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    At the Choyo Daiichi Elementary School in Tsuruoka City (616 students, 22 classes, 2 special education classes, and 40 teachers), large numbers of children run into the Chido Library in the early morning.  The Chido Library is a school library named after the “Chido-kan,” the former Shonai clan samurai school in the area.  The average number of books taken out by children at Choyo Daiichi Elementary School has gradually increased from 50 fourteen years ago to close in on 150 today.  To cultivate life-long learners with warm hearts, education aimed at promoting children’s effective use of the library has been included as one of the pillars of the school’s management.  However, this is not just a matter of students increasing the number of books they have read.  Children’s ability to learn has increased as a result of conversation promoted through this library intervention—as evidenced by improvements in children’s concentration when listening, careful thinking, and information literacy.  Also, through reading books and the school library, connections and collaboration with families and community has deepened.  We will explore the secret of why the students and the atmosphere at the school have changed.

Happy Chaos at the Chido Library in the Morning
    The doors to the school open at 7:45 a.m.  Before that, students wait in front of the school entrance.  As soon as the doors open, children drop their bags in their classrooms and head to the Chido Library.  Morning at the library is filled with lively children.  When they come to school, children return the books they have borrowed and take out new books.  What they then read are the books that match each of their various interests and concerns and books that have become topics of conversation amongst their friends.  At the library, various encouragements to read are prepared including individual recommendations from graduates and teachers and a list of recommended books for Choyo Daiichi Elementary School.  I asked a child who was looking at a page from a book that she had just borrowed: “How many times a week do you come to the library?”  The child answered, “Every day!”  The people who are in charge of the front dek of this lively library are the library teachers, a city employee who was dispatched for the job, and the children themselves.

Books are Things to Listen to and Talk About?
    When one thinks about reading, one is apt to have an image of silently reading alone.  To children at Choyo Daiichi Elementary School, books are also things to be heard and talked about.
    In the morning, when the children return to their classrooms from the library, time for listening to reading is waiting for them.  Members of the reading assistance circle (called “Book Treasure Box”), who include parents and volunteers from the community, conduct “book talks” in which they read to the children.  Children and homeroom teachers are drawn in and listen with interest to the stories.
    Also, children do not just listen.  They also talk about the books.  Sixth-graders talk to first-graders about the books they have read, and as a thank you, the first-graders talk about the books they have read to the sixth-graders.
Teachers do not only introduce their recommendations.  They go to classes in other grades and give “book talks.”
    At Choyo Daiichi Elementary, books play the important role of connecting people, whether it is younger students and older students, children and their teachers, or parents and members of the community.

Now it’s 7:53 in the morning.

Children filling out library cards.

Isn’t Choyo Daiichi Elementary a Special Case?
    Choyo Daiichi Elementary is a school that is nationally known for its education making use of the library.  The school and its librarian have developed many publications including If You Do This, The School Developing Your Children Will Change (Publisher: Kokudosha), and the school welcomes observers from across the country.  Further, based on the policy of the Tsuruoka Municipal Board of Education, a school librarian is established at the school as well as a library teacher with no homeroom class.  As a result, one sometimes hears people say, “This school has a good situation.  Isn’t it a special case?  At our school, we can’t do this.” 
    However, what this “special school” has done did not happen yesterday or today.
    In 1995, a school librarian received the cooperation of the teacher overseeing the library and started to improve the environment of the dark library which did not even have a counter in order to make it a place appropriate for students and teachers.  With this wish and a passion to make reading become firmly rooted among the students, the librarian began by creating a “Three-Year Plan for Creating a Learning Resource Centre Library Concept.”  The principal who received this plan received a prefectural designation to create a “Three-Year Plan for a Bright School” using the creation of the library as the theme.  Then, for fourteen years, effort at collaboration among the school librarian, the teacher overseeing the library, and later the additional library teacher continued.  Then, the principal who witnessed these hopes and efforts ended up establishing “Education for Making Use of the Library” as one of the pillars of management for the school.
    In this way, there is a reason that the wishes for “a library that would be used” and for “children’s reading” continued and were passed down among the teachers at Choyo Daiichi Elementary School over the course of fourteen years.  Children who were weak at reading came to love reading, children who liked reading already came to like it even more, and with books as an intermediary, communication among friends deepened, children became able to consider issues carefully, there was growth in children’s intelligence and heart, changes in the children, and mutual exchange was promoted.  These facts could be seen before people’s eyes, and the students made the teachers proud and happy.  This was not only the case with teachers.  That the parents and community members came to assist one after another was also due to the energy they received from the children in front of them.
    Choyo Daiichi Elementary School was not special.  The people who for many long years became involved with the growth, change and exchange with children at Choyo Daiichi Elementary School made it special.

The library check-out area in the morning

Everyone is listening attentively to the reading of the book

On the classroom blackboard, signs say “Say a greeting,” “Sit down at the sound of the chime” and “First, the Library!”

From a 2007 Education Evaluation Survey Given to Children’s Parents/Guardians
My children enjoy going to school ------- 98%

Books are a topic of conversation in our house ------- 71%

My children like to read books ------- 85%

I understand the school’s learning method concerning the library ------- 97%

The practice of cultivating study methods using the library is raising
academic results ------- 100%
Through promoting education concerning use of the library, the children have changed and the teachers have changed.
The teachers actively use the school library and one can now see many educational practices involving student research.

Fifth Plan for Promoting Education in Library Usage!
    In order to cultivate life-long learners with knowledge and big hearts at Choyo Number One Elementary School, a Fifth Plan for Promoting Education in Library Usage is being implemented based on four pillars.
    With collaboration from school staff, parents and community members, educational activities that are sustainable and passed down to the next generation are being developed.

Pillar1 Cultivating the ability to read books as a foundation for givingstudents the power to live (Developing words that support the heart)

Continuation of guidance in reading through regular instruction
Efforts to further develop the custom of reading
Strengthening reading consultation that matches each student’s individual level

Pillar 2 Practices involving learning to use the library (Developing thinking abilities that support learning)

Accumulating research on lessons that make use of libraries
Developing skill in locating library media resources to support lessons that make use of the library
Creating a library that facilitates effective lessons that make use of the library

Pillar 3 Promoting library use in a systematic way (Strategizing for concrete implementation of the Fifth Plan for Promoting Education in Library Usage)

Establishment of a structure to promote education in using the library at a schoolwide level
Practices and verification by a “Learning Strengthening Group”
Linkages between homeroom teachers and library staff

Pillar 4 Linkages with families and the community (Awareness-raising among families and activation of volunteers)

Raising awareness among families of the necessity of reading books
Training volunteers to help with reading (“Book Treasure Box”)
Promoting linkages with other school and public libraries and spreading education in use of libraries

    Although these children have been raised in the midst of the education at Choyo Daiichi Elementary School encouraging the use of libraries, students at the school say that, just like children in the city, “they like to play video games.”  However, if reading books is solidly established as one part of their lives, then the abilities to concentrate and listen to what another person is saying, consider carefully, communicate about books, and information literacy centering on the library are being developed.  Children who have moved on to junior high school become deeply involved in their club activities.  However, once they begin to retire from club activities, reading books returns as a part of their lives.
    By gaining reading ability, thinking ability, communication ability, expressive ability and information literacy through coordinated education in using the library from the first through sixth grades of elementary school, children become life-long learners capable of carrying the burden of a sustainable future with both needed knowledge and a good heart.
    The Tsuruoka Municipal Board of Education has established a position of library assistant and is starting to make use of the practices and experiences at Choyo Daiichi Elementary to develop education using the library for other elementary schools in Tsuruoka, of course, but also for city junior high schools.
The time when the whole region will become “a special case” is nearing.

Education in Using the Library that Supports ESD
    Among the concrete themes taken up by ESD are many global issues such as environmental problems, north-south issues, World Heritage sites and co-existence of diverse cultures.  However, all of these educational activities are rooted in school and community, and are supported by collaboration across the barrier between students and teachers.  In addition, these educational activities, based on acquisition of foundational knowledge and concepts, demand that children discover topics themselves, investigate and think about these topics, compile the results and communicate the results.  At this time, students’ persistence, concentration, reading skill, communication skill, thinking skill, expressive skills and information literacy with respect to the subject matter are essential.  To enable students to develop while maintaining these links, library use education like that at Choyo Daiichi Elementary School is effective.
    Not only schools that are implementing ESD, of course, but also schools that plan to implement ESD or develop educational activities to highlight special characteristics that can be sustained and passed on to future generations probably should include the use of the school library as a means of creating a learning atmosphere of both knowledge and heart.

Important Reserch Points.pdf