By Gary Pankiewicz, Kate Nafz, and Elizabeth Portelli
There’s a natural inclination for partnership between public librarians and school district literacy educators–especially when the focus is lifelong reading motivation for our students. Several years ago, the Fair Lawn School District and the Maurice M. Pine Fair Lawn Public Library in New Jersey met to join forces to support our students in a summer reading initiative. Our shared work continues to grow. As a result, readership is up. Here are some easy-to-replicate collaborations to explore in your learning community.
Kindergarten and Grade 4 Library Field Trips
Kindergarten students in Fair Lawn take a field trip to the Children’s Room in the public library for a library introduction, while Grade 4 students return for library instruction on library skills and participate in a scavenger hunt. With two formalized trips facilitated by the Children’s Librarian built into our students’ literacy program, we insure that all of our students have public library cards and are aware of the services. Fair Lawn has one of the highest library card ratios in the county.
District-Created Posters on Display in the Library
Navigating student reading levels in the public library is oftentimes a challenge. Frankie Di Mitri, a district art teacher, created a poster in collaboration with district literacy coaches that is on display in the Children’s Room. It helps to clarify the intention of using school reading levels as a tool without discouraging our students from aspiring to read the public library books they desire.
The Young Adult Librarian visits middle school classrooms. These visits include interactive presentations with trivia and prizes–highlighting public library resources. The high participation rate in the lessons corresponds to increased adolescent library visits and use of library services. Most recently, one of our middle school libraries is under construction, so public library support services have been pivotal. Lastly, there are plans in the works for some public librarian-driven minilessons to our students–so they are aware of how they could use their computers to access free eMaterials. This supports a district goal to enhance student information literacy.
By giving students the opportunity to choose their summer reading books, libraries become invaluable due to the volume of options and expert librarian guidance. The school district literacy team and several public librarians schedule a meeting each May to review the district expectations and to integrate library resources into the summer reading letters that are shared with students and parents. In this case, the district also has an opportunity to highlight the public library’s summer programming at all levels.
The Friends of the Fair Lawn Library, a civic organization that runs through the library, facilitates reader-friendly contests at each level: an elementary bookmark decorating contest, a middle school blog contest, and high school scholarships. These programs show our shared love of reading and provide prizes such as digital reading devices and great books.
Various Galleries of Student Work
The school displays art work and student learning outcomes. This provides a greater audience for our students’ work and brings families to the library where they can take out materials.
Expert Advice and Collaboration on library book orders
New this year, we are joining forces to collaborate on book weeding, displays, and new orders. As a specific example, the school district finds that students are reading at higher reading levels in lower and lower grade levels. In this case, the children’s librarian is helping the school district locate books with higher reading levels with more age-appropriate themes for younger readers.
Again, reading is up! We are proud of our school district and public library partnership in Fair Lawn, NJ.
- Gary Pankiewicz is the K-12 Language Arts and Literacy Supervisor in the Fair Lawn, New Jersey, School District. He recently earned his Ph.D. at Montclair State University, where he also works as an adjunct professor in the Literacy Education and Writing Studies Departments. Twitter: @gpankiewicz
- Kate Nafz earned her MLS degree from SUNY Albany and has been head of Children’s Services at the Fair Lawn Library for twenty-five years. Follow her blog KateOnKidsBooks for reviews on new elementary and middle school books.
- Elizabeth Portelli is a Reference and Young Adult Librarian at the Maurice M. Pine Free Public Library in Fair Lawn, NJ. Her blog can be found at https://lizlovesabook.wordpress.com/.