Focus on reading

As the new school year approaches and time has been taken to refresh and refocus, it is important to begin by articulating thought to the purpose and role of a teacher librarian. Two essential aspects of a teacher librarians role include reading and information literacy. This Post focuses on reading and highlights plans to ensure reading is fundamental to all students K-6.

It is appropriate to start the year with a reading action plan, in 2018 there was a significant decline in library visits which had a negative impact on borrowing numbers and scope of books loaned in the upper primary years. It is important to note that the decline was linked to a restructuring that incorporated inquiry learning blocks for Years 5 and 6. The new structure removed the more traditional library lesson and regular borrowing/reading time. In 2019, Years 3 and 4 are scheduled for such change and the concern for a negative impact on exposure to books and time scheduled to visit the library to browse, borrow and read are of utmost importance.

The recent work of Margaret Merga and Saiyidi Mat Roni provides practical ideas and strategies to ensure teacher librarians are proactive in encouraging continued reading beyond students reaching reading independence. Merga’s work is highly admirable and provides clear direction for all educators concerned for student reading. It is specified that it is essential for educational institutions to promote and support youth in the development of regular reading practices. The action plan to follow is based on a select few of Merga’s recent research papers. I look forward to reading Merga’s newly released book Reading Engagement for Tweens and Teens: What Would Make Them Read More? in the coming weeks and extending my learning journey.

“While libraries are sites of constant change in response to policy, resourcing, and technological developments, they remain essential sources of books for young people.” (Merga 2017a, p.609)

Focus on reading is a broad concept, in order to construct an action plan the specific area of interest is based on book reading – including fiction and nonfiction, and how the school library can support this. Although book reading is essential K-6 and beyond, it is necessary to promote reading for primary students in Years 3-6 due to the recent restructure in my workplace. Fortunately, the research of Merga concentrates on this age range which involves students who have reading competence.

"...effectively communicate the continued importance of engaging in recreational book reading” (Merga 2017b, p.220)

An action plan incorporates three elements – specific tasks, time frame, and resource allocation, to follow are initial ideas to execute.

Specific tasks

  • Review the 2019 timetable for classes K-6: does each class have a scheduled regular session to visit the library for the purpose of browsing, reading, being read to and introduced to suitable books, and borrowing? If yes, terrific, if no, immediate follow up with key participants to stress scheduled time will be essential.
  • Continually ensure the library collection is up to date and appealing to students. Fortunately, the fiction library collection has just had a stocktake and several books were deselected, there are also numerous new books ready to offer providing a sound range of choice. However, it would be beneficial to conduct a survey to gain student feedback on the collection and plan accordingly.
  • Teach and promote strategies to assist students to find engaging books. As noted by Merga many students did not have strategies helpful for finding books. “Children need to be explicitly taught choosing strategies”(Merga 2017b, p.220). Three key factors linked to choosing strategies involve “familiarity, complexity and interest” (Merga, 2017a, p.624-626).
    Familiarity Complexity Interest
    Series loyalty  Reading skill Page sampling
    Repeat reading  Matching skill level Book title and cover appeal
     Genre enjoyment  Extending skill level Author familiarity
     Supported choice Series engagement
  • Inform parents of the importance of encouraging and supporting their children to continue reading, make time for reading and reading together (Merga, 2018b).
  • Administer and provide summarised reports to class teachers of what their students are reading. It is important to note that the focus is not just on the borrowing statistics but looking at what the students are reading. A summarised report on borrowing by students would be valuable information for teachers during parent meetings. Library catalogue systems offer a wide range of reports, taking time to investigate is something that I plan to perform more regularly as a disappointing report at the end of a school year is not greatly helpful or encouraging.
  • Ensure teachers are aware of “…foster(ing) reading valuing and will.” Merga, 2018a, p.150
"Children's perceptions of the importance and value of reading can influence their motivation to read." Merga, 2018a, Abstract.

Time frame

  • Ensuring each class has a scheduled regular library visit – immediate
  • Library collection update – ongoing
  • Survey students – by the end of Term 1
  • Teach choosing strategies – during Term 1, therefore additional reading regarding this area is necessary
  • Inform parents – by the end of Term 1 and update during the year
  • Summarised reports – before the first parent-teacher meeting, at the end of Semester 1, end of the year, and on request
  • Promote ‘reading will’ to teachers – propose to share key findings in a staff meeting, share a selection of quotes by Merga during Term 1.

“Reading needs to be more successfully presented as a valuable and enjoyable recreational pursuit, with ongoing importance beyond independent reading skill acquisition.” Merga, 2018a, p. 148.

Resource allocation

  • Meet with key participants at school. In 2019 we have a new Head of Primary commencing having a constructive meeting will be helpful in relationship building.
  • Present the case to teachers formally and informally – courage and subtle persuasion will be necessary.
  • Continue to read Merga’s work and related research.
  • Survey students to gain feedback.
  • Utilise library catalogue reports and statistics.
  • Keep the library collection updated, fresh, accessible, exciting and appealing.

In 2017 I presented at the Australian School Library Association (ASLA) Biennial Conference – Challenge to Change. My presentation and paper can be found via a previous blog Creating a Community of Readers – Our purpose is to make a difference. In reviewing the presentation and paper I was very happy to see reference to Merga’s earlier work, it is obvious Merga’s research will guide and influence teacher librarians and educators in the coming years.

References

Merga, M., & Roni, S. (2017a). Choosing Strategies of Children and the Impact of Age and Gender on Library Use: Insights for Librarians. Journal of Library Administration, 57(6), 607–630. doi:10.1080/01930826.2017.1340774

Merga, M. (2017b). What would make children read for pleasure more frequently? English in Education, 51(2), 207-223. doi:10.1111/eie.12143

Merga, M., & Roni, S. (2108a). Children’s Perceptions of the Importance and Value of Reading. Australian Journal of Education, 62(2), 135–153. doi:10.1177/0004944118779615

Merga, M., & Roni, S. (2018b). Empowering Parents to Encourage Children to Read Beyond the Early Years. Reading Teacher, 72(2), 213–221. doi:10.1002/trtr.1703

Primary Library Overview 2018

2018 has been a productive year for the Primary School Library with the update and introduction of new programs for Stages 1 – 2 and support to the newly implemented grade inquiry focus for Stage 3 – Years 5 & 6. The review is a snapshot of teaching and learning, special events, resource use and top books loaned by grade.

It is interesting to compare the overview to the previous year and reflect on areas of strength and those requiring improvement. Unfortunately, reports referred to for this overview highlighted a major reduction in borrowing for Years 5 and 6. Not only were borrowing statistics significantly reduced, the range and level of books being borrowed by Year 6 were also disappointing in comparison to the younger grades.

I believe a key factor that has caused such a change is the reduction of visits to the library and the fact that they became impromptu. The change to a grade inquiry block removed the weekly library lesson and borrowing time which included time to recommend books, browse and read. The result is of great concern and has prompted the need to provide a thorough report to the Executive team. In addition to statistics, I plan to revisit an article I wrote Creating A Community Of Readers and refer to current research by Margaret Merga  who has written extensively about reading promotion. It is critical to highlight the concern and suggest ways to encourage more reading and engagement with books.  In 2019 Stage 2, Years 3 & 4 will move to grade inquiry blocks which will affect the regularity of library visits. The best way forward is to consider practical ways to ensure students are exposed to books and encouraged to read. The change in support to inquiry units will require a tighter approach to information and digital literacy guidance and instruction to both teachers and students.

I would like to acknowledge and thank the support and commitment of Michelle the Primary School Library Assistant. Michelle has worked meticulously in managing circulation, processing resources, library upkeep and assisted in book selection and library displays. Michelle and I have both taken time to deepen our familiarisation with our cataloguing system Oliver by Softlink and we are about to embark on a Stocktake – thanks to Michelle’s recent training!

In 2019, I look forward to presenting at the 2019 Oliver v5 User Conference on information literacy for Stage 1 and running a Webinar for the Australian School Library Association (ASLA) in regard to visual grammar / visual literacy using picture books. Oh, I also have two subjects to go with my Master of Education – Teacher Librarianship at Charles Sturt University.

One final note, the overview was created using InDesign. Recently I attended a professional learning course for InDesign provided by Design Workshop Sydney. I was determined to create the summary using InDesign as my first project and it was the perfect opportunity to try out the program and execute my learning.

It sure was some launch!

CBCA NSW Branch Inc Eastern Suburbs Sub-branch logo designed by Cate James

On Wednesday evening last week, the newly formed CBCA NSW Branch Inc Eastern Suburbs Sub-branch was launched! It was an inspiring event attended by almost 80 guests – a mix of children’s book authors and illustrators, publishing industry professionals, teachers, librarians and parents. The evening not only raised the profile of children’s books it also brought together a community passionate about a good story and admirers of the artistic talent of children’s book illustrators.

Gail Erskine the President of the Children’s Book Council of Australia NSW Branch Inc and Morag Tunks the President of the Eastern Suburbs Sub-branch welcomed guests and provided history of the Children’s Book Council of Australia, its growth and strength in connecting children with quality Australian literature since 1945. Continue reading →

K-6 Library Review 2017

As the final days of the school year wrap up it is great to look back and reflect.  It has been a busy but productive year, and we have worked tirelessly in the past weeks revamping the library collection, reorganising shelving and running a stocktake of the fiction books – it will be a fresh start next year!

I would like to acknowledge and thank the support and commitment of the library team and teacher librarian who taught the Year 6 classes.

The review is a snapshot of teaching and learning, special events, loans, resource use and top books loaned. What worked well, what requires change and improvement is in mind, but rest first is required.

Click the link to open the full review K-6 library review 2017

PS I used www.canva.com to create the Infographic.

The day the Internet went down – what we learnt!

All was going well on Friday morning as Year 5 had just started their task evaluating a webpage using the 5W’s evaluation guide. However, we quickly realised that the Internet was very slow – then it was down. It happens from time to time for a few minutes so we decided to move onto reading – perfect we were in the library! Then the announcement came ‘the Internet will be down for the next 5-6 hours’ well that was it for the rest of the school day!

Year 5 had just settled with browsing and reading when a group of Year 3 students burst through the library doors full of excitement. They needed books for their animal migration research – they excitedly repeated ‘the Internet is down.’ The library assistant and I jumped into action and we were guiding the students to books about the range of animals of interest when another Year 3 class appeared also needing similar books. It was not long before the 500’s were pulled apart and we felt the limitations of relevant information for a large number of students at once. As recess approached we felt relieved that the students would move on and we could get back to normal.

The experience although somewhat annoying was highly valuable, it became evident that this was a huge learning experience and caused instant reflection on the difficulties encountered. Although it was fantastic that the students were keen to get their hands on books, the limited skills they showed in locating books for their needs caused concern.

Issues of concern:

  1. Library books are underutilised for research purposes
  2. The students had not visited the library to locate books early in their research task
  3. Students lacked skills in locating books for their needs
  4. Students rely on the Internet for a significant amount of information for school research tasks
  5. The library provides a selection of resources for a year group that gets placed in a box and left in the classroom

A fresh start:

Learning from this situation is vital, some ideas follow on how we will approach the new year to increase the use of the library, upskill the students book locating skills, and allow for successful spontaneous library use.

  1. Library books are underutilised for research purposes:
    • Closely monitor all student and teacher learning needs – scan all programs, meet with teachers to update on requirements
    • Revamp the collection, deselect, update, ensure Dewey labels and signage is clear
  2. The students had not visited the library to locate books early in their research tasks:
    • Students require learning experiences to include structured and spontaneous visits to the library to locate books for their research needs – early in the school year provide instruction and hands-on opportunities for students to search and locate books
    • Encourage and support teachers to make time to visit the library with their class as part of their research task
  3. Students lacked skills in locating books for their needs:
    • Ensure students have opportunities to explore, browse and learn how to search the library catalogue and locate books on the shelf – this opens up additional learning opportunities for younger (and some older) students such as how nonfiction books are structured, using the contents and index and so on
    • As pointed out above the library set up needs to be refined to assist and encourage students to feel confident in locating books
  4. Students rely on the Internet for a significant amount of information for school research tasks:
    • Design a library homepage that links to key research websites such as Britannica School, World Book Online and DK Findout! More about these resources can be found at Ignite wide reading with diverse resources at your school library
    • Invest in some nonfiction eBooks such as those from the Macmillan Digital Library
    • Ensure that all students can access the library homepage and provide training on using online resources
    • Train and remind teachers to instruct students to use the library online resources before they search the Internet
    • Provide instruction to students to upskill their Internet search skills and website evaluation
  5. The library provides a selection of resources for a year group that gets placed in a box and left in the classroom:
    • Seek opportunities for students to search for books on their research topics – if the books are located by some students and placed in a purposeful location for classes to share at least the students are having a go and some may be able to suggest to others great books they have found
    • Consider options to display books for a class topic face out in a combined area that classes have access

Such ideas are obvious and easy to fix, however as we rely more and more on the Internet we are limiting students exposure to the pleasure of finding just the right book for research needs and another book of interest by chance. The library shelves may be scoured and knocked about and in need of mending but at least the books are being used.

Getting back on track

Dog Loves Books

From ‘Dog Loves Books’ by Louise Yates

It has been some time since my last post, a lot has happened since late 2014!

At the start of 2015, I started at a new school, it was a big change for me moving from teaching Grades 3-6 to K-6, and classes per week from 10 to 26! It was such a busy start to the year, I had many things I wanted to add to School Library Owl but I just could not find the time. In late Term 3, 2015 I was diagnosed with an illness which required me to undergo surgery and several months of treatment – I am at the other end now and ready to get myself back on track, catch up from where I was and see where things lead.

Term 3, 2016 I am back to full time work and now teaching Grades K-5, 23 classes per week.

Reflecting on changing schools – well it was a shock to the system at first but I learnt more and did more in a term that I would have done in a year if I did not make the change. I highly regard the role of a Teacher Librarian and the impact they can make at a school and to a child’s learning experiences. After many sleepless nights, confusion about my path ahead and worry about everything under the sun, I feel I have moved on and am ready to leap ahead and make a difference.