Supporting literacy and literature learning: The role of librarians in schools

Submitted by: Margaret Kristin Merga
Abstract: Young people must receive high-quality instruction and support in literacy and literature learning in order to meet their ongoing academic, social and vocational needs. While librarians in schools often face significant staffing and budgetary cuts, research supports the contention that they can play an important role in supporting this learning (e.g. Lance & Kachel, 2018). However, little is known about the practices that they may employ to this end. Of particular interest is the role of librarians in schools in supporting the increasing numbers of struggling readers (Spichtig, et al., 2016). Struggling readers have their disadvantage compounded as they move through the years of schooling by a Matthew Effect: capable students who read frequently get “richer” through continued exposure to reading, and the gap between them and struggling readers widens (Stanovich 2009). Interview data were collected from teacher librarians at 30 schools as part of the Teacher Librarians as Australian Literature Advocates in Schools project. These data were analysed to discern recurrent literacy and literature skill supportive practices exercised by teacher librarians using a cross-case analysis was employed using an inductive approach, which involved close reading of the data to derive key recurrent practices rather than themes (Thomas 2006). . Subsequently, ten practices that closely aligned with extant research around supporting struggling readers were identified. Teacher librarians may play multifaceted roles in providing targeted support for struggling readers by identifying struggling readers, providing them with age and skill-appropriate materials, undertaking skill scaffolding supporting choice, supporting students with special needs, providing one-to-one matching, promoting access to books, enhancing the social position of books and reading, reading aloud to students, facilitating silent reading, and preparing students for high-stakes literacy testing.

Lance, K. C., & Kachel, D. E. (2018). Why school librarians matter: What years of research tell us. Phi Delta Kappan, 99(7), 15-20.
Spichtig, A. N., Hiebert, E. H., Vorstius, C., Pascoe, J. P., David Pearson, P., & Radach, R. (2016). The decline of comprehension‐based silent reading efficiency in the United States: A comparison of current data with performance in 1960. Reading Research Quarterly, 51(2), 239-259.
Stanovich, K. E. (2009). Matthew effects in reading: Some consequences of individual differences in the acquisition of literacy. Journal of Education, 189(1-2), 23-55.
Thomas, D. R. (2006). A general inductive approach for analyzing qualitative evaluation data. American Journal of Evaluation, 27(2): 237–246.

Keywords: Reading; literacy pedagogy; struggling readers; teacher librarians; school librarians; qualitative