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Questions and resources to accompany the article
Equity & Social Justice in the Library Learning Commons
by Jennifer Brown

Fostering Equity and Social Justice in the Book Collection

Questions to Consider:

  • Is there obvious or hidden bias?
  • Whose voice is being heard?
  • Whose voice is left out?
  • How are power and oppression addressed?
  • Are we reinforcing a stereotype or “single story”?

Resources & Inspiration:

The Danger of a Single Story by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This Ted Talk is a fabulous reminder of the subtle daily messages we send to learners in the texts we select and celebrate. It clearly highlights the dangers of giving a “single story” version of the world around us.

Building on Windows and Mirrors: Encouraging the Disruption of “Single Stories” Through Children’s Literature by Christina M. Tschida, Caitlin L. Ryan & Anne Swenson Ticknor.

This is a great article that I return to often to remind myself that text can act both as a mirror and window into the lives and experiences of ourselves and others. Like the Ted Talk it helps us reflect on the risks of the “single story”.

Creating an Equity-based Environment through Decor and Language

Questions to consider:

  • Is the space authentically inviting to all who enter?
  • Does the space reflect a wide range of learning needs and opportunities?
  • Can the students change and adapt the space to meet their evolving learning needs?
  • Upon entering the space would others be able to identify our values and beliefs about how children learn?
  • Whose needs are being met? (Mine or the kids?)
  • When we discuss the space do we use language that clearly indicates student voice and ownership are at the centre of our planning and practice?
  • Does our signage, wall decor, entry doors, etc., represent our students thinking, creativity and communication needs?

Resources & Inspiration:

The Third Teacher: 79 Ways You Can Use Design to Transform Teaching and Learning by OWP/P Cannon Design Inc.

This book is a valuable resource for reflecting on our learning environments. It challenges us to rethink and consider the choices we make as we design our space, select furniture, signage, function and honour student voice and usage of the library learning commons.

The Third Teacher: Designing the Learning Environment for Mathematics and Literacy, K to 8 from the Ontario Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat.

Although this monograph separates mathematics from the literacy, I love the questions for educators and other stakeholders to consider when intentionally designing a learning space to foster success for all learners.

Embedding Equity in Scheduling and Routines

Questions to consider:

  • How can we make the library learning commons truly open to all learners and learning needs?
  • Does our technology access model help to level the playing field for all students to have the tools required for 21st century learning?
  • How can support collaborative instruction while keeping student interest at the centre?
  • What structures do we have in place to foster love of reading and develop literacy skills?
  • Are the scheduling methods and other routines designed for adult convenience or to encourage independence in our learners?
  • Is flexibility to meet changing learning needs a foundation of the structures in place?

Resources & Inspiration:

Dr. Stuart Shanker and self-regulation: Self-Reg.

Using the core belief that we can trust children and the message of Dr. Shanker that there is no such thing as a bad kid, our scheduling and established routines can send a daily message of equity and value to our learners.

Culturally Responsive Pedagogy: Towards Equity and Inclusivity in Ontario Schools from the Ontario Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat.

Truthfully this monograph could support many aspects of the creation of a library learning commons that values equity and social justice. The reason I selected it for this section is that I often find the systemic structures we put in place lack the cultural awareness and thought that would benefit our students. Using the lens of culturally responsive pedagogy we can carefully consider and give voice to the identities of our learners by establishing schedules and routines that support equitable access and varied learning opportunities.

Introduction to the SAMR Model from Common Sense Media.

Although this video is just a simple introduction I find it is always important to remind myself that as wonderful as technology and our board’s BYOD policy can be it does have the potential to create/highlight gaps in privilege and access. Balancing this access out through collaborative, thoughtful planning requires us to consider where technology is essential to our learners’ success.

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Equity & Social Justice in the Library Learning Commons
by Jennifer Brown

Jennifer Brown is the Teacher Librarian at the Castle Oaks Public School in the Peel District School Board. It’s Elementary: Thoughts About School Libraries is a regular column on Open Shelf. Jenn can be reached at jennifer.m.brown [at] and by following her Twitter account @JennMacBrown.

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