Sharing tips on supporting literacy

A teacher librarian panel shared their insights and experiences with a group of new and pre-service teacher librarians on November 8 at University of Northern Iowa.  UNI alumnae Colleen Nelson, Deanne Thiede, and Brandy Bingman responded to a variety of questions about their roles as teacher librarians and addressed the many ways they support literacy.  

Building a current and diverse collection of materials is more than just browsing book stores. “I read School Library Journal, Booklist, and Horn Book Guide nightly,” stated Nelson, an elementary teacher librarian in Cedar Falls (pictured on the left). Thiede (middle), a high school teacher librarian in Cedar Rapids, explained that she tries to never say no when a student requests a book, as long as that book fits the library’s selection policy, which states that books must have at least two positive reviews and be age appropriate.

Providing access to the library and its materials is important for all the members of the panel. Nelson’s unlimited checkout policy allows students to check out all the books they can read. The Prairie High School Library website created and maintained by Thiede provides students and teachers with access to the library’s catalog, ebooks, databases, links to classes, along with many other useful links.

When it comes to collaborating with classroom teachers, the panel was clear that it is the teacher librarian’s job to be a leader and find opportunities to work together. Nelson discussed a time when she asked the social studies teacher what curriculum was often overlooked during the school year due to time constraints. The teacher noted that map reading always got glazed over, so Nelson designed and co-taught an information literacy lesson that taught students how to read maps using the library as a layout. Finding opportunities to help classroom teachers can be as simple as asking, “What are you doing? Anything I can help with?”

The panel agreed that teacher librarians should also be leaders at the district level and reach out to the community. This strengthens the school library program by educating other educators and the community on how the school library supports literacy, technology, and the core curriculum. Thiede said that she offers up the school library as a meeting space so that people in the community get inside the library. “We do BYOD--bring your own device--workshops,” said Bingman (right), a teacher librarian in the Dike-New Hartford Community School District. This provides students, parents, and other members of the community with an opportunity to learn more about their technology. Reaching out to the community can also provide additional resources to support student reading. Nelson coordinated with a local comic book shop for Free Comic Book Day and received free graphic novels for the library collection.

Assistant professor Dr. Karla Krueger noted that the panel "seamlessly interwove their answers with subtle but critical dispositions teacher librarians often achieve as they advocate for students and library programs." Some of the dispositional hints they shared are: “Never give up supporting the curriculum,” “Plan your program using strategic thinking,” and “Your leadership is wherever you are--at lunch, on the district budget committee, technology committee, or building leadership team.”


Hunting for books

Leann Seddon, the teacher librarian for the Albia Community School District in Iowa, noticed that a lot of her students were interested in hunting, but the district’s libraries did not have many books that involved the subject. When she discovered that there were no comprehensive lists of hunting books that included the way the book portrayed hunting, she decided to create a bibliography as part of her master’s research paper. Seddon’s complete master’s research paper and bibliography, “101 Books for youth that feature hunters & hunting” is available on Seddon’s website. Read more.



College ready?

Dr. Jean Donham studied assignments from first-year classes in Iowa colleges and universities to see how effectively schools preparing their students for further education. She found that college faculty expect students to come to college with well-developed research skills, which is something that often gets overlooked in high school. Donham published her findings in an article in School Library Research Vol. 17, 2014 titled “College Ready—What Can We Learn from First-Year College Assignments? An Examination of Assignments in Iowa Colleges and Universities.”  Donham retired from teaching in the UNI School Library Studies program in May 2014. Read more.


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