the school librarian to strengthen her/his relationships with classroom teachers. This can be done formally with a Library Advisory Committee or informally with individual teachers and grade-level teams.

Reference

Serafini, Frank. Around the Reading Workshop in 180 Days: A Month-by-Month Guide to Effective Instruction. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2006.

Word cloud created at Tagxedo.com

OER for Resource Access

This month as we have been focusing on how school librarians can provide equitable access for all students despite financial challenges many school libraries are experiencing. My fellow bloggers have discussed human resource sharing, partnering with nonprofit organizations, and sharing with non-school libraries.

http://wikieducator.org/OER_Handbook

http://wikieducator.org/OER_Handbook

When I think about providing resources for students I immediately think about how many great free resources are out there. Recently there is a good bit of buzz in the school library world about OER: Open Educational Resources, which are “are freely accessible, openly licensed documents and media that are useful for teaching, learning, and assessing as well as for research purposes. Although some people consider the use of an open file format to be an essential characteristic of OER, this is not a universally acknowledged requirement” (“Open Educational Resources”, n.d.).

Just last month the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSO) reported on their survey that examined the state of Open Educational Resources in K-12. They found that:

  • Twenty states are currently planning OER initiatives.
  • Sixty percent of SEA respondents recognize the value of OER in school districts in their state and are promoting OER as either a supplement and/or replacement for traditional instructional materials.
  • States with existing OER programs are utilizing a variety of online methods to develop, curate, and access OER materials and integrate them within school programs. (p. 4)

They are also launching the K-12 OER Collaborative and are currently asking for people to participate.

OER provide benefits to teachers by providing them with cost-effective materials that are available for sharing, accessing and collaborating for personalized learning (Bliss & Patrick, 2013). There are lots of resources out there to get you going using OER in your school library:

OER definitely has the promise to assist in our efforts as we strive to provide resources to our students and teachers!

 

References

Bliss, T. & Patrick, S. (2013). OER state policy in K-12 education: Benefits, strategies, and recommendations for open access, open sharing. International Association for K-12 Online Learning. Retrieved from http://www.inacol.org/cms/wp-content/ uploads/2013/06/inacol_OER_Policy_Guide_v5_web.pdf

Council of Chief State School Officers. (2014).Open Educational Resources in K-12. Retrieved from http://www.ccsso.org/Resources/Digital_Resources/ State_of_the_States_Open_Educational_Resources_in_K-12_Education.html

“Open Educational Resources.” (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_educational_resources