White Bird: Author R.J. Palacio Visits the Library
The Lower School Library provides books, library classes, and a (reasonably) quiet place to read and explore books to the 300 students in kindergarten through third grade and their teachers. The 19,000+ books in our collection are carefully chosen to be appropriate for our young patrons, so we encourage the children to explore the entire library and make their own choices.
Using the Library
In addition to their regularly scheduled library classes each week, lower school students may come to the library during the school day with permission from their teacher. Any child is welcome to visit the library before school; after school, children must be accompanied by a parent or caregiver.
Students check out two books each week at library pick-out. The books are due back the following week. Children may renew any books that they have not finished reading, with the exception of a few “7 Day books,” indicated by stickers on their spines, that are not renewable.
Books can be returned to the library on any day. If students finish a book before their scheduled library day, they are encouraged to bring the book back any day and swap it for something new.
We know that library books can (and will) be forgotten. We do not charge overdue fines, and students who forget their books on pick-out day are still allowed to check out new ones. If the number of overdue books becomes excessive, or if the child seems anxious about the books, we will send an e-mail home, listing the overdue books and asking for grown-up help returning them. We also send e-mail reminders a few times a year to all families, listing all overdue books.
We also know that books will get damaged and lost. We do not charge for these books. All we ask is that parents let us know when a book is lost, so that we can clear the child’s record and replace the book. We do ask that parents contact us, because children often have trouble understanding the difference between “lost–I can’t find it right now” and “lost–I left it in a taxi”!
The fundamental goals of the library are to provide the children with a library collection that they will enjoy and learn from and to give them the freedom to choose which books in that collection they wish to borrow. The books in the collection have been carefully chosen by the librarians to be appropriate for our students, to interest and inform them, and to challenge them. We have a broad selection of fiction, ranging from very early readers to picture books to chapter books and graphic novels, and an extensive non-fiction collection on a wide range of subjects, as well as large sections of poetry and biography.
The books in our library are carefully chosen with the age range of our students in mind; there is nothing here that will hurt them. Every book is not right for every child at every moment, but learning how to find the books that are right for you requires choosing some that are not right. With that in mind, it is library policy not to forbid a child to choose any book. We may recommend that a kindergartener not take home a 700 page chapter book, but it is his or her right as a library patron to refuse that recommendation. We do put some limits on one of the two books each child chooses each week (see our curriculum section below) but the second book is always an “anything book,” anything the child desires.
Each class in Kindergarten through grade 3 has two library periods per week, one for story and one for pick-out. This is unusual; in most schools classes visit the library no more than once per week. We are very proud that the library is such an important part of the Lower School curriculum.
Kindergarten library story takes place in the classroom. We begin the year with picture books about animals; each child has the chance to choose an animal for the class to learn about. Once every child has had a choice, we read a chapter book aloud.
Kindergarteners walk from Henry Street to the library once a week to pick out books and listen to a story. Each child may choose two books each week. The first is called the “special color book,” one of our picture books (which have red spine labels) or early readers (which have green or green-and-yellow stickers.) The second book, as it is for all students, is their “anything” book, anything in the library.
We go around the world in 1st grade library story! Each week picture books, folktales, and non-fiction books take each class to two countries, chosen by members of the class. We discuss each country and find it on our class map, coloring it in so we can track where we’ve been. Once each child has had a turn to pick, we start a chapter book. We may read four or more chapter books aloud by the end of the year! Also, in the spring 1st and 2nd graders participate in the Irma Black Award, reading and discussing four picture books nominated as among the best of the year, before each child has a chance to vote for his or her favorite.
First graders come to the library in half groups for pick-out. Each student chooses two books. The first is the“reading book,” a book on his or her independent reading level. Each child has a “reading meeting” with a librarian to discuss the reading book; in this way the librarians learn where each child’s reading interests lie and how his or her reading brain is growing throughout the year. If a book is not a good fit as a reading book, it may become a child’s 2nd, or “anything,” book.
We read a series of chapter books in 2nd grade library story. At the conclusion of a book, each class does an art and writing project that is then put on display in the Lower School for everyone to admire. In addition, 2nd graders explore non-fiction and participate in the Irma Black award (see 1st grade library story.)
By 2nd grade the children have mastered choosing a reading book, having a reading meeting, and finding an anything book. So we’ve added something new, the “library assistant”! Children take turns learning how library circulation works by helping the librarian with check-in, renewals, and check-out. By the end of the year, they can almost run the system on their own!
Sophisticated chapter books, a hilarious memoir, and picture books on STEM topics are on the menu in 3rd grade library story. 3rd graders listen to and discuss chapter books based on Western, Eastern, and Welsh folklore and mythology, learn what turns a smart aleck kid into a writer, and vote for the Cook Prize, an award given to a top picture book on a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) topic.
In 3rd grade classes come to pick-out in full group. This provides a chance to discuss books and give recommendations; “book commercials” are given by librarians and by students. 3rd graders still check out a reading book and an anything book, and are also entitled to take a “bonus book,” a book from a special section of under-read older chapter books, if they choose.