Libraries are resource rich, and ready to help
The library is at the centre of any good school campus. Why should things be any different during lockdown? asks Sally Flint.
The reality of home learning
Being married to a secondary school principal and having many teacher friends, I’ve recently seen how time consuming and challenging providing really good quality online education is. My husband has shared anecdotes with me of teachers negotiating their family roles and rules in terms of supervising and helping their own children learn, whilst also teaching a full day’s lessons. Video-conference and face-to-face lessons have been interrupted as a teacher’s own children have erupted into squabbles and fights mid-lesson. Friends have struggled to deliver the sessions they would like to, because their equipment and resources have been locked in school classrooms, whilst they are locked down in their own homes.
Facebook is awash with jokes from parents about how teachers deserve pay rises and how exasperated mums and dads are declaring ‘staff training days’ in order to take a break from supervising their children’s learning. The stress is real, but maybe overworked parents and teachers could find some extra support from their librarians and virtual school libraries.
Ways to use your school library and librarian to support distance learning
How might this work?
1. Readily available online resources
School library websites are a treasure trove of ready to use resources, which can be accessed to support a range of project work. Online provision is likely to include:
- An array of online subscriptions to databases, journals and magazines, and newspaper packages all at an age appropriate level, such as First News Magazine Online and World Book Online.
- Extensive reading lists to support curriculum learning and reading for pleasure. (Whilst your library won’t have all these resources available online, the lists can be used to guide parents in their purchasing of online reading material.)
- Interactive learning packs to support curriculum learning at different age levels.
- Compiled lists of where and what free online audible and reading books are available, via school subscriptions.
- Access to online books, such as those from the Tumble books library for younger children.
2. Ask your librarian for help
Actively seek out your librarian’s help. They will be delighted to be involved and be able to help parents and teachers by providing:
- Specific reading recommendations suitable for your child or class.
- Guidance and direction for researching online learning topics.
- Motivational emails to individual students or classes to encourage reading.
- Research about sharing and promoting reading competitions that are taking place county, country, or worldwide. These might include things like the Carnegie Reading Shadowing Scheme or the Red Dot Book Awards.
Depending on your school’s access levels at the moment, librarians may even be able to collate and leave packages of books at collection points for parents to borrow, whilst avoiding any personal contact.
3. Librarians as motivators
One key to successful home learning is keeping youngsters motivated. This could be achieved by providing encouragement and giving feedback from a range of different educators, rather than just parents and class teachers. Don’t hesitate to seek help from your librarians for this purpose. The truth is that librarians tire of having to ask to join the party, but once there, they add positively to the vibe. In my experience they are always delighted to be included in any and all opportunities to promote reading and share book chat: supporting learning gets them very excited. This involvement might include:
- Setting up feedback opportunities for students. This could involve sharing book reviews (recorded on YouTube or shared via school websites) of staff and students amongst the school community.
- Providing links to popular authors’ websites and YouTube channels and encouraging students to share with you their success stories of making contact.
- Encouraging students to record extracts of themselves reading and performing extracts of longer books or whole picture books. If these are just shared within the school community, there shouldn’t be a copyright issue.
- For younger children, providing online copies of reading booklet activities, including tasks such as wordsearches, gap-fills, short comprehensions and crosswords.
- Creating an online news board where students can share their creative responses to reading. It might display drawings of book covers, book reviews, script versions of books, evaluations of film versions of books read, letters sent to authors, links to recorded podcasts, video clips of character role plays and much more.
- Creating ‘quantity’ reading challenges and reward these with reading certificates. This is an extrinsic and not intrinsic motivation tool, but in my experience, it works!
Caution! Reading Should Be Fun
A cautionary note: reading should be fun and for some children, turning reading into an activity supplemented by what they perceive as enforced extra work can switch children off from it completely. Reading ‘activities’ and ‘reading booklets’ should, I think, be completed voluntarily.
When things change
Using libraries to support literacy obviously shouldn’t be occurring simply because we are in ‘lockdown time’. It should be a constant in literacy learning and good librarians will have frequently communicated with parents about tips to develop and promote reading. Now might be a good time for librarians to re-share this information with parents, along with the library resources their particular library is able to offer. We know that reading is key in helping to develop empathetic global citizens; in the current climate however, where parents are already on overload, it might also be timely to mention that reading can be completed quietly and calmly. In fact, has there ever been a better carrot for encouraging parents to make effective use of librarians and library resources?!
A teacher of English, Sally is the former Head of Libraries at Bangkok Patana School. In addition to writing articles for various educational publications (including this one) and working as a freelance library consultant, Sally enjoys blogging about family, books and education.
Click here to link to Sally’s blog
Coronavirus: Libraries see surge in e-book borrowing during lockdown – https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-52368191