Library at Atrium is all about the joy of books and words, in their many and varied forms. In PreK – Grade 5, library class happens once a week for a 45 minute period and usually begins with the class gathering in our cozy meeting area for read-aloud and discussion. Each class has a different read-aloud going on at any given time. Sometimes the read-aloud is based on a theme (e.g. folk tales, like the tales of Anansi the Spider, mysteries, or short stories); other times a book is chosen simply because it’s one that a particular class might enjoy.
After read-aloud and discussion comes what the children know as “browse time” during which you might find children:
- Looking for books to check out: a book on chimpanzees, book number four of the Deltora Quest Series, a book by Dr. Seuss, or a book for a class research project on river animals.
- Recommending a book to a friend, writing a review, or writing down suggestions for books the library should buy.
- Curling up on the big orange sofa, on the floor with a pillow, on the comfy rocker, alone or with a friend, and reading a book or magazine.
- Sitting at the “listening center,” listening to a recorded book.
- Making a bookmark to add to our library bookmark bin.
- Working on an activity from a book or magazine (such as finding hidden pictures, learning to draw jungle animals, or following a maze to its end).
- Helping to care for the library by taking care of a particular area, shelving books, processing new books, or creating a new display.
Much of the library curriculum is organic and depends on the make-up and interests of a particular group of children. However, certain fundamental things are emphasized every year, and are built on as children get older. Examples include:
- Learning the parts of a book, from “What is a spine?” to “Where is the index and what is it for?”
- Treating books with care, including how and why to use a bookmark, how to turn pages carefully, and how to return books when finished.
- How to use the Library, from how to sign out a book and where to return it, to where different types of books are located and how they are shelved, including an introduction to the Dewey Decimal System.
- Caring for the Library. All children are taught that the library belongs not to the librarian or the school, but to THEM, and children take on increasing levels of responsibility for the library as they get older (e.g. the youngest children learn not to leave books on the floor, and how to correctly place them on a shelf or cart; older children have library jobs and take on responsibilities related to its maintenance). These responsibilities both foster a special connection to the library and help to prepare students for running their own annex library in middle school.
- Special Projects. Often, a class or individuals will take on a special project during the year. This happens intentionally (e.g. a semester long joint library-art project that resulted in the literature-inspired art on the library wall) and organically (e.g. a student creates a special book display on a topic of current interest).
Library and Middle School Students: Atrium's Grade 6–8 Middle School has its own library nook that has been dubbed “The Annex.” A committee of sixth, seventh and eighth graders run The Annex, under the supervision of the school librarian and Middle School teachers. The “student librarians” are responsible for most aspects of running their library space, including shelving and carding books, creating displays, helping to process new books and to decide what new books are needed, and maintaining an informational bulletin board. Sixth graders meet with our librarian for a once a week library session, similar to our PreK - Grade 5 with added independence and responsibilities. Our 7th and 8th graders have the ongoing option to participate in "book club."