It gives me great pleasure to present to you today's article based on a recent interview with Ms. Linda Lindsay, a school librarian from the beautiful Island of Maui, who brings many years of wonderful experience to the table and was nice enough to take time out of her schedule to provide us with her insightful comments about the world of children's reading.
How long have you been a librarian? Why did you choose this career?
I have been a school librarian since 1980 -- 37 years!
What public library card-carrying person in their right mind would turn down the opportunity to bring the magic of books and reading to children? The school at which I was working, the very same school that I am at now, offered me the librarian’s position, even though I had only an English education degree. I earned certification while I was on the job. Looking back at how it all played out over those first years, I realize now that it was my destiny.
Where are you currently working as a librarian?
I am the librarian at Seabury Hall seaburyhall.org, a private college-preparatory school on the island of Maui. The school serves 450+ students in grades 6 through 12.
Were you always a librarian at this establishment?
Yes. When I first started, the school was young, with an enrollment of 110 in grades 7 through 12. I have grown with the school, and my job has grown with the school.
What is your role in the educational system as a librarian?
Since I am at an autonomous, private school, my role is unique to my school. I have had the good fortune to be able to mold my own program to meet the changing needs of our students and teachers.
I find resources for our curriculum (see libguides.seaburyhall.org), I teach in different ways: independently in the library in an open environment, in tandem with teachers in the classroom, and online (see mauilibrarian2.com). As a member of the school's tech staff, I am the lay person on the team who looks for ways to integrate technology in the classroom, (the other members do too, but this is my main job). As a member of the school's Curriculum Committee, I help determine the academic direction of the school.
This is our library's mission statement:
1. to assist students in becoming more effective, ethical users and creators of information;
2. to foster reading as a life-enhancing skill and pleasure;
3. to encourage and support exploration, collaboration, and creativity.
My role is to work toward fulfilling this mission statement, in whatever way I can.
How important do you feel that a librarian and teacher work together to enhance students’ education?
It is of utmost importance that librarian and teacher work together.
My experience over the years has taught me that, most of the time, we librarians are the ones who initiate the conversations to collaborate. Taking that first step to reach out to teachers is definitely worth the effort in light of the fact that the library's program can and should be part and parcel of the complete education of our children. Once teachers realize that the librarian can add value to their teaching and the school's program in wondrous ways, they're all in (or as the kids would say, they're "down"). The rest is easy.
How do you personally work with teachers to enhance students’ enjoyment of visiting a library?
Most of my work is done with our social science department for research, and our English department for reading. I also work with the tech department as I build the library's makerspace and as new technologies become available for use in the classroom.
How important do you feel it is that students take time to visit a library?
It is absolutely necessary that students take time to visit a library. Our library serves as resource center, collaborative working space, homework haven, computer lab, makerspace, and refuge. We love our students, so we do all we can to make the library a comfortable place for them to be. Our hope is that when our students graduate, they will remember the library as a safe haven where everyone is welcome and where learning opportunities abound.
“If you build it they will come” (tweaked from the quote in “’Field of Dreams”) is my mantra.
How important do you feel it is that students take time to read?
It is extremely important for students to take the time to read recreational books, especially now when technology (apps, games, videos, texting, etc.) pervades our daily lives (adults too). What better way to unplug than to settle down with a good book? And as studies have shown (see Reading Fiction Improves Brain Connectivity and Function from Psychology Today), reading fiction stretches one's brain in a unique, powerful way. And let us not forget the life lessons to be learned in books, like the greatest life lesson of all: empathy. (See Books that Teach Empathy from Common Sense Media.)
How do you encourage students to read and enjoy doing so? Can you mention a strategy or two?
We’ve just started a library initiative called “Take a Book Break”. Students will come in with their English classes to pick out books to read for fun. The class visit piece is critical because it sends the message to our students that recreational reading is an essential part of the learning experience. Themed tables will be set up for browsing, and peers who are “reading ambassadors” will help pick books and recommend books to their peers during the visits. We will take a book break three times a year before school vacations: spring, summer, and winter.
Parents can use this idea too. Simply carving out a regular time to take a book break and having lots of books available to choose from (think library) will do wonders.
What technologies do you feel are important in helping children remain enthusiastic and interested in reading?
I'm not a believer in accelerated reader programs using technology. Nor am I a fan of ebooks for recreational reading (gasp!); this, of course, is my own personal preference.
However, I do believe in using the Internet and social media to talk about books and reading. Some of our students use social reading sites like Goodreads to find books to read. I asked one of our most avid readers about this question, and she uses Amazon and Pinterest to go "on bunny trails" to find books to read.
My feeling is that anything that sparks conversations about books and reading, technological or otherwise, is a wonderful thing.
Do you have any tips that students should keep in mind when they visit a library?
Libraries offer something for everyone. I would recommend that students visit the library to look for something that really interests them. Once they're there, then they will undoubtedly find more than they expected. So I would say that students should keep their eyes peeled for interesting new things that a library always offers.
Do you have any tips for parents to help encourage their children who may not be as enthusiastic in choosing to read a book?
For all ages, find ways to intertwine books and reading with whatever you are doing. Cookbooks and believe-it-or-not books are a great start.
For younger children, make a trip to the library a regular EVENT, a fun excursion. For older students, always look for ways to connect your children's interests and activities with books.
Carve out a time to read together (either to or alongside your children), even if for only a short while a couple of times a week. I am confident that you will be rewarded greatly for your efforts.
Cultivate your own love of reading. Modeling works.
Have you written or published any material for children to read? If so, could you let our readers know and where someone could obtain a copy.
No, I haven't.
Can you name some books that you would currently recommend to students to read and why?
Difficult question! Each student has different needs, so I try to recommend books based on interests and reading history.
However, I can say that I like to recommend books that celebrate diversity (see Books That Promote Tolerance and Diversity) and books with memorable characters who struggle but grow in some way at the end. Wonder by R. J. Palacio leaps to mind, as does Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell.
The "bunny trail" reader mentioned above? She just recommended the Throne of Glass series for our students, so I am recommending the series to you. Just because. :)
If one of our readers wished to get in touch with you, how may they do so?
Any motivational bits of advice that you would like to pass on to the readers of this article?
To teachers: your librarian is your friend; utilize his/her expertise in research and books and reading.
To parents: if your children don't thank you now for encouraging them to read, they will definitely appreciate what you did for them later. Keep on being awesome.
To all readers: reading makes all the difference in the world, in a multitude of positive ways. Enjoy the ride!
I hope you enjoyed reading through Ms. Lindsay's insights. I would like to publicly thank her for taking the time to share her thoughts about this topic.
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