April is School Library Month and this year’s theme is “School Libraries Transform Learning.” The combination of a librarian, students, services, and resources magically (and through a lot of hard work) influence and inspire learning, not for one month, but throughout the year. A KQ blog posted in February urged us to begin planning activities that would highlight the value of school libraries. Its author provided a lengthy list of ways school librarians can celebrate School Library Month, and this is an excellent time to review those ideas.
One idea— “Create book displays that promote intellectual freedom…” (AASL SPVS)— stood out for me because it included the words “intellectual freedom.” School libraries transform learning because school library professionals are dedicated to protecting the intellectual freedom of their students. Throughout the school year, school librarians:
- Protect students’ First Amendment right to read and access information in the library.
- Overcome fear of challenges and select the books students need, not just the “safe” choices.
- Add resources that reflect the diversity of their students.
- Provide great “reads” in every genre, stretching kids’ minds and imaginations.
- Protect students’ right to choose what they want to read rather than enforcing the requirement of selecting books only at their reading levels.
- Allow kindergarten students to check out library books from the beginning of the school year.
- Guard against economic barriers, such as library fines and book replacement costs that create situations where students living in poverty are unable to check out library resources, sometimes for years!
Celebrating School Library Month is not the only opportunity in April to advocate for intellectual freedom and the freedom to read. April is also D.E.A.R. month urging everyone to “Drop everything and read” in honor of Beverly Cleary’s introduction of D.E.A.R. in Ramona Quimby, Age 8 (DEAR). The D.E.A.R. website has activity sheets, bookmarks, posters, stickers, and a certificate for free download.
April 30 offers another opportunity to celebrate children’s right to read with Childrens’ Day/Book Day, also known as El día de los niños/El día de los libros or “Dia” for short. Dia recognizes the importance of “diverse books, languages, and cultures” for children and families (About Dia), The Dia website includes many materials including booklists, planning toolkits, coloring pages, and activity sheets for librarians to download. FYI, the AASL School Library Month webpage also has useful resources to download: graphics, posters, proclamations, plus free webinars occurring each week in April.
Each of these special events is a fun stand-alone celebration, but to be effective, advocacy for intellectual freedom (and the right to read) must be systematically built into every aspect of school library programs and incorporated throughout the year. For more events to highlight school libraries and intellectual freedom, check out the American Library Association’s promotional events page.
What’s the next event? Stay tuned for Choose Privacy Week, May 1-7. This year, the emphasis is on minors’ privacy.
AASL Supervisors Section. “Celebrate School Library Month.” KQ Blog. February 28, 2016. http://knowledgequest.aasl.org/celebrate-school-library-month/.
D.E.A.R. “Celebrate Drop Everything and Read with Beverly Cleary.” http://www.dropeverythingandread.com/NationalDEARday.html/.
ALSC. “About Dia.” http://dia.ala.org/content/about-d%C3%ADa/.
AASL. “School Library Month Vertical Banner” image used with permission.
ALSC. “Dia Turns 20 Web Badge” (square) image used with permission.
Andreas_MB. “Children’s Book.” Used under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike Creative Commons License.
Author: Helen Adams
A former school librarian in Wisconsin, Helen Adams is an online senior lecturer for Antioch University-Seattle in the areas of intellectual freedom, privacy, library ethics, and copyright. A member of the AASL Knowledge Quest Advisory Board, the ALA Intellectual Freedom Committee, and a KQ blogger, she is the author of Protecting Intellectual Freedom and Privacy in Your School Library (Libraries Unlimited, 2013) and contributor to The Many Faces of School Library Leadership (2nd edition, Libraries Unlimited, 2017). Email: email@example.com.