Media Literacy in Portuguese school libraries

by the School Libraries Network, Portugal.

The School Libraries Network (SLN) is a Programme of the Portuguese Ministry of Education whose mission is to install libraries in public schools and guide their action. The digital age has revolutionized our relationship with knowledge, learning and social interaction, presenting both opportunities and challenges. To navigate this dynamic scenario, it is crucial to empower young people with new skills that allow them to engage critically and creatively with reality.

In this context, the School Libraries Network published a set of learning standards in the area of literacies – Learning with the School Library – which is a guiding document for the action of school libraries, allowing its articulation with the different areas of the curriculum, both disciplinary and transversal, so that, tendentially, all libraries develop their work to ensure all students have the same opportunities to develop those skills. This reference tool establishes three fundamental areas within the scope of training for literacies: reading, media and information. In addition, technological and digital literacy is addressed transversally, permeating all areas and reflecting the presence of digital technologies in formal and informal learning contexts.

Throughout this article we will focus especially on information and media literacies.

The document is divided into two parts: the first part contains tables with standards as well as strategies for implementing the three areas of the framework, while the second part presents examples of activities involving different school subjects. Each area of the framework describes the performances that students should achieve at the end of pre-school education and the different cycles of basic and secondary education, defined in terms of knowledge/abilities and attitudes/values. The document is organized in a sequential and coherent way, considering the gradual progression of knowledge and skills. In each area, operationalising strategies are presented so that each school library can find useful suggestions for planning and carrying out meaningful activities in articulation with the curriculum.

In the school years following the two editions of the document (2012-2015 and 2017-2019), pilot experiences of its application in a limited number of school libraries were carried out to monitor the process and analyze the data obtained, in order to improve this working tool and extend its use to the 2538 school libraries in Portugal. In each year, a report of the testing carried out was prepared. After these periods, the School Libraries Network encouraged the wider application of the Benchmark. Currently, monitoring is done through observation and follow-up carried out by inter-council coordinators and through some questions in the SLN Database that teacher librarians fill in annually.

To train teacher librarians and other teachers in the use of this working tool, SLN has promoted, over time, formal training for teachers, a total of 3200 hours and 2777 trainees, between 2013 and 2019. In parallel, it continues to develop informal training in multiple meetings, colloquia and work sessions.

Following the publication of the Framework, numerous examples of activities have been made available, allowing the simultaneous development of students’ competencies in the curriculum subjects and in the area of literacy. These activity proposals explicitly mention the knowledge and skills, attitudes and values in the area of literacy that they intend to mobilize, present the various moments of the pedagogical action and suggest supporting resources, produced by the School Libraries Network or other entities.

In 2021 all proposals for activities were aggregated in the website (Learning with the School Library) which is subdivided into three areas (Growing with reading, Knowing how to use media and Mastering information). Currently this site is a large repository of proposals for work in the field of reading, information and media literacy and continues to be regularly expanded with more examples, either created by the School Library Network team or shared by teacher librarians. As the Framework, these work proposals are organized by education cycles (according to the educational structure in Portugal), namely: pre-school (4-6 years old), 1st Cycle (6-10 years old), 2nd Cycle (10-12 years old), 3rd Cycle (12-15 years old) and Secondary Education (15-18 years old).

In 2022, in order to promote a rigorous assessment of students’ performance in literacy, the School Libraries Network provided proposals for assessment rubrics related to the different standards, organized by literacy area and educational levels. Following the work that has been developed in the area of information and media, some schools have created literacy programmes to be integrated in the students’ curriculum in a structured and systematic way. However, we still face the challenge of implementing well-defined programmes in which time is allocated to the development of information and media competencies. For this, it is essential that school clusters/schools design specific programmes to be developed in collaboration between teacher librarians and other teachers, covering different areas of the curriculum and adapted to the needs and goals of each school.

Thus, in order to develop a structured, methodological, articulated, and comprehensive approach to the development of information and media competences, the School Library Network has made available Guidelines. Learning with the school library: a programme for developing literacy skills, which offers suggestions for content to be incorporated into a Literacy Programme. Ongoing teacher training is essential to guide students in such development, while strong partnerships with relevant institutions enrich programmes by providing additional resources and learning opportunities. Regular evaluation of programmes, collecting data on learners’ progress and integration of literacy skills, is crucial. Overcoming these challenges requires an ongoing and collaborative commitment from headmasters, teachers and the entire school community, to prepare students for the demands of the contemporary world and to help them thrive in the information age.


The School Libraries Network, Portugal.