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Librarian Builds Community of Readers
Linda Mah
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Librarian Builds Community of Readers

Maple Street's Laura Warren-Gross Wins State Award

Maple Street Magnet School for the Arts librarian Laura Warren-Gross recently was awarded the School Librarian/ Teacher Collaboration Award from the Michigan Association for Media in Education.

The award recognizes exemplary collaboration between school librarians and teachers in implementing effective instruction. She was nominated by Patsy Richardson, Kalamazoo Public Schools acquisitions and cataloging librarian, for her work with Maple Street sixth-grade English teacher Stephanie Hampton.

The award recognizes a collaboration to create a curriculum-related program or event that incorporates the school library resources, the research process, reading advocacy, literacy support and technology integration.

Richardson nominated Warren-Gross for her yearlong work with Hampton to help a class of struggling and resistant-to-reading group of students. The goal of their efforts was to make reading positive, to help the students find material they wanted to read, to increase the students’ reading stamina, and, ultimately, to improve their literacy.

Warren-Gross noted that some students were struggling with their library visits.

“I noticed that the students had very little direction and seemed to be struggling to make any decisions at all,” she wrote in her library blog, librariesinthemiddle.blogspot. com. “Then, after they had books in their hands, most were reluctant to settle in and read.”

Warren-Gross and Hampton borrowed ideas from Donalyn Miller’s book “The Book Whisperer” to create a program for the Maple students.

They changed the class library visits from every other week to every week, which provided more consistent time for students to explore books. The change emphasized the importance of reading.

Next, they surveyed students to get to know them better, to help tailor activities for them, and to create recommended reading lists. Knowing what students wanted to read was key to helping Warren-Gross and Hampton achieve another of their goals: increasing student reading stamina, which is key to students doing well on tests. Have texts that engaged the students helped as the adults pushed them to read for longer periods of time.

At first students balked at the extended reading periods, but Hampton and Warren-Gross countered with enthusiasm.

“Yes, you’re right! This is going to be hard at first! But we know you can do it,” Warren-Gross told the students. By the end of November students who had earlier been restless after a few minutes, were able to focus for almost 25 minutes of sustained reading.

Students also sketched the covers of their books and used cameras and microphones to record their reactions to the books and to share their reading with classmates.

Later in the year the two instructors also used the expanded library sessions to acclimate the students to the new Chromebooks that would be used for standardized testing, and they introduced them to Google Apps for Education, which would be used for writing assignments.

“It was fun to listen to the students compliment one another on their sketches and comment that they were interested in one another’s books,” Warren-Gross said. “We are building a community of readers with this group.”
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