Learning Curation #3 (462)

Essential Question:

  • How do I set up a learning commons in a brand new middle/high school that will become the “nerve centre of the school” (Leading Learning, p.6)

Consider the following Secondary scenario

A grade 10 student comes into the library weary because he has to submit an intended reading list and goals for the year. The teacher is excited about his/her new syllabus and is making attempts to slowly integrate more choice in reading in combination with the required novels assigned.  The only novels he has ever finished, reluctantly, have been the ones that were required reading in class. He dislikes reading and the idea of finishing one novel let alone a list for the year is overwhelming. He is thinking of dropping the class.  (Module 3)

As a teacher-librarian, I see my role as two fold. First, my role is to act as an empathetic support to this grade 10 student. Second, my role is to be a collaborator with the teacher. For the sake of personalizing this scenario, I am going to refer to the student by the pseudonym “Dave” and describe a possible dialogue in a script-like format.

In considering my essential question of building a culture in which the library is the bridge within the school, I feel that collaboration amongst staff is a large component. I spent some time reading about how to build a participatory culture. In Hamilton’s (2011b) article “The school librarian as teacher: What kind of a teacher are you?” essential conditions that lead to a participatory culture are described (p.35). As a teacher librarian, I hope to foster a culture of collaboration through

  • the creation and sharing of lessons and units that recognizes the value of each contributor
  • mentorship
  • the development of social connections

In this article Hamilton (2011a) describes a new library model as one that moves away from a “data warehouse” to a “learning site” (p.41). Yes! That is what I desire; a learning site where the “the school librarian is a partner for learning, the boundaries between the traditional classroom and library space become one shared learning space” (p.43).

In the dialogue below, I describe the mock scenario in which I take on two of the many roles of a teacher librarian.

A: Teacher-Librarian as a Student Support

TL: Dave, I am so glad to see you today. But, you look frustrated. Is there something I can help you with?

Dave: I am thinking of dropping English Lit 10. I have to submit an intended reading list and my reading goals for the year. I admit that I am not a big fan of reading and only took this course because it fit my schedule and I needed the credits. Reading novels is so hard; the only ones I have finished in the past are those that were assigned readings. Thank goodness, movies and Coles’ Notes were available for those novels. Now, I need to come up with a whole list of books that I will actually finish.  I can never do that.

TL: Would you mind if I helped you? Perhaps I can speak to your teacher and see if she will allow us to come up with a list one book at a time, rather than an entire reading list.

Dave: I guess I can give that a try. What book do you recommend?

TL: What are your passions, hobbies and interests? Let’s start with that. Then, let’s see what kind of books you like.

Dave then describes his hobbies and interests and his love for action movies, especially those with a clear hero.

TL: I have an idea, let’s look at a book list and see what we can find. I will show you a few, tell you a bit about each and then you can choose one to start with. I will talk with your teacher and describe the plan that you and I have come up with. I know your teacher loves reading and is so excited with her new plan to allow students more choice in the books they read.

We then spend some time digging through the Novelist in the ERAC bundle on the library computer. I show Dave how to search for books by topic or by type. From the list, we then narrow it down to three choices. I pull them off the shelf and give a mini book talk to Dave. He selects one to try. I encourage him to read the first two chapters and then come and tell me what he thinks.

 We write down the names of the other two choices to keep for future possibilities. I ask Dave to check back with me tomorrow, after I have had a chance to talk with his teacher. Dave feels supported and listened to and leaves the library feeling much more hopeful. 

Screen Shots of EBSCO site that could help Dave find books of interest.

Background Knowledge:

As I heard recently on Stephen Krashen’s video: “The Power of Reading” one positive reading experience can make someone into a reader. He referenced a book titled “The Read Aloud Handbook” in which one’s ‘homerun book’ becomes a catalyst for a love of reading. Furthermore, as stated by Gaiman (2013), “to discover that reading per se is pleasurable…you’re on the road to reading everything”.

So, if I can find one great book that Dave will enjoy he will be motivated to read another. Tackling an entire list is too daunting, but starting with one book seems more manageable.

Through a 1:1 conversation, I helped Dave identify his ‘reading identity’ and to find that one “home run” book that will lead him down a road to reading.

B. Teacher-Librarian as Collaborator

I am very careful to approach the teacher with enthusiasm and support for her efforts to encourage more student choice and for her goal of stimulating a love of reading. I explain that Dave came to see me and how he was feeling frustrated because he just didn’t think he could come up with a list of books. He has struggled to read any book, let alone many. I explain that I helped Dave find one book to begin with. I share Gaiman’s article with the teacher and ask the teacher’s permission if I can work alongside Dave to create an ongoing list, rather than a complete list at the onset of the course. I explain that I asked Dave to check in with me tomorrow after I had a chance to speak to the teacher.

I tell the teacher how I am so proud of her for deliberately including in her syllabus more student choice. I show her the following quote from the article:

“The simplest way to make sure that we raise literate children is to teach them to read, and to show them that reading is a pleasurable activity. And that means, at its simplest, finding books that they enjoy, giving them access to those books, and letting them read them.”

I also share with the teacher the link to the study by the Institute for Education (2013) about reading for pleasure. I tell her how surprised I was to read that “reading for pleasure was found to be more important for children’s cognitive development between ages 10 and 16 than their parents’ level of education” (web post).

I ask the teacher if she would like to bring the whole class to the library so I can demonstrate how the Novel search through EBSCO works and how this may be a good starting point in finding books.

The teacher is delighted that I have helped Dave get started and that he is willing to give the class a try. The teacher wholeheartedly gives me permission to work with Dave and to allow him to submit an ‘ongoing’ list (formative) rather than a complete list. She is equally thrilled that I am willing to work with the whole class to support them in finding their books and in creating their lists.

The initial project takes off and becomes a treasure hunt for the nuggets of gold in the library!


Gaiman, N. (2013, October 15). Why our future depends on libraries, reading an daydreaming. The Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/oct/15/neil-gaiman-future-libraries-reading-daydreaming?CMP=twt_gu

Hamilton, B. J. (2011a). Creating conversations for learning: School libraries as sites of participatory culture. School Library Monthly 27(8): 41-43.

Hamilton, B. J. (2011b.). The school librarian as teacher: What kind of a teacher are you? Knowledge Quest39(5): 34-40.

Institute of Education, University of London. (2013, September 11). Reading for pleasure puts children ahead in the classroom, study finds.  Retrieved from http://www.ioe.ac.uk/newsEvents/89938.html

Krashen, S. (2012, April 5). The power of reading. The COE lecture series. University of Georgia. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DSW7gmvDLag


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