Advocacy, Innovation

Persevere.

Starting from Scratch. One of the most exciting things I have learned this semester is the viability of starting a new library from scratch at my adult school.  With a little bit of encouragement from my supervising fieldwork TL, Mr. Completo, and the exploration I did through the Vision Project, it doesn’t seem like such a farfetched notion.  In fact, it is encouraging to note that schools all over the country have had to do this at some point in their history, what was their process?  Who did they have to convince?  Who gave the final say and where did most of their start-up funding come from? What kept them going in the face of challenges and setbacks?  Whose idea was it in the first place and which came first, the library or the librarian?  I imagine that getting support from my school district’s library services department would give leverage to my proposal to my administrators.  Or should I approach the central office administrators to start this library program as a pilot?  Should I be open to pursuing this at another larger adult school that can accommodate the space needed and perhaps has the budget for it?  How can I promote this library as an important program to implement while also promoting myself as the best fit for staffing it?  I am flooded with questions and concerns probably because this is uncharted territory and for the sake of my students, I want to succeed.      Jess deCoursy Hinds who rebuilt the library at Bard HIgh School Early College Queens says persevere and believe in what you’re doing for your students.  Embrace that what you’re trying to do, building something from nothing, is important work and requires a team effort.  She interviews several other self-starters who designed and constructed their programs from the ground up – these women are inspiring and secured grant funds and support from city officials to make their ideas come to life.  “Assembling a balanced library can be a puzzle, a great challenge, and a leap of faith.”  There will be many challenges, but honestly, it sounds invigorating.  I can’t wait to get started.

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Advocacy, Pleasure Reading

Be A Lead Reader.

I remember first learning about the statistics fellow student Julie Hong shared in her post, School Libraries Today, at the last California School Libraries Association conference and being equally shocked at what is happening in California, a state which encompasses the second largest school district in the country.  Two questions: where are our priorities and where is the advocacy effort that educates administrators and the frontline decision makers who are responsible for cutting these positions to move the funds to another need on campus?  Mr. Completo, one of of the supervising librarians I worked with during my TL fieldwork, posed another interesting question: is it possible that it all boils down to whether an administrator is a lover of reading herself that determines her level of support for the school library?  Do school libraries find more support from administrators, district representatives, and board members who have an ongoing love affair with reading and stories?  Wouldn’t that be a fascinating survey to tally?!  The East York – Scarborough Reading Association, made up of teachers, consultants, adminstrators, superintendents and resource personnel, dedicates their annual conference to just that: Reading for the Love of It!  They have been hosting the conference for more than forty years to enhance reading instruction by promoting a love of reading among educators including administrators.  Life as a Digital Dad blogger and elementary school principal, Adam Welcome, talks about the importance and power of school principals reading to kids.  He describes that it took him until third grade for reading to click and that was only because he discovered Roald Dahl.  It would be so cool to work for a principal like Adam who gets the importance of reading – wanna bet he’s got a librarian at his school?!  And there are numerous more articles and blog posts about how administrators can promote a culture of reading at her or his school, so the importance of their efforts is well recognized and likely these administrators are already on board with the library being a vital place for students on campus.  

So how can TLs convert the ones that don’t already love reading.  Here’s one tip from the Nerdy Book Club blogger: principals should instead of being “Lead Learner”, should be “Lead Reader”, because actions speak louder than words.  When she passed the torch to the new principal of her former school, instead of a lengthy list of instructions for her predeccessor, she left a reading list.  I say good going, Ms. Renwick!

Advocacy, Diversity, Older Students

Consult Experts.

In another enlightening discussion with Mr. Completo, the teacher librarian I am interning with, I learned about the master authority on read-alouds: Jim Trelease.  In the 1990s and early 200s he held hundreds of workshops reporting on the importance of reading aloud to children.   He has since retired from the lecture circuit, but over the years he has compiled a lot of research that indicates reading aloud to children from birth can positively influence their love of reading over their lifetime.  Trelease has compiled a lot of his research into informative pamphlets posted on his website and he allows people to redistribute them as long as they ask permission first.  Trelease writes about the very real inequities between the number of words a child from a wealthy family hears before age 4 (school age) and the number of words a child from a poor family hears in the pamphlet, .  Remarkably it is about three times the number of words.  This can probably be explained by multiple factors, but the end result is still the same.  Poor children enter school more often with a huge disadvantage and yet, the academic demands impressed upon these children is the same.  Surely, those kids who come from a poor family and whose parents had the time to read to them will excel, but for the vast majority this can explain higher school dropout rates in communities of lower SES, lower wages and educational attainment, as well as the perpetuation of the poverty cycle, and compounded with other inequitable institutions, a diminished likelihood of upward mobility.  

So Mr. Trelease’s solution is to educate parents, and since the majority of my students are already adults and/or parenting this is vital information to share with them.  But what else can be done to assist them in their path toward literacy?  Our students are often children who started out with a disadvantage who are now grown up and this disadvantage has continued to plague their experience in school.  How do they make up for this lost time?      

Advocacy, Older Students

Know your history.

Libraries and Adult Education take its roots from a realization and movement in the 1920s that public libraries should focus a good deal of attention on educating patrons.  An American Library Association (ALA) study was conducted in Chicago, which determined not only was there a need, but there was growing evidence that patrons were utilizing the library for these endeavors regardless, thus, the ALA vowed to meet the demand on three main fronts:  1) by providing study materials, 2) by raising awareness about resources available in the community, and 3) by providing outside opportunities to patrons.  

It was also in the 1920s that brought the first legislation mandating adult education and the Bureau of Adult Education (in California) was formed primarily for the purposes of English language instruction and assimilation as part of an expansion of the “Americanization” program.    

Today libraries continue to engage adults (of course, children and teens as well) in the learning process by offering information, classes, and exposure to new technology.  Adult education strives for the same things with a focus on job training.  Where do these two institutions with a similar purpose converge and how have they influenced each other since their inception?  Just a few years ago, the Los Angeles Public Library began offering online high school diploma courses in addition to their adult literacy tutoring programs.  Historically this was the realm of the public adult schools, to cater efforts for undereducated adults preparing them for an adult high school diploma.  Each system fortifies the other, and if working in partnership would benefit patrons exponentially.  It seems that they are in some ways competing.  I argue that public libraries should partner with adult schools the way that they have partnered with K-12, to collaborate on special projects and be a referral service to each other, as was vowed long ago.  These partnerships would ultimately be strengthened by the existence of an adult school library program to liaise between the adult school and the public library.

Advocacy, Pleasure Reading

Ignite love.

On my last day of fieldwork with Mr. Completo, the librarian at a span school in Cudahy, CA, I asked him what he thought the most important aspect of his job was.  He paused for a moment and then showed me a quote he found said by Jackie Kennedy Onassis,

There are many little ways to enlarge your child’s world. Love of books is the best of all.

He said that no matter what we do students will get instruction on the mechanics of reading in their classrooms, but instilling the love of reading is one of the hardest but most important things we can do.  A love of reading can inspire a lifetime of curiosity and learning.  It can be the difference between pursuing a better paying job, going to college, finding your purpose, connecting with others in meaningful ways, experiencing intellectual challenge, pursuing personal growth, self-actualization and self-sufficiency.  

 

Daniel Willinghem tells parents, change the conversation about why kids should read.  Make it about loving to learn, not about doing better in school.  And let them read whatever they want.  Making judgement calls even if you know they are choosing to read crappy fiction will do more damage then letting it ride as long as it needs to until they’re ready for something more demanding, challenging, literary or informational.  
If there really is a steady decline in the number of students reading for fun starting as early as the third grade, how do you entice students back into the world of stories when they have already moved past puberty or have reached adulthood?  When they have had so many negative experiences with reading, is it possible to successfully encourage an adult student who has had decades of reading failures to try to enjoy reading?  As mentioned in a previous post, Kate Messner says read-alouds are a great way to accomplish this.  Others say exposure and giving students choice.  For parents, having a purpose that is outside of themselves can be both motivating and can lead to greater reading enjoyment.  My dad who read to my brother and I as we grew up often said he came to enjoy some of the stories he loathed as a child; that reading them to us gave him a newfound appreciation for the characters and plot.  

Advocacy, Diversity

Advocate.

An art installation of 857 empty school desks stands at the National Mall in Washington

Diversity behind the desk.

As yet another white female future school librarian, I am frustrated by the lack of diversity within the field of school librarianship.  I live in California where this is simply unacceptable – what is it?  Teachers are not this white, but the ranks become increasingly colorless in the world of school libraries…even in Los Angeles one of the most diverse city in the country (Yes, folks. Even NYC has a smaller percentage of speakers of languages other than English.)  So what is up with that?  I love that author blogger Meg Medina, one of the founding members of We Need Diverse Books, shoots right for the kill and asks the new Richmond Public librarian why only 3% of librarians are latino/a, to which Ramirez exclaims, “it’s a pipeline issue.”  Library schools and universities should obviously be doing more to reach out to diverse students.  I mean what the hell?  If we claim that diversity is a major tenet of librarianship, a lot more folks should be pissed off about this and more than just lip service should be offered to change this reality.  The Feral Librarian ignites a lively discussion about what she calls the Unbearable whiteness of librarianship – I was surprised by these kinds of angry responses…

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How can the person above (hopefully not a librarian) write that after reading this

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or taking a look at this…2017-03-13_2037

The quantitative and qualitative data is real. So let us take some responsibility as professionals to live our ideals to the fullest, knowing that our student patrons are better off when the faces they find in the library are reflective of themselves.  May those faces not just exist on the shelves, but staring back at them from behind the circulation desk.

 

Advocacy

Drop back in.

The School Library’s Role in High School Dropout Prevention: TL as dropout recovery worker

I was so excited to read  earlier this semester that there is definitive proof of a TLs positive impact on high school dropout prevention.  I wrote in my final response for the School Library Management Reading assignment,

The most eye-opening idea from the discussion was regarding the extent to which an effective school library program can impact at-risk students, such as what was expressed by Gavigan and Kurtis (2010) and Jones and Zambone (2008).  These findings were especially revelatory and relevant to the work that I currently do with at-risk young adults and adults; specifically, if a strong library media program and TL have a greater impact on student achievement than per pupil spending and student teacher ratio (Lance, 2002), than my adult school in Los Angeles which serves some of the most marginalized students in the city, surely can make an argument for introducing a school library program on our campus. This would be the first adult school library program in California and in the US as far as I know.  How invigorating!

So this begs the question, how many alternative schools and dropout prevention programs consider the input of a TL?