School librarians should not be surprised by two of the largest gaps identified by ILA’s 2017 What’s Hot in Literacy Report. These gaps present an opportunity for educators to work together to address both students’ access to books and content and literacy in resource-limited settings.
The 2017 What’s Hot survey responses were gathered from 1,600 respondents from 89 countries and territories. Using a Likert scale ranging from not at all hot/important to extremely hot/important, respondents identified gaps between what educators recognize as hot (or trendy) and what they believe should be hot (or more important). Two of the largest gaps in this year’s survey should be of particular interest to administrators, school librarians, and their classroom teacher and specialist instructional partners.
Second largest gap: access to books and content
In the report summary, access to books and content was an area respondents thought should be more important. One way ILA literacy educators and leaders can think about addressing this gap is to better understand the role school librarians and school librarians play in providing access. Research shows that in schools with state-certified school librarians facilitating library services students’ access to materials and their reading proficiency increases. In addition to classroom libraries, readers need well-stocked school libraries that provide students, educators, and families with the widest possible array of reading materials across content areas at all reading levels and in multiple formats.
Third largest gap: literacy in resource-limited settings
Equitable access for readers from all socioeconomic backgrounds is another area where school librarians and libraries can help close the gap. When schools and school districts make a commitment to hiring full-time state-certified school librarians and providing funding for school library collections, all students, including those in high-poverty and rural locations, can access resources and technology tools. In these schools, librarians partner with classroom teachers to provide equitable access to reading materials and coteach resource-rich literacy learning experiences.
Equity of opportunity
Literacy leaders have a shared responsibility and commitment to an equitable education for all students. We know access to resources increases learners’ opportunities for choice, voice, and empowerment through literacy. In the United States, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) contains specific language related to how school librarians and libraries ensure equitable access to resources for all students (ESSA, 2015, “Title IV, Part A”).
If you are a U.S. classroom teacher, specialist, school administrator, or educational decision maker concerned about the quality of students’ access to reading materials, please find out how you can ensure that school librarians’ work is specified in your state- or district-level ESSA Plan. By incorporating language related to school librarians and libraries in ESSA, we can collaborate to close the gaps identified by the ILA survey and support all students and educators in having access to the print and electronic resources and the instructional support they need to succeed.
Judi Moreillon, MLS, PhD, is a literacies and libraries consultant, former school librarian, and retired school librarian educator. She tweets at CactusWoman and blogs at Building a Culture of Collaboration. She is the chair of the American Association of School Librarians Innovative Approaches to Literacy Task Force.
At Lansdowne Public Library, we have the traditional, on-site story time hours—one for infants, one for toddlers, and one for preschoolers. To accommodate families who cannot attend, we have learned to embrace technology to make the joy of read-alouds accessible.
The result is “Storytubes,” a collaboration between our former Public Services librarian, Abbe Klebanoff, and me, which showcases videos on the library’s YouTube channel of picture books being read and performed by me or by special guest readers.
But why take the time for these Storytubes? There are many benefits of reading aloud such as fostering growth of attention span and exposing children to a more complicated vocabulary and sophisticated text. Reading aloud models fluency and expression and builds skills in speaking, writing, reading, and comprehension. Reading aloud also motivates children to read for a lifetime rather than just for school and, most important, it engenders a love for reading and books: a foundation for pleasure and lifelong education. But how does one read aloud? It seems as if it would be as simple as picking a book. To ensure success when reading aloud, follow these steps:
Get to know the book: Always read it to yourself before reading to your reader. This may seem like a nonissue, but I will admit that there have been times when, in a rush, I have pulled a book I have used before and did a quick skim to try and refresh my memory only to find the book was not quite what I remembered. There can be complicated language that does not allow for reading upside down or aloud without much practice! There could be a page missing—library books are very well loved! Save yourself from surprise and prepare!
Be mindful of pace and expression. Match your tone, expression, and pace to what is happening in the story and how the characters are feeling. Use your body and face to convey expression and use your voice for intonation, pauses, and changes in volume. My favorite memory of being read to as a child is of my mother dramatically reading and acting out Richard Scarry's Nursery Rhymes. She would assign parts to my sister and me, and we would act out each story. I have carried on this practice, pretending each book is a script and I am on stage.
Involve your audience
At certain points during a story, there are natural parts when it’s possible to pause and ask the child or children to make a prediction about what will happen next or to share a connection to the text. It's not always feasible and sometimes not necessary, but it's a wonderful way to gauge how much the child comprehends. Having children respond a few times during a story to predict, visualize, or make a connection will help them learn to use those strategies as they read to themselves, strengthening comprehension.
Take time to share the illustrations
Practice reading the book with the illustrations facing toward your audience as you read. Upside down reading does become easier the more you practice! However, if reading while facing the book to the audience is difficult, that’s OK—it would be better to read smoothly and then turn the book toward your audience. Before turning the page each time, pause to make sure all students have seen the illustrations—with picture books, the illustrations help readers fully visualize and comprehend the story.
Most of all, have fun!
My rule of thumb is that if it's not fun for everyone, including you as the reader, your audience will know. It's OK to come back to a book or—gasp!—not finish reading it at all!
Parents say Storytubes help prepare their children for a visit to the library, provide an alternative to commercial videos, and offer opportunities for new ways to share favorite books. Children also visit the library to search for books featured in the videos to mirror their own readings. Fellow librarians say Storytubes offer new ideas to refresh their story time programs. One loyal library visitor who is a reading specialist says the video gave him an opportunity to present picture books in ways he had not considered. Our Storytubes are also encouraging caretakers and children to listen and learn that storytelling is a dramatic art form as well as a tradition. Recording storytelling helps carry the tradition through generations.
Rachee Fagg is head of children’s services at the Lansdowne Public Library in Lansdowne, PA.
When Mo Willems announced that his Elephant and Piggie series, first published in 2007, would be coming to an end this year with the publication of the 25th book, The Thank You Book, a universal cry of despair came from the fans. And, really, who isn’t a fan of Elephant and Piggie? Teachers, librarians, parents, and especially kids love the adventures of best friends Elephant Gerald and Piggie.
These award-winning bestsellers, told almost entirely through conversation, empower kids to read on their own with their simple text (made up of many sight words and printed in large, easy to read font) and encourage understanding of dialogue and engagement with text. They are also funny and a delight to read. It’s not uncommon for every single copy to be checked out of my library, and we have three or four copies of each title. Elephant and Piggie is the rare series where 25 titles just doesn’t feel like enough.
So what now? Disney and Mo Willems have created the Elephant and Piggie Like Reading! series, which launched with The Cookie Fiasco by Dan Santat and We Are Growing! by Laurie Keller. These are both delightful books have Gerald and Piggie not only introducing the texts but also talking about them afterwards—sure to make fans happy.
But my readers always want more, so I had to create a list of other series for fans of Elephant and Piggie. I chose these because the books feature best friends who sometimes clash, lots of dialogue, and a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor that encourages kids to interact with the text even if it’s through giggling.
Ballet Cat and the Totally Secret Secret. Bob Shea. 2015. Disney-Hyperion Books.
Ballet Cat only wants to talk about and play ballet. It’s her favorite. But her best friend Sparkles the Unicorn isn’t so sure. These best friends, one just a little more enthusiastic than the other, will remind readers of the loving interplay between Gerald and Piggie. (Followed by Ballet Cat: Dance! Dance! Underpants!)
Clara and Clem Take A Ride. Ethan Long. 2012. Penguin.
Clara and Clem use their imaginations to have a fanciful adventure with a car built out of blocks. Who knows where they’ll end up? Clara is like Piggie, determined to pull her more staid friend Clem into her imaginative world. (Followed by Clara and Clem in Outer Space and Clara and Clem Under the Sea.)
Okay, Andy! Maxwell Eaton. 2014. Blue Apple Books.
Preston, a coyote pup, is determined to be best friends with Andy, an alligator—even when Preston gets in Andy’s way. But it’s OK, sometimes Andy doesn’t mind—that much. (Followed by Andy, Also.)
Rabbit and Robot: The Sleepover. CeCe Bell. 2014. Candlewick Books.
Rabbit has planned everything for the perfect sleepover, but Robot keeps adding complications to the plan. Rabbit and Robot are just like Elephant and Piggie—opposites whose differences make them perfectly suited to sharing a friendship full of discovery and laugher. (Followed by Rabbit and Robot and Ribbit.)
Scribbles and Ink. Ethan Long. 2012. Blue Apple Books.
Scribbles and Ink are artists who don’t get along. Scribbles the Cat likes things messy, and Ink the Mouse likes things clean. Can their art styles come together to make something beautiful? These two enemies who become “best buddies” will have readers following their dialogue (and friendship) with delight. (Followed by Scribbles and Ink: The Contest and Scribbles and Ink: Out of the Box.)
Angie Manfredi is the head of Youth Services for the Los Alamos County Library System in Los Alamos, NM. She loves stories about wacky best friends and feels deeply connected with Piggie. She is dedicated to literacy, education, and every kid’s right to read what they want. You can read more of her writing at Fat Girl Reading.
Early childhood STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) programming is a priority in Pennsylvania libraries, with a huge push to add science, math, or both to library storytimes. The idea can be daunting; science has been a subject that simultaneously fascinates and confounds me, and the idea gave me pause. But the children's section is broken down into manageable chunks and reading times are already full of STEAM! Animals (science), counting (math), and constructing crafts (engineering and art) are just a few ideas we explore each week.
This winter, Lansdowne Library, just outside of Philadelphia, PA, explored sound during our preschool storytime. Here are some ideas from the program.
Books we used
Shh! We Have a Plan by Chris Haughton. The characters in this book are on the hunt for birds, and their stealthy hunting is thwarted by an excited member of their hunting party. This book is a great way to explore quiet and loud and discuss volume.
Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb by Al Perkins. With this book, we explored different sounds created when using different body parts. Themes from this book were used to make rhythm patterns using instruments.
Little Beaver and the Echo by Amy McDonald. Echoes and vibrations were discussed as we used this book.
Shaker Eggs: Children made their own shaker eggs as a souvenir. To create these eggs, children were given empty plastic eggs and offered beads in a variety of sizes to create a shaker egg with a unique sound. Children and their parents had to use trial and error to figure the amount of filler needed to create a unique sound.
Guess the Sound: Objects that made different sounds were placed in a large, brown paper bag, and children had to guess what the sounds in the bag were. Children would also take guesses about what they thought was in the bag. Objects included shakers eggs, bells, marbles, popsicle sticks, plastic toys, and feathers.
Create a Whisper Tube: Using paper towel rolls and paper cups, we created a series of tubes to demonstrate how sound travels.
The Echo Game: Children had to mimic sounds and were then given the opportunity to create their own for the other attendees to mimic.
Making Music: Children created original pieces using musical instruments.
Things to remember
This program will be LOUD. Prepare your young readers and families ahead of time so that children who may have aversion to loud noises know what to expect and can take a break if needed.
Not knowing everything is OK. In fact, I like to let the children lead investigations to discover the answer to some questions that allude us.
The program should be fun! Science and math themes can be applied to everyday life and should be shared in a way to promote curiosity and not stress. Families and children were excited to try something different, presenting familiar books with a fresh theme was fun.
Rachee Fagg is head of children’s services at the Lansdowne Public Library in Lansdowne, PA.
From her time as National Ambassador for Young People's Literature to her work promoting summer reading, Kate DiCamillo is a champion for kids. Talking with Kate about writing, her latest bestseller Raymie Nightingale, and her work in getting kids—and the adults who care for them—excited about summer reading was an honor.
How can adults be summer reading champions for the kids in their lives?
One thing is to take kids to the library! My mother did that for me and my brother. Parents can make the decision to get to the public library once a week. You can even load up the car and take all the kids in your whole neighborhood to the library—my mom used to do that for our neighborhood.
That leads right into my next question! Kids often want to know about what grown-ups were like as children. So, Kate, did you participate in summer reading programs as a kid?
Yes, I did. They had prizes for reading, can you believe it? I got a prize for the thing I most wanted to do. It seemed ridiculous to get prizes for reading. I participated in summer reading every summer, because the library was always a haven.
Related to that—what are some of your favorite memories of your childhood library or, especially, of your school libraries?
When you say “school library,” I can remember it all exactly. I can remember where I’d stand to check out books. I was given free reign of the library, and that’s very important for kids: choice. Choice is important for the kids, like me, who loved to read, but it’s also important for the kids who don’t know they love to read—yet. The library was a place I could be seen for who I was. There was always a sense of safety and of being seen.
That’s so true! Why are libraries especially important for kids during the summer?
Choice! It’s choice. You can read for yourself. And the privilege of the library is you can go anywhere into a library and they’ll help you. It’s a privilege, but it’s also a joy. It’s astonishing that a public library is there—you can walk in and read whatever you want, it’s such a joy!
Because we are talking about summers, may I ask why you chose to set your new book, Raymie Nightingale, during the summer?
Ha! That’s a good question! Raymie isn’t autobiographical, but it certainly has autobiographical elements. It has something in children’s lives that perhaps happens only in summer: long, unoccupied stretches of time.
Yes, the narrative couldn’t have happened if it wasn’t summer! Their friendships, their adventures—summer helps it all unfold.
Yes, exactly. It is as close as I’ve ever come to putting myself in a book, but I’m not sure I thought about why it was set in the summer!
Thank you so much for chatting with me today! I always like to wrap up with a question from a kid! One of my patrons, Audrey, is sure that she is your biggest fan. The Tale of Despereaux is her favorite book of all time. She wants know why you started writing.
What a good question. It’s because I was a reader. It’s because I was sick as a kid and learned to live in my head. It’s because my father left. I often say I like a hole to write into, an absence. You get told stories and so you tell them back. I became a writer because I love stories and stories matter.
What an amazing way to end an interview with a favorite writer!
In May, DiCamillo’s publisher, Candlewick Press, hosted a free live webcast with DiCamillo from Edgewood School in Woodridge, IL, where she talked about the importance of summer reading and encouraged students nationwide to sign up for the summer reading program at their local public libraries. Response was tremendous: 975 schools signed up for the webcast, with an estimated reach based on classroom tallies at around 50,000 students and viewers in all 50 states.
Hear more about Kate's role as a National Summer Reading Champion, as well as her Top Ten Reasons for joining a summer reading program and her 2016 recommended summer reads here.
Angie Manfredi is the Head of Youth Services for the Los Alamos County Library System in Los Alamos, NM. She loves when children shout “LIBRARY LADY!” at her in the grocery store and is dedicated to literacy, education, and every kid’s right to read what he or she wants. You can read more of her writing on her blog, Fat Girl Reading, or find her on Twitter.