Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Best Practice: Literacy and School Libraries

The Critical Perception:

What Does Literacy Look Like?

Have you notice the fade-out of media focus on problems for most BC children with literacy. Instead the focus is on the issues of low literacy skills for the 40+ group, as well as some identified groups within communities.

Did you see how well young adolescent British Columbians did on the OECD international tests of 15-year olds, the PISA rsults? If we are in the top group globally, along with the Scandinavian countries who don't impose standardized testing on their young people, is it possible we are already the most literate jurisdiction (for young people) in North America?

Our system does some things right and is a model for other jurisdictions in North America, not the other way around. The issues in Canadian education are too often, as John Ralston Saul points out, "imported crises." If you attended the BCTLA Conference this year, you would have heard David Bouchard state the same thing.

I found it interesting that also doing well, alongside the young British Columbians, are young Albertans who are educated in a province where there are very few school libraries with qualified teacher-librarians. Is it possible -- dare I ask? -- that school libraries in Western Canada do not have an integral role to play in creating a learning environment for success in reading and writing. I have wondered.

When I asked her recently, Susan Lambert, 1st VP, BCTF, (and prior to that, a teacher-librarian) indicated that Federation researchers asked the same question and found quite simply that:

(1) Alberta does not have the same diversity in its population,

(2) Alberta does not have the same disparity in its population, and

(3) the Alberta curriculum is closely tied to the OECD testing!

For more information, here's

  • Wikipedia on the subject of the PISA and PIRLS.
  • IRA article "PISA, PIRLS spotlight global trends" includes information about where school libraries are located and "the analysis of the PISA results [which has provided] three very interesting insights on the impacts of curriculum reform on equity.
  • The standard deviations give us some evidence of the “tops” and “tails” of achievement, with some systems having extremely large differentials between their best and worst achievers.
  • PISA allows the disaggregated analysis of results for migrants and indigenous groups, indicating that some systems (e.g., Canada and Australia) do an excellent job of bootstrapping migrant and second-language performance.
  • Most important, PISA provides important data on the relative impacts of socioeconomic background on achievement. The results indicate that systems
    needn’t trade off “quality” for “equity.” In fact, many systems, including
    Finland and Canada, are “high quality/high equity.”
  • The BCTF report on the 2006 PISA testing, released in December 2007, for achievement in young British Columbians.
  • The full PIRLS 2006 report, downloadable by chapter, including the Executive Report.

Describe how literacy looks in your library:

We can continue to take comfort in knowing that the research that connects higher achievement in schools to the presence of a qualified TL and a well-resourced school library collections -- in short, a system that values the place of school libraries in the formula for achievement and success in learning-- seems to apply to the BC education system.

When we work to put just the right book or resource into the hands of just the right child at just the right moment ... whether that is because the child is looking for something to read for enjoyment or to use for information to undertake research -- we all know the feeling of accomplishment as the child expresses gratitude or when the child returns to say, "Find me another book like the last one, please -- you know what I like!" When we work with students to draw out and apply their background knowledge, or we show them how to take notes or how to preview the text to understand its structures and organization or how to work with keywords for research or how to find a key term in the index or glossary of a book or how to build search strings that incorporate Boolean logic or how to read the address of a google-based source for credibility and/or reliability ... these recurring literacy practices that denote the work of a teacher-librarian can be generalized to describe "best practice" in libraries for literacy development.

You have received a survey that will be important in beginning to describe how Literacy works in school libraries and when TLs work with students and colleagues to promote goals for literacy development. What are the best literacy practices we can describe in school libraries here in Vancouver? Let's tell the District and the Ministry how we do it.

Have a great week, and thanks for help with the informal survey you received in your email this week above.

Some quotes for your consideration:

"What a school thinks about its library is a measure of what it thinks about education."

~ Harold Howe, former U.S. Commissioner of Education

"I don't water rocks."

Pat P found this quote noteworthy; a Google search indicates what might be the source, the recorded response of an unidentified school district ICT co-ordinator who was the subject of a study of technology integration, speaking about "laggard teachers," those who were reluctant to embrace technology innovation! It was recorded in a 2003 Australian PhD thesis study: "Integration or Transformation: A Cross-national Study of Information and Communication Technology in School Education" by Andrew E. Fluck. No rocks here in our libraries, though!

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