Learning about raising readers at Oropi School

School Librarian Jan Pendergrast with her certificates from her National Library online professional development courses

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Read how Services to Schools' 'Raising readers' online course helped Jan Pendergrast support reading in her school library and develop her professional practice as a school librarian.

Introducing Jan

Jan works at Oropi School in the Bay of Plenty, which has about 300 students from years 0 to 8.

We asked Jan to give us her perspective on the course, and to share how this form of professional development worked for her. Here’s what she had to say…

Why did I do this course?

Because I wanted to be a better librarian!

I wanted to upskill my librarianship, and also check that I was on the right track. I was interested in seeing:

  • where I sat
  • where I could move to, and
  • how I could make a little ripple in the place.

I knew I would get lots of new ideas, but I found I also really appreciated getting some affirmation and encouragement about the things I was doing right. I had various ideas around increasing collaboration between the library and teachers and making the most of the library’s collection to engage students with reading for pleasure.

Being in a rural area, I wanted to ensure that the school library is a convenient local resource for families in our community, so the course content gelled with things I’d been considering.

Focused and flexible learning

One aspect that appealed was the short time frame of 5 weeks rather than a semester or year. It was long enough to get stuck into something, short enough to make specific goals.

Face-to-face courses are difficult for me, being in the country, where I’d spend as much time travelling as I would studying! The day-to-day flexibility was also important, being able to come online during the week at a time that fitted in around other commitments.

Sharing great ideas

Along with the course content, which was excellent, I really enjoyed all the ideas that came up 'along the way', shared by the facilitator and the rest of the participants. I loved hearing what other people were doing and things I hadn’t come across before. Every week, I had something new to consider.

Experience of online learning

I enrolled in 3 National Library courses in 2017, and 2 of them overlapped by a few weeks so I needed to manage my time well to cope with that workload!

Though each course had a different focus, they followed the same format so I became comfortable finding my way around online. There were also links between the content from course to course. For example, one course was about collection development and another one about creating readers, so there were clear alignments there.

Connections at a distance

The forums where we posted each week made me accountable. I had to 'show my face' not just 'lurk in the shadows'! When I shared a question or suggestion, I got so much useful content back and from reading other participants’ posts too. Each reply would open up new links, resources, or possibilities.

With online courses, even though you are remote in some ways, you don’t feel like you're on your own with it all. Connecting with participants from a variety of schools and from all around the country was rewarding, and the facilitators are such friendly guides and always there to provide encouragement and support.

Impact of the course

Through the impetus of the Raising readers course, we’ve increased our family and community connections. We've:

  • started after-school opening hours for families during term time so they can choose books for home
  • got the library online, and
  • got a flourishing holiday reading programme, ZAP into Summer Reading.

We’re creating stronger library connections with teachers, the literacy team, and the Board of Trustees. Most importantly, we’re seeing reading mileage and enthusiasm growing all the time.

I suppose you could say I’ve 'upped my child-centred focus'. Everything I do is about helping the children make the most of what the library offers.

Further professional development

The National Library courses gave me a strategic focus for what I do in the library and helped me identify priorities. They encouraged me to follow through on ideas and gave me lots of new ideas, which I’m still working through.

When I’m ready for another 'shot in the arm', I’ll look for further online courses, no question.

Considering doing an online course? Go for it!

My advice for anyone considering an online course like this is 'Absolutely! Go for it!'. You’ll discover new ideas, confirm or change some existing ideas, and you'll be exposed to some 'out of the box' thinking.

Raising readers and the other National Library courses increased my confidence in talking to staff and parents about the crucial role of the library in children’s reading for pleasure and learning.

The library is my happy place...

...and I want it to be the same for all of my school community!

Professional learning and support

Reading for pleasure — a door to success