Caring Is Essential: School Librarians’ Roles in the Whole Child
Post submitted on behalf of whole child partner American Association of School Librarians by Jami L. Jones, associate professor, Department of Library Science, East Carolina University, Greenville, N.C.
The quintessential role of educators is to provide safe environments for children to flourish emotionally, academically, and physically. As we discuss safety, it is important to consider care—a magic bullet in this conversation.
In its May/June 2012 issue of Knowledge Quest, the American Association of School Librarians (AASL), a division of the American Library Association, weighed in about care, which is so vital to ASCD's Whole Child Initiative. In this issue, aptly titled "Caring Is Essential," Nel Noddings and Sonia Nieto join school librarians to consider the importance of the school librarian's role in creating safe havens. Noddings is well known for her commitment to keeping alive John Dewey's focus on the centrality of care to learning. Nieto writes about the power of care and respect to transform the lives of students and teachers.
In her article "The Transformative Power of Care," Olga M. Nesi, a library coordinator for New York City schools, presents nonnegotiable requirements of the school librarian to show care, respect, and genuine concern for the children, school colleagues, and administrators with whom we interact. According to Nesi, school librarians do this by creating warm, welcoming, and safe library environments even when bureaucratic impediments make this difficult. School librarians model the behaviors, demeanor, and attitudes that we want children to emulate. School librarians engage children in honest discussions about "how difficult deep and meaningful learning is; the landscape of true inquiry is littered with false starts, uncertainty, blind alleys and cognitive dissonance" (p. 13). Some children who cannot successfully climb these steep mountains of learning may drop out of school, which is arguably The United States's greatest educational failure and places children at great risk throughout life. According to research by Hondo, Gardiner, and Sapien (2008), students who drop out often say that if teachers had cared more, they would have stayed in school. This finding is seconded by other researchers, too.
If this post piques your interest about AASL's thoughts on care and the role of the school librarian, some content from the "Caring Is Essential" issue is publicly available. Bloggers have access to my guest editor column, "Caring: A Bridge to a New Era," an interview with former First Lady Laura Bush about the caring power of the Gulf Coast School Library Recover Initiative to help school libraries become fully functional after disaster, a list of suggested books on care, and a caring through comics extended bibliography.
Caring seems like such a simple concept, but it is vital to any discussion about safety.
Hondo, C., Gardiner, M.E., & Sapien, Y. (2008). Latino Dropout in Rural America: Realities and Possibilities. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.