Watson Chronicle

WATSON COLLEGE OF EDUCATION

Support for Educators in the Field

Graduate Students Conduct Research on Elementary School Classroom Libraries

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Read to Achieve program, enacted into law by the North Carolina General Assembly as part of the Excellent Public Schools Act, is designed to improve literacy for students in kindergarten through third grade.

This fall, Marissa Preston and Emily Rodriguez, graduate students in the Language and Literacy Program, worked with Kathy Fox, associate professor in the Department of Early Childhood, Elementary, Middle, Literacy and Special Education (EEMLS) to study the accessibility of culturally relevant children’s literature in a Title 1 elementary school in New Hanover County. Their research involved informal discussions with teachers and students about classroom library use, a teacher survey and an inventory of books available in the library and six randomly selected classrooms.

Forty-seven teachers participated in the survey. Unsurprisingly, teachers say classroom libraries provide easy access to books and the quality of books available directly influence student interest and literature choice, but many gaps were found in the variety of books available to children. The research revealed a need for more basic reading material, more non-fiction, more culturally relevant literature and new books to replace chapter books that are outdated and falling apart.

Another finding of the study was a wide discrepancy in both quality and quantity of books found in some classrooms versus others. This is most likely due to a lack of funding. Teachers are responsible for building their own classroom libraries, and many rely on second-hand bookstores, yard sales and teacher giveaways to do so. All are unreliable sources of quality children’s literature, particularly current literature that reflects the social and cultural makeup of the classroom.

A $1,500 grant from the dean’s office secured by Fox funded the research. Funds went to the school librarian to purchase children’s literature, and a small stipend was provided to each of the six participating classroom teachers to purchase books for their classroom libraries. During a second phase of study Preston, Rodriguez and Fox will work with the media director, teachers and administrators to explore opportunities such as grant funding to provide additional teacher support in building classroom libraries.

A poster showcasing the initial phase of research was on exhibit at the recent 2013 Fall Student Research and Creativity Showcase in Randall Library. For information contact Kathy Fox at foxk@uncw.edu.