“Resource-rich school libraries and credentialed school librarians play key roles in promoting both information literacy and reading for information and inspiration. When staffed by qualified professionals trained to collaborate with teachers and engage students meaningfully with information that matters in the real world, school libraries become sophisticated 21st-century learning environments that offer equal opportunities for achievement to all students, regardless of the socio-economic or education levels of the community” (School libraries work!, 2008).
When talking about literacy and Title 1 schools, I want to look at the following incident which happened to me about a year ago. A close friend of mine teaches 3rd grade at a Title 1 elementary school and she is constantly looking for new and exciting literature that has some information literacy appeal for her classroom, however when she asked her school librarian for recommendations, the standard response was “Oh, just look on Goodreads.” (If that doesn’t spark something in you, I don’t know what will). At dinner a few weeks later she related the story, I suggested a handful of new books she could try with her students, one specifically (Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library) had some information literacy value in the form of riddles throughout. Her students adored it, and now they’ve incorporated the book into all of the 3rd grade curriculum at the school.
Now, this was a simple reader’s advisory from a public librarian – and it’s an example of the absolute minimum a teacher librarian should do to promote information literacy in schools. No longer are teacher librarians asked to simply “read to children”, no, they are the captains of information literacy. Not only helping and encouraging students to learn (and hopefully love) reading and writing, but to teach them how to access information, how to separate good, or accurate information from bad, or inaccurate information. Teacher librarians in the 21st century cannot simply stand by and take a passive role in the literacy of students within a school. Their job is no longer simply reader’s advisory and basic circulation tasks. Instead, we are arguing, teacher librarians need to collaborate with teachers, and encourage and engage students in order to be truly effective, especially when working with low-income students in Title 1 schools.
Education and income are two characteristics that play a significant role in determining an individual’s socioeconomic status. Students that come from low-income families often attend low-income schools. Children that attend these low-income schools would not have access to high-quality education without Title 1 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. According to the U.S. Department of Education, Title 1 is dedicated to improving academic achievement in high poverty schools through accountability, professional development, distributing sufficient resources, and reform that ensures curriculum follows state standards (2004). Title 1 aims to close the educational gap between high- and low-performing students.
Our concern is that without teacher librarians students in Title 1 schools will continue to suffer academically. Literacy rates will be negatively impacted and students attending Title 1 schools will fall further behind students attending non-Title 1 schools. Low socioeconomic status typically equates to lower education levels and illiteracy. Low-income neighborhoods do not have the financial resources to properly support their schools. Students that attend these schools receive insufficient education that will almost guarantee them a life of hardships and struggles, perpetuating the low socioeconomic status.
Our objective with this blog is to openly discuss the impact that a teacher librarian and a properly funded school library can (and will) have on students that come from low socioeconomic families. We will also discuss possible solutions for less funded school libraries to obtain the financial support that they so desperately need to improve collections, train volunteers, and incorporate additional services – and to ultimately prove that librarians truly are the information crusaders of the 21st century!
Get ready – we’ve got a lot to come and we can’t wait to start the conversation!
-Elisabeth, Jeana, Kara, & Kendra-
Title 1-Improving the academic achievement of the disadvantaged. (2004, September, 15). http://www2.ed.gov/policy/elsec/leg/esea02/pg1.html