School librarians are changing traditions to continually “bring the awesome.” We’ve moved outside of the library walls to collaborate in classrooms. We’ve moved outside school walls by providing digital services. And we’ve moved outside school district boundaries as we have built our own professional learning communities online. (If you don’t believe me on that one, check out tlvirtualcafe.wikispaces.com or #tlchat on Twitter.) We still struggle with old-fashioned stereotypes, but we are working to get rid of those as well.
Just this month I have made several moves away from tradition and towards awesome (for my students). First I moved away from the tradition of closing the library two or more weeks before school ends. It has long been my desire to help teachers lead our students in developing authentic reading lives. These reading lives should not be limited based on the school calendar. Many of my colleagues and I have realized this, and we are allowing circulation right up to the end of the school year. This allows students to finish that last book of the school year and to continue reading through the last day of school.
Additionally, I did some work to bring the awesome to help counter the “summer slump.” (For more information on the summer reading slump, see Richard Allington and Anne McGill-Franzen’s new book, Summer Reading: Closing the Rich/Poor Achievement Gap.) I took all of the profit from my book fair this year and used it to provide books to student for their own summer reading experiences. (Tradition would have been to spend this profit to add to the library collection or classroom libraries.) While I was unsure of the ultimate effects of this move, I was confident about the possibilities of it. The day after the students received their books, both their reading teacher and I received several comments like this one: “I’m already on page 35 of this book that you gave me yesterday.” Coming from several reluctant middle school readers, this type of comment was indeed an affirmation that I had made the right choice and an affirmation of the awesome power of providing students with their own books.
My tradition breaking ways will continue into the summer as I allow students to check out books for the summer and provide open library hours in the summer. Books serve no one when they sit on the shelves all summer. If they are in students homes over the summer, books are more likely to be read than they are sitting locked in the library. I can’t ensure that students read over the summer, but I can take great pains to make sure they have the opportunity to read if they choose. Several students have already told me that they will be visiting me in the library this summer.
While moves like these are not always without pain and sacrifice, they are worth it in the end when they provide students with the AWESOME that they need to become better and more authentic readers. Fellow librarians, let’s keep bringing the awesome.
For more information on this blog series, see http://blogs.slj.com/teacozy/2013/05/19/show-me-the-awesome-week-4/
Artwork by John LeMasney. More of his work can be found at http://lemasney.com