School librarians and teachers have been hard at work to prepare for and meet the Common Core State Standards this year. But schools aren't the only ones that can help students do the challenging work these new standards will ask of them. Public libraries have much to offer and are already doing a great deal to support reading development. They are already the educational hubs of their communities, and, as Common Core State Standards are adopted, students will rely even more on library resources. Here are a few ideas from an educator's perspective for using the libraries' collections and resources to help out local students (and their teachers!).
Encourage kids to read a variety of subject areas and genres.
A great opportunity for libraries comes by way of the Common Core emphasizing both nonfiction and fiction texts: "Through extensive reading of stories, dramas, poems, and myths from diverse cultures and different time periods, students gain literary and cultural knowledge as well as familiarity with various text structures and elements. By reading texts in history/social studies, science, and other disciplines, students build a foundation of knowledge in these fields that will also give them the background to be better readers in all content areas" (from the PDF version, p. 10). Help kids reach this goal by encouraging them to read as much as possible, in all variety of subject areas and genres. Now's your chance to pull out all those high-quality nonfiction books and place them beside the literary greats, so to speak in addition to intershelving them other relevant materials in non-print formats.
Include nonfiction books at story time.
Common Core places emphasis on informational texts beginning in kindergarten, so make sure you have lots of high-quality nonfiction picture books for your youngest visitors and to include nonfiction regularly in your story time repertoire. "Having students listen to informational read-alouds in the early grades helps lay the necessary foundation for students' reading and understanding of increasingly complex texts on their own in subsequent grades" (p. 33).
Make every story time a learning opportunity.
Research has shown that children's listening comprehension exceeds their reading comprehension until they are 13 years old. (Library story times matter even more than you thought!) Giving life to characters, stopping to explain words or phrases young listeners may not be familiar with, and asking comprehension questions will allow kids an opportunity to hear new language (which will build their vocabularies), become more familiar with different types of literature (e.g., syntax and terminology), and expand their knowledge.
Promote thematic reading.
Along these same lines, do not underestimate the importance of a theme. Kids learn best when they are immersed in a single topic, or what cognitive scientists call a "domain of knowledge" for a period of at least two weeks--whether through read-alouds or independent reading. So here's an idea: choose several topics and group texts by topic. Make sure each group of texts has a mix of introductory, intermediate, and advanced texts: as students' knowledge builds, so will their ability to read about the topic. Encourage kids to read in-depth and often on that one topic and offer read-alouds and activities to support what they are learning. And don't be afraid to repeat topics every year or every few years. When kids come back and read more, they will expand their existing knowledge on that particular domain. This is one way of supporting the standards' explanation that, "Students can only gain … [the knowledge needed for college and career readiness] when the curriculum is intentionally and coherently structured to develop rich content knowledge within and across grades" (p. 33).
And, by the way, it's never too early to provide easy-to-follow instructions and personal aid (as possible) to use your databases.
The Common Core offers public libraries some great opportunities to contribute even more to a community's academic achievement. What has your library done to support Common Core implementation?