Wednesday, May 4, 2016

We Love Access?

"Stop Sign" by KT Ann from Flickr
The rare opportunity to leave campus for lunch - don't we all enjoy that little escape? It was a beautiful spring day in Iowa as I took my seat with a group of fellow educators.  The chips and salsa were delicious. The company was enjoyable. Conversations turned to our own children who attend several districts in the area. One colleague shared that their budding 2nd grader could only check out one book at a time during their once a week visit to the school library.  Similar stories came up at the table. My chips and salsa tasted a little less great. All I could say was "that is bad policy".  By bad I mean really, really bad!   In 2012 Jean Donham and Linda Johnson surveyed Iowa Teacher-Librarians and found that the majority (over 70% of respondents) had highly restrictive circulation policies such as the one my colleague described. Jean and Linda presented about this at an IASL conference and I had hope that there would be a shift in our practice.   Has that not happened yet?

Here are some questions of practice they offered:

"The results of this 2012 survey raise the question of whether school libraries are indeed contributing to early literacy. We often lay claim to our role in literacy. Questions for us to ponder might include:
 • What does it mean to “provide access”?
 • Is lending one book per week providing access?
 • Is one visit to the library per week adequate to make a contribution to literacy?
 • What steps can librarians take to ensure that children have ample opportunities to access school library collections? 
• How can we design circulation practices and policies to support literacy in young readers? 
• How can e-books compliment print text access within a context of equity across socioeconomic statuses?
 • How can we determine an appropriate threshold for loss of resources justified by the importance of access? 

In Empowering Learners, the AASL (2009) stated, “All children deserve equitable access to books and reading” (p. 12). This access is not dependent on age or reading ability. Free reading of books that children deem interesting is essential to developing a love of reading, both now and for future learning"

JOHNSON, LINDA, and JEAN DONHAM. "Reading By Grade Three: How Well Do School Library Circulation Policies Support Early Reading?." Teacher Librarian 40.2 (2012): 8-12. Academic Search Elite. Web. 4 May 2016.

Amid continued cuts to our profession I wonder if we realize the ripple effect of these policies.  I would add a few other questions:

  • Will parents believe we are serious about the need for a large volume of reading when these are the policies we enforce?  
  • From an administrator's perspective do these policies show our understanding of literacy development? Do these policies make us indispensable?
I'm sure there are more questions. People have reasons for hanging onto these policies but these stop signs mean kids are not getting a huge volume of reading (something Richard Allington points to as a fundamental piece of literacy development). If Teacher-Librarians are going to sing the praises of books, books, books let's be sure we are getting them in the hands of growing readers.