WHAT Do They DO In the Library?
From alphabetizing skills, recognizing the difference between fiction and non-fiction to understanding the broad categories of knowledge that we organize a library collection into, there is much to learn during the elementary years about how to locate books and information in a library.
These are "commercials" for the books we'd like to see our students reading. During Booktalks, we tell just enough about a book to wet the appetite and get the students to check it out! Also, during Booktalks, we do our teaching about "genre" and the best children's book authors.
Given a topic that is currently being studied in the classroom or is of seasonal interest, students explore resources on the Internet, selected for them by librarians, to expand their knowledge in that area and to teach a beginning awareness of the vast ocean of information available on the Internet. Basic Navigation skills (identifying links, when to use the Back button, etc.) are covered in these activities.
Information literacy just might be the most important competency of your child's future. The American Library Association's (ALA) Presidential Committee on Information Literacy, Final Report states that, "To be information literate, a person must be able to recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information." While the estimates vary on how much new information is generated and stored worldwide each year, the numbers are astounding and amount to at the very least a doubling of stored information every few years! In the 21st century, our children must start at an early stage in their education to become information seekers when trying to find answers to their and their teachers' questions. In the library, we ask questions, look for information and in the later grades begin to evaluate and use that information to share our learning with others.
With the younger students in grades K-2, we share a great book read aloud together during each lesson. There is still no other single activity more likely to instill a love of reading than the sharing of a beautiful picture book together. Many of the selections are current nominees for the Children's Choice Picture Book Award selected by Washington State librarians. In the spring, students in kindergarten and Grade 1 will vote on their favorite and their votes will count in the statewide contest. Of course, I cannot resist reading aloud to the older students whenever I can squeeze it in. "We are never too old for a great picture book" I teach them.
Although defining literacy is not easy, in the library I think of it as the ability to personally connect and respond to the written word. We do some activity during each library lesson in grades K-2 that is a response to the story we have just shared together. Sometimes it is a movement activity, sometimes a written or artistic response, sometimes a connection to other books by the same author. I also like students in the library to make connections between a fiction selection and non-fiction resources connected to themes of the story. The older students read reviews written by others and in 4th grade may even begin to write some short reviews of their own that become part of our electronic book catalog.
"I don't know what to read!" In the library, we try to spend a few moments of each lesson connecting students to books they will enjoy, and finish! This involves a short personal conversation with individuals about genre, reading level and other factors that might influence their reading choices. A really great day in the library is when we have found a book for a reluctant reader, convinced him or her to check it out and he or she has come back to ask for more!
Of course, we check books in and out during the library lesson. Students learn to keep track of their check out limits, to put holds on popular books (in the later part of 4th grade students learn to do this themselves electronically), to renew books not yet finished and to have a little bit of the advisory conversation mentioned above. I ask students about the books they are reading during circulation so I might recommend the good ones to others.