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.

 

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/

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,

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.

Core Values in School Librarianship Responding with Commitment and Courage

Book Cover: Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and CourageI am a card-carrying collaborator but before Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage (Libraries Unlimited 2021) the professional books I’ve authored have been solo projects. Working with 17! co-contributors to Core Values has been a once-in-a-lifetime learning experience for me and now we all get to share in the celebration.

After an 18-month journey, our book is published and available for purchase from ABC-CLIO!

Core Values
When proposing this book, I suggested four core values for school librarianship: equity, diversity, inclusion, and intellectual freedom. From my perspective, this is an interdependent set of values and a combination of values that are unique to school librarians. While some of our non-school librarian colleagues may share two or more of these values, I proposed that school librarians have the commitment and responsibility to ensure all four of these values are fully accessible and functioning in our spheres of influence.

Indeed, we share other values with our classroom teacher and administrator colleagues such as literacy and education as a path to lifelong learning, innovation, and collaboration. Yet, these four—equity, diversity, inclusion, and intellectual freedom—are the foundation on which school librarian leadership is built.

Editorial Role
As the editor of the book, I had the honor and responsibility of securing an approved book proposal and then soliciting contributors for specific chapters. I am so pleased that the chapter co-authors said “yes!” They remained committed to this work through one of the most difficult years any of us has experienced in our professional and in our personal lives. I am grateful for their perseverance and dedication to our book.

Infusing our profession with voices of our present and future generation of school librarian leaders was one of my goals for this book. (The co-authors are not of my generation of school librarianship!) They are diverse in terms of race, ethnicity, and gender identity. The contributors, including those who offered vignettes of practice found in each chapter, live and work in various parts of the country, serve in urban, rural, and suburban schools and in libraries at all three instructional levels. Our hope is that all Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage readers will find themselves and their work reflected in this book.

I wrote the introduction to the book (and the final chapter as well). In the intro, I share my passion for school librarianship and my inspiration and motivation for proposing this project to our initial acquisitions editor Sharon Coatney at ABC-CLIO.

The introduction begins with a one-sentence theme that summarizes the message I hope we clearly convey throughout the book.

Introduction: A Passion for School Librarianship
All school librarians need a firm foundation to provide strength and direction during these rapidly changing and challenging times.
Judi Moreillon

Based on my experience and thirty years of involvement, I can honestly say that our core values are what initially fueled the fire of my passion for school librarianship, have kept me going in times of trouble, and have—without fail—reaffirmed and reignited my commitment to the profession. I believe that our values are the firm foundation we can rely on during times of change and challenge. As a practicing school librarian and as a school librarian educator, I have met many courageous school librarians who have stepped up to ensure that our core values were accessible to all of our library users when others might have shrunk from that responsibility.

Core Values Chapters: First Four Chapters and Contributors
In the first four chapters of the book, the contributors share their understandings of, passion for, and commitment to four core values: equity, diversity, inclusion, and intellectual freedom. The co-authors frame their chapters with one-sentence themes that convey the overarching meaning of each value. They also share how they and their colleagues have enacted these values in their practice of school librarianship.

Chapter 1: Equity
Equitable access is a matter of social justice.
Erika Long and Suzanne Sherman

Chapter 2: Diversity
Diversity in resources and programming is not optional.
Julie Stivers, Stephanie Powell, and Nancy Jo Lambert

Chapter 3: Inclusion
Inclusion means welcoming and affirming the voices of all library stakeholders in a way that shares power.
Meg Boisseau Allison and Peter Patrick Langella

Chapter 4: Intellectual Freedom
Intellectual freedom, including access and choices, privacy and confidentiality, is the right of all library stakeholders.
Suzanne Sannwald and Dan McDowell

Courage Chapters: Chapters 5-8 and Contributors
The co-authors of the courage chapters share how they have enacted the four values in specific contexts: professional relationships, principal-school librarian partnerships, and through specific behaviors—leadership and advocacy. Their one-sentence themes convey connections to the application of our core values in practice.

Chapter 5: Relationships
Relationships are the root of a strong community.
Jennifer Sturge with Stacy Allen and Sandy Walker

Chapter 6: Principal-School Librarian Partnerships
Principals are our most important allies.
M.E. Shenefiel and Kelly Gustafson

Chapter 7: Leadership
Leadership requires confidence and vulnerability.
Pam Harland and Anita Cellucci

Chapter 8: Advocacy
Advocacy involves effective communication and building partnerships.
Kristin Fraga Sierra and TuesD Chambers

Final Chapter
I had the gift of contributing the final chapter to the book. Advocating for collaboration through instructional partnerships is the hill on which I will make my final stand in school librarianship and K-12 education. The four core values must be enacted throughout the learning community if school librarians are to achieve our capacity to lead and positively influence every student’s learning. Collaborating with others is the way to co-create the learning environment in which students and the adults who serve them can thrive.

Chapter 9: Collaboration
Collaboration is THE key to co-creating a values-centered culture of deeper learning.
Judi Moreillon

All Chapters
All chapters in the book include two vignettes that spotlight core values and behaviors in action. The co-authors have also included quotes that have inspired them from a wide variety of scholars, practitioners, and writers. Each chapter concludes with questions for reflection.

ALA Annual
The contributors and I are enthusiastic about sharing our work. We will provide many opportunities for you to engage in conversation with us around these core values and their implication for practice beginning at ALA Annual where the co-authors of the first four chapters will offer an on-demand video session #SLCoreValues #alaac21:

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

We invite you to join us in promoting and enacting the unique contributions of school librarians to our learning communities!

And, of course, we hope you will read our book, discuss, and share the ideas and examples of practice with colleagues in your PLNs.

Work Cited

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

Literacy Partners Become Advocates

Judi Moreillon Author Visit 2019 Louisville, KentuckyFor as long as I’ve been in the profession (30+ years), advocacy has been a hot topic in school librarianship. Unfortunately, far too often we start our advocacy efforts when school librarian positions are threatened, library budgets are slashed, or scheduling changes inhibit students’ access to the resources of the school library or the expertise of the school librarian.

To ward off these threats to a complete and equitable education for our students, school librarians must be in a continuous cycle of marketing, public relations, and advocacy.

Data Sources
Marketing involves listening to and learning from our library stakeholders. We must understand their needs as well as their perceptions of how the librarian and the library program can help them meet their needs. School librarians often engage stakeholders in surveys to collect these data. Once collected, we analyze the results and make the appropriate changes to our programs.

There are, however, other sources of data that can also guide our school library program decisions. The International Reading Association (ILA) conducts a biennial “What’s Hot in Literacy Survey.” Comparing this larger data set and national trends and initiatives in education to our own local data collection can further guide our program decisions.

The 2019 ILA survey results appeared in a 2020 report that points to three actions school librarians can take to demonstrate how their work helps elevate the literacy learning of students and positions them as literacy partners with classroom teacher colleagues, administrators, and families.

I wrote about these school librarian contributions in my hot-off-the-presses Literacy Today article “School Librarians as Literacy Partners: Taking Action on the What’s Hot in Literacy Report” (2021).

Early Literacy Skills Instruction
Elementary school librarians are in a position to influence outcomes for preschool children in their learning community. In many cities across the country, various governmental and non-governmental bodies are taking up the charge for high-quality early childhood education. Research has shown that children’s positive preschool learning experience put them on a path for academic and life success (U.S. Department of Education).

Here are three examples of supporting preschool children from my own practice as an elementary school librarian (two schools) and literacy coach (one school).

  • At Corbett Elementary (1994-1997), I offered preschool storytimes for the Head Start program that met on our campus. We also earned a grant to create literacy backpacks. Each backpack included at least one book, a journal, a toy or other prop, and literacy learning information for Head Start families.
  • At Gale Elementary (1997-2001), I was a half-time librarian with a full-time assistant. At first, she and I collaborated to plan a weekly storytime and book checkout for the developmental preschool program held on our campus. In a short time, our assistant offered this service on a day when I was not on campus.
  • At Van Buskirk Elementary (2001-2002), I served as the literacy coach. The Spanish-speaking community liaison and I offered a before-school family literacy program for parents. After they escorted their school-age children to their classrooms, we held a storytime and book-making, or other literacy learning experience for parents and preschool-age children.

Equity and Opportunity for All Learners
Equity continues to be a top five critical issue in the ILA survey, and it is a core value of school librarianship. Erika Long and Suzanne Sherman frame the equity chapter in Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage: “Equitable access is a matter of social justice” (Long and Sherman 2021, 3).

Making a commitment and taking courageous action to serve as equity partners to ensure equitable access to rich and relevant literacy learning experiences in our schools is a leadership role for school librarians. While school librarians have been keenly aware of the opportunity gaps that were exposed during school closures, all educators and education decision- and policy-makers have now gotten a wake-up call.

“School closures during the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the critical need to address equity in terms of access to digital resources and technology devices, which may or may not have been available in classrooms” and students’ homes (Moreillon 2021, 11). These learning tools should have been available through school library programs.

Providing Access to High-quality Diverse Books and Content
School librarians are charged with making access to high-quality diverse books and content universally accessible throughout the school. Librarians must curate a collection of resources that reflect the diversity of the students, educators, and families we serve. We must also expand the collection to include broader national and global perspectives on the human experience.

In our role as instructional partners, we can go the next and critical steps. “We then take our knowledge and commitment—our purpose—and use it to transform the collections throughout the school, including classroom collections and the books chosen as classroom texts. For our students, seeing themselves in the library is not enough—they need to see their rich and whole selves in the curriculum and school community, too” (Stivers, Powell, and Lambert 2021, 34).

Literacy Partners Become Advocates
When school librarians take action to meet the needs of our library stakeholders, we engender advocates for the library program and our role as literacy learning leaders. The relationships we build with our literacy partners combined with the evidence of impact we collect create the foundation for continuous advocacy efforts. Then, when and if there is a threat to educational equity that affects the school library program, our advocates and the data to support our cause will be at the ready.

Works Cited

Long, Erika, and Suzanne Sherman. 2021. “Equity: Equitable Access Is a Matter of Social Justice.” In Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage, ed. Judi Moreillon, 3-18. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

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

Stivers, Julie, Stephanie Powell, and Nancy Jo Lambert. 2021. “Diversity: Diversity in Resources and Programming Is Not Optional.” In Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage, ed. Judi Moreillon, 19-35. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

U.S. Department of Education. “Key Research Studies on Early Learning Effectiveness.” https://www.ed.gov/early-learning/research

Black History and Women’s History All Year Long

Core Values in School Librarianship Book Cover and Quote#AASLchat organizers and I are on the same wave length when it comes to celebrating Black History, Women’s History, and all of the “months.” Diversity in resources, teaching, and programming are most effective when diversity is essential to the classroom/library curriculum all year long.

The AASL February chat will be held tonight, 2/22/21, beginning at 7:30 EST. You can read about it in an article by Chelsea Brantley and the AASL School Library Event Promotion Committee on the KQ Blog.

For me, “providing students with equitable access to relevant, engaging, and culturally responsive curriculum, resources, and programming must be essential to our mission” (Moreillon 2021, 150). Coplanning instruction with classroom teachers gives school librarians the opportunity to privilege diverse voices, cultures, and contributions throughout the curriculum.

These are the #AASLchat questions followed by my tweets and comments.

Q1 Black History Month is in February, but why not celebrate all year? What are some practical ways librarians can differentiate instruction to support learners’ understanding of cultural relevancy and placement within the global learning community? #AASLchat

Book CoversA1 Conducting #diversity audits, not only for the library collection but also for lessons and unit plans and programming, is essential. These sample resources span the content areas and grade levels. #AASLchat #Kidlit #MGlit #YAlit

Math and Science: Hidden Women: The African-American Mathematicians of NASA Who Helped America Win the Space Race (Encounter: Narrative Nonfiction Stories) by Rebecca Rissman (Capstone 2018).

History and Civic Education: Kamala Harris: Rooted in Justice by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by Laura Freeman (Atheneum 2020)

Music and Culture: R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul by Carole Boston Weatherford (Atheneum 2020) with stunning illustrations by Frank Morrison

Q2 Libraries share stories of people from all walks of life. What books do you share with students to celebrate diversity? #AASLchat

Book CoversA2 American Indians’ experiences/contributions often left out of curriculum. Connect current events w/ #diverse resources. Ex: NM U.S. Rep. Debra Haaland, Pueblo woman & candidate 4 Secretary of Interior. What cultural values will she bring to this position? #AASLchat

Ancestor Approved: Intertribal Stories for Kids by Cynthia Leitch Smith (Heartdrum 2021)

Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom, illustrated by Michaela Goade (Roaring Brook 2020)

Nibi Emosaawdang / The Water Walker (Ojibwa / English Edition) (Ojibwa) by Joanne Robertson, translators Shirley Williams and Isadore Toulouse (Second Story Press 2018)

Q3 Thinking ahead to March and Women’s History Month, let’s curate some resources to share with our students in the coming weeks. Identify a resource or two and how you might integrate it in your library program. #AASLchat

Book CoversA3 Feature #OwnVoices of Black (& other) women during Women’s History Month. Ex: Make these connections w/social studies curriculum or biography/autobiography unit. Compare first-hand accounts w/textbook/informational book content. #AASLchat

Child of the Dream (Memoir of 1963) by Sharon Robinson (Scholastic 2020)

My Life with Rosie: A Bond Between Cousins by Angela Sadler Williamson and Chloe Helms (Kate Butler Books 2020)

Ruby Bridges: This Is Your Time by Ruby Bridges (Delacourt Press 2020)

An additional word or two about Ruby Bridges: This Is Your Time: This small book is a love and grace letter from Ruby Bridges to young children, in particular. On left-hand pages, Ms. Bridges begins the book with a paragraph or two about her six-year-old experience of integrating a White school in New Orleans (1960) and continues with how the commitment to civil rights has impacted her/our lives. Primary source black and white photographs on the right-hand pages illustrate her text. All are cited. I can imagine an elementary educator using each double page in this book as a discussion/writing prompt in and of itself. Powerful.

Thank you to Chelsea and the School Library Event Promotion Committee for organizing the 2/22/21 chat around questions that focus on how to expand our spotlights on Black History and Women’s History, not solely during the months of February and March respectively, but all year long. We appreciate you for publicizing and publishing the questions in advance so that participants can think about our responses and organize the resources we want to share.

Then we can truly listen and learn from one another during the chat!

See you there!

Work Cited

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

Teaching and Re-Teaching Black History

Book Cover: A Black Men's History of the United StatesAlthough I think spotlighting the people, literature, culture, and life experiences of specific groups has a place in our academic programs, I always hope that the “months” do not prevent us from addressing the diversity of human experience at every grade level in every content area throughout the school year.

For example, we know our history textbooks lack the perspectives and first-hand experiences of diverse voices–even when studying a historical event such as post-Civil War Reconstruction that should be centered on the lives of freed slaves. In these cases whenever they occur, it is up to librarians and other educators to engage students with primary sources and literature that share Black experiences and perspectives that are all too often missing in the textbook.

That said, and since I am no longer teaching, I have made Black History Month a time to deepen my own knowledge and understanding of Black history and culture. Last Friday on the PBS NewsHour, historian Dr. Daina Ramey Berry, who chairs the history department at the University of Texas at Austin, offered her “Brief but Spectacular Take on Understanding the Past to Live a Better Future.”

Dr. Berry is dedicated to rethinking the way we teach American history to all students. Her latest book, which she co-authored with Dr. Kali Gross. is titled A Black Women’s History of the United States (Beacon Press 2020). (I have requested the book from our public library; the following information is based on reviews.) The book includes diverse and complex voices from the first African women who arrived on the land that became the United States through to today’s Black women. The authors showcase enslaved women, freedwomen, religious leaders, artists, queer women, activists, and women who lived outside the law. Reviews indicate A Black Women’s History of the United States would be useful for high school as well as for adult readers.

Using Primary Source Documents to Teach and ReTeach History
Not only did I learn about their book in Dr. Berry’s Brief but Spectacular, I also learned about the Teaching Texas Slavery project. Dr. Berry serves as an advisor on the project. From the website: “The Teaching Texas Slavery Project seeks to help teachers rethink the teaching of slavery and race within the context of the K-12 Texas history curriculum… This project involves a two-part process for disseminating content and instruction on how to teach race and slavery. The first part offers an open-access website for using primary source documents on this topic. The second provides workshops on how to use the materials housed on the website. The overall goal is to transform the teaching of slavery and race across the K-12 social studies curriculum.”

The site includes:

  1. Background information, maps from contact (1528) through Texas statehood (1865);
  2. Concepts related to race and racism;
  3. A pedagogical framework for studying race and racism; and
  4. primary source records and documents (for students to study).

While the site is particularly valuable for educators teaching in Texas, the framework and documents could be used by educators in other parts of the country as well.

This work made a connection for me to a Guided Inquiry Design® inquiry unit I developed for middle school students designed to be cotaught by school librarians and classroom teachers in Denton, Texas. Denton County Before, During, and After the Civil War (2014) focused on using primary source documents to interrogate history prompted by the Confederate monument that stood on the Denton town square until June, 2020).

Literature Connection
Book Cover: The UndefeatedI would definitely invite students, educators, or anyone to begin any inquiry into Black history with Kwame Alexander and Kadir Nelson’s powerful, award-winning picturebook The Undefeated (Houghton Mifflin 2019). Framing teaching and re-teaching Black history in the United States in terms of the strength, perseverance, and resilience of Black people can help all students begin to understand the past and start to appreciate how far our country has come and how far we have yet to go in actualizing “liberty and justice for all.”

Reference

Kuhlthau, Carol C., Leslie K. Maniotes, and Ann K. Caspari. (2012). Guided Inquiry Design: A Framework for Inquiry in Your School. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.