Over 60 studies have shown a direct improvement in student achievement when school libraries were well-stocked and staffed. This is true for academic achievement and for literacy. Reading scores rise. Students read more. Their writing and spelling and vocabulary improve. Here’s what some of those studies say about the literacy aspects.
Why would qualified TEACHER librarians make such a difference?
Staffing a library with a TEACHER LIBRARIAN, especially if flexibly scheduled, means the library is available to classes and individuals and groups when needed. The resources are centrally controlled by an authority who can locate and promote them. A 1996 Australian literacy survey found that “Effective literacy teaching practices that involve extensive use of the school library and classroom computers are associated with higher literacy achievement.” (Masters, G and Forster, M (1997)Mapping literacy achievement. Results of the 1996 National School English LIteracy Survey. DEETYA, Canberra).
“The research is overwhelming. It tells us that those with more access to books read more, and that children of poverty have very little access to books, at home, in their communities, or in school (reviewed in Krashen, 2004, Power of Reading). And of course, as noted earlier, the US National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) report confirms that more reading leads to better literacy development and more knowledge.” (S. Krashen, 2008. The “Decline” in Reading in America: Another Case of the “Shock Doctrine”?) See also Krashen, S., Lee, SY, and McQuillan, J. 2010. “An analysis of the PIRLS (2006) data: Can the school library reduce the effect of poverty on reading achievement?” CSLA Journal, in press. California School Library Association.
The qualified teacher librarian is trained in collection development. This means using expert reviews, knowledge of the curriculum and student literacy levels and interests to build a targeted collection of digital and print and audiovisual resources to support teaching and learning. Today’s TL must make every dollar count. Care must be taken in locating the best resources for the best outcomes. It is not a matter of just selecting from the traveling booksellers stock. Professional TLs use professional reviews such as WA’s Focus on Fiction to keep up-to-date with the best in publishing, whether as e-books or hard copy. They belong to networks of colleagues and professional associations to stay current. When you want a “good book” or the right teaching resource, the professional TL is ready.
As a TEACHER librarian, the TL is an equal, a trained teacher who understands teaching methods and the curriculum and stated outcomes. The TL can work with teachers to design units of work, to implement and to assess these. With a broad knowledge of fiction and non-fiction, digital and hard copy, which can provide wide reading, the trained TL can advise on current publications, learning objects, webquests, databases, to inform teachers as well as students.
Book Week. The Premiers Reading Challenge (see each state). MS Readathon. Author visits. Storytelling. Literature Circles. Book Clubs. Book Raps. Readers Theatre. Simultaneous Storytime. National Year of Reading. TLs do it all to share their enthusiasm for reading.
Educational leaders care about teaching and learning. They keep up-to-date on current ideas and strategies. They share their knowledge with colleagues. They have a vision. They work toward improving student learning and they enjoy working in teams and building open and collaborative relationships. They love learning themselves and trying new ideas and communicating and seeing the whole school picture. In short, an excellent teacher librarian can be a transformational school leader with a vision of the school library as a learning hub.
The teacher librarian, especially in primary schools, sees every student over several years. S/He knows their interests, their abilities and how to expand their reading and their learning.
See also the Saskatchewan Schools on how teacher librarians support reading literacy.