By Peg Glisson
While it's true that the CCSS raised expectations regarding reading and ELA has meant public and school librarians need to rid collections of their "dead wood," it doesn't mean the books in your library are worthless. Of course they aren't! It does mean thinking differently about your collection and your recommendations to your teachers, students, and patrons. It means thinking broadly when Readers' Advisory or school assignments come up. It means really knowing your collection so you can name alternatives to exemplar texts, whether they are those recommended by CCSS, by your school district, or individual teachers. It means knowing your collection so you can name titles to make a topic integrated through at least several parts of the curriculum. It means thinking of content, grade level, reading level, past learning, connections, literary form.
You know there is treasure in them thar stacks-but how do you find it? How do you make the leap from a simple (albeit broad) waste and pollution request to materials that will help teacher have a differentiated, connected unit? Or that will help an individual student fulfill the requirements of an assignment? Do you always have to start from scratch?
Of course not. Take advantage of some "systems" you already have in place, like tracking titles for pathfinders, topical book lists, or workshops. Maybe you use a spreadsheet, good old index cards, online bookmarks (on your desktop/laptop or via a service like Delicious), Pinterest, or Learnist. It doesn't matter; just have some way of keeping track. These records can go back years and are geared toward your collection.
Refine them by culling whatever professional journals you normally use for new ideas on connections, staircasing, etc. Refer to books available in whatever Professional Collections are available to you-building or system, Teacher Centers, local colleges or universities. They can be a goldmine of ideas. There are lots of new professional materials being written on Common Core; look for them in the journals or online. Use CLCD to help you troll the water for professional books to help you understand the guidelines and facilitate your readers' advisory, seeking the ones that can best serve you. For example, on the CLCD homepage, type in 'reading nonfiction'
in Search Specific Fields, click on 'Subject Headings'
in Special Search Qualifiers, then click 'Professional Only'
and finally in Additional Search Qualifiers (on the right) limit Pub Date to read 2005 to 2020
Up come 307 results, which can be sorted by date to see what's most recent. Clicking on Nonfiction only, also under Additional Search Qualifiers, limits the list even further.
Ah-h, but you might be thinking, "What I really need is help finding books to use with the students." Exemplars aren't given for every curriculum topic; and some that are may not be appropriate for your purposes, whether it is because of the grade level of the class, the content, or level of difficulty. CLCD can certainly help with that! Let's stick with the Waste and Pollution example, imagining a fifth grade class. The teacher is looking for both at level and challenging texts to use with her class and hopes to integrate language arts, math, and social studies into this science unit. Knowing a book titled Waste and Pollution, I tried "waste pollution" as a title search, limiting my search to ages 9 to 12, which yielded three results. Nowhere near enough! Rethinking my strategy, I tried waste as a subject, keeping my 9 to 12 age range, which gave 164 results. Trying to be sure I was aiming for the right level, I added the Additional Search Qualifier Grade 5, which narrowed my list to 137 results. Adding the qualifier PubDate 2000 - 2020 brought the results down to 86 titles. Adding a Nonfiction qualifier, led to 76 results. I then decided to see what adding a Lexile Range would do, so I removed the Nonfiction Qualifier and added a Lexile Range of 700 to 1010, generating a list of 18 titles.
Similar searches could be done using subjects Pollution and Ecology or keywords such as trash. For my trash search, I kept all the previous qualifiers, then added the Special Search Qualifier Award Winners Only from the drop-down menu there. That list alone gave several chapter books that would be good for differentiating within a literature reading circle, while also yielding nonfiction books to staircase with a reader or group of readers, to read as poetry, to facilitate math exploration of the problem (whether through measurement, graphing, or building)! Keep in mind the Standards as you make your recommendations and reference them as you suggest particular books. You don't have to say much-just including little phrases like these would let teachers or parents understand you know where-of you speak: Explain major differences between poems, drama, and pros; the structural elements; support main idea, integrate information from two texts on the same topic in order to write or speak knowledgeably; interpret information presented visually, orally, and explain how the information contributes to an understanding of the text in which it appears.
The same sort of thinking could be used when asked for an exemplar text to be used, particularly when the book previously used doesn't fit CCSS criteria. This could be your chance to have the teacher use a quality nonfiction book as a read aloud, literature circle book, or class read. CLCD is there to help you uncover the rich veins running through those books on your shelves! Ask what he or she liked about the previously used book and once again, think connections, themes as you search for replacement suggestions. Who knows? Your recommendation may hit the mother lode and satisfy the teacher beyond belief! Steward Udall said, "Mining is a search-and-destroy mission." In libraries, that certainly isn't true when mining for those perfect books!
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