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The Role of the School Librarian in Whole Language

Guest Author - Paula Laurita

How do librarians assist in the transition and implementation of whole language instruction?

One problem with the integration of whole language programs is the neglect of school library media specialists. In a whole language school, the ramifications for the school librarian can be great. How can the librarian and library best meet the needs of whole language instruction?

  1. Change from a fixed to a flexible schedule. This will allow the librarian to integrate skills into the curriculum, rather than teaching them in isolation.
  2. The school librarian should be a facilitator/resource person for teachers. The person who has training in the use of literature can assist the teacher who is now teaching without a textbook, or needs supplemental material for students. Whole language units are often longer and more in depth than traditional phonics lessons. The librarian can help brainstorm, and provide resources for, all aspects of topics. This includes great read-aloud stories, books for sustained silent reading, and reference materials. Too often teachers reinvent the wheel because they don't take time to discuss their plans with the librarian. They only come to the library on the day an item is needed, to find that it's been checked-out.
  3. The increased use of literature means that teachers may be turning to the library for more titles, and sometimes multiple copies of titles. Some school librarians make sets of books available for teachers to check out for a month at a time. [I often create class sets from books available from our bi-annual book fairs. Teachers also create sets through parent-student donations from the book fairs.] Some librarians make bibliographies based upon themes. Librarians should pay attention to usage and adjust their collection if needed. Librarians can provide brief in-services to teachers to update them on current literature.
  4. Not only do teachers want books from the library media center, but more often they are looking for videos and DVDs. The librarian needs to be aware of these demands and plan for reasonable purchases.
  5. Funding may be a problem for some schools. Some school form networks and borrow books from each other to provide the quantities of titles needed. Others network with the public library, letting them know of upcoming needs.
  6. Additional clerical help may be needed, both for circulation and processing of new materials. Some school have dedicated parent volunteers to assist with these needs.

The demands are many for the school librarian. The opportunities to impact student learning are enormous.

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Content copyright © 2013 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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