In this article from the archives, Andy Plemmons shares how he makes sure his students have a voice in the library and beyond. Subscribers can find more great articles like this here.
What does it mean to empower the voices of members of our library community? The library program does not belong to one person, and it is up to us as school librarians to look for ways to empower each voice in our school. By offering a variety of experiences and by taking risks to try new and innovative practices, we are more likely to find opportunities for students who may not have found their voice yet.
Student Voice in the Collection
When students come into the library to search for something to read, they should be able to find themselves and their interests. I, of course, have an obligation to diversify the collection and introduce readers to different perspectives and topics, but readers should also be able to find their own interests and passions. I cannot assume that I know what interests kids. Therefore, I’ve found value in turning the process of developing the collection over to students. Each year, I reserve a portion of our library budget for students. This student book budget project is led by third through fifth graders who are selected by an application process. Basically, if you apply to be in the group and have a genuine interest, you are included.
I offer advice, but the decisions belong to them. Using Google Forms, the book budget team develops a reading interest survey that is emailed to all third through fifth graders. For our younger students, the team individually surveys students in classrooms, at lunch, and at recess. All data populates a Google spreadsheet. Continue reading “Power of Student Voice”
Believe it or not, behind the scenes, February is the time of year where we’re wrapping up work on the current volume of School Library Connection. While our readers are still waiting for their copy of the March issue to arrive—in both their mailboxes and inboxes—we’re actually already hard at work putting the final touches on our May/June articles before they move into design. So while you may still have several months of the current volume left to enjoy, this is the time of year where we get to say THANK YOU to all the authors in our community who make School Library Connection the incredible professional publication it is.
This is also the time of year where we get to look ahead with excitement to the next volume, and we’re thrilled to share this list of themes for the issues of next year’s print magazine. We warmly welcome back our past authors and look forward to reading your ideas. Just as importantly, we welcome new and first-time authors—we consider it part of our mission to provide a platform for new voices, so don’t be shy!
Let us introduce you to Elly Swartz—we guarantee you’re going to love her and her debut novel, Finding Perfect. Swartz’s warmth and charm are apparent in her answers to our questions, just as they are apparent in her portrayal of Molly, a typical tween but one whose adolescence is complicated by her obsessive-compulsive disorder. Get ready to be charmed!
Be sure to look for our review of Finding Perfect, which received a highly recommended rating in the January/February issue of School Library Connection.Subscribers can see our complete archive of reviews at reVIEWS+.
Once we had read Finding Perfect, we knew we had to talk with the author, Elly Swartz. She kindly agreed to answer a few questions and we were rewarded with a glimpse into the creation of a story from beginning to end and also a glimpse into the heart of Swartz herself. When you’ve finished reading this, you’ll want to invite Swartz into your library and add Finding Perfect to your collection.
When did you know you wanted to become a children’s book author?
I have been creating stories since I was a little girl. Not with the idea of becoming an author, but simply for the love of the story. When I was young, I wrote short stories and a lot of terrible poetry. As a young mom, I channeled my creativity into storytelling. I would create characters and adventures with my sons and weave stories until they fell asleep, the magic passageway was discovered, the princess was found, or the world saved. Then, sixteen years ago, another creative spark was lit. I wanted to write. This time, I wanted to write a children’s book. That summer I started this journey. I wrote my first children’s book. Then I wrote another. And another. And another. And—finally—I wrote Finding Perfect.
This month we asked “how do you facilitate opportunities for students to connect with those from other cultures?” In the article below, Maria Cahill discusses the results and offers resources and ideas for you to use with your students.
We hope you use these surveys to help you reflect on your own practices. Subscribers can view our archive of past surveys here.
“Global competence is the capacity and disposition to understand and act on issues of global significance” (Mansilla & Jackson 2011, xiii). To prepare students to become globally competent, schools must meaningfully incorporate global topics within the curriculum, ideally through inquiry-based learning; integrate technology tools that enhance learning outcomes; and provide learning environments conducive to developing and sustaining creativity (P21 Global Education Task Force 2014).
We wondered what roles school librarians play in creating those learning environments conducive to global education; therefore, our One Question Survey this month asked school librarians to identify the ways they, individually or in collaboration with teachers, facilitate opportunities for students to connect with students from other cultures. Continue reading “Connecting Students with the World”
What do you think you know about the English language learners in your school? What do you know about teaching English as a second language? Sylvia Vardell,our reVIEWS+ collections editor, debunks four common myths about learning English as a new language.
Subscribers can find a new editorial by Sylvia every month as well as our archive of reviews and other content at reVIEWS+
ESL students learning English as a second language are the fastest growing group in U.S. schools today. These learners come from a multitude of countries and backgrounds with many born right here. They speak many languages, and their reading levels range from preschool to high school. These students can experience great cognitive and emotional demands as they are asked to quickly learn both language and content in order to participate fully in the school curriculum and in classroom life.
As we as librarians and educators think about our students who are learning English as a new language, as we select appropriate books for our libraries and plan meaningful programs and instruction, it can be helpful to consider some of our questions and preconceptions about language learning. What do you know about what it’s like to learn a new language? What can you do in the library to support students learning English as a new language?
As I write this, I am marking the one-year anniversary of when I moved from being a high school librarian to being the only librarian for my entire school district. I write this column not as an expert in advocacy, but as a librarian who realizes that being an advocate is a necessary part of my job. I also realize that being an advocate can be easily overlooked or forgotten in the chaos of everyday life.
Advocacy is a work in progress; it is also something that involves a wide scope, because every one of us should participate in some form or another. The ideas I am sharing here are ones that I want to improve as I implement them both now and in the future. I am hoping that by the time this article is published, I will have established an even stronger practice in these ideals. Continue reading “Simple Advocacy: Maintaining Perspective”