Partnering with Parents to Improve Student (Digital) Literacy, Part 2

In a previous post entitled “Partnering with Parents to Improve Student Literacy,” I shared how school librarians can help guide parents to support their children’s basic literacy development. In this new post also focused on equipping parents to support their children, I’ll expand into the realm of digital literacy.   

In their school librarian preparation programs, school librarians are often taught that they may be the only educators on a K-12 campus that possess a depth of knowledge of digital citizenship and thus be responsible for providing professional development, designing curriculum, and perhaps training parents. When I was responsible for designing and implementing an innovative 1:1 program at my high school (in 2012), I realized how important it was to partner with parents to make sure that we were all working together to meet their child’s educational needs while ensuring that they were able to engage in online activities in a safe and appropriate manner. At the time, there weren’t many parent education resources in the realm of digital literacy available (I recall that Common Sense Media had some resources, but they certainly weren’t yet the powerhouse they are today!), so we had to cobble our own together. I am happy to see that today there are several repositories of resources focused on parent education that school librarians can use within their school communities.

If you have not yet seen the Screenagers movies, I highly encourage you to do so. What began as a documentary film project developed by a concerned mom and primary care physician, Delaney Ruston, has become a substantial resource of support for both parents and educators in addressing how to manage the effects of children’s and teenagers’ continual engaging with screens. 

In 2015 I co-hosted screenings and discussions of the original Screenagers: Growing Up in the Digital Age movie. It was eye-opening to observe what was shared in the movie and discuss and brainstorm solutions for the issues parents were experiencing with their children’s use of digital devices and applications. Five years later, Screenagers Next Chapter: Uncovering Skills for Stress Resilience was released, and then a book entitled Parenting in the Screen Age: A Guide for Calm Conversations

I just finished reading the book, and I was encouraged to see how Ruston (2020) approached the topic. Oftentimes books or resources skew negative or reactionary, highlighting the negative effects of engaging with digital devices/applications and offering doomsday predictions. On the contrary, this book provides positive and practical suggestions for countering actual and perceived negative effects. I appreciate how Ruston (2020) shared that kids are open to talking about their use of technology, but are more responsive when conversations begin with a discussion centered on the positive aspects and validation of their feelings. This is an important tip we can employ in all potentially difficult conversations!

There were a few of Ruston’s (2020) thoughts that stood out to me throughout the book, mainly because they echo what I have read elsewhere. For example, “Having the ‘world’ at their [kids’] fingertips comes at the cost of constant distraction” (p. 205) – this relates to what I responded to in “The Distracted School Librarian Mind” and “Restoring Lost Focus through the School Library.” Ruston (2020) also noted that when people get together, they tend to spend the majority of their time looking at their phones or other screens rather than interacting with one another. Her suggested antidote is to encourage kids to interact with adults through jobs, either paid or volunteer. Kids need a purpose and a space in which they can develop their conversation skills. This echoes what I responded to in “The Quiet Space Cure.” I would also add that the school library is the perfect place to put kids to work! I had many positive experiences working with students as volunteers or teacher’s aides in my high school library. 

What I was surprised to read was that Ruston (2020) was “…shocked that my kids’ teachers never give homework that involves using technology to create something” (p. 246). This is definitely an area in which school librarians shine and can work with their school leadership to improve. I addressed this more in-depth in “School Librarians are Knowledge Builders” and “The Library Lab School.”

Finally, to bring it all back to “Partnering with Parents to Improve Student Literacy,” Ruston (2020) cites a study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics that found parents should focus on reading traditional print books to their children rather than electronic books (ebooks). Why? Because parents and toddlers didn’t collaborate as much while reading the ebooks. Kids need to be trained how to focus on a book without the distractions of games, Internet, etc., that are ever-present on a digital device (see also I Heart the Codex).

In conclusion, we know that school librarians have a wealth of knowledge, experience, and skills that can be harnessed to support students’ literacy development via multiple means. I hope that the resources I have cited and linked within this post will be helpful in bringing this to fruition. 

Reference

Ruston, D. (2020). Parenting in the screen age: A guide for calm conversations. Starhouse Media LLC. 

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Author: Melanie Lewis Croft

Melanie Lewis Croft is an assistant professor in the College of Education at the University of West Georgia and program coordinator for its fully online School Library Media Program. Dr. Croft has worked with all grade levels and subject areas across a variety of learning environments in public, private, urban, and rural school systems. She served the K-12 field of education for 17 years as a state-certified elementary level classroom teacher, secondary level library media specialist, and district administrator of technology, library services, and curriculum. Since 2014, Dr. Croft has worked at the university level as both a faculty member and program coordinator of two graduate education programs in school library media. She currently serves AASL as a member of the School Library Research Editorial Board and contributor to the Knowledge Quest Blog.



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