We know that youth who do not achieve proficient literacy skills face serious academic and lifelong challenges. The 2019 National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP) “average reading scores for students at both grades 4 and 8 were lower in 2019 compared to 2017” (https://www.nationsreportcard.gov/highlights/reading/2019/). Students who do not meet grade-level reading benchmarks can be retained; some may be placed in special education classes. They will likely struggle in the content areas especially after third grade when reading informational texts becomes more prominent in their schooling. Some non-readers will drop out of high school and not reach their potential for a successful life.
Reading proficiency matters!
A Stanford University study report released last week indicates that based on an oral fluency test, first- through fourth-graders nationwide largely stopped progressing in this measure of reading proficiency in spring 2020 after COVID-19 school closures. The researchers also note that second- and third-grade students reading fluency is now approximately 30 percent behind what would be expected in an academic typical year (https://ed.stanford.edu/news/new-stanford-study-sheds-light-how-much-learning-young-students-have-lost-during-stages).
Although we do not yet know the full impact of school closures on K-12 students’ overall reading proficiency, we can be fairly certain that what we have traditionally called the “summer slide,” reading loss over the summer break, was exacerbated by school and school library closures, remote and hybrid learning, or students’ absence from formal schooling. Once all students are back in the classroom this spring and next fall, the “COVID slide” may be the next great challenge for educators.
School Librarian’s Role in Reading: Book Promotion
It is not surprising the correlational research for several decades has linked the presence and work of a state-certified school librarian with students’ higher reading achievement scores on standardized tests (Lance and Kachel 2018). Of course, there will be an essential role for school librarians in working with administrators, classroom teacher colleagues, reading specialists, and families to revive a culture of reading in their schools when students return to face-to-face schooling. Through progressive collection development that includes curating diverse books and resources and promotion, school librarians will provide displays, booktalks, book trailers, and other strategies to market books and promote reading.
We have traditionally excelled at leading our students, faculty, and families in schoolwide literacy events and initiatives such as read-a-thons, read-ins, poetry slams, battle of the books, book clubs, and more. Initiatives like Project Lit, student-let book clubs may be strengthened by in-person connections among readers and face-to-face as well as online discussions of diverse books. (See the 2020-2021 Project Lit book selections.)
All of these activities are important work,
and school librarian leaders can do more.
Don’t Sell Your Skill Set Short
The American Association of School Librarians Position Statement on The School Librarian’s Role in Reading (2020) aligns the six shared foundations of the National Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries (AASL 2018) with the many ways school librarians guide students as they develop reading proficiency.
I published an article in the January/February issue of Teacher Librarian, “Literacy Learning Leaders Don’t Sell Their Skill Set Short.” In the article, I reinforce how school librarians can work solo, in coordination, or in collaboration with classroom teachers and specialists to shore up students’ reading comprehension strategies.
“Learning and practicing reading comprehension strategies is the readers’ pathway to being critical users of ideas and information” (Moreillon 2021, 23). Students who know how to select and apply comprehension strategies have a skill set that helps them make sense of difficult and unfamiliar texts. This figure appears on page 23 in the Teacher Librarian article.
Figure 1. Questions to Support Teaching Reading Comprehension Strategies
|Reading Comprehension Strategies||Sample Questions|
|Activating or Building Background Knowledge||What are your connections to the images or information on the book cover? What do you already know about this topic, author, or illustrator, or what do you need to find out before you read?|
|Using Sensory Images||What pictures are you making in your mind as you read/listen to this book? What other senses are you using, such as hearing, taste, or touch, to make meaning from this text?|
|Questioning||What questions would you ask the author or illustrator if they were here? What questions do you have about this topic or information?|
|Making Predictions/Drawing Inferences||Based on what you have read in this book so far, what do you think will happen next and why do you think that? What can you infer the author means based on your background knowledge combined with the evidence in this text?|
|Determining Main Ideas||What is the main idea the author wants readers to take away from this book? What do you think is the main idea in this paragraph, chapter, or section of this text?|
|Using Fix-up Options||Since you have lost the comprehension thread for this book, will re-reading a paragraph, chapter, or section help you regain it? How does reconnecting with your purpose for reading help you make sense of this text?|
|Synthesizing||What connections are you making to other books by this author or illustrator or on this topic? What other texts can you consult to help you verify the information in this text?|
Coteaching Reading Comprehension in Elementary and Secondary School Libraries
I have published two books to support school librarians in learning or reviewing these seven reading comprehension strategies that can be taught and practiced through the library program during storytimes, literature circles, and inquiry learning.
Each book contains background information on the strategies and twenty-one sample lessons plans applied at three levels of reading proficiency. School librarians and their collaborators can adapt the lessons for the students in their care and the resources available to them.
Coteaching Reading Comprehension Strategies in Elementary School Libraries: Maximizing Your Impact (2013) happens to be currently on sale.
Coteaching Reading Comprehension Strategies in Secondary School Libraries: Maximizing Your Impact (2012) is currently available at the regular price.
“No subject of study is more important than reading…
All other intellectual powers depend on it.”
While there is no doubt technology and other opportunity gaps will continue to plague our students, we must succeed in our mission to help every student become an effective, efficient and joyful reader.
Let’s work with our colleagues to stop and reverse the COVID slide!
American Association of School Librarians. 2020. Position Statement on the School Librarian’s Role in Reading. Available at http://www.ala.org/aasl/sites/ala.org.aasl/files/content/advocacy/statements/docs/AASL_Position_Statement_RoleinReading_2020-01-25.pdf
Lance, Keith Curry, and Debra Kachel. 2018. “Why School Librarians Matter: What Years of Research Tell Us.” Phi Delta Kappan Online. Available at http://www.kappanonline.org/lance-kachel-school-librarians-matter-years-research/
Moreillon, Judi. 2021. “Literacy Learning Leaders Don’t Sell Their Skill Set Short.” Teacher Librarian 48 (3): 22-27.
Nation’s Report Card. 2020. NAEP Report Card: 2019 Reading Assessment. Available at https://www.nationsreportcard.gov/highlights/reading/2019/
Stanford Graduate School of Education. 2021. “New Stanford study sheds light on how much learning young students have lost during stages of the pandemic.” (March 9). Stanford.edu. Available at https://ed.stanford.edu/news/new-stanford-study-sheds-light-how-much-learning-young-students-have-lost-during-stages
Slide created with image:
Prettysleepy. “Books Library Education.” Pixabay.com, https://pixabay.com/illustrations/books-library-education-knowledge-5430104/