One: Researching Across the Curriculum
Research is everywhere for our students. In our device-laden culture, our students have been raised with fingertip-accessible information. That doesn’t mean that they are good at research--it simply means they live immersed-in-information lives. The Common Core literacy standards have recognized the significance of this cultural shift by embedding research standards throughout every discipline. Because of this, in schools where the Common Core is being successfully implemented, the library is now the hub of multi-disciplinary curricula. Research projects that utilize the library help students practice and master research skills like assessing resources, using multiple kinds of media and text, paraphrasing, citing, and avoiding plagiarism. When teachers and librarians collaborate and co-teach research units together, our students are better prepared for responsible citizenship (being able to support what they claim) and for college (where studies have shown the library to be their greatest academic resource).
Be sure to understand what curricula is taught in your school and how it addresses Common Core Standards. Approach teachers with ideas of how your resources could improve their classrooms and curate materials for your students to be successful.
Two: Fostering a Reading Culture Through Self-Selected Texts
There is no greater and astoundingly consistent academic correlation than the one between achievement and independent reading. When students read independently, they perform better in all classes (for a wonderful read on this, check out Kelly Gallagher’s Readacide). The Common Core literacy standards support this research by outlining the importance of our students reading a wide-range of text, in class, but also independently. The library should offer multiple routes for our students to become passionate about reading. Visiting authors, a rich nonfiction collection, eBooks, book clubs, and integrated literacy in the classroom are some ways for libraries to promote independent literacy skills. And promote we must! It’s not enough to wait for readers to come to us--we have to be public about what we read and love. Ask your most unsuspecting visitors what they are currently reading. And if they say nothing, hand them a book you just KNOW they will love! Visit classrooms and give book talks. Put up quotes from new books. Post new titles on your website. Unpack new book deliveries in the library when there are kids around--there will usually be a line to sign them out while you quickly import the titles! Sell sell sell. Be a loud advocate for reading, and your students will fall into your enthusiasm.
Three: Providing Resources for Staff
With the shift to reading across the curriculum_, our science, history, and math teachers are in need of guidance when finding informational literacy resources. Know their curriculum and then find pieces to supplement their work. Curate picture books, news articles, magazine entries, podcasts, websites, primary documents, etc. that give relevancy to what they are studying and help your teachers plan how those materials can be integrated into their classroom to improve student learning. The Common Core asks teachers to have students read different sources and viewpoints and draw conclusions, but finding high quality nonfiction texts that addresses the different reading levels within the classroom can be time consuming. Stay abreast with journals from different professional organizations for ideas and use social media to collect ideas!
How Can I Help?
Simply offering to help teachers is the right attitude but the wrong execution. When we offer to help but do not provide specific solutions, our teachers hear, “I need you to do something extra: I need you to figure out how I can help you.” Yes, we want to go to the department meeting. Yes, we want to help the teachers. But if we ask our teachers how we can help, we are asking the wrong person. We need to be asking ourselves: how can I help this teacher?
Don’t Send the Invitation--Bring the Party to Them!
We know our teachers are busy and librarians have so much to offer. We can excite students about reading, offer useful information technology tools, and instruct classes on vital research skills. Be sure you reach out to your teachers at their point of need, and with specific solutions, suggestions, and resources that will make their jobs easier.