HISD libraries offer learning beyond the classroom

As the new coordinator for libraries and instructional materials at Harlandale ISD, Lisa Kulka has one simple yet challenging goal: She wants students to read more.

“Literacy is important because it’s how we learn. If we want our kids to be lifelong learners, they have to read,” Kulka said.

For Kulka, books are just the beginning.

“Everybody thinks that libraries are just books, but there is a lot more we are providing for students to read,” she said.

The district is getting ready to launch a new digital-friendly library information system that will offer all students and teachers instant access to hundreds of books.

Besides finding all the print books available in their school library, students will also have access to numerous e-books, including Lightbox books. Unlike a print book which is one book per student, a Lightbox book is available to all students for unlimited simultaneous use.

“The new system is way more than just checking books in and out. It’s going to be a game changer because students can log in through their device and access all of these interactive e-books and different kinds of materials, like how to create a bibliography,” Kulka said. “It’s going to show them where to find what they need, not just curriculum-related items, but for reading pleasure.”

Students will also be able to search for vetted websites that are appropriate for education purposes, offering a safe alternative to Google. Both students and parents can log in, whether at school or at home, and have access to more than they were able to do before.  

“Every student will have their own login and parents can be added if they want access,” Kulka explained. “Parents will be able to check to see if the book that their child needs is on the system.”

Kulka is excited for the system, which will be ready for use in two weeks at Harlandale.FollettDestiny.com or through the “Destiny Discover” app.

In an effort to increase literacy levels across the district, librarians are also going above and beyond to offer learning beyond the classroom.

“Our libraries are working really hard on becoming highly effective libraries,” Kulka said. “Our librarians are collaborating with teachers, and they’re working as a second teacher.”

As certified teachers themselves, librarians know the curriculum of all grade levels and are prepared to plan with classroom teachers. They regularly present book talks and can propose research projects to improve student learning.

“I think that teacher-librarian collaboration is one of the most important things going on,” Kulka explained. “There’s two adults working with a group of kids, so behavioral problems are reduced, and they can provide more individualized instruction.”

For the school year, Kulka hopes to update the libraries with new books to keep the students engaged.

“Almost every single study out there shows a link between student achievement and library programs. The more minutes a student spends reading, the better reader he or she will be. It doesn’t matter what their socioeconomic level is, it’s really about how much they read,” Kulka said. 

Overall, Kulka’s vision for the school year is to enhance every student’s reading experience as libraries essentially become an extension of the classroom. 

HISD libraries offer learning beyond the classroom

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