In addition to their academic classes, our elementary students attend “enrichment” classes that support and broaden the classroom curriculum—art, library, P.E., garden, and theater arts. This week’s focus is our library program.
All our kindergarten through fifth grade classes attend library class once a week, half a class at a time. Mari Pongkhamsing is our librarian and library teacher. She uses a curriculum called the Digital Citizenship Curriculum, which defines digital citizenship as “the responsible use of technology to learn, create, and participate.”
Mari begins library class for second through fifth graders by reading them a story, then teaches a lesson and gives them an assignment related to information literacy, digital citizenship, or literature. The students then have free time to browse for books to check out, do art work, play a weekly guessing game, or choose a workshop activity—building toys, like Legos and Magna-Tiles, or coding toys.
Class for first grade follows the same format but usually doesn’t include an assignment. She reads to kindergarteners and helps them select books to check out.
Building skills. “I want to help foster a love of books and reading by creating a positive experience for students in the library,” Mari says. “I try to find new books to read aloud that I think students will enjoy, and I try to plan assignments that will be fun for them while also helping to build skills like information literacy, digital citizenship, and critical thinking about literature.”
Skills students learn in library class generalize to other subjects and other areas of life, she notes—how to find and evaluate information, reading and reflecting on literature, and developing digital citizenship skills.
Graphic novels. The biggest change in our library since Mari became our librarian last year is an expansion of the graphic novel section for second through fifth graders. “Graphic novels are very popular among elementary-school aged readers,” she says. “Most libraries have graphic novel sections now.”
Graphic novels, she says, “help students develop a range of skills—literacy and visual literacy, understanding a sequence of events, a stronger vocabulary, and independent reading. The visual content helps to improve readers' comprehension and increases empathy for the characters in the book.” Graphic novels are especially helpful with struggling and reluctant readers, visual learners, English language learners, and advanced learners, she adds.
Well qualified. Mari has been a student and a parent and a teacher at The Meher Schools and has worked here on and off since high school. She has a master’s degree in library and information science and a special education credential. She also has an MA in folklore and interned for a summer at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.
Mari’s son, Ollie, graduated from our fifth grade two years ago. Her daughter, Anjali, is in our third grade.