How Child Development Affects Information Needs & Interests

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

A school librarian has many different responsibilities, and one of them is understanding the relationship between child development and needs within the library. This lesson focuses on helping you understand this connection.

Child Development and the School Library

Over the last few years, Colleen, a school librarian, has noticed that students at her elementary school are not getting as much out of the library as she wishes they would. They come to library class once a week, but they often seem disengaged and unclear about what resources are available.

Colleen realizes that she has not been paying sufficient attention to students' developmental needs and stages, or what they are likely to be capable of and working on at particular ages. As a librarian, it is important for Colleen to understand the different facets of her students' development and think about how this will impact their information needs and abilities.

Cognitive Development

Colleen learns that one important aspect of development is cognitive, having to do with how students can think and learn at different ages. Cognitive development has many different implications for the library setting. For one thing, students may or may not be able to read the books Colleen is recommending to them independently!

It is important for librarians in schools to think about the following questions in children's cognitive development:

  • What are students able to read on their own?

Knowing more about students' independent and instructional reading levels will help you make appropriate books available in the library. You can talk with classroom teachers or your school reading specialist to better understand this aspect of literacy development.

  • What can students hold in their mind over time?

Kindergarten students might be very likely to forget information from one week to the next unless you repeat it, whereas fifth graders can work on projects over several weeks. Thinking about developmental capacities for retaining information and sustaining student attention will help you plan a meaningful program.

  • What are students' research interests?

Especially if you are supporting science and social studies teachers, it is important to think about developmental capacities for observations, understanding of abstract concepts, or considering what is long ago and far away.

Social and Emotional Development

Though cognitive development is emphasized heavily in schools, Colleen knows that her students are also developing in the social and emotional domain. In other words, each group of students is at a different point in their ability to self-regulate, think about feelings, and interact with others.

In the school library, social and emotional development is important to consider. Learning how students work together at different ages helps Colleen make more effective plans for small group work. Talking to teachers about her students' social needs helps Colleen choose read alouds that support themes like friendship and bullying. Colleen is excited to find that students are very interested in these topics and more engaged during library time as a result.

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