I have read numerous articles, studies, and reports touting the positive effects of (and increases in student reading scores because of) having a full-time teacher librarian (and support staff) in a well-equipped and well supplied (reading material wise) school library. I have read so much about this topic in fact, that the data, numbers, percentages, and ratios are all blurred together in my head. But the simple fact is — students suffer when they don’t have adequate resources—and, in particular, it’s been found that student achievement suffers when schools lack libraries that are staffed by full-time librarians (Kachel & Lance, 2013). Most importantly, student achievement soars when schools have adequate resources and use them to create a library media center that is at the heart of the school.
Are adequate resources and current technology a guarantee of student success? Not by themselves. A guarantee of student success is in finding and hiring a trained and certified teacher librarian who wants the best for each and every student that enters his or her library and is dedicated to the accomplishment of this goal. Being a Teacher Librarian is not for the weak or faint of heart. Dedicated Teacher Librarians can make a difference in the lives of even the most difficult and hard to reach students.
Students can be hard to reach for a variety of reasons. Here are some basic facts about American children:
- 1 child in 5 lives in poverty (among African Americans it is 1 child in 3).
- 1 child in 3 lives in a single-parent family (among African Americans it is 2 children in 3).
- Almost 1 child in 3 lives in a home where no one has full-time, year-round employment.
- 2 babies in 5 are born to teenage mothers. (Fasick & Holt, 2013).
According to these facts, poverty seems to be the most compelling reason that students can be hard to reach and struggle with learning, especially reading. Reading materials are often few in number in a low-income home; and trips to the public library do not often happen as parents are often working more than one job to make ends meet and simply are not available to take their children to the library or to read to/with their children. Homes held together by a single parent struggle even more. Communities of low income families within school boundaries often create special challenges for the schools. After school programs are practically a requirement as so many children would normally head home after school to a home lacking in parental guidance because parent(s) are at work. Extra help is needed at school for those that struggle to learn or do not speak English–yet another challenge at school. Students from low income homes tend to struggle to develop adequate levels of reading comprehension, writing style, vocabulary, grammar, and spelling. So how can a qualified and dedicated Teacher Librarian help these students?
There are numerous ways that Teacher Librarians can impact students. First and foremost just being open, caring and warm towards all students opens the door to establishing a trusting relationship with them. What student wants to visit a library where they feel unwelcome? Creating a space that is warm and welcoming and being warm and welcoming are the first steps any TL should take. Students need to feel safe at school and know that the adults around them care for them and love them. Teacher Librarians can create safe shelters, or refuges, for the students, where they know they are accepted and safe; where they can escape the struggles in their lives through reading. Students learn to love books and reading, hopefully making connections with the characters that they read about. Books can become a child’s best friend and help them through stressful situations.
Teacher Librarians impact students by sharing their love of reading, by sharing what they have learned through reading and by inviting and helping students find books that will impact their own lives. Dedicated Teacher Librarians stay current of reading trends and technology advances that will benefit the students. TL’s are the student’s cheerleaders and advocates. TL’s encourage and inspire. TL’s use their creativity to make the most of the resources they are provided with. TL’s use their persuasive talents to bring volunteers into the library to work with and help the students. Dedicated Teacher Librarians offer flexible scheduling for classes and extend their library hours to offer before and after school time for more students to visit the library.
Dedicated Teacher Librarians impact students by teaching them information literacy skills–where to find the information they seek, and skills to distinguish relevant information from “fluff.” Dedicated Teacher Librarians collaborate with teachers to share what they know and to help them acquire the needed materials for class curriculum.
Teacher Librarians can break the cycle of poverty for students in Title 1 schools by putting their heart and soul into their library, but most dedicated TL’s do this already. Perhaps “dedicated” should be added to the Teacher Librarian title–DTL’s… hmmm, I like it, what do you think? Chime in, let’s start a conversation!
Fasick, A. M. & Holt, L. E., (2013). Managing children’s services in libraries. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.
I Love Libraries. (2014, November 27). Jamal Joseph: “It was a place where we realized that anything was possible” [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vyAj2Gj20wU&list=PLFf4dhwX0njkDU49qbOkMrOiudlNhvr5o&index=58
Kachel, D. E. & Lance, K. C., (2013). Latest Study: A full-time school librarian makes a critical difference in boosting student achievement. School Library Journal
Krashen, S. D., (2004). The power of reading: Insights from the research. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Preston Hollow Advocate. (2012, February 21). Marsh students take back their library [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H2IqOoZi5tA
Want to learn more? Check out these books and links!
Caution! Free Range Children! Authored by Julie McCormack (Who wouldn’t want to visit a Library like this?)
Bailey, N. E., (2013). Misguided education reform: Debating the impact on students. New York, NY: Roman & Littlefield. (specifically chapter 3).
Barack, L., (2015). Mississippi School Librarians, despite low funding, enjoying higher profiles. School Library Journal. Retrieved from: http://www.slj.com/2015/12/schools/mississippi-school-librarians-despite-low-funding-enjoying-higher-profiles/
Crowley, J. D., (2011). Developing a vision: Strategic planning for the School Librarian in the 21st Century. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.
Toor, R. & Weisburg, H. K., (2011). Being indispensable: A School Librarian’s guide to becoming an invaluable leader. Chicago, IL: American Library Association. (Our favorite!)