Looking Back, Looking Forward

Although I believe it is essential to regularly reflect on various aspects of our lives, the new year is just one of those times when some of us are “programmed” to take our reflections especially seriously.

This year, I owe a great debt to Dr. Maryanne Wolf for my New Year’s “professional life” reflection and commitment to future action. In the past four weeks, I have read, made notes, reflected, reread passages, and written about her latest book Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World (2018).

This is not the first time in my life that questions about reading in the digital age have kept me awake at night. In 2008, I read Dr. Wolf’s book Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain. Since that time, I have often found myself wondering about how, what, and why we read is changing our personal and professional lives as well as our national and global society.

The Past: Cautionary Tales
Way back in 2010, I presented “A Time to Skim, a Time to Read, or How to Convince Surfers to Take a Deep Dive” at the School Library Journal Summit in Chicago. In that brief talk, I advocated for slow reading—what I would now call “deep reading.” (If I were sharing that talk today, I would advocate even louder!)

The next year, two books greatly influenced my thinking on reading in the digital age. William Powers’ book Hamlet’s Blackberry: Building a Good Life in the Digital Age (2011) made me think about taking time away from my devices in order to create time for reflection and perhaps access to my own imagination and creativity. Later that year, I read Nicholas Carr’s book The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains (2011) and furthered my quest to find online and offline balance in my life.

In 2012, I coauthored an article with Cassandra Barnett for Knowledge Quest in which we connected school libraries to Nicholas Carr’s work. We wrote if Carr “is correct, we should nurture the fertile thinking time that can happen between input and innovation by providing students the option of a peaceful environment in the midst of the action in the school library” (Moreillon and Barnett 2012, 2).

Sherry Turkle’s research and writing about the impact of technology on relationships and empathy also influenced my thinking that year… Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other (2011) and more recently, Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in the Digital Age (2015). Turkle’s writing and TED Talks created fertile ground for planting the seeds of Maryanne Wolf’s latest cautionary tale.

The Present: What We Don’t Yet Know
Wolf is not a technophobe. She is involved with others in developing technology tools to support young readers. TinkRBook involves something called “textual tinkerability” that encourages readers to interact with text (145). Her Curious Learning research project is looking at apps for learning oral language (147).

But Wolf stuck a chord with me when she made this observation in Reader, Come Home. “No self-respecting internal review board of any university would allow a researcher to do what our culture has already done with no adjudication or previous evidence: introduce a complete, quasi-addictive set of attention-compelling devices without knowing the possible side effects and ramifications for the subjects (our kids)” (Wolf 2018, 125).

We have indeed entered into a grand technological experiment with the minds, bodies, and futures of the youth who were/are born into a digitally dominant U.S. society. We want them to have all of the benefits that the technological world offers—access, speed, connection, and possibilities as yet unknown. Yet, we also want them to know the affordances of the analog world—a world in which information and life move at a slower pace, a space that may allow more time for critical thinking, creativity, reflection, and innovation.

If you are curious to learn more about Maryanne Wolf’s work, read her November 16, 2018 Science Friday article and then seek out a copy of her book!

The Future: Transformation (Marrying Values and Reflection with Action)
I truly believe, as Carr (2011) noted, schools and libraries are the epicenter for transforming learning. With effective, state-certified school librarian leaders serving the multiple literacy needs of students, colleagues, administrators, families, and communities, schools can reach their capacity to prepare youth for living and working in a connected world. School librarians can collaborate to ensure students can read, analyze, use, and create new knowledge online and offline. We can help them find their personal sweet spot—a balance between life on the screen and life off of it.

Transforming our schools and libraries is the school librarian’s path to creating opportunities for transforming our world. For my part, I recommit myself to the 2018-2019 Maximizing School Librarian Leadership blog-based book study, monthly podcasts, and Facebook Group as my contribution to this timely and critical goal. I will continue to learn from and think with others in my PLN, write, and make the case for the critical importance of effective school librarians and fully resourced school libraries in future ready education.

How would you describe your 2019 commitment to transforming learning and teaching through school libraries?

Wishing you all the best in the New Year,

Judi

 

Works Cited

Carr, Nicholas. 2011. The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains. New York: Norton.

Moreillon, Judi. 2010. “A Time to Skim, a Time to Read, or How to Convince Surfers to Take a Deep Dive.” School Library Journal Summit, Chicago. https://tinyurl.com/time2skimtime2dive

Moreillon, Judi, and Cassandra Barnett. 2012. “April is School Library Month: You Belong @your library: A Portrait–in Words and Pictures.” Knowledge Quest 40 (4): 1-6.

Powers, William. 2011. Hamlet’s Blackberry: Building a Good Life in the Digital Age. New York. Harper.

Turkle, Sherry. 2011. Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other. New York: Basic.

_____. 2015. Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in the Digital Age. New York: Penguin.

Wolf, Maryanne. 2008. Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain. New York: Harper

_____. 2018. Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World. New York: Harper.

 

The Gift of Traditional Literacies

For the luckiest children, the gift of traditional literacies begins in their homes. “Seeing, hearing, mouthing, and touching books helps children lay down the best of multisensory and linguistic connections during the time that Piaget aptly christened the sensorimotor stage of children’s cognitive development” (Wolf 2018, 133).

Adults and older siblings read to the luckiest of children. As babies and toddlers, these children have nestled into a lap and have been held in the arms of a loving family member or caregiver who invites them into the world of story.

Reading with others creates a warm connection with language and literacy that sets young children on a path to enjoying reading. One of the most consistently important predictors of reading development has been how often parents read to their children. (In this photo, I am reading my book Read to Me to my then eight-month-old grandson.)

For other children, books and reading are not prominent features of their lives until they enter preschool or when they attend public library storytimes. When preschool teachers read to children daily, they set an expectation for connecting through books. Or when children attend storytime at their public library, they learn that books contain stories and illustrations that are fun. They begin to learn through story.

For still other children, their kindergarten and primary-grade classroom teachers and elementary school librarian are the first caring adults who model the gift and value of books and reading. Wise educators select books that offer children invitations to learn about themselves, about others, about the physical world and the world of the imagination. Young children also learn to listen attentively to and (hopefully) respond to stories. They learn to share and attend to the responses of their peers. They begin to understand the social aspects of reading with other people outside their homes.

Gatekeeper Texts
Home, preschool, and primary-grade books are often selected to support young readers developing literacy but that can change as children advance through the grades. Some students will continue to be avid readers; others will not. Some will become regular library users who seek out new books, authors, and topics; some will only read when they are required to do so for a class assignment. Some number of students will invariably wrestle with school-based reading materials and increased expectations for literacy learning, especially when they bump up against “gatekeeper” texts.

Gatekeeper texts are “various texts that permit or deny student access to educational, economic, civic, and cultural opportunities” (Schoenbach, Greenleaf, Cziko, Hurwitz. 1999, 9). Gatekeeper texts are found in all content areas. They include difficult classic texts, standardized tests, testing materials, including those used in advanced placement courses, college and career applications and forms, and more. For far too many students, these gatekeeper texts have turned them off to reading, writing, or making the required efforts to advance their lives.

It is imperative that educators help students be effective readers and writers so that these texts do not limit students’ life choices. Deep reading comprehension strategies and a problem-solving orientation toward challenging texts can help readers be successful.

Traditional Literacies in Daily Lives
It is important for students to see family members, school librarians, classroom teachers, administrators, school staff, and other important people in their lives engaged with traditional literacies. Seeing parents and educators reading their own self-selected texts is important. Engaging young people in discussions about what adults are reading, listening to, or viewing—be it a novel, the news, or information in any format—lets students know that reading and discussing what you read are essential lifelong activities.

Adults must also model writing beyond making grocery store lists. Do we still write letters and thank-you notes by hand? Or if we compose them on our computer, tablet, or phone, do we let children and teens know that is what we’re doing? Do we journal or write comments or letters to the editor of news media? Do we encourage young people to engage in these types of writing activities at home and at school?

Talking about what we are reading, writing, or thinking must also be a part of daily life in and outside of school. Far too often, we let media do the talking for us and deprive youth of understanding and practicing how discussion works. Adults need to model being respectful listeners as well as effective speakers. We need to express disagreements without demeaning other people. We need to show it’s possible and preferable to develop empathy for those who do not share our views or life experiences.

The Gifts = Empowerment
The impact of the gifts of the four foundational literacies cannot be overestimated. Literacy gives people more opportunities in life, and it also has the potential increase our understanding of and empathy for others—to make us more human. Children’s and young adult author Katherine Paterson wrote an article entitled “What Does It Mean to Be Truly Literate?” (Paterson 2003). Although I read this article many years ago, Ms. Paterson’s perspective has stuck with me because I believe she spoke directly to the heart of literacy.

In her article, Paterson talks about the importance of the “humanities,” literature, philosophy, and history. She notes that “the humanities are all those subjects that make us more human, and we cannot be fully human unless our vision includes the breadth of human culture” (8). She goes on to write about how essential it is for all young people to have access to the humanities, which she thinks of as “true literacy.”

“True literacy” helps people dispel ignorance and see the larger world more clearly. Reading does that; interacting with others through speaking and listening does that. Writing also helps us see and examine our inner and outer worlds more clearly. Knowing how to use our literacy skills to improve our communities, nation, and global society may very well be the way to ensure a more just future for all. To support young people as they develop “true literacy” is a gift that educators (and families) both give and receive.

Without a focus on traditional literacies, there can be no empowered learning culture in any school (or home).

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. What is your definition of “true literacy”?
  2. How does your understanding of “true literacy” guide your work as an educator, parent, or mentor to young people?

Works Cited

Paterson, Katherine. 2003. “What Does It Mean to Be Truly Literate?” Language Arts 81 (1): 8-9.

Schoenbach, Ruth, Cynthia Greenleaf, Christine Cziko, and Lori Hurwitz. 1999. Reading for Understanding: A Guide to Improving Reading in Middle and High School Classrooms. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Wolf, Maryanne. 2018. Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World. New York: Harper.

Coteaching Comprehension Strategies During Inquiry Learning

As you likely know, the references to coteaching reading comprehension strategies in Maximizing School Librarian Leadership are summaries based on my previously published professional books focused on this topic.

In those books, I focus on seven reading comprehension strategies that can be applied to all texts and across all content areas: activating or building background knowledge, using sensory images, making predictions or drawing inferences, questioning, determining main ideas (or importance), using fix-up options (to gain or regain comprehension), and synthesizing. All of these strategies can and should be applied to both print and digital texts. For educators who want more information, lesson/unit plans, and graphic organizers and assessment tools to support instruction in teaching/coteaching comprehension, I highly recommend these books.

Coteaching During Inquiry
Coteaching reading comprehension strategies during inquiry learning is a way for school librarians to position their work at the center of their school’s academic program. “Many of us see our role as fostering the enjoyment and appreciation of literature in all genres and information in all formats—but we have stopped short of taking part in actual reading instruction. Helping youth become capable readers is the goal of every school. Improving students’ reading achievement and improving teachers’ reading instruction are critical concerns of all school principals. If we are to position ourselves at the center of our schools’ literacy programs, then we must become leaders in reading instruction” (Moreillon 2008, 27).

Inquiry learning offers an authentic opportunity for school librarians and classroom teachers to coteach reading comprehension strategies. During inquiry, coteachers model using think-alouds to demonstrate to students how to approach unfamiliar or difficult text. They show that two (or more) people will bring different background knowledge to reading a text and apply different strategies to wrestle with meaning making. Coteachers model the behaviors of lifelong learners.

Difficult Texts
When students are seeking information to answer their questions, they will invariably interact with texts that are above their proficient reading level. At these points during inquiry learning, students will need to be able to reach into their reading strategy toolkits to select and apply the best tool(s) for the comprehension challenge. Educator and peer modeling are essential to making visible what is often invisible to striving and struggling readers. Understanding reading as problem solving helps strengthen students’ ability to think critically and make meaning from texts.

Students need scaffolds and frameworks to support them as they develop complete reading comprehension toolkits. Graphic organizers and elementary bookmarks and secondary bookmarks such as these found in Chapter 2 in my reading comprehension book resources can help give students the reminders they need to be effective comprehension problem solvers. Developing a set of initial questions to ask when approaching unfamiliar text is another way to support effective reading and information seeking. (See page 64 in Maximizing School Librarian Leadership).

In order to wrestle with difficult texts and engage in deep reading, readers must employ comprehension strategies (see seven strategies listed above). Deep reading takes time. “The quality of how we read any sentence or text depends, however, on the choices we make with the time we allocate to the processes of deep reading, regardless of the medium” (Wolf 2018, 37).

Disposition: Persistence
When we are modeling, it is important for educators demonstrate persistence with difficult texts. In their book Reading for Understanding: A Guide to Improving Reading in Middle and High School Classrooms (1999), Schoenbach, Greenleaf, Cziko, and Hurwitz offer a strategy that I have used since reading their book almost twenty years ago. Ask students to bring in texts for which adults will be challenged to make meaning. Examples could be rap or other song lyrics, video games, technology, or other manuals, or any text for which students have expertise or experience and educators don’t. Using think-alouds, educators demonstrate that they must reach into their reading strategy toolkits to make sense of the text. Students then have the opportunity to assess the educator’s understanding and meaning making process (56).

Regardless of our age, background experiences, and reading proficiency, all readers will bump up against difficult texts. In order to read deeply, all readers will need to show persistence in solving comprehension challenges. Students will also run into other roadblocks in their information-seeking process; they can lose momentum or threaten to give up all together. Activating and applying the disposition persistence during inquiry learning is essential. Practicing persistence is important to being successful in life as well as in schooling.

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. Do the administrators and faculty colleagues with whom you serve view school librarians as reading comprehension teachers?
  2. If they do, how can you capitalize on this leadership opportunity? If they don’t, how can you change this perception?

Works Cited

Moreillon, Judi. 2007. Collaborative Strategies for Teaching Reading Comprehension: Maximizing Your Impact. Chicago: ALA.

_____. 2008. “Position Yourself at the Center by Coteaching Reading Comprehension Strategies.” Teacher Librarian, 35 (5), 27-34.

_____. 2012. Coteaching Reading Comprehension Strategies in Secondary School Libraries: Maximizing Your Impact. Chicago: ALA.

_____. 2013. Coteaching Reading Comprehension Strategies in Elementary School Libraries: Maximizing Your Impact. Chicago: ALA.

Schoenbach, Ruth, Cynthia Greenleaf, Christine Cziko, and Lori Hurwitz. 1999. Reading for Understanding: A Guide to Improving Reading in Middle and High School Classrooms. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Wolf, Maryanne. 2018. Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World. New York: Harper.

Common Beliefs about Literacy Learning

Way back in 1999 when I was a doctoral student in the Department of Language, Reading, and Culture at the University of Arizona, I devoured a book about helping secondary students read for understanding. (This was a well-timed read because two years later I transferred from an elementary school librarian position to serve as the second librarian at a comprehensive high school.)

The quote that follows from that book has informed my beliefs about literacy practices.

“What is reading?

  1. Reading is not just a basic skill.
  2. Reading is problem solving.
  3. Fluent reading is not the same as decoding.
  4. Reading is situationally bounded.
  5. Proficient readers share some key characteristics” (Schoenbach, Greenleaf, Cziko, and Hurwitz 1999, 17-19).

These beliefs have also informed my teaching and focus on teaching/coteaching reading comprehension strategies at all levels, from kindergarten through graduate school. When school librarians and classroom teachers codevelop common beliefs about literacy they will draw from many sources, including the beliefs that inform non-library associations’ understandings of literacy learning.

International Literacy Association
English language arts associations are where school librarians can begin their search for common beliefs. I am a long-time member of the International Literacy Association (ILA). Formerly the International Reading Association, ILA offers research-based position statements, white papers, research advisories, literacy leadership briefs, and reports reflecting the association’s perspective on current topics and trends.

As a member, I receive the bimonthly Literacy Today magazine. The “What’s Hot in Literacy Report” is an annual must-read! I recently read and found the “Exploring the 2017 NAEP Reading Results: Systemic Reforms Beat Simplistic Solutions” report very helpful in further developing my understanding of NAEP.

In 2017, I had the opportunity to publish on the ILA blog: “Closing the Gaps: School Librarians and the What’s Hot Report.” I appreciated this opportunity to reach out to the ILA online community. I would love to see more articles like this and more collaborative activities with ILA, particularly around their latest initiative: Children’s #RightstoRead

In my career, I have copresented at two ILA conferences. One was a day-long preconference workshop that included Nick Glass from TeachingBooks.net and children’s book authors talking about their work; my piece was to bring in the school librarian’s role in promoting literature and coteaching reading comprehension strategies. The other was a panel of school librarians and classroom teachers sharing their collaborative teaching.

National Council of Teachers of English
When I taught secondary students and YA literature at the university, I maintained my membership in the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). NCTE also has a page of position statements on their website.

In 2005, I had the opportunity to work with NCTE colleagues to draft the “Resolution on Supporting School and Community Libraries.” Wouldn’t it get great to work with NCTE again to ask them to renew their pledge to support school libraries and the work of school librarians?

ILA and NCTE are partners on the Read Write Think website. Through my association with ILA, I published two collaborative classroom-library unit plans on the site. I appreciate these two organizations for their collaborative efforts.

Traditional Literacies in Other Content Areas
What do we know about non-English language arts associations’ core beliefs about literacy? Our librarian and classroom teacher colleagues are associated with educational initiatives and organizations that understand that traditional literacies are the foundation for their efforts. School librarians are wise to investigate the beliefs of Future Ready Schools and Librarians, International Society for Technology in Education, National Council for the Social Studies, National Science Teachers Association, and more.

An Effective Collaborative Strategy
In the best of all possible worlds, school librarians would all be rich enough and have the necessary time to join and be actively involved in the work of our school librarian associations and other literacy- and education-focused organizations. Whether or not we can participate in the activities of other organizations, we can learn from our colleagues who are members and who are up to date with the standards, positions papers, and initiatives of those organizations.

“Professional conversations about the vision of the excellent reader become the starting point for building the school-wide professional learning community, dedicated to achieving this vision for all students. From there, grade levels collaborate to build the staircase curriculum leading to the vision, with each grade level committing to specific student outcomes related to the vision” (International Literacy Association 2018, 8).

When we are working with colleagues to develop common beliefs about literacy, we must search for alignment with the values of all of these organizations. When we invest in collaborative conversations, listen to one another, and reach common understandings, we strengthen our school culture while improving our teaching. When all educators and administrators have common beliefs about literacy, school librarians can serve as effective coteachers who can best support students, educators, and administrators, and enlist the support of families in literacy learning as well.

Using common beliefs about literacy learning as a framework for classroom-library coplanning and coteaching works!

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. How do you stay up to date with common beliefs about literacy learning and teaching in all realms of education?
  2. How can you be a leader in codeveloping common beliefs about literacy in your school or district?

Work Cited

Schoenbach, Ruth, Cynthia Greenleaf, Christine Cziko, and Lori Hurwitz. 1999. Reading for Understanding: A Guide to Improving Reading in Middle and High School Classrooms. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Becoming Literate: A Lifelong Process

December Podcast Episode 4: Traditional Literacy Learning

I could not have written Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy without dedicating a chapter to school librarians’ role as literacy leaders on their campuses. Chapter 4: Traditional Literacy Learning is a topic that is near and dear to my heart and essential to my thinking about school librarian leadership.

When I taught preservice K-8 classroom teachers, I learned how much support beginning educators need in order to be effective literacy teachers. Many of the undergraduate students in the courses I taught were not proficient readers and writers. When I served as a junior high and high school librarian I cotaught with content-area classroom teachers who were, without a doubt, experts in their disciplines, but had not been taught to support students in reading and writing in their content area.

It was (and still is) my belief that every educator is a literacy teacher and every educator’s proficiency in teaching reading and writing matters. This belief is why I wrote three professional books on classroom-library coteaching reading comprehension strategies (Moreillon 2007, 2012, 2013).

Reading
Reading, writing, listening, and speaking are considered traditional literacies. Of these four, reading has captured the lion’s share of attention from parents and policy makers. Students’ standardized test scores in reading have been the topic of conversation and concern for decades. In recent years, there has been a national emphasis in the U.S. on students reading at grade level by the end of third grade.

As a former elementary classroom teacher and K-12 school librarian, the children in the schools where I taught clearly demonstrated to me that readers progress in their ability to comprehend “grade-level texts” at various rates. It is curious to me that some policy makers focus on third-grade reading scores when it is in fourth grade that the curriculum turns sharply from narrative texts to informational texts. This transition can be a difficult one for developing readers.

Perhaps this is why the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the only standardized national test in the U.S., tests reading (and math) in fourth and eighth grades. This does not mean, however, that learning and practicing strategies to comprehend difficult texts starts in fourth grade or stops in eighth. Young children enjoy informational texts in their preschool years and learning to make meaning from difficult texts certainly extends post K-12 schooling.

In fact, I am often reminded that my own ability to comprehend texts is greatly dependent on my background knowledge, my ability to make inferences, and willingness to ask questions and seek clarification and greater meaning. In short, my willingness to make time to read deeply. This is particularly true when it comes to conflicting information from multiple sources and articles on subjects for which I lack prior knowledge. Reading with deep understanding is a lifelong process for me, as I suspect it is for you.

Writing
Writing in likely the second most emphasized literacy in the school community you serve. While it may very well be true that the more one reads, the better one writes, writing in various registers and genres must be practiced. Two writing applications that have challenged the students with whom I have worked are summarizing and synthesizing. Both require students to understand the purpose for the piece of writing and to filter information through their own understanding in order to be successful.

Summarizing and synthesizing require that students are able to separate main ideas from supporting details; they must be able to determine importance. Importance is based on the purpose for writing and on what the reader considers essential or new knowledge (that answers their questions). When students have made effective notes, summaries will be based on writers having put information in their own words. Synthesizing can be especially challenging when readers have discovered conflicting information.

One of the most effective (and personally satisfying) professional development opportunities in my career occurred when a high school principal required that the entire faculty adopt a writing process method and a particular writing format. Students were required to practice the format in all content areas and at all grade levels (Note: The scripted format was intended to be a starting place for writers, not the ultimate goal.) When educators and students had a common language for talking about writing, more students were able to achieve the basic skills they had lacked. Proficient and excelling writers also had a format on which they could return when they were stuck in their writing. It worked for students and for educators. (And for full disclosure, it worked for me when I was writing my dissertation!)

Foundations for Other Traditional Literacies
Listening and speaking seem to be getting short shrift in many schools today. Many of us listen to media-delivered voices more than we listen to the real-time face-to-face thoughts of other human beings. In schools, many students are not given or do not take opportunities to learn to speak clearly and with ease on topics about which they are passionate. When educators facilitate discussions about literature and informational texts (including material found in textbooks), they model and help students practice these important skills. Responding to texts orally, as well as in writing, builds understanding while it builds classroom community. Speaking is a way to have our voices heard. Listening to one another is a way we build empathy.

Students also practice speaking and listening during presentations. Even when students have created technology-supported or other visuals to share with audiences, they can also speak to the impact of new knowledge on their thinking, feelings, and actions. They can ask and answer questions during a Q&A and reflect on the effectiveness of their communication in all four traditional literacies.

School librarians can take up the cause for traditional literacies during coplanning. (See the lesson and unit plans in my coteaching reading comprehension strategies books cited below.) We can share the importance of traditional literacy learning and teaching as we collectively determine the essential agreements of our school or district’s common beliefs about literacy. (See next week’s post.)

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. How do you demonstrate to students that “literate” adults can be challenged to create meaning from difficult texts?
  2. How do you, as a school librarian, support students in further developing traditional literacies?

References

Moreillon, Judi. 2007. Collaborative Strategies for Teaching Reading Comprehension: Maximizing Your Impact. Chicago: ALA.

_____. 2012. Coteaching Reading Comprehension Strategies in Secondary School Libraries: Maximizing Your Impact. Chicago: ALA.

_____. 2013. Coteaching Reading Comprehension Strategies in Elementary School Libraries: Maximizing Your Impact. Chicago: ALA.

 

Co-Creating a Community of Readers

“Supporting Middle School Reading: Using a Data Dashboard to Create a Community of Readers” by school librarian Kelsey Cohen appeared in the June, 2018, issue of American Libraries. Kelsey’s article is about how she engaged in a professional inquiry with assistant principal Rob Andrews, literacy coach Lisa Ramos-Hillegers, and instructional technology coach Mike Sammartano to support striving readers at Hommocks Middle School (Larchmont, New York). Their goal was to explore ways to use digital reading logs to motivate and engage more readers and further develop a reading culture in their school.

When educators engage in inquiry, they take risks together. They analyze a challenge they are facing, design, and test solutions that can help students succeed. Sometimes when they examine the outcomes, they find their solution needs to be tweaked and retested before they can achieve their goals.

In the American Libraries article, Kelsey describes an inquiry conducted by Hommocks educators. In this example, assistant principal Rob Andrews suggested the literacy team institute electronic reading logs in order to collect and use student data to improve students’ engagement and motivation. In the first year of testing the logs, the collaborators learned that the digital reading log forms were too detailed and therefore, not completed by enough students. When they revised the form, they involved the expertise of their instructional technology coach. Together, they created a data dashboard where students could access colorful graphs, charts, and lists based on their reading log data. They increased students’ and classroom teachers’ buy-in.

Kelsey displayed the data on a large monitor in the library. Readers used this information to self-assess their reading and classroom teachers used it with students during reading conferences. Along with literacy coach Lisa, Kelsey used the data specifically to reach out to striving readers. Kelsey and Lisa made sure that these students had “first dibs on new book arrivals” and they “created personalized book bins” that struggling readers could browse in their classrooms (Cohen 2018, 19).

These educators’ use of the inquiry process parallels the process that students take when they engage in inquiry learning. This strategy for learning can increase their own ability to guide students (and classrooms teachers) in inquiry learning. Kelsey and Lisa contributed voices from the field in the “Literacy Leadership and the School Librarian: Reading and Writing—Foundational Skills for Multiple Literacies” chapter of The Many Faces of School Library Leadership (2017). In that example, they collaborated with science teachers in creating classroom “wonder walls” as springboards for student-led inquiry (Moreillon 2017, 104).

As the quote from above from Kelsey attests, hers is not a “neutral” stance with regard to library services. Along with her colleagues, she creatively reached out to students who were not frequent library users. The literacy team created a tool that could be used by all Hommocks students. In addition, they targeted specific services to the readers who were most in need and helped them monitor their own reading and develop internal motivation to pursue learning. Rather than simply serve those who came to the library on their own, Kelsey and her team reached out to those who could benefit the most from the resources and expertise of the library and librarian in order to reach their potential as readers.

You can read Kelsey’s article in the magazine or online and reach her via Twitter @KelseyLCohen: “Supporting Middle School Reading: Using a Data Dashboard to Create a Community of Readers.”

With the culture of reading inquiry described in the American Libraries article, Kelsey. Lisa, and their collaborators are clearly continuing on their journey to create a culture of learning in their school. And they are using an inquiry approach to pursue their goals. Bravo to the collaborating educators at Hommocks Middle School and to Kelsey Cohen for her school librarian leadership.

Works Cited

Cohen, Kelsey. 2018. “Supporting Middle School Reading: Using a Data Dashboard to Create a Community of Readers.” American Libraries 49 (6): 28-19.

Moreillon, Judi. 2017. “Literacy Leadership and the School Librarian: Reading and Writing—Foundational Skills for Multiple Literacies.” In The Many Faces of School Library Leadership, 2nd ed., edited by Sharon Coatney and Violet H. Harada, 86-108. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Image credits:
Quote from Kelsey Cohen used with permission

Youngson, Nick. “Decision-making Highway Sign.” http://www.creative-commons-images.com/highway-signs/d/decision-making.html

November Is Picturebook Month

Picture Book Month was founded by author and storyteller Dianne de Las Casas and her children’s book author/illustrator colleagues. The 2017 celebration is particularly heart-felt since this is the first year of the annual event since Dianne passed away in a tragic house fire.

Picture Book Month is on a mission: “In this digital age where people are predicting the coming death of print books, picture books (the print kind) need love. And the world needs picture books. There’s nothing like the physical page turn of a beautifully crafted picture book” (http://picturebookmonth.com).

Every day in November, the Picture Book Month Web site offers a new post from a picturebook champion explaining why he/she thinks picturebooks are important. School and public librarians will want to tap into this resource, think about their own picturebook selection practices, and consider how the information on the site can serve the literacy needs of children (and teens), families, and educators.

“Picture books are books in which both words and illustrations are essential to the story’s meaning… In a true picture book, the illustrations are integral to the reader’s experience of the book and the story would be diminished or confusing without the illustrations” (Short, Lynch-Brown, and Tomlinson 50).

My article “The Mighty Picturebook: Providing a Plethora of Possibilities” appeared in the Fall 2017 issue of Children and Libraries, the journal of the Association for Library Services to Children. The photograph above was published on the cover. As can happen, my article was shortened to fit into a tight space. These are the main subheadings in that article and some of the information that ended up on the cutting room floor.

Young Audiences for Picturebooks
The photograph above shows a 12-year-old sister reading to her 5-year-old brother on the eve of his first day of public school kindergarten. Ready and Waiting for You was expressly created for this very purpose—for more proficient readers to engage emerging readers in conversations about what they will experience when they begin formal schooling. Engaging in dialogic reading with a trusted reader builds literacy skills and in this case, can build excitement and help ease the fears of young children. Children who are new to school or transferring to a new school can ask and get their questions answered by a trusted older reader.

Ready and Waiting for You also aligns with kindergarten curriculum that focuses on learning about the community of school. Adult readers might notice this book emphases the need for a “village” to educate a child: a classroom teacher, principal, office staff, nurse, librarian, computer tech, art, music and P.E. teachers, custodian, and parent volunteers, too. (Does your child’s school include all of these essential staff members who help educate “the whole child”? If not, why not?)

Word Count and Book Length
Word count and book length should not be the primary criteria for book selection. Many of today’s picturebooks offer fewer words. Are some stories constrained by lower word counts or the typical 32-page limit? It is important for anyone who shares picturebooks with young children to realize their “willingness to listen to stories grows with experience, which may result in a younger child who has been read to regularly having a much longer attention span than an older child with no story experience” (Short, Lynch-Brown, and Tomlinson 51).

Visual Literacy
“The ability to make meaning from images is an essential twenty-first century skill. Visual images dominate access to ideas and information via the screens that are all-pervasive in daily life” (Moreillon 2017, 18). Studying the illustration media and techniques used by picturebook illustrators can give youth a greater appreciation for the sophistication of this artform. Picturebook illustrations can inspire students to illustrate their own texts and give budding artists ideas for a possible career in illustration or graphic design.

Reading Comprehension and Inquiry Learning
Picturebooks can serve as mentor texts for reading comprehension strategy instruction. While word count is not the sole criterion for an appropriate mentor text, picturebooks that offer complete story arcs with developed characters and compelling themes tend to contain a thousand or more words. There are many examples in my professional book Coteaching Reading Comprehension Strategies in Elementary School Libraries: Maximizing Your Impact (Moreillon 2013).

Using Picturebooks with Older Readers
In addition to elementary school use, picturebooks are also used in middle and high school classrooms and libraries to teach comprehension strategies and literary devices. For example, picture books by Australian author-illustrator Shaun Tan provide opportunities for educators to model drawing inferences and for students to engage in rich discussions and infer themes for Tan’s sophisticated work. One such book is The Rabbits written by John Marsden and illustrated by Shaun Tan. This sophisticated picturebook addresses the historical fact that some people have used technological advances to invade, dominate, and oppress indigenous people. This text clearly portrays the power of an analogy to communicate deep meaning. Although categorized as picturebooks, Tan’s work is not intended for a young child audience.

Making Meaning as Discovery
“Picturebooks offer exceptional opportunities for literacy learning and teaching as well as pleasure reading in preK-12 schools and libraries. When authors and illustrators create and publishers publish picture books with complete story arcs, compelling themes, intriguing illustrations, and rich information, parents and families, school and public librarians, classroom teachers and reading specialists can use these authentic texts in a plethora of ways” (Moreillon 2017, 19).

Check out the Picture Book Month calendar to see which authors and illustrators are participating this year. The Web site includes links to author and illustrator pages and provides resources and activities for students, educators, and families.

Celebrate the beauty and power of this artform to shape family literacy practices, to offer children mirrors and windows on the world, and bring delight to those who read or listen to the mighty picturebook.

References
Moreillon, Judi. “The Mighty Picturebook: A Plethora of Possibilities.” Children and Libraries, vol. 15, issue 3, 17-19.

Moreillon, Judi. Ready and Waiting for You. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2013.

Short, Kathy G., Carol Lynch-Brown, and Carl M. Tomlinson. Essentials of Children’s Literature. 8th ed. Boston: Pearson, 2014.

Image Credit: From Judi Moreillon’s Personal Collection – Used with Permission

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.

Global Picture Books that Portray or Could Inspire Social Justice Activism

wow1The mission of the Worlds of Words (WOW) is “to build bridges across global cultures through children’s and adolescent literature.” WOW hosts a physical library collection of international children’s and young adult literature on the campus of the University of Arizona in Tucson. In addition, WOW’s online presence includes book reviews (WOW Review), articles about integrating global literature into the classroom and library (WOW Stories), the WOW Currents blog, My Take/Your Take Book Dialogues, and an Author’s Corner.

This month on the My Take/Your Take Book Dialogues, Deborah Dimmett from the University of Arizona and I are sharing global children’s literature picture books that portray or could inspire social activism. Our list of books is at the end of this post.

In their book For a Better World: Reading and Writing for Social Action (Heinemann, 2001), Randy and Katherine Bomer note that the ways an educator uses literature, designs activities, and prompts questions are part of a classroom (or library) discourse. When educators share their values and read texts that continually and consistently focus on values, students can naturally and openly discuss values as well.

Our first post this month is focused on the book In A Cloud of Dust (Fullerton/Deines). I wrote the introduction to the book and responded. Deb then wrote her response to the book. It is clear to me that Deborah and I will provide examples this month that demonstrate the nature of readers’ responses.

As Louise Rosenblatt’s transactional theory (1978) attests, each reader brings her own feelings, personality, and experiences to the reading of a text. Our responses to and interpretations of these texts will be different based on our background knowledge, values, and beliefs as well as the literal content of the text and the authors’ intentions.

Engaging in these types of discussions—whether in the face-to-face or online environment—can help educators prepare to share these texts with students. These five books provide jumping off places for students and teachers to engage in critical conversations. We invite you to check on our discussions and contribute your responses, interpretations, and comments this month.

References

Bomer, Randy and Katherine Bomer. For a Better World: Reading and Writing for Social Action. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2001. Print.

Rosenblatt, Louise M. The Reader, the Text, the Poem: The Transactional Theory of the Literary Work. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University, 1978. Print.

Word Cloud created at Tagxedo.com

Books to be Discussed in December, 2015

1. In A Cloud of Dust by Alma Fullerton, Art by Brian Deines (Pajama Press, 2015)

2. The Soda Bottle School: A True Story of Recycling, Teamwork, and One Crazy Idea by Seño Laura Kutner and Suzanne Slade, illustrated by Aileen Darragh (Tilberry House 2015)

3. The Promise by Nicola Davies illustrated by Laura Carlin (Candlewick, 2013)

4. Twenty-Two Cents: Muhammed Yunus and the Village Bank by Paula Yoo, illustrated by Jamel Akib (Lee & Low, 2014)

5. My Heart Will Not Sit Down by Mara Rockliff (Knopf, 2012)

Intercultural Understanding through Global Literature

This month the BACC co-bloggers will share different aspects of diversity and inclusion as applied to and practiced in school librarianship.

WOWLongview“Culturally responsive collection development” is a term and strategy school librarians apply to indicate that we build library collections that reflect and support the cultural backgrounds of our students. To build on this strategy, we must also consider that we are living in a global society that extends beyond our students’ personal and family cultures to a wider and more diverse world.

In order to ensure that multiple voices and perspectives are represented in the resources the library provides for students, classroom teachers, and families, school librarians can develop a collection that includes global literature. Global literature includes books set in non-U.S. cultures, or is written by immigrants about living in the U.S. or in their home countries, or is written by authors who live and work in the U.S. and another country. These resources can help readers connect with others who live within and beyond our country’s borders.

Susan Corapi, Worlds of Words (WOW) board member, and Kathy G. Short WOW director, recently released a downloadable .pdf file booklet, Exploring International and Intercultural Understanding through Global Literature, to help educators understand and learn more about using global literature to explore international and intercultural understanding. In this work, Susan and Kathy provide information about a Longview Foundation for International Affairs grant-funded project called “Global Literacy Communities.” The book includes the experiences of twenty-five pre-kindergarten to high school educator study groups from nineteen U.S. states that met regularly for a period of one to three years to learn through global literature.

In their study groups, educators used global literature to further develop their international understanding and strove for something more—intercultural understanding. As Susan and Kathy note, “Intercultural understanding extends beyond nationality and politics to include informed problem solving and social action activities that necessitate an appreciation of the full range of issues, including the values and beliefs of everyone involved. Intercultural understanding creates the potential to move from curiosity about a culture to a deeper understanding of others that allows us to live and work together as global citizens” (4).

BACC readers can access an article about this publication on the EdWeek blog and can learn more about  the study groups by reading articles published in the online journal WOW Stories.

When we practice culturally responsive collection development, we have the potential to impact curriculum. But we can guarantee that impact by coplanning and coteaching to use those resources for the benefit of all students. When we take students’ heritage languages and home cultures into account and use them as background knowledge in lesson design, we are maximizing opportunities to use resources to impact student learning. In doing so, school librarians combine our skills at collection development with “connection development” (Lankes).

As collaborating school librarians, I believe we cannot overestimate our importance as literacy stewards in our buildings. With our knowledge of literature, technology resources, tools, and devices we can support teachers’ teaching and help motivate students to engage deep and meaningful learning. As the “Global Literacy Communities” study groups attest, we develop our own international and intercultural understanding as we work alongside students and classroom teachers.

How are you using global literature in your library program? Have you cotaught a collaborative lesson or unit or participated in study group to bring a global focus to your teaching?

On Thursday, I will share WOW’s My Take/Your Take Book Dialogues as a model for engaging in virtual discussions with other educators centered on global literature.

Works Cited

Corapi, Susan, and Kathy G. Short. Exploring International and Intercultural Understanding through Global Literature. Longview Foundation: Worlds of Words. 2015. Web. 30 Nov. 2015. <http://wowlit.org/Documents/InterculturalUnderstanding.pdf>.

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