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Curriculum Insights • What Happens in Our Library?

Maeve Knoth, Librarian

Our library is an important campus space where PBS students can meet people, places, and things that are both familiar and unfamiliar. They can explore the fascinating world around them through books in a safe, comfortable setting. During their years at PBS, students have both formal classes with a library curriculum and access to the well-resourced space on an informal basis.

Learning to read and becoming a fluent reader is hard yet enormously important work. The PBS library program strives to develop a love of the written word so that students are inspired to do that work. Students are exposed to exceptional literature that reflects the world they live in. Our diverse collection provides readers with windows into the lives of others and with mirrors in which they can see themselves.

The PBS library program values evidence-based discussion in which inquiry, opinion, and evaluation are supported by concrete, reliable evidence. When a child makes an observation about a text such as, “I think the bear is going to ruin everyone’s day,” they are always asked to inquire, “What makes you think that? Is there something in the words or illustration that gives you that idea?” Students are encouraged to think critically, engage with their reading, and make meaning.

What sources does PBS draw on for the library class curriculum?

  • Overarching themes and approaches to inquiry come from the American Association of School Library Standards. Through this framework, students leave PBS able to inquire, include, collaborate, curate, explore, and engage. With broad goals that can be accomplished through a variety of means, it is possible to follow student interest, thus specific content can vary year to year.
  • Class units often support classroom instruction. Example: 5th-graders explore biographies during library units, which spark the conversation: “Who am I becoming?” This leads to thinking that dovetails with their own writing and the transition to middle school.

How does the library program progress from ELC to 5th Grade, and what skills build throughout?

  • ELC: Literacy instruction is supported by bringing a variety of books to the classrooms. Students play with language, notice rhyme and rhythm, learn parts of a book, and begin predicting. The librarian uses the language of literary criticism to familiarize students with words such as character and setting.
  • Kindergarten to 5th Grade: Students borrow books, listen to read-alouds, engage in author study, research topics of interest, and participate in literary analysis at age-appropriate levels.
  • Progression in literary understanding and analysis is cultivated and observed. Example: Kindergarteners may talk with classmates about character motivation. 5th-graders continue to think about character motivation, but through a more sophisticated lens. Recently, while reading Eugene Yelchin’s memoir of growing up in the Soviet Union, 5th-graders were able to untangle the parents’ conflicting hopes for their son that are driven by love and the difficult realities of Soviet society.
  • Author studies and genre studies: Staples of the library program progression, varying according to the needs of students and classroom curriculum. Example: Kindergarteners engaged in an author study pore over the work of Caldecott-winning author Donald Crews and his family. 4th-graders discovering the historical fiction genre explore stories set in California to support their social studies units.
  • Specific skills such as alphabetization, classification, and annotation are taught. Students use these to discover and locate items of interest and transfer these skills to libraries in future schools and their public libraries. These skills also become useful as students create individual classroom projects.

What is the role of borrowing books in my child’s education, and how does it look through the PBS years?

  • Kindergarten and 1st Grade: Begins with borrowing from a limited, pre-selected collection. Executive functioning skills begin, including keeping track of books and returning in order to borrow more. Choosing just one or two books from a tempting collection can be difficult!
    • Students learn to take chances on books. At this age, students often borrow books well above their reading level and are tempted by books beyond their comprehension. We honor their aspirations and allow them to carry heavy books back and forth, dreaming of the day they will be able to read them!
  • 2nd- and 3rd-graders: Often have a passion for series books. These offer handy shortcuts to understanding, while students work on comprehension skills. Example: Each time they encounter Jack and Annie in their magic treehouse, the reader knows to expect a fast-paced, simple historical adventure, little character development, and a happy ending. Predictability is a normal part of comprehension, and it is expected in the reading progression. When the librarian notices students “stuck” reading and rereading something familiar, they are challenged to take chances and stretch themselves.
  • 2nd- through 5th-graders: Borrow books for pleasure reading, for information discovery, and perhaps because a friend suggested a title or author. The role of peers in book selection can not be minimized. As adults do, students get suggestions from trusted friends and from the librarian.
  • 4th- and 5th-graders: Many upper elementary readers have decided on a favorite genre or author. They might read all of the Rick Riordan books or read every graphic novel on our library shelves. Some are leaning heavily into their favorite non-fiction topics. Part of the librarian’s job is to encourage continued risk-taking by reading aloud an opening chapter, or giving a compelling booktalk. Risk-taking is modeled by the librarian by sharing surprising books and by reading books recommended by the students; thus, discussion can take place between student and librarian.

What can I do to support reading by my children at home?

  • Read! Read aloud in pairs and as a family. Read your own books when your children are reading theirs. Children who see parents reading know that books are full of wonderful things and are more likely to be inspired to read themselves.
  • When your children ask questions, search nonfiction books for answers rather than the internet, as young children absorb information more readily from print than screen.
    • Browsing print books allows learners to discover tangential topics of interest. Did they look up obsidian for the 2nd-grade natural history museum project? Subsequent pages will teach the child about other volcanic rocks. There is time to learn good internet research habits as they grow.
  • Visit the public library: Get your child a card and let them borrow prolifically. Our school library contains just a fraction of the many wonderful children’s books available.
  • Set up a system at home for keeping track of library books and help your child be part of it: What day is my library class? What day do you need to bring your books back for return?
  • Ask about your children’s reading: Focus on deep thinking and social emotional responses to books. It is less important for a child to remember exactly what happened in a story than for them to figure out how and why a book made them feel something.

To learn more about library and other multigrade subjects at PBS, watch for upcoming parent education opportunities:

  • Every Tuesday before Spring Break: Articles on each multigrade subject (upcoming: art, music, physical education, and technology)
  • April 5: Virtual parent education at 8:00 p.m. led by Jon Fulk and PBS multigrade teachers

Thank you for supporting our multigrade programs!

Maeve Knoth, Jon Fulk, and Scott Erickson
Librarian, Head of Academic Programs, and Head of School

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