Library media specialists, teachers use collaborative programs to encourage students to read
By Susan Riddell
It won’t be long before students return from summer break. And when they do, one of the things that’s usually evident is whether they have followed their teachers’ and school library media specialists’ (LMSs) advice to keep reading over the summer.
Before the break, school personnel across the state encouraged students to take advantage of a variety of resources and cooperative programs to make reading fun and rewarding. They say the summer reading program at the local public library topped the list.
“Students who participate in summer reading programs are less likely to lose knowledge and skills during the summer,” said Suzanne Crowder, library media specialist at Campbellsville Elementary School (Campbellsville Independent). “Summer reading has the potential to help children make gains in their reading and vocabulary. It also offers students who live in poverty the opportunity to have reading materials readily available.”
Crowder said it’s important for teachers and library media specialists to promote the public library’s summer reading program not only as an additional reminder, but also because students and parents tend to value teacher recommendations like these.
Almost 200 school LMSs like Crowder and many public library media specialists attended one of eight summer reading workshops earlier this year, according to Heather Dieffenbach, children’s and youth services consultant for the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives (KDLA). Dieffenbach planned and coordinated the workshops for KDLA. More are planned for next year. She said the workshops are ideal for library media specialists wanting to network.
“Library media specialists and children’s librarians share many common goals,” Dieffenbach said. “The summer reading workshops provide a great opportunity for them to build relationships and work together to keep kids reading throughout the summer.”
Kate Schiavi, a librarian at the Louisville Free Public Library, attended the summer reading workshop last February. Schiavi said the training has proven handy, especially now that the Find a Book, Kentucky initiative is in full gear. Find a Book, Kentucky uses the widely-adopted Lexile measure to match a reader with books that challenge and support reading growth at the appropriate levels.
“The morning session focused on the Collaborative Summer Reading Program and information about running that program at the library,” Schiavi said. “Included in that was information about Lexiles and how to use the resources available to find Lexiles for patrons. The rest of the meeting was dedicated to programming ideas for the Collaborative Summer Library Program theme.
“I’ve been having more and more patrons come in looking for books on a particular Lexile level,” she said. “I have found the Lexile website easy to use and search.”
Schiavi has shared the Find a Book, Kentucky/Lexile website with many patrons at the downtown Louisville library.
“It’s a great tool for them to be able to jump on at their computer at home and come to the library prepared,” she said.
Juliana Gaddis, children’s services librarian at the Jessamine County Public Library, also attended summer reading workshops. She said her library staff promotes Find a Book, Kentucky to patrons, too.
“I think Find a Book is a good program but could benefit from additional training for parents and students in how to use it,” Gaddis said. “A video tutorial that could be accessed online would be helpful, or sessions given in the schools maybe as part of a family night.”
While these resources have proven useful, the summer reading workshops also strived to bring LMSs at schools and public libraries together for support and collaboration.
Crowder said teachers also should work to initiate bonds with public library media specialists.
“It is important for LMSs and teachers to build relationships with public librarians primarily to provide uninterrupted service to children, make the most of limited resources and offer services to the entire family,” Crowder said. “While children routinely check out library materials from their school media center, a public library offers the opportunity to check out books and other items in the evenings, on weekends and during the summer.
“With limited funding at all libraries, our collections can complement each and provide a larger number of titles to our communities,” Crowder added. “In addition, in my county, online library catalogs have made it possible for us to search the collections and find items for teachers that were not a part of my school library collection or were checked out at a time they were needed.”
Crowder also pointed out that while the school library collections may be limited to materials at levels needed for their students, the public library collection includes items for parents and younger or older siblings of those students.
Gaddis has made a point to network with her county’s public school library media specialists. Below, she discusses the importance this collaborative effort.
When I first took Jessamine County Public Library’s (JCPL’s) children’s services librarian position, I made appointments with local school librarians to go see them at their libraries. I took a tour of their facilities and talked in depth with them about how JCPL could support them with what they do.
For those who weren’t very familiar with my library, I invited them for a tour and showed them around my collection. I really think that helped me build bridges with all of them and pave the way for collaborating with each other.
One project we’ve been able to collaborate on is the Online BookClub. My predecessor, Colleen Hall, started it along with two of the local school librarians. Now, we’ve been able to involve nearly all the school librarians, so it’s turned into a districtwide program. The club is for students in grades 3-5.
We choose two book selections per season, and the kids can decide which one they want to read and discuss. We’ve established a blog where the questions are posted, and all the discussion happens. Kids can comment from school or from home.
Last fall, we had more than 100 kids participate, and they all loved it. The program lasts six weeks and is very easy to maintain. The librarians post the questions and act as moderators of the site, approving the kids’ comments before they get posted live. The kids are excited to be “blogging,” and they take it quite seriously.
When the fall BookClub finished, I hosted the wrap-up party here at JCPL, and we arranged for the kids to talk with the authors of the books they read via videoconference. They connected live with Gordon Korman (Swindle) and Kathleen Ernst (American Girl series author).
Now that I’m a part of the group, I’ve been invited to the monthly meetings the school media specialists have. That has been very helpful with keeping me abreast of what they have going on, and how I can help.
Heather Dieffenbach, Heather.Dieffenbach@ky.gov, (502) 564-8300, ext. 287 or toll-free (800) 928-7000
Suzanne Crowder, firstname.lastname@example.org, (270) 403-1530
Juliana Gaddis, email@example.com, (859) 885-3523
Kate Schiavi, Kate.Schiavi@lfpl.org, (502) 574-1611