Barbara Shea, Lower School Principal
Walking in the front door of the Main Building, you will see the Lower School Library at the very end of the hallway, and it beckons to all! The library serves as a center of Lower School activity. At all times of the day, there are teachers and students milling about the desk talking about books, special events, lessons, and even software programs. Students are constantly dropping off books and finding the “just right” book for a research project or quiet reading time. And there is much more that happens in the library.
This year, we are happy to welcome Kimberly Love as our Lower School Librarian. Since coming to RCDS in August, Mrs. Love has restructured and organized the library to reflect her own sense of space that is accessible and welcoming to her students. In the last few months, I’ve had the opportunity to see her teach and to talk with her about how she sees her role as the Lower School Librarian. The library is a critical part of the school because of the connections children can make with the use of information that is available in the library…and it is no longer only about books. The library is also a hub for technology use, and this is very apparent in seeing Mrs. Love’s class. However, her number-one priority is to support the grade-level curricula. As she aptly puts it, “It’s about teaching students how to research topics using their background knowledge and context. To do that properly, that means getting to know what is happening at each grade level throughout the year.” First and foremost, Mrs. Love has been developing rapports with teachers and delving into their yearlong plans, be it social studies, language arts, science or art, to name just a few!
But most of all, Mrs. Love feels that the most important aspect in being a librarian involves sharing a story: “drawing students into a story that resonates with me is extremely powerful, and the stories that I particularly enjoy sharing with students focus on folktales and folklore, since many of the stories are thousands of years old and reflect the importance of relationships. A number of these folktales focus on animals as a metaphor, and all students have a connection, an understanding or a passion for animals, which heightens their willingness to absorb the story. These stories also have an application to our own lives by reflecting human nature and cultures. Students walk away from these stories having learned something about themselves as well as others.” In the fourth grade, Mrs. Love shared some Native American folktales, the “Pourquoi” tales. One story explained how the chipmunk got its stripe when a bear scratched the chipmunk for teasing the bear. The discussion that ensued centered on the bear’s vengeful response, and the students were excitedly going back to the story to support their stand in the discussion. Younger children hear stories to experience living “in the moment” of the story. So often, if they love a story, they will want it read and reread to them. With each reading, children gain new insights to the characters, and the story becomes a source of comfort to them. Even as adults, we have those precious books that we enjoy picking up over and over again.
However, the library is a place to create, as well. Mrs. Love has also taught computer science and brings many of her strengths in technology to the library. Finding a few tools with a lot of versatility can change the dynamic of a class. Mrs. Love has introduced a number of digital tools for inspiring creativity. One example is the app “Book Creator,” which lets students become digital storytellers by mapping out a storyline and recording their voices for the folktale. In schools, great emphasis is put on writing, so finding and providing new ways tell a story is a valuable skill. Folktales were orally communicated from one generation to another, so sharing their own stories orally is an opportunity to learn about this genre in a deeper way. They also can illustrate their stories either digitally or by drawing a picture on the iPad.
“Nearpod” is another online/digital tool that encourages student responses in a variety of ways: drawing, typing, and using photos or a combination of any of these. When Mrs. Love asks a question, the students enter their responses on their iPad, and all the responses are then displayed on the SMARTBoard. Everyone has to participate and the students can see their classmates’ responses to the questions! That instant feedback leads to great discussions. Lastly, Mrs. Love has introduced, “Wordfoto” to second graders in their study of Long Island Sound. Students choose a photo of their research animal and then choose five of the most important words to describe either the animal's life or survival. Those words then become a work of art as they are encapsulated in the animals’ photo. The important aspect is the discussion that ensues to find just those five words that are most important in their animals’ description and the impact of each word.
These are just a few of the ways in which Mrs. Love has become an integral member of our school community. The library continues to be a place where innovation and information are interwoven, and we look forward to spending more time getting to know Mrs. Love and all that she brings to RCDS, just as she is learning all about us!