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Librarians are educators too

A number of ideas for reading for pleasure were listed in a recent article on The Guardian (How to teach… Reading for pleasure – http://bitly.com/1dm2SvX ).

The article also promotes a forthcoming conference with the theme ‘Reading for pleasure’. These conferences are open to both teachers and librarians.

That reading for pleasure is more beneficial than any other approach to reading has been confirmed through research and there is no doubt about it.

However, the real challenge for our educational system is that we have been trying to tackle only part of the ‘reading approach’ jigsaw puzzle.

Through collaboration, the teacher and librarian can create the perfect duo for storytelling

We regularly come across the misconception that it is only the teacher (the English teacher most of the time), who is in a position to guide children and young adults towards lifelong love for books and the right reading habits.

There are various studies and academic literature that emphasise the role of librarians as educators. This can only happen if they are allowed to form part of the schools’ professional cohort and given a leading role in any ‘reading for pleasure’ campaign.

Let’s face it, our recent attempts have not been exactly successful and unless we come up with a new approach, there is real risk that we will continue with the same results year after year.

It is recommended to properly see who’s who in the educational set-up, namely that the teacher is subject oriented (be it English, maths, history, etc.) and liaises with the librarian (who is information oriented).

One of the approaches to a new method is collaboration between the teacher and librarian, where team-teaching may take place, whereby the teacher explains the content area of the project while the librarian delineates the research aspects.

Also, through collaboration, the teacher and librarian can create the perfect duo for storytelling. The librarian working in a school environment can contribute effectively in various ways – provided that they are full-time and have the right qualifications in library and information science.

The area of storytelling may be followed by a simple dialogue where everyone may draw his own weirdest opening and endings of the story, including not agreeing with the manner in which it was written. But to make students make a synthesis of the story and analyse verbs and other aspects for English purposes literally kills the joy of reading.

Every time teachers adopt this ‘input-output’ approach for fiction reading, they risk that readers lose out on the original intention of the author who, in the first place, wrote the book for enjoyment and not for analysis.

One of the approaches for analysis – if this is imperative for cognitive reasons – may be through group/class dialogue in a very informal manner.

Today’s concept of the ‘flipped-class’ is challenging all our traditional teaching/learning methodologies. The class is the ‘arena’ type of scenario, where all share, dialogue, discuss and challenge their findings and the home becomes their ‘exploratory laboratory’.

In his book Leading in a culture of change (2001, p. 43), Michael Fullan quotes Gaynor and writes: “We trained hard… but it seemed every time we were beginning to form up into teams we were re-organised. I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any situation by reorganising, and what a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency and demoralisation.”

The reading dilemma and the published low-reading scores for Maltese students and adults alike merit urgent attention and yet, years continue to pass by and it seems we still cannot see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.

As indicated earlier, my impression is that the present educational system is not tackling the problem holistically. Fullan continues: “Leading a culture of change means creating a culture (not just a structure) of change. It does not mean adopting innovations, one after the other; it does mean producing the capacity to seek, critically assess and selectively incorporate new ideas and practices – all the time, inside the organisation as well as outside it.” (ibid., p. 44).

Hence, we surely desire a healthy, intellectually strong society. In fact, despite various references to the so-called ‘knowledge society’, I firmly believe we are not there yet.

We may confidently speak of an ‘information society’, with new concepts and ideas emerging such as ‘Big Data’. Just to give an example, it has been estimated that by 2020, more than 51,597 million objects will be connected to the Internet of Things (IoT) 1.

Furthermore, the most important object between processes, things and data are people themselves, who give value to everything else and who are the creators of the data.

My appeal is that qualified librarians (information professionals) should not only be considered as professionals but also treated as educators who form part of the educational cohort in school environments and who can and must lead the reading revolution which is much needed locally.

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