Reflections on Exchange with American Librarian
On April 7th, RCEF was fortunate to invite 26 teachers, students, and parents from Trinity School in Menlo Park, California to the city of Yongji to visit Guan Ai School and Xiaochao School. The experience that made the deepest impression on me was my discussion with Librarian Becky Zeren. From that conversation I gathered some key lessons about book management and reading methods. I hope to share these with my fellow educators.
1. A School librarian should have a strong sense of professionalism and a progressive educational philosophy.
Ms. Becky did not like reading when she was young. In attempt to encourage children to read, she began reading and started to enjoy it. She eventually became a librarian and stayed as one for 30 plus years. She is 69 years old now and is still managing the library. She is an excellent librarian and I greatly respect her professionalism.
Her work reflects a “child-centered” education philosophy. She likes to have students asking questions because these questions can stimulate changes and new ideas at work. The library is open everyday so that the students can come and read anytime. Even if the librarian is not around, students can leave a note on the table and Ms. Becky will deliver the book to the student’s classroom according to the notes.
If a student accidentally damages a book, she will not use fines as punishment. Rather, she will tell the student: “Everybody makes mistakes. If you can change your attitude and put in the effort in to make up for the mistake, then you are a good child.” Therefore whenever a student makes a mistake, she would guide the student to volunteer in the library (such as helping to organize books or clean) to make up for their mistakes.
Everyday after school, Ms. Becky will stand at the school exit to observe what books the students are holding in their hands. This way she can know what types of books the students like to read. If the library does not have that book, she will either purchase new ones or buy used ones online to satisfy the students’ needs. If she sees a student without any books, she will find a suitable book for him/her.
To be able to recommend different types of books to her students, she reads almost every book in the library. She said: “Only by doing this, can I find suitable books for my students.” If she can’t finish all the books, she will ask other teachers to read them, and recommend books to their students.
2. Become a good teacher’s assistant
Becky always recommends good new books to teachers. She finds out what books the teachers ask students to read. If the students are reading novels and storybooks, she will add books with different content such as poems and science books. This way the students can gain a broader knowledge base.
A good librarian should learn and understand the curriculum standards, and supplement books that are overlooked by the curriculum. For example, if there is a lack of content about history in the regular curriculum, she would use the library to add some American History and World History books for her students.
A good librarian helps teachers to evaluate students’ progress in reading. She has a strong sense of responsibility at work and she reads a broad range of books so that she can recommend good books to other students.
If students forget to write a borrowing slip, she wil find out who borrowed the book but won’t embarrass the student. She will say: “I’m happy to find my old friend!”
To create a good reading environment, the librarian would clean the covers of every book and organize them on each shelf. The librarians are very polite and they would greet every student that comes into the library.
3. There are many different ways to exchange reading experiences.
- Make a small presentations on the book’s content
- Introduce the book to everybody
- Write book reports. Have the entire class write in one journal so that everyone knows which student read and liked which book. Students can also get to know the content of many books from reading other students’ book reports (students should learn to present book reports from the age of 5)
When teachers and librarians recommend books to students, they should think about how these reading experiences could be shared. If they are recommending books for 4th-6th graders, they could first introduce 5 to 6 books to each class, and have the students volunteer to read one of the recommended books. This way every grade would have 5-6 students reading the same book, and while reading, they could exchange their reading experiences with each other. Another way is to have students of the same class reading 2-3 different books. A class of 30 can be divided into 3 groups of 10, reading 3 different books. After the books are finished, the teacher could start a discussion group. A recorder can write down how many times a student has spoken to avoid having some students who never have a chance to speak up. During the discussion, each student could be assigned a different task and then collaborate with one another. One student could facilitate while another student could be time keeper, or recorder. The point is to have as many students involved as possible. But a precondition for such task assignments would be that teachers must guide students to the expectations of each role, and as time passes, the student can become good at this themselves.
Those that love to draw could make drawings of the book’s contents, which is also a way to communicate and initiate students’ interests.
4. Value the importance of reading and develop reading habits
Cultivate interest in reading from an early age. From kindergarten, parents and kindergarten teachers should read together with the children. If the kids could can read the books themselves, the parents should read to them repeatedly until they can remember the contents of the stories and could repeat it themselves. This way the kids can learn many words from the stories. Another way is to read picture books with the children so that they would start loving to read.
Teach children to learn words from everyday life. For example, when walking on the street and seeing a sign, just ask: “What is this? What is that? so that they will subconsciously accumulate many words. It’s important to note that it cannot become an additional burden to the children. Don’t ask kindergarten kids to read entire books or write book reports.
Students should always have books to read. Every student has a drawer that contains extracurricular books that can be taken out anytime. Everyday after school, students should all have a book in their hands so that they will have books to read after going home.
School has scheduled time slots for book reading. Every week there are 4 days where half an hour is dedicated to reading. At this time everyone in school will“put down everything to read”
Develop a habit of borrowing books. If students find that a book’s cover has gotten dirty, they will clean the covers themselves. If they find an unclaimed book in school they should return it to the library.
Formulate policies that support library opeations. Provide a set amount of funding to the library each year to use for purchasing new books and additional reading facilities. Include the teacher’s involvement in the library as part of the school’s evaluation system. This way the teachers will have incentives to participate in library operations.
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