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.