Literacies as defined by Loertscher (2008), are the skills necessary to function successfully in school and the world at large as a “literate” citizen. Literacy skills are lifelong learning skills that include reading, writing, listening, communicating, media literacy, visual literacy, information literacy, ICT literacy, and emerging literacies (124).
The primary role of the teacher librarian in a school’s literacy program is one of advocate and collaborator. First and foremost, the teacher librarian must know their library collection and understand how it supports the school’s curriculum. The print and electronic resources in a library are dynamic – always changing and growing to support the learning of the student community. The teacher librarian is not only passionate about reading and writing, but involving students in all kinds of activities, such as listening to novels on CD, using collaborative technology tools to support group work, and using databases for research and evaluation. They must be knowledgeable about all types of resources and be the “go to” person in the school who keeps up on current research, who takes the time to learn about and practice emerging technologies, and who collaborates and encourages teachers to try new strategies – especially when it comes to information literacy.
The teacher librarian should be part of curriculum teams. Because they work with a variety of classroom teachers and with a variety of subject areas, they are in a good position to share best practices and strategies that have been proven effective. They are they to support, offer advice, and be positive and encouraging of those who are trying new strategies. They should always been on the lookout for new resources and take time to share what they’ve discovered with their community. Teacher librarians are the ultimate coach – co-teaching the necessary skills to be successful – and directing and encouraging from the sidelines.
The teacher librarian can have a significant role in content reading skills. Especially at the higher grade levels, content reading can be quite challenging for some students. There is a huge jump in the readability of the material and it may contain a lot of technical and unfamiliar terminology. A teacher librarian who is familiar with content reading strategies can assist classroom teachers in suggesting effective strategies so students have better comprehension of both print and electronic resources.
When planning a collaborative Social Studies assignment, the teacher librarian can suggest note taking strategies. The Cornell note taking system encourages students to take notes while reading a selection from text sources or listening to a lecture and or watching a historical movie. Students take notes on one side of the paper. On one side of the page, the student writes “cues” – which are questions which the notes answer. The page summary at the bottom of the notes provides a concise review of the important material on the page. This activity reinforces many informational literacy skills and assists the students in understanding the “bigger picture” that is being presented.
Too often in Social Studies, students don’t see the connections from one event to another or they get confused by all the names and dates that are presented. Encouraging use of a concept map or graphic organizer allows students to “show” the connections and gives them a visual representation of events, people and dates. The teacher librarian can also provide background reading material that helps make sense of the social studies content. They can suggest fiction books about the time period being studied. They can provide access to multimedia collections in databases. They can encourage individual exploration of interesting websites or DVDs. Surrounding the students will all types of resources makes understanding social studies content reading much more manageable.
Loertscher, D., Koechlin, C., & Zwaan, S. (2008). The New Learning Commons Where Learners Win!: Reinventing School Libraries and Computer Labs. Salt Lake City, UT: Hi Willow Research