Setting the Stage for Literacy Education

Literacy Education is taking center stage, and librarians are in the wings ready to be key players.
View video 21st Century Learners

This November the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) convention in Washington, D.C. will focus on the topic of literacy. Promotional literature for the convention includes the tag line “literacy is not just the English teacher’s job anymore.”  This statement, quoted from a 2013 report Remodeling Literacy Learning by the National Center for Literacy Education (NCLE), reflects consensus among educators in all disciplines that 1) literacy education is one of the most important roles of educators and (2) in order to achieve this goal, collaboration among educators in all discipline areas is vital.

School librarians rally to the call for “collaboration” because that is at the heart of our job. NCLE’s report acknowledges this crucial role, saying that collaboration is “supported by the specialized skills of literacy coaches and librarians.”  What is the role of the librarian?  In addition to encouraging lifelong readers, librarians support curriculum with print and online resources, devise organized platforms such as Libguides or webpages to deliver online access, and race to keep up with the latest technology.  Central to all of these roles, librarians guide students to develop literacy skills so that they can be discerning navigators and evaluators of the print and online world and active participants in synthesizing information to create knowledge.  To bolster our skills as instructors and guides, we need to be aware of literacy research and develop effective teaching practices to support educators and students in becoming 21st Century Learners.

This past summer, I was one of thirty librarians to attend the AISL Summer Institute, and Dr. Michelle Schira Hagerman provided an opportunity for us to immerse ourselves in readings and discussions of the latest research on New Literacies. New Literacies is an umbrella term covering the various literacies (information literacy, media literacy, digital literacy, multimodal literacy, etc.).  The following are some characteristics of New Literacies as well as challenges and effective strategies:

Characteristics of New Literacies (abbreviated from Leu, Kinzer, Coiro, Castek, & Henry, 2013)

1.  The Internet is this generation’s defining technology for literacy and learning within our global community.

2.  The Internet…(requires) additional new literacies…

3.  New literacies are deictic (constantly changing).

4.  Critical literacies are central to new literacies.

5.  New forms of strategic knowledge are required with new literacies.

New Strategies
I categorized the needed skills as follows (Leu et al. categories are in parentheses):

look closely (identifying essential questions and locating information)
think deeply (evaluating information critically)
build connections (synthesizing information)
create insights and enter the conversation (communicating information)

Researchers Mateos, Villalon, & Luna (2007) noted that in spite of the academic skills of students in the study, all students struggled with synthesis—students were mired in “knowledge telling” instead of “knowledge transformation.”

Modeling and Collaboration
Strategies that aided students included 1) educators that modeled strategies of effective readers and 2) pairing students in collaboration, instructing them to think aloud strategies for locating information and identifying essential questions. (Leu et al., 2013; Coiro & Dobler, 2007; and Hagerman & White, 2013).

The AISL Summer Institute culminated in a salon event showcasing digital resources created by participants. Dr. Hagerman’s powerpoint and a Blendspace curation of reflections and digital projects by these librarians can be viewed on the AISL wiki, Summer Institute 2014,
A full bibliography of research readings can also be found on the wiki.

Our AISL organization–the listserv, wiki, blog, social media, conferences—has been an invaluable professional network.  Continue to share your ideas, latest professional reading, and teaching practices so that we can learn from each other.  As the Bard advises, talk the talk, “speak the speech…trippingly on the tongue.” Your school partners will value this expansion of their knowledge.  It is time for librarians to take a lead role onstage to promote literacy education.

 Works Cited

Coiro, J., & Dobler, E. (2007). Exploring the online reading comprehension strategies used by sixth-grade skilled readers to search for and locate information on the Internet. Reading Research Quarterly,42(2), 214-257. doi:10.1598/RRQ.42.2.2

Hagerman, M.S. & White, A. (2013, December). What’s the best formula for enhancing online inquiry skills? [(PST)2 + (iC3)]. Reading Today, 20-21. [written for practioners]

Leu, D.J., Kinzer, C.K., Coiro, J., Castek, J. & Henry, L. (2013). New literacies : A dual-level theory of the     changing nature of literacy, instruction and assessment. In R. B. Ruddell & N.J. Unrau (Eds.) Theoretical models and processes of reading (5th ed., pp. 1570-1613). Newark, DE : International Reading Association.

Mateos, M., Martín, E., Villalón, R. & Luna, M. (2008). Reading and writing to learn in secondary education: Online processing activity and written products in summarizing and synthesizing tasks. Reading and Writing, 21, 675-697. doi : 10.1007/s11145-007-9086-6

NCLE. (2013). Remodeling literacy learning: Making room for what works. Retrieved from

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