April is School Library Month!
Imagine a space, centrally located within a school, equipped with flexible, movable furniture and a variety of technologies and resources, where students can come together to collaborate with peers and staff on projects and assignments, conduct research through various print and digital mediums, learn new concepts via hands on exploration and experimentation, hear a story read aloud, sit quietly to read, reflect, write or even color.
Imagine further that in this space there are students not sitting apart from one another, working silently and independently, but rather sitting in small groups or pairs, discussing, debating, collaborating and furthering their knowledge together. Perhaps some of these students are even taking part in a performance or presentation of some kind.
Do you have that space in mind? Can you envision the different types of learning taking place? Can you see the vast array of materials and resources at students’ and teachers’ disposal?
The amazing space to which I refer is the school library, sometimes referred to as the learning hub or learning commons today, and sadly it is a space rapidly disappearing from many of our schools.
With school budgets tightening their belts, school libraries are continually finding themselves at risk of being cut out to make room for other resources. A vast number of school libraries are operating without a certified librarian present to assist and guide students with conducting research, identifying reliable sources, formatting essays and citations, or selecting books or other reading materials. While some schools do have a person employed as a library aid or paraprofessional, these people are generally not qualified or knowledgeable enough to fulfill the role of a true certified school librarian. This common practice is a disservice to both students and staff, particularly in this time of startlingly low literacy rates. It is a consistently proven fact that schools that have a fully funded library with a certified librarian have higher student achievement and reading scores and yet, far too many of our schools look to the library first when making budget cuts with no plan in place to ever return its funding or look for new funding avenues.
Consider that in a school library students not only have the opportunity to collaborate with other students and staff in an area filled with books and various technologies, but they also get to hear fluent readers bring a story to life, thus increasing their vocabulary and building background knowledge, even in the middle and upper grades. Additionally, the school library is often the only way that some students have access to books outside of their classroom. As far back as 1740, Benjamin Franklin recommended school libraries as an essential, key element of the ideal institution of learning. So, why is it then that they are now disappearing, when they are needed more than ever?
The school library is more than a space that houses books and computers. It is the heart of the school. Some schools call it the the “Learning Commons” or "Global Learning Center," and are recognizing that it truly is the epicenter of the school, the central hub of learning and collaboration, not just among students, but among the teachers as well. School librarians bring with them a wealth of skills and knowledge that reach far beyond simply taking care of books. In today’s technological world, school librarians are equipped with the skills and knowledge necessary to guide our students through the confusing realm of digitized information and communication, imparting digital literacy and citizenship skills our students must have for continued success in education and, eventually, the workforce. Even more importantly, today more and more school librarians are trained in literacy education, including reading development and instruction and are, therefore, an additional valuable school resource available to students, teachers, administration and to the community of parents as well.
This April celebrate School Library Month by showing your support of these sacred hubs of knowledge, curiosity and collaboration. A great way to start is by signing the petition on EveryLibrary’s activism site SaveSchoolLibrarians.org and by encouraging your children and/or students to utilize their school library and by letting your schools know that you and your family value the library and its continued funding. Show your support on social media with the hashtag #SaveSchoolLibrarians!
We are mom Sandra and daughters Amanda and Kate, all with backgrounds in literacy and education, who want to share our philosophy of taking the basics of life; books, simple toys that encourage play, imagination and creativity, and using cooking and baking to teach math and real life skills to raise happy, inquisitive children. Join us in exploring the old and the new and sifting through the myriad of research to consider what is best for our children.