Librarians to the Rescue (again)!

Learn five no-cost ways that school librarians can help schools recover from Covid learning loss.

In March, 2020, essentially every school in the U.S. closed–most until the end of the 2020 school year.

When schools “re-opened” in August of 2020. Students were greeted with a vast array of new practices and habits. Some were online only, others in blended learning. If in-person instruction occurred, students were separated from each other and definitely wearing face masks.

We don’t need to delve into the minutiae of how individual schools and school districts delivered learning since March of 2020. We just need to understand how the Covid disruptions have affected achievement.

There have been multiple studies so far indicating the degree of learning loss students have experienced. The broad contours of studies show that for the 2019-20 and the 2020-21 school years, most students will have a 32 to 37% loss in reading achievement and a startling 50 to 63% loss in math.

Perhaps more significant than a loss in learning is the negative mental and social effects on students and staff. These affects are more challenging to quantify and even more difficult to remedy.

Currents studies indicate that up to 80% of K-12 students experienced an increase in negative feelings since March of 2020. The percentage of children who have experienced clinical levels of anxiety and depression has leapt 30% since March of 2020.

Teachers and administrators are working harder than ever to assist students and families recover academically, socially and mentally. As these efforts take place, it’s important to put every asset available to this generational effort.

Enter the school librarian. How can librarians help close achievement gaps and assist with helping students regain confidence and capacity in learning? Let’s count the ways that can be engaged in any school:

Help with Evaluation:
Librarians can assist teachers with evaluating reading proficiency. By being a second set of eyes on each student, a librarian can help identify where students need help, More importantly, a librarian can steer students to reading materials that will increase engagement and give a needed boost to proficiency. The right book can be the just the right solution for many students and the librarian can help.

Thousands of librarians are not only helping with reading evaluations, they are also carrying out reading intervention efforts. Many times, this is happening in small groups.

Still other librarians have stepped in to turn the library into a learning lab for math, science and other subjects. Engaging your librarian in remediation and tutoring can help spread the load and give students a new venue for learning.

Processing What’s Happened:
During this unprecedented time, children and adults have experienced a range of new emotions. Many children are overwhelmed at what has happened and can feel isolated and depressed.

A librarian can identify read-aloud books for classes, read them together and foster high-quality discussions to demonstrate how these emotions are common and that it’s OK to express feelings and ask for help if needed.

Reading has been demonstrated in many studies to increase empathy and help people of all ages process emotions.

When students see that they are not alone and can identify with a characters in a book, their capacity to process emotions in a healthy way is increased. Identifying with others having a similar experience is one of the best ways to decrease anxiety.

Guest Appearances:
Author visits have been a staple of the publishing industry. . . forever. Covid has essentially ended author visits to schools as we knew them. However, this is not all bad. The capacity for authors to visit with a group of students has increased substantially–through Zoom, Face Book Live and other platforms.

Instead of authors hitting the road for weeks at a time, they are doing, more, many more, school visits via Zoom, Facebook Live and other web tools. Reach out to your favorite author(s) visit their websites and ask for a visit, chances are you’ll get a bite and create a memorable experience for your school community. And, nobody has to travel or be put at risk.

You’d be pleasantly surprised to see how simple it can be to arrange an author visit–compared to how it was way back in 2019.

Integrating new technology:
Using new technology has been a hallmark of the Covid world. Librarians generally receive training and are exposed to new technology tools that can assist teachers and families.

It’s as simple as asking the librarian what new tools he or she believes can help solve a challenge at school–chances are the librarian has an answer at the ready.

Recovering academic achievement and social skills is a monumental job that can only be done through a combined effort and everyone has a role to play.

By giving school librarians a central role in efforts to regain learning loss and process the new normal, schools will be more able to develop and execute effective plans to assist students, families and staff.