Literacy, a word used to encapsulate a number of meanings. The Oxford English Dictionary defines literacy as “The ability to read or write” or “Competence of knowledge in a specified area” (Oxford English Dictionary), as teacher librarians we need to be familiar with both components of this definition in order to be truly successful, especially in regards to helping increase literacy in low-income (Title 1) schools, first though, let’s define what exactly a Title 1 school is.
Title 1 is the nation’s oldest and largest federally funded program, according to the U.S. Department of Education. According to the U.S. Department of Education, the purpose of Title 1 funding, “is to ensure that all children have a fair, equal, and significant opportunity to obtain a high quality education and reach, at minimum, proficiency on challenging state academic achievement standards and state academic assessments.” The basic principles of Title 1 state that schools with large concentrations of low-income students will receive supplemental funds to assist in meeting students’ educational goals. Low-income students are determined by the number of students enrolled in the free and reduced lunch program. For an entire school to qualify for Title 1 funds, at least 40% of students must enroll in the free and reduced lunch program. (Malburg, 1)
The reason for Title 1 funding is, specifically “to ensure that all children have a fair, equal, and significant opportunity to obtain a high quality education and reach, at minimum, proficiency on challenging state academic achievement standards and state academic assessments.” I don’t know about you, but I would infer that in order to reach proficiency on challenging state academic achievement standards and state academic assessments a child would need to be literate – in more ways than one.
To start – let’s examine the Infographic below:
Literacy is not simply the ability to read and write – although that is was the Oxford Dictionary defined it as – however modern literacy is more than that. It is the ability to understand computers (which is arguably just as important as knowing how to read in the 21st century) it is the ability to understand and be able to read social situations, (hence the term “socially literate”), and it is the ability to look at a problem and find a solution. Literacy extends beyond simply helping to teach children how to read – it is teaching them how to become active members of society – to be able to think, read, and assess situations for themselves. It is laying the foundation so they will become capable adults.
So what can we do? Lindsey Tepe – a teacher librarian in a Title 1 school in Washington D.C. who attended a seminar titled “Remodeling Literacy Learning: Making Room for What Works” relates the following:
Professional development, collaboration and structural supports are critical ingredients in remodeling literacy learning, but a solid foundation must be put in place as well. I was surprised that the report did not include mention of the materials teachers need to support literacy learning within and across the content areas.
A critical component to “Remodeling Literacy Learning” must also include rebuilding the foundation of literacy: access to high quality fiction and non-fiction texts. In classrooms throughout the country, many educators do not have the materials needed to effectively support literacy instruction.
How do you build a school culture built upon literacy without an abundance of content-rich texts?
Intentionally selecting and providing materials for classrooms of all grade levels that support literacy instruction across disciplines – as well as providing and structuring professional development and collaborative time for educators – is necessary to rebuild a culture of literacy in schools. (Tepe, 1).
In order to become truly successful teacher librarians we need to be able to be able to promote and teach literacy to our students – and not just the basic form of literacy (meaning “the ability to read and write”) but multi-literacy.
What are your thoughts? Do you think literacy extends beyond just “the ability to read and write”? What are some things you think Teacher Librarians can do to impact or help increase literacy in Title 1 schools? Chime in below – let’s get a conversation going!
MacMeekin, M. (2013). 27 things your teacher librarian does. An Ethical Island. Retrieved from https://anethicalisland.wordpress.com/2013/04/12/27-things-your-teacher-librarian-does/
Malburg, S. (2015). What is a Title 1 school? Bright Hub Education. Retrieved from http://www.brighthubeducation.com/teaching-methods-tips/11105-basics-of-title-1-funds/
Tepe, L. (2013). Rebuilding a culture of literacy in schools. Education Policy. Retrieved from https://www.newamerica.org/education-policy/rebuilding-a-culture-of-literacy-in-schools/
Want to Learn More?
Children’s Literacy Foundation (CLiF). http://clifonline.org/resources/research/
Comber, B. (2001). Critical literacy finds a ‘place’: Writing and social action in a low income Australian grade 2/3 classroom. Elementary School Journal, 101(4), 451-465.
Nelson, J. and Ingraham Dwyer, J. (2015). What the public librarian wishes the school librarian knew. Children & Libraries: The Journal of the Association of Library Service to Children, 13(4), 26-27.