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, 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, Diversity

Be Inclusive.

Representing the Underrepresented

During my secondary fieldwork placement I had the opportunity to assist the librarian in making purchasing choices for her fiction collection.  When making her choices, she started by surveying students informally through an interactive poster displayed in an accessible and public area of the library.  The poster simply asked students what books they would like added to the collection.  Of course it was anonymous, which is what made it great.  Students requested all sorts of titles and anyone could add to the poster without restriction.  When the teacher librarian received approval for funding, she kept an open mind and added every book her students requested.  Surprisingly, there were funds leftover so she asked me for advice on what else to add.  I was thrilled!  What a great opportunity for me to influence the books that teenagers have access to, especially those titles that tell the stories of underrepresented groups, that give voice to authors from silenced communities and offer perspectives outside of the status quo.  Hurriedly, I added all the titles I could think of to her Permabound shopping cart.  I then realized  I had a lot of ideas but not a focused plan of action for engagement.  Even though, I had lists of books to recommend I didn’t think it was enough to just add the books to the collection; could I take the leap of faith that if they were on the shelves they would be read? Maybe eventually, but how else would the librarian encourage students to read these new titles?  

During my time with this high school library, I made several displays for Women’s History Month and African American History Month.  I pulled books that had low circulation and had been buried in the stacks for a while, in an effort to expose students.  I also created short book lists for these new and old titles, for and by people from underrepresented groups, like people of color, the transgendered community and the LGBTQ community.  The TL and I briefly talked about starting a book club and/or displaying student book reviews in the library to encourage engagement with these titles.  

All of these things seem like the surface level answer to exposing students to diverse books and authors.  This is vital for schools that are both relatively homogenous racially and ethnically, as well as schools with more diversity.  It is important for a library to be inclusive, but to be both the mirror and the window into student identities.  This is particularly true for students of LGBTQ identities whose experiences tend to be scarce in literature and informational texts.