Formal educational settings constitute the default site and means for teaching literacy competency. K-12 schools were established to provide such instruction in an efficient manner by trained teachers to groups of young people before they entered the workforce. School setting also facilitate practicing literacy skills independently and collaboratively in subject matter contexts with peers who are approximately at the same developmental stage. As such, schools serve as natural literacy partners for community-based literacy projects.
All libraries deal with and promote literacy at some level, providing physical and intellectual access to information. In addition, the collections that they develop reflect the informational needs of their communities, thereby facilitating literacy engagement and improvement. In the U.S. most public libraries provide free access to most of their physical and digital collection, which serves as an information and literacy equalizer and social safety net. These core functions place librarians in a unique position to influence their organizations to support literacy projects. Librarians also network with each other, both in workplace settings and in professional organizations, so that increases their potential as literacy partners. In addition, library users to serve as attractive participants in literacy projects.
In both "camps," an obvious literacy partner is the school librarian, who provides collections of literacy materials professional selected for the school community. Because school librarians work with all the student and adults across the curriculum, they know students’ reading interests and needs, and teach them developmentally-appropriate information and media literacy skills; school librarians also promote reading for enjoyment and help to instill the habit of reading. School librarians can bring their deep knowledge of literacies, research skills, high-interest cross-curricular materials, and instruction to the literacy project table. They can also serve as effective liaisons to both the school community and the librarianship community.
Depending on their size, schools can be complex systems, and each set of people can comprise a partnership by themselves, depending on their function. For instance, administrators are key decision-makers and leaders, allocating material and human resources for literacy and other priorities. Support staff handle much of the school’s logistics and documentation, providing the infrastructure to coordinate literacy and other educational efforts; technology specialists play an increasingly important role in such support, including insuring that technology operates well for literacy purposes. Parent groups also provide support through volunteer work, donations, and governance; their daily care of children can motivate them to push for strong literacy curriculum. Schools wouldn’t exist without students, so students can also serve as valuable partners, especially in terms of input about literacy resources and instruction. Additionally, adolescents can serve as literacy volunteers for children, and can help all ages with technologies that support literacy.
School libraries are likely to initiate literacy projects such as library card drives, programs (e.g., storytelling, poetry slams), literacy-based clubs and contests, tutoring services, and information technology use workshops. In these cases, their literacy partners are typically educational, organizational, or drawn from local businesses. These partners may recruit audiences and volunteers, provide talent or expertise, donate money or material resources, or raise funds. In each case, the partners need to identify mutual goals, determine personnel and resources, negotiate role and responsibilities, train and support each other, communicate regularly about processes and products, and assess to make needed modifications.
In this session, attendees will pair-share and tweet experiences, ideas and concerns.
Examine the role school libraries play in assessing community literacy needs and resources
Plan and support community-based literacy projects
Leverage existing literacy projects to enhance school community literacy