Library: Curriculum

We are a community of readers at Saint Ann’s, and the goal of the library is to foster this reading community. In both the Lower School Library and the Annie Bosworth Library in the Bosworth Building, we work to connect readers to books they will love and to promote critical thinking, creative problem-solving, and intellectual curiosity. The two libraries at Saint Ann’s play an integral role in the curriculum and in the school community in general.

The Lower School Library

The Lower School Library, serving children from kindergarten through third grade, is situated on the first floor of The Farber Building. The collection contains more than 19,000 volumes, ranging from alphabet books to classics like The Hobbit. Every child in the Lower School participates in two library periods each week: one to check out books and the other to listen as a librarian reads aloud. Students call these periods “library pick-out” and “library story.”

During library pick-out, students are given the freedom to roam through the stacks to select books. Pick-out helps children develop not only their love of reading, but a real sense of independence in a library setting; they choose the books that interest them. Each child gets to take two books home every week. One of these books, called a “reading book,” matches the child’s independent reading level; the librarians help the children make appropriate choices. The other selection can be any book in the library, and is called the “anything book,” or, occasionally, “my everything book!” The children are encouraged to explore the many genres available in the library.

Library story, a former student reminisces, “is like listening to a play, because the librarians give voice to every character.” Librarians read to every class. In kindergarten and first grade, the children help decide what to read; kindergarteners choose books about animals and first graders choose books about countries. Second and third graders hear a variety of chapter books read aloud, in a range of genres from fantasy to nonfiction. When a book is finished, each group undertakes a related project—such as creating a book cover—the results of which are displayed near the library for parents and other children to admire. There’s always something fun going on in library story; as one second grader said, “I love when we finish a book, because then we get to do a project. But I love when we’re in the middle of a book, too.”

When children finish third grade and move on to the library in “the big building,” they have been exposed to thousands of books and have developed into a community of readers, ready to explore new horizons and challenges.

The Annie Bosworth Library

When students enter the Middle School in fourth grade, they graduate to the Annie Bosworth Library in the Bosworth Building. This library contains more than 27,000 print books and offers students and faculty access to an ever-growing digital library. It offers dozens of scholarly and popular periodicals in both print and digital form, and provides local and remote access to myriad research, news, and educational databases. Visit the library one day, and you may find serious scholars arguing fine points in the Aeneid while sitting alongside readers dissecting the plot twists and turns of the latest popular dystopian thriller. Another day, you may spot a middle schooler devouring the newest volume of a manga series or a newshound perusing the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal. What wild synergy might develop between these disparate library patrons? There’s no telling. The library is far more than the sum of its volumes.

Children come to the Annie Bosworth Library for regularly scheduled classes, to do research for class assignments, and to browse, study or check out a book for fun. The library maintains an open door policy; high school students are free to come in any time. Middle school students may use the library during lunch and study periods, as well as after school.

Once a week, all fourth graders have library class, in which they are read to by a librarian who also acquaints them with the library and helps them choose books for pleasure reading. Classes have a maximum of twelve students, ensuring that each child receives personal reading advice. In fifth grade a library elective is offered. In this class, students learn about the Dewey Decimal system, learn to use online databases, and perfect research strategies. Students are taught the importance of evaluating websites and other research material for currency, relevance, authority, accuracy, and purpose. The librarian also reads aloud to students; even these more mature kids love to sit and listen to a great book. A highlight of the fifth grade library classes is the ever-popular annual Harry Potter night.

To encourage pleasure reading over the summer, librarians compile suggested summer reading lists. The lists for the middle school and high school students are annotated and include links to copies in our digital library when available. The high school list is unique; it is made up of suggestions from faculty and staff and is distributed to adults in the community as well to as high school students.

The Annie Bosworth Library is available for all teachers to schedule classes for research projects. Librarians provide bibliographic instruction to large groups or on an individual basis, depending on the nature of the project. Beginning in the fourth grade, teachers in a variety of curriculum areas assign research projects that require students to use the library independently. There are also set projects in each grade. For example, all fifth graders spend a week in the library with their Language Structures class conducting intensive research for a paper, often on a New York City-related topic. Eighth graders complete a term paper with their humanities classes on a topic of their choice. In ninth grade, students write another term paper, this time focusing on a historical topic. The library plays an integral role in all of these research projects.

The library is for reading, research, browsing, and thinking. We want our students to be lifelong readers, thinkers and intellectual explorers. To that end, we engage students with our curriculum, collection, and programming. Since 2004 we have run a Middle School Author Series in conjunction with the English department; the goal is to have a writer come and speak to each grade. Guests have included Jason Reynolds (author of Long Way Down), Joan Bauer (Hope Was Here), and Adam Gidwitz (The Inquisitor’s Tale). Fourth through seventh graders are invited to participate in the Mock Newbery Committee each fall; some read more than twenty books as they try to pick the best of the year! High school students meet to discuss the merits and shortcomings of National Book Award finalists. The library also hosts a faculty and staff book group, regularly attended by people from a wide range of departments. The plethora of activities in the library furthers its mission: to encourage and celebrate books and knowledge.