School librarians are an important member of the group of adults charged with creating readers, which includes: parents, teachers, librarians.
The School Librarian's Role in Reading Toolkit (from AASL, the American Association of School Librarians) is a useful resource when considering the role of the school librarian as a partner with teachers to create readers.
Find more information about the School Librarian's role under The Library Team, in Managing your Library. We also have a sample job description for school librarian, which you are able to tailor to the needs of your school.
Supporting struggling readers
There are many reasons a student may struggle with reading and the school librarian is uniquely placed to help. The librarian is an important “enabling adult” , helping students to find “just the right book” (i.e. the best book for the student's need, at the right time, in the right format and at the right level),
"Reader development" means active intervention; “selling” the reading experience and what it can do for the reader to
- increase children's confidence and enjoyment of reading
- open up reading choices
- offer opportunities for people to share their reading experience
- raise the status of reading as a creative activity
Rachel Van Riel has developed this concept (see her website Opening the book) to encourage, support and foster audience engagement with reading and literature.
Students will find it easier to choose books from a collection with good signage that is displayed attractively with as much face out display as possible. Providing a wide range of resources that are up to date and not labeled by age group will help readers to choose a book that interests them.
Promoting books across ages. For instance, sophisticated picture books can be promoted to older students, easy reading fiction as “quick reads” suitable for older children will encourage struggling readers to find books that suit their abilities.
It is also important to provide a range of formats including graphic novels, audio books DVDs, Mp3 players, magazines, for use in the library and to take home.
Sophisticated picture books and graphic novels are an important part of the collection as the illustrations provide visual scaffolding to the text, enabling readers to create meaning.
School librarians are experts in their collections. By working with students, understanding their personal interests as well as their reading abilities, the school librarian is able to match books with readers successfully. Knowing their students interests, helps librarian’s to promote books and to do “book talks” that are most likely to interest the children.
Using series is another good way to encourage reluctant or struggling readers to engage with reading. Hooking a reader into the first of a series, helps them to then easily choose their next book as they can then read through the series, enjoying the books and becoming more confident and fluent in their reading.
Librarians can also use a utility such as LibraryThing to create mini-library collections for targeted users as well as using the library catalogue to create book lists for different interest areas or groups of children.
By working with students and monitoring their progress and developing confidence, librarians can also help readers to make the transition from one area to another when they are ready by providing “stepping stones”; from picture books to fiction for example.
The power of peer recommendations
Another way to engage struggling readers is to harness the power of peer recommendations. Librarians ask readers who are returning books to share why they chose the book, what kept them reading it and to whom the would recommend the book. These recommendations can then be used to help other children.
Children often like to choose books from lists of favourite reads, such as the most popular books lent from the library.
Liaison with parents
School librarians can help readers by involving parents. Examples include:
- providing selected book lists to parents targeted to their child’s interests and reading level
- inviting parents into the library to choose books for and with their children
- promoting series fiction to parents
- sending messages home to parents about great read-alouds and great new books
Working with able readers
Many able readers are happy to select their own books and are eager to progress their own reading. Nevertheless, these students enjoy and benefit from interaction and encouragement from the librarian.
To further engage able readers librarians may organise a variety of programmes and activities such as:
- literature circles
- reading parties
- buddy reading
- reading logs
Events initiated by the school librarian or hosted by the library
- Librarians can run events to encourage and excite readers of all levels such as reading challenges and incentives with targets and rewards
- Reading aloud to groups - so children of all reading abilities share the experience of the story
- Award ceremonies
- Celebrations, literary lunches
image by Enokson