Who’s in the Library?


Our Story Begins…

Walking with Rebecca Edwards across the campuses of Community United and Futures Elementary Schools compares to being in the company of a celebrity. Children call to her from across the playground, break out of line on their way to lunch to give her a hug and poke their heads in the doorway of her room to inquire when they can come visit. What has Rebecca done to deserve such popularity? She opened the doors to the school library, built a culture of reading, listens to their ideas and interests, and broadens their life experience and knowledge base by inviting guest speakers and visitors to celebrate literacy.

It wasn’t always like this at CUES/Futures, two years ago the library was outdated and seldom visited. Recognizing the value of a quality school library, the principals at CUES/Futures joined resources, and engaged the services of District Librarian, Ann Gallagher and Friends of the Oakland Public School Libraries (FOPSL) to create a state-of-the-art library.

Jennifer Sethansang, a Teacher on Special Assignment (TSA) at CUES stated, “I have been at Community United at Lockwood since 2006. I’ve seen the library evolve from a storage room of outdated books to a vibrant research center with the focus of providing students access to quality literature. This is because of Ms. Rebecca’s commitment to providing our students a rich literary experience. She makes the space inviting for everyone at the school- students, teachers, and parents.”

Why it Matters..

FOPSL has successfully created resource rich school libraries across OUSD with the help of community volunteers, community partners, funders and foundations. Each of these school libraries creates greater potential and more opportunity by providing equitable access to quality resources to all OUSD students. However, quality staffing is paramount to success in all that a library can do for a school. CUES/Futures have witnessed this first hand. Rebecca Edwards is currently working toward her Masters in Library and Information Science from San Jose State University and has proven to be a tremendous asset, inviting the entire school community into the school library. There is ample research that shows the school library staffed by a professional teacher librarian increases test scores, improves literacy and prepares students to enter college and life. “Students in better-staffed programs scored as much as 22% higher on standardized English tests and as much as 17 percent higher on standardized reading tests compared to students in schools where library programs had less staff and fewer hours” (Smith, 2006).

Seeing the Change…

Over the course of two weeks, Rebecca inspires over 700 students in Transitional Kindergarten (TK) through fifth grade to read, teaches research skills, collaborates with teachers and invites parents and younger siblings into the library. Rebecca recalls, “Early in the year, when I didn’t have any scheduled classes I could work for hours in the library without an interruption. By the end of the year I couldn’t eat a sandwich without loads of students showing up to check out books or work in the library. Some of them are bookish girls who remind me of my own youth, who will inevitably find their way to an open library where it exists. Other students are stalking the most popular books. Some of them want a chance to use the library catalog or online resources. Some of them just come to hang out in a calm environment or chat with me. One of my frequent visitors stopped by multiple times the last week of school to copy down recipes from a cookbook, to try out over the summer!”

According to Kelly Gallagher (no relation to Ann) in his book Readicide, “If we are to have a chance of developing a reading habit in our students, they must have ready access to a wide range of interesting reading materials,” stating that, “This should be the priority of ever faculty.” This seems to be true at CUES/Futures. Rebecca does not provide direct instruction in reading skills, yet she has witnessed a transformation in her students since the beginning of the year. “I’m most interested to see the improvement in my students that are proficient readers because they are the ones that often show up between class visits to check out books.” Ms. Sethansang states, “I’ve never seen the library play such a huge role in our school. What an excellent job Ms. Rebecca and the library team has done transforming the library. It has become a “hub” of the school.”

We know that school libraries support literacy by providing equal access to information in all its formats, i.e. online databases, information technology, books, etc. While many variables influence reading, ample research demonstrates that ready access to books from birth forward is one definite determinant.

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