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Elementary School Librarians Are At Home with Digital Learning

We can’t see a show of hands from our own homes, but how many Update readers have browsed the webpages of CHCCS school libraries? Like everything else in our schools, hundreds of books wait for students to return to now empty libraries, but the Elementary School Media Specialists have assembled extraordinary resources online to share with their students, staff and parents, from lively Twitter feeds to ever-increasing numbers of read-aloud videos, virtual field trips and more. 

During a spin through elementary libraries’ webpages, a diverse and innovative learning experience awaits. Dual-language schools, Carrboro Elementary and Frank Porter Graham Bilingüe, feature numerous selections in Spanish, in addition to the English resources. Each elementary school has adapted the CHCCS Virtual Library/Reading Resources document to best suit the needs of its own community, but the baseline learning pages are packed with links and tools like #operationASLStorytime, the podcast Wow in the World and Story Time from Space, with astronauts reading from the space station.

Interactive games and activities cover themes across the subject areas, especially science and social studies: NC360, Access Mars and live cams from Monterey Bay Aquarium and VR Field Trips Around the World.  Then there is the expansive and ongoing celebration of literacy across the grade levels, with links to live book readings and book talks, virtual book groups, and more. 

As the CHCCS Digital Learning and Libraries page notes, “A school librarian wears many hats. They are a teacher, program manager, instructional coach and information specialist.” And never more frequently have school librarians been asked to blend their native territories of literacy and technology, now that our students are learning at home.

You might be surprised to learn just a fraction of the many ways elementary media specialists impact academic and digital learning, as well as social-emotional learning (SEL). For some younger students, their librarian can seem like a true wizard, keeper of all knowledge. 

School Media Specialist at Carrboro Elementary School (CES), Liz Porter, serves as lead of the K-5 group’s Professional Learning Community (PLC). Porter said they have all been busy since schools closed in mid-March. “We’ve been updating our library websites with At-Home Learning resources, and we’d love to direct more families to these sites. We’ve also been creating videos to guide students through accessing digital resources, and as a team, we’ve been creating Library Choice Boards for grades K-1 and 2-5.” Porter said they have also shared the “School Library Journal”’s book publisher information with teachers, in order to model appropriate copyright when sharing read alouds.

Ephesus Elementary School (EES) Media Specialist, Sloane Akos, said, “Along with supporting grade level PLCs (both at the district and school level), we have also individually provided extension activities as well via our virtual sites - and trying to continue the social emotional support. For Ephesus I created virtual librarian padlets with different themes.”

Tracy Bell, Glenwood Elementary School (GES) Media Specialist, has created a blog to keep students and parents informed about new learning resources and events. On the GlenwoodHub Twitter feed, she keeps the learning community informed from Orange County Public Library events to the latest Wonder of the Day through Wonderopolis.  She is also using WeVideo to post stories and sharing poetry using
The CHCCS Libraries as a district group maintains an active and invaluable presence on social media, from the Facebook page CHCCS Reads to Twitter feeds for individual school libraries. (If you haven’t checked these out, no better time than the present!)

Gretchen Westman at Morris Grove Elementary School (MGES) often posts numerous times a day on their library Twitter feed. On May 5, she started the day by sharing her excitement that the first chapter of Wizarding World’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone read-aloud has been posted- “Ms. Westman's heart is full! Chapter 1 is up now, read by Daniel Radcliffe! Watch for the beautiful fan art during his reading. Or listen on Spotify and Spotify Kids for audio only! Enjoy, @MGEGeckos! More chapters to come! #chccslibraries”

Kathryn Cole also maintains a very active Twitter account @NESlibrary for Northside Elementary School (NES). “At Northside, I have been posting one or two ‘Back Porch Stories’ with story extensions on our Northside Library/Tech Remote learning site ,” Cole said. “I also have a group of fourth and fifth graders that I am leading through Grab the Mic: Share Your Story creative writing mini lessons in conjunction with the Library of Congress and author Jason Reynolds during our Flex Friday sessions. Next week, we will add in a Manga+Anime meet up and a Pets and Poetry gathering.” 

One of the more ambitious and wide-ranging digital events is taking place at Frank Porter Graham Bilingue (FPGB) where School Media Specialist, Janet Peterson, has led a weeks long story festival. Peterson said, “FPGB Family Story Festival / Festival Familiar de Cuentos de FPGB is for our students and their families. Teachers and other staff record read-aloud videos in English and Spanish with me in Google Meet. The students can access the stories any time in Google Classroom or on unlisted YouTube videos.”

Peterson said, “Our principal, Karen Galassi-Ferrer and our Instructional Technology Facilitator (ITF), Alex Linares launched the very first one with the very funny favorite read-aloud, The Book With No Pictures.  We have currently recorded six story read-aloud videos in both languages.”

Peterson said the festival is a celebration of reading; a form of language support; and a way of providing additional connection and social-emotional support for students at home, as they see and hear familiar adults from their school reading stories to them. 

Our School Nurse, School Counselor, and Exceptional Children and Support Specialists have all signed up to record a story. Our amazing Music Teacher, Rody Huertas Ostolaza, Cultural Enrichment Teacher Pablo Valencia, and Speech-Language Pathologist, Mariel Arroyo Rivera have even recorded an original bilingual theme song for the story festival!”

Every week Peterson’s team sends home pdf flyers in English and Spanish with links to the read-aloud videos.  “We have received lots of positive responses to the story recordings from our students and their parents,” Peterson said.

Look for an article about the middle and high school Media Specialists in the next Update!

And K-5 parents, please be on the lookout for the Library/Tech Phase 3 Choice Boards. The Media Specialists have worked hard on those, and they're excited to share them with students.