Great library specialists do more than help students find books. They actively encourage them to explore the world of information and make learning fun. This is especially important during elementary school.
To be successful in student engagement, those who work in elementary school libraries must understand how their students learn and find ways to make this learning process as exciting as possible for all.
Skills Learned in Elementary School
All library activities should correspond with an appropriate level of instruction. From kindergarten to fifth grade, each school year emphasizes different subjects, difficulty levels and social skills. K–5 Learning offers an outline of common skills and topics learned in each grade:
- Letter-sound correspondence, phonemic awareness and sight words
- Printing letters
- Counting to 10
- Components of the calendar
- Basics about plants, animals, weather and health habits
- Learning about themselves and their families
- How to read
- Geometric shapes
- Counting by 2, 5 and 10
- Patterns in the natural world, such as the life cycle, the water cycle and weather patterns
- Basic physics, including how things move
- How they relate to their environment
- How to follow rules
- Basic analytical skills
- Using context clues to sound out unfamiliar words
- Self-correction on reading mistakes
- Basic writing skills
- Addition and subtraction, more skip counting
- Basic fractions, money and units of measurement
- Basic science about earth and energy
- Patterns in the natural world
- Neighborhoods, communities and countries
- Understanding the past, present and future
- Chapter books and book reports
- Organizational methods for writing, such as Venn diagrams
- Higher levels of grammatical accuracy
- Adding and subtracting three-digit numbers
- Mental math
- How natural systems relate
- Economic contributors
- Map skills
- Reading to learn, rather than learning to read
- Building vocabulary, including word roots, suffixes and prefixes
- Gathering information to write about research topics
- Writing review and edits
- Factors, multiples, prime numbers, geometry
- Graphs, tables and charts
- Hypotheses and predictions
- Home state focus, including history, government and culture
- Reading to understand writing styles and writing purposes
- Offering perspectives and opinions
- Types of writing including essays, short stories and poems
- Multiplying and dividing fractions
- Real-world mathematical problem solving including time, measurement and money
- Photosynthesis, the digestive system and chemical reactions
- Basic scientific process
Library educators who understand this progression of skills are able to plan activities for their students accordingly.
There are plenty of activity ideas that can help students learn and grow, particularly at elementary school age. The American Library Association offers a few:
Fairy Tales Around the World
Read students different versions of the same fairy tale, such as Cinderella. Have students compare and contrast the versions. Pair it with a craft and play a game associated with the story.
Book Character Party
Have students dress as their favorite book character. Let them pretend to be that character for the day and give a presentation.
Intergenerational Book Group
Host a book group once a year that brings both adults and children together to read the same piece of literature. Then engage in discussion.
Kids’ Choice Book Awards
Have students vote on their favorite books in a variety of categories such as fiction, non-fiction or poetry. Throw a party to celebrate the winners.
Storytime in a Foreign Language
Invite a guest from the community to visit and read stories to students in their native language. Follow this with activities about their heritage and culture.
Invite a community member to teach students how to play chess. Students can then engage in practice challenges and begin to meet on a regular basis to develop their chess playing skills.
Create a scavenger hunt that requires students to visit a variety of areas within the library. They can find visual clues, solve puzzles or retrieve information. Everyone who finishes the scavenger hunt can be entered to win a prize.
Banned Books Week
The American Library Association celebrates this event in September. Decorate the library, have students read banned books appropriate to their age and participate in relevant discussions.
Holiday Book Drive
Ask students to collect books to donate to a local charity and the team that donates the most wins a prize.
Hispanic Heritage Month
Celebrate Hispanic heritage from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15. Create a scavenger hunt featuring Hispanic authors and illustrators. Encourage students to read these materials and answer questions to receive additional prizes.
Teach students about the environment through games and crafts about their carbon footprint, pollution and ways to save the earth.
Gross Me Out: Library Edition
Have a day to celebrate all things gross. Feature books about bugs, squids, mummies, movie special effects and other cringe-worthy but fascinating things. Offer stickers when students find something interesting or invite a professional from the science community to give a gross demonstration.
Although it might seem like an art form, successfully engaging students is a skill that any educator can master. Training to improve your level of instruction is most effective by earning an advanced degree.
Skill Training for Library Education
At East Central University Online, the online Master of Education in Library Media can help you raise your competency as an educator by preparing you to become a school library media specialist. The program is specifically designed for individuals who want to continue working as educators while advancing their careers. Offered fully online, the program’s format allows you to study at a pace that’s right for you and attend class on a flexible, convenient schedule.