Literacy is the foundation of education. In the classroom, children strengthen their emergent literacy skills, but what happens in the library is something entirely different. Here, books become a source of joy and excitement, building the foundation for a life-long love of reading. It is during their time in the library and their partnership with Kyle, the school librarian, that students move beyond building literacy skills and learn to enjoy the experience of reading; finding books for both information and recreation.
Kyle says his number one goal of his program is “getting kids to love books.” Children visit the library in half groups once per cycle. The time children spend in the library is split into two distinct sections: read aloud and book selection. The read aloud portion of class is equally meaningful for both the students and for Kyle. As Kyle reads, children are exposed to a multitude of books in all different styles and subjects, learning about literature and different ways of telling a story. Some classes have particular pedagogical goals, others are simply about exposing children to excellent materials. Similarly, by reading to students, Kyle is able to make important observations about each child – how they react, or don’t – which will later inform the development of the library collection.
Giving students the opportunity to choose books for themselves is an important step in creating readers. Kyle believes that the act of choosing can be as important as the book itself. Even if the child later decides the book is too long, too advanced, or simply not appealing, allowing them to come to this decision on their own teaches them about making choices for themselves, and helps build their decision-making skills. Kyle’s relationship with his students is one of respect. “Sometimes it’s really about listening to them,” he says. By listening, Kyle discovers what they care about, and is able to help them discover books that excite them. Often times, children aren’t interested in exploring the library, but that can all change once they find just the right book. Sometimes a reluctant reader turns suddenly into a voracious one, and they become adventurous in their tastes and deeply invested in their reading choices. Kyle says that encouraging discussions and validating the opinions that they share is key to helping each student find literature that sparks a lifelong appreciation and love for reading. Part of getting children excited about books is exposing them to quality literature. Essential to supporting this, is building a strong library collection.
What goes into creating a library collection? Lots and lots of reading! Kyle spends a great amount of time reading and reviewing the books in the library, making decisions on which books stay in the collection and which are removed. Consistently reviewing the collection ensures that the books included are not only appealing to students, but are up to date and/or have something significant to offer the student body. Book selection is also informed by professional review journals, as well as conferences that Kyle attends. Staying informed about current events in the publishing world, Kyle discovers new books and is able to again a sense of the work different houses offer in all kinds of genres and topics. In addition, visits to other school libraries will have an effect on the selection of books available to students. Most importantly, it is the students at Corlears that influence the makeup of the school’s collection. Through his work with students, Kyle is able to draw from their thoughts and opinions to shape the library curriculum and collection.
The experience of visiting the library is powerful for our students. Here, they are treated with respect and understanding as they explore the world of literature. It is during their time at the library, and the choices they are allowed to make that exposes students to the joys of reading.
*Kyle doesn’t just love reading picture books, he writes them, too! Kyle’s debut picture book, “A Storytelling of Ravens,” will be released by Groundwood Press in the spring of 2018, and he hopes to publish many more.