District-Level School Librarian Advocacy

This month I contributed an article focused on our effort to restore school librarian positions in Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) to School Library Connection (SLC). If you are an SLC subscriber, you can find “We Need You! Forming Effective Advocacy Coalitions” in the “Political Literacy 101” section of the site. (The article will be publicly available until the next SLC issue is published.) If you are not a subscriber, you can always access and read other articles on the “Community” page, which is the splash page for the magazine, and consider subscribing. (I hope you will.)

Too often school librarians find themselves alone in speaking up for their work. Creating the context and conditions for library stakeholders to speak for our essential role in today’s education is a top priority for school librarian leaders. (See Chapter 8: Leadership and Advocacy in Maximizing School Librarian Leadership).

When we collaborate with classroom teachers and support the initiatives of our principals, they can (and will!) become some of our staunchest allies. When families are aware of how we are contributing to their children’s literacy learning, they, too, will join the ranks of our advocates. When central office administrators, school board members, and community members speak up for our work, we have the advocates we need to realize our goals for school library programs.

The Context: Arizona
A series of poor decisions made by the Arizona Legislature for more than a decade have denied district public schools of the necessary funding to meet the needs of K-12 students and families. School districts lacking local bond and budget override support have been in the position of making difficult decisions in terms of allocating meager resources for staffing, infrastructure maintenance and improvements, learning materials, including library resources and technology tools, and more.

In addition, the continual expansion of publicly funded charter schools has siphoned off monies that would have gone to district public schools in the past. To add insult to injury (and labeled “choice”), open enrollment has allowed parents the option of leaving their neighborhood schools to attend schools in more affluent districts. The lack of funding and support for district public schools that accept all students within their boundaries and open enrollment students, too, is dire.

The Context: Tucson Unified School District
TUSD is a high-needs, urban school district. Seventy-two percent of TUSD students are from federally identified minority families. Seventy percent receive free or reduced lunch and many are eating three meals a day at school sites across the district; most schools have clothing closets. The Educational Enrichment Foundation, which was created to provide academic support for TUSD students and educators, has responded by meeting the physical needs of students with personal hygiene products and struggles to achieve its original academic mission.

I served as an elementary school librarian in TUSD from 1992-2001 and in a high school until 2003. That year, our district-level library supervisor’s position was eliminated, and my high school second librarian position was cut to half time. (About twenty other site-level librarian positions were reduced that year.)

At the time of these cuts, there were 96 state-certified school librarians serving 59,250 students, a ratio of 1 librarian to 617 students. Today, there are 13 state-certified school librarians serving (about) 44,000 students, a ratio of 1:3,385.

It is clear TUSD students, educators, and families suffer from a lack of equitable access to the literacy opportunities of a well-resourced school library led by an effective state-certified school librarian.

Central Administration Advocates
Like many urban school districts, TUSD superintendents have not remained in their positions for sufficient time to make structural improvements in the district. Since I left the district, I have been unable to connect with a superintendent who was open to considering rehiring librarians and supporting library services as a high priority in a cash-strapped district.

That was the case until 2017 when Superintendent Dr. Gabriel Trujillo was hired. Dr. Trujillo came to TUSD having had the experience of full-time, state-certified school librarians in the Phoenix Union High School District. I met with him in the summer of 2018 to convince him it was long past time to restore TUSD school librarian positions and revitalize its libraries.

Dr. Trujillo did not need convincing. Instead, I learned that he was seeking advocates to work with him to convince the school board of the necessity of effective school librarians and library programs to students’ success. “We found common ground in focusing this effort on the district’s Middle School Improvement Plans in the area of reading. (While there was no need to conduct market research to begin our project, it was critical that we established shared goals on which to build this effort)” (Moreillon 2020).

TUSD School Librarian Restoration Project and Community Advocates
I reached out into the community to form a small but mighty advocacy group. Beginning in the fall of 2018 to the present, we met with and continue to communicate with school board members; we speak at governing board meetings during the calls to the audience. Based on a recommendation from a school board member, we connected with the TUSD School Community Partnership Council. We made presentations at the Arizona Library Association conference.

Most recently, we worked with the human resources (HR) department to revise the school librarian’s job description. Five middle school positions will be advertised this spring (2020), and our advocacy group will support HR in attracting the most qualified candidates. We have offered to meet with principals of these and other schools that are considering restoring their school librarian positions.

We are encouraged by our supporters and the progress we have made. We have been surprised by some literacy organizations that informed us they do not “do advocacy.”

We believe as past ALA President Jim Neal wrote that “libraries constitute an ecology of educational, research, and community services. In this environment of inter­dependency, we, as a family of libraries, must embrace advocacy for school libraries as foundational to the success of our collective work for students who love to read, as we prepare them for college, career, and life” (Neal 2018). And so, we carry on this work.

This Visme infographic summarizes our communication strategy and is fleshed out in the SLC article. If you are in a similar situation in terms of eliminated school librarian positions, we hope you will use what we have learned to take up the call, identify advocates through points of shared purpose, and work together to restore state-certified school librarian positions in your communities.

Works Cited

Moreillon, Judi. 2020. “We Need You! Forming Effective Advocacy Coalitions.” School Library Connection (February).

Neal, Jim. 2018. “Fight for School Libraries: Student Success Depends on Them.” American Libraries Magazine (March 1). https://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/2018/03/01/fight-for-school-libraries/

Community Connections

I believe a school librarian’s first order of business is serving as a leader within the school building itself and then within the school district. The focus of Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy is librarian leadership that benefits students, other educators, administrators, and families within the school building and district.

That said, instructional leadership and advocacy are two areas in which school librarians’ leadership activities can extend into the community outside the school building. When the greater community is aware of the school library program, advocacy appeals for more resources, staffing, and other types of support will be supported by local businesses, non-profit and civic organizations, and by voters.

Instructional Community Connections
School librarians can be the connectors who bring the resources of the community into the school building. Human resources are often overlooked by busy educators. Bringing in guest speakers and experts in their fields builds bridges for learning and perhaps future career choices for students. School librarians can coordinate or work with a school community liaison to facilitate volunteer tutors and other services offered by individuals and non-profit groups.

Taking students and learning out into the community is another area for school librarian leadership. Field trips to public and academic libraries, museums, universities and colleges connect students to community resources that can support learning. Getting outside the school building and visiting parks and nature preserves or attending fine arts performances enriches students’ lives.

Off-campus student jobs and internships are other ways school librarians can support student learning. As a high school librarian, I wrote a number of reference letters for library aides and other students who were seeking employment or apprenticeships. Based on my experience of students’ work ethic and willingness to learn, I could confidently recommend them to business owners and community organizers.

Community Advocacy Connections
There is no question that the community outside the school building can provide powerful support in advocating for the school librarian’s position and the library program. The more students and educators are out in the community the greater the community’s knowledge of their talents and their needs. When students share their learning, musical or other talents at a school board meeting, parents, voters, and the press are there. In a small school district where I served in a combined junior high/high school library, I co-sponsored and sponsored two sets of student presentations. One was a classroom-library online literacy circles collaboration; the other was the library geek squad who researched and presented the need for computer upgrades.

Making sure the school district and local town/city press cover the contributions of the library program to student learning helps educate the community about the vital learning and teaching facilitated by the school librarian. This will take a strategic and concerted effort on the part of the school librarian and school/district administrators who understand the literacy and learning value added. If and when the school board decides to address a budget shortfall by eliminating school librarians, there should be a hue and cry.

Community and Sustainability
When the school and school library are positioned in the community as sites for literacy and learning opportunities, school library programs have a greater opportunity to survive in the ever-changing, ever-evolving education landscape. It is up to each and every school librarian to make the commitment to sustaining a program that is worthy of stakeholders. “Developing excellence in school library programs and a credible collective advocacy story is a path to sustaining the vitality, integrity, and the future of our profession” (Moreillon 2015, 26).

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. What are the benefits of maximizing community connections?
  2. What connections are you making with resources, including human resources, to bridge school and community?

Work Cited

Moreillon, Judi. 2015. “Quick Remedies Column: Collaborative Library Stories. School Library Monthly 31 (8): 25-26.

 

National Library Legislative Day and More

A photograph on the Arizona Daily Star opinion page on May 3, 2018, struck a chord with me. If you have been following the national news, you know that Arizona’s teacher walkout and #RedForEd movement has been called a “Norma Rae moment.” Long underpaid and undervalued educators working with large class sizes and antiquated technology in crumbling buildings, Arizona educators and advocates have held Governor Ducey and his majority-Republican legislature’s feet to the fire. Activists are vowing to keep the momentum for improving education for Arizona’s students going through the November election.

The photo on the May 3rd opinion page was of a #RedForEd group in which one of the protesters was a woman holding this sign: “Even LIBRARIANS can’t keep QUIET anymore!”

To my way of thinking, NO ONE who is passionate about youth, learning, and teaching should ever keep quiet about what kind of education today’s young people need to succeed—especially not school librarians.

In that context, I am delighted that hundreds of librarians, library trustees, library patrons, and advocates are in Washington, D.C. for the American Library Association’s annual National Library Legislative Day (#NLLD18).

I have never had the opportunity to meet face to face with lawmakers during #NLLD, but I am signed up to participate virtually today, May 7th and tomorrow, May 8th.

I will be emailing, phoning, and Tweeting Arizona Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake and  Representative Martha McSally during this two-day event to remind them that Arizona’s students, educators, and families need the expertise of school librarians and the services of school libraries.

U.S. school and public libraries have a vital role to play in the health and prosperity of our country. Literacy learning and programming are critical services. From cradle to grave, libraries help patrons and communities meet their life goals. Access to technology tools is one essential service libraries provide. Since one in four households in the U.S. are without Internet connection, school and public libraries help level the playing field by providing students, families, and adults equitable access to the tools of our times and the digital resources that impact daily lives.

Other Library National Advocacy Efforts
ALA members and supporters advocate for their patrons all year long. The ALA Advocacy page provides a rich resource of support. This year, the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) Advocacy Committee launched AASL Connection (#AASLcxn), a quarterly advocacy and information sharing effort that includes webinars, Twitter chats, and more. The Association for Library Service to Children Everyday Advocacy page provides resources as well.

In addition to these, I highly recommend the work of EveryLibrary.org. Every Library helps school and public libraries organize and sustain advocacy efforts. Signing petitions or tweeting out information for these efforts is a way for librarians to support advocacy initiative across the country. Every Library has also started a peer-reviewed journal called The Political Librarian. As an Every Library monthly subscriber, I am proud to support the activism of my colleagues.

Advocating Closer to Home
I have made a long-time commitment to write as often as possible for Tucson’s Arizona Daily Star newspaper. I believe it is important to speak up locally as well as nationally about school librarianship, particularly in a state like Arizona where so few preK-12 students and educators are receiving the support of state-endorsed school librarians.

Although my letters do not always get published, my passion for our profession and what access to literacy learning means for students keeps me submitting. These are a few of my published letters to the editor and an opinion piece published within the last year.

One Million Arizona Students at Risk.” Arizona Daily Star (Apr. 4, 2017)

Missing School Librarians Means Lost Literacy Learning.” Arizona Daily Star (Nov. 3, 2017).

Early Childhood Education: A First Step that Requires Follow-Up.” Arizona Daily Star Online (Apr. 11, 2018)

I Know Who Goldwater Can Sue.” Arizona Daily Star Online (May 2, 2018).

If school librarianship is to survive, each of us must find our way to speak up and out for our profession. Yes, it is ideal and rewarding when our administrators, classroom teacher colleagues, families, and students raise their voices in support of our work. Yet, there are many who do not have first-hand experience of what school librarians contribute to students’ learning and to other educators’ teaching. It is only by educating the larger community and speaking up for our work that we can expect to change the outdated stereotypes and under valuing of our school librarians and libraries that persist today.

Please join our librarian colleagues, library advocates, and me today and tomorrow for National Library Legislative Day. Think nationally for #NLLD18 and act locally every day. Together—we can make a difference.

Image Courtesy of the American Library Association

School-Public Library Partnerships Toolkit

Bravo to AASL/ALSC/YALSA for last Friday’s publication of the Public Library & School Library Collaboration Toolkit.

The toolkit process and final product are an example of how AASL and our sister divisions can work together to create a useful resource for the benefit of all librarians who serve the literacy needs of children, young adults, and families and co-create empowered literacy communities. The toolkit opens with an explanation of how it was created. These are the five chapters that follow:

Chapter 1: Getting Started
Chapter 2: Why School-Public Library Partnerships Matter
Chapter 3: Successful School-Public Library Partnerships
Chapter 4: Continuing the Partnerships
Chapter 5: Templates and Additional Resources

The information in Chapter 1 provides strategies for identifying potential collaborators and reinforces the critical importance of building relationships as the first step in collaboration. This chapter lists ALA initiatives that provide springboards for school-public librarian collaborative work, such as ALSC’s Every Child Ready to Read® year-round initiative and annual Teen Read Week and Teen Tech Week.

Chapter 2 includes research related to the process and results of collaborative work. As background information, this chapter includes a brief explanation of evidence-based practice and the Understanding by Design planning framework. Readers will want to review some of the highlighted research support for the benefits of summer reading on children and youth. Digital literacy and early childhood literacy are two additional areas that provide research support for collaboration. To further inspire you, this chapter includes testimonials from school-public library collaborators on the positive impact of their collaborative work.

For Chapter 3, the toolkit writers spotlight exemplary school-public library collaborative programs—both at the branch and school-site levels as well as system-wide examples. From assignment alerts and book collection/kits programs to book clubs and STEM programs, librarians will want to consider how they might work with colleagues to adapt one of these for their service population or use them as inspiration for creating an original program for their community. There is a summary for each example and contact information for one or more principal collaborators should you have questions or need more details.

Chapter 4, titled “Continuing the Partnership,” offers strategies for building on and sustaining successful collaborative work. In addition to all-important communication, there is specific information to help librarians understand the resources, priorities, and challenges in reaching across the aisle to work with their school or public library counterparts. This chapter also includes information about evaluation and sharing results. This critical step can make the difference between ending the collaboration with a one-off program and developing an on-going series of programs or more highly impactful programs based on data. Evaluation provides feedback for the librarian collaborators as well as for administrators who will want to ensure programs are successful (and that they deserve more support and funding).

Chapter 5 includes templates and additional resources to support librarians in successful collaborative work. From introductory email and educator card application templates to sample collaborative planning forms, the resources in this chapter are intended to help librarians hit the ground running once they have identified promising partners.

The AASL Strategic Plan calls for a focus on building a cohesive and collaborative association as a critical issue. This toolkit is an example of AASL reaching across the aisle to colleagues in the other two ALA divisions focused on children’s and young adult services. The committee that created the toolkit is composed of representatives from all three divisions and demonstrates that AASL is growing and strengthening its community.

In the introduction to the toolkit, you will learn this work involved a three-year process: planning, drafting, and finalizing for publication. It has been my pleasure to serve for the last two years with colleagues from all three divisions who collaborated successfully to draft, revise based on feedback from the AASL/ALSC/YALSA leadership, and submit the “final” initial toolkit. The online toolkit is intended to be a starting point for future revisions as more and more successful school-public librarian collaboration examples and research become available.

Please make time to check out the toolkit and use it as a starting point for a conversation with a school or public librarian who can become your next friend and collaborative partner in supporting literacy in your community.

Images courtesy of AASL/ALSC/YALSA

Start with Why, Part 2

While authoring my forthcoming book, Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy, I have read many professional books. This is part two of the eighth in a series of professional book reviews–possible titles for your summer reading. The reviews are in no particular order.

Before participating in the Lilead Project Summer Institute in Norfolk, Virginia, I had no intention of extending my review of Simon Sinek’s book Start with Why. (See Part 1 published on 7/17/17.)

But last week, twenty Cohort 2 Lilead Fellows, four Cohort 1 speakers and other supporters, the Lilead Project Team, and five mentors  (of which I am one) spent four days thinking and talking about, writing and revising our “whys” in terms of the Fellows’ Lilead projects.

Throughout this process of connecting the purpose and value of school librarianship to goals for their projects, Fellows had support for pushing their thinking and connecting their “whys” to their personal and professional values and to their school districts’ priorities.

During the week, John Chrastka from EveryLibrary shared information and strategies related to the importance of political literacy, particularly in terms of the Fellows achieving their project goals. (EveryLibrary is registered as 501(c)4 social welfare organization and supports library organizations around the country in achieving their goals.) John said this, “Our concern is on the basics: fix the disconnect in districts that say they want successful schools and fully prepared students but don’t fund their libraries or hire qualified librarians.”

John noted that for many library supporters a librarian “who cares (about other people’s literacy needs and welfare) is a proxy” for supporters’ own desire/need to care. These people comprise the “library party” and believe that the library is a transformational force in their communities. Everyone in the room agreed that passionate librarians are “true advocates for lifelong learning.” These connections apply directly to the “whys” Lilead fellows are addressing with their projects.

The Fellows were asked to write about their values related to education and librarianship, their vision for their school/district, why they do this work, and what happens if they don’t do it. All of these thinking activities connected and reconnected to their “whys.”

When the Fellows were asked to share the key ideas that frame their projects, the similarities in their “whys” were very exciting. This is what I heard in terms of key concepts: issues (access/budget/resources/staffing) related to equity (7), cultural responsiveness (2) a subset of equity, librarians as instructional/digital leaders/building capacity (5), advocacy/changing perceptions/increasing visibility (3), K-12 curriculum (2), and increasing future-ready learning spaces (1).

To “see” the Fellows’ “whys” expressed in these ways leads me to believe that the school library profession can coalesce around a shared overarching “why.” With a collective “why,” the “what” we do and “how” we do it may look different in different schools and districts but the benefit of an overarching “values-based approach” (John Chrastka) can help school librarians work within a shared values framework. It can help us identify and build coalitions. It can help the Fellows elevate their projects because they are based on authentic truths—on the school library profession’s shared values.

Thank you to Simon Sinek for giving us the “why” prompt as a stimulus to our thoughts, discussions, and the feedback we shared with and received from one another.

Thank you to John Chrastka for teaching us about political literacy and helping us apply these principles to help us achieve our goals for and with our library stakeholders. We look forward to learning more with you.

Thank you to Roger Rosen, president of Rosen Publishing, for joining us in Norfolk and for sponsoring our learning with John. We are grateful.

Resources
EveryLibrary.org. Newsletter Subscription.

Sinek, Simon. Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. New York: Penguin, 2009.

Sweeney, Patrick PC, and John Chrastka. Winning Elections and Influencing Politicians for Library Funding. Chicago: ALA Editions, 2017.

 

 

 

 

Teach Like Finland, Part 2

While authoring my forthcoming book, I have read many professional books. This is the second in a series of professional book reviews–possible titles for your summer reading. The reviews are in no particular order.

Timothy D. Walker, author of Teach Like Finland, identified six strategies Finnish educators use to approach their work: seek flow, have a thicker skin, collaborate over coffee, welcome the experts, vacate on vacation, and don’t forget the joy. I wrote about the first three last week.

Welcome the Experts
Walker was not comfortable at first with welcoming colleagues or other experts into his classroom. After he visited other classrooms where he saw this modeled, he became a convert. Walker writes: “I found that the more I welcomed experts into my classroom, the more I began to view myself as a resource manager who could design great learning experiences for my class by tapping into talents outside my own” (183).

School librarians have a long tradition of inviting guests into the library. We regularly invite authors, illustrators, scientists, politicians, and local experts of all kinds to share via the library program. (And it’s important to remember that all educators may not be as comfortable with this practice.) The very best of these presentations are directly aligned with classroom curricula and are coplanned and cofacilitated with classroom teachers and specialists.

Two of the most successful expert presentations during my time at Sabino High School were visits by Arizona Daily Star editorial cartoonist David Fitzsimmons and our then Arizona State Representative Marian McClure. In both cases, I worked with the social studies classroom teachers to prepare students for their visits and to follow up afterward. Editorial cartoons became the topic for “questioning” reading comprehension strategy lessons. (See lesson 5-2 in Coteaching Reading Comprehension Strategies in Secondary School Libraries: Maximizing Your Impact.) In addition to civics information, the connection with Representative McClure provided advocacy for school librarianship at the state legislature.

While school librarians are adept at bringing in outside experts, they may not be as experienced with using the human resources in the library and on campus. School staff and faculty have abundant expertise and talents to share. As school librarians build relationships in the school community, it is incumbent upon them to uncover the lights that are hiding under barrels in their own buildings—lights that could make a difference for students’ enthusiasm for curriculum-based learning as well as their pursuit of independent learning.

In a recent Knowledge Quest blog post titled “Library as Incubator,” Mark Dzula wrote about how he supported the school library paraprofessional aide in sharing her language and culture expertise with students during a weekly lunchtime drop-in Arabic program. Mark wrote: “She was motivated to share her love of the language to help expand students’ worldview and to overcome any social stigma that the students may have encountered in association with Arabic.” A dozen students attended and were very inspired in various ways to pursue more information about Arabic language and culture. With support from the World Language Department, one student is taking an independent study in Arabic with the library assistant next year.

Vacate on Vacation
According to Walker, Finnish teachers “literally” vacating during the summer. Shocking! This practice is in sharp contrast with the summer practices of most U.S. educators. In the summer, most teach summer school, work another job outside of education, or prepare for the next school year. (Some even time their pregnancies so they can give birth in the summer in order to return to the classroom in the fall.) Walker, who feels the “vacate on vacation” strategy is too extreme, says he prefers a hybrid approach. In the summer, he dedicates a “healthy chunk of time for disconnecting and a healthy chunk of time for professional development” (186).

The pace of life for most U.S. educators is intense during the academic year. Relaxing during the summer (and regularly throughout the school year) seems to be the healthiest choice. Making time in the summer for extended periods of reflection can be an excellent use of one’s “free” time. Interspersing professional books with other types of reading (adult novels, YA literature, and school curriculum-oriented reading) is one strategy some school librarians use to find balance. Extending conference attendance to include touring new parts of the country or visiting with friends and relatives is another way to combine professional learning with personal interests.

Some would suggest that regular technology holidays could also improve one’s ability to relax. In his book, Walker offers a summary of a study conducted by the Harvard Business School. The study involved two groups of consulting firm workers. One group worked 50+ hours per week. didn’t take vacation time and was always connected via their electronic devices. The other worked 40 hours per week, took vacations, and coordinated unconnected time with their coworkers so they could be disconnected without worry or guilt. The team that took time off reported higher job satisfaction, better work-life balance, increased learning, improved communication with their team, and were more efficient and productive in their work (187).

By “vacating” the always “on” culture for selected days, weekends, or even months might also prioritize engaging in enriching face-to-face interactions with family, friends, neighbors, and even strangers. One thought-provoking book to consider on this subject is Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in the Digital Age by Sherry Turkle. She proclaims: “It’s time to put technology in its place and reclaim conversation. That journey begins with a better understanding of what conversation accomplishes and how technology can get in the way” (25).

Don’t Forget the Joy
This adage could be the overarching theme for Teach Like Finland. According to Walker, in 2016, Finnish comprehensive schools implemented the newest core curriculum, “where joy is being practiced as a learning concept” (189). When I read this, my U.S. educator mind sadly went directly to these questions: Is joy measurable? How will it be tested? (Ugh!)

There is a palpable feeling of excitement in a joyful learning environment. I once served as the school librarian in a truly “joyful” preK-5 school. Our school was led by a joyful principal whose most often heard phrase was “what a wonder!” With a positive school climate and a commitment to a culture of collaboration, faculty, staff, and families made our school a joyful place to be—every day of the academic year (and in summer programs, too).

Joy begins inside of each individual and from there can spread out to all members of our learning communities. Walker notes that prioritizing joy may not be easy for many U.S. educators but regardless of where he teaches, Timothy Walker commits to remembering and prioritizing joy. The last line in his book: “How about you?”

Note: This photograph of our seven-month-old puppy Pearl playing with her friend Vicka captures (for me) the pure spirit of joy. (Pearl is the poodle.) Every morning when we awake, she reminds us there is a truly joyful way to greet each day.

Works Cited

Dzula, Mark. “Library as Incubator.” Knowledge Quest Blog. 18 May 2017. http://knowledgequest.aasl.org/library-as-incubator/ Accessed 26 May 2017.

Moreillon, Judi. Coteaching Reading Comprehension Strategies in Secondary School Libraries: Maximizing Your Impact. Chicago: ALA Editions, 2012.

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

Walker, Timothy D. Teach Like Finland: 33 Simple Strategies for Joyful Classrooms. New York: W. W. Norton, 2016.

Educators Chat about Making Notes

Dedication: To the Moderators and Participants in #txlchat and #cvtechtalk

As a now “retired” educator and an advocate, I made a pledge to myself to spread the word about the expertise of school librarians in non-school library circles. I believe that school librarians’ potential to positively impact student learning outcomes has not yet been fully realized. Sharing and showing how school librarians can lead through building instructional partnerships with classroom teachers has long been my raison d’être.

Last week, I stumbled upon the #cvtechtalk. Coincidentally, they were talking about “notetaking” – one of my all-time favorite topics. I share this experience here because one of the on-going issues in school librarianship advocacy is that other educators do not know what we can do to support their teaching and help their students learn effective information literacy strategies.

Even though I arrived when participants were on question #4 of their 8-question chat, I jumped in:

CactusWoman: A.4 Let’s call it “notemaking” rather than “taking.” “Making” implies Ss questions/connections/own ideas count! #cvtechtalk just dropped in

I got some likes, retweets, and replies and decided to stay. (This is my personal measure of whether or not a chat group is “listening” and learning from one another or simply broadcasting. See the dedication below.)

I followed up with:
CactusWoman: A4 #FutureReadyLibs #schoollibrarians r trained in notemaking skills > Classroom-library collaboration 2 teach essential skill #cvtechtalk

Then a reply/question about students using Twitter for notemaking:
CactusWoman: A5 Yes! @_____ I 2 use Twitter 4 notemaking when involved w/webinars/conference presentations, etc. have not tried w/6-12 Ss #cvtechtalk

(Note that should have been *w/8-12 Ss* – Twitter “suggests” participants should be 13 and up.)

Then:
CactusWoman: A6 When Ss compare notes they may c that one person’s “main ideas” do not match the others’ > convers abt determining importance #cvtechtalk

Since this was a “tech” group, they shared many electronic tools for notemaking. When one person noted she had read somewhere that hand-written notes were more effective, I shared a research-based article about the possible differences between handwritten and electronic notes in terms of student learning.

CactusWoman: A6 My concern copy/paste/highlight does not = learning: Article about notemaking by hand vs computer: http://www.npr.org/2016/04/17/474525392/attention-students-put-your-laptops-away … #cvtechtalk

According to my Paper.li report, the article was accessed (read?) by several #cvtechtalk chat participants. (Like all librarians, I enjoy sharing research/knowledge that can make a difference in educators’ practice and in students’ learning/people’s lives.)

CactusWoman: A.7 Creativity bcomes more important w/what Ss DO w/notes: What do notes mean 2 Ss? Does info inspire creative response/action? #cvtechtalk

The final question was perfect and one that I believe all Twitter chat groups should adopt. “Based on tonight’s talk, how will you empower students in note-taking?” (or whatever the topic).

CactusWoman: A.8 Encourage Ts #schoollibrarians collaborate 2 teach Ss notemaking strategies (reading comp) & create/do something meaningful #cvtechtalk

One person posted this:
A8 Will start #notemaking w/ Ss asap! Can’t handle guilt after these great ideas! Will intro #Sketchnoting & bulleting key ideas #cvtechtalk https://twitter.com/techcoachjuarez/status/862500760981983232 …

Cha-ching!

CactusWoman: Gr8t ideas on notemaking 2nite 5/10 when I dropped in on #cvtechtalk #FutureReadyLibs #txlchat #tlchat >opportunities 4 classroom-lib collab

It was interesting to me that many educators noted they would NOT model notemaking strategies for students and were “anti-direct instruction” for this skill.

As someone who connects notemaking with the reading comprehension strategy of determining main ideas, I believe that is a mistake. In my experience, if students are not taught several strategies from which they can choose or use as models to develop their own strategies, they will opt for copying/highlighting everything. They will not pass the information through their own background knowledge and purpose for reading and make their own connections, write down their questions, and their own ideas related to what they are reading. (Notemaking strategies include Cornell notes, deletion-substitution, trash ‘n treasure, and more…)

I created a Storify archive of the chat’s final question for my review and for yours if you are interested.

I know I will drop in on #cvtechtalk again when I can on Wednesday evenings at 7:00 p.m. Pacific (?). They are an active, caring, and sharing group of educators. I appreciate what I learned from listening and participating in their chat.

If you are a school librarian who is participating in non-school librarian chats, I hope you will add a comment to this post. Readers may appreciate knowing what you perceive as the benefits or drawbacks of those professional learning experiences.

Dedication: This post is “dedicated” to #txlchat. This chat’s home base is in Texas, but more and more school librarians from across the country are joining in. In 2014-2015, I had the opportunity to conduct a research study of #txlchat. Thanks to #txlchat moderators and participants, I was welcomed into their learning space and learned about the norms and benefits of their chat culture. I continue to connect and learn with #txlchat whenever I can get online on Tuesdays at 8:00 p.m. Central. Y’all are invited, too!

Mothers, Educators, and Literacy

Next Sunday is Mother’s Day and this week is Teacher Appreciation Week. There is a strong connection between mothers and educators, home and school. We are essential partners in family literacy.

As a former elementary school librarian, I enjoyed meeting kindergarten children and their families. From their first day in the school library, I could tell which children had been read to in their homes and which had not. The lucky children came to school excited about stories. They knew how to hold books and turn the pages. They had already taken their first steps on the path to reading for enjoyment and learning.

You have heard it said that “parents are their child’s first teachers.” Nothing could be truer. In addition to feeding, sheltering, and clothing a child, literacy is another essential aspect of parenting. There is no one in a better position to do that than a child’s parents and caregivers.

Parents who talk, sing, play, and read to their infants and young children prepare them for success in school and in life. “Read to me and watch me grow/tell me all the tales you know.” Young children who hear more words spoken and say more words in conversations with others are better prepared to read. A research study showed that some children already have a 30 million (!) word gap by the age of three.

No one wants their child to start school behind in language development. High-quality early childhood preschool experiences are important. But in those first two or three years before some children start preschool, a great deal of brain development is already occurring. Talking and singing to an infant from birth is a gift of love and an investment in the child’s future learning.

In addition to talking and singing with a child, reading is a fun and effective way to build a child’s vocabulary. “In picture books and nursery rhymes/fairy tales from other times.” Making meaning from pictures is a baby step on the path to being a reader. Older readers engage young children by pointing to the pictures and talking about what is happening in the book. They ask children questions that are first answered by pointing. Later, a child’s answers will be single words, phrases, and finally full sentences. When children can ask questions about what is being read, they are well on their way to becoming motivated to learn to read.

When children are enfolded in a parent’s arms while reading a book together, they experience reading as an act of caring. “Read the pictures, read the lines./Words to nourish hearts and minds.” Children who are read to develop positive feelings toward books and stories. These feelings help children grow curious about words. Positive feelings about reading support them in making meaning from words as well as pictures.

“Read to me and plant the seed./Make me want to learn to read.” Parents can be very busy and may be unable to provide early literacy learning experiences on a daily basis. That’s when brothers and sisters, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and other caregivers can step in to make sure the young child is nurtured in these essential ways.

Parents are truly their children’s first teachers. But literacy is a lifelong skill that needs a strong beginning and support throughout students’ schooling. When libraries partner with families, caregivers, health and community organizations, we can elevate literacy in our community.

One shining example of such a partnership is the “Books for Texas Babies” initiative.

This effort began as a collaborative project of the Friends of the Dallas Public Library and Parkland Health and Hospital System. In 2016, they gave 12,000 copies of Vamos a leer/Read to Me to families of newborns and are continuing the project this year. Fort Worth Public Library and the JPS Health Network began their “Books for Tarrant County Babies” partnership in 2017.

Working together, we can ensure that all children have the literacy skills they will need to expand their life choices—skills that are the foundation for college, career, and community readiness. With a shared responsibility and commitment, let’s engage every child in experiences that show literacy is simply an essential part of life.

Note: The quoted rhymes in this blog post are from my book Read to Me.

Work Cited

Moreillon, Judi. Read to Me. Cambridge, MA: Star Bright Books, 2004.

Image Credit: From the Personal Collection of Judi Moreillon. Used with permission.

Empowerment and Transformation

This week April 9th through 15th is National Library Week. This year’s theme is “Libraries Transform.”  It is fitting that this public awareness week is embedded in School Library Month (April). The SLM#17 theme is: “Because school libraries empower students.”

There is a strong relationship between these two themes: empowerment and transformation.

Empowerment
What does empowerment mean? This is the second definition offered by Google in a quick search: “the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one’s life and claiming one’s rights.”

How then do school librarians empower students? School librarians empower students by helping them become engaged, effective and critical readers, avid inquirers, and motivated knowledge creators. Empowered students develop agency and become self-directed learners; they are prepared for lifelong learning.

In my experience, the way school librarians empower student learning is through classroom-library coplanning, coteaching, and coassessing outcomes. When school librarians bring their expertise to the collaboration table, they influence the curriculum, instructional strategies, and resources, including technology tools, available to students.

Through reciprocal mentorship with classroom teachers, school librarians influence other educators’ teaching, even when they are not coteaching with the librarian. They impact the learning of all students in their schools. This is the way empowered school librarian leaders best serve empowered students and colleagues.

In her chapter on staying visible and vital in Leading for School Librarians, Hilda K. Weisburg offers key ideas related to empowerment. I have selected a few of them here:

• When you empower someone, you help them feel more confident and sure of their abilities.
• Leaders need to empower their stakeholders.
• Through your teaching, readers’ advisory, and one-on-one help, you empower students.
• You empower teachers by helping them with technology and current educational practices.
• Keeping administrators aware of tech resources being integrated into instruction, and showcasing the work of teachers whose classes have used the library, empower administrator (134).

Transformation
What does transform used as a verb mean? Google says it means: “make a thorough or dramatic change in the form, appearance, or character of.” In my experience, libraries lead by progressive librarians can transform entire communities. Through community-based librarianship, school, public, academic, and special libraries enter into partnerships to help people achieve their goals.

As David Lankes writes in his book Expect More: Demanding Better Libraries for Today’s Complex World: “The mission of the library is to improve society through facilitating knowledge creation in the community” (33). He goes on to discuss the importance of the word “improve,” which along with “facilitate” implies proactive, collaborative, and transformational action (42-43).

Libraries led by progressive librarians collaborate to transform their communities.

Empowerment and Transformation
In the age of innovation, empowered educators and administrators have the potential to transform the school learning environment and the quality of students’ learning experiences. They also collaborate with a goal of transforming educators’ instructional practices. Through transformed practices, educators and administrators can cofacilitate learning opportunities that are authentic, relevant, and meaningful to students.

School librarians can serve as leaders who help develop the culture of collaboration in which empowerment and transformation can thrive.  It is no accident that the title of American Association of School Librarians’ guidelines for school library programs is entitled Empowering Learners

Empowered students, school librarians, and other educators can transform learning and teaching. That’s what I am celebrating this month.

Side note: On Tuesday, April 11th, the #txlchat topic is school library advocacy.  James Allen, Suzanne Dix, Sara Kelly Johns, and Jane Lofton will be guests. The chat is held on Twitter at 8:00 p.m. Central time.

Works Cited

Lankes, R. David. Expect More: Demanding Better Libraries for Today’s Complex World. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. 2012.

Weisburg, Hilda K. Leading for School Librarians: There Is No Other Option. Chicago: ALA Editions, 2017.

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

The Literacy Village

This past weekend, Tucsonans and visitors to the Old Pueblo celebrated literacy at the ninth annual Tucson Festival of Books. Over 100,000 people attended the two-day festival.

From infants to the elderly, future and avid readers from all backgrounds and with varying literary preferences enjoyed immersing themselves in the power of story and the critical importance of literacy in their lives.

This year, I had the responsibility and pleasure of booking the storytellers and facilitating their performances at the Children’s Entertainment Stage. These performances were part of the Entertainment and Family Activities offered at the Festival.

In chronological order, Elly Reidy, South Mountain Community College (SMCC) Storytelling Institute tellers, Antonio Sacre, More to the Story Entertainment, Joe Hayes, and Carla Goody shared their love of story and their talents to eager audiences of all ages.

Elly Reidy and  SMCC Storytelling Institute Tellers Mario Avent, Chantel Freed, Chrissy Dart, and Liz Warren shared stories from published traditional literature. Their stories spanned different cultures and their retellings reflected the personalities of the tellers. In addition to enjoying their live retellings, listeners could find their stories in the folktale section of their public and school libraries. Hurray for 398.2!

Antonio Sacre, who told stories on both days, shared personal family stories some of which have become picture books or part of a short story collection. One of the overarching themes in Antonio’s tellings is the power of family storytelling, Throughout his performance, he asked listeners to connect with their own stories/memories. Antonio shared his stories in Spanish and English and gave listeners a humorous and heartfelt window into his experiences as a boy, son/nephew/grandson, and father.

More to the Story Entertainment captured the attention and imaginations of the youngest TFOB audience attendees and their families. Through fairy costuming, song, audience participation, and magical moments they delighted their audience.

Joe Hayes once again captivated his loyal audience and made new fans, too, with his Southwest-seasoned tales and stories from beyond our region. Joe said he enjoys telling stories that blend cultures. He told a Cuban story about a family of white herons in Spanish and English and wove a chorus throughout the telling that reminded listeners of the African ancestry of a majority of Cuban people. Joe reminded us that stories connect people of various cultural backgrounds to a shared humanity.

C. A. Goody shared the story of her inspiration for her Charlie the Cat series, which now includes nine titles. Taking the point of view of Charlie, she recounted how a cat might experience various aspects of life. Written for third- and fourth-grade children, Carla’s stories invite readers to take up their pencils/pens/keyboards to craft stories of their own.

Thank you all for your part in making the Children’s Entertainment Stage an exciting part of the TFOB.

As a former school librarian, (school) librarian educator, and family literacy advocate, I am keenly interested in the literacy organizations that support Tucson’s literacy ecosystem, particularly those that impact early childhood education.

These were some of the booths I visited and the groups whose work I applaud (and support). In alphabetical order:

Expect More Arizona: “Expect More Arizona fosters a shared voice and collaborative action among partners statewide to advocate for all Arizona students to have the opportunity to succeed, from their early years and throughout life.”

First Things First: “First Things First is one of the critical partners in creating a family-centered, comprehensive, collaborative and high-quality early childhood system that supports the development, health and early education of all Arizona’s children birth through age 5.”

Literacy Connects, which includes Reach Out and Read Southern Arizona, Reading Seed, and more: “Literacy creates solutions to many of society’s most persistent problems. From reducing unemployment and poverty to increasing economic growth and opportunity, literacy is key to a better future for all of us.”

Make Way For Books: “Our mission is to give all children a chance to read and succeed.” MWFB serves more than 30,000 children and their families and 700 educators.

Worlds of Words: “Worlds of Words is committed to providing a range of resources to encourage educators at all levels to integrate global literature into the lives of children.” (More about WOW next week!)

It does take a village to support literacy and these organizations are doing vital work to elevate literacy in our community and improve the quality of life choices for our residents, particularly as they launch their literacy lives.

Thank you to the presenters, sponsors, exhibitors, volunteers, and most of all the readers who use their literacy skills every day to enjoy life, to improve their life choices, and to participate in the life of our village, our country, and our world. In doing so, you are an essential part of the literacy village we all need. Bravo to all!

Image Credit: Tucson Festival of Books logo courtesy of the Arizona Daily Star, image created in PowerPoint