Several national documents influenced the development of READS. First, the national school library standards, Empowering Learners: Guidelines for School Library Media Programs includes a section on nine common beliefs of the profession beginning with the two "core approaches" to library media instruction, reading and inquiry:
Reading is a window to the world. Reading is a fundamental skill for learning, personal growth, and enjoyment. The degree to which students can read and understand information in all formats and all contexts is a key indicator of success in school and in life. As a lifelong learning skill, reading goes beyond decoding and comprehension to interpretation and development of new understandings.
Inquiry provides a framework for learning. To become independent learners, students must gain not only the skills but also the disposition to use those skills, along with an understanding of their own responsibilities and self-assessment strategies. Combined, these four elements build a learner who can thrive in a complex information environment. (p.10)
Second, AASL's Standards for the 21st-Century Learner combines inquiry/information literacy and literature appreciation. These standards also integrate multiple literacies, including digital, visual, textual, and technological, and stressed the need for students to learn how to work in groups; these concepts have all been included in READS. Third, the workforce requirements first described in the 1990's SCANS report and refined in the 21st Century Skills from the Partnership for 21st Century Skills were also embedded in READS. Finally, the National Education Technology Standards and Performance Indicators for Students from the International Society for Technology in Education were integrated to ensure that the document would reflect the constant changes in information technologies.
Structure of READS
READS – Literature and Reading Promotion Guidelines is available online at the Florida Department of Education site in two formats, grade summaries and K-12 charts. The five components of the document are Read as a Personal Activity; Explore Characteristics, History, and Awards of Creative Works; Analyze Structure and Aesthetic Features of Creative Works; Develop a Literary-based Product; and Score Reading Progress. Each skill has been correlated to the Sunshine State Language Arts Standards, the AASL Standards, and the Language Arts Florida Standards. Each component of READS begins with "the student will," paralleling the structure of the Florida Standards.
READS formalizes, qualifies, and quantifies the valuable contributions of library media specialists to the education of students. The selection of the five components is grounded in both the traditional work and current best practices of the library media profession which includes the following activities:
sharing stories with students of all ages to acquaint them with quality and developmentally appropriate literature;
introducing award-winning books and media;
discussing genres and history of literature and media;
using multicultural literature to address the self-esteem needs of children and to introduce all to world cultures;
focusing attention on the various formats of fiction and nonfiction;
exploring the school's curriculum and students' interests to give direction to collection development;
providing individual reading guidance;
analyzing literature and media to develop understanding;
providing opportunities for students to react to literature and media as well as to express their creativity;
introducing valuable learning resources in the community (e.g., public libraries, museums, parks);
creating teachable opportunities focused on responsible use of ideas or information (e.g., intellectual property rights and legal use of information); and
coordinating assessment strategies with READS and Sunshine State Standards.
Use of READS
First, the skills in READS are ideal for use in library media specialists' lesson plans. The skills are written from a student's point of view and are straight-forward, providing a clear understanding to anyone reading the plans. Though not all library media specialists are required to submit lesson plans to administrators, these documents are highly valuable as communication devices for sharing best practices in inservices, mentoring situations with new librarians, conference sessions, and professional portfolios. The very act of transferring ideas for teaching a lesson to paper helps to clarify and improve teaching; the process necessarily includes reflecting on which procedures work best for student learning.
The use of the READS skills can provide an express lane to developing credibility with administrators and staff members. The skills are expressed in familiar language and help to demystify the work of library media specialists. A primary goal of library media specialists is to collaborate with colleagues, so that instruction in the library media center is integrated into classroom units of study. A prerequisite requirement for successful collaboration is demonstrating knowledge of the curriculum, needs of learners, and instructional competence to teachers and administrators; therefore, the use of READS and FINDS (Florida's research process model), awareness of current trends in professional journals, and understanding of district requirements in the various curricular areas will go a long way to developing respect for the value-added contributions of library media programming to the school's instructional agenda. In a sense, the use of defined curriculum documents validates the claims of library media specialists that they are valuable teaching partners and that their efforts make significant contributions to the academic preparation of students.
A third advantage of using READS and FINDS guidelines is that they provide a common language for the ultimate goal of library media specialists: embedding library goals and activities into the culture of the school and the School Improvement Plan (SIP). In many instances, this accomplishment brings increased funding and staffing for libraries; it has been known to improve library working conditions, which for elementary personnel could mean flexible scheduling or at least a combination of flexible and fixed schedules.
Fourth, the use of READS by library media personnel in a school district brings a common understanding of the potential benefits of library media activities. Also vertical articulation between grades and school levels in a feeder pattern is facilitated. For example, in the past, a library media specialist at the middle school or high school level might find great differences among the reading skill sets of incoming students from various schools. When library media specialists at all middle schools feeding into a particular high school provide similar yet individualized programs, students will come to high school with a common base of skills levels. It could be productive for library media personnel and other appropriate educators in a feeder pattern or district to discuss the skills in READS and FINDS and, depending on local conditions, agree on a common set of assured learning skills, which all students will experience before leaving certain grade levels.
Finally, the use of the READS continuum of skills can also bring balance to the library media program planned and implemented in a school. By observing which skills have been covered in a specific period of time, library media specialists may decide to include activities from other components of the curriculum to broaden the range of experiences students receive. Students benefit from a mix of fiction and nonfiction; vocabulary work and discussion of story elements; award-winning books and current online sources; production activities and reflection on reading progress. In addition, by understanding the skills recommended for each grade, library media specialists can discern which prerequisite experiences prepare students for the next grade's work (e.g., if students in 5th grade are required to create bibliographies, students in 3rd and 4th grades need to know the location of the essential bibliographic elements and how to record them in list format). Through involvement in the blend and balance of activities described for each grade level in the READS document, students progress developmentally in the use of library media resources, acquisition of reading skills, and appreciation of literature and creative works.
An Introduction to READS
READS Correlation & Grade Level Charts
Correlated to Language Arts Florida Standards (LAFS) and the American Association of School Librarians' Standards