Elementary librarians are essential to our students' education! Rescind your decision!

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The Cabell County Board of Education has eliminated all elementary librarian positions beginning with the 2018-2019 school year. In a recent "Cabell Connection" video, Superintendent Saxe stated that one of his goals as the leader of our schools is to "ensure all students are able to read on grade level by the third grade." He also declared, "We must make literacy a top priority." He also quoted a recent national study which found that "students who don't read proficiently by third grade are four times more likely than proficient readers to leave high school without a diploma." One of the best ways to help meet this goal is to utilize the highly qualified library media specialists that we currently have in our elementary schools. 

The elementary age group is such a malleable time period. Being able to encourage children at this age to read and to get excited about reading is such an important job. With librarians gone, classroom teachers will have to add library time to their already-full schedules, and they may not even be able to take their students as consistently as they do now because the teachers will be tasked with yet another responsibility on top of teaching their core curriculum. Additionally, schools will have to rely on volunteers to maintain the library collection. As a librarian who currently serves two elementary schools throughout the week, I struggle to complete all that needs to be done in the limited time I have at each school, so I cannot imagine placing that responsibility on volunteers and classroom teachers.

Additionally, the library media specialists in Cabell County serve a much broader purpose than simply checking books in and out. We have our own set of standards that we follow. During the 30 minutes that I see each class of students throughout the week, I not only allow them time to browse the library collection and check books out, but I also complete a lesson with my students. These lessons range in complexity depending on the age group; however, throughout the school year, we cover many topics, all focused under one of three content objective areas: Information Literacy, Independent Learning, and Social Responsibility. 

Our job is similar to the specialist positions at the elementary level, such as the art or music teacher; however, we supplement all the core subjects that are taught in the classroom: English, Math, Social Studies, and Science. We supplement English by teaching students about print, non-print, and electronic resources available in the library, fictional story elements, and types of literature. We supplement Math and Social Studies through the study of maps, globes, and atlases. This year, I taught my students how to use a compass, legend, and scale, and they worked together to put together directions. This is not only supplementing material being taught in the core classroom, but it is also applicable to life outside of school. 

We also teach the parts of a book such as the index, glossary, table of contents, appendix, and bibliography as well as how to take notes, both of which are of help in all content areas but especially Science and Social Studies. We teach about the bibliographic record and how to write a bibliography, which will give students a considerable step forward for when they enter middle and eventually high school. Lessons on the Dewey Decimal System and the automated library catalog are useful for not only middle and high school but also college and beyond, when students have to find reputable information for research projects. 

Finally, we teach social responsibility, including legal principles and ethical policies and conduct as well as social and ethical issues surrounding the use of information. These skills are so important for students to receive a background in before entering middle school. Students also learn how to work independently on projects as well as how to work effectively and efficiently in a group setting on projects and other work. We also teach the need for privacy of personal information, which is so tremendously important in this digital age, where almost everything is shared online through some type of technology. 

In a time when we are discussing investing in our students' educational experiences and making goals towards improving literacy, we must focus on our students where they begin - in the elementary schools. Taking away access to highly qualified library media specialists is not providing students with a well-rounded quality education, especially when our county has such a need in the area of literacy. Please help us by signing this petition to ask the Cabell County Board of Education to reconsider eliminating all elementary librarians, rescind their decision, and return our librarians for the 2018-2019 school year.

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Lauren Hensley needs your help with “Cabell County Board of Education: Elementary librarians are an integral part of our students' education! We are asking the board to rescind their decision and keep our elementary librarians.”. Join Lauren and 706 supporters today.