Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Finding Fiction

Where does a student find a good fiction book to read these days? It could be any number of places: the family bookshelves, borrowed from a classmate, the public library, a yard sale, the classroom, uploaded to a Kindle or iPad, in audio format... and of course the school library!

One of the most important goals of a school library program is to highlight for students good strategies for finding the materials they want. So, just how is the library organized? Indeed there is a system even though at times the library may look a little chaotic! In second grade students make maps of the library and up through the grades they learn more detail about its organization. Once a student learns where various sections of the library are located (picture books, early readers, nonfiction, reference, fiction, etc.), how do they find a particular book within a section? Well, sometimes by topic and sometimes by author, and the catalog's call number is the important key to location. This process is both digital (finding material on the electronic catalog) and analog (writing down the call number, going to the bookshelf and actually following the call numbers along the shelf until the desired book is found).

In this instant-online age, patience becomes a virtue when an actual reader seeks a physical book: first look up the topic, title or author on the catalog, make a note of the call number, and then find it on the shelf! It is a skill that needs teaching again and again, a skill that needs encouragement and support all along the way. It may take a few minutes to locate the right book but boy is it worth it. A reader can hold the physical book, read the physical book, relish the typeface and fabric of the paper, turn the pages back and forth with ease, use a favorite bookmark from Grandpa to mark one's place, leave it comfortably on the couch or bedside table to return to the next night. Hooray. Thank goodness.

No modern librarian could possibly be opposed to books in any form, and most probably own a Kindle or other electronic device for reading. But the loyalty to the analog process of locating books on library shelves and to reading a book with no bells and whistles runs strong and is unlikely to diminish. Just ask a librarian you know!

Lane Smith's delightful new picture book It's a Book says it all. Check it out. Read it through; it ends with Smith's slightly provocative humor!