Constructing Knowledge About and With Informational Texts: Implications for Teacher-Librarians Working With Young Children

Whitney Fischer


Filipenko, M. (2004). Constructing Knowledge About and With Informational Texts: Implications for Teacher-Librarians Working With Young Children. School Libraries Worldwide, 10(1/2), 21-36.

This article explores how children learn information literacy skills by analyzing video transcripts of children ages 2 – 5 engaging with informational texts.  The author determined that children can engage with these texts that are often overlooked or deemed too complicated for that age group. The key lies in presenting the information in a context that children are able to reconcile with their world view.  When children are able to understand how a complex issue affects them personally or they can easily grasp the notion of cause and effect, they will approach the literature with enthusiasm.

This article is valuable to teachers and teacher librarians alike because it demonstrates that it is a mistake to think that informational texts may be too complicated for younger readers.  After reading this article, teachers have the know-how to present these texts to students in a manner that is less intimidating by highlighting how the subject relates to them and the world around them.

Designing Effective Library Services for African American Youth

Educational Theory

Angelique Mullen


HUGHES-HASSELL, S. (2013). Designing Effective Library Services for African American Youth. School Library Monthly, 29(6), 11-13. 

Abstract: The article discusses the role of school libraries in helping achieve the goals outlined in U.S. President Barack Obama’s executive order of improving the educational achievement and life outcomes of African American youth. It notes that effective library programs move beyond teaching isolated skills to enable African American youth to see the value of literacy skills in the real world. It cites the virtual library that provides an opportunity for them to cultivate voice and agency.

Evaluation: In 2012, President Obama signed an initiative that attempts to provide more school library services and attention toward African American youth. This article discusses the five elements involved with designing effective library programs and services for African American youth. First, it is very important to have administrators who examine library policies to ensure that they are responsive to the lives of young African Americans. Responsive principals can provide the necessary infrastructure for developing and delivering appropriate library services. Second, it is essential to have competent and culturally sensitive school librarians who interact with African American youth as individuals and not through the lens of culturally deficit human beings. School librarians cannot be half-hearted in their efforts to close the education gap for African American youth. Teachers often see African American students as the problem students, instead of embracing the beauty and challenge of each individual student. 

Next, school librarians need to move beyond the teaching of isolated reading skills to enable African American youth to see the value of literacy in the real world. By setting high expectations for them, and helping them connect literacy to the real world, they can enable African American youth to act in their own communities. Materials need to be relevant and sensitive to African American youth, with books that mirror and reflect their own lives. Too often, library materials are full of white children and have no cultural relevance to African American young people. Finally, library spaces need to be welcoming places for all young people, enabling them to increase and express their literacy.

Teachers’ Leisure Reading Habits and Knowledge of Children’s Books

Engelbrecht, Shannon


Burgess, S. R., Sargent, S., & Smith, M. (2011). Teachers’ Leisure Reading Habits and Knowledge of Children’s Books: Do They Relate to the Teaching Practices of Elementary School Teachers?. Reading Improvement, 48(2), 88-102. Retrieved on March 9, 2014,

Summary: Do our personal reading habits affect our use of best practice literacy instruction with students? Research is showing a clear “yes.”

Evaluation: While previous research has shown that teacher personal reading habits influenced best practice in the classroom, this research focused on personal reading and knowledge of children’s literature. They found a clear correlation between knowledge of children’s literature and best practice. They hypothesize that the personal reading habits involve not only more time spent reading, but also more time spent familiarizing themselves with the books their students will most likely enjoy. Also, they found that teachers who experience a daily love of reading are more likely to be more effective and positive in their literacy instruction.

Toward a more anatomically complete model of literacy instruction

Engelbrecht, Shannon


Tatum, A. W. (2008). Toward a more anatomically complete model of literacy instruction: A focus on African American male adolescents and texts. Harvard Educational Review, 78(1), 155-180. Retrieved march 9, 2014,

Summary: Dr. Tatum argues that instructional theory and practice can help young men of color respond to their immediate contexts and professional development prepares teachers to deliver this instruction to all students.

Evaluation: Dr. Tatum research focuses on African-American male adolescents because these young men are the most underserved population in US education today. He points out that his research can be leveraged to improve literacy programs for any population in need. He focuses on three strands that need to be addressed to improve literacy achievement:

  • Theoretical strands: defining the role of literacy instruction for adolescents in their present-day contexts, creating curriculum orientations that empower them, and using a culturally responsive approach to literacy teaching. 
  • Instructional strands: research-based reading practices. 
  • Professional development strands: focus on in-school teacher professional development and teacher preparation.
(Bullet points are paraphrased from the article.)

Helping Struggling Readers: Reading for Their Life

Engelbrecht, Shannon


Heinemann Publishing. (2010, March 10). Helping Struggling Readers: Reading for Their Life. Retrieved March 9, 2014, from

This is a video introduction to Dr. Alfred W. Tatum’s work with disengaged readers, especially African-American boys and young men.

Dr. Tatum is an excellent resource for learning about making curriculum and instruction relevant and engaging for adolescent students. At a time when literacy resources are focused on early primary grades, his focus is on middle and high school students. He makes several good points in this short less than three minute video, such as “[i]t is not simply about students’ literacy development, it is about students’ lives.”

Becoming the Reading Mentors Our Adolescents Deserve: Developing a Successful Sustained Silent Reading Program

By Valerie Lee

 ET-Changing Reading Practices
ET- Differentiation

The main focus of the article was to discuss a study that was conducted on the impact of silent sustained reading on the attitudes and reading practices of a group of high school students. The research was conducted using qualitative method of informal observations, student conferences, and journaling.  The author of the article was the teacher who conducted the study. The article also examines the implications of her findings. Her findings show that there is a proper way to run a SSR program. She gives examples of the best practices to use for a successful SSR. The article also shows that students read more and have a better attitude if they are allowed to choose their own reading material. The author describes SSR and self-selecting as the two most important factors in improving student reading skills and enjoyment. Lee states, “Reading engagement increases when students are given opportunities to choose reading materials” (Lee, 2001).


Lee, V. (2011). Becoming the reading mentors our adolescents deserve: Developing a successful sustained silent reading program. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy. 55(3), 209-218   doi: 10.1002/JAAL.00026


I chose this article because I am interested in learning if SSR and self selection can improve students’ reading skills and behavior toward reading. I liked that this article was written by a teacher who conducted her own research with her classroom. She discovered that SSR did improve her students’ behavior and she was willing to change her instructional method to the benefit of her students.

Reading incentive programs

Greene, Shannon


“Accelerated Reader: Once again, evidence lacking“, American Library Association, November 14, 2007. (Accessed October 30, 2013)

Stephen Krashen, famous to me through his theory of affective filters,  has made another argument against the use of reading incentive programs for encouraging children to read. Although he acknowledges there can be short term gains, in this, and his earlier article from 2005, “Accelerated Reader: Evidence Still Lacking”, he claims that the advantages of children spending more time reading and more access to books are good things, however there is not yet any proof that expensive software programs to test comprehension and/or prizes for reading are producing any tangible effects and instead, may be harmful in the long run.

This article interests me because with the roll out of Common Core, discussions of reading programs are occurring throughout our school district at all levels.

Reveles, Jana

ET-Changing Reading Practices

Morgan, D.H. & Wagner, C.W. (2013). “What’s the catch?”: providing reading choice in a high school classroom. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy. 56(8), 659-667. DOI: 10.1002/JAAL.193



The article, What’s the Catch, was written by Denise Morgan, a university researcher, and Chris Wagner, a high school language arts teacher. In this article, the authors discuss a research project that investigated if giving students a chance to self-select their reading material would improve their reading engagement. The investigation was only implemented for three weeks. However, the teacher saw an improvement in the attitudes of the students toward reading long after the investigation was over.

The first part of the article examined other research that has been conducted on students having a choice in their reading materials. The research shows that student choice improves student engagement and can also raise state test scores.

The article goes on to describe how the teacher implemented the change in his classroom instruction. One of the changes was to have conferences each week with his students. Wagner noted that one of the side benefits to having these conferences was getting to know his students better. Wagner noted that having students read books at their level was a great way to differentiate his reading instruction. The article also gives samples of students’ comments from their reading journals.



            This article supports the theory that students will be motivated to read if they are given a choice in their reading materials. The various references throughout the article help to validate this theory. Although the investigation was short, it brought up several positive reasons why students should be allowed to self-select. The article gives teachers and teacher librarians some basic ideas and instructions on how to begin this type of reading program in their schools. It is easy to read and offers other resources to explore. One of those resources is a video by Penny Kittle on the importance of student choices in their reading material.