(Courtesy photo)

School libraries provide a place for students to be curious

When I was both a student and teacher at SFUSD, one of my favorite places in school was the library.

When I was both a student and teacher at SFUSD, one of my favorite places in school was the library. The library is a special place for many reasons — it’s a nurturing and inviting space where students experience all things literary, from reading to writing to exploring the world of knowledge. Learning never ends in a library.

To celebrate National School Library Month in April, I want to share a few things that make our public school libraries here in San Francisco a little extra special.

At SFUSD, we don’t go by the book when it comes to libraries. Thanks to the support of San Francisco voters, our libraries are well resourced. Funds from the Public Education Enrichment Fund (PEEF) allow us to have teacher librarians at all SFUSD elementary, K-8, middle and high schools in our district. This is unique for public schools in California. By contrast, in 2004, the year before the enrichment fund began, only 18 percent of our schools had credentialed librarians.

School libraries provide a space where each and every student has the opportunity to be curious and develop their own understandings and perspectives. Libraries allow students to research their personal interests and exchange opinions with peers.

In our school libraries, you will find students engaged in culturally responsive book clubs, comic book arts, 3D printing, origami and building sets, podcasting, and video studios, just to name a few activities. School libraries are open before school, throughout the day, and after school, and families are always welcome to join students in the library.

Our teacher librarians are continually working to develop programs and plan lessons that respond directly to our students’ diverse needs and interests. This past fall, every school librarian in our district conducted student focus groups to capture each school’s unique voice and to help librarians improve their programs based on student feedback.

We are always looking for new ways to foster learning and growth, both for students and teacher librarians. This year, we began collaborating with the Center for Childhood Creativity at the Bay Area Discovery Museum. As part of this collaboration, three librarians from historically underserved schools are receiving support and training in creative programming that speaks to student interests. Ultimately, the goal is to develop a program model that can be replicated at other schools in the coming years.

In case you’re hungry for ideas, I want to suggest a few of my favorite childhood books for your young scholar to check out the next time they go to their school library (which I hope is later today!): Curious George, Caps for Sale and Encyclopedia Brown.

Happy reading!

Vincent Matthews is the superintendent of schools for San Francisco Unified School District. He is a guest columnist.

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