Partner with Schools During the Pandemic


How does a library continue to give outreach to their schools with many schools starting the 2020-2021 school year off distance learning? There are a variety of ways to partner with your school without physically entering the buildings.


Start where you are is my philosophy. You can expand from there. One approach is to target a specific grade to partner with and then grow the library's reach from there.


Align with the school's curriculum. Does your school use Accelerated Reader? If so, find out what their AR book list is. The easiest way is if the school has an AR link on their website, make it more accessible to parents and students by adding it to your website. Reach out to the school principal or librarian for the list.


Is your student population feeling virtual fatigue? Some parents and students prefer a printed copy. If your library is open to the public, having a printed list of Accelerated Reader books is helpful. It's even more useful if you highlight the titles that are in your collection.


Assess your children's collection through the lens of diversity, inclusion, and social justice. Teachers and paraprofessionals often turn to libraries for materials. Make sure you are providing the best materials possible. Many fiction and non-fiction picture books have outdated depictions, especially holiday collections. Two excellent resources are We Need Diverse Books and Diverse Families Bookshelf. Collection development can seem daunting, but again, take baby steps... your holiday-related books are an excellent place to start. Assess your books and either replace or supplement your offerings.


Curate lists of materials in your collection that align with your school's curriculum. Remember, you can start small. Start with known school reports and projects like the fifty states, animals, insects, etc.


Expand on your curated book lists. Make grade-appropriate book bundles based on school projects. Don't forget to advertise them to your school and homeschooling community.


Offer high-demand student titles in multiple formats or copies. I know, shelf space and book budgets are limited. Middle and high schools usually have books that the entire grade reads. I've spent time in middle school classrooms and can say that classroom copies of required reading titles are in rough shape after being handled by multiple students. Having extra copies of required reading titles is an easy way to support schools.


Brain research shows that listening to an audiobook and reading a print book utilizes the brain's same areas. Dyslexic readers can change the font in eBooks to make it easier to read. A reluctant reader may need to read the graphic novel, eBook, or listen to an audio version while reading the traditional print form in class. Auditory learners will comprehend more from listening to a book even while following along with the text. By offering multiple formats of required reading titles, libraries will support these students.


Furthermore, make sure that the school knows that extra copies and types of reading materials are available. It can be as easy as sending out an email to all ELA teachers in a particular grade. Teachers will be grateful and open the lines of communication between your library and the school. Invite the teachers to make more title suggestions that will supplement their curriculum.


Offer virtual classroom visits. Pre-pandemic, libraries often do classroom visits or library field trips. Offer virtual class visits and field trips. It can be as simple as reusing virtual material created this summer. Did you record virtual stories on YouTube during the summer? Could you share them with your elementary teachers? Did you record a library tour? Please share it with your schools.


Create reading challenges for minutes or the number of books read for school. Many libraries ran their summer reading programs virtually on reading tracking platforms like Beanstack, Readsquared, and Wandoo Reader. Break the school year up into Fall, Winter, and Spring challenges that supplement students in-school learning. Often students have to read for homework. Find out what their reading goals are. Help them track it!


If your school is providing printed materials to their students, provide the school with printed copies. Contact your school's offices to request that they share your reading challenge with students through email. If you provide materials through email, make sure that it in a printable format and visually appealing in black and white.


Partnering with schools during the pandemic requires creative thinking, but doesn't require reinventing the wheel. First, start by continuing any partnership that you already have. Expand your in-school presence through small steps. First, align with the curriculum. Then, curate materials list tailored to known school projects. Offer multiple copies and formats of required reading items. Give virtual classroom visits or library 'field trips' and create reading challenges. Finally, continue to reach out to both teachers and administration. The more that you show that the library wants to support the school's mission and objectives, the more likely you will get return engagement.


Want to know more about how I built a strong library-school partnership? Contact me at beth@libraryunicorn.net. Do you have strategies that worked for you? Please share them in the comments.


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