The Largest Classroom in the (Online) School
Navigating the remote learning classroom is the newest hurdle in parenting. Parents are not concerned with how to manage their student’s new schedules and learning environments, they are also faced with added fears such as their student falling behind in studies or being put in a mentally unhealthy space as a result of learning conditions during the pandemic.
While there are plenty of resources available and educators are working twice as hard to make students feel supported, there is also a major source of help available to parents and students in school libraries. School libraries are an overlooked support system that play diverse roles in students’ lives. With stressful events brought about by COVID-19 and new changes happening on a daily basis, students need a place to get away from it all. School libraries aid parents with remote learning and support students by looking after their well-being.
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Safe Spaces That Meet Students’ Needs
School libraries promote safe and positive environments that support students in all capacities. This makes school libraries a good place to turn to when feeling overwhelmed or stressed by the transitions they need to make during this time. These libraries create environments that meet the needs of students academically, emotionally, and socially. In fact, school libraries are often intentionally created as places of refuge for students that need it. It can be difficult to figure out how to access this resource when modes of learning are being altered depending on the conditions of the world. But, school libraries are adaptable and are able to cater to a wide array of purposes. Whether by staggering students in for library visits or offering at home help with homework and lessons, school libraries have found new ways to ensure that students are still being taken care of, taking some of the work off of parents.
Because one of the top concerns for school libraries is the wellbeing of their students, it is no surprise that a lot of effort goes into searching for and compiling resources that will be impactful and positive for students. These libraries provide valuable mental, physical, and emotional health resources to students and, in turn, to the broader community that consists of students’ families.
School librarians take special care in curating resources that are beneficial, up-to-date, and relevant. In addition, many will also work with educators and school psychologists to find quality information. They make sure to thoroughly vet resources and discard information they feel is irrelevant. This ensures that what’s being shared with students is actually useful.
Preventing Misinformation and Promoting Digital Health-Literacy
It is always important to practice health literacy. However, in times of an active global pandemic, it is even more imperative that individuals are able to distinguish between dangerous misconceptions and facts. Parents can be assured in knowing that school libraries are teaching students important skills in regards to digital health literacy.
A 2017 study that evaluated the digital health literacy skills of tweens showed that while “young people are increasingly turning to the internet for health-related skills…they often lack important knowledge and skills to be fully digitally health literate”. This study established that more tools are needed to find ways to properly equip students with effective digital health literacy skills.
The coronavirus pandemic has been novel because of multiple reasons. It is the only global pandemic that a majority of people have experienced in their lifetimes. In addition, it has also developed differently from other viruses in that it has been highly politicized, especially in the United States. The environment that this virus is existing in allows for widespread misinformation. Parents want to know that their kids are capable of differentiating science from conspiracies and hearsay.
School librarians are experts in digital literacy and are trained extensively in searching for and evaluating resources. These are important skills that help support school staff and students. School libraries and librarians can help students develop critical digital health literacy skills that students will need to use on a daily basis during pandemic times. This not only benefits students, it also leads to better community health outcomes.
Reading For Pleasure
A significant mental health and well-being activity that school libraries are huge proponents of is reading. School libraries are not just stocked with reference materials. The librarians specifically curate collections of children’s, YA, and classic book titles that they know students will enjoy. Especially in a society where there is pressure put on learning, the environments that school libraries provide help students develop positive relationships with reading.
This relationship becomes really important especially during times like the coronavirus pandemic. With school routines entering the home, it can be hard for students to feel like they can step away from the stress and be in a space where they are relaxed. School libraries instill a passion for reading that students can turn to as a valuable escape from the challenges of virtual school. This not only benefits the student but also parents who are worried about the mental health and well-being of their kids.
Reading To Heal
School libraries actually provide healing environments for students to turn to. Bibliotherapy is something that librarians utilize to help students process their issues in a safe way. This type of therapy works by having students deal with issues through book characters. It allows students to cope with experiences from a safe distance. Characters in stories also provide different perspectives on how to handle problems. While there might not be plots that follow the exact same events of COVID-19, students will be familiar with common themes like stress, anxiety, or loneliness. Students that see their problems and emotions reflected in that of book characters can gain more insight into how to tackle their own mental and emotional well-being.
School librarians help facilitate this therapy in a variety of ways. For one, they encourage students to engage in literature in a healthy way. They also help select specific readings that might resonate with students experiencing certain challenges. Especially during these times when students may be feeling lost and completely overwhelmed, school librarians can be there to guide them through.
A Place To Get Away
School libraries are the place that students need to get away from their daily lives physically and mentally. Students all over the world are experiencing significant challenges. Studies have shown that one in five young people experience mental health issues. Compounded by the events of the global pandemic, it is not surprising that young people are feeling added pressure and stress. School libraries and librarians are here to help remedy these pressures.
They have immense capabilities in aiding students and families, especially through the pandemic. Semi-permanent virtual schooling is a new territory for everyone to navigate. Since school libraries are easily taken for granted, they often face budget shortages which also affects staffing and resources. By fully understanding how school libraries can contribute to student well-being, they can receive the attention and value they deserve and, in turn, be given more resources to put towards students. Parents and families can make the most out of the valuable resource that a school library is. By turning to school libraries for help, parents will not have to face remote learning alone.