What should I read?

As a middle school language arts teacher, Jessica Elliott noticed her students were increasingly more likely to look to their devices rather than to her for book suggestions. While researching students’ book selection preferences, however, she discovered that teacher and peer recommendations still matter.

As part of her master’s research for the University of Northern Iowa School Library Studies program, Elliott met with small groups of middle school students and asked them to fill out a survey and discuss the methods they used to find new leisure reading material.  The most interesting conclusion she found was that there were very few to no gender differences in how middle school students chose leisure reading material. Elliott concluded, “Both male and female students strongly prefer selecting materials based on recommendations, just in more passive ways, such as book displays, posters, and bulletin board displays.”

In these days of constant Internet access, simple things like a recommendation from a friend or seeing a book on display still hold sway.  Elliott recommends that librarians continue to create frequent book displays focused on specific genres, read-alike books, student recommendations or librarian favorites.  More suggestions on recommending books, through both traditional and digital means, can be found in her master’s research paper “Middle school reading selection: influences during selection and implications for school library programs.”

Elliott’s passion for literature prompted her to become a teacher librarian.  She graduated with a Master of Arts degree in school library studies in May 2015 and will begin her first teacher librarian position in the fall at South Middle School in the Waukee Community School District.  She looks forward to working with students and teachers throughout the school and helping teach a variety of content areas.  Elliott hopes to put her research to work by collaborating with middle school teacher librarians and language arts teachers to create programs that motivate students to read.


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, 2014 at the 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.  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. Read more.


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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