The “L” Team

super-hero-red-cape-hi 

Are you a member?  Do you have your flashing cape and shiny literacy toolbox ready to come to the aid of your local classroom teachers and learners? What’s in your toolbox to help teachers personalize literacy for all their learners?

Resources for literacy should not be an either/or choice for investing in schoolwide literacy programs. In some schools, classroom collections are funded at the expense of school library collections. In some schools there is zero, or limited budget for both, so classroom teachers and teacher librarians are scrambling to find donations or write grants to provide needed materials for students. Some school rely on textbook programs.  Some schools have robust resources for classrooms and libraries. What’s it like at your school? In order to address the individual challenges of each school, literacy leadership teams should represent a cross section of educators in a school. The teacher librarian needs to be at the table and on the team.

Classroom collections are an important resource for literacy instruction. School library collections provide a breadth of materials in multiple formats that extend and support reader choice for information and enjoyment in and beyond  the classroom.  A selection of current and relevant resources chosen by a knowledgeable teacher librarian, benefits all the members of the school community, and provides a great return on investment.  Both of these resource collections are important components of a dynamic and nimble literacy program.  Teachers and teacher librarians are natural partners for the literacy team.

Working with classroom teachers in the classroom as co-teachers, or in the library space, teacher librarians have opportunities to guide emerging, developing, or passionate readers and writers to discover literacy as a joy, not a chore in life. What do you bring to the literacy table?

Here a few ideas for the “L” team toolbox-either for face to face collaboration or on your virtual website or blog:

  • A chart that compares reading-grade level systems: Lexile Levels, DRA, Fountas & Pinnell, Ready Recovery, etc. (Talk the talk, walk the walk)

  • In person or with a screencast, demonstrate the power of the digital library catalog. Reveal the hidden secrets to searching for and discovering reviews, awards, formats, or reading levels in the display record. (Train the trainer)

  • Updates for new books, materials, or author websites on your blog/website. Tweet it out to teachers at your local school #. (Be social)

  • Book talks, book trailers, book discussions with teachers. Set up a Goodreads share site. Select a new outstanding book for a small group or whole school discussion.  Feature a CH/YA author, or a title to inspire discussion, such as The Book Whisperer (Miller, 2009), or Reading in the Wild (Miller and Kelley, 2013.)

  • Book clubs for students, and invite teachers, parents, or community members to take part. Choose themes or genres to begin, and then let others do the choosing and leading.

  • Extend literacy lessons for the classroom into the library. For those on a fixed schedule, coordinate with the classroom teacher around themes, genres, or skills.  Or flip it-introduce them in the library classroom and send selections back to the classroom.

  • Help teachers set up routines to supplement their classroom collections with library resources. Let students take responsibility to curate materials that they think the class would enjoy.  (Small book trucks with wheels work well for rotating physical collections.)

  • Skype/Hangout with authors or other experts in literacy.  (Share ideas, and generate new ones.)

  • Listen to the concerns and challenges of classroom teachers, and be ready to problem solve solutions to help them transform literacy learning in the classroom and the whole school.

 

These are just a few of the ideas that I have tried with success, and I’m sure you have many more.  So grab your cape and toolbox and join the team!


References:

Miller, Donalyn. The Book Whisperer.  San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2009. print.

Miller, Donalyn and Susan Kelley.  Reading in the Wild. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2013.

Image:

http://www.clker.com/cliparts/k/2/V/1/s/j/super-hero-red-cape-hi.png

Resource Sharing with Non-profit Agencies

icon_teamAssets-based community development is a way of thinking about how libraries can embed their work within their community rather than waiting for the community to walk through their doors. School librarians who consistently reach outside the walls of the library to integrate resources found in the community can increase the real-world relevance of their cotaught lessons. They can go the extra step to build collaborative partnerships that take the literacy learning expertise of the school librarian and resources of the school library program out into the community.

Situating their inquiry in the real world of their community can increase students’ motivation and help ensure that the questions they ask are authentic, real-world questions. This can also help learners identify a target audience that will actually care about their findings. Engaging in this level of “professional” work may be most important for high school students who are considering their workforce and educational options after graduation.

With ubiquitous Web-based information, students (most?) often search for non-print resources when conducting inquiry projects. Non-profit and governmental agencies that publish online information can be a rich source of data for students, particularly secondary students who seek to learn more about their communities as they pursue topics of personal interest. School librarians can assist students and teachers by connecting them with resources in the community with which they are unfamiliar.

For example, in a course in human geography, high school students may be asked to explore various aspects of their community. Non-profit agencies such as chapters of the United Way regularly gather data on demographics, income levels and economic opportunities, education attainment, physical and mental health, and other aspects of their immediate community. School librarians can create pathfinders to support students’ learning as they learn more about the community in which their inquiry questions are situated.

Here is a sample pathfinder I created for the Denton (Texas) Inquiry 4 Lifelong Learning project: http://tinyurl.com/di4ll-9-resources. It includes links to data from the Denton Chapter of the United Way as well as “Engage Denton,” an online community forum, and nationwide resources that collect data on U.S. communities.

Depending on students’ inquiry questions, all types of community agencies may be able to provide information. A school librarian who has connections in the community may help individual or small groups of students connect to experts and data that may not otherwise be known or available to them. In the process, community agencies learn more about the learning in which students are engaged. This knowledge can lead to stronger connections, collaborative projects, and can also build school library advocates.

As David Lankes argues, “it is time for a new librarianship, one centered on learning and knowledge, not on books and materials, where the community is the collection, and we spend much more time in connection development instead of collection development” (9). Bringing the resources of the community into students’ learning and students’ learning into the community are places to begin “connection development.”

Works Cited

Denton Inquiry 4 Lifelong Learning. Sept. 2012. Wikispaces. Web. 04 Dec. 2014 <http://dentoninquiry4lifelonglearning.wikispaces.com>.

Lankes, R. David. The Atlas of New Librarianship. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2011. Print.

Image Credit: Prawny. “Icons-icon-team.jpg.” Morguefile. Web 01 Dec. 2014 <http://mrg.bz/EtES83>.

Resource Sharing with Non-school Libraries

public_library_sizedWhen budgets are tight and curriculum is in constant flux, school librarians can be hard-pressed to purchase and provide all of the resources students and teachers need to be successful. In most school districts, school librarians practice interlibrary loan with their colleagues. This can be problematic. For example, when districts follow a pacing calendar that requires, for example, that all fifth-grade students will be conducting U.S. state studies at the same time of the year, district resources will be in short supply. School librarians who serve with classroom teachers who engage students in student-initiated inquiry projects can also find it difficult to meet all of the information needs of individual learners.

The wise school librarian will have strong relationships with public or academic librarians in the community. Being on a first-name basis with these colleagues can increase a school librarian’s success at filling the gaps in the school library collection on an as-needed basis. For print resources, interlibrary loan with institutions outside the school district can increase students’ and teachers’ access. In addition, knowing the electronic resources available to students who hold public or academic library cards can help the school librarian and collaborating classroom teachers expand the options for learners.

Some academic, public, and special libraries have specialized resources that can support student learning. Archives, history, and genealogy collections, more and more of them digitized, can be treasure troves for student inquirers. Encouraging youth to take advantage of these resources helps build broader literacy support for their learning. Students will be familiar with the resources available from other libraries and may be more likely to use them once they no longer have access to a school library.

Non-school libraries may have unique resources that can help students explore local interest topics. For example, the Denton (Texas) Public Library produces a TV show called “Library Larry’s Big Day.” In addition to being aired on a local station, episodes are available on YouTube. School librarians and collaborating classroom teachers can guide students to access the videos which include visits to the Denton Community Market, the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, and other locations of local interest.

The more school librarians work with librarians who serve in other types of libraries the greater our chances of creating a lifelong literacy pathway for preK-12 students. Resource sharing can lead to collaborative activities that further strengthen literacy in our shared communities. If our mission is to serve the information needs of students, school librarians can make connections and build relationships with other library institutions to support learning today and pave the way for future learning for children and youth.

Works Cited

Denton Public Library. Library Larry’s Big Day. CityofDenton.com. Web. 01 Dec. 2014. <http://tinyurl.com/dentonllbd>.

Image Credit: Emily Fowler Branch, Denton (Texas) Public Library, by Judi Moreillon