Sunday, April 22, 2012

Primary Media Centers - Let's Get Them Reading!

Recently, I had a student contact me with this question:  If you could give me five pointers for creating an exciting media center at the primary level, what would they be?

I thought my answer might help others so see below....

 As a national children’s literacy consultant who works with both families and schools, I find that Media Centers in Primary Schools are playing an increasingly important role with a delicate balance:  providing both the support and resources your educators in the classroom need AND engaging children in authentic reading experiences to grow what a friend of mine calls “the behavior of reading”.  Because of the structure and focus on skill-based instruction (which I’m not saying is bad) in the classroom, there is little time to explore, think, wonder and ponder about reading (and writing) as tools for life.    The media center is a perfect place to use to fill that gap.  I’ll both provide you with the five pointers for creating an exciting media center at the primary level and some additional links to explore so that you can develop your own theory and philosophy, based on both best practices and evidence-based research.  It was hard to stop at 5 but hope this helps….

1)      An excerpt from my book on establishing classroom libraries in my book “Before They Read” (Maupin House) applies to school libraries as well:
Resist the temptation to over-organize or limit your library. Tubs of books aren’t very inviting and only serve you (“I’ve got to make sure they are only reading in their “level”). They limit your children’s exploration. Besides, such restrictions don’t send the message that children can read any book they want. The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) cautions against limiting reading to “texts that include only words that contain the letter-sound relationships children have been explicitly taught.” In an official position statement, NCTE goes on to say that “in all types of instructional programs, teachers must involve all students, from the beginning
of their schooling, in daily writing and daily reading of a
wide variety of literature and other print materials.”

2)      Make it a delicious, exploratory environment, highlighting with posters and colorful signs, the organization of the collection.  Plan inviting “nooks” and areas that invite kids to sit and read, to explore hands-on materials related to highlighted stories or themes, and draw attention to that part of the overall media center.  Sometimes it can be books, sometimes multi-media, always related to stories, information, reading purposes, new and interesting information (here’s an example from a public library).

3)      Be involved with your teachers’ instructional goals every 9 weeks and incorporate extensions to what they are teaching on these major themes (to stretch the learning) in your library.  This can be incorporated into your annual plan from #2.  Balance this enticement with the instruction you need to do about using the internet, the Dewey Decimal system, research basics, etc. that you are responsible for teaching. Don’t forget to look at calendars like this one

4)      Learn from what you do – did it work?  Did it not? And if not, why not?  Use that to drive the

5)      Don’t neglect storytimes!  Often sharing great books with kids gets squeezed out.  If you have trouble making time for this in your regular library schedule, which can especially be a challenge if you are also responsible for IT (as many media specialists are), plan one once a month for each class or group of classes on a rotating schedule that you as the media specialist or an assistant conduct and then add to that with more frequent 5-10 minute visits to the classrooms during transition times by volunteers.  They can read Silverstein of Bruce Lanskey poems, do a quick book talk which reads an intro of a book and then leaves the kids hungry to read more, or a read aloud that introduces a major text that the classroom teacher will be exploring with them in coming days.

Here are the links I promised:

If you are anywhere near GA every year they have a “visit exemplary media centers” and you can see for yourself great examples:

 Share your own ideas on how to answer this question.  Post to this blog OR send it to me directly at and I'll post.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Librarian's Voice is Important!

Let Us Hear From You

During recent weeks, I've been talking with media specialists and librarians and they are telling me what they want in a blog:

1) A blog that doesn't go away after a month or two
2) Something beyond book reviews
3) No cost and low cost ideas.

Does this fit your needs? What else is on your "wish list"? The Literacy Ambassador wants to hear from you! We'll be addressing a wide variety of readers (preschool through 8th grade) to coincide the age ranges addressed through TLA's website and our products and services.

While you are thinking, here's a List of Summer Reading ideas:

An article originally written as part of my monthly column for educators, Summertime Reading has many resources and ideas for you as well.

Kids can earn free books (and perhaps even donate a few of them to your library) in Barnes and Nobles summer reading program. It runs May 25-September 6, 2010.

From our friends at School Library Journal comes a link to PBS Kids comes an activity calendar with tons of ideas for promoting reading.


Take a picture of a reading celebration at your school or library, a snapshot of readers in action, or a silly reading-related photo from vacation.

Send it to in a .jpeg format and we'll share. Include a short paragraph that highlights your idea's main components so others who see your great work can duplicate it.

No one makes reading more fun than Dr. Seuss! If you are in Orlando, FL this year, don't forget to go by Seuss Landing at The Island Adventure Theme Park, the Dr. Seuss Book Store, the Loews Portafino Hotel or the Dr. Seuss Memorial in Springfield, Massachusetts. Can't get there? Visit Seussville online!

Help me spread the news about this blog and tell me what you want. I welcome guest bloggers from among the ranks of librarians and media specialists. Together, we'll find the resources and share them with you!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Greetings to All My New (and Treasured) Librarian Friends

Whether you are a media specialist or a public librarian, this space is especially for you.  You'll find inspiring messages, great book lists, tips on read alouds and much, much more. 

I'm beginning this blog after much prompting from many of my librarian friends and it joins the family of blogs from TLA which includes:

a blog for preschool teachers
a blog for K-12 teachers
a blog for parents and guardians of children of all ages

Feel free to share these links with those you interact with on a regular basis.  I'll be blogging tomorrow from the Alabama Library Association conference where this blog will have its debut.

On any of the Literacy Ambassador's blogs, comments and questions are always welcome in the comments area.  Those additions only make the blog better and may even drive the next post.