Wednesday, 9 October 2013

CMLs as an Educational Resource

This post explains another of my PhD Theories. I named it the theory of Resource, or Specialist Resource and it goes like this: "The highly specialist nature of its collections makes a CML a reliable source of literature and information." Well, obvious really. I expressed it slightly better in a previous wording of the theory "A children's mobile library is a source of expertise that is drawn upon by children's educators and carers to enhance their own skills and knowledge". Basically, a CML is an educational resource. I sorted the types of resource into three piles, Goods- the stock items of the CML, Human Resource- the CML operators and the Educational Environment- the general atmosphere found in a CML. Today I will deal with the goods, the physical items that individuals can borrow.

Firstly, the sort of things that I found inside CMLs were children's books, audio books on CDs, video tapes of children's films, book packs that included toys, and books for adults about childcare and teaching children. The items were chosen in different ways in the various library authorities, commonly by a middle manager or stock control team who may or may not consult the CML operators about which titles or genre to choose. I have already said a lot about that in my post on best practice. It may not surprise you that vehicles where the operators could influence what was on board had the most appropriate stock for their customers. Overall I found a wide variety of of book genre, style, subject and ability level, from board books to history books or  graphic novels to poetry, which meant that a child could find something relevant to their ability and personal taste.

I was surprised by the number of times that children told me that the thing that they likes best about the CML they visited, was the books. They said that they could find "the books that I like", which could be the latest range of Flower Fairy novels or books about trains. Meeting the diversity of children's needs is a way of getting them motivated to read, and offering them a large quantity to chose from means that they do not get bored with the selection. Interest increases motivation. I also found it really surprising that a CML can be the means of a vital supply of books to avid readers, children so highly motivated and skilled at reading that neither schools not parents can financially keep up with the high level of book consumption. CMLs are a godsend to the voracious reader. The more children read, the greater is their skill increased. The wide variety of books on a CML therefore contributes to reading motivation and therefore to better literacy.

Some of the children also explained to me that the books helped them "know more about things". The children were learning to become self motivated learners, they were gaining the competency of teaching themselves about stuff in which they were really interested. It is not easy to gather that particular skill in an environment that offers a limited learning opportunity, a classroom where the needs of an entire class must be considered in a lesson plan. It wasn't only the children who learnt things from the books; adults borrowed the children's books as well, to refresh their memory about certain facts before teaching a topic, or used the childcare books to help them deal with certain situations, like helping a child through bereavement. Adults also borrowed books to use as classroom resources, or as a guide to a craft activity to do together with the children.It is actually quite important that children see adults taking an interest in books because it demonstrates to a child that books are valued, valid and fun.

There is a diagram to add here, but it is on my old laptop which will need finding and leaving for a while as it installs update, so I will add it some other time.

So, CMLs are a source of a broad range of children's books which can be tapped into by children, teachers, carers, parents, grandparents to learn about the things that interest them. This increases their learning, no matter what age they are. Adults can pass on their learning to children and be role-models for the power of learning though reading.

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