Sykes, Judith A. The Whole School Library Learning Commons: An Educator's Guide. (Libraries Unlimited, 2016. 152 p., $45. ISBN: 9781440844201)
Occasionally, I am asked to write the Foreword to a book. This volume by Judith Sykes contains my description and comments about the book and so I thought it quite appropriate to reprint here what I wrote:
The idea of the learning commons, not yet quite a decade old, was to transform the idea of a school library stocked with resources, a repository, into a vibrant and central component of teaching and learning in the school community. Thus, the name change to focus on "learning" and its participatory community idea centered in "commons." For most schools, the stereotypical notion of a circulating book collection has been difficult to transform and continues to resist any other function even with the drastic change in the world of information and technology. Some have interpreted the idea of learning commons as a simple re-arrangement of furniture in an existing physical facility or just adding a few computers to the mix.
In her current book, Judith Sykes, who has worked a great deal on the concept, and contributed much to its success, advocates not just a single room or space in the school, but a transformation of the entire school both in the physical and the virtual sense. She recognizes the power of a vibrant learning community that takes advantage of information and technology in all its forms and recognizes that children and teens now live in a very different world from the previous generation and must be prepared to compete globally in what they know and are able to do.
This book is not for the beginner. Rather, it is for administrators, department heads, teachers, librarians, and parents who may have been introduced to the idea but may be struggling to expand the concept and its impact throughout the school. Readers of this work will be introduced to the idea of the learning commons as the extension of each classroom, the cross-classroom connection, and the center of active learning that extends beyond the school.
Before reading this work, readers should digest the recent Canadian Standards:Leading Learning: Standards of Practice for School Library Learning Commons in Canada, 2014 at: http://clatoolbox.ca/casl/shc/llsop.html coauthored by Judith and Carol Koechlin. Then as a group of leaders in the school, use this book with its very practical planning guides and recommendations to develop a vision for a whole school learning commons and carry it out. Such an effort transforms a static entity into an incredible active learning opportunity for everyone.
Teachers begin to feel that they are not alone in the isolated classroom pushing mastery enough to pass tests. Parents begin to realize that their children are not just filling assignments but are involved in real and challenging experiences that give them a much clearer vision of their potential in a changed world. Gradually, administrators are able to articulate and demonstrate what a whole school learning community looks like and feels like, and a whole that is much greater than the sum of a bunch of parts pieced together.
Judith has crossed international borders in her writing in a good way that suggests to the reader how differing systems and cultures can embrace the distinctive environment of a learning commons. We can explore differing perspectives as we create our own vision of a learning commons environment for a particular school. The best perspective here is that it takes many heads in the school, not just a single person, to think, experiment, and create an entirely different learning environment. This book sends the reader to a host of resources to use and strategies to build and create a fascinating and exemplary learning community. Congratulations, Judith!
Egbert, Megan. Creating Makers: How to Start a Learning Revolution at Your Library. (Libraries Unlimited, 2016. 107 p. $45. ISBN: 9781440843860)
We regulary recommend makerspaces in the school library primarily because they encourage the creation of knowledge as well as the consumption of it. This short volume is packed full of ideas of the why and the how of makerspaces in K-12 and is worth reading by both beginners and those who have begun but realize that the makerspace as a part of a physical facility is always changing and adapting. The emphasis in this volume is on liberating the creativity in the child/ teen and treats a range of dispositions to be developed rather than just thinking about fun and timeconsuming experiences. The volumn contains the uTEC Maker Model--created by Bill Derry, Leslie Preddy, and this reviewer--as a foundational idea of a pathway each child/teen can take from consumer to creator. In addition to the ideas in this book, readers of this review might consult the Virtual Makerspace as a Symbaloo webmix of tools that can be used by various grade levels that encourage making 24/7 from various digital devices at: http://www. symbaloo.com/mix/virtualmakerspace
This book is well worth the price; an easy read, and an idea center. Highly recommended
Keding, Dan and Kathleen A. Brinkman. The Gift of the Unicorn and Other Animal Helper Tales for Storytellers, Educators, and Librarians. (Libraries Unlimited, 2016. 243 p. $40. ISBN: 9781440840524)
Need a fresh collection of folklore and fairytales from around the world? The authors have collected and retold briefly many tales involving animals of the sky, the sea, and other parts of the world. Each tale has a few questions to ask of children and several suggested activities in an appendix. The tales can be found by country and topic. There are no illustrations, but lots of suggestions that would involve the listeners in creating their own tales and thinking about their themes. Recommended as a quick handy source for reading or telling stories.
Young, Chase and Timothy V. Rasinski. Tiered Fluency Instruction : Supporting Diverse Learners in Grades 2- 5. (Capstone Press, 2017. 128 p. $24.95. ISBN: 9781496608031) As a teacher librarian, are you coteaching at times alongside a reading specialist in the elementary grades? If so, one of the concerns with so many budding readers and, in particular, English learners, is reading fluency. Short chapters of this book treat topics such as whole group reading fluency instruction, one-on one fluency instruction, and integrating technology into fluency instruction. Just like other skills, our own position is that if such skills were embedded like library skills into content learning experiences, perhaps some of the ideas here would work. They would work if the subject matter like animals was the center of concern and fluency is just a piece of the puzzle that helps all of us on our road to deep understanding. For teacher librarians, we have focused for years on the Steven Krashen idea that children who read a lot will also easily incorporate fluency as they consume large amunts of good literature and non-fictional texts that grab the attention. We would not recommend this text as any kind of scope and sequence, but perhaps, in concert with a reading specialist, it would provide a few ideas for embedding skill into exciting investigations. A tenuous recommendation at best.
Thomas, Rebecca L. A to Zoo. Supplement to the Ninth Edition. (Libraries Unlimited, 2016. 160 p. $55. ISBN: 9781610698191)
This long-standing selection tool for picture books is a key source of subject analysis of the current crop of publishing for children. In recent years, book jobbers have created online ordering systems that gather reviews and search terms that are used in collection development. This standard tool still has value and is probably most appropriate at the district level where it can be shared by a number of teacher librarians. For this reviewer, the major purpose of subject access is to develop collections using collection mapping, where emphasis collections are built to support common curricular topics in each school. It is not just about the holiday collection or a collection of award winners. It is about topics such as community helpers, seasons, animal studies, environment studies, and other topics where a plethora of materials would support a child's investigation and curiosity as encouraged by learning activities cotaught in the library learning commons. Another use of this resource is for those doing gentrification of the collection in order to serve student interest and the curriculum in ways that just an alphabetical by author collection cannot support. You probably already know if this resource is of value in your school or district. Perhaps it is time to dust it off and make it work harder in building useable collections that serve every child's needs and interests.
Eisenberg, Michael B., Janet Murray, and Colet Bartow. The Big6 Curriculum: Comprehensive Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Literacy for All Students. (Libraries Unlimited, 2016. 178p. $45. ISBN: 9781440844799)
Are you a fan of the Big 6? If so, this collection provides a month by month curriculum to be delivered as a stand alone skill-based program to all students. It is best used by those teacher librarians on fixed schedules who want to demonstrate value via a set curricular topic that is delivered consistently. It is designed for the single focus library program and evaluated the way that a reading or math skills-based curriculum would be. There are major detractors from this approach to information literacy and probably not suitable for those pursuing the library learning commons concept, but for those interested, this volume gathers in one place a manual that sets forth a teaching program. Recommended for the faithful followers.
Policastro, Margaret Mary. Living Literacy at Home : A Parent's Guide. Capstone Press, 2017. 120 p. $11.95. ISBN: 9781496606563)
The hope and dream of every elementary teacher librarian is to have every parent read to their children from birth until the time they enter school and beyond. If my 28 grandchildren could be any representative sample, this one simple practice has made a huge difference in my clan. The problem, often, has been for teachers who have few clues what to do with kindergartners who are already voracious readers! Policastro goes beyond this one solution to provide ways that parents can understand the literacy program of the school and then work alongside it. She loves libraries, so that is helpful to teacher librarians who are involved in+ literacy initiatives. So, this slim volume is an idea collage that just might give you some ideas to pursue. Recommended for parent education and outreach. PS, we had to chuckle at the final paragraph in the book. Policastro's college-age son proposed to his girlfriend in their college library just as the book went to the printer. How's that for credentials?
Ormes, Dorothy. Free Government E-Resources for Youth : Inform, Inspire, and Activate. (Libraries Unlimited, 2016. 147 p. $59. ISBN: 9781440841316)
With new interest in Open Educational Resources (OERs), this book comes at the right time. If we are going to supplement our collections with a wide variety of free resources and in some cases eliminate textbooks, the U.S. Government is one huge source for materials for education at all levels. This resource covers general government information, information for the sciences, the humanities, money, statistics, and the various government agencies. Even if you think you know these resources, this is a great checklist of information that you might not have tapped. As such, this volume is worth its price several times over and is highly recommended for all teacher librarians who recognize that curation is the connection development of collection development.