By Jennifer Sniadecki
When I was in 2nd grade, I got into trouble for “refusing” to line up when my class was leaving the school library. No, I wasn’t a troublemaker. I didn’t hear my teacher say, “Line up, class.” I didn’t see my peers forming the line. I was simply lost in a book, curled up comfortably in a beanbag chair behind a row of bookshelves.
Now that I’m a middle school librarian, whenever I see a student relaxing in the reading area of the library, I feel nostalgic. At the end of each class period, I remind students to clean their areas, grab their books, and exit quietly to the hallway. There’s usually a student or two lingering — waving me off, saying, “Hold on,” or “Just a sec.” The scene reminds me of…me.
April is School Library Month and we celebrate librarians who advocate for literacy learning, build relationships with students, staff, and community members, and communicate the importance of lifelong reading to their patrons.
School Librarians Advocate
One of the reasons I love my job so much is that one of my main responsibilities is making sure students have access to books and resources inside and outside of school. Librarians have budgets, and as tight as those monies are, these literary geniuses are somehow able to present beautiful displays of wonderful titles to their patrons. Librarians spend countless hours reading and researching, making lists, asking for recommendations, and purchasing books for the physical library at school, for classrooms and bookrooms, and even for homes. I’m lucky enough to have a “gift fund” where I use former fees collected by the school to buy books and give them away to students at school assemblies, parent-teacher conferences, and other events during the school year. Librarians hold book fairs, sometimes twice a year, where students and families can shop for their favorite books and learn about new published material they haven’t seen before. Modern school libraries also provide digital resources and other media technology for use at schools and in the communities.
School Librarians Build Relationships
I love sharing new titles with students, and one of my favorite activities is gathering a class together to open the next shipment of books. Students “ooh” and “ah” as I take each book from the brown cardboard and unwrap the crumpled butcher paper in dramatic fashion. Holding each book in the air, I state boldly what I know about the title — performing a little book talk, encouraging students to take the books they like to the checkout counter. As each student comes forward, I make sure to notice what they’re choosing, add a comment about the books, and ask them to come back soon. One student I know is a car enthusiast. Another one is reading an entire series and wants to be done by the end of the school year. Still another tells me I don’t have enough scary books. (I remember that one because I won’t read horror stories. “It’s about the kids,” I have to remind myself.)
School librarians also work with the teachers in their buildings to create lessons about reading, writing, and research. Librarians are called to teach standards of learning as co-teachers with the English department teachers in many schools around the country. This collaborative effort is important in schools, as the workforce is changing drastically — project-based teams work together to solve problems and find solutions. Because librarians are well-trained, they often provide lessons such as how to form a thesis statement, how to avoid plagiarism, and how to draft and revise writing. This approach helps students realize that learning is a social event, as much as it is an individual responsibility.
School Librarians Promote the Joy of Reading
My author friends Kwame Alexander and Mary Rand Hess (authors of the Blink YA books, Soloand Swing) are favorites in our library. We had a “book birthday party” for Solo, after I was lucky enough to be named a #SoloBook Launch Team member. I cannot keep Swing on the shelves. I like to think that I introduce students to authors and books that will lead them through life. Recently I heard that a young lady needed something to read that would make her feel better about coming to school after an illness. I immediately recommended McCall Hoyle’s The Thing with Feathers, knowing that the main character, Emilie, had a similar story — feeling anxious about attending a public school while having a similar struggle. The student read the entire book in two days and returned to the library with a confidence that I hadn’t seen before. (Of course, I then traded her for Meet the Sky. This girl now has a favorite author!)
School Libraries are important, and knowledgeable librarians are needed to bring joyful reading opportunities to children. I continue to advocate for meaningful reading in schools, and I encourage others to join me. It is my pleasure to provide literacy learning for students in my school and community.
I love reading. I love the smell and feel of new books. I turn the books over and over in my hands, marveling at the cover art, reading the back description, searching for favorite lines. But there’s something I love more…
I love watching students fall in love with reading.
Jennifer Sniadecki is currently a middle school librarian, teacher, and professional development facilitator from South Bend, Indiana. She is an avid reader and will read anything her friends recommend. Jennifer’s current passions are promoting her favorite authors’ upcoming books as a launch team member and reading ARCs with #booksojourn. Check out her posts on Twitter (@jdsniadecki) or follow her blog, www.readingteacherwrites.com.