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Beginning this school year, we have further enhanced our literacy instruction in grades K-5. Students are now immersed in the “Reading Workshop” (Units of Study for Teaching Reading), a research-based curriculum written by faculty of The Reading & Writing Project of the Teachers College at Columbia University. It is the companion curriculum to the “Writing Workshop,” which we successfully implemented two years ago. The goal of the workshop model is consistent reading growth achieved via a combination of strategies and tools. Teachers determine the appropriate instructional reading level for each student and teach them at that level. In order to better align with the new Reading Workshop curriculum, we no longer use the STAR/AR program to level students. Instead, students now progress on the  Fountas & Pinnell Text Level Gradient.

How does this translate to best practices in the school library? While student reading levels are still assessed, students are not restricted by level for checking out books.  When selecting books, student choice incentivizes (or “encourages”) reading. According to Donalyn Miller, teacher and author of Reading in the Wild: The Book Whisperer’s Keys to Cultivating Lifelong Reading Habits (2013), “When students select their own books to read and enjoy, they develop confidence in their abilities to make reading choices and build their capacity for choosing books in the future” (p. 46). In the classroom, students are taught meaningful strategies for selecting books. Considering that books are not leveled in the real world, this is a more authentic approach. Additionally, the ability to successfully choose a text that meets personal and academic goals is a vital skill (Miller, p. 47).

This approach to growing readers is a natural match with a primary goal of the school library program -- to create lifelong readers. While many factors play a role in achieving this goal, one is access to current, high quality, interesting, and extensive collections of books. In our school library, books are organized by type (e.g. “Junior Fiction”) using a standard classification system. This enhances our students’ ability to find materials in other libraries, including our local public libraries.

Our school library is a place where students can fully explore their reading interests. In collaboration with the classroom teachers, I encourage “choice” books as well as books on a student’s reading level. The classroom teachers and I continue to work together in order to support our students’ growth as readers while fostering a love of reading.

We are excited to announce our school subscription to a new information resource, PebbleGo by Capstone, a database accessible from anywhere with an Internet connection. Geared toward the needs of our K-2 learners, it is an important asset for providing all our learners with adequate print and digital resources in support of school-wide curricula.

This digital resource complements our print nonfiction collection and, moreover, it allows us to involve our youngest readers in developing modern literacy skills (finding, selecting, processing and presenting information) through engagement in research. Last year our Kindergarten students, for example, participated in shared research about penguins. First graders individually researched an animal of their choice and second graders a famous person. We find that students are naturally curious and excited to learn about animals and people at that age and engaging with resources that promote independent learning is beneficial.

While the focus of research is on teaching foundational skills, it is the database’s multimodal features that make it invaluable for our younger students. Information is communicated via images, audio, video, text and the ability to highlight text--each modus communicating meaning to the student regardless of the type of learner. And, of course, there is also the added benefit of building technology skills while engaging with the information. Ultimately, our goal is to nurture lifelong modern literacy skills. Exposing our youngest students is one stop on that journey.

To check out our latest digital information resource, please contact Mrs. Hallett for login information.