Books, Collection Development, Musings, Professional organizations, School Libraries, Student stuff

The Role of Reading

The recent twitter effort to get our senators to remember school libraries/librarians during their ESEA discussions made me think about the role of librarians – or, to be accurate, it was one of the things that made me think about our role. 

And then there was this tweet by LizB

Wendy’s discussion of how she did stealth advocacy by getting a non-reader to read

And Angie’s tweet on Monday:

AASL stresses the importance of reading, making it the first of the Common Beliefs that underpin the new Standards for the 21st-Century Learner:

Reading is a Window on the World.

Yet for some reason, our role in reading has been diminished and unstressed. Librarians claim they don’t have time to read or they don’t like YA Lit (or Children’s Lit). My question to them is then why are you in this profession? If you can’t find the time to read, and you don’t like what your students are reading anyway, why did you choose to become a school librarian? Because you love teaching citations and searching?

Look, Reader’s Advisory is one of the few school librarian skills that cannot be outsourced to others. Many (most?) English/Language Arts teachers aren’t really up on what’s New! Wonderful! in the world of ya or children’s literature. Not only that, those teachers rarely allow students to just read the book, they want analysis and thoughtfulness.

(aside: I’m not the world’s best reader according to my English teacher colleagues because I don’t care about deep, close reading of texts to tease out meanings and subtexts. That’s not to say I don’t read deeply, I’m just more interested in getting lost in the world and getting to know those characters, fiction or non-fiction. Perhaps I just had bad teachers – I once got in trouble because when a teacher insisted that Anne Bradstreet meant something different from what I thought she might have meant, I muttered [not quietly enough] that he must have the only working Ouija board on campus)

But librarians just want students to read. And we know that when the student is ready to move on from Wimpy Kid (or Baker Street Girls or Magic Tree House or Twilight) what might appeal. We know what questions to ask to help them find their next incredible read. Take note: only if we model good reading habits can we create good readers. Of course that doesn’t work for everyone (just ask my sister, for whom curling up with a good book was not a favorite childhood activity, despite the large number of books available in our home and the wonderful example set by our parents and me) but if we don’t demonstrate a clear love and enthusiasm of reading it’s likely that even more students will not become lifelong readers.

Librarians who focus only on teaching skills and tools ignore this fact at their peril, because that can be outsourced. An increasing number of teachers are technosavvy and can teach students to use tools. Districts and schools are hiring technology integrators to help them figure out how best to use technology in their curriculum. Research doesn’t require memorization of Big 6 or IIM (which weren’t around when I learned to do research, and I managed just fine), and with so many materials available on-line teachers don’t need to bring students in to the library for either instruction or reference help.

That’s not to say we shouldn’t be collaborating with teachers on projects, or teaching skills and, or doing reference interviews. What I’m saying is, what better way to make yourself essential to the school than by creating passionate readers who will advocate for you when they tell their teachers and parents that you provided them with their current great read?

6 thoughts on “The Role of Reading”

  1. Love this! I’m a public librarian, but I think it still applies. And I’m currently applying for a Youth Services Manager position — and I maintain that my passion for children’s books is a point in my favor.

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