By Sanacore, Joseph
Teacher Librarian , Vol. 33, No. 5
HELPING CHILDREN BECOME EFFECTIVE READERS AND WRITERS IS DEPENDENT ON MANY FACTORS, INCLUDING CHILDREN'S HAVING EASY ACCESS TO READING MATERIALS. A WELL-STOCKED SCHOOL LIBRARY IS A MAJOR INGREDIENT FOR PROVIDING SUCH ACCESS. TO ENSURE THAT THE SCHOOL LIBRARY COLLECTION REFLECTS CHILDREN'S INTERESTS AND PREFERENCES, THE CHILDREN SHOULD BE INVOLVED IN BUILDING THE COLLECTION. FOR THIS TO HAPPEN, CLASSROOM TEACHERS AND TEACHER-LIBRARIANS NEED TO COLLECT INFORMATION ABOUT READERS' INTERESTS AND PREFERENCES DURING THE NATURAL FLOW OF LITERACY LEARNING ACTIVITIES. THIS INFORMATION SHOULD THEN BE USED TO SECURE MATERIALS FOR THE LIBRARY COLLECTION. PERTINENT INFORMATION CAN BE COLLECTED IN THE CLASSROOM AND THE SCHOOL LIBRARY THROUGH OBSERVATIONS, CONFERENCES, PEER SHARING, CHECKLISTS, CREATIVE APPROACHES, REVIEWS OF PRINT AND NONPRINT MATERIALS, HOME-SCHOOL CONNECTIONS, AND PORTFOLIOS. THESE AND OTHER INFORMATION-GATHERING ACTIVITIES HELP TO OBJECTIFY THE PROCESS OF BUILDING A LIBRARY COLLECTION THAT IS WELL MATCHED WITH CHILDREN'S INTERESTS AND PREFERENCES.
An important part of becoming an effective reader is to be able to select reading materials with relative ease and facility. Regrettably, what children prefer to read is often not available in schools. Worthy, Moorman, and Turner (1999) found that the most popular materials of middle school students were limited in classroom and school libraries and that some students seemed to be negatively affected by this limited availability. For example, boys, children with low attitudes toward reading, and learners with low reading achievement preferred resources that were in limited supply. Not surprisingly, children from low-income families were unlikely to buy materials and were therefore inclined to borrow them, especially from school libraries. Problems of this type in low-income communities are exacerbated by funding inadequacies, which influence a number of factors, including school library materials. Lazar's research findings (2004) suggest that the urban schools that she visited "did not have fully functioning school libraries, thereby limiting children's access to books and to teacher-librarians-professionals who play a key school role in motivating children to read" (p. 17). Although not a panacea, one way that teacher-librarians and classroom teachers can connect children with materials that interest them is to seriously consider children's preferences when securing materials for school library collections.
CONSIDERING CHILDREN'S PREFERENCES WHEN BUILDING SCHOOL LIBRARY COLLECTIONS
Including children's preferences in the building of school library collections makes sense because children are the actual consumers of the resources. In supporting this direction, teacher-librarians and classroom teachers need to work collaboratively as they collect valuable information that will result in purchasing materials children want to read. This information-gathering process should be as objective as possible because materials are expensive. Thus, every effort should be made to purchase materials that children will actually read and enjoy. The following suggestions attempt to objectify the process of securing pertinent information about children's preferences. When building school library collections, however, thoughtful educators continue to make their best judgments as they pursue a balance of resources that is influenced by all the key players: children, teachers, and teacher-librarians.
Watching children in the school library and in the classroom helps educators gauge individual strengths and needs. Watching/observing is a powerful tool, especially if it is based on thorough awareness or literacy development [Cooper & Kiger, 2005). Such knowledge serves as a support system for recognizing
which responses and behaviors indicate typical growth and which indicate a need for special help, a change in support or materials, or a more detailed assessment. …