By Kathy Lester
Governor Whitmer has proclaimed April as School Library Month in Michigan. The proclamation recognizes that certified school librarians are integral to a quality, well-rounded education and improve student achievement. School librarians teach important reading, information literacy and digital citizenship skills to students and lead technology integration.
During the pandemic, certified library media specialists have been providing critical support and resources to their school communities both within and beyond the school library walls. They are essential in curating and providing diverse literature to support equity in literacy initiatives.
Certified school librarians have training and expertise in library collection development and book selection. They also have a strong commitment to providing learners with diverse resources and reading material to meet their personal and academic needs and to learn about themselves and the diverse world.
Thus, as leaders in the education community for diverse reading, MAME members are committed to creating a list of the best diverse books for students each year to provide all educators and parents in Michigan guidance to help them choose high-quality diverse books for their students.
You can find the 2020 MAME “MISelf in Books” Diverse Book List here: http://bit.ly/miselfinbooks. There is also a screen reader friendly version of the list: http://bit.ly/miselfinbooksreadable and an App which includes additional resources for each book: https://miselfinbooks.glideapp.io/.
As an affiliate of the American Association for School Librarians, Michigan Association of Media in Education (MAME) members hold the same core values which include: Learning; Innovation; Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion; Intellectual Freedom, and Collaboration.
Donalynn Miller wrote an article in February 2020 entitled, “Is Your School a Defacto School Desert?” stating that for many students the school library is “their primary gateway to books.” In their book, Game Changer: Book Access for All Kids, Donalynn Miller and Colby Sharp have a chapter entitled, “School Libraries and Librarians: The Right of Every Child.”
Their video that accompanies this chapter also speaks to the certified school librarian’s role in teaching information literacy skills and evaluating information. Donalynn Miller also mentions the idea that books foster empathy. At a recent virtual Great Michigan Reads event, Dr. Mona Hana-Attisha, Flint pediatrician, public health advocate, and author of “What the Eyes Don’t See” said that libraries can be “empathy vaccines.”
The Michigan Reading Association wrote a statement of support for equitable access to effective school libraries staffed by certified school librarians for all students in Michigan. The Michigan Department of Education has several documents providing guidance about school libraries including clarification that Title I, Title IVA, and Title II funds can be spent toward developing effective school library programs.
The MDE Library Media Placements Quick Sheet provides guidance to Michigan school districts. The MDE Equity in Literacy Document also provides information on the importance of access to school libraries. Additional information about effective school libraries can be found in the MDE Effective School Library Toolkit for Administrators.
All of these resources point to the fact that certified school librarians are essential partners with teachers, administrators, literacy specialists, parents, and the entire school community to provide a dynamic learning environment and high quality resources for our students. So, join me in supporting school libraries and librarians not just during School Library Month, but all year long.