What to look for in your child's school library

What can a parent of a kindergartener to a third-grader learn about a school from a visit to its library? Keep in mind, first, that the choice of books can allow children to reach that desirable attainment not found often enough today - a real love of reading. The school's library can do much to support learning and enrich the reading program in the early grades.

Secondly, one should recognize that school libraries vary from modest operations run by parent volunteers working out of former supply closets to sophisticated library/media resource rooms. Schools are sometimes designed around such resource rooms.

The staff may be entirely volunteer, or it may include a library aide trained on the job, a qualified media specialist, or a professional children's librarian

No matter how modest or grand the facility, here are a few criteria for evaluating a library program:

* The atmosphere should be one of openness and accessibility, promoting the enjoyment of books and other printed material.

* The collection should be large enough so that each child can check out a book on every visit.

* The reading level of the books should range from material appropriate for children just getting ready to read, to items that can stimulate older children. Accordingly, there should be sections of picture books, easy readers, and books with increasingly larger and more difficult vocabularies.

* Both fiction and nonfiction should be available.

* The school should have a regular schedule and overall plan for taking children to the library and encouraging the development of library skills.

Annette Sherry, a media specialist, divides her time between the East School and Plymouth River School in Hingham, Mass. She suggests that parents can check over a library collection rather quickly by looking at the author's names. Some of the names she recommends one look for are:

Marjorie Sharmatt, Arnold Lobel, Louis Flobodkin, Dr. Seuss, Gene Zion, Elsie Minarik, Maurice Sendak, Russell Hoban, Marc Brown, Sid Hoff, Beverly Cleary, Gertrude Chandler Warner, and Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Library programs often begin with the kindergarteners going to ldren move up in the grades, the library program should become more comprehensive, building toward self-sufficiency in a library.

It's unlikely that parents would choose a school based solely on what they see in the library. But interesting observations can be made there concerning the school's learning environment.

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