Literacy Partners Become Advocates

Judi Moreillon Author Visit 2019 Louisville, KentuckyFor as long as I’ve been in the profession (30+ years), advocacy has been a hot topic in school librarianship. Unfortunately, far too often we start our advocacy efforts when school librarian positions are threatened, library budgets are slashed, or scheduling changes inhibit students’ access to the resources of the school library or the expertise of the school librarian.

To ward off these threats to a complete and equitable education for our students, school librarians must be in a continuous cycle of marketing, public relations, and advocacy.

Data Sources
Marketing involves listening to and learning from our library stakeholders. We must understand their needs as well as their perceptions of how the librarian and the library program can help them meet their needs. School librarians often engage stakeholders in surveys to collect these data. Once collected, we analyze the results and make the appropriate changes to our programs.

There are, however, other sources of data that can also guide our school library program decisions. The International Reading Association (ILA) conducts a biennial “What’s Hot in Literacy Survey.” Comparing this larger data set and national trends and initiatives in education to our own local data collection can further guide our program decisions.

The 2019 ILA survey results appeared in a 2020 report that points to three actions school librarians can take to demonstrate how their work helps elevate the literacy learning of students and positions them as literacy partners with classroom teacher colleagues, administrators, and families.

I wrote about these school librarian contributions in my hot-off-the-presses Literacy Today article “School Librarians as Literacy Partners: Taking Action on the What’s Hot in Literacy Report” (2021).

Early Literacy Skills Instruction
Elementary school librarians are in a position to influence outcomes for preschool children in their learning community. In many cities across the country, various governmental and non-governmental bodies are taking up the charge for high-quality early childhood education. Research has shown that children’s positive preschool learning experience put them on a path for academic and life success (U.S. Department of Education).

Here are three examples of supporting preschool children from my own practice as an elementary school librarian (two schools) and literacy coach (one school).

  • At Corbett Elementary (1994-1997), I offered preschool storytimes for the Head Start program that met on our campus. We also earned a grant to create literacy backpacks. Each backpack included at least one book, a journal, a toy or other prop, and literacy learning information for Head Start families.
  • At Gale Elementary (1997-2001), I was a half-time librarian with a full-time assistant. At first, she and I collaborated to plan a weekly storytime and book checkout for the developmental preschool program held on our campus. In a short time, our assistant offered this service on a day when I was not on campus.
  • At Van Buskirk Elementary (2001-2002), I served as the literacy coach. The Spanish-speaking community liaison and I offered a before-school family literacy program for parents. After they escorted their school-age children to their classrooms, we held a storytime and book-making, or other literacy learning experience for parents and preschool-age children.

Equity and Opportunity for All Learners
Equity continues to be a top five critical issue in the ILA survey, and it is a core value of school librarianship. Erika Long and Suzanne Sherman frame the equity chapter in Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage: “Equitable access is a matter of social justice” (Long and Sherman 2021, 3).

Making a commitment and taking courageous action to serve as equity partners to ensure equitable access to rich and relevant literacy learning experiences in our schools is a leadership role for school librarians. While school librarians have been keenly aware of the opportunity gaps that were exposed during school closures, all educators and education decision- and policy-makers have now gotten a wake-up call.

“School closures during the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the critical need to address equity in terms of access to digital resources and technology devices, which may or may not have been available in classrooms” and students’ homes (Moreillon 2021, 11). These learning tools should have been available through school library programs.

Providing Access to High-quality Diverse Books and Content
School librarians are charged with making access to high-quality diverse books and content universally accessible throughout the school. Librarians must curate a collection of resources that reflect the diversity of the students, educators, and families we serve. We must also expand the collection to include broader national and global perspectives on the human experience.

In our role as instructional partners, we can go the next and critical steps. “We then take our knowledge and commitment—our purpose—and use it to transform the collections throughout the school, including classroom collections and the books chosen as classroom texts. For our students, seeing themselves in the library is not enough—they need to see their rich and whole selves in the curriculum and school community, too” (Stivers, Powell, and Lambert 2021, 34).

Literacy Partners Become Advocates
When school librarians take action to meet the needs of our library stakeholders, we engender advocates for the library program and our role as literacy learning leaders. The relationships we build with our literacy partners combined with the evidence of impact we collect create the foundation for continuous advocacy efforts. Then, when and if there is a threat to educational equity that affects the school library program, our advocates and the data to support our cause will be at the ready.

Works Cited

Long, Erika, and Suzanne Sherman. 2021. “Equity: Equitable Access Is a Matter of Social Justice.” In Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage, ed. Judi Moreillon, 3-18. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Moreillon, Judi. 2021. “School Librarians as Literacy Partners: Take Action on the What’s Hot in Literacy Report.” Literacy Today (March/April): 10-11. Available at http://viewer.zmags.com/publication/b46eaa78#/b46eaa78/12

Stivers, Julie, Stephanie Powell, and Nancy Jo Lambert. 2021. “Diversity: Diversity in Resources and Programming Is Not Optional.” In Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage, ed. Judi Moreillon, 19-35. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

U.S. Department of Education. “Key Research Studies on Early Learning Effectiveness.” https://www.ed.gov/early-learning/research

March Is Reading Month

Although every day, every week, and every month of our school librarian work lives revolves around reading, March is “reading month,” and an excellent time to reconnect with a literacy habit and skill that is the foundation for all learning. Students at every grade level and when studying every discipline must have access to reading materials and the ability to apply their reading toolkits to enjoy and use texts.

Photographs of Ali Schilpp, Bridget Crossman, Kristin Fraga Sierra, Melissa Thom, and Stacey Rattner

If you were unable to attend on February 24th, ABC-CLIO/School Library Connection offered an OverDrive Education sponsored must-view webinar for any and all school librarians looking to inject collaboration, innovation, and power into their reading promotion activities.

How to Keep Reading Social during Hybrid Learning” will be available to all viewers until March 10, 2021. Please make time to learn from these outstanding school librarians.

These are my takeaways from their presentations, but for the full impact of this professional development opportunity, do not rely on my connections and reflections. I also encourage you to follow these school librarians on Twitter and continue to learn and share with them.

Bridget Crossman, Elementary School Librarian @bcrossm85
Bridget is the elementary school librarian in the Lake George School District, New York, and founder and director of the not-for-profit children’s literacy organization B.O.O.K.S. (Books Offer Opportunities, Kids Succeed). She shared three “joyful, engaging” literacy learning opportunities for the students and/or families at her school. Each one involved one or more partnerships with members of the school or local community. (Bridget is the author of Community Partnerships with School Libraries: Creating Innovative Learning Experiences, Libraries Unlimited, 2018).

Partners included a coffee shop in her community, the PTO, and the “specialists” in her building. The latter helped her offer a drive-thru book fair on the bus loop.

Books were part of these activities. In addition, Bridget gave a shout-out to Teaching Books for a choral reading and all of their resources.

Melissa Thom, Middle School Librarian @MsThomBookitis
Melissa is a middle school librarian at Bristow Middle School in West Hartford, Connecticut. Melissa shared ideas about how to maximize the impact of virtual author visits. She used Google Meet to invite students from across her district to take advantage of the visits. Melissa also offers a KidsLit Club every Monday where some authors drop in for twenty minutes to increase their outreach to and connections with readers.

With a keen eye and ability to find and buy multiples copies of books at reduced cost, Melissa also offers “Free Book Fridays.” Each week about half the books on her give-away cart are snatched up by readers. For more on Melissa work, see her School Librarians United Podcast “Virtual Culture of Reading.”

Kristin Fraga Sierra, High School Librarian @lincolnabesread
Kristin is the high school librarian at Lincoln High School in Tacoma, Washington. She is also the founder of Lincoln High’s Project Lit Book Club Chapter: Building a Community of Readers and Leaders at #AbeNation. Kristin began her part of the presentation by noting that before the pandemic resulted in school closures Lincoln High had a strong reading culture that focused on reading, leadership, and providing service in their community.

The racial unrest in the late spring and summer of 2020 motivated the club to focus their reading and service on books that dealt with racial injustice. They collaborated with an independent bookstore, developed a K-12 wish list, gained media attention, and successfully raised the funds to stock little free libraries in their community. In another project, they filled backpacks for a Boys & Girls Club.

Kristin noted that student leadership is an essential ingredient in this work. She noted that students are looking for connection to other students and opportunities to work as a team while having fun with their friends. Watch the video to learn more about the high-impact service projects and engaging events of the LincolnAbesRead Club.

Sidenote: Kristin is a co-author with TuesD Chambers of the advocacy chapter in the forthcoming book Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage (Libraries Unlimited 2021).

Stacey Rattner, K-5 Librarian @staceybethr
Stacey is the librarian at Castleton Elementary School in Albany, New York. She collaborated with author Steve Sheinkin (@SteveSheinkin) to co-develop an exciting new YouTube project called Author Fan Face-Off (AFF). Wow!

I watched Author Fan Face-off Episode #5: Cece Bell/EL DEAFO. 6th-grade student Noa and Cece Bell tied at six points each after competing through the bonus round. Noa’s excitement (as well as her memory for details) was a wonder.

I have been thinking about how to answer Stacey’s question: How can educators use AFF in their work? If you have an idea, please message her on Twitter.

Be Inspired
Thank you to the presenters and also to Ali Schilpp (@AliSchilpp) school librarian at Northern Middle School, Garrett County, Maryland, for moderating this exciting panel.

If you’re looking for a March Is Reading Month PD opportunity focused on reading promotion, look no further! This is it!

And remember, tomorrow, Tuesday, March 2, 2021, is Read Across America Day. For more information, see the National Education Association’s website.

Black History and Women’s History All Year Long

Core Values in School Librarianship Book Cover and Quote#AASLchat organizers and I are on the same wave length when it comes to celebrating Black History, Women’s History, and all of the “months.” Diversity in resources, teaching, and programming are most effective when diversity is essential to the classroom/library curriculum all year long.

The AASL February chat will be held tonight, 2/22/21, beginning at 7:30 EST. You can read about it in an article by Chelsea Brantley and the AASL School Library Event Promotion Committee on the KQ Blog.

For me, “providing students with equitable access to relevant, engaging, and culturally responsive curriculum, resources, and programming must be essential to our mission” (Moreillon 2021, 150). Coplanning instruction with classroom teachers gives school librarians the opportunity to privilege diverse voices, cultures, and contributions throughout the curriculum.

These are the #AASLchat questions followed by my tweets and comments.

Q1 Black History Month is in February, but why not celebrate all year? What are some practical ways librarians can differentiate instruction to support learners’ understanding of cultural relevancy and placement within the global learning community? #AASLchat

Book CoversA1 Conducting #diversity audits, not only for the library collection but also for lessons and unit plans and programming, is essential. These sample resources span the content areas and grade levels. #AASLchat #Kidlit #MGlit #YAlit

Math and Science: Hidden Women: The African-American Mathematicians of NASA Who Helped America Win the Space Race (Encounter: Narrative Nonfiction Stories) by Rebecca Rissman (Capstone 2018).

History and Civic Education: Kamala Harris: Rooted in Justice by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by Laura Freeman (Atheneum 2020)

Music and Culture: R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul by Carole Boston Weatherford (Atheneum 2020) with stunning illustrations by Frank Morrison

Q2 Libraries share stories of people from all walks of life. What books do you share with students to celebrate diversity? #AASLchat

Book CoversA2 American Indians’ experiences/contributions often left out of curriculum. Connect current events w/ #diverse resources. Ex: NM U.S. Rep. Debra Haaland, Pueblo woman & candidate 4 Secretary of Interior. What cultural values will she bring to this position? #AASLchat

Ancestor Approved: Intertribal Stories for Kids by Cynthia Leitch Smith (Heartdrum 2021)

Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom, illustrated by Michaela Goade (Roaring Brook 2020)

Nibi Emosaawdang / The Water Walker (Ojibwa / English Edition) (Ojibwa) by Joanne Robertson, translators Shirley Williams and Isadore Toulouse (Second Story Press 2018)

Q3 Thinking ahead to March and Women’s History Month, let’s curate some resources to share with our students in the coming weeks. Identify a resource or two and how you might integrate it in your library program. #AASLchat

Book CoversA3 Feature #OwnVoices of Black (& other) women during Women’s History Month. Ex: Make these connections w/social studies curriculum or biography/autobiography unit. Compare first-hand accounts w/textbook/informational book content. #AASLchat

Child of the Dream (Memoir of 1963) by Sharon Robinson (Scholastic 2020)

My Life with Rosie: A Bond Between Cousins by Angela Sadler Williamson and Chloe Helms (Kate Butler Books 2020)

Ruby Bridges: This Is Your Time by Ruby Bridges (Delacourt Press 2020)

An additional word or two about Ruby Bridges: This Is Your Time: This small book is a love and grace letter from Ruby Bridges to young children, in particular. On left-hand pages, Ms. Bridges begins the book with a paragraph or two about her six-year-old experience of integrating a White school in New Orleans (1960) and continues with how the commitment to civil rights has impacted her/our lives. Primary source black and white photographs on the right-hand pages illustrate her text. All are cited. I can imagine an elementary educator using each double page in this book as a discussion/writing prompt in and of itself. Powerful.

Thank you to Chelsea and the School Library Event Promotion Committee for organizing the 2/22/21 chat around questions that focus on how to expand our spotlights on Black History and Women’s History, not solely during the months of February and March respectively, but all year long. We appreciate you for publicizing and publishing the questions in advance so that participants can think about our responses and organize the resources we want to share.

Then we can truly listen and learn from one another during the chat!

See you there!

Work Cited

Moreillon, Judi. 2021. Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Advocacy During Times of Austerity

On Thursday, February 11, 2021, the Arizona Library Association (AzLA) and its Professional Development Committee hosted a webinar given by EveryLibrary executive director John Chrastka: “Advocacy During an Austerity Budget.” You can access the video recording of his presentation on the AzLA YouTube channel as well as John’s slide deck. John addressed the concerns and possible solutions to school and public library advocacy efforts during the post-pandemic budget cycle, a time of austerity (in terms of revenue).

I tweeted some of my take-aways during the session. I’ve added my school librarian and library connections after each one.

“Scarcity scares human beings!”

Important for #librarians to prepare for challenges: state/city/county/school district budgets will be negatively impacted by economic fallout from pandemic. “Watch out for austerity budgets! Scarcity scares human beings!” @MrChrastka @EveryLibrary @azlalib #aasl #libraries

Most states and local governments have projected general fund revenue declines as the result of the pandemic. At the same time, costs have gone up due to COVID expenditures. The situation will be dire for many unless there is a substantial federal relief remedy. (Please see John’s slides for data.)

Note: The loss of funds for public schools will be devastating, which is why Arizona Proposition 208, the Invest in Education Act, passed by voters in November, 2020, is so important. It provides dedicated funds for hiring educators, including school librarians.

School librarians can counter the fear and conservatism that decision-makers feel. We must position our work as the number one priority for the 2021- 2022 educational health of our students and our schools. That said, “Before educators and school stakeholders will advocate for (school librarian-led) transformation of teaching and learning, they must see how educational innovations align with their priorities” (Moreillon 2018, 130).

COVID-Slide

In austerity framework, most productive components or politician/administrator pet projects survive. Very few “nice-to-have” services post-pandemic. Must demonstrate to parents/school board/admins how #schoollibrarians can reverse COVID-slide for Ss. @MrChrastka @EveryLibrary @azlalib #aasl

Responding to the COVID-slide is the way we do so. We know that far too many students have lost ground during remote or hybrid learning. Progress in traditional and multiple literacies has been undermined for students who lack/lacked access to devices and resources, including support for learning in their homes. We know that classroom teachers, particularly those who have simultaneously taught groups of students in face-to-face and online classrooms, have been stretched and have needed and still need support.

Research in school librarianship has consistently affirmed that schools with state-certified, collaborating school librarians positively impact student achievement, especially in reading (Lance and Kachel 2018). School librarians whose literacy work impacts successful learning for all students and the effective teaching of all educators can be the number one priority for superintendents, principals, and school boards.

Gap-Fillers

Must address people’s post-pandemic concerns/fears. #schoollibrarians must be gap-filler rather than nostalgia restorer. Stories/data of success or failure w/path to improvement (integrity). @MrChrastka @EveryLibrary @azlalib What are #library high-impact solutions? #Lilead #aasl

This is the time for school librarians to share how we can continue to fill the gaps exposed during school closures. We must gather our advocates, principals, other educators, families, and students, to speak up for how school librarians provided and will continue to provide much needed instructional support, including technology support.

If schools that lack professional school librarians did not/do not have that support, then decision-makers must be made aware of what students, educators, and families have to gain by hiring school librarian literacy leaders for the ’21-’22 school year. School librarians are the educators who can help students, educators, and families reverse the COVID-slide and fill the gaps going forward.

Coalition Building

Who else cares about #literacy & K-12 Ss/Ts success? Coalitions are essential. There are many people who care about what we do! #schoollibrarians connect & reciprocate to support each other. Show how your work leads to prosperity. @MrChrastka @EveryLibrary @azlalib #aasl #Lilead

All education stakeholders care about the COVID-slide. Who else in your community cares about literacy learning loss? John Chrastka’s slide below lists questions to ask yourself regarding finding internal and external advocates at this point in time (published with permission).

Who Else Cares on Campus? Slide from John Chrastka

Defining the Negative
One of John’s comments that deeply resonated with me was about decision-makers who have eliminated school librarian positions in the past. In speaking to them, our job is the help them see the wisdom of correcting an error. John made the connection with the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

Since that is our situation in Tucson Unified School District, I need to think more about this connection and how I can show understanding and compassion as we move forward with our efforts to restore school librarian positions in the district.

Highly Recommended
I highly recommend that all school librarians view this webinar recording and John’s slide deck. See also the SLIDE: The School Librarian Investigation: Decline or Evolution? research study data to compare your state with those around the country.

Gather your colleagues and form your coalitions. This is the time to demonstrate how school librarians are essential to reversing the COVID-slide and filling the gaps for students, other educators, and families in the ’21-’22 academic school year.

Works Cited

Lance, Keith Curry, and Debra E. Kachel. 2018. “Why School Librarians Matter: What Years of Research Tell Us.” Phi Delta Kappan 99 (7): 15-20. Available at http://www.kappanonline.org/lance-kachel-school-librarians-matter-years-research/

Moreillon, Judi. 2018. Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy. Chicago: ALA.

Teaching and Re-Teaching Black History

Book Cover: A Black Men's History of the United StatesAlthough I think spotlighting the people, literature, culture, and life experiences of specific groups has a place in our academic programs, I always hope that the “months” do not prevent us from addressing the diversity of human experience at every grade level in every content area throughout the school year.

For example, we know our history textbooks lack the perspectives and first-hand experiences of diverse voices–even when studying a historical event such as post-Civil War Reconstruction that should be centered on the lives of freed slaves. In these cases whenever they occur, it is up to librarians and other educators to engage students with primary sources and literature that share Black experiences and perspectives that are all too often missing in the textbook.

That said, and since I am no longer teaching, I have made Black History Month a time to deepen my own knowledge and understanding of Black history and culture. Last Friday on the PBS NewsHour, historian Dr. Daina Ramey Berry, who chairs the history department at the University of Texas at Austin, offered her “Brief but Spectacular Take on Understanding the Past to Live a Better Future.”

Dr. Berry is dedicated to rethinking the way we teach American history to all students. Her latest book, which she co-authored with Dr. Kali Gross. is titled A Black Women’s History of the United States (Beacon Press 2020). (I have requested the book from our public library; the following information is based on reviews.) The book includes diverse and complex voices from the first African women who arrived on the land that became the United States through to today’s Black women. The authors showcase enslaved women, freedwomen, religious leaders, artists, queer women, activists, and women who lived outside the law. Reviews indicate A Black Women’s History of the United States would be useful for high school as well as for adult readers.

Using Primary Source Documents to Teach and ReTeach History
Not only did I learn about their book in Dr. Berry’s Brief but Spectacular, I also learned about the Teaching Texas Slavery project. Dr. Berry serves as an advisor on the project. From the website: “The Teaching Texas Slavery Project seeks to help teachers rethink the teaching of slavery and race within the context of the K-12 Texas history curriculum… This project involves a two-part process for disseminating content and instruction on how to teach race and slavery. The first part offers an open-access website for using primary source documents on this topic. The second provides workshops on how to use the materials housed on the website. The overall goal is to transform the teaching of slavery and race across the K-12 social studies curriculum.”

The site includes:

  1. Background information, maps from contact (1528) through Texas statehood (1865);
  2. Concepts related to race and racism;
  3. A pedagogical framework for studying race and racism; and
  4. primary source records and documents (for students to study).

While the site is particularly valuable for educators teaching in Texas, the framework and documents could be used by educators in other parts of the country as well.

This work made a connection for me to a Guided Inquiry Design® inquiry unit I developed for middle school students designed to be cotaught by school librarians and classroom teachers in Denton, Texas. Denton County Before, During, and After the Civil War (2014) focused on using primary source documents to interrogate history prompted by the Confederate monument that stood on the Denton town square until June, 2020).

Literature Connection
Book Cover: The UndefeatedI would definitely invite students, educators, or anyone to begin any inquiry into Black history with Kwame Alexander and Kadir Nelson’s powerful, award-winning picturebook The Undefeated (Houghton Mifflin 2019). Framing teaching and re-teaching Black history in the United States in terms of the strength, perseverance, and resilience of Black people can help all students begin to understand the past and start to appreciate how far our country has come and how far we have yet to go in actualizing “liberty and justice for all.”

Reference

Kuhlthau, Carol C., Leslie K. Maniotes, and Ann K. Caspari. (2012). Guided Inquiry Design: A Framework for Inquiry in Your School. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

World Read Aloud Day

Book Cover: Vamos a leer - Read to MeOn Wednesday, February 3, 2021, librarians and other educators, young people, families, and community members are celebrating World Read Aloud Day. For the past twelve years, this annual day of sharing read-alouds has reminded us of the importance of book-based stories and sharing them with others.

You can follow World Lit Day on Twitter @litworldsays.

There are World Lit Day programs in 27 countries around the globe. Each year, more and more people have taken up the challenge to select a book, find an audience, and share an image of them reading their selection aloud. (You can post the photo on Twitter with #WorldReadAloudDay and #WRADChallenge.)

Litworld.org provides an “activity hub” where school librarians can find resources to support the challenge. LitWorld® resources include tips on “Virtual Programs.” Scholastic Books offers a list of suggested titles for babies and toddlers throughout the grades up to seniors in high school.

In choosing from the lists offered, it also matters what books we select books to share. With a focus on reading aloud, we must take this opportunity to select stories that shine a light on the diversity of human experience.

Although it is important for individual school librarians to read aloud to the students in our care, it is equally important for us to encourage all of the classroom educators, administrators, and staff with whom we work to do so as well. We must also extend our reach into our students’ home literacy lives and the community by supporting parents and caregivers in reading aloud to youth of all ages.

Encouraging adults and older siblings to read aloud to children from the beginning of their lives is a personal mission of mine. Our book Read to Me / Vamos a leer was published in 2004 (Star Bright Books). Illustrated by Kyra Teis and adapted into Spanish by Mary Margaret Mercado, our multicultural inter-generational board book continues to support early childhood and family literacy programs across the country as they spread the message of reading as a fundamental part of parenting and family life. (The book is also currently available in Vietnamese/English.)

Beginning this year, the Great Beginnings Early Education Center Library and Parents as Teachers in Lee’s Summit, Missouri provides a gift of our book Read to Me to celebrate the birth or adoption of a new baby in their community.

For many years, the Family Reading Partnership in Ithaca, New York, has been including Read to Me in their “Waiting for Baby” resources for parents.

I will be reading to my grandchildren ages 1 and 3 via video chat this year. Of course, I would rather have them on my lap but technology has afforded us the next best thing.

The baby likes My Face Book and Babies, Babies both from Star Bright Books. The toddler and I add one- or two-sentence stories for the faces and the babies’ actions.

I give the toddler choices for our weekly read-alouds. Last week, he made his first ever snow angel so The Snowy Day is a must read this week. I will also offer The Big Umbrella by Amy June Bates and Juniper Bates and selected pages from The Great Big Book of Families by Mary Hoffman, illustrated by Ros Asquith.

To whom will you be reading on World Read Aloud Day and what book(s) have you carefully selected?

(And who will read aloud to me? Louise Erdrich will be reading to me via the audiobook of her latest title The Night Watchman. Thank you, Ms. Erdrich!)

Professional Book Review: Intellectual Freedom Issues in School Libraries

Book Cover: Intellectual Freedom Issues in School LibrariesWhen school librarians consider our unique set of core values, we must include intellectual freedom along with equity, diversity, and inclusion. Intellectual freedom is a bedrock of our practice. It impacts our work in so many overt and covert ways as we serve the literacy and learning needs of our students, colleagues, administrators, families, and communities.

Intellectual Freedom Issues in School Libraries (Libraries Unlimited 2021) edited by April M. Dawkins is a collection of 57 previously published articles that address this topic in variety of contexts. Readers may be surprised by the many ways the contributors frame our work as school library professionals in terms of intellectual freedom.

In our forthcoming book, the co-authors of the intellectual freedom chapter defined intellectual freedom in this way. It “is the right of every individual to both seek and receive information from all points of view without restriction. Rooted in U.S. law, intellectual freedom is further supported through library professional standards and guidance, and involves protecting the rights of access, choice, privacy, and confidentiality” (Moreillon 2021, in press).

From 2012 through 2015, I was privileged to contribute to a column for School Library Monthly. Four of the articles in Dawkins’ book are from those columns: “Leadership: Filtering and Social Media,” “Policy Challenge: Closed for Conducting Inventory,” “Policy Challenge: Consequences of Restricting Borrowing,” and “Policy Challenge: Leveling the Library Collection.” My fifth contribution, “Progressive Collection Development = A Foundation for Differentiated Instruction,” which was originally published in 2017 in School Library Connection, is the last article in the book.

Although each of these articles speak to the commitment it takes to remain true to the core value of intellectual freedom, the most recent “Progressive Collection Development…” has an important place in today’s conversations about racial and social justice.

“Collaborating librarians cannot overestimate the importance of their work as literacy stewards who provide the resource foundation for DI [differentiated instruction]. With their knowledge of literature, librarians can support teachers’ teaching and help motivate students to engage in deep and meaningful learning. Providing multiple sources that serve as mirrors and windows can make DI a reality.

Diverse resources are an essential first step in opening doors for all students to succeed” (Dawkins 2021, 197).

Other contributors to the book are school librarianship’s long-time staunch intellectual freedom leader Helen R. Adams, April M. Dawkins, Elizabeth Burns, Chad Heck, Maria Cahill, Lucy Santos Green, Michelle Maniaci Folk, and more.

Contributing to this book was important to me because the First Amendment applied to the rights of library users was my initial pathway into developing a passion for librarianship. Ensuring that K-12 students had those rights has always been part of my mission as a school librarian and school librarian educator. Intellectual freedom can position our values and work in sharp contrast to outdated school policies and practices. It can cause us to consider and reconsider the distinctions between selection and censorship. And in the case of book or resource challenges, intellectual freedom can require that we show courage to stand up for the rights of youth, authors, and illustrators.

I know readers of Dawkins’ book will want to add Chapter 4: Intellectual Freedom by Suzanne Sannwald, high school teacher librarian, and Dan McDowell, Director of Learning and Innovation, Grossmont Union High School District, San Diego County, California, to their essential readings on intellectual freedom (Moreillon 2021, in press).

In their chapter, Suzanne and Dan explore intellectual freedom from access to print and digital resources to students’ opportunities to exercise agency. The co-authors make a strong case that intellectual freedom is a mindset for students and for educators. It includes seeking and receiving information, securing privacy and confidentiality, and fostering democracy. Suzanne and Dan note that when school librarians collaborate with other educators to design pedagogy, they can make a shared commitment and practice of honoring students’ rights to lead their own learning.

And isn’t that the ultimate goal of intellectual freedom?

Works Cited

Dawkins, April. Ed. 2021. Intellectual Freedom Issues in School Libraries. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Moreillon, Judi. Ed. 2021. Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

 

 

Racial Literacy, Civil Rights, and Civic Education

Photograph of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and word art: courage, justice, nonviolence, transformation and moreWe honor the lasting legacy of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the third Monday in January. This national holiday is particularly timely in 2021 when recent civil unrest has ripped the political and social fabric of our nation. We are now at a decision point for re-weaving the tear and moving forward together toward a more just future for all Americans.

Were he alive today, I believe Dr. King would demand that we take this opportunity to affect positive and enduring political and societal change. To that end, I join with many of our fellow citizens who call for a time of awakening and reckoning with a history of injustice in order to co-create a space for healing, envisioning, and taking action for justice.

“A democracy must be reborn anew every generation, and education is its midwife.” – John Dewey

And as John Dewey noted, education is necessary to ensure the future of a democracy. If I were in charge of the world, which I am clearly not, students would be in school today and adults would be gathered in library and community spaces to engage in civic and civil dialogue around issues of democracy and justice.

Last week, I spotlighted the upcoming Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action, February 1-5. This week, I want to share a few more resources that have awakened me in the past week.

Racial Literacy
The Ancona School is a progressive private school in New York City. Last week, the school hosted a conversation titled “Doing the Hard Work: Racial Literacy and Education, with Dr. Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz.” Dr. Sealey-Ruiz is a professor at Teachers College, Columbia University. She founded the Racial Literacy Project in 2016.

In the conversation, Dr. Sealey-Ruiz made a strong case for why racial literacy must be taught in schools. Educators can guide students in constructive conversations around race and racism and how it impacts people’s lives. Race is a social construction that can and must be understood before it can be addressed. Together, we can probe systems to dismantle systems of oppression, develop our understandings as active allies, and co-create decolonizing spaces in our schools. This seems to me to be an action Dr. King would wholeheartedly support.

Civil Rights Movement: Primary Sources and Graphic Novels
The January/February 2021 issue of Knowledge Quest includes an article by Dr. Karen Gavigan: “Journey for Justice: Helping Teens Visualize the Civil Rights Movement through Primary Sources and Graphic Novels.” In the article, Dr. Gavigan makes connections between the primary sources offered by the Library of Congress and three graphic novels: The Life of Frederick Douglass: A Graphic Narrative of a Slave’s Journey from Bondage to Freedom by David F. Walker, Damon Smyth, and Marissa Louise (Ten Speed 2018), March: Book One by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin (Top Shelf Productions 2013), and Showtime at the Apollo by Ted Fox and James Otis Smith (Abrams ComicArts 2019).

Social studies and history curricula charge students with seeking information from primary source documents. These documents engage students in accessing historically situated perspectives on past (and current) events. When school librarians and classroom teachers curate resources for students to explore, they can help young people increase their comprehension of primary sources by inviting students to read graphic novels on the topics and themes related to their study. These student-friendly texts can help deepen students’ discussions, interpretations, and meaning-making regarding historical as well as current events.

The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks
Author Jeanne Theoharis is a political science professor at Brooklyn College of City University of New York. This past week, I read selections from her full-length adult edition of The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks (Beacon Press 2013). While reading, I was once again struck by the discrepancies between the way history happens and how events are shaped and retold, particularly in resources created for youth.

Similar to every school child in the U.S., I met Rosa Parks as the quiet seamstress with aching feet who in 1955 refused to give up her seat in the “colored section” so a White person could sit down. I remember my surprise as an adult learning that Mrs. Parks had a lifelong history of civil rights activism and had, in fact, dedicated sixty years to seeking freedom and justice for herself and others. That fact was never part of the narrative I learned in school.

When reading Dr. Theoharis’ book, I finally (!) made a connection to my own K-12 education. Mrs. Parks had moved from Montgomery to Detroit in 1961 and learned that Blacks experienced segregation and discrimination as virulent in the North as she had known in the South. In 1964, Mrs. Parks joined Detroit-area Congressional candidate John Conyer’s “Jobs, Justice, Peace” campaign. Mrs. Parks convinced Dr. King to come to Detroit to speak and endorse Conyer’s campaign. Conyer’s was elected and served in Congress from 1965 – 2017. (He was the longest serving Black representative and also one of thirteen co-founders of the Congressional Black Caucus.)

My family moved to the Detroit-area in 1964. I attended high school in a Detroit suburb at the same time Mrs. Parks was an activist working for freedom in the city. What struck me while reading about Rosa Parks’ work in Detroit is that I cannot remember a single high school history teacher (1965-1968) ever suggesting that my all-White classmates and I make the connection between the Rosa Parks we learned about in elementary school with the courageous woman who was dedicating her life, at that very time, to social justice work in our own city.

I look forward to reading the middle grade version of The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks co-authored by Brandy Colbert and Dr. Theoharis that is now available from Beacon Press (2021). The book is part of a ReVisioning History for Young People series.

Yes! to “ReVisioning” history!

Civic Education
In the past year, many educators across the U.S. have been considering and reconsidering how we teach civic education in our K-12 schools, colleges, and universities. It is clear that youth (and adults) need:

  • to hear an unambiguous message about the critical importance of voting in a participatory democracy and a clear understanding of the electoral process;
  • to know the provisions of the First Amendment and be able to make a distinction between free speech and hate speech;
  • to know how to engage in civil dialogue and learn to have respectful conversations about controversial topics;
  • to know and yes, experience peaceful protest and learn multiple ways to positively and nonviolently enact change in our classrooms, schools, and communities.

For the sake of our students and our nation and to honor of Dr. King, educators, let’s be the midwives who attend the birth – rebirth – of democracy in this generation and the next.

Image Credit
Hain, John. “Non-violence, peace, transformation.” Pixabay.com, https://pixabay.com/illustrations/non-violence-peace-transformation-1160132/

Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action February 1–5, 2021

Wage justice. Wage Peace. Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action: February 1-5, 2021Dear Colleagues,
Considering historical as well as events of the past year and most shockingly this past week, I believe it behooves all school librarians to collaborate with classroom educators to confront racial injustice. The Black Lives Matter at School Week is being held the first week of Black History Month, February 1-5, 2021. This is an opportune time to co-design curriculum for the unique students in your school.

Black Lives Matter at School
#BLMatSchool is a national coalition of “educators, students, parents, families, community members fighting for racial justice in school!” You can follow them on Twitter or access their website. You can contribute to the network by posting what you’re doing in your school/community to achieve racial justice.

Founded in 2016, #BLMatSchool has designated the first week of February as their week of action. On their website, educators, students, and supporters will find a “starter kit,” 13 principles, “The Demands,” and curriculum resources.

The 13 guiding principles are described on the site. “The Demands” are intended to ensure safety and equity in schools:

  1. End “zero tolerance” discipline, and implement restorative justice
  2. Hire more Black teachers
  3. Mandate Black history and ethnic studies in K-12 curriculum
  4. Fund counselors not cops

Allyship
Since our education and library professions are predominately White, Black educators, students, families, and administrators need White allies who will work alongside them to achieve these demands. As allies, we must have a mindset that doing this work is not for our Black colleagues and students but is an essential part of our own liberation from White privilege and racial injustice.

To learn more about allyship, please read the “How to Be an Ally” article on the Teaching Tolerance.org website.

The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development has published another helpful set of resources for educators leading discussions with students about politics, civic engagement, and uncertainty.

These articles may be a place to begin your curriculum conversation with your instructional partners, grade-level or disciplinary teams, or at the whole-school level.

Curriculum Resources for Your Consideration from #BLMatSchool
Freedom Reads is a video series designed to help parents and teachers select children’s books through a multicultural, social justice lens at SocialJusticeBooks.org.

They have published lessons for online use from their Second Annual Teach Central America Week and the Civil Rights Teaching website.

The Zinn Education Project (with Rethinking Schools)  hosted an online teaching series on Teaching the Black Freedom Struggle.

Additional Resources
As librarians and educators, we know that responding to children’s and young adult literature can create a context for exploring deeply personal as well as universal themes. Skilled educators, who listen, ask thought-provoking questions, and display empathy can create the necessary open and safe spaces for these conversations. Combined with the participation of trustworthy peers, students can explore essential truths about our nation’s history and current culture and express their hopes and willingness to work for a just and peaceful future.

On my wiki, I have organized resources to support your curriculum development: https://tinyurl.com/jmBLMatSchool

  1. Virtual Book Discussions and Programming

2. Downloadable Book Head Heart Literature Circle Discussion Guide (adapted from Beers and Probst, 2017).

3. Links to Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Books and Resources

In addition, the American Library Association offers Black History Month Graphics, including bookmarks and posters with messages and quotes to frame your curriculum.

Hard Conversations
School librarians can be leaders when we create spaces for students and educators to engage in difficult conversations. I hope you and one or more of your colleagues will make time to design a thoughtful, respectful, and unifying curriculum to involve students in taking action during Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action. I also hope you will share your work on their website.

Wage justice. Wage peace.

Launching the New Year with Inquiry Learning

Welcome to School Librarian Leadership 2021!

On this blog, I share research and musings, news and views with the hopes of prompting critical thinking regarding coteaching and collaboration between school librarians, classroom teachers, specialists, school administrators, and others involved in deeper learning and effective teaching.

A Dialogue Centered on Inquiry Learning

Screenshot of Judi Moreillon and Barbara StriplingLast month, I had the pleasure of participating in an interview with long-time friend and colleague Barbara Stripling. In addition to writing for School Library Connection (SLC) magazine, Barb is engaged in collecting video interviews to share on the SLC website. Over our years in school librarianship, Barb’s path and mine have intersected many times. We have many beliefs, values, and recommended practices in school librarianship in common, but inquiry learning may be the thread that connects all of them.

Student Motivation and Inquiry: A Conversation
In my experience, inquiry is a pathway that leads directly to deeper learning. When students ask personally meaningful questions that are relevant to their own lives, they are motivated to learn and will be invested in their learning outcomes. When students practice agency, they grow as independent thinkers, active participants, and knowledge contributors who express curiosity, demonstrate persistence, and build the foundation for lifelong learning.

“In this video, educators Barbara Stripling and Judi Moreillon discuss ways to motivate students and help them engage in deeper inquiry. As Moreillon points out, it’s not easy: ‘Today, students, and all of us adults, we want things to be quick and easy, and inquiry is anything but quick and easy. It’s messy. It takes commitment. It takes work. So, motivating people of all ages to ask questions and pursue knowledge and facts can be challenging.’ Both Moreillon and Stripling have risen to this challenge, and share their insights here (in this video)” (2020).

The video will be freely available until January 31, 2021 and then will be accessible to SLC subscription holders. Barb and I invite you to view the video and share your questions and comments here on my blog.

Connecting Research and Practice
As both a practitioner and a researcher who writes for practicing school librarians as well as school librarianship educators and researchers, I am always looking to make connections between research and practice. Coincidentally and also in December, Edutopia published an article by Youki Terada and Stephen Merrill, in which they list and provide abstracts for the “10 Most Significant Education Studies in 2020.”

Although I recommend practicing school librarians review all ten of these studies, there was one on the list that directly supports making inquiry learning a top priority in our teaching: “Students Who Generate Good Questions Are Better Learners.” It’s number six on Terada and Merrill’s list.

Although this study was conducted at the university level, the results and recommendations can be applied from kindergarten through twelfth grade. Students who participated in the study scored an average of 14 percentage points higher on a test than students who studied their notes or reread classroom material. “Creating questions, the researchers found, not only encouraged students to think more deeply about the topic but also strengthened their ability to remember what they were studying” (Ebersbach, Feierabend, and Nazari 2020).

Having engaged graduate level students in inquiry learning, I have learned that far too many students get to higher education without ever having had the opportunity to engage in inquiry learning. They do not even know the term or what inquiry entails. Far too many have only had experiences of teacher-led research projects that involved them in answering the teacher’s or the textbook’s questions and writing a report that simply restated the “facts.” While many of these students have been “successful” as compliant learners, they have not developed a passion for discovery and have not experienced all of the joys and challenges of the learning journey.

In my humble opinion, these students have not been prepared for life. Students should have inquiry experiences beginning in the early grades that set an expectation for student-led learning (See Edutopia’s video: “Inquiry-Based Learning: From Teacher-Guided to Student-Driven” – Ralston Elementary School is creating a culture of inquiry to nourish 21st-century learners.)

Launching 2021 with Inquiry Learning
School librarians and other educators can reach their goal of developing lifelong learners through guiding students in the inquiry process until youth are able to design their own learning process and pursue a question independently. Through classroom-library collaboration for instruction, educators can ensure that all K-12 students experience the competence, autonomy, and relevance that inquiry learning affords (see 11/30/20 Inquiry Connections blog post).

Let’s position our school libraries as hubs for inquiry learning. Let’s build instructional partnerships with classroom educators and spread the inquiry model in every classroom at every grade level and in every discipline in our schools.

Now that’s one high-impact 2021 New Year’s Resolution!

Works Cited

Ebersbach, Mirjam, Maike Feierabend, and Katharina Barzagar B. Nazari. 2020. “Comparing the Effects of Generating Questions, Testing, and Restudying on Students’ Long-term Recall in University Learning.” Wiley Online Library. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/acp.3639

Stripling, Barbara K., and Judi Moreillon. 2020. “Student Motivation and Inquiry [19:18].” School Library Connection, December, https://schoollibraryconnection.com/Home/Display/2259724?topicCenterId=2252404

Terada, Youki, and Stephen Merrill. 2020. “The 10 Most Significant Education Studies of 2020.” Edutopia.org, December 4, https://www.edutopia.org/article/10-most-significant-education-studies-2020