Find Where You Fit in the Common Core, or the Time I Forgot about Librarians and Reading

Article excerpt

TAKE FIVE: THE RESPONSIBILITIES OF SCHOOL LIBRARIANS

Encouraging reading, providing Outstanding books and dependable access, and modeling enjoyment and appreciation for reading are not novel job responsibilities of school librarians. In the eyes of most students, teachers and school staff, and a large contingent of the general public, these activities are probably the most easily named of the work of school librarians. As a former school librarian, I know this. Yet somehow, when I was recently asked to name the five most important responsibilities of school librarians, my response was something along these lines: (1) technology leader, (2) teacher, (3) curriculum collaborator, (4) library program administrator, and (5) information specialist. Not long after the conversation, I had a moment of clarity and dread and focused on this thought: reading. I had forgotten to mention reading! I make a living by teaching future school librarians, and I had neglected to talk about reading as a critical part of school librarianship.

Upon some reflection, I think I had aimed my response toward addressing the breadth of responsibilities shouldered by today's school librarians, knowing that the job of the school librarian can be misunderstood, and often underestimated. My school library elevator speeches often have a "now more than ever" urgency: how school librarians are vital in helping students develop information evaluation skills, or how librarians introduce new technology tools for students to create and share content. I even talk with people in the grocery store about e-books, changing formats and ways of reading, and how libraries are still vital to schools and the public good.

It's nearly a given that libraries of all kinds open the doors to reading. But in my attempts to counter or even anticipate arguments about school libraries' place in a technology and information-saturated world, I had drifted from what should be a central message about school librarians' role in promoting diverse ways of reading and interacting with texts in the classroom and in the school community. Proficient, transferable, intelligent reading and language skills are essential to meaningful participation in today's technology and information environments. As such, these competencies serve as the foundation of 21st-century literacies outlined in the Common Core State Standards. Reading might be "a window to the world" for our students, as described in the Standards for the 21st Century Learner Common Beliefs (AASL, 2007), but reading is also a key that unlocks and establishes for school librarians an essential role in 21st-century teaching and learning. I have refined my "now more than ever" message about school librarians, and here, I share that message by examining how reading is addressed in the Common Core, and by considering how school librarians can connect reading with the skills that students need to live, learn, and work in an information and technology-centered world.

COMMON CORE ESSENTIALS

As of May 2012, all but five states have formally adopted the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in Mathematics and all but four have adopted the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects (Common Core State Standards Initiative, 2011a; Gewertz, 2011). The complete standards and resources, including statements of support from education professionals and organizations, are available at www.corestandards.org. By way of a brief primer, the Common Core is a set of rigorous, research-based K-12 standards, developed by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO}. The standards are internationally benchmarked and aligned with college and work expectations.

The Common Core presents an intriguing dimension to states' control over curriculum and education systems, in that applications for the federal Race to the Top grants received points for adopting CCSS as part of their state-level education reform proposals (U. …