The International Literacy Association (ILA) recently released a position statement titled: “Children’s Rights to Excellent Literacy Instruction.”
As you read, you will note that librarians and libraries are not mentioned in this document. Many of us who are school librarians and long-time members of ILA have struggled in the past to make sure school librarians and libraries were included in ILA’s position statements.
I am sorry to say that, this time, we dropped the ball…
Does this mean that the members of ILA who drafted and the board who approved this statement do not view school librarians and libraries as stakeholders in students’ literacy instruction?
I certainly hope not…
That said, there is a great deal for school librarians to consider in this document. The document is organized around four value statements. I have quoted a bit from each one and added my “School Librarians” comments.
Children Have the Right to Knowledgeable and Qualified Literacy Educators
In my worldview, school librarians would be included in the list of literacy educators mentioned in this section along with “principals, reading/literacy specialists, literacy coaches, and literacy coordinators.” The varied roles of literacy educators include designing “literacy learning environments, both face-to-face and virtual, that meet the needs of all students.” These educators are also charged with “dismantling” forces that marginalize any student.
School Librarians: Equity of access and opportunity are cornerstones of school librarianship.
Children Have the Right to Integrated Support Systems
In the position statement, integrated support systems depend upon the “successful alignment of a complex system of stakeholders working cooperatively to strengthen teaching and learning practices and knowledge-building framework.” Educators, who take a systems thinking approach, can help ensure that the “overlapping spheres of influence” support positive progress toward shared goals.
School Librarians: Coteaching and working alongside principals and teacher leaders, school librarians can be key contributors in cocreating a vital system of support for all stakeholders in the learning community.
Children Have the Right to Supportive Learning Environments and High-Quality Resources
For me, this section is ALL about school libraries and the work of school librarians. These are a few quotes. Supportive learning environments with high-quality resources are “accessible learning environments that provide opportunity for robust, literacy-rich experiences, interactivity, and exploration of thought.” Resources and practices within this environment must be audited “to ensure they are bias free, culturally responsive, and student centered.”
School Librarians: In both physical and virtual spaces, school librarians, who are stewards of the school library’s print and digital resources, align the collection and the literacy learning experiences that weave through the library program with the teaching and learning needs of all students, classroom teachers, specialists, families, and the community.
Children Have the Right to Policies That Ensure Equitable Literacy Instruction
From the position statement: “Policymakers should recognize the professionalism and autonomy of teachers to implement curriculum in well-resourced classrooms. Every child, everywhere, benefits from policies that safeguard not only their welfare but also their educational potential.”
School Librarians: School library policies that provide for open, equitable access to resources and protect students’ (and educators’) privacy and intellectual freedom ensure safe learning spaces that support all stakeholders in reaching their capacity.
ILA’s position statement ends on this call to action: “Excellent literacy instruction builds a strong foundation for learning and, in turn, equips children to develop their potential, growing into adults who participate fully in their communities and society, enjoying the fullness that continuous learning brings to their lives.
It is our collective responsibility to advocate for, ensure, and protect these rights for every child, everywhere.”
School Librarians: In our daily practice, I hope that all school librarians are advocating for students’ rights to excellent literacy instruction. When school librarians can articulate the intersection of library resources, reading development, information literacy, and inquiry learning, their work as instructional partners alongside their colleagues can contribute to equitable, effective literacy instruction.
As reading researcher Dr. Nell Duke writes: “Learning to read without books is like learning to swim without water” (2019, 11). I hope everyone involved in education and educational policymakers remember critical importance of access to reading materials in students’ reading development. I want our ILA colleagues to know exemplary school librarians serve as partners alongside other educators to collectively close the gaps between access and opportunity for all of our students.
Duke, Nell. 2019. “Learning to Read by Third Grade: How Policy Makers Can Foster Early Literacy.” National Association of State School Boards of Education. http://www.nasbe.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Duke_May-2019-Standard.pdf
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