Tara Holmen's first graders explore the book fair in the Kingsland Elementary School library this past Monday.  The book fair will generate funds for the district to purchase new books for the library.   GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE
Tara Holmen's first graders explore the book fair in the Kingsland Elementary School library this past Monday. The book fair will generate funds for the district to purchase new books for the library. GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE
Kingsland students are booking it over 20,000.

"We checked out over 20,000 books for kindergarten through 12th grade last year. Kingsland students love to read, and their teachers know that choosing to read builds many, many skills and increases their ability to succeed in their classes and on standardized tests," said Kingsland's media specialist, Laura Gudmundson, sharing how important library access to books is to the students of the Kingsland realm, even though most students have iPads on which to do a growing share of their school work.

Elementary students in kindergarten through sixth come to the library once a week with their class and other times if they want a new book. Most middle school classes also visit once a week, but can also check out before or after school and during lunch; at the middle school, the teachers have to bring their classes and do checkout, because the library is unstaffed most of the day. High school students come in with classes and individually on an open schedule. College in the Schools (CIS) and independent study students also use the library regularly, said Gudmundson.

At the library, elementary students enjoy sitting in the Reading Room, a space created to give classes a place to "listen to stories aloud without disturbing all the high school students working on the other side," she said. "Kindergarten through third students listen to fiction and nonfiction books as part of their visit. We have a set of shelves that marks the end of the elementary section, but elementary students can see high school students reading and studying, and they are great role models. The high school students can still work despite the chatter of the elementary, though some wave to younger siblings or neighbors."

Gudmundson related that the books that students hear while in the Reading Room are chosen for both their educational and entertainment value. "The titles introduced to these students in the library supports the state language arts standards. They hear both fiction and nonfiction and get to explore different genres, hear award-winning authors and see award-winning illustrations. This is additionally supported by the work they do in the computer lab where they learn more about authors, illustrators, and more, and each elementary student is encouraged to choose two books each time they come to the library. They are to choose one title at their reading level to work on reading skills and the other book can be any title that interests them."

She noted that middle school students typically check out fewer books than elementary students, but that the staff at the middle school works hard to continue providing them library access.

"Fourth grade is a time when reading for pleasure traditionally wanes a bit for some students. School work gets harder, and there is less time," she explained. "It is wonderful that the classroom teachers in the middle school have taken on the task of making sure that students still get the chance to go to the library despite it being staffed only a few minutes a day. They have learned to do check out and set up their times to get their students in and ensure they are getting the books they want."

Gudmundson addressed an emerging controversy about whether print books or books available digitally are better for reading enjoyment. "There is quite a bit of research coming out that is studying the differences between reading print and online materials. Most studies seem to agree that they are different skills and both skills need to be taught. I've seen studies that show, for example, that the more hyperlinks there are in a text, the more comprehension declines. I have also seen studies that show positive influences from ebooks. There is also concern about screen time, which is still being researched. There were new recommendations regarding screen time released just last week. It is something many teachers are following carefully.

"To quote award-winning author Neil Gaiman, 'I worry that here in the 21st century, people misunderstand what libraries are and the purpose of them. If you perceive a library as a shelf of books, it may seem antiquated or outdated in a world in which most, but not all, books in print exist digitally. But that is to miss the point fundamentally. Libraries are places that people go to for information and guidance and to feed their imaginations'."

She pointed out, "Our number one goal as a district is academic excellence. Choosing to read and being excited about your choices is an important first step. To see students ask to get on a waiting list for a book they heard in the library or with their teacher because they enjoyed it so much or to ask for recommendations for a book 'just like' the one they just finished because it was so good is very satisfying. Kids who read often and widely get better at it. It exercises their brains, improves their concentration and opens them up to the world around them. It improves their vocabulary and their imagination, and it is a wonderful form of entertainment. The library is an important place for both books and electronic materials, but it is more important for the guidance, recommendations and encouragement provided in support of our district's goals."