What Are You Talking About?


In my office, there is an undoubtedly handmade wall hanging made of four individual laminated print-outs attached to one another by fancy paperclips.  The wall hanging is a product of my time as an Assistant to the Program Coordinator at Union County Public Library.  During that time, one of my favorite responsibilities was meeting regularly with the 5th grade students from Liberty Elementary School.  The students and I, during our meetings, talked not only about books and libraries, but also about life issues and how reading can be a way to experience and understand one another.

Driven by these discussions, I developed some guidelines to help reflect on how I wanted to guide the conversation with the kids to expand their thinking about reading beyond just words on a page and minutes read.  The guidelines were purely for my own reflection and professional accountability as a mechanism to keep myself on task (I have a tendency to follow rabbit trails).  Over the years, however, I’ve found myself going back to these guidelines and being reminded that it’s not only fifth graders and librarians who can have these conversations.  I’ve also become convinced that these standards are foundational for how I choose to approach questions of literacy and librarianship.

These guidelines are entitled “Think About It” and consist of four “thought starters” with accompanying questions for reflection.  Each ends with the query, “How does reading relate to this?”

Civic Responsibility – How do we instill values in students that reflect engagement with how society takes care of itself?  What topics of government must students understand to become contributing adults?

Global Citizenry – How do we teach students to engage in a global culture that increasingly affects our daily lives?  What issues of cultural identity do we need to address?

Intellectual Freedom – What skills must students develop to understand and defend the principles of free thought, speech, and expression?  How does freedom differ from lawlessness?

Technology – What do we need to truly support and/or encourage students wanting to go into a broad spectrum of technology related fields?

How does reading relate to this?

Please keep in mind that these are, in no way, exhaustive (obviously).  There are meant as “thought starters” and “brain stretchers.”  On some days, I have no answers for any of the questions.  On other days, I have more and more questions and the vague niggling of an emerging answer.  This, however, is what librarians do.  We search, first, for the questions, and then we start digging around for the answers.

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