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Library Media Specialists and Alternative Schools

Guest Author - Paula Laurita

What is the role of the Librarian in meeting the needs of students who attend alternative schools?

Students who attend alternative schools are primarily at-risk students. They often come from low socio-economic backgrounds, have displayed violent behaviors, and alcohol and/or drug abuse may be an issue in their lives.

What do we do with students who don't conform to our expectations in traditional schools? Too often teachers and administrators opt to shuffle these students aside. They may keep them in an almost constant state of in-school suspension, or send them to alternative schools.

The role of the librarian in alternative school settings should be that of "instructional design consultant." This will mean taking the initiative. Library Media Specialists need to be active participants throughout the school.

Librarians have a unique opportunity to reach out to students and teachers, in providing materials and training. The adage, "The right book, for the right person, at the right time," is never truer than in an alternative school setting. Bibliotherapy allows students to see that literature can connect to their lives. That there are books that speak to their situation. Don't be afraid of edgy literature. Graphic novels are very attractive to at risk students. These students are less intimidated by graphic novels and comic books. This is not an abdication of developing reading skills. It is helping students who do not have the practice of reading the opportunity to develop the habit.

This may mean reaching outside of our own school to the alternative school. It may mean new thinking by the librarian, administration, and teachers. The goal is to reach all students in the school system.

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Content copyright © 2014 by Paula Laurita. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Paula Laurita. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Christine Sharbrough for details.

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