About Judi Moreillon

Judi Moreillon, M.L.S, Ph.D., has served as a school librarian at every instructional level. In addition, she has been a classroom teacher, literacy coach, and district-level librarian mentor. Judi has taught preservice school librarians since 1995. She taught courses in instructional partnerships and school librarian leadership, multimedia resources and services, children’s and young adult literature, and storytelling. Her research agenda focuses on the professional development of school librarians for the leadership and instructional partner roles. Judi just completed editing and contributing to Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage (Libraries Unlimited 2021). She has published four other professional books including Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy (ALA 2018). (See the book study on this blog.) Judi earned the American Library Association's 2019 Scholastic Library Publishing Award.

SLIDE Project Data and Tools: Focus on Arizona Results

The School Librarian Investigation: Decline or Evolution (SLIDE) ProjectPerspectives on School Librarian Employment in the United States, 2009-10 to 2018-19” report (Lance and Kachel 2021a) and the SLIDE website offer invaluable information and tools to support school librarian advocates with the data they need to understand the relative health of school librarianship in their states and districts. In last week’s post, I offered information from the  SLIDE Research Study: Initial Findings and Perspectives Report.

In this post, I drill down into the Arizona data from the Report and use the interactive tools provided on the SLIDE website that provide users with access to data at the state and district levels and to create graphs and charts that display these data. The following are Arizona data along with some commentary about what these data mean for Arizona’s students, educators, administrators, and families.

My target audience for this post is Arizona school librarians, the Arizona library community, and librarian advocates. Ultimately, I will share this information with Arizona education decision-makers and voters who should know this information and take action to restore school librarian positions. If you believe that literacy learning is fundamental to students’ success in school and in life then…

The “sobering” national reality regarding school librarian positions is even more sobering in Arizona.

I hope advocates in other states will disaggregate their state- and district-level data to get a clearer understanding of the relative health of the school librarian profession in their communities. I hope these data will prompt us all to take action to improve literacy learning for K-12 students through the expertise of effective school librarians with the ultimate goal of at least one librarian per school.

SLIDE state-level data includes:

  • mandates for employing school librarians,
  • school library standards and guidelines,
  • state government school library official,
  • state data on school librarians,
  • state funding directly to school libraries,
  • state-funded or discounted e-resource, and
  • higher education institutions preparing school librarians.

School Librarians in Arizona
In 2018-19, as the Advanced Search SLIDE data tool shows, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reported 412.34 school librarian FTEs. This is the most recent year of data available from NCES. In that year, the student to librarian ratio was 1:2,259.63

Arizona: Total Students, Librarian FTEs, Students per Librarian

Image created on the SLIDE Advanced Search Page

According to data available from the Arizona Department of Education, these are the state-certified FTE (Full Time Equivalents) employees in our field for the 2020-2021 Academic Year:
602 – Librarians – 196.58
603 – Media Specialists – 86.32
Total: 282.90 FTEs

Arizona’s student-to-librarian and student-to-teacher ratio
continues to head in the wrong direction.

In 2020-2021, the classified staff serving in school libraries figure was this.
061 – Library Assistants – 592.27

In studying the NCES data from 2018-19, SLIDE researchers discovered that in Arizona 7 out of 10 districts employ library support staff in lieu of school librarians. This is the highest percentage of all the states (Lance and Kachel 2021a, vii, 66, 70, 72).

This is educational malpractice.

Image showing state-level data from Arizona

Image created on the SLIDE State Survey Page

State Survey Data: Arizona Compared with Other States
As your state intermediary, I reported Arizona data to the SLIDE researchers. Teacher Librarian Division co-chair Jean Kilker and I conferred to make sure the data we provided were accurate.

Criterion Arizona Other States and D.C. Notes
State-Mandated School Librarians No, not mandated 26 states have mandates, only enforced in 10 states
School Library Standards/Guidelines No 43 states do
State Government School Library Official No 33 states do
State Data on School Librarians Yes 18 states don’t
State Funding Directly to School Libraries No 13 states do
State-Funded/Discounted E-Resources Yes, thanks to the Arizona State Library, Archives, and Public Records Only 12 states don’t
Higher Education Institutions Preparing School Librarians None 45 states do; states with multiple preparation institutions have more school librarian positions.

Table created with data from the SLIDE State Survey Page (Lance and Kachel 2021a)

“School librarians are least prevalent and most likely to experience job loss in states with no institutions of higher education preparing school librarians” (Lance and Kachel 2021a, vi).

Perspectives on School Librarian Employment in the United States, 2009-10 to 2018-19
The Arizona data from the Perspectives Report (Lance and Kachel 2021a) is telling. The following table shows our national ranking in these criteria compared with 49 other states based on NCES 2018-2019 data. The page numbers are from the report. SLs stands for school librarians. FTEs are full time equivalents.

Criterion Ranking Table/Page Number Notes
Number of SL FTEs – 426.17 31 Table 3, 14 MA – similar total population – 621.15 SLs – ranks 25 (#1 Texas – 4,604.80 SLs)
Percent Change 38 Table 4, 16 30.5% fewer from 2009-10 to 2018-19
Percent Change 28 Table 5, 18 4.3% fewer from 2015-16 to 2018-19
State-level Ratio of SL FTEs per School 46 Table 6, 20 .18 per school
Percent Change 38 Table 7, 22 33.3% fewer from 2009-10 to 2018-19
Percent Change 33 Table 8, 24 6.7% fewer from 2015-16 to 2018-19
Student to SL FTE Ratio 46 Table 9, 27 1:2,679 in 2018-19
Teacher to SL FTE Ratio 44 Table 10, 29 1:114 in 2018-19
District Ratio of SL FTEs per School 47 Table 11, 38 Chart 13, 42 5.6% of schools have at least a .75 FTE

68.7% of schools have zero SL FTEs

% of Districts with Any Librarians 47 Table 14, 53 26.2% of Arizona districts have one or more librarians
States with the Largest % of No School Librarians 46 Table 15, 56 59.3% of Arizona districts have no school librarians

Table created with data from the Perspectives Report (Lance and Kachel 2021a)

District-level Data Tools
Since my advocacy work in Arizona is currently centered on restoring school librarian positions available in Tucson Unified School District (TUSD), the following examples reflect my work. I encourage all Arizona school librarians and library advocates to use the SLIDE tools to access and compare data from their district with other districts within the state or across the nation.

District-level data includes:

  • school librarian employment,
  • employment of selected other educator positions, and
  • selected district characteristics and student demographics.

Profile Tool
The Profile tool allows users to compare data for their own districts with those of comparable districts both within the same state and with similar districts across the nation.

When I first entered TUSD, the tool provided a list of 19 peer districts from across the country based on these criteria:

student population (45K in TUSD), locale (TUSD is a Large, City rather than suburban or rural district), and per pupil expenditures ($8,838).

When I added the number of schools (88 in TUSD), there were only 6 peer districts; when I added English Language Learners (8.54% in TUSD), there was only one peer district: Cherry Creek School District No. 5, Arapah, Colorado.

When I added Free & Reduced-cost Meals (60% in TUSD), there were no longer any peer districts. Other criteria were Majority Non-White (which TUSD is), Majority Hispanic (which TUSD is), and Restrict to Your State.

Comparison between Tucson Unified and Cherry Creek School Districts

Data retrieve/image created on the SLIDE Profile Page

I then used the Cherry Creek School District for comparison. Unfortunately, the NCES data for TUSD’s Library Support Staff is incorrect. In 2020, there were 50.5 FTEs rather than just 1!

What I learned: TUSD is a unique school district in the United States in terms of being a large, urban district, with low per student spending, with a majority Hispanic student population, with a high percentage of students who quality for Free and Reduced-cost Meals. That alone was important information for me in my advocacy work.

As the Perspectives Report notes: “Districts with higher poverty levels, more minority students, and more English Language Learners were less likely to have librarians. Majority Hispanic districts were more than twice as likely to have not librarians and less than half as likely to have the highest level of librarian staffing” (Lance and Kachel 2021a, vii).

Sadly, for the students, educators, and families in TUSD that description accurately describes the district’s demographics.

Inequitable access to the expertise of school librarians is unconscionable and most egregious for high-needs students and schools.

Advanced Search Tool
The Advanced Search tool allows users to access data from the 2019-20 school year, with the following exceptions: Free & Reduced Cost Meals and English Language Learner data is from 2018-19 and Per Pupil Expenditures data is from 2016-17.

For the search for TUSD, I checked every box and asked for percentages in terms of student demographics. The resulting data image is too wide for a screen shot, so I took advantage of the URL feature to share these data:

https://libslide.org/data-tools/advanced-search/?saved=258f

Tool users can also export these data as an Excel spreadsheet.

Conclusion and Call to Action
In Arizona, school librarians are endangered educators nearing extinction. What are we doing to reverse this situation? To meet the needs of today’s students and classroom teachers, schools need the expertise of state-certified school librarians. (See my 7/12/21 blog post “Advocating for State-certified School Librarian Positions.”)

According to the Perspectives Report, “school funding alone cannot explain staffing decisions. Between 2015-16 and 2018-19, districts most likely to have employed librarian consistently were those spending the most—and the least—per pupil” (Lance and Kachel 2021a, 59).

While funding isn’t the only problem, it is a piece of the puzzle. For example, according to a statement by Superintendent Dr. Gabriel Trujillo at the July 13, 2021 Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) board meeting and budget hearing, he and the entire TUSD Board are in agreement about restoring school librarian positions to all 86 schools in the district. At present, there are just 13, leaving 73 schools underserved.

Filling this equity gap will take a huge infusion of funds
(more than $6M/year) that the district simply does not have.

On Friday, July 16, 2021, I attended a training offered by Save Our Schools Arizona (https://sosarizona.org/); on Sunday, July 18, I picked up referenda petitions and began collecting signatures. Next week, I will report on the three referenda that Arizonans who care about public education are working to put on the ballot that will reverse Draconian tax cuts that deplete state revenues. Reversing these cuts could impact whether or not school districts in Arizona will have the funding needed to restore school librarian positions, as promised in Proposition 208, which was passed by the voters in November, 2020.

References

Arizona Department of Education. 2021. School District Employee Report. Available at http://www.ade.az.gov/sder/ReportGenerationPublic.asp. Accessed July 24, 2021.

Lance, Keith Curry, and Debra E. Kachel. 2021a. Perspectives on School Librarian Employment in the United States, 2009-10 to 2018-19. Available at https://libslide.org/publications/perspectives. Accessed July 24, 2021.

SLIDE.org. 2021b. Data and Tools. Available at https://libslide.org/data-tools/. Accessed July 24, 2021.

SLIDE.org. 2021c. State Survey. Available at https://libslide.org/state-survey/. Accessed July 24, 2021.

 

SLIDE Research Study: Initial Findings and Perspectives Report

The School Librarian Investigation—Decline or Evolution? (SLIDE) Research Project is an exploratory project conducted under the auspices of Antioch University Seattle and funded by the Institute for Museum and Library Services. The project began its work in September, 2020, and will conclude the investigation in August, 2023. This study will determine patterns in the continuing national decline in school librarian positions and how school districts decide to staff libraries for K-12 students in the U.S.

Excerpt from poster published inTeacher Librarian

Image Credit:
Kachel, Debra E., and Keith Curry Lance. 2021. “Data Speaks: Preliminary Data on the Status of School Librarians in the U.S.” Teacher Librarian 48 (5): 30-31.

Published Project Reports
Researchers Dr. Keith Curry Lance and/or Debra E. Kachel have published two articles and a poster in Teacher Librarian that illuminate state-level survey data from the SLIDE study that may help you in your district-level advocacy (SLIDE 2021).

Ms. Kachel’s February article “Data Speaks: Addressing Equity of Access to School Librarians for Students” includes these alarming facts: “Nationally there has been a twenty-percent decline in school librarian positions over the past decade” (Kachel 2021, 52), andseven million students in the U.S. have no access to a school library with a certified school librarian” (49).

The Status of State Support of School Library Programs” appears in the June, 2021 issue of Teacher Librarian (Kachel and Lance 2021). In it, they share the results of a survey of all 50 states and Washington D.C. The State Survey page on the SLIDE website provides access to state-level data that was collected via the survey. On the website’s Publications page, SLIDE provides reports based on the state-level survey data.

While all states have certification requirements for school librarians, only 43 have school library program standards or guidelines. Ten states plus D.C. have enforced requirements for certified school librarians; 16 states have requirements that are not enforced. Arizona is one of the states that has no mandated requirement.

The researchers found that the school librarian positions decreased between 2009-2010 and 2018-2019 by 9% in states with enforced requirements, 23% in states where mandates are not enforced, and states without mandates experienced an average 29% decline.

Enforced mandates matter.

Arizona is one of 17 states that has no full- or part-time state-level employee at the Department of Education who oversees school libraries. Thirty-six states reported school librarian shortages; 22, including Arizona, reported shortages in the past 3 years. Arizona is also one of just five states with no higher-education institutions that prepare school librarians. The researchers also learned that more preparation programs lead to more school librarian positions.

A table in the June Teacher Librarian article provides a snapshot of data sampling from thirteen states that have ratio staffing that codifies the number of students that are to be served by either a part-time or full-time librarian.

The article also includes a “Data Speaks” poster and references that will be important for advocates in their work. (The image for this blog post is an excerpt from the poster in the June issue of Teacher Librarian).

The important takeaway from this article, poster, and data is spotlighted on the poster. “As of 2020-21, the 50 states and D.C. vary dramatically in the extent of their support for the presence of school librarians in public schools.”

The lack of equity in access to the expertise of school librarians
is a nationwide issue.

Perspectives on School Librarian Employment in the United States, 2009-10 to 2018-19
On July 19, 2021, the SLIDE Project released the Perspectives report (Lance and Kachel 2021a). In a press release for the report titled “Most Vulnerable Students Impacted by Declining Numbers of School Librarians,” the researchers note these facts from 2018-2019 National Center for Education Statistics data gathered from 13,000 local school districts:

  • Three out of 10 districts had no librarians in any of their schools.
  • More than 4.4 million students in high-poverty districts (50%+ free or reduced National School Lunch Program) had no librarians.
  • Almost 3.1 million students in predominantly Hispanic districts were without school librarians.
  • Almost 4.1 million students in predominantly non-white districts were without school librarians.
  • Smaller and rural districts were more likely to have no librarians than larger and suburban districts.
  • Nine out of 10 charter schools had no school librarians (Lance and Kachel 2021b).

The Perspectives Report includes an executive summary, introduction, national-, state-, and district-level perspectives, and a conclusion. Each section is available as a separate .pdf file. Tables and charts throughout the report clearly illuminate these data and the researchers’ analysis.

In the report conclusion, the researchers state this: “If school librarians (regardless of job title) are to have a long-term future in U.S. public education, the school library community needs to better understand the perceptions, values, and priorities of those who make staffing decisions” (Lance and Kachel 2021a, 83).

Endangered Educators
Today’s effective school librarians teach media literacy, online safety, and digital citizenship. They codesign and coimplement standards-based lessons with classroom educators including determining instructional strategies, resources, and technology tools to support the classroom curriculum. School librarians promote reading and teach students to apply comprehension strategies as they read to learn. They select resources and manage the library collection for the benefit of all students, educators, and families.

Research shows that “school librarians provide critical support to teachers and administration by recommending and teaching strategies and sources that develop reading comprehension and analysis of informational text in all content areas” (Gretes 2013, 3). Decades of research shows a positive correlation between the work of school librarians and student achievement, particularly in reading (Lance and Kachel 2018).

Yet, the initial findings of the SLIDE Project show school librarians are endangered educators.

Next Steps in the SLIDE Project
Over the next year, district-level decision-makers will be interviewed to learn what factors are influencing whether or not they employ school librarians to serve the students, educators, and families in their districts. Interviewees will be asked about their current staffing model for school libraries and how and why they made the decision to use the model.

Coming next week:  I serve on the SLIDE Advisory Council and as the Arizona State Intermediary for the project. In that role, I provide Arizona data and connections to the research team. I will share information focused on Arizona school librarians in next week’s 7/26/21 post.

References

Gretes, Frances. 2013. School Library Impact Studies: A Review of Findings and Guide to Sources. Prepared for the Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Foundation. Available at https://baltimorelibraryproject.org/wp-content/uploads/downloads/2013/09/Library-Impact-Studies.pdf. Accessed July 15, 2021.

Kachel, Debra E. 2021. “Data Speaks: Addressing Equity of Access to School Librarians for Students.” Teacher Librarian 48 (3): 49-52. Available at https://edition.pagesuite-professional.co.uk/html5/reader/production/default.aspx?pubname=&edid=6b457264-4b51-4275-87a1-c8ed62b44733&pnum=4. Accessed July 15, 2021.

Kachel, Debra E., and Keith Curry Lance. 2021. “The Status of State Support of School Library Programs.” Teacher Librarian 48 (5): 8-13. Available at https://edition.pagesuite-professional.co.uk/html5/reader/production/default.aspx?pubname=&pubid=eae030fd-f08f-4952-9fd7-f475edae2de1. Accessed July 15, 202l.

Lance, Keith Curry, and Debra E. Kachel. 2018. “Why School Librarians Matter: What Years of Research Tell Us.” Kappan Online. Available at https://kappanonline.org/lance-kachel-school-librarians-matter-years-research/. Accessed July 15, 2021.

Lance, Keith Curry, and Debra E. Kachel. 2021a. Perspectives on School Librarian Employment in the United States, 2009-10 to 2018-19. Accessed at https://libslide.org/publications/perspectives/. Accessed July 19, 2021.

Lance, Keith Curry, and Debra E. Kachel. 2021b. Press Release: Most Vulnerable Students Impacted by Declining Numbers of School Librarians. Available at https://libslide.org/news/. Accessed July 21, 2021.

SLIDE. 2021. State Survey Reports. Available at https://libslide.org/news. Accessed July 15, 2021.

Advocating for State-certified School Librarian Positions

Dear School Librarianship Readers,
Below is an op-ed I submitted to the Arizona Daily Star on June 3, 2021. It was not published.

Between that time and this, the Arizona Legislature and Governor Doug Ducey passed a 2.5% flat rate for all Arizona state tax payers. Before this legislation, those in the top tax bracket in Arizona had a 4.5% cap so according to Capitol Media Services and as reported in the Daily Star on 7/3/21, 53% of the “savings” for the new tax structure will go to those making more than $1million a year.

In addition, the new tax structure will cap anyone’s taxes at 4.5% including the 3.5% surcharge for Proposition 208, and creates a new category for small-business owners to allow them to sidestep the surcharge for public education.

These changes from our progressive (and fairer) state tax rates were a direct result of Arizona voters passing Prop. 208 in the fall of 2020. This initiative added a 3.5% surcharge to individuals making more than $250,000 and couples filling jointly making more than $500,000 a year; the surcharge is to be collected ONLY on the amount of income OVER these two thresholds.

Before the flat tax passed on a party-line vote, Prop. 208 would have collected $800million for Arizona’s public schools, including funding for school librarians, social workers, and counselors. That amount will be reduced by at least $300million unless…

Arizona voters, especially those of us who supported and voted for Prop. 208, can stop the cuts. We are determined to put an initiative on the fall 2021 ballot to rescind these tax cuts. Polls showed that the majority of Arizona voters did not approve of the cuts so it is likely we can prevail. The work to collect 150,000 signatures begins as soon as the initiative petitions can be crafted and printed.

Today, I’m sharing the unpublished op-ed below in hopes that some piece of this information will support you in your advocacy work for district public school education and hiring and retaining state-certified school librarians.

In addition to the initiative effort, it is clear that Arizona voters must elect different legislators who will follow rather than thwart the will of the voters.

Sincerely,
Judi

3 June 2021

A Note to Governor Ducey and Republican Arizona Legislators Regarding Arizona Public Education:

While you’re at recess, I hope you will rethink Arizona’s budget proposals.

The $1.5B tax cuts you are considering that will disproportionately benefit Arizona’s top earners are ill-timed and reckless. The fact is our state economy is in good shape. Governor Ducey’s own State of Arizona Executive Budget Summary, Fiscal Year 2022, forecasts a structural surplus of $141million, resulting in an ending cash balance of $855million. This revenue, which belongs to all Arizonans, plus our current tax structure could be used to put our state on the path toward a positive and sound education future for our children.

Arizona voters who passed Proposition 208, the Invest in Education Act, know the facts. In 2019, Arizona ranked 48th among the 50 states for K-12 per student spending and 46th in average teacher salaries. Arizona schools have lower per-pupil administration spending than any other state in the nation.

District public schools are severely economically challenged to provide equitable educational opportunities.

It shouldn’t have taken a pandemic for the public to realize the underfunding crisis in our K-12 schools. In 2020, no students, families, or districts should have been scrambling to provide the learning tools of this century in order for students to fully participate in remote learning. Internet access, laptops and other devices, and technology troubleshooting support should have been as common as pencils and pencil sharpeners in every school. Schools should have had the necessary technology infrastructure to give all students, educators, and families success during remote learning, and yet, a year and a half since the first school closures, opportunity gaps still exist.

This year, standardized test scores will likely show a decrease in students’ literacy proficiency due to a number of factors including the transition to remote learning, stress in home environments, and reduced participation in learning opportunities that educators worked tirelessly to provide.

Research shows that school librarians are key educators who make a difference in student learning outcomes. With their knowledge of print and digital resources, including technology tools, school librarians helped students, classroom teachers, and families navigate remote and hybrid learning. Arizona ranks 46th in the nation for the number of state-certified school librarians so many school communities did not have librarian support during school closures.

In addition, studies are showing that students’ social and emotional health has been negatively impacted by the pandemic. According to the American School Counselor Association, Arizona ranks dead last among the states with an average of one counselor for every 905 K-12 students.

These statistics do not describe a K-12 district public school system that is preparing students for success.

Last November, Arizonans voted to reverse a three decades in the making crisis in underfunding schools. We voted to address the teacher shortage, increase educator pay, and train future educators. We voted to increase the number of school librarians and counselors in order to shore up the academic and social-emotional health of our students. We voted to invest in education to improve the prospects for our students in a competitive global economy.

When schools lack key faculty members who are trained literacy learning, technology integration, and health experts, students and educators do not have the support they need and deserve.

It’s time to remember that you represent the people of Arizona. We are the “special” interest group who elected you to meet the challenges and solve the problems that individual citizens, groups of advocates, towns, cities, and counties cannot meet and solve on our own. Our district public schools are our collective responsibility.

The current budget surplus and tax structure plus Proposition 208 provisions that provide a permanent funding stream can support school districts in equitably meeting the high-level of literacy and technology opportunities our children must have to succeed.

Don’t shortchange our students! Wealthy Arizonans do not need tax breaks at the expense of our children.

End of Op-ed

Addendum: In a July 7, 2021 article “In a Drive to Cut Taxes, States Blow an Opportunity to Invest in Underfunded Services” by the non-partisan Institute of Taxation and Economic Policy, Arizona is not alone. Ohio, New Hampshire, North Carolina among others are mentioned alongside the Grand Canyon State. “After a year in which the gross disparities in our economy became even more apparent, tax cuts for thriving high-income households should not register as a priority.”

But here in Arizona, the rich got the tax cuts and the K-12 schools got shortchanged – again! So, now it’s time to once again start circulating those petitions to undo the harm.

References (Required by the AZ Daily Star that accompanied my op-ed submission)

American Association of School Librarians During Remote and Hybrid Learning. 2021. Knowledge Quest (blog). https://knowledgequest.aasl.org/final-school-library-snapshot-survey-results

Arizona Governor. 2021. State of Arizona Executive Budget. https://azgovernor.gov/sites/default/files/summary_book_with_addendum_2-1-21_0.pdf

Arizona PBS. 2019. Arizona School Counselor to Student Ratio Worse in the Nation. https://azpbs.org/horizon/2019/05/arizona-school-counselor-to-student-ratio-worst-in-nation/

Hough, Heather J. 2021. Learning Loss and Test Scores. Brookings. https://www.brookings.edu/blog/brown-center-chalkboard/2021/04/29/covid-19-the-educational-equity-crisis-and-the-opportunity-ahead/

Lance, Keith Curry, and Debra E. Kachel. 2018. Why School Librarians Matter: What Years of Research Tell Us. Kappan Online. https://kappanonline.org/lance-kachel-school-librarians-matter-years-research/

National Education Association. 2021. Research and Publications: Arizona Education Rankings. https://www.nea.org/research-publications

https://www.nea.org/resource-library/teacher-pay-and-student-spending-how-does-your-state-rank

SLIDE.org. 2021. School Librarian Numbers. https://libslide.org/

Woolf, Nick. 2020. Social-emotional Toll on Students. InsideSEL. https://insidesel.com/2020/11/19/the-impact-of-the-covid-19-pandemic-on-student-learning-and-social-emotional-development/

Consent and Social Emotional Learning in Early Childhood

Although giving consent and social emotional learning (SEL) have been topics of conversation and practice in education for some time now, I believe events in the national spotlight have brought the importance of these two concepts into sharp relief. I also believe that even the youngest children can learn they have agency about how, when, and why they interact with others and can learn self-care from a very early age.

Consent
Body autonomy is the right to control one’s body; it is the right to give or withhold consent. Consent has two parts: setting boundaries and clear communication. Young children know what feels “good” to them and what does not.

Some Things Are Scary written by Florence Parry Heide and illustrated by Jules Feiffer is one classic children’s book that shows children (and reminds adults) that kids’ experience their world from a different vantage point than “big” people do. The very first page of this book shows a large adult giving a small child a bear hug: “Getting hugged by someone you don’t like… is scary.” Another page reads: “Holding on to someone’s hand that isn’t your mom’s when you thought it was… is scary.”

Empathy, or perspective taking, is a life skill that can help young children (and all people) understand that individuals have the right to set boundaries for touch. Learning to clearly communicate one’s boundaries is another life skill that children can learn from an early age. Interactions with others that include “I” statements demonstrate to speakers and listeners alike that direct communication is important as we build healthy relationships.

Perspective taking (or empathy) and communication are two of seven research-based Mind in the Making life skills that support families as they offer young children opportunities for learning executive functions that impact social, emotional, and cognitive success. Visit their website for more information.

Social Emotional Learning
The family is the first place babies and toddlers learn about healthy emotions and positive social interaction. With caregivers and in preschool settings, children also learn behavioral norms that follow them into their K-12 education where SEL will help them succeed in an academic environment and throughout their lives.

As the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) notes on their website: “SEL is the process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions.”

Please Don't Give Me a Hug Book CoverPlease Don’t Give Me a Hug!
I am pleased that our board book Please Don’t Give Me a Hug! addresses both of these concepts—consent and SEL—for toddlers and preschool children, their peers, and caregivers. In the book, three non-gender specific children are shown in various social situations in which they and other characters use various gestures to say “hello, I see you” or “care” about you.

Written in the first person, the story emphasizes the importance of the child’s agency in setting boundaries and in communicating their preferences to peers, older children, and adults. The child-friendly illustrations by Estelle Corke clearly convey emotions. When receiving an unwanted bear hug, the expressions on these three children’s faces clearly show their discomfort. Their smiles when receiving or exchanging a wanted gesture show their pleasure in social exchanges that honor their boundaries.

Read Aloud and Early Childhood Education “Lesson Plan”
Of course, board books are intended for the lap listener and a reader who will engage a toddler in a reading experience. By sharing one’s thoughts to extend the print on the page, parents and grandparents, siblings, and other readers can enculturate young children into the pleasure of experiencing life through the words and illustrations of a book. Engaging book listeners in a dialogic reading experience through asking open-ended questions helps them enter into the story and express themselves through language.

Please Don’t Give Me a Hug! has the added benefit of showing young children various ways to communicate with peers and adults. For toddlers, engaging book listeners in mimicking the “acknowledgment” gestures in the book is fun. Learning to wave, smile, give fist bumps and high fives, use American Sign Language to say “hi,” and more make the reading experience physically interactive. And there may be gestures portrayed in the book that some children might not like, which present an opportunity for an additional conversation about consent.

Preschool children can actually practice using “I” statements that communicate how they want others to say “hello.” A group of children can practice this like they would a “Simon Says” game with the child in the center using “I (Susie) like fist bumps” with the other children making the fist-bump gesture. Preschool children can also stand or sit with a partner to share how they want to be greeted. Partners can rotate so that children can experience the fact that their peers have different preferences that can and should be respected.

More Information and Resources for Please Don’t Give Me a Hug!
Star Bright Books (SBB) published an excellent article about how to teach children body autonomy and consent. The article includes interior illustrations from the book that show how caring gestures are portrayed. SBB also published an artist spotlight interview with me about this book and writing for children.

Important side note: This story was first published as a donation on the Make Way for Books app. Thank you to MWFB for your vital early childhood education work in the greater Tucson community and for granting SBB and me permission to publish the board book.

Illustrator Estelle Corke, Star Bright Books, and I hope you will share Please Don’t Give Me a Hug! with the children in your care. Have fun practicing and talking about the gestures. Help young children understand their right to consent as they develop their social emotional life skills and think about how you, an adult, can make sure that you are respecting children’s body autonomy.

Core Values in School Librarianship: Collaborating for Social Justice

“When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just,
you have to speak up. You have to say something;
you have to do something.”
Representative John Lewis
(Cited in Moreillon 2021, 168).

Are you registered for the upcoming ABC-CLIO-sponsored webinar “Core Values in School Librarianship: Collaborating for Social Justice”?

If so, we look forward to having a conversation with you. If not, well… it’s not too late – and it’s free!

Registration – 7/2/21- Find the recording and the handout at:
Core Values in School Librarianship: Collaborating for Social Justice

(The recording is available for two weeks courtesy of ABC-CLIO/School Library Connection. Better yet, why not join the SLC Community?)

Promotion for Webinar with photographs of the presenters

Let’s explore how school librarians’ core values of equity, diversity, inclusion, and intellectual freedom are foundations for our work toward enacting social justice in our libraries and throughout our school communities. Let’s think together and discuss why collaborating with library stakeholders and advocacy are essential if our efforts to spread social justice are to succeed.

Please join Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage (Libraries Unlimited 2021) contributors Peter Langella, Suzanne Sannwald, and Kristin Fraga Sierra as they share how they have integrated social justice practices through applying their school librarian core values. Moderated by yours truly, this will be a lively and thought-provoking conversation!

Peter Patrick Langella – @PeterLangella
Suzanne Sannwald – @suzannesannwald
Kristin Fraga Sierra – @lincolnabesread

About the Program
What value statements guide school librarians as we meet challenges such as equitable access and opportunity gaps?

Although school librarians and classroom educators share values such as collaboration, innovation, and literacy as a path to school success and lifelong learning, we have a unique set of values that positively impact the entire learning community: equity, diversity, inclusion, and intellectual freedom. It takes commitment and leadership to enact school librarian core values. It also takes courage to stand up for social justice in our school communities.

Target Attendees
This roundtable is intended as a sharing and discussion with Q&A. Who should attend?

  • Of interest to practicing school librarians and library students
  • Discuss how leadership and collaboration go hand in hand
  • Get and share ideas for leading in a values-centered learning community

Possible Questions
These are some of the questions we may have the opportunity to explore during our 40-minute webinar:

  • What are some of the actions school librarians have taken to ensure access and to close gaps for all students, classroom educators, and families?
  • What are some potential barriers to working in accordance with core values and how might you navigate them?
  • How do you sustain this work? How do you balance “doing enough” with also caring for your own mental and emotional well-being?
  • What strategies have you used to turn your library into a hub for courageous conversations?
  • In what ways do our school libraries reinforce inequities and injustices by choosing what we remain silent about?
  • How have our students shown their investment and advocacy for the work of their school library and literacy in their communities?
  • Why is collaboration with administrators, colleagues, and others essential to our success?

Listen in and use the chat during the 40-minute discussion by the presenters followed by a ten-minute Q&A. We want to hear about your work, respond to your questions, and elevate the conversation about the impact of school librarians’ core values on learning and teaching in schools as we reach for social justice.

Registration
Core Values in School Librarianship: Collaborating for Social Justice

Work Cited

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

Core Values in School Librarianship at #alaac21

“All school librarians need a firm foundation to provide strength and direction during these rapidly changing and challenging times”
(Moreillon 2021, ix).

Are you registered for the American Library Association Virtual Annual Conference?

If so, may we recommend our On-Demand Video Program, Q&A, and Slow Chat at ALA Virtual Annual Conference from June 23 – 29?

Program Title: “Taking Action for Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Intellectual Freedom in School Libraries.”

The presenters are contributors to our hot-off-the-presses book Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage (Libraries Unlimited 2021). We are enthusiastic about sharing our work.

Beginning this week during ALA Virtual we will provide opportunities for you to engage in conversation with us around these core values and their implication for practice:

Equity: Erika Long – @erikaslong

Diversity: Stephanie Powell and Julie Stivers – @spowel15 and @BespokeLib

Inclusion: Meg Boisseau Allison and Peter Patrick Langella – @meg_allison and @PeterLangella

Intellectual Freedom: Suzanne Sannwald – @suzannesannwald

About the Program
In this program, the co-authors and presenters share their values and practices related to the first four chapters of the book. Enacting these core values in school libraries requires a deep understanding of what each value means and how it can be applied for continuous improvement in the K-12 learning environment.

The program is divided into five segments, a brief introduction and one for each of the core values. After the moderator’s introduction, each presenter will organize their portion of the program in this way:

  1. Give a brief introduction and personal connection and commitment to the core value.
  2. Define the core value in terms of school librarian practice.
  3. Give an example of courageous application of the value that demonstrates reaching for social justice.

The presenters invite video viewer participants to reflect with other attendees and us regarding their individual next steps to take action to apply equity, diversity, inclusion, and intellectual freedom practices in their teaching and leading in their library spaces. Program participants can ask questions or make comments via the ALA virtual system and via the slow chat on Twitter. Presenters will respond.

Learning Objectives:
Upon completion, participants will be able to:

  • Describe how school library/public library youth/family users will “see” evidence of equity, diversity, inclusion, and intellectual freedom (EDII) in library spaces.
  • Identify and share action steps to achieving EDII in their library and school learning environments.

Invitation to #alaac21 Slow Chat
Please join us throughout ALA 2021 – from June 23 through June 29 – for a slow chat to extend our conversation focused on “Taking Action for Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Intellectual Freedom in School Libraries.”

We will post questions from our presentation each day. We invite you to engage in the conversation by responding to the questions, asking questions, and sharing your thoughts!

We look forward to the discussion! Be sure to use the hashtags #alaac21 and #SLCoreValues when contributing.

Registration : Taking Action for Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Intellectual Freedom in School Libraries

Handout

We look forward to learning with you online this week!

Work Cited

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

The Future of School Librarianship: Why Administrators Matter

It is true that research on the understandings and perspectives of school principals has been conducted over decades. Whether or not there are state mandates for school librarian positions, we know that district-level and site-level decision-makers are the leaders who ultimately ensure support for school librarians. They approve hiring or making cuts. They support funding for materials. They decide whether or not school librarians will have an official spokesperson (read that district-level supervisor) who has a seat at the table when literacy learning gaps are being identified and solutions are found.

Bullhorn with words: School Librarian Advocacy

The future of school librarianship
depends on advocacy
from district- and site-level administrators.

School Librarians: Endangered Educators
If our profession was doing a stellar job of demonstrating how our work with classroom educators closes gaps and improves student learning outcomes, then there would be no need to continue to study administrators’ understandings and perceptions of our work.

But that is not the case. We know this because school librarians are endangered educators. Nationally there has been a twenty-percent decline in school librarian positions over the past decade (Kachel 2021, 52), and seven million students in the U.S. have no access to a school library with a certified school librarian (49). If equity is indeed a core value of the profession and we care deeply about other people’s children whether or not they attend our own school, then we need to get serious about how we can align our work to meet administrators’ needs and how the roles we play in education are perceived and understood.

The hard part is that in many schools and districts across the country state-certified school librarian positions, if they ever existed, were cut more than a decade ago. A generation of students, classroom teachers, administrators, and families have never known the scope and potential of school librarians’ contributions to learning in this century. They have not experienced collaborating school librarians as culture-builders and instructional leaders and partners. They have not experienced libraries as hubs of technology-infused learning, library collections that include resources in multiple formats, and librarian leaders who integrate tools and resources to help students and classroom educators succeed.

It is a tough sell when the “buyers” haven’t had first-hand experiences of highly qualified school librarian leaders and vibrant library programs with school-wide impact.

“Today’s” School Librarians
It may be understood that school librarians develop library collections. They match print and digital resources to curriculum and the needs of the students, educators, and families in their learning community. For close to three decades, they have been technology as well as book experts who support classroom teachers by integrating digital and print resources and tools into the classroom curriculum.

Most of all as experienced educators and instructional partners, school librarians collaborate with classroom teachers and provide the support needed for specific learners, small groups, or entire classes of students depending on students’ needs, teachers’ learning objectives, and the required standards. School librarians’ teaching is flexible based on just-in-time instructional needs. (If librarians are not engaging in instruction, that is not a function of job descriptions or national standards, but rather the way the librarian or site administrator understand the job. That should not be allowed to continue in this century.)

Effective school librarians offer job-embedded professional development because when they coplan, coteach, and co-assess student learning outcomes, they are learning alongside colleagues in real time, with real students, within the real supports and constraints of the school’s learning environment (physical or virtual). Classroom teachers and school librarians become reciprocal mentors for one another. The result is a collaborative teaching force that can help the school reach its capacity for educating every student.

Learning from Administrators
So why are we still studying the understandings, perspectives, and needs of school administrators? The answer to that question is as simple as it is complex. Because we cannot exist without administrators’ support.

Pam Harland, Anita Cellucci, and I have completed a study of video content created by the seven-member AASL School Leader Collaborative (see the May 3, 2021 blog post). We will be presenting “The Influence of Standards on School Administrators’ Priorities for School Librarians” during a Research Into Practice session at the AASL National Conference in Salt Lake City in October, 2021.

There is much to learn from studying these exemplary administrators and even more to gain by practicing the high level of school librarian leadership they expect from their school librarian cadre.

Work Cited

Kachel, Debra. 2021. Data speaks: Addressing Equity of Access to School Librarians for Students. Teacher Librarian 48 (3): 49-52.

Pride From the Beginning and All Year Long

A Hand Print with Rainbow ColorsI believe that children’s sense of pride is instilled in their families right from the start. It is up to parents, caregivers, and educators to work together to help all children bring their self-esteem to their interactions with others and to feel a sense of belonging, safety, and security in our communities.

Librarians who share literature with children and youth may be guided at times by the concept of “bibliotherapy.” We often read and discuss books with children and young adults that touch on issues of social and emotional health. We are not trained therapists and most of us are not trained in responding in a clinical way to mental health issues; we do not “treat” book listeners/readers as patients. Still, we often recognize when a particular book will speak to an individual student or group of students in our care.

Self-Esteem Titles
A focus on positive self-esteem messages is a place to begin for young children. Books that celebrate the self and difference create in children a feeling that they are worthy and an expectation that people are different and all are worthy of our friendship.

To build self-esteem and caring for others, we read books like Karen Beaumont and David Catrow’s book I Like Myself (Harcourt 2004), Giraffes Can’t Dance written by Giles Andreae and illustrated by Guy Parker-Rees (Cartwheel 2012), Red: A Crayon’s Story written and illustrated by Michael Hall (HarperCollins/Greenwillow 2015), I’m New Here by author/illustrator Anne Sibley O’Brien (Charlesbridge 2015), and I Like Being Me: Poems About Kindness, Friendship, and Making Good Choices by Judy Lalli (Free Spirit 2016).

LGBTQIA+ Books from the Beginning
For me, there are two types of Pride books that set children’s expectations for diversity and inclusion. Diverse books with LGBTQIA+ and gender fluid protagonists such as Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Love (Candlewick 2018), When Aidan Became a Brother by Kyle Lukoff and illustrated by Kaylani Juanita (Candlewick 2019), and My Rainbow by DeShanna and Trinity Neal, illustrated by Art Twink (Kokila 2020).

Inclusion titles communicate a matter-of-fact stance with regard to diversity that can influence children’s expectations for differences in gender identity and family structure. My favorite books for young children in this category are The Great Big Book of Families by Mary Hoffman, illustrated by Ros Asquith (Dial/Penguin 2010), Introducing Teddy: A Gentle Story about Gender and Friendship written by Jessica Walton, illustrated by Dougal MacPherson (Bloomsbury 2016), and Sam Is My Sister by Ashley Rhodes-Courter, illustrated by MacKenzie Haley (Whitman 2021).

Resources for Library Collection Development
As you conduct an audit and select new titles, please consider the critical importance of #ownvoices titles as you build your Pride collection and look for opportunities to integrate these books into the classroom curriculum as well as in book club and independent reading selections.

American Library Association: Rainbow Book List

School Library Journal offers several lists and recent articles for your review.

26 LGBTQIA Titles for Teens

LGBTQIA Graphic Novels for Young Readers

People of Pride

Pride for Tweens

I also appreciate this list from Chicago Parent: 29 LGBTQ Children’s Books for Families to Read.

Check your local public library to compare the books they are promoting during Pride Month with the titles in your own library collection. Pima County Public Library, where I live in Tucson, has an excellent list for preK through grades 8 and up list titled “Hope Will Never Be Silent” (in homage to Harvey Milk) and another list for teens and adults (with an unfortunate title) called “Gay Best Friends.”

Pride Month All Year Long
Here in Arizona the regular school year ended in May. If students are still in school in June in other schools across the country, the opportunity to spotlight Pride Month may be compromised by the end-of-the-year rush.

School librarians and classroom teachers absolutely MUST celebrate the literature that shines a spotlight on LGBTQIA+ perspectives and experiences. Just as Black Lives Matter is a social justice issue so are the rights and lives of our LGBTQIA+ students, colleagues, and neighbors.

Perhaps this presents the opportunity for a new “month” at your school.

Social Justice Month is an idea whose time has come.

Image Credit
Mjimages. “Pride LGBTQ.” Pixabay.com, https://pixabay.com/vectors/pride-lgbtq-symbol-sign-action-6056043/

 

Bibliotherapy Note: Anita Cellucci, school librarian, librarian educator, and contributor to Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage (Libraries Unlimited 2021), writes about and offers resources for bibliotherapy on her website.

Point of Privilege about Eric Carle’s Passing: I attended my first Arizona Library Association conference when I was a newly minted school librarian, circa 1991. Eric Carle was a guest author at the conference. When I arrived dressed in my everyday school clothing (a simple dress and VERY sensible shoes), I noticed that every other person around me was wearing a suit and all the women were sporting heels! (It was a different time.) Who knew?

I went up to the table to ask Mr. Carle to sign The Very Quiet Cricket (1990). He recognized that I was shy and noticed I was feeling uncomfortable. A twinkle in his eyes, he said, “I really like your dress.” We shared a conspiratorial smile and exchanged further kindnesses. I still have my cricket book (that no longer chirps) with his distinctive signature.

In 2016 after the Midwinter Meeting in Boston, I visited the Eric Carle Museum in Amherst, Massachusetts, with long-time ALA/AASL friend Connie Champlin. You can read a lovely tribute to Mr. Carle on the museum site.

If you ever have the opportunity to visit the museum, do so to experience the profound impact Eric Carle has had on the world of children’s literature—both in writing and illustration. (Another children’s literature great David Wiesner gave a presentation focused on his book Mr. Wuffles the day Connie and I visited the museum.)

Advocacy NOW: Save School Librarians

“School librarians need an advocacy network, especially when challenges or possible solutions undermine the potential of the school librarian and library program to serve the literacy learning and resource needs of students, classroom teachers, and families” (Moreillon 2018, 133.)

Advocacy for full-time, state-certified school librarians in every school is one of my passions and a motivating purpose in my life’s work. When I taught preservice school librarians, I stressed the non-negotiable responsibility to take up school librarian and library program advocacy as a way to take action for a high-quality education for K-12 students and teaching experience classroom educators.

Advocacy and Public Relations Word Cloud

I believe that equitable access to the skill set of professional school librarians and the rich resources of school libraries give students and educators opportunities to reach their capacity to learn and teach how to read effectively and to efficiently locate, evaluate, and apply relevant information in order to create new knowledge.

The inequitable distribution of professional school librarians in K-12 schools across the U.S. is a matter of social justice.

Washington, DC Public Schools Librarians
Our colleagues in Washington, DC are being threatened with a decision to allow principals to deem school librarians as “excess” educators and eliminate their positions. You can read about this poor decision on EveryLibrary’s SaveSchoolLibrarians website and on Nancy Bailey’s Education Website.

This is the personalized introduction I added to the EveryLibrary letter and sent off last week:

Dear Mayor Bowser, Dr. Ferebee and Paul Kihn,

I am an advocate for equity in education. Equity includes access to print and digital resources via school library programs led by state-certified school librarians who teach students reading comprehension and critical thinking skills that help them navigate today’s information.

PreK-12 students, especially those who have not had literacy learning opportunities in their homes and neighborhoods and lack access to a wide-variety of reading materials, need the support of literacy leaders. Likewise, classroom teachers benefit from the resources and instructional knowledge school librarians bring to the collaboration table.

EveryLibrary’s piece:

Losing school librarians is a crisis for any school. Ward-by-ward across D.C. it is an educational tragedy. When the American Rescue Plan includes over $368 million in direct aid for DCPS, this isn’t the right way to balance the budget. We need to focus on building-up our students and families up after COVID disruptions.

There is never a right time to “excess” school librarians. I am concerned that allowing principals to cut their school librarians will create a bigger achievement gap. We should be investing in more certified school librarians and improving collection development budgets. We can support Title I programs and fight learning losses by investing in our school libraries. #DCPSNEEDSLIBRARIANS

I encourage you to make time to speak up for our DC school librarian colleagues and their library patrons. Please add your voice to this advocacy effort.

Follow #DCPSNeedsLibrarians and @Boss_Librarian

Michigan School Librarians
AASL president-elect and librarian at East Middle School in the Plymouth-Canton Community Schools, Kathy Lester penned a May 3, 2021 op-ed titled “To boost literacy, Michigan must invest in school librarians.”

“From the December 2019 (Michigan) staffing numbers, only 8 percent of our schools employ a full-time certified school librarian, 25 percent employ at least a part-time certified school librarian, and approximately 52 percent of our schools do not employ any library staff.” As Kathy firmly proclaims, “Without staff, you cannot have a school library.”

Kathy is asking legislators, educators, and community members to support House Bill 4663, introduced by Representatives Daniel Camilleri, D-Trenton, Matt Koleszar, D-Plymouth, and Amos O’Neal, D-Saginaw, which would require a school board to employ at least one certified media specialist for each school library operated by its district.

Follow Michigan Association for Media in Education and @LibraryL

Pennsylvania School Librarians
On May 17, 2021, SLIDE: School Librarian Investigation: Decline or Evolution? researcher and school librarian advocate Deb Kachel published an op-ed titled “Students need equity in school library programs.”

According to a survey conducted by the Pennsylvania Association of School Librarians, the gap between “have” and “have not” schools is widening in their state. Forty-eight districts report having no school librarians in any of their school buildings, impacting almost 90,000 K-12 public school students. The high-poverty districts seem to be the most affected.

Deb notes, “Only a state requirement for certified school librarians, like HB 1168 (which has been referred to the Education Committee) and an enacted fair school funding formula will provide the equity that all Pennsylvania’s students need and deserve.”

Follow @PSLA_News and @lib_SLIDE.

New Jersey School Librarians
The state Board of Education proclaimed April “School Library Month.” Then in an April 7, 2021 article posted by Politico, “‘Vital’ school librarian positions disappearing, state Board of Education told,” New Jersey School Librarian Association President Beth Thomas reported that school librarian job cuts are happening across the state. Beth wrote, “This is the first time seen we have seen the position officially abolished per district policy (in Essex County).”

According to the preliminary data from the SLIDE national study as many as one fifth of New Jersey school districts do not have a certified school librarian although the state’s administrative code mandates the position.

Follow New Jersey Association of School Librarians and @bibliobeth.

Arizona School Librarians?
Don’t get me started…

Your tweets could help our colleagues
in DC, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.

Equity and the First Amendment
If you have not as yet read ALA Freedom to Read President Barbara Stripling’s article “School Librarians, Equity, and the First Amendment,” I hope you will do so. In it, she writes this: “school librarians must take a leadership role in ensuring that all young people have equitable physical and intellectual access to diverse content, the right to receive and read that content, and the self-confidence and determination to exercise their right to speak.”

That requires that we ALL stand-up for the “have” students and educators in our own schools and districts AND for the “have not” students and educators in schools and districts that lack state-certified school librarian leaders in their schools.

Let’s create an unstoppable advocacy network—beginning with our support for one another.

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

Image Credit
Moreillon, Judi. 2018. Figure 8.1: Public Relations and Advocacy Tools. Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy, 133.

Early Childhood and Family Literacy

Book Cover: Vamos a leer/Read to MeI am passionate about the importance of early childhood and family literacy. When I served as an elementary school librarian and a K-5 literacy coach, I had the opportunity to take action to influence the literacy practices of the children, families, and educators in our learning community.

I wrote about this in my March 8, 2021 blog post: Literacy Partners Become Advocates and in an article that appeared in the March/April issue of the International Literacy Association’s Literacy Today magazine: “School Librarians as Literacy Partners: Take Action on the What’s Hot in Literacy Report.”

Practices in Early Childhood Literacy
Every kindergarten and first-grade classroom teacher and elementary school librarian can identify children who have been enculturated into literacy practices before coming to school. They may not know the alphabet and letter sounds, but they possess the basic building blocks of literacy. They know:

  • how to hold a book;
  • how to turn pages from right to left and move their eyes from left to right on a double-page spread;
  • that the squiggly lines of the page are words;
  • that words have meaning;
  • illustrations mean something and reflect or extend the meaning of the words in the book;
  • how to listen and attend to a book as it’s being read to them; and
  • that stories are communication tools that people use to share their thoughts, ideas, emotions, and experiences.

They possess this knowledge because a proficient reader read to them and talked with them about books and stories. This is why books such as Read to Me/Vamos a leer (Star Bright Books 2004) are shared in so many early childhood literacy programs and are important in promoting family literacy.

Children who possess the knowledge that comes from experiences with books are ready for kindergarten or first grade. They are prepped for literacy learning while their peers who lack this foundational knowledge are not yet ready to learn the alphabet, letter sounds, and more.

Research in Early Literacy
As an academic and a grandmother, too, I follow research in early literacy learning. Two recent studies have important information for parents and educators of young children.

On May 10, 2021, The New York Times reported on a study that I may not have otherwise seen: “The Power of Pre-K” by Dave Leonhardt. The article is subtitled: “President Biden wants universal pre-K. A large new study examines its likely effects.”

The Boston pre-K study is a rare experimental study in education because the children under investigation were placed in preschool through a lottery system. (Read “The Long-term Effects of Universal Preschool in Boston” by Guthrie Gray-Lobe, Parag Pathak, and Christopher Walters.)

As in previous studies of Head Start children, this study found that the participants did not do noticeably better on standardized tests in elementary school, middle school or high school than did their peers who did not attend preschool.

However, the lottery preschool students demonstrated advantages in other key social and emotional indicators that are important to success in school and in life. The outcomes for the lottery students were evident in terms of better behavior. 70% of the lottery students graduated from high school while only 64% of non-lottery students did so. Lottery students were less likely to be suspended from school or incarcerated. These positive effects crossed racial and ethnic groups and the boys who had preschool experience did a bit better than the girls.

In another study, “Predictors of Reading Ability Among Ten-Year-Olds: Poverty (negative), School Libraries (positive), Instruction (zero), Early Literacy (zero), Christy Lao, Sy-ying Lee, Jeff McQuillan, and Stephen Krashen studied students’ 2006, 2011, and 2016 reading test scores based on The Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), an international comparative assessment that measures student learning in reading.

These researchers found that the effect of poverty was negative in all three years and the positive effect of the presence of school libraries (access to books) was significant in two studies and fell just short of significant in the third.

Their study also showed that instruction in phonics and phonemic awareness, which they call early literacy, did not result in a significant positive impact on PIRLS test scores. (They did, however, suggest a positive correlation between the amount of parental reading and SES both times they were investigated.)

Research Informing Practice
Taken together, preschool programs that promote social and emotional learning and elementary schooling that includes access to school libraries in a winning combination for reading achievement and school and life success.

To those two studies that suggest best practices in childhood literacy, I would add, based on first-hand experience, preschool experiences that include books and interactive reading. I would also add school libraries led by school librarians who know how to connect students with books. School “librarians have the training needed to identify and purchase the highest quality books and resources at all reading proficiency levels, in all genres and multiple formats. A well-funded school library collection reflects a commitment by the school, school district, and community to serving all students and families at school and at home” (Moreillon 2021, 11).

And through instructional partnerships with classroom, school librarians teachers also provide students with meaningful opportunities for reading for meaning, to learn, and pursue the answers to their questions.

All together, these are important contributors to students’ success.

I believe in research informing practice AND I also believe, as Ross Todd so eloquently stated, that practice must also inform research.

“Research informing practice and practice informing research
is a fundamental cycle in any sustainable profession”
(Todd 2007, 64).

The conversation between practitioners in the field and researchers must be on-going, respectful, and impactful. Research must be enacted in practice for it to be meaningful. In order to continually improve our practice, school librarians and other educators’ work must be informed by the latest research. And practitioners who daily serve the literacy needs of young learners must hold all research up to our first-hand experience the youth.

Works Cited

Gray-Lobe, Guthrie, Parag Pathak, and Christopher Walters. 2021. “The Long-term Effects of Universal Preschool in Boston. Massachusetts Institute of Technology: Economics Department.” https://seii.mit.edu/research/study/the-long-term-effects-of-universal-pre_school-in-boston/

Lao, Christy, Sy-ying Lee, Jeff McQuillan, and Stephen Krashen. 2021. “Predictors of Reading Ability Among Ten-Year-Olds: Poverty (negative), School Libraries (positive), Instruction (zero), Early Literacy (zero).” (in press in Language Magazine)

Leonhardt, David. 2021. “The Power of Pre-K.” The New York Times (May 10). https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/10/briefing/universal-pre-k-biden-agenda.html

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

Todd, Ross. 2007. Evidence-based Practice in School Libraries: From Advocacy to Action. In School Reform and the School Library Media Specialist, eds. S. Hughes-Hassell and V.H. Harada, 57-78. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.