Butterfly in the sky ... I can fly twice as high

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Librarydoor: The Scarlet P ?

Check out this blog post and the Arthur cartoon about plagiarism:

Librarydoor: The Scarlet P ?: Try this  Plagiarism Arthur episode -- This is a short  winner. Not only does this short two minute cartoon support CCS   Writing 8 but it h...

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Library Leadership in the News

 Check out this great article from Education Week.

Common Core Thrusts Librarians Into Leadership Role

Somebody referred me to this article this week and I think it is a great example of the role the modern school librarian can take in the larger administration going forward.  As we go forward librarians will continue to be leaders in connecting curriculum.  The article talks a lot about the common core and as curriculums become more and more cross-disciplinary, the library and librarians will be able to serve a greater role in offering both a space and human resources to facilitate those connections across subjects. The Common Core standards they speak of emphasize the inquiry-based models that cognitive studies research has supported.

These initiatives have not only brought more students and projects to the library--whether reading, writing, or research--but have also led to a significant increase in support for teachers as well as instructional opportunities for librarians through teacher-librarian collaboration. "Materials are almost secondary; it's really about helping teachers think about new ways to provide instruction and helping them see that there is someone in the building who already knows how to do that." noted librarian Jennifer LaGarde [check out her blog at http://www.librarygirl.net/]. More and more, librarians are being incorporated more fully into curricular development and planning, which stands to benefit the entire community. I think this is the next crucial step in placing libraries at the hub of academic settings. All this despite budget challenges to libraries, too. It is great to see such leadership roles being discussed beyond just the library community!

Do also check out the comments, though. I think they give you a really good sense about some of the resistance that  core standards still face from many teachers and parents.

You will have to register as a guest to read it, but at Edweek, that's not a bad thing!

I hope you enjoy this quick read.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Early Literacy Skills and Technology

Researchers, psychologists, librarians, and parents all seem to agree that it is never too early to start reading to your child. Even in utero reading could have benefits in building aural connections between the child and the parents’ voices. All agree, the earlier we start, the better.

But is there a time when it is too early to utilize technology in reading?


I am always interested in the possibilities and challenges that technology offers to the modern library. Technology and media has already drastically transformed our adult and teen library spaces. I wonder how/if technology can benefit early literacy programs in the library. Obviously we can utilize library web pages to offer resources for parents and to market our programs, but are there advantages or disadvantages to introducing technological tools into storytelling and early childhood programs? Do these tools inhibit the shared reading environment?

Studies have found a significant correlation between when shared reading begins for a child and language scores at the age of four and that 9 out of 10 of those children who begin schooling as poor readers in 1st grade will still be a poor reader in 4th grade.  We also know that children aged 4-6 living in a high-TV household, are far less capable of reading (34% vs 56%).[1]  But at the same time, all I ever hear from parents is how the iPad is the most important new learning tool for young children, replete with a wealth of educational applications. Now I don’t mean to imply that television and an educational iPad application are the same experience. The iPad inherently demands a more shared experience than television does, but I don’t believe an iPad demands the level of sharing that book-reading, or group storytime can offer. 

Furthermore, having shared reading time between child and caregiver is essential, but as Every Child Ready to Read emphasizes, it is also important how you read with a child to emphasize early literary skills. For young children sensory experience is so important to how they learn. Whether that’s tactile, aural, visible, or even oral, these are all experiences that young children can have with a physical book, and with the physical space of children’s libraries. And young children also improve memory retention when they are emotionally involved, something that can be hard to replicate through technology. Ultimately, if we can use technology while maintaining the social, loving, dialogic, parent-child relationship that lies at the core of shared reading they can be a benefit, but these elements can NOT get lost in the sweep of this digital era.

That said, don’t we also have a responsibility to prepare our children for that digital world? Such goals are becoming essential to curricular goals as children grow older. What age or level of development do you think is right to introduce such tools? How are you using today's tech tools--computers, electronic games, tablet devices—in your early literacy program, if at all? I am very curious about the role of technology in early childhood development and would love to hear some of your experiences!

[1] Statistics cited in Saroj Nadkarni Ghoting and Pamela Martin-Díaz, Early Literacy Storytimes @ Your Library: Partnering with Caregivers for Success  p6-10; Also see Maryanne Wolf, and Catherine J. Stoodley. Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain. Ch. 4, pp. 81-107

Monday, September 10, 2012

Study Like a Scholar, Scholar

While settling into the work week on this Monday morning, I have been reading a lot about user-need and library instruction. Somehow that vein of inquiry has brought me here.

Check out this video from the Brigham Young University's Library Multimedia Crew. Sure, its over 2 years old, but if its not new to you, it is to me. If you have not seen it, check it out. Its kinda awesome.

Do you think this type of video is something that can actually help market the school/university library? Is it worth the investment of time and money? What if it weren't so darn good?

Let  me know what you think.


Thursday, September 6, 2012

More on Accelerated Reader

In the first part, I discussed the merits of Accelerated Reader despite its failures to live up to its purported claims. In this post, I want to delve in a little deeper into some of the aspects of the incentives program, testing, and content that I find problematic. Do check out the

INCENTIVE: Accelerated Reader does offer a wealth of content. It provides the opportunity for school systems to instantly broaden the reading library for students. These are all tremendous advantages. However, by incentivizing the program, Accelerated Reader has driven students towards reading only those books that can earn them rewards, and/or that have testing developed to coincide with the reading. In any incentivized program, we do have to be wary of the reader’s motivation. We are trying to instill intrinsic motivations, so we do have to weigh the effect that extrinsic motivations will have upon long-term reading. Nancy Everhart, Eliza Dresang, M.B. Kotrla and others have done much to challenge AR’s incentives system.
COMPETITION: The underlying element of competition is problematic. Many summer reading programs have eliminated the individual competitive aspect of their programs because of concerns if it live up to best practices. Yet, it seems, AR promotes this.  As Everhart’s study shows, it does not appear that AR has taken into account the psychological impact of publicly tracking achievement and creating  a competitive environment. As Everhart and others have shown, often times such competitions can actually lead to a disengagement with reading for many participants. Furthermore, when these competitions are tied to points and incentives, many students end up strategically reading many short, low-reading level books in order to accumulate more points, thus really challenging the goals of the program and the underlying motivations.  
CONTENT: Further, AR promotes incentives while limiting the sources that can provide the student with those incentives.  While AR has a huge database of books available, those that can earn incentives are much more limited. These numbers are further limited when settings are instilled to limit reading material to various reading levels. Many also feel that these assigned reading difficulty levels are arbitrary and do more to harm than to help.  The result is that many children do not have the wealth of sources that the numerical database seems to promise. Furthermore, the gender distinctions that Everhart discusses are fascinating, and most often tied to content. Boys are reluctant to participate for fear of being seen as reading at low levels, much more so than girls. A lot of this is still tied to the limited content and the arbitrary designations that AR has built in to its program.
TESTING: Perhaps the biggest concern for me, though, is the testing dynamic of AR. In some schools the quizzes that AR provides are incorporated into student grading. On the surface, this seems to be reasonable, as time is being devoted to reading, so assessment should follow. However, a quick examination of those tests reveals the worst kind of assessment. As Dresang and Kotrla point out, rote memorization of book content is the only thing tested in AR quizzes. This places them at the base level of Bloom’s Taxonomy.[1] Comprehension, application, comparison, and analysis are utterly lacking. Rote memorization is NOT the best teaching practices of today.
I think we can see here why many experts have linked AR to success in NCLB testing. The flaws of NCLB have been detailed ad nauseum elsewhere, but the increased emphasis on quantifying results has led to more rote testing at lower levels of learning objectives.  It is thus not surprising that AR and NCLB would correlate highly, as Dresang and Kotrla have found.
Overall, I still believe there can be value in these programs. They do encourage reading, and if we believe in the ability of summer reading to motivate (often through community incentive) then we have to recognize the capability that AR has to do some of the same work. That said, the materials and curriculum provided are lacking. They fail to promote good cognitive learning.

SOURCES: Eliza T. Dresang, and M. Bowie Kotrla, “School Libraries and the Transformation of Readers and Reading,” in Handbook of Research on Children's and Young Adult Literature, ed Wolf et al, Routledge, 2010.

Everhart, Nancy, “A Crosscultural Inquiry into the Levels of Implementation of Accelerated Reader and Its Effect on Motivation and Extent of Reading: Perspectives from Scotland and England” American Association of School Librarians, Accessed September 5, 2012, http://www.ala.org/aasl/aaslpubsandjournals/slmrb/slmrcontents/volume82005/reader.

[1] Eliza T. Dresang, and M. Bowie Kotrla, “School Libraries and the Transformation of Readers and Reading,” in Handbook of Research on Children's and Young Adult Literature, ed Wolf et al, Routledge, 2010.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Why I am Leery about Accelerated Reader

On the one hand, Accelerated Reader is an amazing product. In one easy-to-use space, children, schools, and teachers have access to over 100,000 books.  This is a tremendous resource that can instantly grow a school library’s collection, particularly in lower-income districts.  Furthermore, studies have shown statistically significant improvement in standardized testing for those utilizing the Accelerated Reader model. However, many scholars and experts have challenged these results and many of the core elements of an Accelerated Reader program.

HOW IT WORKS: Accelerated Reader provides increased access to books, due to its mammoth collection, along with built-in additional time for student reading. It also has children take computerized tests on what they read that can then earn them points for their correct answers. These points can then be exchanged for prizes. Accelerated Reader has constructed a colossal incentive reading program that it claims encourages greater reading. 

There are many challenges to Accelerated Reader’s model. Stephen D. Krashen’s article, The (Lack of ) Experimental Evidence Supporting the Use of Accelerated Reader offers a rather scathing deconstruction of much of the research supporting the program.[1] If you are interested in the methodology do check out his fascinating article. Krashen proves, rather convincingly, that Accelerated Reader has, in some ways, been selling a bill of goods. By emphasizing the gains largely created by increased reading, the Accelerated Reader program is inculcating testing and incentives as interconnected. As he analogizes:
A hypothetical example may help us understand whether AR should be used or not. Drug A and Drug B are both designed to cure a specific disease. A is known to be effective with highly beneficial long-term effects. There is little evidence for or against B, but suggestive evidence that it may be harmful in the long run. A drug company produces AB, more expensive than A alone, and justifies it by providing studies showing that AB tends to be effective. A scientist reviewing the research shows that no study has compared AB to A alone. Clearly such studies are called for before the medical establishment endorses or even approves AB. A is providing access and time to read. B is tests and rewards. Accelerated Reader is AB.
Clearly the most important factors in improving reading are first, allocating time for reading, and second providing access to more books. And I think Krashen is right to really challenge the role of testing and incentives. From his findings, it seems that these latter two goals have no positive effects, and potentially harmful long-term effects. However, I would caution us against focusing ONLY on what Accelerated Reader does NOT do. Krashen dismisses Accelerated Reader because, “only aspect of AR that has a positive effect is the increased access to books and increased time to read them.” But this is a SIGNIFICANT thing. If Accelerated Reader can provide more children with greater access, and built in reading time, then that alone is providing a service. Is it perhaps overhyped and overvalued? Yes. But let us not undermine the importance of increasing reading time, period.

In the end, we have to see Accelerated Reader as only one tool in education, not a magic pill. While it may not live up to its initial expectations, if only by its insistence on building in more reading time and providing more content, it can  still be a valuable resource in many districts.

[1] Stephen Krashen, “The (Lack of ) Experimental Evidence Supporting the Use of Accelerated Reader,” Journal of Children's Literature (2003) vol .29 (2): 9, pp. 16-30. Accessed September 5, 2012,  http://www.sdkrashen.com/articles/does_accelerated_reader_work/ .