A Trip to the Library

Did you know you can check 30 books out from the New York Public Library at a time? I found out today when I went on a trip to supplement my classroom library's biography selection. It was a fun and economical excursion (I recently realized I cannot afford to go to Barnes and Noble whenever the mood strikes). As I left, I made a realization about the power that access to information holds.

This is true in several respects. Firstly, the students reading and acquisition of knowledge is limited by the books available in the classroom. It's an altogether decent variety, but definitely slanted to the outdated and/or old dead White guy side of the spectrum.

The student's exposure to biographies is then limited by my choices at the library. Acting as a filter, I may have inadvertently biased our class's selection or looked over a book that would have otherwise caught a child's attention. I did my best to assemble a multicultural and multi-discipline cross-section of Black, Hispanic and female writers, artists, politicians, musicians and athletes. But, inevitably by choosing 30 books, a bias was implemented.

Third, the students knowledge is limited by their own abilities. As I browsed the library's biography section I was amazed by the variety, but found myself putting many books back after checking the difficulty. Of my 25 fourth grade students, perhaps three are reading at grade-level. Most of my readers are at second grade level, with a few dispersed above or below. This meant I was looking mostly for upper level picture books with the occasional chapter book.

I don't think the diversity of my biographies was hurt by the reading level of my students. However, the depth of understanding found in a second grade level text is significantly different than a fourth grade text. Each year these students fall behind grade level, they are being blocked from a deeper understanding of the world around them.

I hope to soon take my class to the library near the school. If I accomplish nothing else this year I want to expose my students to all the knowledge that exists and hopefully ignite in them a passion to pursue it. No big deal really, right?


Hugh O'Donnell said…
I love libraries. My own has made me "book poor." :)

Although I'm just a digital immigrant, I feel certain that we'll always have real books about.

Glad you had the opportunity to take students to that magic place.

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