Throughout the library program, story is used to deepen understanding and widen perspective. In early childhood, students read and discuss stories to help them better interpret the world they live in and share with others. Students also begin to explore the library itself to gain a better sense of how knowledge is conveyed. In upper elementary grades, stories facilitate students’ ability to make connections and to actively participate in their learning. In middle school, students use story to better understand thorny historical perspectives and untangle contemporary social issues. Their reading path widens as they are exposed to myriad voices, settings, and situations that they have not necessarily experienced before. In high school, the concept that all information is a story -- biased and open to interpretation -- forms the basis of the deepening focus on information search, retrieval, and use. This begins with a ninth grade class and continues as an embedded program.
All students discuss how stories relate to their own experiences and ideas, and how these same stories relate to the perspectives of other students. Second grade students utilize the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award study to critically examine whose stories are told, so that students can begin examining the world with an understanding of which voices define it. Seventh grade weekly book talks expose students to a variety of nontraditional voices and sharpen their sense of literary devices. Ninth graders examine their own stories as they play out online and then move into a critical study of media bias before learning how to convey information through visuals, another type of storytelling, all skills vital to the next three years and beyond
In discussions, students use critical thinking as they interpret stories to gain a deeper understanding of their lives. At the same time, they must parse the experiences of fellow students so they can begin to navigate their ever-expanding communities. As lower school students get older, they begin to develop their identities as readers.They learn how to find “just right” books and develop the insight to understand that what is “just right” for a friend may not be “just right” for them. Critical thinking is taught and applied by middle schoolers starting in fifth grade D-Lab, where they learn how to evaluate websites for factual information as they begin to construct their own. In high school, these experiences serve as a basis for the deeper explorations students undertake beginning in ninth grade academy, where larger questions of intellectual property, remix culture, and narrative and informational biases are investigated.
Through book choice and discussion, students combine their perspectives with those of others and those in the stories, creating an entirely new structure of ideas. This willingness and ability to combine student ideas with the ideas of those in our community is a necessary basis of citizenship in a democratic society. Within the library, citizenship is demonstrated by lower school students in ways as concrete as keeping the space organized and tidy and as abstract as using literature as a means to look at bias. Older students read treatises by scholars, activists and philosophers to support classroom explorations and inspire their own burgeoning social justice movements. The high school summer reading list supports the LREI commitment to reading as a social, active undertaking; created in collaboration with faculty, it becomes a platform for in-depth conversations across high school grades.