For the love of literacy

By: Charlene Aldrich, retired literacy instructor

I KNEW from an early age that books had an important place in life.  I was adventurous and brave with Encyclopedia Brown.  I dreamed about being a nurse with Cherry Ames.  I pondered survival instincts through The Lord of the Flies. I cried about Rascal and fell in love on The Island of the Blue Dolphins. 

I was always the one who brought every textbook home on the first day of school.  I HAD to know what we were going to learn that year.  And besides, ‘Library’ didn’t begin until the second week of school!   

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

But I soon realized that magazines were pretty great also: Reader’s Digest, Good Housekeeping, even Popular Mechanics!  Whatever my parents had on the table became fodder for my mind.  So, maybe it wasn’t ‘books’ that were important; maybe it was just, plain reading!That made choosing a career pretty difficult – Write books? Work in a bookstore? Be a librarian? OR do research?  How does someone decide what they want to do for 40 years of his/her life?

Content Area Literacy and the Librarian

Read or write?   How about read AND write?  Isn’t that what teaching is all about?  That and having summers off? So what began in a second grade classroom morphed, over many years, into teaching Content Area Reading and Writing (CARW), first to students preparing for college courses and then to content area teachers who were required to become ‘reading and writing teachers’.  But that’s not exactly what the R2S law said; concerning teacher education, the law’s intention was for all teachers to be confident in USING reading and writing in their content area.  And who is the best resource for that?  The person in the school in charge of the books!  The librarian, aka media specialist.  

I LOVE providing reading and writing research, literacy resources, and instructional ideas for content area teachers to embrace reading and writing as valuable instructional practices.  Even better is when librarians sign up for my CARW courses.   You see, I believe that literacy is everyone’s responsibility and that collaborating across grade levels and across content areas improves the probability that literacy is possible.  

Photo by Wan San Yip on Unsplash

Librarians are in the perfect position to orchestrate this collaboration.  BUT you have to ask. They aren’t mind readers.  By becoming partners in literacy, you both can ‘do good things for students’.  HOW?

  • Parallel Reading suggestions connecting content areas
  • LMS Embedded Librarians for immediate and ongoing student access
  • Direct Instruction for efficient research

What does the number one provider of research information say about librarians? 

 “The primary purpose is to support the students, teachers, and curriculum of the school or school district. Often, teacher-librarians are qualified teachers who take academic courses for school library certification or earn a master’s degree in Library Science” (Wikipedia).

South Carolina only employs ‘teacher-librarians’ in the schools.  Yes, their duties overflow into media, but first and foremost, they are your partners.  They can connect content to reading resources; they can connect reading resources to students.  

Overall literacy proficiency is grown within the classroom; through the collaborative efforts of teachers and teacher-librarians, it overflows into students’ out-of-classroom learning experiences.  But the best indicators of overall literacy proficiency are the graduates/adults/employees/employers/parents who model lifetime learning through reading and writing.  They value the ability to apply their literacy  to listen, read, analyze, evaluate, and respond to the plethora of messages that the 24-hour media services produce.  

PS:  Summers off – the joke was on me.  I found out that improving reading, writing, and math literacy is a year-round gig.  And it was my pleasure to serve.  

References

Wikipedia contributors. (2020, May 18). Librarian. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 20:32, May 26, 2020, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Librarian&oldid=957428603  

About the Author

After 20 years of growing literacy in under-prepared college students, Charlene retired to focus on state-wide literacy initiatives such as LiD, 6-12 and her R2S approved literacy courses at CofC.  She lets her life speak by empowering teachers to have the confidence and competence to implement a literacy model of instruction in any content area and at every grade level. Her best Co-Vid 19 memory is teaching her grandson Algebra 1 via phone calls, Zoom, ztext messaging, and FaceTime.  It was online instruction at its best – synchronously and interactively.

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