Library Values Honor the Legacy of Dr. King

Over the past weekend and today, people are honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s work and life. If I were in charge of the world, young people would spend this school “holiday” in classrooms and libraries across the country. K-12 and college and university students and educators would be engaged in dialogues about Dr. King’s legacy and how each individual and groups of like-minded people can carry on his work.

Since, this is a holiday and students are not in schools, I am hoping that educators across the country are pausing to reflect on how their teaching can best embody the social justice work of Dr. King. For school librarians, the articles in the January/February 2017 issue of Knowledge Quest (KQ), the journal of the American Association of School Librarians, could be used as prompts to engage in deep reflection.

The issue theme is “Equality vs Equity: Diversity Matters: Moving Beyond Equality toward Equity in Youth Services.” On the cover, the guest editors Kafi Kumasi and Sandra Hughes-Hassell clarify this distinction. Equality “assumes fairness as a uniform distribution” while equity aims “to overcome generations of discrimination.” This KQ issue is perfectly timed with this moment in U.S. history when people of all ages are using their voices and their bodies to express their expectations for “liberty and justice for all.”

The articles in this issue connect the work of school librarians and the role of school libraries to the imperative to contribute to a more-just society in which all people and their cultures are represented, respected, and given voice. In library collections and through school librarians’ teaching, instructional partnerships, and leadership, librarians can be role models—in our words and deeds—for marginalized students and families.

In their article, “Shifting Lenses on Youth Literacy & Identity,” Kafi Kumasi and Sandra Hughes-Hassell remind readers to keep our focus on the purpose of literacy. “All libraries must be spaces where young people are encouraged and supported to develop their voices, tell their stories, and to share their unique perspectives on how we can create a more-just world” (18). Literacy gives people the tools they need to participate effectively in their civic lives as well as their personal and professional lives.

This morning, I signed a pledge to stand in solidarity with marginalized people who are frightened or disrespected because they don’t know how they will be treated during the next administration. The pledge was launched by MPower Change, a grassroots movement rooted in diverse U.S. Muslim communities. The goal of this group is to work “together to build social, spiritual, racial, and economic justice for all people.”

Let’s remember today that Dr. King’s work began as an effort to bring civil rights to African American people and communities. At his untimely death, his work encompassed three threats to U.S. society: racism, poverty, and militarism. I believe and as the MPower Change pledge notes: We are bound to one another in what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called “an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.”

Let’s all use our voices to engage one another in civil discourse, to empower ourselves and one another to bring about positive change, and work together to increase justice in our local communities, nation, and global society.

Work Cited
Kumasi, Kafi, and Sandra Hughes-Hassell. “Shifting Lenses on Youth Literacy & Identity,” Knowledge Quest 46, no.3, 12-21.

Image Credit:
Remix image from Thurston, Baratunde. “I Am A Community Organizer,” 7 Sept. 2008, Flickr.com, https://www.flickr.com/photos/baratunde/2837373493

Re-commitment to Collaboration

Like many of you, I reflected on my most satisfying accomplishments and my incomplete projects of 2016 before settling on my 2017 New Year’s Resolutions. Although I am big on setting short-term achievable (daily/weekly) goals, it’s helpful for me to have a year-long big picture plan as well.

This year, I will re-commitment my professional work to collaboration within school learning communities and outward into the larger local, state, national, and international communities as well. As they have for more than twenty-five years, my resolutions focus on the literacy work of school librarians and school library programs.

In 2017, I will:

  • complete my forthcoming book Building a Culture of Collaboration: School Librarian Leadership and Advocacy. In the book, due to my editor in mid-June and scheduled to be published at the end of 2017, I will make the case with all library stakeholders for adopting a systems thinking approach to classroom-library coplanning and coteaching;
  • write, blog, make presentations, and generally shout out about the inquiry learning and reading comprehension foundations of the book and the potential of these responsibilities and a systems perspective to create opportunities for future ready school librarians to increase their impact on teaching and learning;
  • continue to work with the Arizona Library Association and the Teacher Librarian Division to advocate for inclusion of the essential roles of school librarians and libraries in the state’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Plan. Once in place, I will advocate for the return of school librarian positions across Arizona, focusing first on districts in and around my home in Tucson;
  • continue to serve on committees of the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) and promote and support the worthy work of the association (including the celebration of AASL’s 65th anniversary);
  • work with practicing school librarians to support their collaborative work within their schools and in their collaborative work with community agencies and organizations. I will write about and promote their success; (See my 12/30/16 ALSC blog post “Gimme a C (For Collaboration!) that features a school-library public-library collaboration for summer reading.)
  • expand my thinking about how school librarians and school library programs can make a difference in family literacy, particularly for babies and preschool children. Helping our communities prepare children for formal schooling is an investment in each individual’s long-term life choices and in the health of our neighborhoods and cities;
  • continue to honor and promote the work of public library and healthcare providers who are making a difference for families through books for babies programs. Yesterday, in Tarrant County, Texas, the Fort Worth Public Library and the JPS Health Network began their 2017 initiative to give a copy of my book Vamos a leer/Read to Me to every new mother. In 2017, the Friends of the Dallas Public Library and Parkland Health Systems are continuing their program “Books for Dallas Babies,” which began on January 1st, 2016;
  • and I will enact my library values in my professional and civic life.

There is much work to be done to promote equity and justice.

With a huge thank-you to author-illustrator Melissa Sweet for Some Writer! The Story of E. B. White, my pick for the most outstanding 2016 information book for children, I set my resolve with an excerpt from a letter E.B. White wrote in 1973:

“Man’s curiosity, his relentlessness, his inventiveness, his ingenuity have led him into deep trouble. We can only hope that these same traits will enable him to claw his way out.
Hang on to your hat. Hang on to your hope. And wind the clock, for tomorrow is another day” (White, cited in Sweet 132).

And I would add: Let’s work together for equity, social justice, and the betterment of all!

Work Cited
Sweet, Melissa. Some Writer! The Story of E. B. White. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016.

Twibbon courtesy of the American Association of School Librarians’ “It’s in Our Hands” 65th-anniversary Celebration

Literacy is Political

lit_is_political_sizedThomas Jefferson famously said, “An informed citizenry is at the heart of a dynamic democracy.” An informed citizenry must be able to deeply comprehend information in all formats and engage in critical thought and well-reasoned civic decision-making.

Before the 2016 election, there were a number of comments on the distribution lists and blogs to which I subscribe related to educators maintaining an “apolitical” stance.  In some classrooms and libraries across the country, educators downplayed local, state, and national campaigns in order to avoid confronting “political” issues in schools.

What are the unintended consequences when learners do not wrestle with the political life of our nation in the supportive environment of their classrooms and libraries? How can students and educators practice civil discourse and learn to listen to and share divergent perspectives if political issues are not discussed in schools?

While an individual school can be considered a system, each one is not a “closed” system. All public schools function within a larger system—a school district with procedures, curricula, and policies. School districts must respond and work within even larger systems—state and federal bureaucracies and mandates. What happens in the society at-large affects each of these systems.

It is, therefore, in my view, important for school-age children and youth to have the opportunity to intelligently and respectfully discuss political issues—not just in high schools and not just in civics or social studies classes.

What does “apolitical” mean in a fake news and post-truth world? When political candidates of all stripes and their supporters tell outright lies, mess with the “facts,” or distort the truth, how can educators guide students in an open, respectful dialogue that touches on sensitive topics, including social justice issues? When post-election emotions are running high while results are still coming in or being questioned, what is an educator’s role in responding to these teachable moments?

Quotes from the Field
On December 2nd, the PBS Newshour published an article in their “Teachers’ Lounge” column called “Helping Students Understand the 2016 Election Results” In the article, the reporter Victoria Pasquantonio includes quotes from civics, social studies, English language arts, and world history teachers from across the country. I believe this article and the quotes are important reading for all educators who want to help students unpack the recent election cycle.

Like Ricky House, 7th-grade civics teacher, in Arlington, Virginia, who is quoted in the article, I would never tell students how to vote nor would I use my influence to tell students what to think about a political issue. On the other hand, I have not and would not hesitate to discuss election issues, such as specific policy platforms, marketing techniques, political activism, voting processes, voter ID laws, the process or effectiveness of polling, the Electoral College, and the popular vote. Some of these discussions could lead to social justice or injustice issues thus providing students with opportunities to think about policies, laws, and the Constitution and how they might be changed or interpreted for the betterment of society.

As librarians, we are charged with providing physical and intellectual access to information. We are committed to making sure that students are able to use literacy skills to think critically and apply critical thinking as informed citizens. As Ricky House says, we want our students to be equipped to “go out and use what (we’ve) taught them to change the world.”  And yes, there are many who would consider that goal “political.”

Resource
The National Institute for Civil Discourse is a non-partisan center for advocacy, research and policy. To support civil discourse during the last election cycle, they offered a program for high schools called “Text, Talk, Vote.”  School librarians and classroom teachers who are teaching digital literacy through social media may want to adapt this program.

Tips for School Librarians Who Coteach Controversial Issues
When coteaching controversial issues:

  1. Form instructional partnerships with trustworthy colleagues.
  2. Consider coteaching with educators who do not share your perspective and respectfully use your divergent thinking as a resource for learning.
  3. While coteaching, collaborative partners can provide each other with a bias-check before, during, and after instruction.
  4. Model civil discourse and guide students’ practice of civil discourse when discussing controversial issues.

Work Cited
Pasquantonio, Victoria. “Helping Students Understand the 2016 Election Results,” PBS Newshour, 2 Dec. 2016, http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/teachers-lounge-reaction-election-continues/

Image: Copyright-free Clip Art from Discovery Education

Planning 4 Assessment

03_advanced_students_3h_sizedWe did not have the opportunity to address some of the questions asked during the “Classroom Library Coteaching 4 Student Success” Webinar held on October 13th. For the next few BACC posts, I will share my experience and perspective on some of those unanswered and sometimes thorny questions.

Several participants asked questions about assessment. One participant from Virginia asked about informal assessments. Another from Fort Mill noted that she does not “give grades” in “library class.” Other participants who were not school librarians noted that they were pleased to be “reminded” of the benefits of coteaching with their school librarians. I inferred that they were including joint assessment as one of those benefits.

In my experience, sharing responsibility for assessments can be one of a school librarian’s calling cards—a way to introduce a coteaching benefit that many classroom teachers and specialists will respond to positively. Designing, gathering, and analyzing formative assessment data collected before, during, or after a lesson or unit of instruction is an essential activity for all educators.

When educators coplan for assessment, they can practice articulating a rationale for the lesson or unit of instruction. In “Every Lesson Needs a Storyline,” Bradley A. Ermeling and Genevieve Graff-Ermeling suggest that coherent instruction helps educators test and refine hypotheses about effective teaching and learning. In their article, they provide a series of questions that can help educators self-assess their lessons. One example is this: “What evidence did we collect during and after the lesson to help us evaluate student progress and study the relationship between teaching and learning” (26).

One of the critical skills for 21st-century school librarians engaged in collaborative lesson planning is being able to align standards and to codevelop learning experiences with student outcomes in mind. Many school districts across the country have focused professional development on Understanding by Design (UbD) as codified by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe. In short: When educators plan, they begin by specifying what they want students to know and to be able to do at the end of the lesson or unit of instruction. Educators also determine how they will measure student learning outcomes at the beginning of the planning process.

Codeveloping anticipation guides, exit slips, graphic organizers, checklists, rubrics, and other assessment and student self-assessment tools is an excellent strategy for creating the context/expectation for shared responsibility for assessment. With this level of collaboration, most educators will feel comfortable with each other’s assessments of student work. However, one excellent strategy to help ensure inter-rater reliability is to coassess a few “anchor papers/products” that demonstrate various levels of mastery. Then both educators will know when they see an exemplary product, an average one, and/or a “needs more work” example. They will also learn when their instruction supported individual student’s learning and when it did not.

When you coplan in the role of a school librarian, keeping the focus on outcomes helps position your collaborative work and the role of the school library program at the center of academic achievement. This is essential to the value others place on your work, especially principals who are charged with the role of instructional leaders. When we plan appropriately for instruction, coteach, and coasssess lessons, we experience job-embedded professional develop and provide the same for our colleagues. We also serve as co-instructional leaders with our principals.

The bottom line: Educators must assess student learning outcomes in order to measure their teaching effectiveness. Let’s keep on improving our instruction by coplanning for assessment and sharing responsibility for evaluating the effectiveness of our teaching.

BACC readers can link to the archive on edWeb.net. Resources for the Webinar on my presentations wiki.

Work Cited

Ermeling, Bradley A., and Genevieve Graff-Ermeling. “Every Lesson Needs a Storyline.” Educational Leadership, vol. 74, no. 2, 2016, pp. 22-26.

Image Caption: Fifth-grade students completing a graphic organizer for the Advanced Building Background Knowledge lesson in Coteaching Reading Comprehension Strategies in Elementary School Libraries: Maximizing Your Impact (ALA, 2013).

Collaborative Lesson Planning

Cameron_collabplanning2The theme of the October issue of Educational Leadership is “Powerful Lesson Planning.” I especially appreciate the article by Michelle Bauml, associate professor in early childhood education at Texas Christian University: “The Promise of Collaboration.” She writes “effective collaboration is generally characterized by shared goals, good communication and equitable contributions by all participants” (60). She goes on to stress that collaboration doesn’t “automatically yield effective lessons.”

Applying the principles of effective lesson design is essential. Effective educators base instruction on assessment data. They collect evidence of student learning during and after the lesson. They also use observations and these data to inform the instruction in process and future instruction. These principles can support educators as they work together to codesign effective lessons in which learning objectives, tasks, and assessments are aligned.

Dr. Bauml notes, “Just as students don’t automatically know how to work in groups, teachers can’t be expected to magically make collaboration work” (60). This is where school librarians’ experiences as instructional partners can be particularly valuable in the school learning community. When school librarians develop their expertise by working with individual faculty members and teaching teams, they can serve as effective collaboration guides.

Coimplementing coplanned lessons was missing from the article because even after coplanning many classroom teachers do not have the opportunity to coteach those lessons. When two classroom teachers coteach, they must find a space large enough to accommodate doubling the class size. And they miss out of one of the important benefits of coteaching, namely lowering the student-to-educator ratio.

When classroom teachers coteach with the school librarian, they can truly experience job-embedded professional development. They can learn with and from each other in real time, make adjustments to instruction informed by two (or more educators), and comonitor students’ guided practice. Then when they follow up by coassessing student learning, they both bring their first-hand knowledge of what happened during the instructional intervention.

Coplanning, coimplementation, and coassessing student learning and the instructional itself may be the best form of professional development for all educators.

Dr. Bauml cites instructional specialists, paraprofessionals, school administrators, and special education teachers as possible collaborative planners with individual, pairs, or groups of classroom teachers (59). While I trust all school librarians aspire to be seen as “instructional specialists,” I will praise the day when more articles are published in education journals in which school librarians are specifically mentioned as collaborative instructional partners.

And to build on that vision, thank you to 230 school librarians, classroom teachers and specialists, school administrators, university faculty, and others interested in education who attended my Webinar “Classroom-Library Coteaching 4 Student Success” on Thursday, October 13th. If you were among the almost 800 who signed up and were unable to attend, you can link to the archive on edWeb.net.

You can also access resources from this SLC @theForeFront Webinar on my presentations wiki.

Let’s keep on improving our instruction through coteaching.

 

Work Cited

Bauml, Michelle. “The Promise of Collaboration.” Educational Leadership, vol. 74, no. 2, 2016, pp. 58-62.

Image Caption: Former school librarian now school librarian supervisor Stacy Cameron, an ELA teacher, and technology integration specialist coplanning (Used with permission)

Instructional Role of the School Librarian

moreillon_coteaching_imageIn August, 2016, the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) posted the “Instructional Role of the School Librarian” position statement online.

According to the statement, “As educators and instructional partners school librarians are critical to teaching and learning in the school community” (“Position Statements”).

It is through my thirteen-year experience as a school librarian and twenty-one years as a school librarian educator that I know this is true. I have served at and observed the practice of school librarians at all three instructional levels. When school librarians serve “as leaders in literacy and technology, school librarians are perfectly positioned to instruct every student in the school community through both traditional and blended learning” (“Position Statements”), they can be essential contributors to students’ well-rounded education.

My experience tells me, and research supports it (Moreillon), that the most effective way for school librarians to serve as leaders in their schools is through collaborative instructional partnerships with classroom teachers and specialists. Working with the classroom teacher and through classroom curriculum ensures that the school librarian’s instruction has the potential to positively impact the learning needs of all students while it meets classroom teachers’ and school administrators’ objectives.

This is an open invitation to school librarians, classroom teachers and specialists, school administrators, parents, and anyone interested in education to participate in my upcoming Webinar “Classroom-Library Coteaching 4 Student Success.” It will be held on Thursday, October 13th at 5:00 p.m. EDT.

You can read about it on the School Library Connection Blog or register at edWeb.net.

Works Cited

Moreillon, Judi. “Coteaching: A Strategic Evidence-based Practice for Collaborating School Librarians.” School Library Connection, vol.1, no. 6, 2016, pp. 48-50. http://tinyurl.com/slcblog100716

“Position Statements: Instructional Role of the School Librarian,” American Association of School Librarians. 6 Aug. 2016, http://www.ala.org/aasl/advocacy/resources/statements

Image Caption: Teacher Kathi Stalzer and school librarian Debra LaPlante, Saints Simon and Jude Cathedral School, Phoenix, Arizona, coteaching a strategy lesson with 4th-grade students

Effective School Library Programs

aasl_def_effect_slpIn the September/October 2016 issue of Knowledge Quest, the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) published the definition for an effective school library program (4-5). AASL President Audrey Church and AASL Executive Director Sylvia Knight Norton introduced this statement by putting the definition in the context of the recently enacted Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

ESSA includes AASL’s definition. The KQ article/position statement notes: “The definition of an effective school library program provides guidance to administrators, school boards, and school librarian in implementing ESSA” (5).

The goal of effective school library programs is to prepare students for college, career, and community. The statement emphasizes the need for a state-certified school librarian serving in an adequately staffed library as essential to meeting the objectives of an effective program. Some of these objectives are equitable access to resources, including technology, a dynamic environment that links to real-world events and enables academic knowledge and deeper personalized learning.

As a long-time advocate for classroom-library collaboration, I was heartened to see the definition includes collaboration as the third fundamental component. The effective school library program “provides regular professional development and collaboration between classroom teachers and school librarians” (4). AASL defines collaboration is this way: “Working with a member of the teaching team to plan, implement, and evaluate a specialized instructional plan” (5).

The instructional role of the school librarian includes working with classroom teachers to develop “information literacy and digital literacy instruction for all students” (5). Building relationships in the school learning community is the foundation on which school librarians lead an effective school library program. Collegiality and trust are necessary for classroom-library coplanning and coteaching, including coassessing student learning outcomes.

To support you in developing your effective school library program, I am inviting all school librarians to participate in my upcoming Webinar “Classroom-Library Coteaching 4 Student Success.” It will be held on Thursday, October 13th at 5:00 p.m. EDT and is sponsored by ABC-CLIO and Libraries Unlimited.

It is critical that school librarian leaders embrace and practice this definition in order to demonstrate to education decision-makers, school administrators, classroom teachers and specialists, students, families, and community the essential role of the school librarian and library program in educating future ready students.

BACC blog readers can access all of the AASL position statements, including the “Definition for Effective School Library Program” and “Instructional Role of the School Librarian” at: http://www.ala.org/aasl/advocacy/resources/statements

Work Cited

American Association of School Librarians. “Definition for Effective School Library Program.” Knowledge Quest, vol. 45, no. 1, 2016, pp. 4-5. Online at: http://tinyurl.com/aasldefslp

Word cloud created at Wordle.net

Freedom to Read

bbw-logo122hThis week school librarians across the U.S. are collaborating with classroom teachers to promote students’ freedom to read. In many school libraries, librarians have put up displays that spotlight challenged books; many are leading students in discussions about censorship. This Pinterest “Banned Books Week” search yields photographs of many such displays.

While displays are important, they can isolate students’ questions and discussions about their Constitutional freedom to read in the library. Other school librarians are involving their faculty in order to diffuse these conversations throughout the building.

Seanean Shanahan, teacher librarian at Mesa Middle School in Castle Rock, Colorado, spent part of the summer developing a logo that read: “I Read Banned Books And I Cannot Lie.” (See her logo at redbubble.com: https://goo.gl/4s0edX)

She created an iron-on and placed it on shirts, which she presented to the classroom teachers in the English language arts (ELA) department. She also provided them with a list of the frequently challenged and banned books that are on the shelves in their small library. The classroom teachers used fabric markers to add the titles of banned books they had read to their shirts. (All of the titles they added are in the Mesa Middle School Library collection.)

While all of the shirts started the same, they ended up very different. The ELA teachers agreed to wear their shirts on the first school day of Banned Books Week, today, Monday, September 26, 2017. Seanean hopes to snap a photo of the group wearing their personalized “I Read Banned Books And I Cannot Lie” shirts.

Last year, Seanean asked classroom teachers to volunteer to wear cards around their necks that had the picture of the cover of a banned book on one side and the reasons, locations, and years those books were banned or challenged on the reverse side. They wore the cards around school for the week and many of the teachers started trading them around.

You can reach Seanean on Twitter @Librarytalker if you have questions about her efforts to support students’ understanding of their Freedom to Read.

How are you leading and involving your learning community in #bannedbooksweek?

Image courtesy of Banned Books Week.org

Banned Websites Awareness Day 9/28/16

bwad-2016_webbadgeLibrarians across the U.S. will be recognizing “Banned Websites Awareness Day” (BWAD) on 9/28/16. Working toward unrestricted access to information and resources should be one of librarians’ top priorities. Choice in checkout helps students (yes, even kinders) practice a lifelong learning strategy. Internet filtering and blocked Web sites and social media are an on-going challenge in many schools and libraries.

Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) was passed in April, 2001, in order to address concerns about children’s access to obscene or harmful content over the Internet. Just as school library policies can minimize the frequency of book challenges, policies can also mitigate complaints regarding Web-based information.

According to CIPA:
“Schools and libraries subject to CIPA are required to adopt and implement an Internet safety policy addressing:
◾Access by minors to inappropriate matter on the Internet;
◾The safety and security of minors when using electronic mail, chat rooms and other forms of direct electronic communications;
◾Unauthorized access, including so-called “hacking,” and other unlawful activities by minors online;
◾Unauthorized disclosure, use, and dissemination of personal information regarding minors; and
◾Measures restricting minors’ access to materials harmful to them” (FCC).

While protecting children and youth from obscene and harmful information is essential, overly restrictive filtering software may prevent young people from accessing information that is important to their health, wellness, and intellectual growth. School librarians, in particular, may frequently be in the position of advocating for a particular educational website to be unblocked. The wise school librarian makes friends with the IT department and helps to educate administrators about the importance of students having opportunities to practice digital citizenship.

If students are to become responsible, informed digital citizens, they must be given guidance as they develop skills to evaluate information. They must learn to use social media venues in an environment in which they are accountable for their communications. School librarians in collaboration with classroom teachers can provide youth with learning experiences so they can explore, evaluate, and responsibly use Web-based information and tools.

As AASL notes, “Relying solely on filters does not teach young citizens how to be savvy searchers or how to evaluate the accuracy of information” (BWAD Background).

What are you doing in your school to recognize BWAD?

 

Works Cited

American Association of School Librarians (AASL). “Banned Websites Awareness Day.” ALA.org. http://www.ala.org/aasl/advocacy/bwad. Accessed 21 Sept. 2016.

American Association of School Librarians. “Banned Websites Awareness Day Background.” ALA.org. http://www.ala.org/aasl/advocacy/bwad/background. Accessed 21 Sept. 2016.

Federal Communications Commission. “Children’s Internet Protection Act.” FCC.org. https://www.fcc.gov/consumers/guides/childrens-internet-protection-act. Accessed 21 Sept. 2016.

Image courtesy of AASL

Celebrating! The Freedom to Read

Our_Library_Hands_Raised_crop_sizedNext week from September 25 through October 1, the American Library Association (ALA) leads the annual “Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read” initiative.

Along with a coalition of other organizations that include the American Booksellers Association (ABA) and National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), ALA and the Freedom to Read Foundation (FTRF), ALA’s non-profit legal and educational organization, have added a focus on diversity for this year’s campaign.

As the FTRF slogan reads, “free people read freely,” the U.S. Constitution and the First Amendment give us the freedom to access ideas and information. For school librarians, the questions and answers surrounding challenged and banned books revolve around how this right applies to students who access resources in our libraries and online.

Since five of the top ten most frequently challenged books in 2015 were written expressly for children or teens, it is important for school librarians to have policies and procedures in place to address students’, parents’, classroom teachers’, or administrators’ concerns regarding the resources available through the library.

“Banned Books Week” gives school librarians the opportunity to discuss ALA’s Freedom to Read Statement and the First Amendment with students, colleagues, administrators, and parents. It also serves as a reminder to examine our own collection development practices.

In August, Maria Cahill published “How Do You Prepare for Challenges to Books and Other Resources” on the School Library Connection blog.  She offers the results of an anonymous survey of 200 school librarians that found 65.67% of the librarians who followed collection development policies did not experience materials challenges; 22.89% did.

Perhaps the most notable result of this survey was that 11.44% reported that they engage in self-censorship in order to avoid challenges to library materials. “Self-censorship is much more prevalent at the elementary level and in schools that have multiple grade configurations such as P-12, middle and high, etc. than at middle or high school levels” (Cahill).

One reflection question for elementary school librarians could be: Are I Am Jazz and Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan in our collection? Why, or why not? A question for secondary librarians could be: Are Looking for Alaska, Beyond Magenta, and Two Boys Kissing in our library collection? Why or why not?

What are you doing this week and next to highlight the right to read with your school library community? Please share in the comments section below.

Note: One easy way for school librarians to participate in this campaign is to display the “I Read Banned Books” Twibbon on their Twitter and Facebook profile photos.

 

Works Cited

Cahill, Maria. “How Do You Prepare for Challenges to Books and Other Resources.” School Library Connection Blog. http://goo.gl/NcrNf6. Accessed 18 Sept. 2016.

Thurston, Baratunde. “I Am a Community Organizer.” Flickr.com. 18 Sept. 2016, https://www.flickr.com/photos/baratunde/2837373493.