Wednesday, June 13, 2012

An Open Letter to the Dual Language School Librarian

An Open Letter to the Elementary School Librarian:

A former principal used to say that the library was the heart of our school.  Thank you for all you do to keep our heart pumping! 

Libraries have been one of my favorite places to be as long as I can remember and I have benefitted from wonderful librarians as a student and as a teacher.  One of the best things about libraries is that they are comfortable, predictable places.  With some exceptions, libraries are generally the same and their layouts and content have stayed the same for many, many years.

But, here's the thing, the students that your library serves are not exactly the same as they were ten, twenty, or thirty years ago.  Yes, these students still need to learn how to care for books, find books, and develop a loyal following of some favorite authors.  However, it would be helpful if you might consider a few small changes that would make your library continue to be a favorite place of our current and future students:
  1. For many of our students, English is not their first language.  While they are all in the process of learning English, reading involves not just the tongue but also the heart.  These children, especially the young ones, need to learn to love reading by encountering lots of books in their heart language. 
  2. As you amass more and more native language books, PLEASE do not put them all together on one or two shelves!  Let me give several reasons for this:
    1. I know that it might seem like that would make the books easier to locate BUT learning to locate books is one of the skills that our students need to learn in your library.  A good-sized bright sticker indicating the language placed on the spine of the book is all our students need to find native language books amidst the rest of the English books.
    2. Part of visiting the library is teaching students to respect the books and respect their fellow library patrons.  When all of the books of one language are placed together and an entire Kindergarten bilingual class converges on that one shelf, it is impossible for them to practice common courtesy and care for books.  Shelving the books according to author or topic allows students to spread out in the library and actually practice using tools like shelf-markers.
    3. We do want our children to read books in English too.  When native language books are spread throughout the library and labeled with a sticker, I can point a student in the direction of a shelf of books about his/her favorite topic.  When a boy is looking for books about dinosaurs, he can find books in his native language as well as books in English.  He will quickly learn that reading in two languages will open his world even more because he has access to double the amount of information!
  3. Don't let your inability to speak my students' language (if that is indeed the case) stop you from looking them in the eye and talking to them in English.  They loved you before you even said a word!  To them, you are the magical provider of beautiful books!  All of my students are learning English and they need to practice with you.  Connect with them about the books they are reading.  If they seem especially timid, point to the pictures in the books and ask them yes or no questions.  Show them where more books about that topic or by the same author are located.  You are unique to them because you will be a constant through the years while teachers will change.  You are building a relationship that will continue as long as you are both in this school! 
  4. Your support of my students' learning does not stop when they walk out the doors of the library.  As I look at my units of study for future weeks, I look to the library for books to build my students' background knowledge and open their minds for future.  I am a dual language teacher and I need resources in both languages to teach these subjects.  I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your efforts to locate quality books in both languages about the authors and topics that we study in our curriculum.  If you ever need help finding those books, I would be happy to look through your catalogs with you!
Everything you do as my campus librarian will impact my students' current learning and desire to continue learning for the rest of their lives.  Thank you for serving me and my students in this way!  We do appreciate you!

A Dual Language Teacher


  1. Oh, when I read this, I thought you were at MY school. I share each and every thought. Thanks for expressing it so well!

    1. Aw, thanks! It's always nice to know we are not alone! :)

  2. Such a great letter! We need to share it. You should add this post to the linky on our site...

  3. I just found this blog. I'm a school librarian. I took over a library which was last revamped in 1980. A goodly number of my books date from that time. Why? because I don't have the budget to get many new books every year. I apply for grants to up date the books, but I haven't gotten any so far. I also have to keep all the technology and other media updated, go for my own professional development. And pay for our Battle of the Books supplies. All on $1,000.00 a year.

    If all you have is one shelf of books it is better to shelve them together. It's an ease of access thing for the majority of the users of the library.

    Now, your librarian could come up with other creative ideas to ease the traffic jam around the non English books. That is a whole 'nother problem.

    Depending on the state laws governing your media center, your librarian may not be allowed to place stickers on the spine telling anyone about the content or reading level of the book. Not even so much as this book is a mystery, fantasy or science fiction sticker.

    Your librarian should be able to create pathfinders for you about what resources you have available for cross cultural connections.

    For example here is a link to Cinderella Stories – A Multicultural Unit. Or Iguana magazine (a spanish language magazine designed to help Latin American students hold on to their culture)put out by the Cricket Magazine group. I use LA Teen ( a magazine aimed at Latino teens) and Iguana in the middle school.

    And while I do appreciate teachers input into the budget process, it often devolves into censorship or arguments about why I chose one book/DVD/CD over another (here is the kicker) in someone else's field.


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