WOW! What a concept, right? Promoting literacy with the power of choice! Erin had recently attended a seminar on open libraries by Laura Beals D'Elia (@ldelia), the school librarian at the Pine Glen Elementary School in Burlington, Massachusetts.
One thing led to another, and Laura agreed to be a guest blogger this month. Her passion for literacy is evident as she discusses her open library program. I challenge you to follow Laura's example to put the choice back into literacy.
My Library is a Matter of Choice
by Laura Beals D'Elia
Pine Glen Elementary, Burlington, MassachusettsAs an adult who loves to read, I could not imagine a situation where someone said to me, “You can’t read that book, it’s too easy for you” or “You can only visit a library on Thursdays between 1:30 and 2:00.” Yet, these are the inane things adults say to children all the time (and it hasn’t ceased to raise my hackles when I hear them.) I am a reader because I have choice. Choice in what I read, when I read, and how I read. Students need, deserve, require the same choices if they are going to develop into readers for life.
My school library isn’t there for me; it exists for my students and making sure that it is open and available when a student needs it is more important than it being open when I want it. I don’t close for lunch, inventory, or planning time. I let my students know that they are welcome in the library any time of the school day by providing homeroom library passes because sometimes students just want to checkout a book during a time other than their scheduled library class. I know, crazy, right?
Instead of putting limitations on the number of books that students can check out, I teach students to ask themselves three questions: How many books can I carry?, How many books can I read at once?, and How many books can I be responsible for? Readers have control over their own reading lives and it is important that my students learn how to make the best choices for themselves. The second I put a limit on their checkouts is the second I’ve squashed their enthusiasm toward reading.
Here’s another strategy for crushing a child’s love of reading: tell them what they can and cannot read. You will not find leveled readers in my library nor are there any age restrictions on borrowing from certain sections. Any student can borrow any library book regardless of age, reading ability, or interest. When you make a judgment on a child’s reading choice or deny access, you crush his reading spirit. Period.
I reinforce these concepts with my students and my teachers every day. I remind them often, ensuring them that it really is okay to be in the library anytime and to check out what they want when they want it. They’re still used to the old library rules and changing culture is never easy. Sigh. But it’s a battle I’m willing to fight because I see how it is building readers. And that’s my choice.