Saturday, April 11, 2015

Fixed but flexible

April seems to be the month when I start taking stock of how the past school year has gone.  Perhaps it's the testing season, professional self-evaluation requests, and looming deadlines that put me in this frame of mind.  

Since the 13-14 school year was my first as a librarian, I weighed heavily upon the input I got from mid- and end-of-year surveys of the teachers and students.  I was pleasantly surprised that for the most part, they were happy with how the program was run.  Any criticism I received was constructive, and I have tried to implement their suggestions this school year.

One of the biggest components of the elementary school library program seems to be the scheduling--or should I say, it's a major consideration in our big school of 1000 students.  We don't get a longer school day or week just because we have a large student population.  That hasn't stopped me from trying to maintain a fixed weekly library schedule for all of my prekindergarten through fifth grade classes--all forty-nine of them. 

Some librarians might think this is plain crazy.  When I was in "library school", the popular schedule most often discussed for an elementary was fixed for kindergarten through second grade, and flexible (at-will) scheduling for third through fifth. 

Popular, maybe....but see, I was an educator first, with the bulk of my experience coming from special education and disciplinary settings with upper-elementary and secondary students.  And I saw with my own eyes how, without regular library visits, the readers kept on reading, and the struggling or non-readers....well, they had a great excuse to avoid books altogether.

And then I read The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller and Readicide by Kelly Gallagher, and found myself saying YES, yes, yes to insights on making reading enjoyable again, flooding students with books, presenting one after another to those non-readers until one of them clicks.

Because one book will.  There are just too many books out there these days, too many genres, too much variety to say that a child will just never be a reader.  If they read comics, they are a reader.  Same goes if they read magazines, Captain Underpants, Rainbow Magic fairy books, Harry Potter, or the Guinness Book of World Records. And if we can get 'em hooked on one book, we can follow with another, and another.  The best (and in my opinion, the easiest) way to do this is to take them to the library.  Every. Single. Week.

My teachers agree with Miller.  Those surveys I mentioned?  They overwhelmingly preferred having a weekly, regular library time.  Yes, it gets interrupted by vision screenings, school photos, standardized testing, and book fairs taking over the library.  But we have built in flexible time during the week to reschedule classes and host presentations.  We double up on many upper-grade classes during time slots, so they get read-alouds or lessons every other week (kindergarten is the exception--one class at a time, story every week).  Students, teachers, and parents are always welcome to come in individually to check out materials.

Yes, the library will incorporate more tech next year.  And one of these days, I would really like to implement a makerspace in the library. Our afterschool schedule is filled at least three days a week with chess club, newspaper club, professional meetings, and math pentathlon.  Our library is a busy place! 

But the bottom line in my program will always be literacy and creating lifelong readers, first and foremost.  I am fixed on that goal--no flexibility there.   

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