Shaping a Collection: Graphic Novels and the Needs of English Language Learners

Is your school a “melting pot” of diversity? Does your collection reflect the make-up of your student body? In this article from our April online issue,  Alicia Abdul and Kristen Majkut discuss the importance of having a diverse collection and why you should include graphic novels.

Subscribers can check out our May issue to find more articles about diversity in your library.

Librarians should focus on building collections that reflect their communities. For our school in Albany, New York, that community is a hub for incoming refugees from all over the world, chiefly because of the presence of an U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) field office. USCRI helps displaced families make the transition to the United States by providing a wide range of services, including language classes, housing assistance, employment opportunities, and immigration services. As librarians, we can support students’ English language acquisition and literacy development through purposeful collection development and library services, including, as we have found, providing and sharing graphic novels.

Needs of ENL Students

English as a New Language (ENL) students have unique circumstances physically, emotionally, and academically. Our students from warmer climates arrive wearing sandals and without winter coats, unprepared for Northeast winters. In addition to language barriers, there are cultural differences regarding eye contact, shaking hands, greetings, clothing, gestures, religion, and even food traditions. This makes it crucial for educators to provide opportunities for personal engagement.

Academically, some incoming students have not learned to read in their native languages and are now encountering a new alphabet with new letters, words, and sounds for the first time. Some students read their native language from right to left. Some are coming from areas of conflict and their education has been interrupted for several years. Some school-age children have never attended any type of formal schooling. This influx of students has required that our district consider different measures to support these students and their families as they transition to life in the United States. Continue reading “Shaping a Collection: Graphic Novels and the Needs of English Language Learners”

“Locked in the Library”
Inspiration for Your Library Escape Room

We’ve all the seen the photos of groups of our friends who worked together to try and get out of an escape room—some successfully and some not so successfully.  Librarian Maddie Powell decided to see what the idea might look like in the school library in Frisco, Texas. Her goal with the escape room was to engage non-readers and bring them into the library. Students had 10 minutes to figure out whether a character in the story had jumped or was pushed out of a window. A series of clues and riddles led students to find a black light in the sock of the dummy on the floor, which was used to uncover the answer on the walls. There was a high rate of participation and excitement that got many non-readers into the library space. Demand was so high that teachers began bringing whole classes in together. School Library Connection’s own Carl Harvey talked to Maddie about the experience and her tips for others hoping to try their own escape room.escape-now

Carl Harvey: What was your motivation or inspiration to do something like this?

Maddie Powell: Escape rooms seem to be popping up everywhere! I’m always looking for some sort of programming that my students might like. It’s hit or miss and you never know what will catch on. When the escape room idea hit me, I knew I had to try it. Continue reading ““Locked in the Library”
Inspiration for Your Library Escape Room”

Linking Literature to the Classroom

School Library Connection is pleased to collaborate with ALA President Julie Todaro and her school library group Task Force to provide access to a selection of key professional development articles aligned with essential professional competencies for school librarians. These articles were hand selected from our archives by an expert panel of librarians chaired by Susan Ballard, Dorcas Hand, and Sara Kelly Johns. This article concludes our blog series on SL-PSEL Competencies.

Competency 11: Literacy and Reading
“Linking Literature to the Classroom” by Naomi Bates. School Library Connection, June 2016.


As school librarians, we know the impact the library can have on classrooms. The difficult part is that other decision makers on campus may not see how important this classroom connection can be. In our educational age of standardized testing and curriculum alignment to state and federal guidelines, the library and librarian can be pushed to the side. Instead of being bullied out of the classrooms, however, we need to fight to stay in them. How we do it is an age-old adage: actions speak louder than words. One very important and creative way to show our importance to classrooms and academic achievement is through linking literature to the classroom. While state standards are the ruler by which lessons and academics are measured, creating personal connections between students and the subject matter enriches learning and achievement. We can do this by using literature to link students to subjects they study. Here are a few ideas to ponder for increased linking. Continue reading “Linking Literature to the Classroom”