Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009
Sometimes parents wonder at the choices that their children make during library. Why does a student choose a book that is beyond his/her reading abilities? Why does a student choose the same title over and over again? How are students being guided during library choice time?
There are many different types of literacy, and here in the LREI library, we are striving to equip your children with library literacy. This entails the very basics of how to treat a book, all the way to the understanding that the library is organized by systems (as well as an understanding of how these systems work). In first grade, children are checking out books “on their own” for the first time. The areas of the library are being opened up bit bit by bit with fiction (picture books and early readers) being first, and the non-fiction Dewey Decimal sections being opened up one section at a time. What I am looking for as I help the children during this time is whether or not they can negotiate the space. Is there an understanding that the fiction and non-fiction are housed separately? Are children looking for books to read, books to browse, or books to share with a grown-up at a later date? These are all steps in negotiating the library, and making good book choices in the future.
So why are children choosing books that are beyond their level? There are many reasons for this, especially regarding non-fiction titles. Generally speaking, children are drawn to subject matter that they are interested in. With non-fiction, students can “read” the pictures, work on decoding and understanding captions, while getting a sense of the larger subject at hand. Topics that first graders have been drawn to this year include volcanoes, the ocean, and spiders! While children are exploring books like these, they are getting to know the standard format of the non-fiction book (table of contents, index, captions) and are able to share quick facts about the subject matter with their peers. Generally speaking, 3-5 children will end up gathering around books like these and exclaiming over the content (“What month were you born? Every month has a birthstone!”, “Can you believe how big this spider is? Look! I can count its’ eyes!”).
On the other side of things, why do some children choose the same book again and again? In a word, familiarity. While our library does not seem that large to us, there are over 10,000 titles here! Some children are simply overwhelmed by the myriad of choices available to them. There is comfort in knowing where a favorite book is housed, in being successful in finding it on the shelf, and being able to share it with a friend. Over time, this will change and the children who tend to check out the same title again and again will find a new favorite, then another, then another until their personal library has grown enough that the task of choosing something new will no longer seem overwhelming.
As for guidance, the librarians get to know your children as readers slowly but surely. Some reveal themselves to us quickly and others take a little more time. We take pride in matching children with books and there is nothing more exciting than when a child comes running into the library to share their enthusiasm about a book with us. There are also times when we do not let children select certain titles because they are well beyond their level, or the content is not developmentally appropriate. We have many conversations about why certain books are for older students. When a child wants to check out a book that is for older children, we ask questions to determine why the child wants to read it. Was the cover enticing? Is there a movie currently out that is based on the book? Is the book about a subject that the child is interested in? We always offer up choices of alternate titles that would serve the student better. The librarians at LREI are constantly reading and trying to keep up with the dynamic world of children’s literature, so that we can offer our students the best selection of books that we can.
If you have any questions about how library is working for your child, please stop by the library. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a time if a longer conversation is necessary.