ERIC Identifier: ED346874
Publication Date: 1992-04-00
Author: Lamme, Linda Leonard - Beckett, Cecilia
ERIC Clearinghouse on Information Resources Syracuse NY.
Whole Language in an Elementary School Library Media Center.
In a traditional or basic skills approach to education, learning is broken
down into small pieces. Children are asked to learn these pieces and are
rewarded for their behavior. Teachers diagnose what children know and then
remediate by teaching them what they do not know. Social constructivism,
reflected in the whole language approach, is very close to the opposite in its
philosophical stance. Learning occurs through use of language and literature,
not as a separate part of it. Texts are kept whole, not broken down into parts.
Teachers observe and assess what children know and build upon their knowledge,
designing a classroom environment and learning activities cooperatively with
children so that they become internally motivated to learn. The goals of
instruction are broader and address affective considerations. Whereas in a basic
skills program the goal is to teach children how to read and write, the goal of
a whole language curriculum is to help children become avid readers and writers,
to develop a love of learning.
The change from a basic skills to a whole language approach precipitates vast
changes in the school library media center. This digest will examine these
changes, specifically at the elementary school level, in terms of three
curricular foci: theme studies, process writing, and literature-based reading.
It will also discuss the new demands placed upon the collection and the school
Theme studies are not unlike the units of
study many teachers have taught for years. The main difference is that theme
studies rely upon children's literature instead of textbooks. Children explore a
topic in far more detail and spend much longer on each theme than in a
textbook-driven program. Children engaged in a theme study use the school media
center to seek information about specific topics. They also use works of various
genres to supplement their research. Fiction, for example, demonstrates
attitudes and behaviors, the reasons to use the information found in nonfiction
books. Poetry can provide an aesthetic dimension to the theme study topic.
Thematic studies require large numbers of trade books, which the children use
with the teachers to build the content of their instructional program.
Librarians must work cooperatively with teachers to assure that resources are
available in the media center when needed. At certain times of the year, pulling
books can be a full-time job for the media specialist.
Flexible scheduling in the school media center is also important to the
success of theme studies. When the media center is available to individuals and
small groups of children virtually all day, children are free to seek
information when questions arise.
The process writing program provides
another opportunity for children to turn to books (Calkins & Harwayne,
1990). When they encounter problems in their own writing, children look to
published authors for solutions. For example, children might examine "real" books to see how authors introduce different characters without listing them.
The concepts of authorship and illustratorship are vital to an interactive
view of reading and writing (Lamme, 1989a, 1989b; Lamme & Ledbetter, 1990).
Indeed, as children become authors themselves, they become interested in other
authors as people and writers. When a class becomes "hooked," the media center
must be prepared with a good supply of books by the favorite author or
illustrator. Children also want information about authors and illustrators, and
the media center will need a large collection of file materials to satisfy this
Literature-based reading programs
focus upon helping children become avid and reflective readers, rather than
merely skilled readers (McConaghy, 1990; Peterson & Eeds, 1990; Short & Pierce, 1990). Instead of being tested after reading, children share opinions
about books, both orally and in writing. This change of focus draws readers to
genre studies and studies of literary elements, again making demands upon the
librarian and the collection. For example, children who notice a pattern in a
book, such as the shift from reality to fantasy to reality in HIGH RISE GLORIOUS
SKITTLE SKAT ROARIOUS SKY PIE ANGEL FOOD CAKE (Willard, 1990) are likely to
request more books with that pattern. Librarians can help teachers use
children's comments to lead them to other good books, encouraging children to
read and to respond at higher levels to what they are reading.
Other activities in a literature-based reading program that call for
librarian involvement include:
Workshops, where children select books based on personal interest and link their
reading to prior experience. Often children keep reading logs or literature
journals to record their reactions;
Buddies, where experienced readers have the opportunity to read aloud and
fledgling readers experience a lap reading situation; and
Silent Reading, where children use some time every day to read books for
pleasure with no interruptions and no testing at the end of the reading.
Children learn how to select books they enjoy and to sustain their reading.
CHANGES IN COLLECTION USE
The programs described above
create an enormous demand for books. It is not uncommon in a whole language
school for teachers to check out over 100 books at a time! In addition, in many
whole language schools each child leaves school every day with a book to read
with his or her family. Many librarians also provide a box of books from the
media center for each classroom to support buddy reading, sustained silent
reading, and home reading programs. Librarians can also expect changes in
circulation patterns when a school moves to whole language. To determine areas
of relative over-use and under-use, librarians may want to study data from
automated circulation systems.
In today's technological age, classroom teachers do not rely solely upon
books for their instructional programs. Videos, cassettes, and computer programs
are in high demand as well. There has been a great increase in the publication
of non-print media linked to children's books. As children become more avid
readers, they become increasingly interested in these media links to their
CHANGES IN THE ROLE OF THE LIBRARIAN
As noted throughout
this digest, the librarian in a whole language school plays an important role in
promoting reading and an appreciation of literature. He or she must know the
book collection intimately. In addition, the librarian serves as: (1) a resource
to students and teachers during the planning and execution of theme studies; (2)
a teacher of information skills; and (3) an instructional leader. Ideally, the
librarian does more consulting and less teaching than he or she would in a
traditional program (Dales, 1990).
Cullinan (1989) reports that many schools have been slow to recognize the
potential of the librarian in a whole language program. It is best to involve
the librarian in the transition to whole language right from the start. Recent
guidelines from the American Association of School Librarians (1988) promote
"service at the point of need" and other key components to serving the needs of
whole language teachers and students.
Often a debate arises over ownership and control of the books purchased to
support whole language programs. Should new books be in classrooms where
children have immediate access to them for their reading, writing and theme
studies programs, or should they be in the media center and borrowed on a
temporary basis by classroom teachers? A similar territorial issue arises in the
ordering of new books. Should classroom teachers be able to order books they
want for their instructional program, or should all orders go through the school
librarian? In many schools the monies are divided so that classroom teachers do
some ordering, while the librarian, relying heavily upon teacher
recommendations, orders the bulk of the books for the media center.
Since the librarian is usually the most knowledgeable person about children's
literature in a school, he or she typically takes on the task of keeping
teachers up-to-date in the area of children's literature (Lamme & Ledbetter,
1990). Teachers who have relied primarily upon textbooks for a number of years
need models for selecting books, reading aloud, giving book talks, conducting
book discussions, storytelling, and involving children with puppetry,
flannelboards, and story enactment. Not only do librarians share their expertise
in all of these areas, but they also learn from teachers and read books that in
previous times would have been the exclusive domain of classroom teachers.
The library resources needed to run a whole
language program are different and more extensive than those needed to
supplement a traditional program (Lamme & Ledbetter, 1990). Because the
media center is the heart of the whole language program, it needs far more
funding than it did when it only served a supplementary role to classroom
instruction. These changes, though sometimes stressful, are embraced by most
American Association of School Librarians, & Association for Educational Communications and Technology. (1988). INFORMATION
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Dales, B. (1990, November). Trusting relations between teachers and
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Lamme, L. (1989a, Winter). Illustratorship: A key facet of whole language
instruction. CHILDHOOD EDUCATION, 66, 83-86. EJ 401 265.
Lamme, L. (1989b, May). Authorship: A key facet of whole language. READING
TEACHER, 42(9), 704-711. EJ 388 677.
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IN ACTION. Ontario, Canada: Scholastic.
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